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Dr. Tanya Saunders on FLEFF's Celestial and Terrestial Landscapes

Dr. Tanya Saunders, Assistant Provost of Ithaca College

Celestial and Terrestrial Landscapes 
Festival Opening Speech March 29, 2016
Dr. Tanya Saunders
Assistant Provost for International Programs and Extended Studies
and Executive Producer, Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival  

Good evening and welcome to the 19th celebration of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.  

I am  Dr. Tanya Saunders and I have the pleasure of thanking Dr. Patricia Zimmermann, Dr. Thomas Shevory, Warren Schlesinger, and all the members of the FLEFF Team for bringing us together as a community of inquiring minds. I thank them for their commitment to inter-disciplinarity, international engagement, and to dialogues about difficult realities.

Together, they have re-imagined FLEFF to give its content greater breadth and depth. They have refocused the festival lens on sustainability and placed in the foreground the complex connections between multi-layered environments and human interactions.   

This year’s theme is landscapes. Our theme conjures the prospect of journeys, encounters with difference along the way, and open vistas which give us pause. It draws our eye to the horizons of possibility while revealing the mayhem of injustice, contamination, and destruction around us. What do we miss, what do we fail to see as we live our lives? What is happening within a 360 degree scan of our surroundings? FLEFF asks us to look again in an effort to see.  

If you remember, earlier FLEFF themes have considered micro-topias, habitats, mobilities, dissonance, and open spaces, all to convey the various physical, social, political, and emotional landscapes we occupy and for which we contend. As we think about our own campus climate, the public discourse of our nation, and about the long-term crises that continue unabated in different regions of our world, we see these interconnected landscapes as battle grounds for opposing ideas, cultural dominance, and economic advantage. How do we model with each other the relationships and dialogues we would like to enjoy in the larger context of our nation and the global community?  

Tonight’s juxta-positioning of the celestial and terrestrial suggests there may be unlimited possibilities to how we respond to these questions.

We may, perhaps, transform ourselves and by so doing embark upon an ethical journey to value and sustain all who inhabit this planet, our nation, and our campus. We may be encouraged to expand our vision not beyond but through our daunting realities to imagine a different world in a different environment.   

We cannot be satisfied with visions and dreams, however.

The celestial moves us to expect more of ourselves such that the ideals we profess concerning intellect, creativity, and character serve as guides to action. What we imagine and how we respond to the realities before us are individual choices we make each day.  

As we survey the landscapes of our being, let us attempt to understand the earth and cosmos within ourselves even as we learn to move delicately with the undulations of difference across the terrains before us.  Let our journey be a progression from awareness to dialogue and from understanding to reflection and action.  

During this week of FLEFF, we ask you to engage with each other and with the world around you.  

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival of 2016 invites you to join us in dialogue and in community.  

Thank you.