TMC beat photographer and climate change activist, NBirnbaum, has become involved with an organization named The Story Group. They are producing a series of videos called Americans on the Front Lines of Climate Change (website here). I interviewed him to find out what the group does, how they do it, and how we can help!
Moone: So what exactly is the goal of “Americans on the front line of climate change”?
Birnbaum: Our goal is to raise awareness about the immediate impacts of Climate Change in America. The National Climate Assessment came out in May, and that report basically said that ‘Climate change is no longer an issue for the distant future, it’s here now’. The Assessment had a 2-week lifespan in the news cycle. So the goal for these videos is to keep the report’s findings relevant and to provide human stories that visually show what was stated in the report.
Moone: So the differentiation between your strategy and those of other climate change awareness groups is a more personal approach? Where have you guys gone so far?
Birnbaum: Yes, definitely a more personal and story based approach. We want to tell the stories of how Americans all over the country are experiencing the impacts of climate change in their lives. So far, we’ve been to Washington state and spoken with Oyster farmers whose farm is in of jeopardy because of rising acidity levels in the ocean. We’ve been to Plainview, TX, one of the most conservative parts of the country, and spoke with a rancher whose experiencing one of the worst droughts in recorded history. And we’ve been to Colorado, where we spoke with a Fire-chief who was experiencing more intense, and prolonged forest fires. We’ve also got one from a farmer in Iowa that is in the works, with plans to film another episode about Moose in New Hampshire and Maine.
Moone: Powerful stuff really, and the project is also taking an interesting route for funding, correct?
Birnbaum: Yes, so we’ve actually just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise money for the next two videos in the series. The first three were made with support from foundations, and while we are still pursuing those funding opportunities, we felt it was equally or more important to engage our fellow Americans in the funding process. We didn’t want to wait around for support that may or may not come when there’s a whole network of concerned Americans who want to support this sort of Climate Change Awareness campaign.
Moone: This project came together rather quickly, if the assessment only came out last month. How did you get involved?
Birnbaum: Yea, so Daniel Glick, one of the founders of The Story Group, was one of two editors of the Assessment. He’s been working on the report for almost two years. He and Ted Wood, the other Story Group founder, got together about a year ago to start making these videos before the report was released.
I got involved when I came out to Boulder for my spring break and linked up with Ted. I came back out here this summer to work as an assistant to Ted and some other photographers, and they asked me to work on the AFLCC series with them. So far, I’ve been managing their social media and orchestrating their Kickstarter and funding strategies.
Moone: Very cool. Do you see any cultural changes that the AFLCC is trying to produce in our society?
Birnbaum: I think the big change we’re trying to induce is to, first of all, stop talking about climate change as if there is a debate to be had. There’s not. It’s over, and we now have to move forward with awareness campaigns that exemplify this fact. Next, I think what we really want society to accept is that climate change isn’t about science, or policy; it’s about people. Climate change affects people. That’s what these videos try and show.
Moone: Is there anything striking that you have learned since joining the organization?
Birnbaum: Getting funding is a long and tedious process. I never knew how much work went into getting grants, sponsorships, or even developing a Kickstarter campaign.
I’ve also learned that if there is a career or an industry that you really want to be a part of the best way to do it is to go to the physical place that it’s happening (for me, it was Boulder) and talk to the people you want to work with. If you are truly passionate about it, it will show and you’ll get an opportunity. So I guess the lesson from that is you really do make your own luck.
Moone: Would you say that funding is the biggest challenge for the organization?
Birnbaum: Yes, getting funding is absolutely the biggest challenge for us right now. There is so much competition for funding from foundations, even Kickstarters. It’s difficult not to get lost in all the noise. I believe we have the best talent, and the best stories, we now just need to find the right sponsor to keep the project moving forward; and we will.
Moone: I think you guys will too. Well, that’s about it. Anything else you want to tell the TMC readers?
Birnbaum: Just to please consider supporting our campaign and passing it along to your friends and families! We’ve already generated $4,333 in just 3.5 days. Also, follow along with us on twitter @tstorygroup! Thanks for the support TMC, really appreciate it.
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