Review of On the Roofff 2017: Sustainable Edition

We are underestimating the threat of climate change. In response to this, at the Opening of the Academic Year at VU Amsterdam on Monday 4 September, documentary maker Bernice Notenboom made an appeal to the audience to show greater passion when sharing alarming research results. The address marked the start of a week packed with discussions, films and encounters relating to the VU Amsterdam theme of Science for Sustainability.

We may have the technology, but it’s the mindset that matters
On the very same evening, a group of enthusiastic students on programmes related to this theme took inspiration from Leonardo DiCaprio’s quest in his documentary Before the Flood. One of the students concluded that it’s the mindset that really matters. Unless there is a change in the way we think, a sustainable transition will never happen.

Can we live in sophisticated modesty? Photographer Mark Edwards, who visited VU Amsterdam on Tuesday to attend the opening of his exhibition Whole Earth, has his doubts. However, we have the technology we need to cope with the consequences of the climate issue. This became clearer later in the evening. At the official opening talk show for the On The Roof Film Festival, journalist Marco Visscher spoke to Roebyem Anders, founder of Sungevity, who envisages a veritable rooftop revolution. As many roofs as possible completely full of solar panels!

Positive movement against climate change
In the opening film How to Let Go of the World and Love All The Things Climate Can’t Change, documentary maker Josh Fox is almost at the point of desperation as he reels at all the doom scenarios that could result from climate change. He goes in search of people who have no other choice but to take on the oil companies and governments that are failing to take action. An environmental activist from the island of Tuvalu is forced to correct him: ultimately, everyone has a choice.

Roebyem Anders and the other panel members, including VU lecturer Pieter van Beukering, pointed out that sharing doom scenarios can help you to identify your own role in them. However, what they want above all is to be part of a positive movement.
A leading light in this upbeat movement is writer and former politician Jan Terlouw. In the lunch break on Wednesday afternoon, he held a talk with students in the central hall of VU Amsterdam. He called on them to take responsibility: refuse to accept any longer that politicians and business are ignoring your future. Roos van Rijswijk, another guest, provided practical guidance on how to survive your time as a student sustainably. But she also raised a dilemma: living sustainably is still very much a privilege.

Make your voice heard, however difficult it may be
On Wednesday and Thursday evening, film discussions were on the agenda, featuring VU Vrije Schrijver Bas Heijne and journalist Mounir Samuel on two excellent films from the World Cinema Amsterdam programme: The Wound and Mawlana. The latter clearly demonstrates how changes to society can be extremely difficult in the face of constant threats and corruption.
The final film Newton responded to that with a clear answer: stand up for your democratic right to vote. Earlier that evening, lobbyist René Leegte called on VU students to do the same: apply your minds and make your voices heard in the sustainability debate.

Blog by Joël Friso, programme maker

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Isaac Bullock

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Bas Heijne

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