George Gage, who’s currently working on the Bidder 70 documentary, sent us this picture of him “sleeping outside a cabin with no toilets out in coal country West Virginia meeting more activists.”

He sends his love.

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Nawang Gombu Sherpa, who accompanied 2009 Mountainfilm special guest Jim Whittaker, during the first American ascent of Mt. Everest in 1963, died on Sunday April 24, 2011.

From Climbing magazine:

Gombu was born in Tibet and was the nephew of Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two men to climb Everest; he was the youngest climbing Sherpa on that 1953 expedition, reaching the South Col. In 1965, Gombu became the first man ever to climb Everest twice, summiting with an Indian expedition.


First Ascent athlete Jesse Coombs successfully ran Abiqua Falls, which his team measured at 94 feet, earlier this season and sent us a first person run through of the descent:

Lucas and I were looking for first descent waterfalls, and Heather Herbeck suggested Abiqua. We showed up on March 11th after looking at a couple other waterfalls that did not have enough water. As soon as I saw the waterfall from the bottom I knew it was in the realm of possible. After talking with Heather and Christie Glissmeyer and getting their perspective I walked to the top and saw that the lip was actually quite friendly.

We set up all the cameras and got in place. Ben Church from Oregon State University set up the rigging to keep everyone safe. I got in position at the top and slipped my JK Villain into the pool at the top. The height of this waterfall is no joke. It looks like you will fall off the earth. I made sure I was calm and happy, and that I was ready to be in the pool below. Lucas called on the radio and said he was ready and in place. I put the radio inside my dry top and paddled for the lip. I pulled off once wanting to make sure my head in the right mind set. I paddled again for the lip, picked up a little speed and took a left stroke at the lip to set my angle. The thought in my head was that this waterfall is every bit as tall as it looks.

I kept every motion smooth. I began my tuck half way down and got as tight as possible. I wondered in my head how hard the hit would be. And BOOM I get. My paddle got ripped way faster than I can contemplate. I surfaced to the right of the falls. I went for a hand roll and my skirt was blown. I saw that I was near the back pool and pulled water for it. I rolled up on a rock at the back of the pool and raised my fist in celebration.

This was the tallest waterfall I have ever run and I had a super clean line. I was stoked! And I had Lucas Gilman shooting it which means I KNOW he got the shot. He was shooting two NIKON video cameras and a still camera; tons of great footage. Plus we put a camera on the back of my boat that has beautiful footage. It was an amazing day!

Abiqua Falls has extra lore in the Pacific Northwest as it was first run in 2002 by my good friend Tim Gross. Unfortunately Tim landed upside down and was thrown from his boat hurting his knees. My second call after my successful descent was to Tim to share the good news of my descent. Ironically, Abiqua dealt me a collapsed lung and some shoulder damage. Sadly, nine days after I ran Abiqua, Tyler Bradt ran it at lower level and broke his back. Here’s to a full and speedy recovery Tyler.

What does it take to document a waterfall drop of this size? Lucas Gilman and his team give us a behind the scenes look:

The Green World Campaign is making it easy to make a difference. Last week they launched a year-long initiative called “ReGreen the World,” in which the organization is working to “plant trees in environmentally damaged areas, creating sustainable villages, restoring indigenous ecologies, and mitigating our climate crisis.”

How to plant 5 trees on your cell phone:

  1. Enter the number 85944
  2. Text the word TREE as the message (not case-sensitive)
  3. Send the message
  4. You’ll receive a free response message asking you to confirm your $5 donation
  5. Type ‘Yes’

This is a one-time donation. You may choose to do this up to 5 more times.

To inspire more people the take part, the images from Earth Day made their way onto the American Eagle screen in Times Square.

What could we do as global citizens if we really put our minds–and hearts–to it? The answer: Just about anything. Marc Barasch

You can also take part in the iniatiative by donating on the Green World Campaign website. To further engage people, there is an interactive section that allows donors to track how many trees have been planted.

The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof weighs in on the Greg Mortenson allegations:

I don’t know what to make of these accusations. Part of me wishes that all this journalistic energy had been directed instead to ferret out abuses by politicians who allocate government resources to campaign donors rather than to the neediest among us, but that’s not a real answer. The critics have raised serious questions that deserve better answers: we need to hold school-builders accountable as well as fat cats.

My inclination is to reserve judgment until we know more, for disorganization may explain more faults than dishonesty. I am deeply troubled that only 41 percent of the money raised in 2009 went to build schools, and Greg, by nature, is more of a founding visionary than the disciplined C.E.O. necessary to run a $20 million-a-year charity. On the other hand, I’m willing to give some benefit of the doubt to a man who has risked his life on behalf of some of the world’s most voiceless people.

I’ve visited some of Greg’s schools in Afghanistan, and what I saw worked. Girls in his schools were thrilled to be getting an education. Women were learning vocational skills, such as sewing. Those schools felt like some of the happiest places in Afghanistan.

Read Kristof’s entire piece.

Tim Hetherington, Director and Producer of Restrepo, which screened at our 2010 festival, was killed in Libya Wednesday.

“We are deeply saddened by this lost. Tim was a remarkable photographer and a terrific filmmaker and we were looking forward to playing his experimental short film diary at this year’s festival, but we had very much hoped to do so with him in attendance. That there is one less person out there striving to tell the truth about some of the most difficult stories of our time is a loss for all of us,” said Festival Director David Holbrooke.

From The New York Times:

Tim Hetherington, the conflict photographer who was a director and producer of the film “Restrepo,” was killed in the besieged city of Misurata on Wednesday, and three photographers working beside him were wounded.

The wounds to two of the photographers — Chris Hondros and Guy Martin — were severe, according to Andre Liohn, a colleague at the triage center where they were being treated Wednesday night.

Mr. Hondros, an American working for the Getty photo agency, suffered a severe brain injury and was in extremely critical condition, according to Mr. Liohn. He had been revived and was clinging to life in the evening. A later update from Mr. Liohn said that Mr. Hondros was in a coma at the medical center, which is located near the front lines.

Read the full article here.

There is a also a good memoriam for Hehterington on The New Yorker blog, in which he is quoted:

“I was aware that my pictures were being used to illustrate others’ ideas, so I started making stories to express my own ideas about the world.”

Drew Ludwig, a photographer and expedition leader, is one of our special guests this year, presenting an exhibit of photos shot last summer during a solo walk of 120 miles from the Ninth Ward of New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.

What Drew says about his show:

During August of 2010, I walked 120 miles from the Ninth Ward of New Orleans to the Gulf Of Mexico in Louisiana. It was the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill in the Gulf was about to be capped.

I came to help. I came to work. I held lofty goals of an activist, and I wanted to use my hands. What transpired was far more etherial and bordering upon obscurity. I walked, I listened and I came to pick up the work gloves of others rather than my own.

I believe gloves connect a hand with purpose and as I walked, I began to see the story of Louisiana between the marks, the scars and the holes of the discarded gloves I found beside the highway. I became a collector of these gloves.

My eye quickly turned to the strangers I met along those roads; towards the helping hands that invited me into their homes and fed me after those twelve hour days of walking. These are the faces that came to gaze into my camera, and it was their gloves that I carried across the state of Louisiana.

The show will be a sampling of the gloves and photos I collected along the way.

On the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill, his experiences bring him back to thinking about the people of the region:

On the eve of the anniversary I am thinking about the people I met along the way. I am wondering if they found that place to live, upped their quotas, found their water’s clean and had a good football season? I am lucky enough to call a few Louisianan locals friends and I am sending them all my best on a somber day.

I AM ANGRY. I AM OUTRAGED. And I am in love with this beautiful, blue planet we call home.

This story in the Gulf of Mexico is not a new story. Living in the American West, I understand the oil and gas industry, both its political power in a state like Wyoming and its lack of regard for the safety of workers. Broken necks and backs are commonplace injuries. So are lost fingers. Occasional blowouts occur on land as well, resulting in fatalities. Production is paramount at the expense of almost everything else.

And I have seen the environmental degradation that is left in the wake of collusion between government agencies and oil companies. Federal regulations are relaxed or ignored, putting the integrity of our public lands at risk. Ecological health is sacrificed for financial gain. This sense of entitlement among oil companies is supported by the U.S. Congress. It has direct results on the ground: burning slag pools; ozone warnings; contaminated water wells flushed with benzene; and loss of habitat for sage grouse, prairie dogs, and pronghorn antelope. The scars on the fragile desert of southeastern Utah, from endless road cuts to the sheared oil patches themselves, will take decades to heal. These are self-inflicted wounds made by a lethal economic system running in overdrive.

After months of watching the news coverage on the blowout and subsequent oil spill, I had to see for myself what I felt from afar: this catastrophic moment belongs to all of us.

2011 special guest Terry Tempest Williams, “The Gulf Between Us,” November/December 2010 Orion 

Orion has the full article on their website as well as a narrated slideshow.

Mark your calendars!

As part of Earth Week, this Thursday, April 21st, Jeb Berrier, Suzan Beraza along with a panel of special guests, will take part in a live webcast from NYC. The webcast will be an interactive Q&A about Bag It and will air at 6:15 pm PST/9:15 pm EST; you can catch it by clicking here. A great opportunity to learn more about the film and find out how to activate your own community and how to begin to legislate changes.

Learn what else the Bag It team is up to right now.

We received this email from Greg Mortenson over the weekend in response to a recent CBS “60 Minutes” piece that called into question his experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Asalaam-o-Alaikum (Peace Be With You). Greetings from Montana and on behalf of the dear children and communities we serve in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thank you (Tashakur and Shukuria) for the overwhelming response to the news in recent days, for the outpouring of support, prayers and the confidence that you, our supporters, have showered upon Central Asia Institute, Pennies For Peace and my family. In the midst of these difficult and challenging days, I keep thinking about the Persian proverb, “When it is darkest you can see the stars.” You are all shining lights and we are grateful for your compassion.

Although we would like the world to be linear, orderly and peaceful, the reality is that our world is a dynamic, fluid place, often filled with chaos and confusion. In that space, I thrive and get the courage to help bring change and empower people. I also feel great pride that you have chosen to support those who live in the ‘Last Best Places’, where other organizations or governments offer few or no services.

I welcome and am used to facing criticism, which sometimes even turns into hostility and threats, over the important work we do in Pakistan and Afghanistan. As an introvert and shy person, it is also not easy to have to enter an arena of a media circus at the drop of a heartbeat. But, as those of you who know me and have supported my work over the years will recognize, the story being framed by “60 Minutes” to air in a few hours today – as far as we can tell — paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year’s (2009) IRS 990 financial, and a few points in the book “Three Cups of Tea” that occurred almost 18 years ago. Apparently, the CBS program is to be followed in the near future by a similar negative piece by Jon Krakauer in an unknown magazine, which I only recently heard about last week.

Read the rest of this entry »

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