Design & Sustainability on

G4C 2009: The first update from Facing Climate Change

— By: The Team at Nau

Washington snowpacks are among the most sensitive to warming in the West because of their relatively low elevation.

Editor’s note: This post marks the first in a series of updates from our 2009 Grant for Change grantees, Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele. The Seattle-based documentary team will be sending us monthly updates from the field, as they work to build eight new stories for their long-term project, Facing Climate Change.fcc-snoq

My partner Benj and I are a documentary team that specializes in multimedia stories about people, nature and climate change. A few months ago Nau awarded us their first annual Grant for Change to support our long-term documentary project, Facing Climate Change. Throughout this year, we’ll post periodic updates about our work in The Thought Kitchen, and we wanted to start off by introducing ourselves and explaining a little bit more about what exactly we’re doing.

Facing Climate Change uses photography and multimedia to personalize the story of global change through local people. We began this work back in 2006 with a series of stories about Sámi reindeer herders in Norway, volunteer glacier monitors from Iceland and fishermen of the North Atlantic. The G4C is going to help us create a new series of stories that explore the impacts of climate change through people who live and work in the Pacific Northwest. From wildfire fighters and apple growers, to coastal tribes, paramedics and snowmakers, people throughout this region must confront and adapt to the consequences of warming. Their unique stories about who they are and what they do, their everyday challenges and long-term ambitions will help to make an abstract issue more accessible to local audiences, while also contributing to a global conversation.


In the Pacific Northwest region, the area burned by fire is projected to double by the 2040’s and triple by the 2080’s.

We think that our own backyard is an ideal region for a case study, not only because of its diverse ecological, cultural and economic landscapes, but also because of an unprecedented new assessment that downscales global trends into local projections. At more than 400 pages, the Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment documents the latest research on how climate change will likely affect eight sectors of our environment and economy by the end of this century: agriculture, coasts, energy, forests, human health, salmon, urban stormwater infrastructure and water resources. While our stories will be firmly rooted in the Pacific Northwest, these focus areas, combined with the region’s geographic diversity, represent impacts and vulnerabilities globally.

Using the Assessment as a scientific foundation, we will research, photograph and produce eight multimedia stories about individual people and communities that breathe life into the report’s key findings. We’ll announce more about how this work will be released soon, but at the moment there’s a lot of research, planning and outreach between us and the first story. And that’s what we’re busy with now: reading through the report and other resources, collaborating with the Climate Impacts Group to narrow down our topics, and finding individuals that illustrate projected impacts and vulnerabilities. We’re also meeting with potential partners who can help provide action pathways, distribution channels and the additional financial support we’ll need. Pre-production is never quite as exciting as the fieldwork, but it’s just as critical to a great story.

Okay, that’s all for now. For the latest on our project stay tuned to The Thought Kitchen, check out our blog, sign up for our newsletter, or follow Benj on Twitter. And keep cranking on your own projects. Back in November, we got to attend the Change Makers’ party at Nau’s pop-up store in NYC. It was a fantastic space full of amazing clothes and innovative ideas, but the highlight of the evening was meeting other athletes, artists and activists who devote themselves to positive change. Thanks for all you do!

– Benj + Sara