INHABITAT: How important is media training in the success of your project and do you hope to expand your model to other scenarios?
Christian: Media training is vital. Environmental change on a grassroots scale is fundamentally focused on changing the perceptions that informs interactions with our environment, through awareness and education. With media training, we learn to deconstruct the status quo narratives of what we see on the day to day, analyze the individual elements, and re-construct new salient meanings and connections that can lead us to better understand the sources of exploitation or degradation, and perhaps suggest solutions for change. For example, in the Filipino community in which we were living, the state of a polluted river that garbage is thrown into on a daily basis, or the sight of overflowing sewage from a trash dump, over time becomes a normalized phenomenon. Media is quintessential for breaking down the underlining process and succinctly understanding it’s parts, which comes with the territory of working to visually communicate an idea.
Here in the west, media aids in breaking the social veil that masks our complacency about personalized decisions involving waste; decisions that aggregates into tons upon tons of garbage buried under the earth each day. The students are asked to portray a message through what they see from the pure visual realities of their environment, and are able to develop organic understandings of environmental realities.
Since we are planning on expanding to other schools around the Philippines, we believe the interpretive and analytical powers of media are capable of being applied to a number of other scenarios, flexible to the context-based demands of local environmental problems, whether it’s solid waste management, or something like deforestation and ecological degradation. We’re hoping to recruit film student volunteers from Filipino Universities to help expand the project to other locations, which will likely help in facilitating the communication of the unique environmental perspectives of the students. Media techniques and approaches can be culturally influenced; keeping things organic and being conscious of our western cultural baggage is important too.
INHABITAT: What’s the greatest environmental contribution you see stemming from this project and how does it relate to sustainability?
Christian: I think our greatest contribution will be sharing the value of environmental sustainability through the (media driven) voices of our students, and seeing the resulting changes in the collective discourse due to their developing community projects. We were really lucky to be involved with helping open the veins of environmental thought with our students, and were certainly proud to see them beginning to adopt impact analysis, cradle to cradle thinking, and even some blossoming sensibilities about sustainable enterprise and business. And they’re 14.
The great thing is, the community is really supportive of our students, whether parents, teachers, principals, or even local members of government, which means their use of media is capable of making the community listen to ideas of sustainability. They are definitely agents of change towards environmental sensitivity. What we hope to be a lifelong passion for them will certainly be the greatest contribution that we will have made.
Images © Amanda Silvana Coen and courtesy of Alex Pritz and Christian Elliot