When rockets emerge from the clouds and disintegrate battlefield targets, the drone pilot thousands of miles away who fired them while sitting at a console in Nevada can punch out and go home for dinner in Las Vegas.
“From bows and arrows to military drones, is all about distancing soldiers from the horrors of war,” said Kari Barber, director of Battles Beyond the Horizon, a new documentary film that premieres at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center’s Wells Fargo Auditorium at the University of Nevada, Reno. “The theory is that the more distance (between combatants), the less psychological impact on them. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
That’s one of many lessons Barber learned in the eight years that she and her husband, Nico Colombant, followed the U.S. drone program, based at Creech Air Force Base near Las Vegas. The couple interviewed whistleblowers, war ethicists and military experts. They shadowed protestors from their arrests to their trails. Both filmmakers are on the faculty of the Reynolds School of Journalism at UNR.
Battles Beyond the Horizon also explores the future of war as we accelerate toward a world where artificial intelligence soon may make the decision to kill without any human intervention, Barber said. “Robots will carry out those orders and guide the unmanned aircraft,” she said. “Our documentary sets out to wrestle with the questions that arise as governments consider handing over the most precious decision—who should live, and who should die?—to artificial intelligence and machines. As other countries are working toward this step, can the U.S. afford to be left behind?”
The film premiere will be followed by a panel discussion. Battles Beyond the Horizon will show two days later in Las Vegas, and then the documentary will make the rounds of the global film-festival circuit, Barber said.
Nevadans’ pandemic stories
Nevada Humanities presents Heart to Heart: Our Pandemic Stories, a new exhibition curated by Kathleen Kuo, from Oct. 6 to Nov. 22, in Las Vegas, with a live reception on Wednesday, Oct. 12, and an exhibition discussion led by Kuo that will be broadcast on Facebook Live.
The multimedia exhibition draws from pieces shared by more than 270 contributors across Nevada, ages 16 to 90, reflecting on their varied experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes artwork, stories, essays, poetry and more.
Kuo said the exhibition showcases the hope and the resiliency of Nevadans during the isolation of the pandemic, with the goal of inspiring more people to document and share their pandemic experiences. Nevadans are invited to contribute their pandemic stories to the Nevada Humanities Heart to Heart archive at nevadahumanities.org.
“This exhibition brings Humanities’ Heart to Heart to life and demonstrates how the humanities are lived in our communities and families,” said Christina Barr, Nevada Humanities’ executive director. “Our stories are the ties that bind us together with meaning and understanding.”
A new way to look at nature
On Friday, Oct. 7, Patagonia Reno will host author and journalist Kristin Ohlson for a presentation on her new book Sweet in Tooth and Claw: Stories of Generosity and Cooperation in the Natural World.
The book presents a paradigm shift in how a growing gang of scientists and farmers think about the mutually beneficial interactions of nature. It offers an alternative and hopeful understanding of nature, which is crucial to rolling back and preventing further damage to our planet, Ohlson said.
The author grew up in Oroville, Calif., and had a family home in Lake Tahoe. In a chapter about rehydrating the American West, she describes the dryness of the land she remembers from childhood, before the prevalence of today’s wildfires. She goes on to share the history around Maggie Creek Ranch (including some Donner Party back story) and local ranchers’ success in transforming desert to wetlands.
“We need new metaphors for the way we look at nature. I think most of us carry around these outmoded ideas about nature being all competition,” Ohlson said. “Every facet of human life is based upon these vast, complicated acts of cooperation that go on without us noticing them. I think that it’s important that we look at the rest of nature, and understand that it is completely held together by cooperative relationships. We are a part of nature.”
Other October highlights
The Nevada Historical Society presents “Tahoe Pyramid Trail: Following the Truckee River,” an NHS Docent Council Lecture by Janet Phillips, on Thursday, Oct. 6, at 10:30 a.m., at 1650 N. Virginia St. On Oct. 13 at noon, the monthly “High Noon: Shootout with Neal Cobb” series will present a Zoom lecture by Dana Toth, executive director of the Humboldt Museum, titled “Promoting the Significance of North Central Nevada History Within a Museum and a Community.” Learn more at www.nvhistoricalsociety.org.
The Sparks Heritage Museum on Friday, Oct. 21, celebrates the opening of its Sparks Museum Research Library, a repository of books, photos and documents relating to the history of the Rail City. The free event takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. at the museum, at 814 Victorian Ave., and features a tour of the museum’s resources, guest speakers and light refreshments. Details at sparksmuseum.org.