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Dr. Tanya Saunders FLEFF 2020 Opening Remarks

Dr. Tanya Saunders

These opening remarks were to be delivered at the FLEFF opening concert on March 24, 2020 by Dr. Tanya Saunders, Assistant Provost for International Programs and Extended Learning and Executive Producer of FLEFF at Ithaca College. We share these opening remarks with our FLEFF community as a measure of hope and collectvity during these unprecedented times.

Good Evening. I am Tanya Saunders.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to Ithaca College and to the 23rd Annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.

We are living in those dreaded “interesting times:” We are fearful of the insidious contagion of the coronavirus making its way around the world and across the United States.

Our country no longer aspires to be one nation indivisible with the potential for liberty and justice for all.

We question the value of learning and are uncertain about our commitment to a democracy of, by, and for the people.

In other words, we are no longer at ease.

Fortunately, the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival offers us a means to wade through all of these challenges, dilemmas, and concerns.

The Festival, known by its acronym as FLEFF, helps us to rediscover the power of community.

Its international and interdisciplinary conversations strengthen our connections across the College and with the Ithaca community, our region and nation, and indeed, with the rest of the world.

Our communities share in common the problems of climate change, environmental degradation, and sustainability.

As FLEFF celebrates 23 years of commitment to sustainability, we strive to overcome the barriers to communication across the differences that separate us.

FLEFF facilitates our meeting face to face, encourages discussion, and helps us to realize we are not alone in the struggle for a better future. For two decades, FLEFF has pioneered online initiatives in digital art, commissioning essays from international partners on the state of the environment, and media competitions.

FLEFF reminds us of our humanity within the context of our planet.

We celebrate FLEFF for ideas to explore and revelations to consider.

We celebrate the opportunity to talk to each other in a “different environment” where everyone is welcome and everyone belongs, whether we are sharing physical space or experiencing FLEFF exhibitions and dialogues together online.

Although FLEFF is about hope and the promise of collaborating communities, I do not mean to suggest that community ensures blue skies and sunny days ahead.

The extent to which we hope or engage with others is up to each of us to decide.

Community requires much of each of us: community is a willing determination to care for others, to act for the common good, and to address the injustices of poverty, racism, greed, and disregard.

Many of us, concerned about our own self-realization in the face of so much turmoil, want certainty even though there is no certainty to be had.

We seek refuge from a reality that is too discordant with what we envision for ourselves.

Unfortunately, personal ambition is not enough to help us become who we wish to be nor to solve the big problems of sustainability.

Rather, the crises of contagion, climate change, and sustainability reveal the vulnerability of oneness and the limits of a virtual mediated refuge.  “We can run, but we can not hide.”

Because we cannot tackle the problems of sustainability in isolation, we must ask each other what is required of us all if we love our planet, if we love the variety of its life forms and inhabitants, and if we love ourselves. 

Although love does not overcome the destruction of hate, in spite of what the poets may say, a love that invites, embraces, and creates offers both a better way to thrive and a better motivation for positive collaborative change.

I congratulate Dr. Thomas Shevory, Dr. Patricia Zimmermann, Professor Warren Schlesinger, and the entire FLEFF Team for bringing us to this point of anticipation.

I thank the Music School faculty, students, and guest artists for my favorite program of the week, the FLEFF Concert.

And I thank all of you for joining us to create the different environment that is the 23rd Annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.