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VIFF: Inspiring people to live in harmony with nature

Heaven and Earth was the name of this year’s environmental series, a fantastic collection of documentary and feature films about environmental issues, ideas and themes. As a sponsor, we helped bring films from all around the world to enthusiastic audiences here in Vancouver. We were particularly thrilled to host a screening of Kamila Andini’s beautiful feature film The Mirror Never Lies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAiki5BQRug&feature=player_embedded

But for us, sponsoring Heaven and Earth is about more than movies. It’s about everything we do.

This year, WWF celebrates our 50th anniversary. For half a century, WWF has been working all around the world to solve tough conservation challenges. Our aim is to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.

So what do we mean by ‘in harmony’? It doesn’t mean singing the same tune. It’s not a matter of simply humming along, maybe joining in for the chorus. Harmony is difficult. It takes practice. Ultimately, harmony is a matter of paying attention.

Singers can only create harmony if they pay close attention to one another’s rhythms and melodies. The same is true for all of us. If we are to live in harmony with nature, we need to pay exquisite attention to the rhythms and patterns of the world around us.

Film, like any art, calls us to pay attention. Some films demand that we attend to ideas or images we would rather not see. Others give us opportunities to shift our perspective and look at things in new ways. The Mirror Never Lies invites us to tilt the mirror just a little, to look beyond our own reflections.

At WWF we know that the need to pay attention has never been more pressing. For the increasing number of us living urban lives, much of what goes on out there in the natural world is invisible to us. Nature may seem vast and powerful and unconnected with our daily lives. And yet, when we pay closer attention, we see that natural systems are fragile and threatened, and their future is inextricably bound to our own.

The work of conservation can be discouraging at times. Our history sometimes reads like a long story of decline: collapsing fish stocks, disappearing animals, shrinking forests, polluted waters. Last year’s Living Planet Report tracks the downward trend of the health of our planet.

But I prefer to see this as one of the greatest opportunities in human history.

Our oceans, rivers, forests, and plains have sustained us for millennia. They have the potential to create wealth and wellbeing for millennia more. If we learn to pay proper attention – if we keep practising until we get it right — we can create a future where nature and people thrive.

This conviction is at the core of our work in BC and around the world. Through science and research – which is really just another way of paying attention – we will develop our understanding of living systems and how we affect them. By paying attention, we will learn to reflect this understanding in our actions.

As we mark the closing of this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, I’d like to congratulate all the artists, producers, festival organizers and volunteers for all the great movies. And a big thank you to everyone who joined us, on WWF’s 50th anniversary and VIFF’s 30th, as we came together to celebrate the art and the science and the importance of paying attention.