FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A new short documentary paves an alternative way
forward for our post-Paris-climate-treaty times
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – September 15, 2017
A new Sustainability Pioneers episode “Finding Our Power” concludes the 10 episode short documentary series that portrays people and communities in the US and in Europe transitioning from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy. In the final episode Renee Lertzman, PhD, climate, energy and climate change consultant and engagement strategist, brings up issues that are essential – and yet largely ignored – if we as a society are to resolve the climate crisis. The episode follows the construction of one of the world’s most sustainable buildings, the Frick Environmental Center in Pittsburgh. The mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, shares his visions how to engage all citizens in this historic transition.
Social scientists call climate change “a silent crisis”. According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, only one in three Americans talk about climate change often or occasionally with their friends and families. Many Americans say that they don’t know enough to talk about climate change. The goal of the Sustainability Pioneers series is to help people understand climate change and talk about climate solutions.
It is not only facts that matter when it comes to our ability to take action on climate. Emotions are the driving force behind many of our decisions. Renee Lertzman thinks that we need to do a better job applying what we know about the human mind and how it works if we as a society are to move from climate melancholia to climate action.
Climate change is shocking and makes us feel powerless, Lertzman says. Even when the feeling of being powerless is a perception and not real, it is only natural that people engage in different kinds of coping mechanisms such as disavowal, rationalization, denial, and projection that help them survive in their everyday lives.
“If we remain engaged in these defense mechanisms, we remain largely ineffectual. It’s a matter of urgency that we find creative, compassionate ways to help people work through and break through that resistance, that tendency to want to hide and self-protect,” says Renee Lertzman.
Mayor Bill Peduto made it into the national headlines after publicly challenging president Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. The City of Pittsburgh is developing a new and decentralized energy system – micro-grids distributing locally produced renewable energy – in different parts of the city. The city is releasing the third version of the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan for public comments today, on September 15th.
“People’s power is based upon themselves. You have the ability to change your life or the way you live your life every day. Allowing people to understand that, providing a network for them to join with others, and then showing them victories on the local level I think is the best way to show people the power they have,” mayor Bill Peduto says.
Sustainability Pioneers: Finding Our Power – Background information
Human mind and climate change
Pittsburgh & Climate Action
Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan http://pittsburghpa.gov/onepgh/index.html
Comments and input on the draft can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Frick Environmental Center https://www.pittsburghparks.org/frick-environmental-center
Climate change – silent crisis
According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication only 1 in 3 Americans talk about climate change often or occasionally with their friends and families. Many Americans say that they don’t know enough to talk about climate change.
The polls by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication show that only 1 in 8 Americans knows that nearly all climate scientists are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening.
Some other interesting findings:
Most registered voters say they don’t contact elected officials because they’re not an activist (62%), they don’t know which elected officials to contact (52%), or they wouldn’t know what to say (51%).
2 in 3 registered voters have never been contacted by an organization working to reduce global warming.
Climate Change in the American Mind: May 2017 report by Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
Media and climate change
The mainstream media has for years largely ignored climate change and still struggles with the topic.
According to the media watchdog Media Matters for America, in 2016 the major networks aired a combined of 50 minutes of climate coverage on their evening and Sunday news programs – 66 percent less than in 2015.
During the last couple of weeks, climate scientists explaining how the latest superstorms are linked to climate change have received some coverage. Yet, only very few media outlets connect the dots between money in the politics, our energy systems and climate change.
Reporter and editor Robert S. Eshelman of the writes in the Columbia Journalism Review that reporters need a different approach when covering climate change.
“The fossil fuel industry succeeded. In the ensuing years, the industry not only won over conservatives on the matter of climate change, but they also played into the media trope of balance and fairness.
Since those early days of climate coverage, scientists have grown more certain that there is unassailable evidence that human behavior is making a dire contribution to the planet’s rising temperatures. Yet it’s as if journalists are stuck in time, presenting the science as something still under debate. A notion to be evaluated, tossed around. As scientific certainty grows—97 percent of qualified scientists agree that the planet is warming and humans are the cause—today’s reporters, editors, and producers should cease with the false conceit about a debate and instead drill deeply into the political terrain.
Many scientists and academics say that journalists might focus their inquiries on the sources of scientific misinformation, namely the fossil fuel-funded and ideologically driven think tanks opposed to regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Journalists might also do more to address solutions to climate change in hopes of dampening American anxieties about the economic consequences of facing the issue.”
Money in politics
Where scientist have failed in delivering their findings to the public, fossil fuel industry has poured millions into lobbying politicians. (For specific numbers, check www.followthemoney.org or www.opensecrets.org)
The Trump administration has chosen to turn a blind eye on climate change and questions the validity of science itself in general. EPA is planning to launch ‘a red team – blue team’ exercise in order to have “a true, legitimate, peer-reviewed, objective, and transparent” discussion about carbon dioxide. Renowned climate and social scientists say that this will further blur people’s understanding of the crisis because it gives an equal voice to the small minority of scientists who disagree with the 95 – 97 percent of the scientist who are in consensus about the man-made climate change. The polls by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication show that only one in eight Americans knows that nearly all climate scientists are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening.
Fossil fuel industry lobbying and misinformation campaigns
Sources close to the fossil fuel industry have systematically tried to delude the public’s understanding of the problem.
- Geoffrey Suppran and Naomi Oreskes studied 187 climate change communications from ExxonMobil – peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed publications, internal company documents, and paid, editorial-style ‘advertorials’, advertisements. Researchers found out that “accounting for expressions of reasonable doubt, 83% of peer-reviewed papers and 80% of internal documents acknowledge that climate change is real and human-caused, yet only 12% of advertorials do so, with 81% instead expressing doubt.”
- The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank which in the 1990s denied the risks of second-hand smoking and lobbied against smoking bans, has this year been targeting science teachers. The think tank sent out its “Why Scientists Disagree about Global Warming” booklet to tens of thousands of science teachers across the country this spring. Climate Feedback, a worldwide network of scientists assessing the credibility of climate change media coverage, asked climate scientists to review the booklet. “Their conclusion: it could hardly score lower. Scientists found that almost all the claims that made it to the “Key Findings” section are incorrect, misleading, based on flawed logic, or simply factually inaccurate”, Climate Feedback writes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A new documentary showcases people making America energy-efficient again
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – April 11, 2017
In today’s political reality, where President Trump is reversing President Obama’s climate policies and opening doors for new fossil fuel production with less environmental regulations, the latest installment of the short documentary series Sustainability Pioneers showcases an alternative way to create jobs and enhance global stability. The ninth Sustainability Pioneers episode, Home Sweet Home, connects the dots between the energy use of American homes, climate change, and the growing number of global climate refugees.
30 – 40 percent of the energy Americans use to heat and cool our buildings is wasted because of leaky buildings and inefficient systems. Besides wasting energy, residential and commercial buildings in the US are a major contributor to climate change – almost 40 percent of all the US carbon emissions come from buildings.
Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that burning fossil fuels is the biggest contributor to climate change. The carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere creates a blanket that traps heat around the planet. If we don’t take collective climate action to drastically reduce our carbon emissions, the planet will keep getting warmer – driving many species to extinction, creating more violent weather events, disrupting systems, and increasing instability worldwide.
Climate change has already forced millions of people to leave their homes. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center IDMC, “an average of 22.5 million people have been displaced each year by climate or weather-related disasters” from 2008 to 2014 – about 62,000 people every day. Weather and climate, particularly floods, accounted for the biggest increase in displacement.
In many European countries energy efficient, climate friendly homes are common. These low-carbon homes are popping up around the US too. The new Sustainability Pioneers episode follows a couple who is building a “passive house” – a tightly insulated low energy home – in the Pittsburgh area. The episode also visits a 100-percent electric straw bale house in Armstrong county, PA, and explores how performing an energy audit in an old home can reduce energy bills and climate pollution.
“Buildings are part of our infrastructure. It’s a huge job market. If you want to employ people, you start to build the industry for making super-insulated, super-tigh, super-efficient buidings,” says Loftness.
About Sustainability Pioneers
Sustainability Pioneers is a web-based short video documentary series that showcases the new reality that is emerging as a response to climate change. The series highlights people and communities in the U.S. and in Europe taking bold steps to address climate crisis and lay a trail towards a more livable planet. Sustainability Pioneers is produced by Kirsi Jansa, a documentary filmmaker and a visiting researcher at The Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University.
The Sustainability Pioneers Advisory Board consists of energy consultant and Rachel Carson Scholar Patricia DeMarco, executive producer Kathy Knauer from the environmental radio program The Allegheny Front, documentary filmmaker and Pittsburgh Filmmakers associate professor Will Zavala, and media attorney Fritz Byers. The Sustainability Pioneers Production Team includes graphic designer Brittany Page, composer and audiovisual artist Ricardo Iamuuri, and marketing assistant Cynthia Tam.
Sustainability Pioneers is funded by The Heinz Endowments, The Fisher Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation and Roy A. Hunt Foundation. It is produced in collaboration with The Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
Political Economy Institute, University of Massachusetts: The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy
Political Economy Institute, University of Massachusetts: Green Versus Brown: Comparing the employment impacts of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and fossil fuels using an input-output model
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A new short documentary on greening of the utility business
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – October 4, 2016 – The latest installment of Sustainability Pioneers, a series of short video documentaries on climate change and climate solutions, tackles a challenge that involves all stakeholders, states, local governments, citizens and utilities: How to clean up the climate emissions of the utility business? Electricity and heating is still number one source of our greenhouse gas emissions.
The episode is available to view online at sustainabilitypioneers.com.
“Sustainability Pioneers: Going Fossil Free” portrays how one community, Boulder, Colorado, has been diligently changing its energy system for years – for example by trying to municipalize their privately owned utility to go green faster than the current system allows.
“Boulder’s vision is to transform from a utility model centered on selling more electrons to a new business model in which the mission is to collaborate with customers to provide options to use fewer electrons or produce and potentially share their own”, states Jonathan Koehn, Regional Sustainability Coordinator of the City of Boulder.
Boulder’s ambitious climate efforts have forced both the state and the local utility to get more serious about climate change than many other states or utilities. Utility industry is a capital intense industry, and without pressure from the grassroots level, the clean energy transition is not bound to happen as fast as needed.
“That investment wants to be returned with profit. The people who financed all of that are not eager to change quickly”, says Karl Rábago, Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center.
“Some utilities are responding to climate change in a positive and inspiring way, embracing clean energy and efficiency, engaging with customers to find solutions. Unfortunately it’s a spectrum. Some utilities are responding with denial, recalcitrance, with well-funded opposition to address any action to climate change. In terms of money, political power and number of power plants, the resisters to change and climate responsibility still outnumber the innovators”.
About Sustainability Pioneers
Sustainability Pioneers is a web-based short video documentary series that provides a new, empowering way to talk about climate change. The series highlights people and communities in the U.S. and Europe taking bold steps to address climate crisis and lay a trail towards a more livable planet. “Going Fossil Free” is the 8th installment of the series.
The series is produced by Kirsi Jansa in collaboration with a production team and advisory board. Kirsi Jansa is a documentary filmmaker, international broadcast journalist and the producer of “Gas Rush Stories”, short documentaries on shale gas exploration.
Sustainability Pioneers is a powerful tool for non-profits, educators, community organizers, schools, and universities. In addition to screenings and presentations, the Sustainability Pioneers team, together with various co-hosts, organizes diverse community outreach events.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 14, 2015
Short documentary series Sustainability Pioneers paves the way beyond Paris
Paris has spoken. The world finally has a climate deal. Yet, the real challenge remains: If we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, each country and each local community must find their own way to transition from a fossil-based economy to an economy built on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
A short documentary series Sustainability Pioneers (www.sustainabilitypioneers.com) both educates people about climate change and energy transition and inspires people to take climate action. A web-based documentary series showcases ordinary people in the U.S. and in Europe who are already doing what the leaders were planning in Paris – switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy and incorporating energy efficiency measures.
In the first six episodes, each about ten minutes long, we meet a borough manager of a small town in Pennsylvania who has been able to reduce utility costs by 25 percent though energy efficiency, a small scale wind energy developer who builds and installs vertical axis wind turbines, including on top of a public market in downtown Pittsburgh, and a family who decides to go solar. One episode takes the viewer to Saerbeck, a town of 7,000 people in Germany, that produces more than 300 percent renewable energy than the town consumes. In another episode we travel to Balcombe, UK, to see how a small village said no to fracking, and works together to go fossil-free.
Sustainability Pioneers is based in southwest Pennsylvania. Future episodes will present sustainability pioneers from around the U.S.
The series is produced by documentary filmmaker Kirsi Jansa. Jansa is a native of Finland and a former Finnish Broadcasting Company reporter. She works in collaboration with energy consultant and a Rachel Carson Scholar Patricia DeMarco. Both Jansa and DeMarco are visiting researchers at The Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University.
The Sustainability Pioneers Advisory Board consists of Joe Osborne, legal director at the Group Against Smog and Pollution in Pittsburgh (GASP), editors Sharon Walsh from PublicSource and Kathy Knauer from the environmental radio program The Allegheny Front, and media attorney Fritz Byers.
Sustainability Pioneers is funded by The Heinz Endowments, The Fisher Fund of Pittsburgh Foundation and The Roy A. Hunt Foundation. Thanks to this foundation funding, the series is available online for free.
This is what people have said about Sustainability Pioneers:
[Kirsi Jansa’s] style is solid, investigative, unbiased storytelling, and in this series she introduces the audience to a variety of our neighbors and friends who just happen to be two steps ahead of the rest of us in understanding the urgency of — and who are moving more quickly forward with — the transition from fossil fuel dependency to the much healthier, more sustainable, and far less costly options represented by smarter energy sources.
TIM HUDSON, Ph.D., Professor of Journalism, Point Park University
A powerful look at the opportunities and challenges facing Pittsburgh and cities around the world.
City of Pittsburgh
Sustainability Pioneers gives a great vision of what can be done by people who have the will to create a healthy future. Each video starts with a clear vision of the problem followed by specific examples of how people work together to solve the problem.
Environmental Justice Committee
Thomas Merton Center
For more information, email Kirsi Jansa at email@example.com.