Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival, Sept 3-5

It’s hard to believe but almost one year has gone by since I started my residency as a graduate student at the North Cascades Institute. Through a partnership with Western Washington University, NCI affords students the opportunity to live, learn, teach, and work in the North Cascades while working towards a Master’s in Education. As part of our professional residency we are required to design an event at the institute to learn the programming side this line of work. Being an environmentalist and somewhat of a movie nut, I had just the idea, we would hold an environmental film festival.
Several years back I attended the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Traverse City, Michigan. Having no idea of what to expect I went with the hope of seeing some great films. What I left with was a revamped sense of duty and motivation to explore, protect, and do whatever I could to help my community. I believe this is called a movie-high. Endorphins are released by the excitation of some body part and immediately react on the brain stimulating a sense of joy and wonder and oftentimes…invincibility.
Yes, I felt invincible. Watching environmental films made me feel like I could do anything. Laugh if you will, but is it really that hard to believe? Think about it, you’ve felt this too when rolling into camp after a long day of hiking, the high you feel after a long run, for some of you the smile plastered to your face after church can even be attributed to endorphins. And if you try really hard, I bet you can remember leaving a really great movie reciting funny scenes, or reenacting certain moments cloaked in a shroud of happiness. These are endorphins my friend.

Louie's Pond from my dock in Michigan.

Well, this is how I felt and driving home I couldn’t help to think of all the change, and good I was going to do. When I woke up the next morning I drank my coffee outside looking at the pond in the backyard and decided to pick up trash from the road. Later on in the day I even built a table from scrap wood that was laying around…I’m not sure what the table has to do with anything, but it felt good to work with my hands. I spent the next several days combing the internet, looking for local farmers and environmental organizations searching for ways I could help or volunteer. I was plugging myself into the community.
Artist rendition of the table I crafted from scrap wood.

The one nag I had with the festivals I have attended in the past was that I did not feel they did enough to plug me in with the environmental organizations and efforts in my area. Most of this work I did on my own when I got home. For this year’s Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival we have created an itinerary that is meant to enhance each of the evenings films and provide avenues for participants to direct their “movie-high” attention, should they feel so inclined. In addition to offering hikes, and farm tours, we have also invited several prominent organizations to present from the surrounding area. The Methow Conservancy, Friends of the Forest, The North Cascades Conservation Council, the Nature Conservancy and the North Cascades National Park will all be in attendance to clue us into what they are doing in our communities and what we can do to help.
In retrospect, I found that the best part of the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival wasn’t the films, or beer, or food, it was my response to the event that truly delighted me, the change I saw in myself. Which, I suppose was the idea all along.


  1. Leslie Franzen

    Paul-I hope you see this-nice job on this and getting the community connected in the way that you have. Hope this goes off for NCI well and good luck on the next part of your grad program.

  2. jill irwin

    Hey Paul,
    Thanks for organizing the festival. I really enjoyed it, and the films inspired me to go donate to a couple of the causes (e.g., flathead) and share links with others to donate.
    I blogged about our hike to blue lake at Pacific Northwest Seasons in case you haven’t seen the link.

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