2017 theme goes beyond symposium topic into realm of community organizing
Each year, Mountainfilm selects a timely and compelling topic for the theme of its Moving Mountains Symposium, which opens the festival with a series of presentations, panel discussions and break-out sessions around that theme.
But what happens when the theme is more than timely — when it’s the essential story of our time? That’s the question Mountainfilm faced this year when it decided to tackle climate change with the theme of The New Normal.
“We realized that the litany of scourges from climate change are already happening all too often. Whether it’s Zika virus in Miami or winter rain in Telluride, climate change and its terrifying impact has become The New Normal,” Festival Director David Holbrooke said. “As we talked more about this theme, however, we realized that The New Normal didn’t have to be just these unnerving challenges. ‘Normal’ could mean something else entirely. So we embarked on what’s become the most ambitious effort in the 39-year history of Mountainfilm.”
The New Normal has grown far beyond the symposium theme: It has evolved as a community-wide, grassroots effort to battle climate change and help bring the Telluride region to carbon neutrality. This is no small challenge because Telluride has a carbon footprint twice the national average.
“We believe that The New Normal can be a reset in the way we live our lives here in Telluride,” Holbrooke said. “So for us at Mountainfilm, The New Normal is to work assiduously — and collectively — toward reducing our impact by using the power of story to fuel innovation and community building.”
Mountainfilm staff has been busy all winter working with Durango consultant Rachel Landis to launch this bold initiative. The festival is asking its audience, a variety of local partners (including businesses, nonprofits and individuals) and its own staff and operations to take on five actions: education, reduction, offsets, advocacy and celebration. Mountainfilm has identified specific ways the Telluride community can take these simple, yet impactful, steps and will help track and recognize the entities that participate.
“We felt the first step toward The New Normal was a series of actions that people could take that would be impactful immediately,” Holbrooke said. “When we collectivize this broad array of stories about people who are changing their ways to reduce their carbon footprint, we think it will be extremely inspiring for our audience.”
Mountainfilm is also planning a host of 2017 festival programming in the vein of The New Normal, with an array of films about climate change and special guests, such as former White House Science Adviser John Holdren, environmental writer and thinker Paul Hawken, Climate Interactive’s Drew Jones and cultural anthropologist Alize Carrere, who researches climate adaptation around the world. Mountainfilm is also excited to host Garry Charnock, who spearheaded a citizen-led effort to become carbon neutral in the U.K. village of Ashton Hayes, which has garnered international attention. Holbrooke hopes the local sensibility of Ashton Hayes can provide a road map for Telluride.
As Holbrooke asked, “Can we do this? Can Telluride really go carbon neutral? We don’t know, but given what is clearly happening to our planet, we have to try. We are glad to have a model to follow with the good people of Ashton Hayes, who have had a lot of success. Local solutions have enormous potential, and if it works in Telluride our efforts can be replicable and scalable across the country.”
In that spirit, Mountainfilm is partnering with local experts and nonprofits, such as San Miguel Power Association, the Pinhead Climate Institute and EcoAction Partners, to create actionable steps for The New Normal. And, of course, The New Normal galvanized Mountainfilm to reexamine its own year-round operations and festival practices to identify where it can do more — or less. Since the beginning of the initiative, Mountainfilm has launched a community battery-recycling site, started office-wide composting, become certified as a Green Business through EcoAction Partners, and is offsetting the travel of its festival guests and staff who come from far and wide.
“Mountainfilm is dedicated to reducing carbon emissions in Telluride, and we feel our first responsibility is to start within our own organization,” said Mountainfilm Executive Director Sage Martin. “With our recent certification as a Green Business, we hope to set an example and inspire other local businesses and organizations to pursue green certification, as well.”
For more information and specific programs and actions related to the initiative, visit The New Normal pages on Mountainfilm’s website, which encourage local citizens and out-of-town visitors to sign up and join the ambitious effort. As Holbrooke pointed out, Telluride has a long, rich history of innovation: “Right now, the town has a chance to come together and lead once again.”