Mark Twain once joked, “Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” Many decades later President Franklin Roosevelt advised progressives when faced with legislation he desired but didn’t have the votes, “Now go out there and make me do it!” Twain’s joke might have been encouraging people to get involved rather than complain and FDR definitely was.
April 22 marks the 51st Earth Day. (Actually, given serious climate change, every day should be Earth Day. She’s called Mother Earth for a reason.) In 1970 you could say Twain and FDR were proven right when twenty million environmentalists celebrated the first Earth Day. Six months later Richard Nixon created the EPA, signed the Clean Air and Clean Water bills in 1972 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973.
In private, however, Nixon reportedly said of the environmentalists “They live like a bunch of animals.” (Ouch!) So, suffice it to say, “Tricky Dick” was the unlikeliest champion of their causes. (Meanwhile on Earth Day 2020 one-hundred million people in 193 countries observed the event!)
Someone who gets involved rather than complain is SMC Adjunct Professor Sheila Laffey who has been inspiring students since 1999. Sheila’s an award winning producer/director of documentaries and short dramatic films, primarily about the environment. For example, she was Associate Producer of Love Thy Nature, narrated by Liam Neeson that won 26 awards.
Sheila has a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from N.Y.U. and was Program Coordinator for the National Audubon Society in Hawaii. She’s also certified as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. (If only she wasn’t so lazy.)
In 2010 Sheila developed a Green Screen Course at SMC. And, in 2018, she started a Green Screen Series to reach the public as well. Via zoom, this “Spring Series,” may be her most compelling. It begins on Monday, April 5, with “Fantastic Fungi,” which is so well produced at moments it feels like a George Lucas science fiction film except it’s science fact.
It’s the labor of love from award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer Louie Schwartzberg. He specializes in breathtaking imagery using his time-lapse, high-speed, and macro cinematography techniques. “Fantastic Fungi,” for lack of a better word, is “fantastic.” (After the film Schwartzberg will be available for a Q and A.)
“Fungi” which is pronounced like “Fun Guy” which I know sounds like an Adam Sandler movie, is a profound and fascinating journey with mycologist Paul Stamets and forest ecologist Suzanne Simard and is narrated by Brie Larson. Imagine, mushrooms and related organisms that feed you, heal you, reveal secrets of the universe and could help save the planet. (Is that all?)
“Fantastic Fungi” is a revelatory exploration into the magical, mysterious, and medicinal world of fungi and its contribution to the regeneration of life on Earth that began 3.5 billion years ago. Simply put, mushrooms and alike are infinitely smarter than we are given their remarkably complex underground communication network. (You have to see the movie to comprehend it.)
The second film in the series is on April 26 and is entitled “Kiss the Ground.” Directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson. The film documents a revolutionary group of activists, scientists, farmers, and politicians who band together in a global movement of “Regenerative Agriculture” that could balance our climate, replenish our water supplies, and feed the world. (Twelve years ago I reviewed “Fuel” the journey of Eco-evangelist Tickell, who took us on a fast-paced cinematic road trip into America’s disastrous dependence on foreign oil.)
The film’s producer Bill Benenson is an award-winner of Eco documentaries, including “Dirt! The Movie,” which premiered at Sundance and aired on PBS for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. After the “KTG” screening Benenson will participate in a Q & A and be joined by Patrick Latting, a remarkable high school senior who started Compost Culture, which composts 1,700 lbs. of food waste per week.
“Kiss The Ground” is compelling and offers environmentalists hope as we see how people of divergent backgrounds come together to work on perhaps the greatest crisis that faces the world today. (Other than that, it’s no big deal.)
On May 10, the last film in the series is “Gather” directed by Sanjay Rawal who after the screening will also participate in a Q & A. It’s little known that colonial rulers in history intentionally destroyed the crops of indigenous people to separate them from their historic food systems. “Gather” is an intimate portrait of the growing movement among Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political, and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide.
Thanks to passionate filmmakers scientists, farmers, activists and young people like Patrick Latting, hope is on the horizon. So stop kvetching (Yiddish for “complaining,” to which I sheepishly plead guilty) and get involved! You can start by Googling “Green Screen Series, SMC Spring 2021.”
Also go to YouTube “Sheila Laffey Green Screen Series.” Due to a management decision, starting March 12, Laughing Matters has been cut back to every other Friday. Jack is at: facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and firstname.lastname@example.org