‘It wasn’t anywhere near as cold as it was supposed to be, which I guess is, sadly, a side-effect of climate change,’ says Dawn Kelly, director of the HuffPost documentary Antarctica: End of the Earth. ‘I was quite surprised at how warm it was.’
Climate change is so huge and overwhelming, with so many aspects to consider, that it can often feel impossible for non-scientists to know how to engage or respond to it – let alone how to fully understand it. It can be alienating when experts use recondite terminology that excludes ordinary people from the discussion.
With all this in mind, Kelly and fellow HuffPost staffer Lucy Sherriff found themselves on the ship the Ocean Endeavour earlier this year, heading south towards Antarctica, so that they could create a film about climate change that asked the deep questions they’d always wanted to ask. ‘It was incredible!’ enthuses Kelly. ‘It’s the most beautiful backdrop I’ve ever had the pleasure to film on, and probably ever will. Absolutely stunning. Pictures and film just don’t do it justice.’
Instead of pretending to know all the answers, the pair spent two weeks exploring the subject of climate change by talking to the various glaciologists, climatologists, and polar explorers – as well as individuals from around the world with their own personal experiences of climate change to share – aboard this research vessel. All were part of Expedition 2041, an international endeavour created by explorer Robert Swan to take people from around the world down to Antarctica, so they can see for themselves the impact climate change is having on this remote part of the world.
‘We thought that going somewhere visually stunning like Antarctica, with the right people, on the right type of expedition, talking about climate change and seeing it would be a good way to bring that story to people who might find the topic is overwhelming,’ continues Kelly. ‘If we could go on a ship full of young people who are enthusiastic about climate change and try and tell its story in the way that they would tell it to their friends and on social media, then we might resonate with our younger audience that perhaps do care about climate change, but think it’s an overwhelming topic and don’t know where to start with it.’
The full documentary is viewable above, and can also be watched in shorter, bitesize chunks, under the themes ‘Why so political?’, ‘Here comes the science’, ‘Climate refugees’, ‘Life in Antarctica’ and, finally, ‘Whose job is it anyway?’ With neither Kelly, nor fellow expeditionary presenter/producer Lucy Sherriff, self-identifying as science journalists, they instead embraced their non-scientist role, and focused on asking the straightforward questions they simply didn’t know the answers to.
‘I really wanted to produce Lucy in a way that she didn’t go there with loads of knowledge, and knowing all the answers,’ explains Kelly. ‘It’s really a quest for her to find out the answers from the experts on the ship, and then take the information and really try to break it down, so that it wasn’t an exclusive conversation for people who have PhDs in glaciers. We approached it using our lack of knowledge as a starting point to find out more and bring that to an audience in a way that hopefully would resonate with them.’
‘What we wanted to do was make a documentary about climate change which really highlighted that it affects people and it isn’t just statistics and numbers,’ she adds. ‘It’s the people that we should be focusing on, and that’s what we tried to do. We met people on the ship that were from all over the world and tried to get their experiences of how climate change is affecting them now back home. We wanted to get across that it’s actually happening now, and we need to find out what solutions are there so we can attack the problem now.’
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