It Ain’t Easy Being Green, a film by Crystal Fortwangler (running time: 36:42)

Crystal Fortwangler – filmmaker

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, green iguanas are dramatically increasing in number and spreading. The situation has left most humans and iguanas scratching their heads about how to get by in the fast-changing island environment. The film engages in a lively debate about when and where

production still – provided by filmmaker

animals are welcome, and if it is possible to create environments where it is easier for humans and all species to co-exist. Of great concern is how to protect local agricultural production and at the same time provide a welcoming place for iguanas.


To make sense of the island’s changing ecosystems we turn to natural resource managers, long-time residents and tourists, emphasizing throughout the perspective of iguanas caught up in this crazy mix! Will human-iguana differences and tension prevail? Or can the island’s two and four-legged creatures peacefully co-exist? Is there a solution that works for people and iguanas?



EROSION OF LIFE (Trailer) from Monty Hempel on Vimeo.
EROSION OF LIFE, a film by Monty Hempel* (running time:  60 min., Blue Planet United, 2017)

We humans like to define ourselves by what we build, invent or create, but our signature trait may be manifest most clearly by what we destroy.  We are architects of the most advanced civilization yet achieved and at the same time we are the leading executioners of nonhuman life, presiding over the first mass extinction since the death of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

This film examines the importance of human-animal relationships in understanding broader environmental values, threats, and opportunities.  We celebrate our personal independence but it is our interdependence that makes us human and capable of empathy. Wild animals open up a world that is not the product of human thought or domination, one that invites us to connect with the great  mysteries of life. By encountering beings that have not been reared or trained by us, and that do not serve our aims, we have the unique opportunity to discover our place in the web of life. A world without wild animals is a world with a diminished capacity for empathy AND little hope for grasping the mysteries of life.


*editor’s note: Monty also organized AESS 2015 and AESS 2017 film nights.

Two films by Phil Brick, Miles C. Moore Professor, Director, Environmental Studies, Whitman College

The Beaver Believers (running time: Approximately 45 minutes)

This is a film about people who believe passionately in the power of one of nature’s most industrious creatures, Castor Canadensis, to restore damaged watersheds to provide more water, more habitat, and greater appreciation for nature’s potential resilience in an era of climate change. We follow our “beaver believers” across several iconic landscapes in the American West, where they are working tirelessly to re-introduce beaver into watersheds that have been damaged by years of neglect, manipulation, and overgrazing. The results are, quite frankly, stunning. Dry streambeds become lush threads of life in arid landscapes in just a few years after beaver begin their work. This is a story of what undaunted stewardship of public natural resources looks like—how just a few committed activists can make a huge difference by working with, not against nature, and by working at the capillaries of natural and social systems.

More information:

Sarah Koenigsberg of Tensegrity Productions

Breaking the Logjam (running time: Approximately 12 minutes)

Residents of rural communities in the Pacific Northwest have been deeply frustrated by the collapse of timber economies and the erosion of their rural way of life, which has played itself out in the 25 years since the listing of the northern spotted owl. The writer Wendell Berry once argued the that gulf between urban and rural sensibilities cuts just as deeply deep as any great divide in American life, this was vividly on display in the recent national election. As we contemplate the contemporary populist moment, it seems imperative to explore how we might move forward—together. Set in rural Wallowa County, Oregon, the film grounds us in the local landscape, peering out through the eyes of local community members: a third generation logger, an urban transplant retiree, a Nez Perce fisheries biologist. At first glance their lives may seem worlds apart, but as our story unfolds, connections reveal themselves, common dreams supersede political differences, and a vision of a future built upon common ground is realized, a parable for many rural communities across the West and across the nation. Collaborative management isn’t easy or fast, but this film demonstrates that it can be remarkably powerful and inspiring, perhaps even a vital signpost on the path to a sustainable future where everyone has a place.


Film Night Agenda

7:00 p.m.  Introduction and Welcome

(Meet the filmmakers —brief intros about the power of environmental filmmaking)

7:10 p.m. Breaking the Log Jam  (12 min) + 3-min. intro from Phil

7:30 p.m.  It Ain’t Easy Being Green  (37 min.) + 3-min. Intro from Crystal

8:10 p.m. Erosion of Life (60 min.) + 3 min. intro from Monty

9:23 p.m.    The Beaver Believers (45 min.) + 3 min. intro from Phil

10:11 p.m.  ~20 min. Q&A and general discussion

10:30 p.m.  Official end but discussion encouraged to continue informally