CCL Hawaii draws a crowd for virtual movie screening & panel

The Burden Hawaii screening

CCL volunteers in Hawaii organized a virtual screening of “The Burden” and an expert panel.

CCL Hawaii draws a crowd for virtual movie screening & panel

By Elise Koepke

While the transition to virtual meetings and conferences has altered our traditional definition of grassroots outreach through in-person presentations and tabling events, it’s also opened the door for new and creative ways to engage our volunteers and spread the word about CCL. Several months into the pandemic, members of CCL’s Hawaii chapters thought up a unique outreach idea—a virtual movie screening and panel discussion via Zoom. 

Planning for the big screen

Volunteers wanted to show a film with an enduring and positive message about climate action that would appeal to CCLers, elected officials of both parties, and the local community. CCL Honolulu volunteers also knew that their local lawmakers were particularly in-tune with military issues. Ultimately, they selected “The Burden,” a 2015 documentary with a broadly appealing message that a shift away from fossil fuels can both save money and increase military effectiveness and resilience. 

Admiral Paul Zukunft, U.S. Coast Guard, retired

The chapter partnered with the Center for Climate and Security and the East-West Center for a screening of the film, followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Roger Sorkin and a panel of retired senior military experts discussing U.S. military preparedness to adapt to a changing climate.

As he introduced the movie, filmmaker Roger Sorkin said, “I thought that putting it in the frame of national security would be a way to transcend some of the political divide that we face with this issue.”

Lieutenant General John Castellaw, U.S. Marine Corps, retired

Lieutenant General John Castellaw, U.S. Marine Corps, retired

When advertising the event, organizers cast a wide net, attracting attendees from all backgrounds: military and civilian, in Hawaii and on the mainland, and inside and outside of CCL. Working closely with neighboring island chapters, they reached out through their state and regional coordinators, posted announcements in various forums, made calls to veteran’s groups, and advertised the screening through word of mouth.

The CCL Honolulu volunteers also assembled a panel of climate and national security experts to weigh in after the showing. Moderated by Honorable John Conger, the panel included Admiral Paul Zunkuft of the U.S. Coast Guard, Lieutenant General John Castellaw of the U.S. Marine Corps, and Honorable Sharon Burke, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy. 

A packed audience at the ‘theater’

Honorable Sharon Burke, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy

The event was a major success, drawing 300 registrants and more than 140 attendees. The virtual format made it easy to accommodate participants and coordinate Q&A with the expert panel; without the need to secure and pay for an event space, the organizers were able to avoid some of the financial and geographical limitations of typical in-person meetings. 

The panel shared valuable insights about the impact of climate change on the military and how volunteers can approach the topic with members of Congress. They sang the praises of local action through grassroots outreach, just like the work we do here at CCL. “You can keep pushing at the local level for action, and at the state level specifically,” said Sharon Burke. “You have a lot of power in your local community to hold your government accountable, and that’s where we’re going to make a difference.”

Watch the panel discussion on YouTube here:

On top of the great turnout, the event also prompted several endorsements for The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act from local organizations. By inviting members of the Hawaii delegation and their offices, organizers got their attention – upon hearing of the event, Congressman Ed Case (D-HI-01) even reached out and registered. “I think it really did achieve our goal of getting closer with our member of Congress,” said organizer Paul Bernstein, volunteer with the Honolulu chapter of Citizens’ Climate Education.

The success of the event shows that the sky’s the limit when it comes to organizing outreach events, even during a pandemic. “A small group of dedicated people can host events that reach a large number of folks. Other chapters should feel confident that they can replicate what we did by making use of the great resources CCL (i.e., its volunteers and staff) has,” says Bernstein.

Elise Koepke is a communications intern with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. She is a recent graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she studied Earth Science.