Our Heartland: Climate Change and the Midwest by Emily Johnson

MEDIUM: Video, Website

For my high school senior year, I decided to do a documentary about climate change and how the issue impacts the Midwest. The 45-minute film discussed how the environment, business, and human health would be affected by warming temperatures.

Since eighth grade, I’ve been a dedicated climate activist. Seeing the headlines from the news caused me to take action against the global issue. However, people in my hometown were not as passionate as me. One of the critical problems in climate change discussion is that talks are put on a global scale or about a distant place. For example, World Wildlife Fund’s commercials are centered on endangered animals from the rainforest and the arctic. This narrative excludes the impacts of climate change from places like the Midwest and how the crisis damages human health and economics. Because of this, I wanted to inform fellow Wisconsinites in a way that would be personal.

To help me through this process, I had two mentors: a climate change assistant professor from Northland College and a local advertiser. To start, I did background research about climate change and advertising. When I made progress, I would meet online with the assistant professor to discuss how accurate I was with my data and how I should continue to make the research more impactful for my audience. I also studied how to produce a documentary and then practiced cinematography through online courses. Like my other mentor, I would have the local advertiser review the material I created. Once complete, I wrote a schedule for my filming process. Next, I interviewed several experts in the environment, business, and human health. For the environment, I had a school forest naturalist, a retired fisheries biologist, a local farmer, the executive director of a cross-country ski club, and a retired pathologist. I would practice my editing skills through another online course when I could not film due to waiting periods. After I complied my footage, I edited it. I then had my interviewees, mentors, school advisor, and others review the draft. Next, I created a website for the film which has the transcript, citations, credits, and resources for local action. Finally, I advertised my documentary at my school’s senior project presentation fair, on social media, and in my professional network resulting in 160 views.

This documentary demonstrates that my artistic expression is personal and engaging. I want to create media that inspires people to rethink society and take action.

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