Last week, the Washington Post acquired documents indicating that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urged Donald Trump to alter 10 of America’s national monuments in order to better exploit their natural resources. Zinke also pushed for four monuments to be shrunk, including Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument.
“The secretary’s set of recommendations would also change the way all 10 targeted monuments are managed,” the Post reported, with Zinke pushing for monuments to “address concerns of local officials or affected industries” and “permit ‘traditional uses’ now restricted within the monuments’ boundaries, such as grazing, logging, coal mining, and commercial fishing.”
Zinke’s short-sighted decision—championed by anti-conservation groups and at least partially motivated, as noted by the Salt Lake Tribune, by the Trump administration’s determination “to wipe out some of Obama’s legacy by redrawing or undoing some of the large monuments he set aside”—is merely the latest indicator that when it comes to environmental exploitation, the otherwise inept Trump Administration is terrifyingly effective. “No other administration has gone this far,” Kristen Brengel of the National Parks Conservation Association told the Post. “This law was intended to protect places from development, not promote damaging natural and cultural resources.”
There is an upside to all this, as hard as it might be to spot: While Trump’s national and international fuck-ups can feel impossible to influence, local environmental battles can be won. And there might be no better way to get started than by checking out this year’s Portland EcoFilm Festival.
Now in its fifth year, the Hollywood Theatre’s fest offers four days of curated documentaries, shorts, and filmmaker Q&As—nearly all of which deal, directly or indirectly, with environmental issues affecting Oregonians.
Now in its fifth year, the Hollywood Theatre’s fest offers four days of curated documentaries, shorts, and filmmaker Q&As—nearly all of which deal, directly or indirectly, with environmental issues affecting Oregonians. Admittedly, opening night starts off rough: First Daughter and the Black Snake (screening Thurs Sept 28) follows repeated Green Party vice-presidential candidate Winona LaDuke’s campaign against a proposed oil pipeline that would run through land belonging to her tribe. LaDuke, who will be in attendance with director Keri Pickett, is sharp and charismatic (and doubly so when she’s shutting down oil profiteers), but First Daughter is overlong, meandering, and repetitive. First Daughter will be preceded by the short Invisible Oregon, in which filmmaker Sam Forencich (also in attendance) filters time-lapsed Oregon landscapes though a Lisa Frank lens, and followed by an opening-night party.
Things improve with Jeff’s World (Fri Sept 29), a doc about affable rock-climbing bros that features gorgeous scenery on the border of Minnesota and Ontario, intense rock-climbing, and two very good dogs. Jeff’s World is preceded by two excellent shorts: Sriram Murali’s Lost in Light, a jaw-dropping study of light pollution, and Hunting Giants, Sean Horlor and Steve Adams’ insightful look at the complex intersections of eco-tourism, logging, and Native rights in Port Renfrew, a tiny town on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island.
River enthusiasts shouldn’t miss A River’s Last Chance (Sat Sept 30), which examines Northern California’s Eel River and its history of logging booms, canneries, and damming, along with a new threat: Humboldt County cannabis farmers.
Oregonians wondering how the Eagle Creek Fire will affect Eagle Creek’s spawning salmon will find plenty of those fish here, along with reflections on why they’re important. “When we decide to simplify natural systems in the pursuit of profit, what we wind up doing is—in way too many cases—knocking the supports out from under those natural systems, and really destabilizing them and wiping them out,” says Scott Greacen, executive director of Friends of the Eel River. “It’s not just about having salmon, it’s about having a world that’s actually alive.”
Two shorts precede Last Chance, both directed by Michelle Alvarado, and both dealing with central Oregon: Saving the Deschutes River examines environmental concerns along the river while acknowledging its vital role as a farming resource, and Náimuni: Connecting Oxbow Conservation Area looks at efforts to restore Oxbow’s man-altered waterways.
There’s more, including farm animal sanctuary doc Called to Rescue (Sun Oct 1) and the Greenland-set Sila and the Gatekeepers of the Arctic (Sun Oct 1), but one of the cleverest bits of programming comes in the form of Roman Polanski’s stone-cold classic Chinatown (Sat Sept 30). A welcome reminder that environmental consciousness can be spurred by dramas as well as documentaries, Chinatown also points out that conflicts between the water-starved denizens of the American West are nothing new. What’s more, the EcoFilm Festival has found a smart, proactive way to screen a classic without ignoring its problematic associations: Taking into consideration Roman Polanski’s history of sexual violence, the fest will donate 20 percent of proceeds from Chinatown’s screening to Call to Safety, Portland’s domestic and sexual violence crisis line and victim advocacy group.