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Life Arts

Love Thy Nature: From Film to Movement

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Almost a year ago, I conducted an interview with Sylvie Rokab, director of Love Thy Nature. We spoke extensively about the disconnect between people and nature. Our conversation included the question of whether Americans -- and the rest of the world -- had the political will necessary to make the required changes to combat climate change.

Three months into the Trump administration, the situation has worsened. Trump has stacked his cabinet with fossil fuel cronies, slashed the EPA budget, and threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords.

In my original article about the documentary, I included the quote from social scientist Duane Elgin:

"We are so far away from nature, that we are running into an evolutionary wall."

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With Earth Day and the People's Climate March approaching, I contacted Rokab once again to find out how she believes citizens can fight to protect our country's natural resources, the air we breathe, and the future of our children -- specifically under these new dire circumstances.

How concerned are you about the impact of the Trump agenda? Do you think we've reached a tipping point?

"We're seeing before our eyes decades of environmental protection pulverizing into smog, so yes, I am very concerned. On the other hand, the strong momentum in the areas of nature protection and sustainable development won't be erased overnight. Pablo Neruda once said:

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"'You can cut all the flowers, but you can't keep Spring from coming.'

"When you see the boom of sustainable developments like wind and solar around the world, when you see the substantial increase in membership of organizations fighting for nature protection and restoration in the United States, you realize that Spring is indeed coming. This is fueled by a large number of people who are rolling up their sleeves and doing something. The People's Climate March on April 29th is already promising to be so significant that it might as well turn into a chapter in history. I can't wait to take the train to downtown Los Angeles to join the march. The darkest times can be the ones to propel us into the future, if we just choose to seize the day."

Since we spoke in 2016, how has the film played a part in educating audiences about the need for action?

"Every screening of Love Thy Nature is an opportunity for sharing ideas on how to transform ourselves from the inside out -- deepening our connections with nature. So often, our discussions are about how to overcome our own nature deprivation.

"We only protect what we love. The most hard-core environmentalists are the ones who have loved a place, or beings, that made them feel at home. The most significant action anyone can take is to give themselves the gift of nature. That's why we call our film campaign a 'nature-connecting movement.' Once people discover the beauty, intimacy and wonder of the
world that surrounds them, action for nature protection and restoration becomes intuitive. We partner with non-profit organizations so that audience members get to know their local nature groups, where they can join as members, volunteer, or donate."

A December 2016 CNN Report stated that "24,307 species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction." This includes giraffes. How can average citizens play a part in preventing this?

"Just like any other mammal, we're wired to protect who and what we love: our families, homes, communities, and neighborhoods. In essence, this includes the places and beings that we have a relationship with. What's sad about our times is that many of us have become so disconnected from the natural world that companies are blowing up mountain tops for minerals and most people might not even realize it! Our daily lives are increasingly limited to the boundaries of the cyber world, to the detriment of personal health, and the viability of habitats, rivers, and living beings that surround them.

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"We need to re-awaken our innate need to connect with nature (Biologist E.O.Wilson calls it 'Biophilia'), and expose ourselves -- especially our children -- to the wonders and realities of their natural world. This can be as simple as twenty minutes a day connecting with the outdoors. Then, it becomes inevitable that we would want to protect nature.

"For example, a creature that lives in the dark depths of the ocean would not know the value of color. By the same token, a nature-deprived human will find more value in relating to digital-game animals than to the giraffes of the African plains. Now, if a young person decided to volunteer in Namibia to rescue wild animals, or if adults join with their neighbors on hiking trails and enjoy a river with its ducklings, that's how we start changing our mind-sets to become engaged in the fight to save animals and habitats. When a river we are boating in becomes polluted, it's an impetus to organize to save that river."

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Marcia G. Yerman is a writer, activist, artist and curator based in New York City. Her articles--profiles, interviews, reporting and essays--focus on women's issues, the environment, human rights, the arts and culture. Her writing has been (more...)

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