Wednesday, 21 March was the second day of the Water Festival. With whirling snow falling to welcome spring, we screened the award-winning SXSW documentary DamNation. The Patagonia-sponsored film discusses the large dam system in the United States. The film follows ongoing ecological impacts of hydropower plants, and the ways in which activists bring about concrete positive change.

The screening brought in members of the Plan A community ranging from activists to business people. (Though it could have been the wine and argan oil on sale at the event.) We met Berliners hailing from as far away as the Isle of Mann, Albania, and India. It was thrilling to meet so many energised Plan A enthusiasts.

Happy people, beautiful art

Happy people, beautiful art

Fascinating water creatures we met

Abou Ghazalo, part of the Beam Magazine (which Plan A published in, by the way), presented information on a art gallery. The Beam is a triannual publication covering the race to a zero carbon economy. Abou first attended the opening Water Festival event “Art as a Catalyst for Change” on Monday. And then, he decided to return to all of the events.

“I was initially very curious because I manage the Solar Panel Art Series” Abou said. “Our whole objective is to leverage art as a tool to impact change and also promote sustainability.” Before the film began, Abou presented the Solar Panel Art Series to our audience.

Water Festival Exhibition

The Water exhibition is still on until the end of the week!

As we were scanning through the audience, we met two hilarious doppelgängers. The two friends from England, Eloise Knights and Jude Gardener-Rolfe, said their twinning was coincidental, but we were not sure if we believed them. The two university students are environmental advocates. Eloise came, she said, because she wanted to learn more about the negative impacts of hydropower.

In Eloise’s word’s, Jude is a fresh convert into the environmental cause. “It was a case of Eloise introducing me into the world of environmentalism” Gardener-Rolfe said. “She’s quite on it, quite radical. I am starting my own journey and thought this was a good place to start.”

Interviewing the doppelgangers

Jude’s enthusiasm is the living proof that film, wine, and popcorn can make a difference for our rivers.

Why this dam movie matters

DamNation’s message is relevant to all audiences. Why? Because rivers belong to everyone. The reality of dams is a grim one for river ecosystems.  But this documentary should not inspire hopelessness.

In DamNation we see how non-violent advocacy, radical (yet pacifist) demonstrations, and grassroots action have led to the removal of many environmentally-devastating dams and habitat restoration.

Our belief in the possibility of change is why we have partnered with Riverwatch to launch our Water Festival. All the proceeds from this week’s events are going toward conservation efforts in Europe, where nearly 3000 hydropower projects are planned in the next two years alone. Often these projects harm biodiversity, alter natural river flow, and have adverse effects on local agriculture.

Reintroducing species in former dead rivers feels pretty good (Credit: RiverWatch)

Swimming toward change

We believe that we can fight against the ecological devastation hydropower plants can cause. When people who care get together, concrete positive change can be realised.

Another participant, Roland Lleshi from Albania, is completing a Master’s thesis in a program called Global Change Management. His current research is based around water management in Central Asia. So, he knows a thing or two about dams.

Interviewing pros in the betahaus café

Participant Roland Lleshi is no beginner on these topics.

Lleshi is optimistic about the progress that can be made. “Back in Albania I was into nature conservation working for an organisation directly connected with Riverwatch and Euronatur” Lleshi said. “Riverwatch is doing a good job. You promoting “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” is really important as well. I want to emphasise that I feel really good for this and for Plan A.” Cheers, Roland, you’re not too bad yourself.

If you did not make it to the festival, there is still time to make a difference. Read more about our current campaign and future events on our webpage. Subscribe to our email list, follow us on social media, and learn more about the planet you live on with our Academy.