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Blue Horizons, Blemished Beaches

UCSB Film Program Focuses on the Environment


With Halloween weekend hanging like a specter over the heads of I.V. residents, it’s a good time to take a look around and reflect on what is, and is not, working in the community.

While Halloween was marked with the usual throngs of people, a stabbing, a number of arrests, and a plethora of misdemeanor crimes, it was still not a bad year. However, there is some collateral damage that occurs because of the thousands of people visiting the area. I.V. becomes a dustbin for refuse, including red cups, empty liquor bottles, and anything else that was left as people trolled along the streets looking for the next party.

Cat Neushul

The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District holds an annual cleanup after Halloween during which students go out and pick up trash, but this alone cannot take care of the problem. Even though Halloween is not an environmental disaster of the same magnitude as Floatopia, it still puts an unnecessary blight on the community. Many of the people in the hordes who partied in I.V. last weekend never thought — or cared about — the consequences of their actions.

But just when you are focusing on the negative, you see something that reminds you there are people, in this case students from UCSB, out there who care about their environment and are thinking about the future. There is a summer program at UCSB called Blue Horizons in which students produce videos about an environmental issue and screen their works at a special event. The program is part of a nine-week course offered through the Carsey-Wolf Center in which students learn about digital media and focus on an environmental issue involving the ocean. As well as taking classes about marine conservation and other issues, students get hands-on training and work on their own videos. By the end of the program, students produce a video addressing a particular environmental issue.

During this year’s Blue Horizon’s program students produced five videos. There were two, however, that I found particularly interesting. One was about Floatopia called Float Responsibly and the other was about the Matilija Dam in Ventura called Release Me. I watched the videos online, entranced by their beauty and the simplicity of the messages.

Float Responsibly — produced by Pedro Chairez, Patrick Saldana, and David Atsbaha — provides an interesting look at the Floatopia experience. It shows the before and after pictures of the Floatopia celebration. The filmmakers juxtaposed scenes of young women partying in their bikinis with the mounds of trash piled up along the street at the top of the stairs leading to the beach. There were also interviews that delved into the pros and cons of the steps the county took to make sure this type of celebration didn’t happen again. It would be a great video to show at freshman orientation.

There was also another video — produced by Amanda Wasserman, Darryl Mimick, and Skye Featherstone — about the Matilija Dam in Ventura that caught my attention. The filmmakers did a great job of describing the reasons that environmental groups were lobbying to have the dam removed. The scenes showing the Ventura River in its natural state were captivating.

The Blue Horizons site also contains a number of other videos, like Canaries on the Coastline — by Cameron Cacananta, Adam Cook, and Ryan Gallagher — that provides a sort of love letter to the ocean and an homage to surfing. Even though the video is full of beautiful shots of people catching waves, its focus is on the pollution in the ocean caused by runoff, septic tanks, etc. The movie particularly focuses on the health issues surfers have faced at Rincon and Malibu. When you hear the experts talking about the human and animal pathogens found in the ocean, you might think twice before getting in the ocean, but probably not.

If we want college students to become more aware of their environment and the issues facing it, these types of videos are a great way to accomplish the task. With each person who thinks before he or she leaves trash at the beach or shows respect for the environment, there is another representative to ensure that the beauty of our area remains unblemished.

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