Getting Serious About Conserving Water

February 27, 2014 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment

Videographer, Mark Stitzer focuses on a heron in Tanner Springs Park, Portland.

Videographer Mark Stitzer focuses on a heron in Tanner Springs Park, Portland.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a discussion group with eight other Penn State students talking about climate issues. It was part of a World in Conversation program, which encouraged us to be truthful. We talked about recycling and why it’s not a top priority for us. Our consensus: because recycling doesn’t incorporate instant gratification.

We care about eating healthy, for example, because we almost instantly see weight loss or improved health. But what actually happens when we take the time to separate our glass and plastic bottles to put them in the correct recycling containers? Are we making a positive impact on Earth by putting the Canyon Pizza box into the cardboard recycling bin?

And then, by coincidence, The Penn Stater editors asked me to attend the premiere of “Water Blues, Green Solutions,” a collaboration between Penn State Public Media and Penn State’s Sustainability Institute. The documentary wasn’t about recycling per se, but it was a powerful depiction of the positive effects of caring about water. I believe the documentary was able to achieve this because the people who were involved in making it were just like so many of us. They weren’t completely versed on the details of green infrastructure or conservation of aquifers, either.

“I share my ignorance with others who don’t know about water,” director Frank Christopher told the audience. In the past, he’s worked on films about war, health care, and even Cirque du Soleil, but he thought that it was time to be responsible and communicate the urgency of why we need to think about how we use and protect our water sources.

Members of the Penn State Water Brigades, a club on campus dedicated to improving access to clean water and sanitation, had a table set up in the lobby of the theatre before the screening. The co-president of the club, junior Deidre Carlson, might have summed up the urgency of our water crisis best. Carlson said, “In the U.S., we have our own water problems, and they aren’t being addressed. We have issues in our own backyard.”

Diedre Carlson of Penn State Water Brigades at the premiere.

Diedre Carlson of Penn State Water Brigades at the premiere.

“Water Blues, Green Solutions” addressed this issue from multiple angles. The documentary leads viewers on a tour of four cities – Philadelphia, Portland, San Antonio, and the Bronx, all of which are dealing with unique water dilemmas.

I lived in Philadelphia all summer and I didn’t know the city’s water department was beginning to implement green infrastructure until I watched the documentary. Portland, on the other hand, is already a leader in creating green projects and is serving as example to others. San Antonio’s water crisis might have been the most drastic: Droughts have plagued the area causing some lakes to almost completely dry up. The visual of a barely there lake puts the water crisis into context pretty fast. Perhaps the most optimistic view of green solutions was in the Bronx’s efforts of cleaning up the Bronx River, which created new jobs and opportunities for community members. In short, all of these cities are working with nature instead of against it. By doing so, they’ve created new jobs and saved lots of money. Green Solutions may not be instant but it is possible, present, and important.

It also helps that the documentary didn’t take a doom and gloom approach. It most certainly was not the PETA approach. You know, where they show you pictures of beaten animals to pluck on your heartstrings.

Instead, videographer Mark Stitzer ’02 took the approach of having individuals in the cities directly tell the audience their stories, including a teacher in Philadelphia conducting class on a new eco-friendly play ground and a  woman in the Bronx enjoying her new job creating green infrastructure. I got a sense that people are taking away something positive from solving their water blues.

Stitzer captures shots of Greenfield Elementary School in Philadelphia, one of the first schools to adopt a self-sustaining green play ground.

Stitzer captures shots of Philadelphia’s Greenfield Elementary School, one of the first schools to adopt a self-sustaining green play ground.

Those involved in the making of this film said their ultimate hope is for the documentary to create civic engagement and for it to urge people to seek their own green solutions for their water blues. The precursor to this project, another documentary titled “Liquid Assets,” reached every member of Congress. It’s just a matter of what people do with the knowledge.

If I took anything out of this film, it’s that you can transform sewage into water cleaner than what’s sold in a bottle. I’m just kidding. Not quite. No matter, this documentary teaches you many things about water that pertain to you and your everyday life a lot more than you think.

The broadcasting schedule of “Water Blues, Green Solutions” is updated weekly and is available here.

Kelly Godzik, intern

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The Penn Stater Daily — Feb. 27, 2014 The Penn Stater Daily — Feb. 28, 2014

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