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O’Rourke/My Turn: Movie not all magic

When Hollywood comes to town, it changes everything. Some local people and businesses enjoy, and benefit from, the big production by way of increased income and friendly interactions with work crews. And, of course, many others love the excitement of seeing a movie made right here, and perhaps having a close encounter with a star.

But, like everything in life, there are two sides to a story, and voices that have not been heard. Here’s a view from the other side.

It’s about the parents that are unable to soothe and rest the infant or toddler when a filming helicopter flies very low over houses for hours at a time, and the veterans who too often suffer flashbacks at the sounds of loud aircraft, while the emergency response worker feels increased anxiety and hyper-alertness.

And there’s the impact on wildlife and trees. A warm rainy night brings the turtles up to Arms Cemetery from the pond below to lay their eggs, as they have for decades, but the film crews arrive early in the morning to set up for the next day’s shoot. Some turtles become disoriented and cannot find their way back to the safety of the water. I was able to rescue one painted turtle from behind a large truck, the motor running, but there were probably others that wandered astray.

Downtown, people who live in apartments along Bridge Street are sometimes told they will have to wait before having access to their homes, and the many residents from the Falls and the hill towns that depend upon the convenience of shopping and doing their errands locally, stay away, not wanting to negotiate through the crowds and commotion.

These are inconveniences that come and go, but what about the elephant in the town — that larger picture called global warming? What, I wonder, is the carbon footprint of just one day, or one week of shooting “The Judge”? And of course, there’s the financial extravagance; I hope the moviemakers shared this wealth with the young people who were in town collecting for Oxfam, an organization that deals with hunger all over the world.

We try to be conscientious in our personal lives, yet sometimes we disconnect from the larger picture. We know that global warming is a huge problem for all of us around the world. Can we make the connections to extreme weather events, melting glaciers, and changes in earth’s ecology that affect everything, including our food supply? It’s global, and it’s local. Paying attention to this requires that when we know how, we try to make good decisions.

A wonderful example of this is the Mohawk Trail Regional School student who wants to discontinue the sale and use of plastic water bottles at her school because she has learned about the massive amounts of plastic, which will never deteriorate, in the oceans. She wants the school to invest in fountains that can fill reusable water bottles that the students have with them. She has proposed an idea that reduces plastic at its source, which is a good way to look at everything in our lives. Not only has this young woman participated in making an important change, but she is also helping students to acquire a sustainable new habit: carry a refillable water bottle wherever you are. She aspires to become a marine biologist.

The filming of the movie “Labor Day,” one year ago in Shelburne Falls, was smaller, took less time and had a tiny footprint compared to this latest Warner Brothers production. Can we reduce at the source of our desires for extravagant entertainment? Sometimes it takes actually experiencing something in order to learn about it. Will we ask questions in order to make wise judgments when approached by any large company wanting to use these small and beautiful, peaceful and friendly towns?

We have been discovered by Hollywood, and surely they will come knocking again.

Kathleen O’Rourke is a naturalist, a retired national park ranger and has written a nature column for the Shelburne Falls and West County newspaper for most of the last 26 years.

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