15th annual human rights film festival calls for action

Emily Theroux | Staff Writer

March 16, 2023

The earth is a large and mysterious home to over 7.8 billion people. No matter where we are from, it is all of our responsibilities to take care of our planet. Despite our differences, we all belong.

That was the theme of this year’s 15th annual Human Rights film festival.

On Tuesday, the Center for Modern Languages and Literature Studies partnered with the Center for Migration, Displacement and Community Studies to host the second installment of the film festival in the Towers multi-purpose room.

The 85-minute documentary explores how society is mentally separated from the environment and consumed with individual narratives, refusing to acknowledge the interconnectedness of the world around us.

Featured in the documentary were Janine Benyus, a biomimicry specialist from Montana, American astronaut and veteran Air Force fighter pilot Ronald Garan, Joan Halifax, ecologist and Zen Buddhist teacher and environmentalist Paul Hawken, all of whom confirmed that we rely heavily on ignorance each day as we value economic and industrial progression.

“Planetary” explained the consequences of our misplaced priorities including exploiting resources over protecting the dignity of the Earth.

The film highlights numerous perspectives by bringing in philosophers, cosmologists, NASA employees, members of indigenous groups and many others.

Despite the diversity of these insights, every interviewee asserts the same claim: we have to make a change for the good of the planet and ourselves.

Brian Swimme, a cosmologist, revealed the frightening truth of the mass extinction that has been occurring in our world.

“[T]housands of species have been disappearing every year,” he said.

Something that he finds exceedingly disturbing about this is the lack of recognition for the problem. Swimme recalls looking through the New York Times for the information on the gravity of this issue and finding it on the 26th page.

“That means,” he asserted, “that we found 25 things more important.”
Interestingly, many speakers in the film touched upon how the disconnect between the Earth and its inhabitants has harmful social and mental consequences resulting from a lack of mindfulness.

The documentary touches on how humans actively race through life instead of taking the time to live, claiming that we are drifting further apart when we build bigger houses that are too far apart.

The film suggested that there should be a greater reliance on mindfulness in order to ease the mental duress that has arisen due to higher rates of isolation.
This would increase our sense of community as inhabitants of Earth, inferring that if we accept that this planet is our home, maybe we have a chance at taking pride in its dignity.

Mark Frisch, the head of the Duquesne Center for Hispanic Studies, was very passionate about the importance of the film’s message and the impact it could have on those who watch it.

The documentary touches on many important issues regarding our perspective on Earth and the way we allow ourselves to pretend that we do not belong to our planet, Frisch said.

In summary of Frisch’s words, if we are ever able to acknowledge that the Earth is more than just the place where we landed to develop civilization further economically, we may have a shot at saving what we have left of our planet.

“As humans, we often think of ourselves as separate from nature,” said biology professor Dr. David Lampe, “but that is not true.”