Science in America - Neil deGrasse Tyson
How did America rise from a backwoods country to be one of the greatest nations the world has ever known? That’s the question posited by Neil deGrasse Tyson, America’s best-known contemporary scientist, at the beginning of this short film. The answer, unequivocally, is science. Tyson elaborates with a robust, heartfelt and moving defense of a field that’s been under attack.
Frans Lanting: The Evolution of LIFE
Nearly a decade ago, inspired by NASA’s iconic images of planet Earth and the mind-bending vastness of evolution, eminent nature photographer Frans Lanting was struck with an ambitious idea: Tell the story of life on Earth through pictures. What ensued was a years-long project that took Lanting and his wife, Christine Eckstrom, across the globe to capture images that would take people on a journey from the Big Bang to the present. They shot lava eruptions, micro-organisms too tiny to see with the naked eyes, squishy sea invertebrates, rodents, apes and, finally, humans. Frans Lanting: The Evolution of LIFE chronicles the project and its humbling conclusion that we’re all players in a tableau of interconnectedness. “The realization that we are all related is truly profound,” Frans says. “And that’s an awesome realization as we’re hurtling through space on this tiny living planet.”
Adaptation Bangladesh: Sea Level Rise
The “new normal” of global climate change is, generally, a harrowing reality to contemplate. Cultural anthropologist (and Moving Mountains Symposium speaker) Alizé Carrére helps us see, however, that it does not need to be a reality devoid of hope. In Bangladesh — the most densely populated country in the world and one that will bear a disproportionate share of the impact of global climate change — Carrere shows us the kind of resilience, flexibility and innovation that will be requisite for the survival of our species.
Through its Young Explorers Grants (YEG) program, National Geographic Society has launched the career of many a photographer, explorer, researcher and bright young mind. Each year, Mountainfilm brings a handful of these “YEGs” to the festival presentations and exhibits. The 2017 crop includes:
Chris A. Johns is a photographer and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida who has spent recent years prowling the thick cloud forests of Hawaii in search of Philodoria, a tiny and little-known moth endemic to the island state. Johns aims to document, study and create a family tree of these highly adapted moths, which are threatened by a critical loss of the plant leaves they eat. Through the grueling work, Johns has already identified several species new to science.
As the the daughter of former National Geographic editor in chief Chris Johns, taking pictures was probably in Louise Johns’ DNA. Still, she didn’t consider herself a photographer until she took a photojournalism class in college and was subsequently inspired to document the changing landscapes of the West while working as a wrangler on a Montana ranch. In her project, “Harmony in a Montana Conflict Zone: Riding Range on a Yellowstone Borderline,” she reveals the changing relationship between ranchers and nature by chronicling range rider, wildlife biologist and mother Hilary Anderson.
Stretching from Manali to Srinagar in the north of India, like a necklace across the Himalaya Mountains, is the highest-altitude road in the world. Each year, pummeled by landslides, avalanches and flooding, the road is reconstructed. But, with a new tunnel scheduled to be completed, that will soon change. Explorer Cameron Kruse’s project, “A Road Among Clouds,” will document the people, places and stories behind the final reconstruction using images, social media and film.
Michael O. Snyder is part of a team working on a project titled “America’s Eroding Edges,” which travels to the margins of the United States’ territory, where the rim of American identity meets the edge of rising oceans. From Alaska to Guam, the American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, the team is chronicling the citizens who have been largely cropped out of America’s climate change portrait. Prior to his work on this project, Snyder hiked the Appalachian and John Muir trails, rode the Trans- Siberian Railway and cycled more than 3,000 miles across Europe.
Ram Dass, Going Home
As Eastern mysticism has gone virtually mainstream, Ram Dass, Going Home checks in with the legendary American writer and spiritual teacher whose 1971 book, Be Here Now, arguably launched the still-expanding awareness of awareness in the United States. Filmmaker Derek Peck visits Ram Dass at his home in Maui. In his mid-80s, Ram Dass discusses major milestones in his journey, from early drug use to his spiritual education on visits to India, to a 1997 stroke that was “an act of grace” because it forced him inward. Nearing death, he is still teaching. “More and more love, more and more love, more and more love,” he says at one point. “Truth, love, consciousness, that’s what God is to me. It’s just consciousness.” Death, he later observes, “is another step towards home.”