July 28, 2014

The Power of Film, Turning Science into a Blockbuster

Posted by Fushcia Hoover

By Fushcia Hoover

WASHINGTON, DC – Movies can be a powerful tool to engage an audience. Since 1878 when the first motion photographs were taken, to the first animated cartoon in 19061, people across cultures and languages have been going to the movie theatre, pulling up YouTube™ videos, or streaming their favorite show on one of the many websites and services available today. And while cat videos can be pretty awesome and entertaining, wouldn’t it be great to get that same number of views, retweets and posts for videos on science-related topics?? Important topics like climate change, natural disasters, or increasing natural resource scarcity could be great movie themes! When you think about it, we’re really not that far away; many people tune in for the Discovery Channel’s Shark week programming, or the new iteration of the Cosmos series.

Peter Byck, director and producer of Carbon Nation, spoke with Climate Voices on 8 July 2014 about film making for science. Credit: ASU.edu

Peter Byck, director and producer of Carbon Nation, spoke with Climate Voices on 8 July 2014 about film making for science. Credit: ASU.edu

It’s Not About Believing in Climate Change

Peter Byck, professor of practice at Arizona State University in the School of Sustainability recently hosted a webinar on “Film, Real People, and Climate Solutions – An approach to involving public audience in climate conversations” through the Climate Voices Science Speakers Network. Mr. Byck decided to take one of the most politicized topics, climate change, and make a film that, to quote the film’s tagline, “doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change.” With a series of short clips from his recent film, he explained his motivation and encounters with those he filmed along the way. During his quest across the United States for interviews, the biggest take away he mentioned was the fact that at the end of the day, everyone cares about having clean drinking water, non-polluted air to breathe, and a way of life that can sustain them. “Magic moments”, as he calls them, between himself and climate change skeptics or others occurred when they moved past the words climate change and engaged each other in a conversation on what was important to them. When asking “what do you think,” and talking about common ground issues like clean water or reliable energy, he realized that we as a nation are not as polarized as it sometimes seems.

People Engaging in Climate Change (Whether They Realize It or Not)

One thing that can make communication easier is having simple, quick, and fun resources that you can direct people to that deal with climate impacts on economy. Not only does this enable you to take some of the pressure off of yourself in explaining these complex issues, but it also creates a great learning opportunity and method to engage others with a perspective they might not have been exposed to otherwise. A great thing about the Climate Voices webinar (available after 31 July 2014) is that Peter Byck provided many links to some great, short videos that highlight real people doing real things to combat climate change impacts. Many of the people in the videos take these actions simply because they save money, promote job growth, provide increased security for daily operations, or have other positive benefits to their lives or the lives of others. Here’s a quick list of resources from the webinar that you can use to help in your climate change conversations:

  • Geothermal technologies in Alaska have brought energy costs from 31 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 5 cents per kWh in Alaska.
  • Did you know that 1/3 of the energy used to generate electricity for the Army is for cooling tents in the desert? Energy security is a big deal in the military.
  • What’s the kiss of death for a small town? According to one man: when your Dairy Queen™ closes down. How wind energy is revitalizing one community.
  • Making bank from recycling, this Cali business owner is making money on old refrigerators and reducing CO2 emissions all at once.
  • If you could spend $1 billion to generate $9 billion in earnings, would you do it? What about recycling to generate $7.8 million in profits over three years? Ever heard of Stonyfield Farms?
  • Want to be a soil carbon cowboy? Follow suit with what three folks did in Canada, Mississippi, and North Dakota.

Shameless Plug!

If I’ve got you interested, then you might like to know that AGU has lots of helpful information on communicating with your legislators. And if you’re hungry (not unlike the wolf) for information on the inner workings of legislation and how congress funds groups like NSF, NOAA and more, then check out the recent blog post Dysfunction Junction by AGU Public Affairs’ very own Nick Saab.

Fushcia Hoover is an intern with the Public Affairs Department at AGU.

  1. Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. (2013). Chronology of Film History. Digital History. Retrieved 9 July 2014 from http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/film_chron.cfm