Our core effort for Reel Power 2012 was the Reel Power Film Festival (RPFF) – a series of targeted grassroots screenings and events to build solidarity among frontline communities and push for renewable energy alternatives. The films in the series offer new points of entry for difficult conversations about changes that need to be made at the local, state and national levels. Through grants to on-the-ground organizers and nonprofit groups, we connected to those leading change in affected communities and encouraged them to cross-pollinate their strategies for environmental justice.
Our goals for offering the Reel Power Film Festival mini-grants were to:
Reach frontline communities where natural resource extraction such as mountaintop removal and fracking, or coal-fired power is made and the residents are leading the organizing efforts. We also included backyard communities where alternative energy solutions are being led by the residents.
Select groups that were working on urgent issues and had tangible ways to engage the community in advocating for just and sustainable practices.
Provide access to the collection of films for grassroots groups that needed funding assistance in order to be able to host the Reel Power Film Festival.
Increase cross-pollination of organizing strategies across issue focus so that groups can learn from other struggle, build solidarity, and explore where they fit in the bigger picture.
Midway through the effort, I posted an update on the events to date, and would like to share more highlights below:
Green Paw Aggies, NC A&T Greensboro NC
Green Paw Aggies is a new organization at North Carolina A&T University that is working to engage students in the green movement and helping to make the sustainability efforts in the Triad more inclusive. They kicked off their RPFF with Gasland in March 2012 and plan to show Sun Come Up in March 2013. They are using the festival to engage their student government association, student activists, and local residents to get involved in issues of fracking, climate change and supporting sustainability efforts.
NM Interfaith Power & Light works with nearly 200 faith communities throughout the state to oppose new coal-fired power plants and natural gas fracking in the state. They also assist faith communities to become sustainable and energy efficient by planting community gardens, installing CFLs and weatherization materials, updating furnaces, cooling systems and appliances to more energy-efficient models, and identifying funding sources for solar installations. NM Interfaith Power & Light partnered with Canterbury Campus Ministry, St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church and St. Mark’s on the Mesa Episcopal Church for the RPFF. During the month of October, they used Sun Come Up, Gasland, Split Estate and Dirty Business to motivate audiences to call on the Governor to support the pit rule, a law that requires oil and gas companies to line their pits of toxic waste to avoid ground and water contamination.
Preston Citizens’ Alliance for Resources and Environmental Safety (Preston CARES), Kingwood WV
Preston CARES is a grassroots organization in north-central West Virginia fighting the development of a waste separation facility and industrial landfill for hydraulic fracturing waste. They are also resisting the industry’s push to expand fracking into their community. They partnered with local groups including Whiteday Creek Watershed Association, Friends of Deckers Creek, and Friends of the Cheat to host the RPFF on Sunday, October 14th. Screenings supported their efforts to engage area residents on landowner rights, the public health risks and technology behind hydraulic fracturing, and the impacts of gas development on the land and water. Audience members shared what they had learned at an industry-friendly “Town Hall” meeting the following Tuesday. At the meeting, two people with fracking on their property spoke out to industry representatives to change the course of the one-sided pro-industry dialogue, asking hard questions and demanding that decision makers protect citizens and the environment.
SAMS works to stop the destruction of local communities from irresponsible surface coal mining and improve the quality of life in the coalfields of southwest Virginia. In August and September, they showed Split Estate, Gasland, Sun Come Up, Dirty Business, and Deep Down to encourage people to join efforts to stop the Coalfield Expressway – a plan to use mountaintop removal mining to flatten an area throughout Southwest Virginia to make way for the road while the coal companies keep the profits from what they extract. This taxpayer-financed road (a.k.a. strip mine) could potentially receive $2 billion in federal funds.
Sustainable Tompkins is a citizen-based organization laying the groundwork for the transition to a resilient local economy. They are focused on energy efficiency, climate protection, green purchasing, sustainable community development, green collar jobs, sustainable enterprise, greening heath care, and economic/ecological justice. Their initiatives are on the leading edge of new systems for sustainable living. They launched the RPFF with Sun Come Up in Owego, NY early this month. They plan to use the festival to boost support for regional battles against fracking and to share positive stories about building a better future through truly sustainable communities.
The Texas Drought Project works to involve Texans in climate change issues through the lens of diminishing water resources. They used the RPFF in Corpus Christi in partnership with South Texas Alliance for Peace and Justice, Texans for Peace, the Clean Economy Coalition, and Corpus Christi Progressive Caucus. Special guests and experts participated: Sharon Wilson of Texas OGAP for Split Estate; Dr. Al Armendariz, former EPA regional administrator and now Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign for Dirty Business; Bruce Melton, Engineer and filmmaker on issues related to climate change for Sun Come Up; and Flavia de la Fuente of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign for Deep Down. At the screenings, audience members were invited to continue their interest and participation in the issues by joining demonstrations against Corpus Christi becoming a major terminal for coal export, a costly venture in terms of pollution and taxpayer dollars. They were also invited to participate in two town halls: one against a liquid natural gas conversion plant, and the other about fracking in the Barnett shale and the Eagle Ford shale.
The Future of Reel Power
We’re excited to take what we learned in the past two years with the Reel Power collaborative and build on this work to strengthen the movement for climate justice and a clean energy future. Contact campaign director Kristin Henry for partnership opportunities or to host a Reel Power screening event: khenry [at] workingfilms.org.
On October 2nd, I attended a screening of Blue Vinyl (a documentary by Working Films’ cofounder, Judith Helfand about the hazardous effects of Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC) at the Aperture Gallery in NYC. When I stepped out of the elevator onto the 4th floor, I was greeted by enormous photo prints of industrial Louisiana landscapes along the corridor of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Holy Rosary Cemetery and Dow Chemical Corporation (Union Cardbide Complex), Taft, Louisiana, 1998.
The Union Carbide Corporation purchased the property of the Holy Rosary Church, built circa 1866. A replacement church was constructed in the 1960s in nearby Hahnville, but the cemetery was left behind. In 2009, Dow (which now owns the complex) leaked 26,720 pounds of vaporized ethyl acrylate (EA), a Class II toxic air pollutant, into the atmosphere. No fine was levied, but Dow has pledged a $100,000 contribution to the Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children, which is led by the wife of the current governor of Louisiana.
As I made my way around the gallery, I started to see the connection to this Blue Vinyl screening. The photos on display are a part of Petrochemical America: Picturing Cancer Alley, a collaboration between photographer Richard Misratch and landscape architect Kate Orff, which presents itself in a 240 page book exploring this region of intense chemical production and the detrimental effects the byproduct has on the land and the human beings that live right next door, in direct line of toxic chemicals.
A giant map that identified every chemical component manufactured by these factories took over one wall of the exhibit.
A map displaying the entire area of the United States connected to the Mississippi River as “Cancer Alley”.
After the screening, Gina Wirth of SCAPE led a discussion with environmental health historian David Rosner (who appears in the film) and Mike Schade (a co-creator of the campaign that was built around Blue Vinyl), Campaign Coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ). The Petrochemical America exhibit paired with the Blue Vinyl screening really brought back memories for David as he had spent a lot of time in Louisiana working on PVC related cases and he recounted stories of his time in Cancer Alley.
Although the film has been out in the world for 10 years, CHEJ continually uses it to hold screenings and discussions as it is still relevant to the issues faced by communities that live in close proximity to toxic chemical plants. Mike highlighted the successes CHEJ has had in getting corporations to phase out PVC products. These companies include Apple, Google, Target, and IKEA among many more. Currently they are focused on getting more NYC schools to go PVC-free. According to a CHEJ factsheet “children coming into contact with vinyl flooring have been found to have a higher risk of developing asthma, the #1 cause of school absenteeism and a leading cause of hospitalization for children”. You can read more facts about affects of PVC on children’s health on the CHEJ website. Below are some ways that you can take action now!
Switch to green cleaning products in your home.
Chemicals in traditional cleaning products can cause serious health problems in children, including, neurological disorders, learning disabilities, and reproductive problems. Use our green cleaning resources to make the switch in your home, school, or wherever you use cleaning products.
Form a Green Flag Team in your school.
CEHP’s Green Flag Schools Program for Environmental Leadership provides a framework for students to become environmental leaders and contribute to positive change in their communities. Through the program, students of all ages learn environmental concepts, investigate their schools, and identify solutions for making their schools safer and healthier. Download the Green Flag start-up materials.
Last March, Working Films announced the fourteen mini-grantees for the Reel Power Film Festival, a series of documentaries that bring you stories from the frontline of our energy future. Organizations hosted Reel Power events to encourage cross-pollination of grassroots organizing strategy and to inspire their communities to leverage local resources and networks.
Here are some of the exciting report backs that we’ve received from the first screenings:
Frack Free Catskills is a group fighting fracking in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Communities, as well as throughout New York State. They organized a conference that brought together organizations opposing coal, gas, nuclear energy, and tar sands in order for various communities to gain strength and inspiration from each other in similar struggles. The Reel Power Film Festival (RPFF) kicked off their conference. They screened Dirty Business and hosted a panel discussion afterwards withfilmmaker Peter Bull along with Donna Branham of Keeper of the Mountains, Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountain Keeper, Manna Jo Greene of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Paul Gallay of Riverkeeper, and Duncan Meisel of 350.org. The conversation revolved around local actions needed to resist coal and other fossil fuels. They will continue to show the films in a series in order to keep the local energy and participation high.
Mass Energy Consumers Alliance is a 30-year old nonprofit organization dedicated to making energy more affordable and environmentally sustainable. The RPFF screenings of Dirty Business and Gasland engaged audiences in their work to support the development of community-based wind and solar projects, as well as their efforts to make the state coal-free. The mini-grant supported action events, including a tour of a wind turbine, voter education on energy legislation and an opportunity for audience members to sign up for green electricity.
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition is a statewide organization that works to end mountaintop removal and other coal industry abuses. The first of their 4-part RPFF series kicked off with Gasland earlier this summer. They used the opportunity to educate the audience on public hearings scheduled to discuss the issue of surface mining.
Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of MS is a relatively new organization that provides opportunities to learn, experience first-hand, and find new ways in improving lives through sustainable choices. Gaining Ground, in partnership with the Students for Sustainable Campuses, hosted screenings of all of the Reel Power films and trailers in conjunction with the community and university Earth Week events. Each film included a Q&A where audience members were invited to join the organization’s sustainability efforts, with several folks signing on as new members.
Clean Water for NC works to promote clean, safe water and environments as well as empowered, just communities for all North Carolinians. Gasland and Split Estate were screened by CWFNC with Yadkin Riverkeeper and the Dan River Basin Association in two rural communities that are currently gaining the interest of gas companies. The local news covered their first screening where a local resident commented: “I think watching [Gasland] should be a requirement before allowing anyone to sign a lease allowing fracturing on their property. It just makes no sense to think about maybe trading a little energy now for no water forever.” Several volunteers signed up to approach local government officials in nearby towns and counties about passing resolutions against fracking and 60 people, representing most of the households present, signed up to receive weekly “Frackupdates” about state and national events, advocacy opportunities and news summaries.
If you would like to catch one of the RPFF’s screenings, be sure to check out the Working Films Calendar for updates.
September 13th, 7 pm Dirty Business 511 West Main St, Appalachia VA 24216
Hosted by Southern Appalachian Stewards (SAMS) with a discussion and ways to get involved.
September 16th, 6:30 pm Deep Down Historic Oak Hill School
140 School Street, Oak Hill, WV 25901
Hosted by Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition with a discussion and ways to get involved. September 17, 6 pm – 10 pm Reel Power Film Festival at Union College
Union College Student Center
310 College St, Barbourville, KY
September 20th, 7 pm Deep Down 511 West Main St, Appalachia VA 24216
Hosted by Southern Appalachian Stewards (SAMS) with a discussion and ways to get involved.
September 28th, 7 pm Split Estate Unity by the Sea, 901 Brawner Parkway, Corpus Christi, TX 78411
Hosted by the Texas Drought Project and a Q&A with special guest Sharon Wilson, Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project and more.
Last month, Working Films returned to the Sheffield Doc-Fest, June 13 – 17, hosting a third year of our highly interactive Story Leads to Action panel, co-hosted with the Festival.
Coordinated by our UK staffer Sarah Ross, and facilitated by Robert West, Story Leads to Action brought together filmmaker Frederick Gertten, and his new film Big Boys Gone Bananas*, with Marcos Zunino, a legal officer at Article 19 in London specializing in freedom of expression and international law.
In 2009, when Frederick Gertten’s film Bananas!* was accepted into the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF), he was delighted. An examination of food giant Dole’s devastating use of pesticides in Nicaragua, the film would be having its world premiere in the same city as Dole’s global headquarters. Then the “cease and desist” letters started arriving. Despite not having seen the film, Dole was determined to control the narrative around it – and cast Gertten as a major liar. Dole also began bombarding the LAFF itself, from the organisers to journalists and sponsors, with shocking results.
With our Sheffield Doc-Fest audience, we facilitated a lively discussion about the current risks for filmmakers, especially from multi-national corporations with deep legal pockets. While Gertten vigorously responded to Dole’s meritless action and, with his legal team, demonstrated that the lawsuit was simply one part of Dole’s overall strategy to stifle debate about their environmental actions and liabilities, real damage to the film’s distribution strategy, especially in the US, had already been done. Our conversation was a precautionary tale about how one filmmaker’s passion for truth went against the behemoth of a multi-billon dollar industry and ultimately prevailed – as Big Boys Gone Bananas!* reveals; we shared practical tactics for documentary filmmakers and updates on how international law is supporting artistic expression.
We loved being in Sheffield in June, and look forward to coming back in 2013!
One month ago, we invited organizations and grassroots groups that are impacted by natural resource extraction, climate change or are tapping into renewable energy solutions to apply for one of fourteen mini-grants to support their Reel Power Film Festival (RPFF). Thanks to all that helped us spread the word. We received an incredible response. We are very excited to provide these films to organizations that will use them to advance their outstanding efforts.
The following four projects are the recipients of the first tier grants. For these organizations Working Films’ Reel Power will co-host the event and help to bring in one filmmaker and one organizer to participate in screening event and encourage cross-pollination of grassroots organizing strategy:
Frack Free Catskills, Saugerties NY
Frack Free Catskills is a local group that is fighting fracking in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Communities, as well as NY State. They are organizing a conference that will bring together those who are engaged in movements to oppose extreme extractive energies including coal, gas, nukes, and tars sands in order for different communities to gain strength and inspiration from being connected to others in similar struggles in NY and around the country. The RPFF will be part of their conference.
Green Paw Aggies, NC A&T Greensboro NC
Green Paw Aggies is a new organization at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a historically black college and university, that is working to engaging students in the green movement and helping to make the sustainability efforts in the Triad more inclusive. For the RPFF they will engage their student government association, student activists, and local residents in current issues of fracking and climate change and sustainability efforts. Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC): Union College, Barbourville KY
KFTC is a 30-year-old grassroots, multi-issue organization that includes a focus on stopping mountaintop removal, transitioning to cleaner and safer forms of energy that create new jobs, and pushing for leaders who represent ordinary people instead of powerful interests. They have members in 100 of Kentucky’s 120 counties and 11 local chapters across the state, with new alliances at Union College, where the RPFF will focus on how communities have organized in different areas around the state.
Routt County Frack, Oak Creek CO
This organization is not only working on issues surrounding the threat of the fracking boom in the Yampa River Valley and Routt County, CO, they are also working with various groups throughout Colorado to promote solar and renewable energy development in Northwestern Colorado. The RPFF will engage audiences in a community-rights approach to fighting extractive industries as well as presenting on the viability and necessity of renewable energies in Routt County.
The following ten are the recipients of the mini-grant where we will support their efforts in planning the events in their communities, helping them to leverage local resources and networks:
Clean Water for North Carolina, Rockingham and Stokes Counties NC
Clean Water for NC works to promote clean, safe water and environments and empowered, just communities for all North Carolinians. They are currently fighting to keep fracking illegal in NC by hosting screenings, workshops and info sessions in cooperation with diverse local organizations and in potentially impacted areas. The RPFF will expand their efforts into the Dan River Basin to expose the impacts that fracking has had on communities in other states, and plug them into ways they can actively get involved to add their voices to the current legislative debate.
Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of MS, Starkville MS
Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of MS is a relatively new organization that provides opportunities to learn, experience first-hand, and find new ways in improving their lives through sustainable choices. They host an annual Sustainable Living Conference and produce an annual journal, monthly newsletter and host workshops throughout the state from home solar panel installation or biodiesel conversions to organic gardening and permaculture and have hosted the state’s first Farm to School initiative. The RPFF will be held in conjunction with the Farm on Wheels project; a school bus that is converted to run on waste vegetable oil or bio-diesel and solar power that is used to teach about renewable energy and sustainable agriculture at schools and events throughout Mississippi.
Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, Boston MA
Mass Energy Consumers Alliance is a 30-year old nonprofit organization dedicated to making energy more affordable and environmentally sustainable where they offer clean energy solutions to consumers and advocate on behalf of pro-consumer, pro-environment policies. The RPFF will engage audiences in their work to support the development of community-based wind and solar projects, as well as their efforts to make the state coal-free.
New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light, Albuquerque NM
New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light works with nearly 200 faith communities throughout the state with current efforts to oppose new coal-fired power plants and natural gas fracking in the state; as well as assisting faith communities to become sustainable and energy efficient by planting community gardens, installing CFLs and weatherization materials, updating furnaces, cooling systems and appliances to more energy-efficient models, and to identify funding sources for solar installations. The RPFF will be part of their effort to engage audiences in taking the next tangible step towards sustainability.
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), Fayetteville WV
OVEC is a statewide organization works to end to mountaintop removal and other coal industry abuses and they have expanded their work as fracking has begun in WV. This on the ground organization goes door to door in the community, helps people file complaints, and more importantly supports them in talking to their neighbors about the issues and how to take public action in opposition to it. The RPFF will be part of the work in communities under an expanding strip mine aiming to empower and demonstrate to people that they are not alone, and that around the world, people like them are fighting back.
Omni Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology, Fayetteville AR
The Omni Center is a community-based grassroots organization working to create a just and sustainable world. They are located on the Fayetteville Shale, a natural gas formation that is undergoing heavy fracking and their state was in national news last year because of earthquakes that were shown to be caused by disposal of fracking waste in injection wells. The RPFF will be part of the community’s Earth Day events.
Preston CARES (Citizens’ Alliance for Resources and Environmental Safety), Kingwood WV
Preston CARES is a grassroots organization in north-central West Virginia fighting the development of a waste separation facility and industrial landfill for hydraulic fracturing waste as well as the threat of the expansion of fracking into their community. The RPFF will support their efforts to engage the residents of Preston County on landowner rights, the technology behind hydraulic fracturing, the public health risks associated with fracking, the impacts of gas development on the land and water and how they can get involved.
Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS), Wise VA
SAMS’s works to stop the destruction of local communities by irresponsible surface coal mining, to improve the quality of life in the coalfields of southwest Virginia, and to help build sustainable communities. They will use the RPFF to engage more people in their efforts including water testing, health surveys, economic development, along with lobbying and outreach promoting renewable energy solutions as well as just and sustainable practices.
Sustainable Tompkins, Ithaca NY
Sustainable Tompkins is a citizen-based organization that is a leader in laying the groundwork for the transition to a resilient local economy where they have focused on energy efficiency, climate protection, green purchasing, sustainable community development, green collar jobs, sustainable enterprise, greening heath care, and economic/ecological justice. Their initiatives are on the leading edge, identifying gaps in knowledge and the infrastructure of new systems for sustainable living. The RPFF will be part of their effort to support the regional battles against fracking as well as positive stories of those building a better future based on truly sustainable communities.
The Texas Drought Project, San Antonio TX
The Texas Drought Project works to involve Texans in climate change issues through the lens of their diminishing water resources. They work throughout the state of Texas, putting on conferences and town halls, workshops, and informational tours. Their current focus has included fracking in the Barnett shale and the Eagle Ford shale as well as current efforts to stop the Keystone Pipeline, which would be routed through some of the state’s most sensitive water supplies. The RPFF would include residents of the shale communities highlighting their struggles as well as proponents of more sustainable energy production to engage audiences in the realities of extraction and viable alternatives.
The award-winning documentary SEMPER FI: ALWAYS FAITHFUL is coming to the UK. Working Films is partnering with the filmmakers on a targeted engagement campaign in NC and the US. YOU MUST SEE this story of one Marine’s determination to hold his Corps accountable.
DOCHOUSE presents SEMPER FI: ALWAYS FAITHFUL
Screening Date: March 8th, 2012
Location: Prince Charles Cinema
There will be a satellite SKYPE Q&A with the Directors after the film. ABOUT THE FILM:
Retired Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger devoted nearly 25 years to service in the US Marines, following the motto “Always Faithful” as a way of life. When his nine-year-old daughter died of a rare form of leukemia while living at the military base Camp Lejeune, a grief-stricken Ensminger took on a quest that would lead him to a shocking discovery. This courageous and impassioned exposé follows his mission to make the Marine Corps to live up to its own motto.
Shortlisted for 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary
Winner- Best Documentary Editing- Tribeca Film Festival
Winner- Special Founders Prize- Traverse City Film Festival
Winner- Best Documentary & Audience Award – Woodstock Film Festival
Winner-Best Documentary – San Diego Film Festival
On February 10th, we organized a screening of Dirty Business in Chicago with The Environmental Justice Alliance of Greater Southeast Chicago and The Center for investigative Reporting. Director Peter Bull attended and hosted the Q&A after the film. Below is his recap of the event:
I was invited out to Chicago’s Southeast Side to do a Q&A after a screening of Dirty Business, hosted by a coalition of local environmental and faith groups who are trying to shut down two outmoded, badly-polluting old coal-fired power plants in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods and also put a stop to plans to build a coal gasification plant in the already heavily-polluted Southeast Side.
There was a really impressive turnout for the film – especially on a cold and snowy night. A mix of 60 or so young and old, the audience and context couldn’t have been a better ‘fit’ for the film. Screened in a converted old union hall in an industrial working class neighborhood where most of the manufacturing jobs have disappeared, residents here suffer above normal rates of asthma, heart disease and premature death attributable in large part to the coal plants’ emissions and those of the vast BP refinery just next door across the Indiana state line. The air in this neighborhood has the distinction of containing Illinois’ highest levels of toxic heavy metals, chromium and cadmium, as well as sulfates, which can trigger asthma attacks and increase the risk of heart disease.
The Q & A session lasted a good 45 minutes with intelligent, provocative questions coming from engaged students, concerned parents and retirees alike. Particularly troubling to me was hearing reports of the claims being made on behalf of the proposed coal gasification plant.
If the Sierra Club’s figures are correct, the $3 billion Southside Chicago Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) plant proposed by New York-based developer Leucadia National Corp. will potentially add some 6,100,000 tons of new carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution every year: 3,600,00 tons of the greenhouse gas created in the process wherein coal and petroleum coke from refinery waste is chemically gasified, creating 43.5 billion cubic feet/yr of SNG, which is then burned by end users (natural gas power plants, business and manufacturing and residences), creating over 2,500,00 tons of additional CO2.
Leucadia, however, claims they will be capturing and sequestering 85% of the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions. (In fact, Governor Pat Quinn signed a bill last July mandating that figure as a condition; failure will result in the company facing $20 million in fines.) I’m extremely skeptical about that figure – to my knowledge, no commercial facility has ever demonstrated that ability.
(West Virginia’s pilot ‘clean coal’ Mountaineer plant that stopped capturing CO2 recently because it was economically unfeasible was only capturing some 1% of its
emissions.) Meanwhile, Leucadia has yet to obtain permission to add pollution to this crowded industrial area in Chicago, and has yet to locate a buyer for its carbon dioxide emissions.
If plans for the gasification plant do go forward, though, the biggest impact on Southeast Side residents will come from the endless coal trains that will be feeding the plant. So-called ‘clean coal’ plants that employ carbon capture and storage technology are expected to need some 30% of the plant’s energy to capture, or filter out, the CO2 gases – which means they will require some 30% more coal than a traditional power plant. That coal gets shipped in open cars and dumped in huge piles next to the tracks that crisscross this area adjoining the toxic Calumet River, which I was told then sends huge plumes of coal dust over the housing developments and elementary and junior high schools on the other side of the tracks whenever the wind picks up.
In the afternoon before the screening I was given a sobering tour of the area by Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force. He pointed out the huge piles of coal, now incongruously white with a coating of snow, and then pointed across the river to similar-looking piles of rock salt. The salt piles had tarps tightly fastened on top of them; the coal piles were open to the elements. If Leucadia gets approved, those piles are going to get a lot bigger – and so are Southeast Side residents’ asthma and other respiratory disease statistics.
Thanks to the groups who hosted the screening, and all best wishes for their efforts in aiding & educating their community: The Environmental Justice Alliance of Greater Southeast Chicago; the Southeast Environmental Task Force; Sierra Club; People for Community Recovery; New 10th Ward Community Service Organization; Centro Communitario Juan Diego; Eastside United Methodist Church; The Zone; the Illinois Environmental Council; and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.
Do you live in a community that has been impacted or likely to be by mountaintop removal, fracking, or a coal-fired power plant? Are you in a community where alternative energy solutions are being implemented?
Or, have you already hosted one of the Reel Power films and would like to explore the related issues around coal, gas, climate change and renewable energy solutions with your community? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the Reel Power Film Festival may be for you.
Working Films is pleased to announce the launch of the Reel Power Film Festival and a Grassroots Mini-grant Opportunity. Reel Power is a collection of films that tell stories from the frontlines of our energy crisis and into our energy future and have the power to get your community talking and taking action. While anyone can host a Reel Power Film Festival, organizations and grassroots groups that are impacted by natural resource extraction, climate change or are tapping into renewable energy solutions are invited to apply for one of fourteen mini-grants to support their event.
We’ll offer mini-grants to frontline groups that are interested in bringing two or more of the films to their community this Spring or Summer. These grants of $250 cash with $500 additional in-kind will cover screening fees and other resources needed to put on a stellar event (such as venue rental, get the word out materials, etc.). Two to four of these events will receive a higher level of in-kind support valued at an additional $2500.
For more information on the Reel Power Film Festival, mini-grants and how to apply, please visit workingfilms.org/reelpowergrants. Contact Reel Power director Kristin Henry at khenry [at] workingfilms.org if you have additional questions along the way.
Dirty Business is an impressive film that takes a hard look at the cycle of coal, and examines the PR campaign of clean coal and its subsequent consequences. The film also looks at the extent to which we could replace coal by increasing our energy efficiency by telling the stories of innovators who are pointing the way to an alternative energy future.
Working Films, along with The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Environmental Justice Alliance of Greater Southeast Chicago, will host a free screening of the film that’s open to the public on Friday, February 10th at The Zone in Chicago, Illinois. This special screening will bring the community together to discuss the environmental consequences that are currently facing Chicago residents including the two old and dirty coal plants in Pilsen and Little Village and a proposed coal gasification plant for the already struggling Southeast side. These are some of the most polluted areas of Chicago, where residents suffer adverse health effects like asthma, heart disease and premature death.
The good news is that the city is currently considering the passing of a resolution called The Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would require that the highly polluting Fisk and Crawford plants in Pilsen and Little Village either greatly reduce their pollution or shut down completely. Following Friday night’s screening will be a Q&A with the director of the film, Peter Bull, along with members of The Environmental Justice Alliance to explore the stories in the film and ideas and opportunities on how the audience can get involved to move Chicago beyond coal.
If you are interested in bringing Dirty Business to your community, you can find out more on our site or contact Andy Myers at amyers [at] workingfilms.org.
The next day, Sunday, November 13, Working Films Robert West and filmmakers Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon took Semper Fi back home to Jacksonville, NC and Camp Lejeune for its first non-festival premiere. The film tells the story of retired Marine Jerry Ensminger’s fight for justice on behalf of U.S. soldiers and their families exposed to toxic drinking water at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, including detailed and important information about the water situation and how it affects current and former residents and employees.
After the film screening, over 120 audience members stayed for 90 minutes for a conversation with the filmmakers and Master Sgt. Ensminger; Hope Hodge, the military reporter from the Jacksonville Daily News; and David Andrews, an expert from the Environmental Working Group. Incredibly moving testimony from audience members reflected the hurt in this community, with folks sharing personal stories of their own cancers and the loss of their children or parents to rare cancers and illnesses. There were tears and anger, and solidarity in the room over their outrage at Camp Lejeune.
Jacksonville was the first stop on a planned North and South Carolina tour by Working Films and the filmmakers, with a potential national tour of other toxic military sites in 2012. And, as promised to the audience on Sunday, we will bring the film back to Jacksonville. It was very clear that this is a community that still needs a lot of answers and a conduit for collective action.
It was an amazing weekend, and then Semper Fi got great news – shortlisted for feature documentary for the Academy Awards 2012. Congratulations to the filmmakers and Chicken & Egg Pictures, executive producers.