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Check it out: Free environmental film festival aims to inform and entertain

Kenneth Brower, son of the late David Brower, who was the first executive director of the Sierra Club, will be the guest speaker at the 12th annual Environmental Film Festival later this month in Rock Island.

In 2005, Sierra Club Eagle View Group members Kathryn Allen and Kristen Bergren were inspired to create an environmental film festival in the Quad-Cities after attending the national Sierra Summit in San Francisco. 

At the conference, they heard speeches from Al Gore and Bobby Kennedy Jr. (among others), saw environmental films, and returned home to the Q-C hoping to establish a similar tradition in our community. 

And they did.

For the first few years, the festival was held at the Unitarian Church in Davenport. As the festival grew, a larger and more suitable venue was necessary.

"We were lucky enough to have Augustana College become a co-sponsor, and now have a great theater setting in Olin Hall," Bergren says. "Along with the new venue came a new format for us. ... one movie at a time!" 

The Eagle View Group of the Sierra Club, in association with Augustana College and Radish magazine, will host the 12th annual Environmental Film Fest on March 11 at the college, 733 35th St., Rock Island. Doors will open at 10:30 a.m., with films beginning at 11 a.m. Admission is free, and healthy snacks and beverages will be provided. 

The goal of the festival is to help educate group members and the community about the challenges of global warming, sustainability, clean air and water, food and agriculture, and environmental justice.

Allen, Bergren, and friends and fellow committee members Susan Wolf and Sue Ratkiewicz meet at least six or seven times a year to organize the festival and select the featured films. The group attends and monitors major environmental film festivals and views films online to gather a selection of the year's most important productions, and a lineup is finalized each January.

Festival organizers are particularly proud of the years when prominent filmmakers attended the festival and spoke about their films and their work in the field. For instance, Deia Schlosberg, whose film "Backyard" drew attention to effects of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), spoke at the 2015 festival. In 2016, "Mysteries of the Driftless" executive producer Tim Jacobson attended. The film highlights a unique part of the Midwest that mostly was unaffected by the last glacial retreat.

This year, Bergren is especially excited that the festival will feature guest speaker Kenneth Brower, son of the late David Brower, who was the first executive director of the Sierra Club, the founder of Friends of the Earth and the Earth Island Institute, and a co-founder of the League of Conservation Voters.

With more than 10 published books, most of which focus on the environment, Kenneth Brower is a notable environmentalist in his own right, and has helped to increase public awareness about the need to protect our natural treasures, and to recruit new members to the Sierra Club and the the environmental movement as a whole.

Bergren says the best part about organizing the festival is that she gets to do so with her friends while “discovering that there are many passionate, intelligent, creative and brave people who are working to save our beautiful planet... and bringing their stories and efforts to those who attend our film festival.

"It inspires and educates folks who come together for a few hours and hopefully leave with the knowledge that they can help make a difference, and that there are organizations to support their efforts, and that the organizations need to be supported.”

Dylan Davis is a regular Radish contributor.

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