A few more green movies

Additions to the lists of green movies I posted a couple of years ago, under the same headings I used then:

Inspirational ‘art’ documentaries

Samsara 2012 (Rotten Tomatoes) (Internet Movie Database) (Wikipedia) Samsara reunites director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson, whose award-winning films Baraka and Chronos were acclaimed for combining visual and musical artistry. Samsara is similar; the “Critics Consensus” on RT is that Samsara is a tad heavy-handed in its message but that its overwhelmingly beautiful imagery more than compensates for any narrative shortcomings.

(Note that there is an older movie of the same name, released about 2001 and telling the story of a Tibetan monk who renounces his vows to marry an attractive peasant girl. It’s a beautiful movie but not a green one; read about it on RT if you want to know more.)

Ashes and Snow 2005 (IMDB), a film by Gregory Colbert, uses both still and movie cameras to explore extraordinary interactions between humans and animals. The 60-minute feature “is a poetic narrative rather than a documentary and aims to lift the natural and artificial barriers between humans and other species”.

Activist documentaries

The Majestic Plastic Bag – a mockumentary 2010 (IMDb) A very different take on a serious issue, The Majestic Plastic Bag is a professionally produced short about the “life cycle” of the plastic bag. Narrated by Jeremy Irons, it gives us the chance to smile and then pause for thought about how we are contributing to the great Pacific garbage patch every time we use a plastic bag. Go to Youtube and sit back – it’s only four minutes long.

Amnesty has recently compiled a list of excellent movies with human rights themes – ten in their main list and more in the comments. Those I have seen give me confidence in saying that all of them will be worth watching – though seeing all of them in a short period may be inadvisable.

Tasmania says goodbye to shopping bags

bye bye bagsThe Tasmanian Government announced last year that it would ban lightweight plastic shopping bags on November 1 this year.

The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment set up an advisory site which explained …

Plastics are a major pollutant in our environment and waste valuable resources. You can make a difference and help reduce the number of plastic bags by bringing your own bag!

From 1 November 2013 Tasmanian retailers can no longer supply shoppers with non-biodegradable, lightweight plastic shopping bags. The ban is being implemented by the Tasmanian Government and applies to all Tasmanian retailers. Please be patient with retail workers while everyone adapts to the change.

In the event, the change appeared almost effortless, as the Hobart Mercury reported next day:

Tasmania’s shoppers adjust quickly to ban on plastic bags as new regulations kick in 

Shoppers and retailers got through the first day of the state’s plastic-bag ban relatively unscathed, major supermarkets report.

IGA said early feedback from Tasmanian stores was that day one had gone smoothly. “It is very early days but I expect the next few weeks to be interesting as customers get used to the new arrangements,” IGA’s Grant Hinchcliffe said yesterday. Cloth and bio-degradable plastic bags will be on offer at IGA stores, at a small cost.

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths also reported no major hiccups. Woolworths said the first day under the new regulations had gone smoothly. “The adverts, media coverage and our own communications has meant our customers are well aware and have prepared for the changes,” a Woolworths spokesman said. “Anecdotally, we’ve noticed many customers coming into stores today with their own bags.”

The ban does not apply to biodegradable plastic bags and heavier “boutique-style” bags, which can be re-used. Re-useable green bags, ziplock bags and thin-film barrier bags used to wrap prepared foods and fruit and vegetables are also still allowed.

Next question: why can’t we do it here?

… and “here” means Queensland (since that’s where I am) or whichever state you’re reading this blog from.

  • The South Australian ban came into force in May 2009.
  • The Northern Territory ban came into force in September 2011.
  • The Queensland government briefly considered one in July 1013 – then back-flipped on the specious grounds that it would increase the cost of living. The story about it in the Courier-Mail is worth reading in full so I won’t post it here. All I will say is that the decision is absolutely typical of the Newman government. Sigh … but never give up!

“Here” also means Townsville (since that’s where I am) or whichever town you’re reading this blog from. A statewide ban would obviously be better but a local one may be easier to bring into existence. I first saw one in action in Tasmania, as it happens, in a pretty little seaside town called Coles Bay. They banned bags back in 2003 and when I visited in 2006 it was perfectly normal for the locals, while tourists like ourselves approved of the change and adapted to it very quickly.

More information

A slightly shorter version of this article appeared in Waves, newsletter of the Reef HQ Volunteers’ Association, for December 2013.

E-waste collection in Townsville

We throw out a lot of junk. Some of it peacefully decomposes without any further impact on the environment but some of it is quite toxic. One particular category is both highly toxic and, ironically, full of valuable materials: junked technical gear, or e-waste. That gives us two good reasons to dispose of it as thoughtfully as possible. An excellent article on Gizmodo begins:

The brand new tablet/smartphone/GPU you grabbed last week is the cat’s meow. But what happens to it – or to any of the devices you once treasured- when you don’t want or need them anymore? Where do they go? Is there a reliable, “green” way to dispose of them? And hey, does one extra electronic gadget in a landfill really put the big hurt on the environment?

Let’s start simple by looking at one of today’s most ubiquitous electronic gadgets, the mobile phone or smart phone. … The mobile phone is far from green. Indeed, it houses a lot of stuff you certainly wouldn’t want to sprinkle on your cereal. Stuff like copper, gold, lead, nickel, antimony, zinc, beryllium, tantalum, mercury, arsenic, and coltan (more on coltan in a moment), among others.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff not to like about the way we deal with our old and unloved electronics. We toss way too much of it. We recycle some of it, but even then the machinery behind that recycling is flawed and we’re only beginning to understand the dangers that come from the hazardous materials that lay inside. Changes are afoot, but the evidence of an apathetic past and present, like the e-waste itself, is piling up.

And let’s not forget – not all unused products are immediately given the heave-ho. Consumers tend to stockpile stuff they don’t use any longer. Admit it – how many old game consoles or mobile phones or laptops or TVs or cameras or CD players, Walkmans, record players, spare monitors are sitting around your house right now because you’ll either use them again one day (fat chance), or because you just don’t know what to do about it?

That last paragraph describes my position so well that they must have peered into my cupboard!

Seriously, disposing of old tech stuff without sending it straight to landfill can be difficult, especially if you’re outside the big cities. Last time I tried, I rang and emailed around to try to do the right thing. Our only computer recycler wouldn’t take anything that wasn’t relatively new and commercial-grade; no city council department could help; local waste recyclers didn’t take e-waste; and Brisbane e-waste recyclers didn’t have any way to get my junk from here to there.

Right now, people in Townsville have a one-off chance to do the right thing with their techno-rubble, since a Brisbane company is coming to us for one day: Buyequip is holding another

Electronic Waste Recyclathon

at 3 – 7 Macrossan St, South Townsville,
between 9.00 and 3.00 on September 7, 2012.

On the day, they will be accepting the following electronic waste:

  • Computers – laptop and desktop
  • Monitors – LCD and CRT
  • Printers and scanners
  • Computer peripherals – power supplies, networking equipment, cables, etc.
  • Telephones and mobile phones (but not televisions or whitegoods)

Buyequip is an award winning End of Life IT Services organisation dedicated to preventing electronic waste entering our landfills. More than 98% of the materials collected on the day will be diverted from the landfill waste stream.
If you are keen to attend, please email Suzie Bowen suzie.bowen@buyequip.com.au or call her on 0488 331 662 . They look forward to seeing you on the day!

More information:

The Gizmodo article recommends a Greenpeace study [Edit: updated here in 2017] that ranks the most dominant tech producers in terms of their environmental footprint.

Afterword

The day came, and I took a couple of boxes of our e-waste down to South Townsville. The operation there was simplicity itself: one container on a vacant block, two people, a clipboard so people could leave their names and contact info (presumably for next time). By the time I arrived, the container was about half full and there were boxes on the grass beside it, waiting to be stacked inside.

old computers in containerold computer gear in container

The perils of plastic

The new American movie Bag It has been garnering awards at film festivals across the nation. What started as a documentary about plastic bags evolved into a wholesale investigation into plastics and their effect on our waterways, oceans, and even our bodies. It will be in Townsville for the Sea Turtle Foundation’s Marine Debris Roadshow from September 28 to October 1.

Special guest Tim Silverwood, environmentalist, photographer and film-maker, will also be present and will be talking about the issues surrounding single-use disposables and showing some of his own footage from a recent trip to the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.

The Road Show itinerary is:

  • Wednesday 28th: 5pm Lecture, JCU room 101 science and engineering building, JCU.
  • Thursday 29th: 6pm Bag It (full length version) and Tim guest-speaking at xbase, Magnetic Island.
  • Friday 30th: 1.00 – 2.30pm Bag It (the 45 min short version) and Tim guest-speaking in the Reef HQ Theatre.
  • Friday 30th: 6pm Eco marine exhibition followed by Bag It and Tim guest-speaking, Court Theatre, Townsville city.
  • Saturday 1st: 8.30-11am Creek clean up, national park boat ramp, South Townsville.

For more information about the Marine Debris Road show, please click on the flyer thumbnail.

RSVP (preferred) and further event information: Rachel Amies at rachel.amies@seaturtlefoundation.org or ph: 07 4721 2699 (this is the correct number – the number on the flyer is incorrect)

For more information about the movie and its background, go to http://www.bagitmovie.com/