Greg Mortenson: Investigative Report Released

Yesterday concluded a yearlong investigation into Greg Mortenson, the executive director of The Central Asia Institute (CAI) and author of Three Cups of Tea. The attorney general of Montana’s report simultaneously praised Mortenson for “the efforts of a complicated person who has worked tirelessly on behalf of a noble pursuit,” while also establishing that he acted “in a way that jeopardized that pursuit.”

The report states that Mortenson will remain the face of the charity he co-founded (though no longer with the title of “executive director”), but he has to repay $1 million in compensation for “lapses in judgment” in regard to “financial transgressions.” In the opening letter to the report, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock summarizes:

Cows, Conflict, dZi: Update from Nepal

The Awareness into Action series of blog posts originated in 2011 as a way to document ordinary folks attempting to get out there and do good. We began by following a pair of Mountainfilm in Telluride staffers through the setbacks and triumphs of their endeavor to take the inspiration of Mountainfilm and turn it into something tangible in Ghana. Now the series continues as we follow another former Mountainfilm staffer, Lexi Tuddenham, in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Throwing Away Gorillas: Food Waste

We screened the premiere of Bag It in 2009, and artist Chris Jordan has appeared with his “Running the Numbers” series at the festival, so Mountainfilm in Telluride audiences are no stranger to the concept of waste in its many forms, but it’s a topic worth revisiting periodically, especially with mind-boggling statistics.

Conrad Anker: From One Summit to the Next

Mountainfilm in Telluride invited Conrad Anker to town in mid-March, and he spoke to a packed room about his recent summit of Meru, a highly technical peak in India that has eluded many top-notch climbers for decades. Anker had been "obsessed" with the peak for 20 years, and his last unsuccessful attempt in 2008 with Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk was chronicled in Samsara, which won Mountainfilmin in Telluride's 2009 Charlie Fowler Award. The three men went back last fall, an effort that will be the subject of a new film, called House of Cards, that will premiere at Mountainfilm May 2012.

Traditions Change: Birthrates Drop in Latin America and Asia

The Washington Post recently reported on plummeting birth rates in Brazil, a country with traditionally big families. The consistency of this swing across such a large, economically, geographically and politically diverse country was striking to demographers. It reflects an even larger trend across much of Latin America, which has seen women go from having almost six children each in 1960 to an average of 2.3 today. This tendency has also reached Asia, which has seen similar declines, but as the population-focused Guttmacher Institute reports, much of sub-Saharan Africa remains all too fertile with birth rates double that of Asia and Latin America.

Greg Mortenson: An Update from Outside Magazine

Audiences at Mountainfilm in Telluride have known about Greg Mortenson and his book Three Cups of Tea for nearly a decade because he’s been a guest at several festivals. Ten months ago, reports by “60 Minutes” and Jon Krakauer shattered Mortenson's past, present and future with allegations of financial impropriety and personal fabrications. Mortenson has been publicly quiet since, but as Outside magazine's Alex Heard reports, Mortenson — and the world around him — is very much in turmoil.

United Nations Weighs in on Population: What the Numbers Mean

The United Nations released an alarming report recently about population, a topic that will be the focus of Mountainfilm in Telluride's 2012 Moving Mountains Symposium. According to the report, nearly 3 billion people could end up impoverished by 2050. The U.N. argues that "The current global development model is unsustainable. To achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy is required." Ironically, the number of people on the planet living in "absolute poverty" has reduced to 27 percent from 46 percent in 1990, but with natural resources rapidly diminishing, these numbers are predicted to head in the wrong direction in the future.

The Folly of Man: A Complicated Dispute Over Bolts on Cerro Torre

Even if you’re not a climber, this is a fascinating story. It’s got all the elements of a good tale — a strong cast of characters, a stunning setting, tragedy and many complicated plot twists.

Once upon a time, an Italian named Casare Maestri and an Austrian called Toni Egger climbed one of the world’s most difficult peaks, Patagonia’s Cerro Torre, in 1959. Their success was marred by two significant factors: 1. Egger died after they summited, and 2. Maestri’s claim of success turned out to be a bold-faced lie.

Maestri returned to the climb in 1970 to defend his honor and climb the mountain once more, this time fixing thousands of feet of rope and using a gas-powered drill to install approximately 400 bolts up the granite spire. Again, he claimed success, although he was actually a few hundred feet short of the true summit — a minor detail he dismissed, saying this section was “not really part of the mountain,” because “it’ll blow away one of these days.”

Beyond Film Screenings at Sundance: The Parties

Our programming team — David Holbrooke and Emily Long — spent several days at the recent Sundance Film Festival, seeing documentaries to consider for Mountainfilm in Telluride.

Dig Deeper

Bill McKibben of 350.org finds inspiration in Tim DeChristopher’s message, which he summaries as “Do more. Dig deeper. Don’t be afraid.” McKibben’s Orion blog, “Dig Deeper,” discusses how the environmental movement had lost impact and needed new tactics. With climate change as the current challenge, the timing for the environmental movement’s power loss was unfortunate, but DeChristopher’s actions have enlivened the cause and sparked activism on new levels.

For more from Orion about Tim DeChristopher, check out Terry Tempest Williams’ interview, “What Love Looks Like.”