’Tis the season to be mindful of hurricanes. Hurricane Katrina, 2005. Hurricane Maria, 2017. Hurricane Harvey, 2017. These high-profile environmental disasters had a disproportionately harmful impact on BIPOC communities. Throw in the everyday toll that climate change and environmental degradation have on our health — high instances of death by heat stroke, lung damage, asthma, neurological damage, and other slow moving but fatal illnesses — not to mention the economic toll these situations take, and it is clear that Black communities are on the front lines of climate change.
Climate change storytelling is a growing field within the impact storytelling movement. It is a field I hope more Black media storytellers will explore. Especially since a 2019 joint study by climate change communication centers at Yale and George Washington universities shows that Black and Latinx communities are more alarmed and concerned about climate change than their White peers. I’ve no doubt that this is because BIPOC communities have found themselves more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
My arm-chair research for climate change and environmental documentaries by Black media makers, however, produced scant results. Michael Premo and Rachel Falcone’s film Water Warriors (2018, POV); Spike Lee’s documentary, When the Levees Broke (2006, HBO), and his follow up doc, If God is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise (2013, HBO); Llewellyn Smith’s Poisoned Water (2017, NOVA), and Cheryl Thompson’s recent podcast on heat related deaths in California (KQED/NPR) are but a few. There have to be more right? Please feel free to share links to other stories on our IG, FB or Twitter.
I recently read that Black and Latinx people die of heat stroke at higher rates than other people. Did you know that Latinx and Indigenous Americans are among those most devastated by wildfires? Or that flooding disproportionately affects Black Americans? I had no idea. Media storytellers seeking to create films that have impact might consider exploring these themes.
Among the organizations offering funding specifically for climate change stories are:
And of course BPM’s Open Call would welcome proposals that address the topic of climate change in Black communities.
The global race to disrupt the perilous pace of climate change requires powerful storytelling. Hopefully, we will prevail in saving the planet and ourselves. Along the way, it is imperative that the stories of our people — be they of climate change victims, advocates, scientists, healthcare workers, policymakers, spiritual leaders, artists, first responders, educators or entrepreneurs — be documented and distributed. I’ll say it again: Black Stories Matter!