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Reel Sustainability

Article Published: Jan. 24, 2013 | Modified: Jan. 24, 2013
Reel Sustainability

'Switch' will be screened Tuesday, Jan. 29, as part of ASU's Sustainability Film Series.
Photo courtesy of Switch Energy Project

“Going green” has become a vague and lucrative catchall phrase for the practice of sustainable living.
But Appalachian State University’s geology, biology and sustainability departments believe that actively “going green” can refer to practical efforts as simple as recycling or potting cherry tomatoes.

The departments have linked together to host the fourth annual Sustainability Film Series at Appalachian State University, beginning Tuesday, Jan 29.

Four pragmatically chosen films will show in the I.G. Greer Auditorium on campus over the course of four months. Each film begins at 7 p.m. and is free of charge.

The 300 seats in Greer have often been full for the series, so organizers ask that folks come early to save a spot.

The series began when Brian Zimmer, a geology professor at ASU, watched “Food, Inc.,” a film that recounts the deplorable conditions of America’s corporate controlled food industry and how to change them.

“It blew my mind, and I wanted to blow my students’ minds,” he said.

He teamed up with Crystal Simmons in the ASU Office of Sustainability in order to “create a film series that looked at different ideas,” he said. “We want to initiate conversations and discussions.”
Zimmer’s response to “Food, Inc.” was to begin Half Hippie Farm, his own U-Pick farm.

Though his was a life-altering response, Zimmer and Simmons hope that the films will proactively inspire the audience to also make changes.

Each film will be followed by a panel of local activists, community leaders, academics and students to answer questions and converse with the audience about local and national ways to get involved.
“Some of these films can be depressing and bleak, so we try to have the panel be solution-based,” Zimmer said.

The first series in 2010 featured a film on plastics and bottled water. Shortly after, a movement within the university began to minimize purchases of water bottles and use the refilling stations instead.

“Switch” will play on Tuesday, Jan. 29, and is hosted by ASU’s Renewable Energy Initiative. The film shadows three years of energy exploration by Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and director of the Advanced Energy Consortium.

Rather than intensifying the political contention that surrounds energy, “Switch” simply documents how an energy transition would happen, rather than taking a side on how it should happen.

“Lords of Nature” will play on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and is hosted by the ASU Department of Biology. The film backtracks through human history of exterminating large predators, like sharks, wolves, bears and lions. It presents a second opinion on carnivores’ roles in revitalizing the ecosystem.

“Arise” will play on Wednesday, March 20, and is in partnership with the Global Women’s Series.
Women of all ages and cultures share their technical and spiritual methods for healing the earth, while building the community. “Arise” has won two prestigious awards and has been officially selected for six diverse film festivals.

“Gasland” will play on Tuesday, April 23, and is hosted by the Sustainable Development Program. When filmmaker Josh Fox was asked to lease his land for drilling, he began a country-wide journey to understand the impact of hydraulic fracturing.

“This is a major point of contingency, especially with natural gas becoming more abundant,” Zimmer said. “This film fairly raises concerns about fracking.”

Fairness is what Zimmer and Simmons both work to ensure while arranging this series.

“We want the best, and our list of films has changed since last November, because we found better material,” Zimmer said. “We want to raise awareness, not fear-mongering. Get people interested and involved.”

Sponsors of this semester’s series are the ASU Office of Sustainability, Appalachian Popular Programming Society, Belk Library and Information Commons and the ASU Department of Geology.

To get involved, call Zimmer at (828) 262-2749 or email (
For more information on the film series, visit

Additional Images

'Switch' will be screened Tuesday, Jan. 29, as part of ASU's Sustainability Film Series.
Photo courtesy of Switch Energy Project

'Lords of Nature' will be screened Tuesday, Feb. 19, for the ASU Sustainability Film Series.
Photo submitted

'Arise' will be screened Wednesday, March 20, at ASU.
Photo submitted

'Gasland' will be screened Tuesday, April 23, at the I.G. Greer Auditorium.
Image submitted

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