Getting on in the world: A look at some of the films screening at this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival |

Getting on in the world: A look at some of the films screening at this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a four-week series of Prospector and Spotlight reviews leading up to the 18th Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City and Grass Valley, Jan. 16-20.

Herd Impact

Influencing good environmental temperament is just a matter of finding folks who routinely offer a good example. Emry Birdwell and Deborah Clark own a cattle ranch. Emry used to worry someone would accuse them of having too many cattle on their 14,000 acres.

Emry and Deborah exercise a holistic approach where they can be proud of their 5,000 cattle. The key to their holistic approach is “Herd Impact,” the title of a film about them. They move their herds three, four, five times a day, in densely packed groups.

This herd impact stirs up the ground and deposits nutrients excreted directly from the cattle. It gives their expanse of land a chance to rest and rejuvenate while the cattle mostly occupy some other part of the property. The grasses love this opportunity. In fact, the abundant grasses can do their diverse thing from seeds waiting for these kinds of conditions. The prolific grasses hold water better, keep the ground cooler, even improve bird habitat in the midst of the cattle’s home ground.

Emry and Deborah are adaptive folks. When severe drought struck, they needed to add about 25 miles of piping. It was expensive but cost effective for the land to teach them that lesson.

Meanwhile, they are a kick. They’re not only informative. They have fun jibing each other. Deborah told Emry she loved him a little more after doing this film. Emry told Deborah, “It’ll go away.”


Influencing good environmental temperament is just a matter of finding folks who routinely offer a good example. Arthur Bradford admired three sequoias in his Portland, Oregon neighborhood that were notably taller than the other trees in the area. A developer who bought the property planned to cut down the three trees and replace them, per the code, with saplings.

The developer just wanted his profits. The $1,200 mitigation fee was no skin off his back. Arthur, even with a GoFundMe website, couldn’t raise the amount of money the developer asked. Arthur could raise awareness though. People stood in the way of the trees and trucks. They set up tents.

One guy climbed a tree and stayed there. A couple others put a platform high in the tree to make the guy more comfortable. School kids were funneled to the site where they linked arms around the tree. A 65-year-old guy set himself up for trespassing arrest – said getting arrested was kinda on his bucket list.

Arthur ended up with enough money for a negotiated amount, but really it was about people showing up to make a community effort. Arthur was concerned that one victory wasn’t the point. This example effort helped to change the code. For instance, now it costs way more to pay a mitigation fee.

Arthur says he gets emotional when he thinks of the Dr. Seuss book, “The Lorax.” It says, “Unless someone like you / cares a whole awful lot, / nothing’s gonna happen. / It’s not.”

From Darkness to Light

“The most important thing you can do is to bring people from darkness to light.” So goes the title of a mere 13-minute film, “From Darkness to Light.” At the Barefoot College Zanzibar, women separate from their families, from their villages, for five months.

The women become enlightened through a very specialized education. They learn how to bring light to the darkness of their home villages. They install solar panels, including the wiring and such, and understanding the electronic components and batteries.

These empowered women radiate benefits to their families, to their villages. Children can extend their learning into the night. No one needs to suffer the smoke of wax paraffin lamps.

With 12 hours of sun per day and no longer depending on unreliable power from Tanzania, these women technicians, village by village, can reduce the 50% of the country that isn’t on the grid.

Women are intentionally chosen. Indeed, the school recruits married women, 35 to 55 years old, women unlikely to leave their villages. The college looks for leader types that will be listened to. Along with their education, these women acquire stature. They feel pride. Not only can they improve their villages and feel this shared accomplishment. The women also feel that they have been trusted by the village to deliver this capacity they’ve been sent away to learn.

See “From Darkness to Light,” a fine example of empowering women and bringing poor villages an environmentally sound way forward.

Chuck Jaffee of Grass Valley likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at

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