Category Archives: Film/Radio

Bringing Humor to the Climate Change Discussion

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-04-47-am Australian actor and comedian Andrew Denton says entertainment has a role to play in the climate change debate. Here’s a clip from ABC National Radio:

“Is comedy just preaching to the choir, though? No, I don’t think so. I think comedy can become a useful tool to speak across the gap, particularly if we use humour to highlight our common goals.

We all want to live in a world, as George W. Bush said, where man and fish can live together peacefully. One of the greatest primal drivers of civilisation has been the desire to protect the next generation. Even those who you despise on the other side of this argument would not argue for a polluted planet and food insecurity. So if we can agree on those things (and surely it’s possible to do that) then we can move from there.

In this conversation, rather than simply demonising—and, yes, the tactics are deplorable and mendacity needs to be called out—we also need to get a broader understanding of why people think the way they do”.

Iowa’s Altered Landscape

Dew-coverd-PrairieMy CNP project this semester centers around how the state of Iowa has been transformed to a monoculture of corn cropland from diverse prairie grasses. This transformation has implications rooted in climate change through the alteration of the land in three main ways: (1) changing from a robust prairie grass system capable of surviving climatic change to an “eggs in one basket” approach to monoculture corn, which is less resistant to stressors. (2) Iowa is America’s (and world’s) largest producer of corn as a result of our once fertile soil from the dense root systems provided through prairies that was ultimately tilled up with the advent of the steel plow to now grow corn for ethanol biofuels, which some argue is not the answer to thwart climate change. And (3) a large portion of Iowa’s corn goes to feed the animals we humans eat, which in turn supports the agriculture (meat and dairy) sector (perhaps the largest contributor to potent greenhouse gases known to cause our warming planet Earth). It can be argued that the state of Iowa is the most altered landscape in the US and I hope to build off that to draw conclusions about the future or Iowa’s lands and climate change. One of the ways I hope to inspire and encourage people to take action against habitat and ecosystem loss related to climate change is through connecting with Nature. It is my belief that people in tune with Nature will understand its importance to the success of our species and others in an age where Nature can be the engine to minimize climate change.

For my project I am interviewing four people from different backgrounds. I have already interviewed Julie Decker (Executive Director of Harvest Preserve) of Iowa City about the 100-acre plot of land her organization has set aside for anyone to use who is interested in connecting with Nature (albeit spiritually, emotionally, or physically). My write up will be coming soon. The next three folks I have scheduled interviews for are with Liz Maas (Board of Directors President of Bur Oak Land Trust) to discuss prairie grass and wetland restoration, Dick Sayles (President of the Quad City Audubon Society) to gain a perspective of how Iowa’s native species have been impacted (past, present, and future) by Iowa’s altered landscape, and lastly Jeffrey Landgren (UI graduate student) who is an avid outdoorsman to learn about Iowa’s Nature versus other states.

I will likely do a film for my project but unsure if it will be more of a picture film or a traditional documentary type film. I have also tossed around the idea of doing a fake radio broadcast, news story, or commercial.

Climate Connections: CNP Fellows Present on Dec. 3rd!


Join the Climate Narrative Project Fellows for their final presentations on Thursday, Dec. 3rd, at the Old Capitol Mall.

Study on Climate Narratives in an Age of Climate Cynicism

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 10.01.37 AMCheck out the findings from a new study, “News Media and Climate Politics,” by the Climate Justice Project, led by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the University of British Columbia, on effective climate narratives in an age of “climate cynicism.” According to the authors: “It is often said that society is at a crossroads of climate change, and that is particularly true for how journalism will choose to represent climate politics in the future. News media can continue to direct a narrow spotlight upon the failures of governments, political elites and international negotiations. But to capture the full story of climate change, reports of failure could instead be juxtaposed with some of the countless ways in which individuals are coming together in new forms of solidarity, community and action. The path that is chosen may well have a critical impact upon how and if people who are already concerned and alarmed join with their fellow citizens and become active participants in, rather than helpless observers of, the politics of climate change.”

Here are the key results:

1. Success stories about climate politics have a positive impact:When participants read such stories, they were eager to learn more, and their perspectives shifted to become more optimistic.

2. People are especially excited by stories of entrepreneurial activism and everyday heroism — that is, tales of people who, through their own initiative and creativity, open up new spaces for political engagement for themselves and others. These stories provide concrete examples of the connection between individual and collective action. In the absence of this connection, desire for action can default to more familiar but limited ideas of individualized behaviour change (recycling, reducing energy consumption, etc).

3. As people increase their awareness and understanding of political successes, they are more likely to contradict others’ cynicism by bringing up these success stories. This is a strong argument for giving such stories a more prominent place in the mix of news about climate politics.

4. People engage more strongly with localized information about the causes and consequences of climate change, as well as solutions. Such examples make it easier to identify with and understand the issue.

5.Descriptive communication is more powerful than prescriptive: Moral injunctions to “get active” in climate politics are a common feature of environmental communication, and they may have some positive impact. But they also risk increasing feelings of guilt and frustration. On the other hand, news that provides compelling stories about the experiences of people who already participate in climate politics —including not only why they are active but also how that experience affects them — can provide a much easier point of entry into political engagement. People come to understand different forms of democratic engagement as normal activities that people just like them are doing (and enjoying).

6. Information about how to engage politically, and the effects of political engagement, is just as important as information about climate change science. While our participants were reasonably well informed about the science of climate change and about national and international climate politics, they had much less understanding of individual and collective political agency. News media could provide more stories about how a single political action by an individual (e.g. voting, joining an organization, participating in a campaign) can, together with the single actions of other individuals, create a collective political force with transformative consequences.

CGRER: Climate Narrative Project – Spring 2015

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.24.44 AM Climate Narrative Project fellow Nick Fetty reviewed the spring 2015 Climate Narrative Project final event for the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research blog.

Here’s a clip:

Nick Fetty | May 9, 2015

Fellows with the spring 2015 Climate Narrative Project presented their works on Thursday night at Art Building West on the University of Iowa campus.

The Climate Narrative Project is “a special media arts initiative in the Office of Sustainability at the University of Iowa, designed to reach across academic disciplines and chronicle regenerative approaches to energy, food, agriculture, water and waste management, community planning and transportation.” Fellows participate in a semester-long graduate-level workshop where they developed ideas ranging from documentary films to dance performances. This semester the fellows focused on “regenerative agriculture, urban farming and food policy, with a special focus on schools.”

During Thursday night’s event – Urban Farms, Real Food, Edible Campus: An Evening of Film, Art, Dance and Storytelling – I was the first one to present with a documentary entitled “Soil Mate: It Takes A Teacher.” The film focused on Iowa City soil educator Scott Koepke and the influence he has had on children in the area. Koepke stresses with his students the importance of organic gardening techniques, composting, and healthy eating.

Anna Kilzer presented next with her project “Edible Campus: Beyond a Public Health Building” in which she laid out ideas for planting vegetables and other plants near the UI’s new College of Public Health building with the hope that the rest of the campus would eventual embrace this concept. Kilzer presented her project in the form of a monologue, describing what the UI’s campus would look like if it emulated edible campus models such as the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

“I can see Pawpaw trees and raspberry bushes outside McBride Hall stretching down the sidewalk like a corridor to Clinton street. The wind carries the aroma of basil, thyme and rosemary, as leafy greens reached out of raised beds with the gentle pokes of kale, spinach, and arugula. . Students swing in the Hammocks studying and napping between classes. And those famous writers at their workshop – they were meeting in the middle of rooted vegetables and walnut trees, bookended by pages of lettuce. Engineering students argue over the water irrigation system, as the math assistants measured the perfect amount of water to each vegetation. The PE students lounged on the chairs and benches designed by the 3D design students on display for the general public to enjoy. And down below, the Iowa River teems with life and as the boats cart the boxes of fresh veggies, and food carts and truck lined up with the fervency of filling sand bags–though this time, filling bags of real food from the Edible Campus to feed students, faculty and community members of Iowa City.”

Sophia Finster then took the stage for a dance performance entitled “The Dinner Party: Processed vs. Unprocessed Food.” The performance consisted of four dancers and their struggles to eat healthy unprocessed food when faced with the monetary constraints and the busy lifestyle of being a college student. The story was told through the medium of dance but also used statistics and facts about the environmental impact of processed foods.

“Forty percent of food grown, processed, and transported in the U.S. will never be consumed. Every year 60 million tons of food waste is generated in the U.S. and nearly 40 million tons of that goes to the landfill. Unprocessed food often has much less packaging than processed food and around 45% of our food system’s carbon emissions arises from the production of food that is never eaten. But that’s another conversation for another time. What’s really in our food, safely sealed up in crinkly bags and flashy boxes?”

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Audience members to the stage at the end of Sophia Finster’s performance to enjoy some locally- and -organically-grown produce. (Photo by Sarah Nagengast)

The night concluded with Bridget Fonseca and her project “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers: Women Farmers Respond,” a question and answer session between herself (an aspiring farmer) and four characters who played the role of real-life female farmers in the Iowa City area. Fonseca asked the farmers about monetary and other struggles they face to maintain a sustainable operation. At the end, she reflected on her project and reevaluated whether or not she wanted to pursue a career in farming.

“Over this journey, I’ve gained a new perspective on the realities of owning a far. It’s not as flexible [or] glamorous as I initially though. Farming is hard work and the answer is hot that we all have to become farmers to save the food system. What we need is more support for out farmers, for our environment, and for our health.”

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Climate Narrative Project fellow Bridget Fonseca presented her project “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Farmers: Women Farmers Respond.” (Photo by Nick Fetty)

The Climate Narrative Project is currently accepting applications for six fellows for the fall semester. Those interested in applying should contact UI writer-in-residence and workshop leader Jeff Biggers (jrbiggers[at]