Mountainfilm: “The New Normal,” Program + Initiative

Mountainfilm: “The New Normal,” Program + Initiative

The 2017 theme of  Mountainfilm‘s Moving Mountains Symposium goes beyond the symposium topic into realm of community organizing. For more information and specific programs and actions related to the initiative, visit The New Normal pages on Mountainfilm’s website. Scroll down for a preliminary list of presenters.


Artist, Forest Woodward


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 thate 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.”

Preliminary Lineup of Speakers:
James Balog. Environmental photographer James Balog has spent more than three decades chronicling human modification of our planet’s natural systems through images. He is the founder of the Extreme Ice Survey, which is the most wide-ranging photographic study of glaciers ever conducted. His work was the subject of the award-winning documentary Chasing Icewhich screened at Mountainfilm in 2012, as well as the short documentaries 1000 Cuts (Mountainfilm 2015) and Message in a Bottle (Mountainfilm 2016). In 2009, he served as a U.S./NASA representative at the United Nations Conference on climate change in Copenhagen, and he has given presentations at places that range from TED to the White House.

Alizé CarréreA writer, photographer, cultural anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer, Alizé Carrére has spent several years traveling the world examining the ways humans are adapting to climate change. She has traveled from Madagascar to Norway and India to research and document the stories of the people on the front lines of climate change, such as farmers in Bangladesh who plant floating gardens in the country’s rising waters.

Garry CharnockIn 2005, Garry Charnock brought a proposal to his tiny U.K. village, Ashton Hayes, to band together to become carbon neutral. What happened next was extraordinary: Three-fourths of the population showed up for the first meeting; the community got on board; and it has since cut its carbon emissions by 40 percent — without government funds and spearheaded by volunteers — through modifications as simple as changing light bulbs and improving insulation. Aided by a subsequent grant, Ashton Hayes built a low-carbon sports pavilion and has embarked on other social enterprises. For his work, Charnock was awarded Climate Week’s “Inspirational Leader of the Year Award” in 2011 and continues to spread the word.

Paul Hawken. Starting in the 1960s when he was 20 years old, Paul Hawken has dedicated his life to sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment. Today, he is a prominent environmentalist, speaker and author whose seven books include the national bestsellers The National Economy, Growing a Business, The Ecology of Commerce and Blessed Unrest. Hawkin has founded several ecological businesses — including some of the first natural food companies in the U.S. that relied solely on sustainable agriculture practices — written extensively about the impact of commerce on living systems, and consulted with governments and corporations on economic development, industrial ecology and environmental policy. His new book, Project Drawdown, details the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming.

John Holdren. With a rich resume that includes senior advisor to the director at Woods Hole Research Center and Teresa and John Heinz professor of environmental policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, John Holdren served as President Barack Obama’s chief adviser on science and technology issues. Holdren earned his Ph.D. from Stanford in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics. In 1981, he was one of the first recipients of the MacArthur Fellows Program, and his other honors include the Tyler Prize for Environment (2000) and the Heinz Prize for Public Policy (2001). He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

Andrew Jones. An expert on international climate and energy issues, Andrew Jones is a system dynamics modeler, keynote speaker and designer of simulation-based learning environments. He co-founded Climate Interactive, a company that helped to develop C-ROADS, the user-friendly climate simulation adopted by climate analysts around the world.

Auden Schendler. As vice president of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, Schendler focuses on large-scale solutions to climate change, primarily through the routes of clean energy and activism. He was named a global warming innovator in 2006 and has testified to Congress on the impacts of climate change on public lands. He is the author of Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution and his writing on the subject has been appeared in the L.A. Times, Scientific American and High Country News.


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