This past Sunday, Nov. 1, the Sustainability Steering Committee held a panel and screened the 2018 documentary “The Human Element” to start a conversation about sustainability during the pandemic. This was an opportunity for like-minded individuals to come together virtually and share their thoughts and concerns on the matter. The two-hour affair began with the panel and then transitioned to all attendees watching a documentary.
It seems that in most discussions about sustainability, there is a sort of shroud of pessimism, but that was not the case this past Sunday. Panelists, including senior Jim Yang and junior Gillian Buckardt, not only acknowledged this pessimism but also refuted it with easily applicable advice. When confronted with this sense of pessimism, they shared their personal toils with spreading “sustainability” while also staying positive.
Questions were taken from the audience about anything an audience member could think to ask. Topics ranging from composting to renewable fashion were brought to the panelists who discussed them in detail. Panelists also discussed different environmentally conscious projects that they had been involved with. Yang discussed his work to use less plastic while dining on campus. He talked about how he believed the task would not be as intensive as it seemed to be because of all the factors that are overlooked. Factors like price, disposal and storage all complicate what may overall seem to be an easy decision.
In the second section of the event, the documentary, “The Human Element,” directed by Matthew Testa, was screened and proved to be not nearly as positive as the panel was. As it was intended, the film was extremely alarming, alerting its audience to the negative impact that humans have had on the environment.
The title, “The Human Element,” is as telling as the film was itself. The title is based on the long-accepted idea that there are four elements in nature: air, earth, water and fire. As the title implies, though, there is a fifth element to nature: humans.
The film takes the audience all over the world to show how these elements affect the ways that humans live, which is then complicated by how they interact with the environment. This is all done while also showing the role that humans have played over the years in the creation of these circumstances.
Over the course of its hour and fifteen-minute run time, the film first aims to shock its audience with the pressing nature of the issues facing the environment, then shifts to inspire change. This sequence of shock to inspiration was effective in bringing the concerns with the environment closer to the public’s eye.
In the film, the documenter shows a variety of different problems facing the environment and how that subsequently affects humans. One thing he pointed to was the issue of flooding and how destructive it can be for human communities as well as the Earth. Humans are now living in houses on stilts because they have had to accept the reality of flooding in their coastal towns. The film also covered forest fires that are wreaking havoc on many communities around the globe. At a certain point, most of the humans affected by these fires are forced to flee rather than fight an unbeatable battle against raging fires
Overall, the event seemed to be extremely successful. There was great audience participation during the panel, and the general air seemed to look positively towards the future of staying sustainable in the unprecedented times of a global pandemic.