It’s easy to feel hopeless about the impacts of our rapidly changing climate. So, it was refreshing to view a documentary on successful programs can help revitalize local environments to mitigate global warming. “Hope in a Changing Climate,” narrated by John Liu and co-produced by The Open University and the Environmental Education Media Project, is a short film that provides several intriguing examples of community projects that benefit people and the environment.
The focus of the film is on the Loess Plateau in China, where overgrazing has devastated the local environment by causing desertification, air and water pollution, and a cycle of unproductive subsistence agriculture. But over the span of 15 years, a government program of tree planting and economic incentives for farmers to preserve the land has returned nutrients to the soil and transformed the region back to its historical ecological balance. At the same time, this program tripled farmers’ incomes.
Similar examples from Ethiopia and Rwanda show that preservation of native vegetation can be applied even in areas with different physical geography and political systems but with the same benefits. The film goes on to show that the new vegetation provides a simple and cost-effective way of trapping carbon and mitigating the effects of climate change. With over one quarter of the earth’s surface degraded, applying this system around the world could have major environmental benefits, but would require an unprecedented degree of international cooperation.
Running just 29 minutes, the film only covers one part of the climate-related issues facing our world, and didn’t address the impact of a growing global population and developing economies on carbon emissions. Even if similar programs were implemented worldwide, they would, at most, merely provide a buffer from climate change instead of a remedy for it. Even the best maintained farmlands cannot support a growing number of farmers in the same area, and the film missed an opportunity to include the influence of population growth on these areas. So, while the film is well-made and its message of regional environmental renaissance is hopeful, viewers should understand there is still significant work that needs to be done in addressing the environmental impacts of climate change and population growth on a global level.
The film is appropriate for a high school level classroom. It is available for free viewing at www.filmsforaction.org.