[Editor’s note: This story is the fifth part of the multi-part series “Climate Crisis,” examining the causes and effects of climate change, that begins with Issue #1 and concludes in Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]
Although Alaska is nicknamed the Last Frontier, the state has drastically become the first frontier in climate change.
Jonathan Seaborn, production director at KTTZ-TV at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, recently had the opportunity, along with his boss, Paul Hunton, general manager for KTTZ-TV, to go on an Alaska expedition to witness the climate changes in the area. Although they planned to film the expedition, he didn’t know it was going to turn into a film.
“We were approached by Dr. David Weindor,” says Seaborn, “who is a scientist here at Texas Tech, about an expedition they go on every summer. He was curious if we wanted to film that trip, and we did. But we were looking at, ‘Well, will people be interested in watching about this trip?’ As David was explaining to Paul and myself more and more about what they’re seeing, the changing landscape, what’s happening to the permafrost, it was like, ‘Oh that’s a story. It’s a climate change story.’”
The “Between Earth and Sky” film crew went to Alaska twice. The first time was for 25 days. They flew in to Anchorage and traveled up to the Artic Sea, went to Dead Horse and back down.
“Part of it was talking to locals, indigenous people and stuff like that, and scientists,” Seaborn told the Plainsman Press in a recent interview. “What they’ve seen over the years, what they’ve learned. We went back the second time and spent a little over a week, and spent time with native villages. All this information went over the course for about a year and half. We started in 2015.”
According to Seaborn, Alaska’s vegetation is changing at a drastic rate. The natives are especially being the most affected by the climate.
“The villages are mostly along the coastline,” explains Seaborn, “and the ability to fish and hunt their animals. Changes are happening, and they’re noticing that quite a big. The native villages are really the ones at risk to coastal erosion. The sea ice during the winter months build up, and during the storms it keeps it like a wall or a barrier to protect the villages. But they’re coming later and later, and the sea ice isn’t there, and the waves are ripping away the coast.”
The native villages are moving more inward to land, because the villages keep falling into the coast. The reason why the villages are collapsing is because the permafrost is melting under the villages. According to Seaborn, the natives are heading toward being potential climate refugees.
“If their homes go away, they’re going to be forced to relocate,” says Seaborn, a graduate of South Plains College. “They will be forced to located to other cities in Alaska, and their lifestyles will have to change. It’s happening too in small islands that flood and get washed away in the sea. We talk about what the world is going to look like in 50 to 100 years, but it’s happening now.”
Seaborn and the crew went to environmental film festivals to showcase their climate change film. They shared it at Washington, D.C., where there is the largest environmental film festival in the country. They also did universities tours such as going to Harvard to talk about the film with many students.
“We did Q&A during the festivals,” explains Seaborn, “and most of the time people asked what they can do to stop climate change. At the beginning, I wouldn’t have been qualified to answer these questions. But we worked with some people who are well respected, like Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, who is a climate scientist. Me and her do a web series called “Global Weirding,” which is uploaded every other Wednesday. Before we started, I thought I did care about climate change but I wasn’t doing anything about it.”
Seaborn, a photojournalism major during his time at SPC, says anyone can help reduce the changing of the climate by making small personal changes, such as carpooling, cutting back the amount of meat you eat, or even talking to government representatives about the climate.
“My wife and I recycle now,” says Seaborn. “and the great thing in Lubbock is at Texas Tech they offer a recycling center. The money goes back into scholarships for kids. There are little things you can do. Turn the lights off while you’re not using them, or turn the water off when brushing your teeth. If we start making the move to change the environment now, it will also change the economy. If we don’t start looking at alternative energy, our economy is going to get left behind. I thought thinking that I cared was enough. You have to lead by example and hope people will follow.”
“Between Earth and Sky” will be available on Amazon and iTunes in the next couple of weeks.