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Movies That Matter

IHB hosts many events throughout the year, often in collaboration with local organizations and businesses that work on mission-driven social causes.  One of them is an ongoing series called ‘Movies That Matter’ which features films, documentaries, and shorts on important social and environmental issues of our times.  According to Katie Schultz, IHB Director, the movies are often paired with a discussion or panel – often including the film’s director – or presented with other partners who work on related issues.

For the April 2018 movie event, the nonprofit Earthwatch reached out to IHB, having already formed a collaboration with the outreach team at WGBH to screen the movie.  Alix Morris, Communications Director at Earthwatch, noted about this highly successful set of collaborations: “Communicating about climate science is a huge part of our mission, and it seemed a natural fit to partner with NOVA to spread the word about their film.  Impact Hub was extremely receptive to the idea of the event and partnership.”

The Premier of ‘Decoding The Weather Machine’

IHB was the proud host of the premier of ‘Decoding The Weather Machine‘, a three-part documentary movie produced by NOVA, on April 18th in partnership with the local PBS station WGBH, the nonprofit Earthwatch, and the STEAM collaboration Cambridge Science Festival.  The two-hour event was well attended by over 150 people from all walks of life.

NOVA has gained the public’s trust as a reliable source of education and scientific information for almost five decades now.  So, it was no wonder that when producing a documentary about a heated topic such as climate change, it was done in an apolitical, informative manner.

According to Caitlin Saks, Science Editor at NOVA and a coproducer of the movie, “it [climate science] is one of the most important scientific issues of our time. We wanted to create the movie to educate and inform the public about the scientific research underpinning our understanding of climate change.  One of the aspects that I don’t think that is widely appreciated at this time in climate science is [that] it is this global investigation.”

“We are at a point where there is a lot of confusion around issues pertaining to climate science and so we felt that it is core to our mission to produce a film that can be used to help clear up that confusion … produce something that explains the science, but did so in a way that is exciting and engaging.”

DtWM cover photo

NOVA’s ‘Decoding the Weather Machine’

Building on years of research and collaboration with people in the field, Decoding the Weather Machine is a valuable resource for all of us – regardless of our stance – to understand climate change, its impact, and what we can do about it.  The movie tried to do this by including people from diverse backgrounds who can help reach a wider audience, such as conservative meteorologist Paul Douglas.

About the title, Caitlin explains, “the way we get into climate change is through the weather.  That’s because that’s the way that we humans experience climate.  Climate is an average of weather.  So, all the weather over years and years make up the climate. And that means, with the change in climate we are experiencing more extreme weather.  Because that’s the way that those who are not yet engaged in the climate conversation actually experience climate, that was our method.  The climate machine, the weather machine, they are all the same thing.  One affects the other.”

The movie featured areas that are already feeling the dramatic changes in weather, including the Marshall Islands, where the residents are severely impacted, but do not yet have the tools to deal with the effects.  Also featured are residents of Norfolk, VA who have adjusted by raising their houses on stilts or placing a ‘snorkel’ on their four-wheel vehicles.

Panel Session

Earthwatch arranged for an insightful panel session and Q&A discussion session post-screening. The all-female panel also aligned with Earthwatch’s strong push to engage women and girls in climate science. “Male voices often outweigh female voices in discussions related to climate change,” Alix noted. “This was a great opportunity to bring together diverse perspectives on the topic – not only someone to represent the film, but women who could represent climate policy, social justice, and climate education and communications.”

The panel consisted of coproducer of the movie Caitlin Saks, project leader for Build it with Wood Nicole St. Clair Knobloch, and executive director at One Square World Andrea Atkinson.  The panel also included a high school student, Zoe Foster, who presented her work articulately and eloquently. According to Earthwatch, “We also wanted to have a young person’s perspective and given Zoe’s incredible experience as a citizen scientist with Earthwatch and work with Encyclopedia for Life, she fit the bill.”  The session was moderated by journalist, policy expert, and MIT educator, Bina Venkatarman.   Some of the notable take-aways from the panel session is featured in the clip below, which was compiled from the original recording provided by Earthwatch.

panel session photo

Andrea Atkinson, one of the panelists, emphasized the importance of working at a community level and integrating vulnerable communities into the decisions that we are making surrounding climate change.  She specifically refers to the following community organizations in the New England area:

Andrea highlights that solidarity and respect for the affected communities are core to these initiatives since the people who live there are the ones who know the areas of flooding and the ways in which climate change is affecting their everyday lives.

Citizen Action

NOVA plans to continue to document climate change and to inform and engage the audience through live and online discussion sessions, short-form media, social media, additional reporting, and lesson plans.  If you would like to be involved in this discussion and feature the film in your local area, please reach out to WGBH using this link to obtain a copy the movie for community screenings.  NOVA will send you a free copy of the DVD, and a screening guide that will help you plan your event from promotion to execution.

Visit the Decoding the Weather Machine program page for additional short form videos and reporting on climate change. To engage with NOVA’s community about climate change topics, follow NOVA | PBS on Facebook and Twitter.  For resources to use in your classroom, visit PBS Learning Media to find NOVA’s Earth &Space Sciences Collection that features video and interactive resources to use with 6-12th grade students.

For further information on education and outreach initiatives related to the film, you may reach out to an education coordinator at