Face the Climate – Making Climate Change Concrete

March 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm Leave a comment

By Peter Baeck

Right now the world is experiencing a dramatic rise in what has been dubbed ‘climate scepticism’. Since the failure of COP 15 and following a few massively covered stories about climate scientist getting their facts wrong – and of course as a consequence of one of the coldest winters in decades – polls show that still more people simply believe that climate change is not real. As many has said and written this is a dangerous error. 99 percent of all scientists still say that climate change is happening, that it is manmade and that the consequences are and will be enormous. The question is: How can the man on the street come to understand this?

Samuel Mendoza walking on the bare rocks where the Chacaltaya Clacier used to be (Photo Anders Birch)

Face the Climate is an independent journalistic reporting project with a goal of making climate change as concrete, meaningful and human as possible, by portraying the people and familes affected by climate change. There is no shortage of climate change projects but this is unique because it stresses the viewer/reader to

The Bolivian Chacaltaya Glacier that disappeared. Past

identify with what is happening. With this ambition in mind the people behind the project have made nine intimate multimedia portraits of families from nine locations around the world where climate change is not something that will affect people’s lives 10, 50 or 100 years from now: Millions are struggling with its consequences right now.

Through photos, sound, video, text and panoramas www.facetheclimate.org is first and foremost a project about real people, like you and I, whose everyday lives have become a struggle because of this global phenomena. By telling the stories of individual people a complex subject is made more tangible and thereby unfolds the large scale context of climate change. On www.facetheclimate.org politicians and scientists are supporting acts, not the leading figures.

This I believe – and I think face the Climate proves it – is the best way to get the message across to people that have not yet felt the consequences of climate change on their own lives.

Seti Maumau and some of his kids just before falling a sleep in their little hut on Tuvalu, one of the first Island that will drown as a result of the rising seas. (Photo, Anders Birch)

The approach of the team behind the project has been quite straightforward. After a thorough research period they have gone to some of the regions that they knew were feeling the effects of climate change. There they have teamed up with local experts and with their help they have located specific areas where they’ve simply knocked on people’s doors and asked if they could portray their everyday lives for the next 10-14 days. Everywhere – from the islands of Tuvalu to the jungles of Nicaragua – people said »off course«. And then they basically hung out, the journalist with his pad and the photographer with his camera.

Rasmus Thirup Beck reporting with the kids from Tuvalu. (Photo, Anders Birch)

‘I went to five of the nine countries and despite the relatively short time I spent with the families there we formed very strong bonds. Seti Maumau on Tuvalu gave me a big and not very Polynesian hug when we took of, Samuel Mendoza in Bolivia made me promise that I would come back and 14-year-old Mary Mouchti in Syria almost wept when we said our goodbyes« says Rasmus Thirup Beck, journalist, editor and co-founder of www.facetheclimate.org

Ambitions and the next project

On top of the activist goal of creating more awareness about what climate change is all about http://www.facetheclimate.org is also a journalistic experiment. Based on the possibilities of the Internet they have sought to renew the reporting genre. Instead of just communicating their reports in the shape of traditional newspaper/magazine articles or classic TV news items (this they’ve done in a large scale too with publications in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Greece, Portugal and South Africa) every story is presented using all colours of the media palette: The communication is done through a mixture of mini features, still photos, audio, music, and text, altogether presenting every story as an Internet-facilitated multimedia report. This has just won them the award for ‘Best Multimedie Production of the year’ at the Danish Press Photo-awards, so they must be doing something right.

They also teamed of with a Danish team of educational consultants who produced a set of exercises for each story aimed at primary school-children. This has also turned out to be quite a success as the material has been used extensively since the launch in October last year.

And now the team behind intend to take Face the Climate to the next level – in quite a few ways. First of all they’re in the process of raising the funds to do a new series of stories but this time with a new angle:

Kids playing in Gabura - one of the many towns in Bangladesh that was ravaged and flooded by the hurricane Aila in May 2009 (Photo, Anders Birch)

While COP 15 proved that world leaders are hesitant to act together on climate change, private companies, strong individuals, third sector organisations and even progressive nations are acting. All over the world, in both developed and developing countries, people are joining the fight to save the planet.

Face the Climate 2.0 will portray a selection of these people in the same way Face the Climate 1.0 portrayed families jeopardised by climate change. We’ll follow the African worker sweating to clean solar cell fields in Sahara; join the engineer living and working in the world’s largest sea-windmill farm in Denmark; capture the life of a family in the world’s first CO2-neutral city in China; and go to the jungles of Costa Rica and track its leaders who have shut down the country’s military in order to spent the military budget on environmental projects.

Last but not least they aim to go international. They believe their stories – both the current and the coming – deserve a bigger audience. First of all everything will be translated to English – two of them already have been – and second they are looking for international media partners, sponsors etcetera.

The primary reason for the team aiming this high is the reactions they’ve gotten from people who have explored their website, read their  articles and seen their tv-items

»Our material works. It has even worked on ourselves . When we set out to do the first story we had big professional ambitions and were quite simply exhilarated with the thought of all the travelling we were going to do. After having seen what we have seen a more profound feeling has set in. Now we REALLY want to push for change, and we have all done everything we can in our personal lives to limit CO2-emission: Less meat on the menu, less travel, only energysaving lightbulbs in our homes, a change for a renewable energy company and so forth. Small efforts in the frame of global warming but when many do them it amounts to something. We believe people will when they see how other people live with and act on climate change«, says Rasmus Thirup Beck.

Reach Rasmus at rasmus@hovedkvarteret.com if you’re curious for more information.

Entry filed under: Green Next Practice, Social Innnovation.

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