Urban and Transportation Film Festival: A look into Amsterdam’s great strides in sustainability

The Geography department hosts the Urban and Transportation Film Festival in Konover Auditorium on Tuesday Oct. 17. The films covered student's trips to Amsterdam, and understanding the efficiency in transportation. (Jon Sammis/Daily Campus)

Last night, the Konover Auditorium showed several student-made short films shot on last summer’s education abroad trip to Amsterdam. Two professors, Dr. Carol Atkinson-Palombo and Dr. Norman Garrick led the trip. They focus on human-environment dynamics and sustainable transportation and urban planning, respectively. The students in these films have a variety of interests and majors, which made each film completely unique.

“Floating Pavilions of Rotterdam” by Ethan D’Orio was particularly interesting. It contained footage of large glowing domes floating on the edge of a river. They resembled something from a sci-fi movie, with large hexagon windows and neon lighting. D’Orio took an interest in these structures prior to his trip to Amsterdam and focused all his time there on learning more about them. These structures are not only visually appealing, but also very sustainable, with nearly no impact on the environment around them. They clean their own water and wastewater, employ solar power and have caused no changes in the river’s pH. Beyond that, they are incredibly stable. One woman that D’Orio interviewed claimed that they barely even rocked during the storms she has experienced. D’Orio hopes for more structures like this to be built in the U.S.

One student, Ellie Goldberg, said the pavilions “are a smart idea, because they work without changing the environment.”

“Sustainable Energy in the Netherlands” by Christopher Augustinos, Sean Driscoll and Simon Levesque discussed the world’s perception of the Netherlands as a sustainable place. This view is mostly due to the historic image of bikes and windmills, but is actually not entirely accurate. Many industries in the Netherlands are incredibly unsustainable. It is only with a wave of growing environmental awareness that things are beginning to improve. Recently, Gemini Wind Farm, one of the world’s largest wind farms, was built there.

A theme shared by many of the films was the extensive use of bicycles and green space in Amsterdam. “Amsterdam: The City of Bikes” by Ryan Kennedy, Brody O’Brien and David Verdis gave a backstory to Amsterdam’s biking history. In the 1970s, people living in Amsterdam fought the government for safer spaces to bike in the city. Since then, unwanted parking lots and roads all over the city have been turned into green spaces. Some roads were closed off to cars altogether and converted to be more beautiful places for people to bike. Cycling in Amsterdam is especially convenient since it is such a flat and compact area. Biking to work is faster, healthier and much more social than driving.

“Green Spaces of Amsterdam” by Alberto Franchi, Casey Lambert and Daniel Rodier put a lot of focused on how these green spaces interconnect the city. Every resident lives within 20 minutes of a green space. There are places with concrete, however in these places with no green spaces, there are gardens, micro-greenery and pocket parks. The city is mostly made up of small dwellings, and these grassy areas act as the civilians’ living space. This effectively makes for a healthier and happier population.

Zoë Coleman said that she was “kinda jealous [of Amsterdam’s biking culture].”

“I wish we had more biker-friendly infrastructure,” Coleman said.

Amsterdam is making huge strides towards becoming more environmentally-friendly. Their use of windmills, bikes and green spaces makes them a great example for how cities in the United States could be improved. Another education abroad trip will be held in Amsterdam this upcoming August. Coleman was excited about this, and when asked what she got out of the films, she replied,“My biggest takeaway was that I really want to go on this program.”


Rebecca Maher is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rebecca.maher@uconn.edu.