KITTERY, Maine — Hundreds of people braved the cold to attend the second annual Seacoast Environmental Film Festival on Saturday.
Held at the Kittery Community Center’s Star Theatre, five films were shown, each with a different theme on the state of the environment and on ways people can help on issues relevant to clean water, ocean plastics, sea level rising, food waste and climate change. Each film, presented by local nonprofits, was followed by a panel discussion featuring experts in the topic of the film.
“We are so excited for our second annual film festival,” said Christine Bennett, executive director of Kittery Land Trust, which hosted the event. “We’re building on last year’s huge success with a diverse lineup of films, bringing many topics and organizations under one roof so people can learn and cross-pollinate their ideas and passion. KLT’s hope is that these films get our community more informed and outraged, and inspired to act locally.”
Ken Fellows, a board member for the Kittery Land Trust, said the goal of the film festival is to raise public awareness of all aspects of environmental concern.
“One film discusses gardening and another the concern for rising oceans and tides,” said Fellows. “Another, ‘Albatross,’ concerns the survival of our wild animals. The use of organic fuels, pollution and the environment is highlighted and the final film is was a production on the amount of food wasted globally.”
The event was moderated by Melissa Paly, Conservation Law Foundation’s Waterkeeper of Great Bay. She introduced the films and the panel members for each discussion.
The films shown, in order, were the following:
“Five Seasons,” a documentary about Piet Oudolf, one of the world’s most celebrated garden designers of transformative landscapes like the Highline in New York City. The film revealed the aesthetic and philosophy of a designer who pushes people to rethink the notion of beauty and life through plants. It was sponsored by Timberland, and co-presented with Bedrock Gardens, York Land Trust and the Piscataqua Garden Club.
“High Tide in Dorchester” featured coastal communities in the Chesapeake grappling with sea level rise and the challenges of planning, adaptation and retreat from the edges of a rising tide. The film was sponsored by Autoworks, and co-presented with the League of Conservation Voters and NH Coastal Adaptation Workgroup. The message was that entire communities and ecosystems are being swallowed by rising tides, and the message to seacoast area residents was that it is happening here, too, and if steps are not taken to address it, the same thing will eventually happen here.
A panel discussion with Julie LaBranche of the Rockingham Planning Commission, Wendy Goldsmith of Urban Watershed Resilience and New Hampshire state Sen. David Watters of Dover localized the global threat and offered some actions that residents can get involved with.
“I worked in Maryland from 1995 to 2005 and then came here,” said LaBranche. “All the issues raised in this film are starting to become the norm for seacoast New Hampshire. We are starting to see nuisance flooding, particularly in Hampton. What used to happen a couple of times a year with really big storms, is now happening a couple of times a month. Area residents are getting very adept at reading tide charts so they can be ready to move their cars or do what they need to protect their homes.”
Watters said when he first started raising the issues in the legislature, people called it a “fantasy not worthy of debate.” He said they are listening now.
“We are already working on legislation to address this and other environmental impacts,” said Watters. “One of the bills we hope to pass would allow us to deal better with coastal emergencies. It also looks to move historic gravesites and landmarks inland”
LaBranche said inland communities are beginning to see the effects of rising oceans and to realize they need to take hard looks at their infrastuctures. She said regional planning commissions are now including sea level rise into their planning documents.
“Albatross” sponsored by Revision Energy, featured artist Chris Jordan’s eight-year odyssey in the Midway Islands in the Pacific Ocean to show how our lives intersect with the natural world. The film was presented by Blue Ocean Society, Seacoast Science Center, Shoals Marine Lab and Sustainable Seacoast.
“The Devil We know,” co-sponsored by Conservation Law Foundation and Testing for Pease followed citizens in West Virginia as they take on a big corporation that dumped toxic PFAS chemicals into the local drinking water supply.
“Wasted” is a documentary produced by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who circled the globe to show that 1.3 billion tons of food are thrown out each year, and show the people working to prevent the waste.
Major sponsors of SEFF are Eldredge Lumber and the Rosamond Thaxter Foundation, as well as Altus Engineering, ARQ Architects, JNL, Inc. and Faith Harrington and Peter Lamb through the Maine Community Foundation.