Action4Climate Video Contest Inspires 5 Day Filmmaking Journey
In just five short days, my Montgomery College sociology classmates and I made a video to promote awareness about climate change. Our inspirational professor, Dr. Leszek Sibilski, embedded this question in us: "How are you going to shape society?"
Unable to understand at the time what he meant by this, I ignored it. Now, looking back on what my classmates and I accomplished in the span of just two weeks, I understand what he meant. "You have the power to change the world" he told us, and I now believe him. So, as a class of about 30 students, we ventured out of our comfort zones to unite and do something meaningful.
I, like most of my classmates, was unprepared for the first day of filming. The extracurricular journey we were about to embark on was right in front of us, yet most of us didn't do anything to get ready for it. I thought, "It won't be hard. We just have to point a camera and talk, right?" I was wrong. After several people blurted out "Shit!" and "Wait, can I redo that?" while filming, I knew we were in for a long ride.
There was uproarious laughter that took over the room each time someone stuttered or didn't make sense, which came about every two minutes. We definitely had a lot of work to do.
During the second day of filming, we were fortunate enough to have a field trip to the World Bank. One by one, each student arrived in business attire. After going through security, we heard a wonderful presentation by Angelica Silvero, head of the World Bank speakers bureau, about how the World Bank is fighting to end poverty. She also enlightened us about some of the issues associated with climate change. It was something that really resonated with me. After we finished touring and eating lunch, we planned to go outside and take a few shots for our video, and then call it day. Unfortunately, weather was not on our side and a downpour kept us inside.
Feeling optimistic, the majority of our class stayed to take footage outside anyways. We were so dedicated to the project that we even went to the White House to get a shot that we needed for our video. Being in D.C. ended up being a major perk for our project, despite the rain.
Having finally gotten more serious, we started off the third day of filming by redoing almost everything we had tried to do the first day. Everyone gave one or two personal statements to the camera about how climate change is or would affect them. Amazingly, mostly everyone completed the task without mistakes. Instead of laughing and goofing off after someone would finish, we'd clap for them and moved on.
We got the majority of our footage from this filming session and our trip to the World Bank. But then it started to sink in that we only had two days left to get everything finished.
The fourth day came. Getting used to being filmed was still an adjustment for us. The pressure was on. One girl was so stressed by her fear of speaking that she started to cry. We had to go over things again and again.
Professor Sibilski ended up asking us fake questions like "What's your favorite meal?" and "Do you like the color red?" just to make people feel more comfortable raising their hand and talking in front of the camera, which surprisingly worked.
On the fifth and final day, we were at the bittersweet end. My classmate who was upset just the day before, felt empowered after completing her line. The whole class cheered her on. After that, we didn't have much to film so we went and took a group picture by the Montgomery College sign outside. We left the classroom knowing we had not only done something together, but we did something to try and better this world.
Although some people weren't taking the project as seriously as we needed to in the beginning, we have come to realize just how much of a negative impact climate change is having. It affects everyone, all of the time, and is only getting worse.
So, to answer Dr. Sibilski's initial question, we all hope we have impacted our community in a positive way by working together to raise awareness about climate change. We are the future, but we must remember, we wouldn't be anything without the world we live in.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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