Merced County Times Newspaper
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Wild & Scenic Film Festival addresses environmental issues

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival began in 2003, but the group which formed it was organized in 1983.

That was when members of the South Yoruba River Citizens League, a non-profit located in Nevada City, California, got together to oppose several proposed dams. The group worked to accomplish Wild & Scenic status on 39 miles of the South Yoruba in 1999.

The film festival is a call to action for communities to get involved to protect the environmental challenges facing our planet.

Claudia Silva, the Administrator for the UC Merced Center for the Humanities, told the Times, “UC Merced has put on the Wild & Scenic Film Festival every year for about seven years.  It’s free to the public, first come, first served.

“We show a series of short films, some 6 or 7 minutes long, some 25 minutes long, on a variety of things that are important about the environment.

“One year, the film festival covered only water issues.

“Last year, we showed documentaries on rock climbing, the pipeline issues and the Native Americans fighting on these issues, and deforesting.

This year on Jan. 31, there were several films shown at Playhouse Merced on a variety of issues.

This year’s films were: “March of the Newts,” “Meet the Real Wolf,” “Sacred Strides,” “Climbing Out of Disaster,” “Junk,” “Resilience at the Roots,” “Brotherhood of Skiing” and “Takayna.”

A highlight of the festival was the 29-minute film, “Junk” by Marcus Eriksen, Joel Paschal, Alec Baer, Lia Colabello, Katy Hass and Elan Glasser.

The film brought attention to plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre, the largest ecosystem on earth, which covers most of the northern Pacific Ocean.

Plastic trash accumulates in the massive slow-rotating current of a gyre.

On June 1, 2008, Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal rode the trade winds from Los Angeles to Oahu, Hawaii on a raft created from reclaimed materials, consisting of 15,000 plastic bottles!

Their goal was to document the trash along the way and get the nation talking about plastic waste.

One of the facts presented was that in the United States, we recycle less than 10 percent of the plastic we use.

The situation the voyagers observed on their journey, which was supposed to take six weeks but took twice that, was grave — a “trash island the size of Texas”.  They saw “trillions of toxic particles”.

The impacts on marine life are unknown.

After dissecting the stomach of a fish they caught, they found it had been snacking on toxic plastic, and they realized the extent of the health threat for humans who would consume fish caught in this vast area.
On Day 88, the voyagers arrived safely in Hawaii.

They concluded that change could be effected, but, “It takes all of us demanding a better way.”
Eriksen and his wife, Anna Cummings, founded the 5 Gyres Institute which has the goal of eliminating plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

Since the voyage of the raft Junk, the 5 Gyres Institute has been responsible for sailing 50,000 miles on 17 research excursions.

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