Jan 21, 2011

Restoration Gone Wild: Yes, that Restoration

A film review by Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of Sustainable Seattle.

In a small cold room behind the racks and shelves of down jackets and wool sweaters at Feathered Friends, we watched Shelly Soloman’s eco-inspirational films. Shelly is a biologist who decided to spend her life making films about positive environmental projects to educate and inspire the scientist and non-scientist. Her for-cause film company is called Leapingfrog films.

One of the films was the story of abalone. Abalone are marine snails. We have an indigenous abalone in Washington State. They are called the Pinto Abalone. Apparently they are delicious. We over harvested them to near extinction then stopped harvesting of them years ago. Yet they still have not come back. Did you know abalone have personalities? Abalone restoration scientists get to know the different abalone when they study them and the abalone get to know them. They will practically eat from their hands. Abalone do not like to live alone. They need each other to restore their population.

The other film, Buried under Sawdust, showed how a nonprofit and group of community members can restore a marsh. Logging and wood-based businesses had left mounds of sawdust. The sawdust mixes with time and water so that sulfite runs off into streams and destroys habitats. The old marsh was uncovered and streams allowed to reemerging. Plants and animals come back. People come back too – this time to be nurtured and nurture the land in a way that allows humans and other life forms to live now and in the future.

We talk a lot about mitigation in the environmental field, and not that much about restoration. But when we mitigate, we are by definition doing harm- that is why we mitigate. We don’t have infinite resources to do harm to, and sooner than later, we will be out of ways to mitigate. Restoration is really the name of the game.

At our annual event, we awarded Shelly with the Leadership in Sustainability award for her work. The films are meant to educate and inspire. I have watched several of Shelly’s films. Each time, I learn something new – not just about the science of restoration, but also about the wonderful way people with a cause take action.

One of the often sited failures of science is the inability of scientist to communicate with the general public- the non-scientists. Scientists are stereotyped as distaining the non-scientist, especially the non-scientists’ lack of knowledge. Shelly shows us how approachable and understandable science is. She does this by framing the science in terms, images and a logic sequence that anyone can understand. But more importantly, she does this by telling stories that inspire.

Rock on Shelly!

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