Tag Archives: nature

On Tour: Philadelphia, PA

24 Oct

October 10, 2017 | Oil & Water | Philadelphia, PA

Oil & Water — On the Road Again

As I arrived at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia last week for the first screening on our new Mid Atlantic Arts tour, I checked the newsfeed on my phone to discover the latest threat to the planet. The Environmental Protection Agency had just announced plans to withdraw the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s been three years since we released Oil & Water to the world. The film, about two boys coming of age as they fight for environmental justice in the Amazon, has never been more relevant, and not for reasons we could have expected. Environmental protections in our own country are increasingly under attack. Who could have predicted that the EPA would be run by Scott Pruitt, a man who had previously sued the EPA 14 times, or that we would have a president who campaigned on the promise of dismantling the very institution itself?

Oil & Water came about in part because there was no EPA in Ecuador, and the oil industry behaved in whatever ways they could get away with. Hugo Lucitante, one of the film’s main characters, and his tribe, the Cofan people, are still dealing with the crushing effects of oil pollution, and trying to protect the land they have left against the threats of oil companies and other outsiders. They’ve been pushed to the edge of their territory, and every day that passes brings them closer to future with a diminishing likelihood of survival.

After the screening, audience members wanted to know, “How can we help?” For those moved to help in Ecuador, there are a variety of non-profits that are working on the ground, including the organizations featured in the film, The Cofan Survival Fund (www.cofan.org) and Equitable Origin (www.equitableorigin.org). But one also need look no further than one’s own backyard, because these problems are everywhere.

In Pennsylvania where I’m touring the film, controversy swirls around fracking and new natural gas infrastructure projects like the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, that when completed, will carry natural gas through 10 counties. Despite opposition from farmers and other land owners, industry is seizing private land through eminent domain. Many are protesting out of fear for the safety of their drinking water.

As a filmmaker, I’m feeling especially grateful to the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and all our screening hosts for the opportunity to get out and talk about the work of Oil & Water’s extraordinary young stars, Hugo Lucitante and David Poritz. And especially for the opportunity to listen to the stories of the people I’m meeting in audiences and university classroom visits along the way. Energy issues and the care of our environment affect us all. As I like to say, we’re all in this together. Let’s figure it out.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Francine Strickwerda

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On Tour: Lancaster, PA

28 Nov

November 21, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Lancaster, PA

“No pessimist has ever discovered the secrets of the stars, sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a doorway to the human spirit.”

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The last stretch of my OSIP journey took me back to PA, this time to Lancaster, for events and classroom visits at Millersville University. Even before I arrived in town, the host, Barry Kornhauser, had already offered several fun events providing the community with nature-connecting experiences even before the screening of Love Thy Nature!

Professor Aaron Haines, Ph.D. guided a bird watching walk, curator Christopher Hardy, Ph.D. offered a tour of the James C. Parks Herbarium, naturalist Carol Welsh led a nature journaling activity, and Lydia Martin, the Director of Education for the Lancaster County Conservancy, invited volunteers who planted 75 trees along a stream. Barry also organized a pre-screening panel discussion with Prof Aaron, Lydia, myself, plus the chair of the sustainability committee Nadine Garner, Ed.D., and Douglas Smith, the City of Lancaster Sustainability Planner.

While several screenings of Love Thy Nature over the last few months have been “watch and do” events, this is the first time we had so many diverse activities connected to a single screening.  Much gratitude goes to Barry and all these amazing sustainability professionals for this nature-loving feast! And thanks to this outstanding level of engagement (plus our own film team outreach effort), the Ware Center was packed with over 300 attendees for Love Thy Nature screening and Q&A. Wow. For an artist/activist like myself who has deep hunger for the highest possible impact at any given event, connecting with this large a crowd (especially for a small town) was pure bliss!

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Discussions ranged from the local applications of Biomimicry (Douglas explained how they’re intentionally emulating nature in the City of Lancaster’s water management systems) and the psychological benefits of nature connection for both adults and children, to whether we can have any hope about the future of our planet.

While no doubt we live in critical times – nature’s destruction is so severe that some scientists believe we have passed the “tipping point” of climate change – we can’t afford to be pessimistic or cynical. As Helen Adams Kellert, the first deaf blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, once stated, “No pessimist has ever discovered the secrets of the stars, sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a doorway to the human spirit.”

It’s by opening that doorway that we can transform our relationship to nature. Finding this community of people this vibrant and engaged with city officials committed to biomimetic ingenuity and a university committed to igniting young minds with new sustainable possibilities, I can’t help but to feel optimistic about what our future holds. All we need to do is to keep sharing our individual gifts while walking this path of connection with nature, each other, and ourselves.

I admit that this On Screen/In Person end-of-journey is bittersweet. On one hand, I really didn’t want it to end. But its ending with Millersville University couldn’t have been any sweeter, having connected with an engaged community of educators, scientists, change makers, students, and audience members.  To Barry (a so very effective, dedicated, and kind host) and Millersville University faculty members, bravo and thank you!

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m so very grateful to the On Screen/In Person team – Kimberly and Chevaun at the Mid Atlantic Foundation – who have supported me for the last many months with the myriad of logistical details. Special thanks also go to all the other hosts of our 10 screenings not only for choosing Love Thy Nature, but also for their professional and kind support of my own journey and mission to inspire their communities to explore what it means to be human in this oh so very precious and fragile planet of ours.

Wishing you a beautiful, nature-filled Thanksgiving weekend,

Sylvie

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: Germantown, MD

28 Nov

November 20, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Germantown, MD

“Certainly anyone can spend time outside, but joining a group like the Montgomery County Parks and Recreations offers opportunities for community connections, educational activities, and nature play.”

On my ride from West Virginia to Maryland, I couldn’t resist but to drive through one of my favorite U.S. parks – Shenandoah National Forest. I took a little hike up a mountain that got me dodging rocks for a little bouldering experience. How fun!

Germantown was my new On Screen/In Person destination where I was to present Love Thy Nature at BlackRock Center, a vibrant arts organization. Our host, Krista Bradley, planned a pre-screening tour of the beautiful (and very artistic!) new park adjacent to BlackRock, where naturalist Jenn Scully from the Montgomery County Parks and Recreations took a small group of us on a discovery tour of local flora and fauna.

Even though the wind was blowing hard and the air was quite chilly, that didn’t stop our group from having the best of times! I was delighted to get to know Krista and her rich background supporting the arts, as well as Jason, who brings his love of nature (he studied global ecology) to his work as an education program manager at BlackRock. Ultimately, Jenn got us all giggling with natural stories and park discoveries. She pulled out from her bag remains of some local critters— rattle snakes’ skins and the fur of a red fox!

The screening ignited curiosity among audience members who wanted to know the best ways to be active locally and how to get kids involved in nature activities. Many of the questions went to Jenn who offered details on the many ways the community can get involved and join nature-connecting and nature-restoring activities.

I’m always excited to see when a screening of Love Thy Nature provides an opportunity for audience members to connect with their local groups for outdoor fun. Certainly anyone can spend time outside, but joining a group like the Montgomery County Parks and Recreations offers opportunities for community connections, educational activities, and nature play.

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Special thanks to Krista, Jason, and Jenn for hosting Love Thy Nature at your beautiful center, sharing your fun and artsy park, and joining forces to inspire Germantown folks to get outdoors!

Sylvie

Post provided by touring On Screen/In Person filmmaker Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: Lewisburg, WV

28 Nov

November 17, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Lewisburg, WV

“Water is such a critical element to support our fragile lives and yet we take it for granted…”

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My trip from Waynesboro, VA to Lewisburg, WV was a peaceful ride through golden hills and when I arrived at my hotel room, I opened the curtains only to discover it was facing a vast cemetery – setting me in a special kind of tone. As a nature gal, the first thing I do every morning (or when I arrive at a new hotel room) is to open my window, take a whiff of fresh air and look out to trees, the sky and a horizon – if I’m lucky enough to be in a room with a view to infinity.

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In this case, it also offered me a view to the beyond. All those tombstones made me wonder: who were these souls, whether their lives were fulfilling, and who grieves their loss? According to my mother, my dad avoided cemeteries like the plague. And yet, here I stand in my early 50s thinking of him and all the other humans who left our plane to who knows where. To me, cemeteries evoke a profound sense of gratitude for inhabiting a healthy body and having this human experience in this oh, so very precious, yet short lifespan Mother Nature has given us.

And how amazing that I get to do this work of inspiring others to cherish their relationship with Nature and each other in the hopes that they too will find meaning and purpose in their lives.

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When I arrived at Carnegie Hall, my host Lynn introduced me to Autumn, the program director at West Virginia Rivers Coalition. Autumn and I shared the stage during Q&A and discussed the extraordinary importance of water— water for swimming, fishing, bathing, drinking, and overall healthy living. Water is such a critical element to support our fragile lives and yet we take it for granted despite all its current threats from drought and pollution to privatization by companies eager to contain it within plastic bottles for profits.

But we can resist. While I’m offered bottled water in many places I go, more often than not, I refuse and fill up my reusable water container with fountain, tap, or -if I’m lucky enough – spring water from some local source.

We ended our conversation with the audience at Carnegie Hall offering an homage to rivers and streams, while encouraging audience members to be involved in their local rivers coalition so that this beautiful little community in West Virginia remains healthy, vibrant, and yes, full of life.

Wishing you water,

Sylvie

Post provided by touring On Screen/In Person filmmaker Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: Waynesboro, VA

28 Nov

November 15, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Waynesboro, VA

“No matter how long one does the work of nature protection, we all need to be re-inspired, re-energized, and reminded of the power nature plays in our own lives.”

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When I got to Waynesboro, VA, my hosts Tracy and Karen offered me a few treats. Besides a delicious dinner, they took me to The Wildlife Center of Virginia whose founder, Ed Clark, gave us a tour of this extraordinary wildlife-saving organization.

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Not only does the Center care for any and all local wildlife in need of care – from deer to eagles, owls and bears – but also Ed travels around the world from South America to Africa on a mission to catch poachers and bring them to justice, as part of International Coalition of Wildlife Protection.

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It’s worth noting that I’m travelling with On Screen/In Person and I don’t always know what groups my hosts might introduce me to, if any. So to find a wildlife rescue group in its 34th year of operation, having treated 70,000 animals and trained a corps of wildlife medicine practitioners around the world, was a magnificent surprise!

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Needless to say, I was delighted to have Ed, his team, and 2 of his “patients” join us at the Wayne Theater for the screening of Love Thy Nature.  It was a dynamic, wildlife-centered conversation and I was glad to hear Ed share how the film came as a needed reminder to nature protectors and environmentalists of why they do this work in the first place. No matter how long one does the work of nature protection, we all need to be re-inspired, re-energized, and reminded of the power nature plays in our own lives.

With joy, purpose, and gratitude.

Wishing you nature.

Post provided by touring On Screen/In Person filmmaker Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: Brookville, NY

16 Nov

November 10, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Brookville, NY

The gift of a small audience is the rare intimacy that happens between presenter and participants. It often becomes a deeper and more authentic conversation…

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My visit to Long Island University (LIU) was delightful and engaging. Dr. Scott Carlin, Associate Professor of Geography, invited me to a pre-screening reception with sustainability-focused students and faculty. The group is clearly committed and excited to strengthen environmental awareness within the university. Erica and Chris are new students starting a campus sustainability group and have a number of great ideas – from starting an organic farm, educating other students on eco-conscious living, and getting people to enjoy the outdoors. These young people are creating change from the ground up!

Dr. Carlin also shared great news from the top down: LIU’s top executives just decided to launch a university degree on sustainability studies!

The state of the art Tilles Center for the Performing Arts played Love Thy Nature in its full splendor. And while it’s a massive auditorium, only about 20 viewers came to our screening event. So, during Q&A, an audience member asked, “How is it possible that such a beautiful and important film only attracted a few of us?”

Frankly, I too was surprised that we had such a timid turnout at a university in New York. After all, my outreach team for the film sent out blast emails to 17 groups in the area and LIU organizers themselves also did their own outreach. And while it’s impossible to know why we didn’t have more people at the screening last night, I was told there was another event on campus; plus, we can’t ignore that many in our country are still very focused on post-election politics – further ignited by the dramatic images of protests and riots in major cities over Donald Trump having been elected president 3 days ago.

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Whatever the reasons, I learned to never discount the impact Love Thy Nature might have on a small group of people. The gift of a small audience is the rare intimacy that happens between presenter and participants. It often becomes a deeper and more authentic conversation (viewers lose their fear of speaking in small groups) and I’m able to perceive what folks need the most.  I feel deeply honored to do this work, as I get to assist people in turning their despair into inspiration, cynicism into insight, and anger into conscious activism, for a brighter nature-filled-and-connected future.

I’m confident that our screening event might have ignited a fire in that small but engaged LIU group last night. May it have further fueled Erica and Chris’ determination to make a sustainability movement blossom in campus and may it have offered Dr. Carlin and his colleagues more ideas for the new LIU sustainability program. And I trust that other seeds we planted will somehow sprout in beautiful ways even if we might never know how they manifested.
So I’m grateful for the opportunity to have come to New York to connect with such a great group of passionate visionaries. I look forward to crossing paths with them again.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Sylvie Rokab

On Tour: Wilmington, DE

16 Nov

November 13, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | Wilmington, DE

“A man in his 50s said that for 20 years his adult son had been struggling with trauma and later addiction. But when his son got a job planting gardens for a landscaping business, the experience of touching soil, caring for plants, and just being outdoors every day was “more healing than any other therapy.”

My ride from Long Island to Delaware had me cross a number of tunnels and bridges, making it a visually appealing trip. I had never been to Wilmington, so once I got in town I decided to leave my rental car in the hotel garage and walk downtown to the screening location – The Queen Theater. Most of downtown Wilmington is historic and buildings are filled with red brick charm and character.

Our hosts from Light Up the Queen Foundation – Tina Betz and Judy Hickman – did a fabulous job at organizing the event. They offered a reception and invited leaders of local nature organizations to join me in the post screening panel discussion, in a room with an audience of nearly 50 people.

The panelists included Stephanie Herron (Delaware Sierra Club), Richard Jones Jr. (Delaware Nature Conservancy), and Helen Fischel (Delaware Nature Society). After they offered a brief description of their organizations, we encouraged audience members to get involved with their groups – both by enjoying their outdoor programs and participating in their nature protection initiatives. We also focused our attention on kids since, in our digital age, parents and educators have to play a critical role at encouraging children to spend time outdoors and experience nature with their peers.

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In my conversations with individuals after the screening, I’m always touched to hear people express their gratitude for the film and share their personal stories about the power of nature. A man in his 50s said that for 20 years his adult son had been struggling with trauma and later addiction. But when his son got a job planting gardens for a landscaping business, the experience of touching soil, caring for plants, and just being outdoors every day was “more healing than any other therapy.” Garden planting transformed his son, who now looks forward to his work every day.

At the end of the event, Tina and I had a great conversation over a glass of wine about business and politics.  The sun had already set when I walked back to my hotel room, carrying a left over platter of fruit Tina was kind enough to offer me. Downtown Wilmington was now quiet and chilly – but I felt warm hearted after sharing Love Thy Nature and meeting such a great group of people in this history town in Delaware.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Sylvie Rokab

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