Personal climate stories

How is climate change affecting people around the world right now?

Ask a scientist this question, and they will tell you that it is impossible to attribute any one weather event conclusively to climate change. But while this may be true, we are also beginning to witness exactly the kinds of extreme weather events, seasonal changes and volatile disruptions to ‘normal’ conditions that those same scientists have been telling us will become more common in a changing climate.

Its a catch 22.

But increasingly, people want their personal stories of climate change to be heard. These shouldn’t replace or take priority over scientific analyses of how climate impacts are manifesting, but they are a valuable additional form of knowledge. As millenia of human experience shows, storytelling is a powerful and personal medium. And combining science and stories is an important way of bridging the gap between the abstract global climate and people’s everyday lives.

So here we’ve rounded up a handful of the growing number of examples of online video resources where people tell their own personal climate stories. Check them out, and let us know of any we’ve missed…

Climate Wisconsin

From cross-country skiers to ice-fishing enthusiasts, these video monologues (with high production values) show how climate change is affecting one North American state:

 

The Climate Reality project

Including personal testimonies from celebrities and members of the public, this Al Gore-led project adds a chorus of voices to the climate change debate. This Olympic gold-medallist says he is ‘pro-snow’ in his climate change  testimonial:

For the Love Of

A project close to our heart (our staff carried out the research behind the campaign), the UK-based Climate Change Coalition shifted the tone of the UK climate change debate away from fear and guilt, and towards protecting the ‘things people love’. What do you love that is affected by climate change?

Years of Living Dangerously

A TV series about climate change that actually was actually worth watching? That’s right – and by combining personal testimony with the allure of celebrity presenters and a clever local-global perspective, Years of Living Dangerously was a success:

Nature speaks

Not all attempts at using celebrity to highlight environmental issues are quite as successful though – this slightly strange example of anthropomorphism (‘Shhhhh, nature is speaking!’) received a mixed response in the COIN office:

The Story Group

The Story Group is an independent, multimedia journalism company, and they have developed a climate change video series ‘Americans on the Front Line of Climate Change’. In this example, an Oyster Farmer talks about Ocean Acidification:

More Than Scientists

This video is from a collection of scientists in America who have well established careers studying climate change, but rather than just talking about their work, in these videos they share what climate change makes them feel and what it means to them as individuals, as soon to be fathers and as people like you and me:

Here is another video from the More Than Scientists project with Erika Navarro talking about a hurricane that hit her hometown when she was 12 and how it made climate change personal:

Project Aspect

Last but not least, Project Aspect is a digital storytelling project that shines a light on how people across the UK are experiencing a changing climate. Here, a woman called ‘Heather’ talks about the diary she has kept and how the changing seasons have altered her family’s farming practices:

Facing the Change: Personal Encounters with Global Warming

If you want more personal stories about climate change, Steven Homles’ book shares the thoughts of fellow citizens, prize-winning authors and poets from all ages and walks of life, trying to make sense of this issue. Staying clear of facts and statistics, Steven’s book shares people’s personal thoughts through short stories, poems and personal literature. A compelling addition to the video resources, showcasing the emotion that climate change can stir.

So what have we missed? What other examples are out there?

4 thoughts on “Personal climate stories”

  1. Actually, as I heard from a US TV exec, according to audience numbers, “Years of living dangerously” was a flop. Millions of dollars of production value for an average weakly audience number of 50,000 families (a 0.04% market share)? Waste of money and air time. Even the pilot, free to view on youtube for quite some time now, has clocked up “only” 650,000 views.

  2. Fair point Kris, although I wasn’t so much referring to the ratings as to the approach it took, which chimes, I think, with research on more effective climate change communication in some ways. Its a shame the ratings didn’t reflect this

  3. I suggest not using the ‘s’ word – calling something a ‘success’ is full of pitfalls. We so want to be able to say it, but until something big has measurably changed there ain’t been no ‘success’. Say it was ‘ a refreshing angle’ or ‘ the kind of thing we want to see more of’ or something.

  4. Hello,

    Thanks for this posting. I’d also like to share a project I’m working on with Stephen Siperstein of the University of Oregon. Climate Stories Project (climatestoriesproject.org) is an educational and artistic forum that uses the power of stories, art, and communication to make climate change more relevant to students and other project participants. I’m currently working with several New England schools to teach interview skills and have the students record interviews with members of their communities and students in “frontline” climate change communities about their experiences and responses to climate change. Students are then creating digital storytelling and other artistic projects to share their interview experiences with wider audiences. Please have a look and let me know if you and/or your school is interested in participating!

    Jason

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