Mainstream culture has been awakening to the crude realization that our current, comfort-focused way of living will not be sustainable for much longer. We are watching our trees, our water and the very air we breathe turn poisonous. The sun is hotter, the weather patterns are changing, and the price of food, fuel and real estate is soaring. Experts warn us against everything from sitting in the sun to taking long, hot showers. Wars, floods, droughts and famines are breaking out like a rash over the planet. And many feel helpless to stop the decline. Against this bleak backdrop, it is time once again for the Ecocinema (Ecolnoa), Israel's annual environmental awareness film festival. Ecocinema Israel, the non-profit organization that runs the Ecocinema Film Festival, hopes that widespread education and information about solutions to environmental problems will prompt mainstream culture toward environmental friendliness. Ecocinema believes that "an artistic platform, a cultural platform, mostly using environmental films - can pour [the facts] all out on the table for people to have complete knowledge and access to. People on their own, then, have the ability to really make an overall change in our whole system." This year's event is bigger than ever, showcasing films from all over the world, including Israel and other Middle Eastern nations. The Ecolnoa festival kicked off on Thursday in Jerusalem and will run through May 25 at the Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sderot and Rosh Pina Cinematheques. Ecolnoa, though, is not about the doom and gloom side of environmental awareness. Ecocinema Israel is working to inform Israelis about the impending global environmental crisis and suggest what individuals can do to help. As Abra Kayne, director of international relations at Ecocinema Israel relates, "We believe that if people care, if people understand in their hearts, we will [find a] the solution. We want people [to leave] this festival knowing that there are solutions, that we are working towards them and that they can take part in a movement for change." Over the last few years, Israel has witnessed a trend of interest in the environment, sustainable culture and ecological technology. Mounting local green awareness interest can be gauged by the increased availability of organic food, rising numbers of available university degrees in environmental management, water conservation efforts, and even in the Knesset's recent debates about introducing plastic bag levies. Another sign of ecology's increasing popularity is that in previous years, Ecolnoa was a three-day weekend affair confined to the Tel Aviv Cinematheque complex - one which, nevertheless, has attracted 40,000 attendees since its inception in 2004. This year, public interest is allowing Ecolnoa to run for an unprecedented 10 days. With the festival expanded to include five cities during a week and a half, organizers are prepared for a total attendance of over 30,000. Films from all over the world that promote environmental awareness and sustainable living are scheduled to be screened, including former US vice president Al Gore's well-known documentary An Inconvenient Truth (2005), which details the rise of global warming. Another featured celebrity-backed film is Leonardo DiCaprio's project, The Eleventh Hour (2007), which demonstrates how the Earth's fragile ecosystems can be restored. Less famous films on the roster include a premiere of Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone's The Queen of the Wasps, which examines the fragile relationship between trees and wasps, and Bulls--t, which tells the story of the Indian environmental activist and nuclear physicist Vandana Shiva. Also premiering at Ecolnoa is Lionel Friedburg's A Sacred Duty, which discusses halachic responses to global environmental threats. The festival will also feature a number of Hebrew-language Israeli films that deal with local environmental issues and a selection of films by Syrian and Jordanian directors on the environmental issues in the Middle East. Many of these selections focus on water quality and conservation and other environmental concerns that traverse national borders in a geopolitically sensitive area. The festival's wide variety of film subjects - ranging from reforestation and education to bike-riding paths and food production, to name a few - allows audiences to choose screenings that target their strongest environmental interests. "Whatever your interest is in the environment is available for you," Kayne says. Some films will be accompanied by lectures and expert panels so viewers can discuss what they've seen and find out more about specific issues. Ecolnoa opened in Jerusalem with a gala invitation-only evening on Thursday, and will run in the capital until May 20. A green fair dubbed "The Big Green Happening" is being held today, offering activities for the entire family, including market stalls, musical performances, organized walks, environmental-awareness information booths, organic food, and - of course - movies. "The Big Green Happening" is taking place outdoors and is run entirely on sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Activities for children will demonstrate how to make art and musical instruments from recycled goods, gardening workshops, explanations of energy concepts, and film screenings selected for younger audiences. The Sderot portion of the Ecocinema Film Festival will run concurrently with the Jerusalem leg and will also include another outdoor green fair, scheduled for Tuesday, May 20. When asked if holding part of the festival in Sderot was not considered dangerous because of the continual rocket attacks on the southern city from Gaza, Kayne replied that "the fact that it is dangerous [makes it] very important that people don't stop bringing education and support [to Sderot]." Ecolnoa will begin in Tel Aviv on May 20 with a screening of a film [name not confirmed as of May 13] about the struggle for urban space, followed by a discussion panel organized by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Events will continue on May 21 as Israeli students present their works in a short-film competition. The following evening, Thursday May 22, the JNF expects to host an environmentally-friendly Lag Ba'omer party. On the morning of May 23, Nitzan Horowitz of Channel 10 will give a lecture to accompany the premiere of his film about Tel Aviv and the city's environment, while in the evening an outdoors organic food event will also present a number of solutions for green living in the big city. Ecolnoa will also run in Rosh Pina as a three-day event - from May 22-24, and the Haifa leg of the festival will open on May 21 and close on May 25. For more information, look up the Ecocinema Film Festival Web site at: www.ecocinema.org.il/; or write to: email@example.com; you can also contact the Cinematheque for tickets and more information in your local city. Jerusalem: (02) 565-4333; Sderot: 1-599-559-555; Tel Aviv: (03) 606-0800; Rosh Pina: http://www.roshpinacine.com/; Haifa: (04) 835-3530.