A night at the (climate) movies

CCL film event

The event, which featured a panel discussion mixed in with climate-focused film and TV clips, brought out more than 300 attendees.

A night at the (climate) movies

By Elizabeth Dell and Nicola Philpott

Recently, the climate world has been abuzz with some powerful new film releases. Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Sequel” just opened nationwide, and a few weeks prior, Netflix began streaming the new documentary, “Chasing Coral.” Each new climate-focused film or TV show offers new opportunities to reach out and engage our communities—and that’s just what our CCL chapter did.

Seth Bernard CCL film event

Seth Bernard, a popular local musician and the event’s moderator, poses in front of the theatre marquee

Earlier this year, Michigan’s Grand Traverse Area chapter hosted an evening of film clips and panel discussion with local experts. The event, held at the nonprofit State Theatre in Traverse City, was titled “Saving Our Home: A Conversation About Climate, Energy and Economic Opportunity.” Over 300 people attended the event!

An organizing committee of CCL volunteers spent many hours planning and publicizing the event, and we had two goals in mind. First, we wanted to have local, trusted leaders speak to climate impacts and solutions in our community. Second, we hoped to draw an even broader audience than usual.

We invited a diverse group of local experts to join our panel: a ski and golf resort owner, a representative from our National Lakeshore, an agriculture expert from our local research station, and a physician and member of the CCL Health Action Team. We also included a local Senate staffer to address citizen engagement and a high school student who is an experienced CCL lobbyist. Finally, we knew the right moderator was key, and finding one who could also help bring an audience would help, so we invited a highly regarded local musician and community advocate.

Next, the organizing committee created an outline for the event that would weave relevant film clips with discussion. We pulled together a list of potential films and TV programs related to our topic areas, and began looking for segments our panelists could elaborate about. We compiled footage from Years of Living Dangerously, PBS News Hour, and more, like the below clip from climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe. We also prepared specific questions for each panelist, assembling a detailed outline for the hour-and-a-half event. The outline was shared with the moderator and panelists in advance so they could prepare remarks and keep the program on time.

Finally, the committee did a lot of outreach and publicity, again, with an eye toward bringing in new faces. The theater has a huge email list of its own, which was a tremendous advantage. Volunteers put up almost 100 posters and got out the word on social media. We were also fortunate to have the support of a local Catholic church’s Justice and Peace Commission, which made 1200 copies of the flyer and put them in their church bulletin. The Chamber of Commerce posted the event on its calendar, and it was on several other area calendars as well.

When the evening arrived, we were anxious to see how our planning would translate to the stage and screen. Our panelists spoke thoughtfully and from personal experience about climate impacts related to health, agriculture, outdoor recreation, and natural resources. But it was our youngest panelist who stole the show, getting a huge round of applause, cheers and whistles. Annie Lively spoke of the challenges and frustration she feels, but concluded, “I’m really excited to spend the rest of my life creating something positive from our big mistakes, and I’m thankful that I live in a community like this that feels the same.”

The event was an outstanding success thanks to the dedication of many CCL volunteers, superb panelists, and a moderator who set a positive and inclusive tone. The local focus was critical, not only in educating the audience but also in providing relatable conversation points for anyone wanting to discuss climate change with their neighbors. Attendees found the mix of film and conversation very engaging, and they wrote more than 100 postcards to our representative that night. The audience left empowered and motivated, feeling that if we all work together, we can tackle climate change and achieve a stable, livable world for years to come. And that is what CCL is all about!

Elizabeth Dell is the Great Lakes Regional Co-Coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Nicola Philpott leads CCL’s Grand Traverse Area chapter.

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