Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai (Photo by Martin Rowe)

by Sue Ann Rybak

The Sisters of Saint Joseph Earth Center at Chestnut Hill College will present an Eco Film Festival during its second annual Sustainability Conference from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, in the East Parlor, St. Joseph Hall. The festival is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by Lutron Electronics Company Inc., the festival includes screenings of five eco-related films, each followed by a brief discussion with a presenter.

“Taking Root,” directed by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater, will run from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. It tells the story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide crusade to preserve the environment, protect human rights and defend democracy.

Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark, director the Earth Center, said part of the mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph is union and reconciliation.

“For me that includes reconciling with the planet,” said Clark, who has been involved in social justice ministries for over 30 years.“I see the planet Earth as a living organism.”

Clark, who worked as lobbyist in Washington, D.C., before accepting the position at Chestnut Hill College, said her main focus was on global and local economic justice.

“I believe in looking at the big picture,” Clark said. “I saw the impact of what we’re doing to the planet as an umbrella to addressing a variety of issues.”

Clark added that everyone has a responsibility “to treasure and care for the Earth.” She said part of the center’s mission is to educate and expose students, faulty, staff and the public to sustainability.

“A lot of what we have in the sustainability community is ‘head information’,” Clark said. “It’s important, but I love to reach people through the arts, so this is an attempt to get the message across through the arts and through knowledgeable people who can answer people’s questions.”

Other screenings include “I AM” at 10 a.m., directed by Tom Shadyac, whose life-threatening head injury sent him on a personal journey to answer two questions: “What’s wrong with our world?” and “What can we do about it?”

“Kilowatt Ours” at 12:30 p.m. follows director Jeff Barrie as he travels through America’s cities, towns and countryside, searching for solutions for today’s energy problems while teaching viewers how to dramatically decrease their energy bills and improve the environment.

“Journey of the Universe” at 2 p.m., written by Brian Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker, depicts the epic story of cosmic, earth and human transformation. The film was created in collaboration with a team of expert scientists, scholars and filmmakers.

“They Killed Sister Dorothy” at 3:45 p.m., directed by Daniel Junge, tells the shocking story of Sister Dorothy Stang, a 73-year-old Catholic nun from Dayton, Ohio, who was killed in the Amazon rainforest. The 2005 murder exposed a brutal battle in the Brazilian rainforest, and the answers to the complex issues that contributed to her death and what can be done about it may hold the key to the future of the rainforest.

For more information about the event call Sr. Mary Elizabeth Clark, SSJ, at 215-248-7289 or email mclark@chc.edu.