Course for Spring 2011

Categories: Class Info

Anybody interested in taking FMMC 285, Sustainable Television: Producing Environmental Media, in Spring 2011, should fill out the online application by Monday, November 8.

Student Activism

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A quick look at where the future of student activism is. Interviews with several Middlebury students as well as one professor.

Water Quality

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It is a necessity to protect our resources. Quality water may not be a condition we can guarantee the following American generation. A citizen group, teamed with The Conservation Law Foundation in Vermont is fighting to make that a guarantee. In 2001, a landmark case reshaped the landscape regarding water policy and sustainable development. Lowe’s set an example, one that demonstrates that development does not have to degrade local water resources.


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Nutrient pollution has been identified as one of the most harmful types of pollution to America’s waters. Phosphorous and Nitrogen are two of the primary agents responsible for nutrient pollution. Excess nutrients cause rapid plant growth, thereby feeding bacteria that consume oxygen in the water. Water without oxygen cannot support any life at all. Most of nutrient pollutants come from agricultural systems. A smaller still significant portion comes from the water used in our homes. About 15 % of the phosphorous that comes from our home’s water finds its origin in dish detergent. Phosphorous does not even make dishes any cleaner! Next time you buy detergent, check out if it has phosphorous. You will be making a difference.

Burnside, Catie; Mcdowell, William. 2001. Dishwater detergent phosphorus: its contribution to phosphorus load at a municipal wastewater treatment plant. voluntary nutrient reduction  program tri-state water quality council. Sandpoint, Idaho.

What is a Watt?

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Ever wondered how much energy you consume? How about the amount of energy you can produce? And what is a Watt anyway? The average American consumes about 10,000 Watts of energy at any given moment. Given the fact that a human can produce about 100 Watts of power, it would take 100 people working around the clock to support your current high energy lifestyle. It’s easy to forget how valuable energy is.

Energy, Environment, and Climate Change (2008) by Richard Wolfson

Green Your Home and Your Wallet – Weatherize

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For this project we followed Thomas Hand from Hand Energy Service as he weatherized a restored Vermont farm house. Weatherization follows an energy audit in a two step process that can help to make your home more energy efficient. By identifying places where heat can escape in the winter the weatherization process ultimately redefines the house’s thermal boundary. This is the most cost effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. For more information about how you can reduce your energy consumption and your costs visit Hand Energy Services or check out the U.S Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program.

Eating Our Way to a Sustainable Future

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Local food lies at the center of a sustainable way of living. Author and Environmentalist Bill McKibben speaks about the importance of local economies and his own experience eating food solely from the Champlain Valley in Vermont. Eating local not only fights climate change but also reconnects people to their communities and their land.
For more information visit:

Earth’s Ours to Share

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Recycling seems so last-century. In the era of “green” products, it seems easy to forget the little blue bin that signified all things “envrionmental” before it became popular. This video and song celebrates recycling/reuse, still an easy and effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. In 2005 alone, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that recycling reduced the country’s carbon emissions by 49 million tonnes collectively. But what happens after you toss that bottle into the bin? The Middlebury Recycling Center sorts, prepares, and processes materials before shipment to major recycling facilities.

This video is shot as a lip-dub: a single-shot capture with no edits or cuts set to a song. The best way to get a feel for the genre is to watch a number of examples.

The 11th Hour

Categories: Assignments, Films

The 11th Hour focussed on the rapidly changing environment and how if it keeps going at this pace, that it will not be fit to sustain human life. As it was produced and narrated by Leonardo Dicaprio, it was trying to gain influence through celebrity. That does not mean that what he had to say did not contain any truth. Throughout the film, many different experts from several fields were included and were given their say. This had the effect of making it appear that there are seveal scientists around the world who agree with what is being said, but it also has the effect of not letting the viewing really key in on one or two individuals. It makes it appear a bit too spread out.

I do agree with the tone the piece took. It was less sensationalist than the work of Al Gore which was a nice change. Sure, it does say that the human race is one second from midnight on Earth’s clock, but it also mentions that one second on Earth’s clock is an extremely long period of time. This method of not saying that we are completely screwed is good. It gives the viewer hope that there is still time for something to be done. Enough time that if they changed their ways it would make a positive difference. For that is what the film is really trying to accomplish. It is there to inform the masses of the impending doom  for people if they continue of the path of consumption and linear thinking that they are one. If they were to stop, think, and act, disastor can be averted though.

The scientists that I mentioned earlier were necessary to provide an air of legitimacy to this project, but I do wish that there had been less of them. It is also important to note that this film is not just a bunch of talking heads spouting facts for an hour and a half. Over the faces of the interviewees, many compelling images of Earth are shown, from natural disastors to calm mountain meadows. This is useful as it shows that one cannot simply shout out facts after facts if they want the viewer to register what is being said and it shows that something needs to be present for the viewer to look at. Even though a guy sitting in an interview room might be saying some really interesting stuff, they still are going to be boring to look at after a short amount of time.

In the end, this was a good film. Clearly Leonardo Dicaprio had an agenda when he started to make this film, but at no point did I feel like he was trying too hard to force he beliefs down my thoat. It does of course help that I already agreed with him on several of the subjects.

Seeing Earth and Sky

Categories: Assignments, Videos

Can artists be environmentalists? David Brewster of West Halifax, VT challenges our notion that “environmental art” must mean paintings of environmental perfection or ruin, towering redwood trees or clearcut rainforest. Brewster encourages us all to instead think about how to adopt a “visual literacy” to read landscapes, including those of factories, suburbia, and strip malls.