For the last two years, Sustain T&T has sensitised local audiences to environmental and sustainability issues through its film series, Green Screen.Now, the non-profit organisation–dedicated to education, information exchange and promotion of sustainable living and industry–is getting into the production of its own content in a very meaningful way.Since November 2012, the group has been working on a climate change film. The working title of the film is A Sea Change. The project, funded by the UNDP's Global Environment Fund, focuses on climate change issues in Diego Martin/Petit Valley, Mayaro and Toco.
Carver Bacchus, director at Sustain T&T, is the producer of the documentary, as well as its content manager and interviewer. He explains the rationale behind the project:"T&T is feeling the effects of climate change, whether we are ready to admit it or not."Some communities, by their geographic location or main sources of income, are more susceptible to those effects.
"We wanted to hear from people in these communities who are engaged in sustainable activity; average people who are affected by climate change, such as fishermen, farmers, eco-tourism operators, school children, residents and members of NGOs."For example, Mayaro is uniquely positioned. It is still rural but also a centre of industrial activity vis-�-vis oil and gas operations. As we all now know, the burning of fossil fuels affects the global climate balance. Long term, these communities and Trinidad and Tobago at large will have to explore other options for income generation."
Bacchus said the Diego Martin, Maraval and Petit Valley areas were chosen after residents there were hard-hit by flooding last year. The "freak event" typifies the unexpected climate-related incidents that occur when unchecked human activity, like littering and unregulated hillside construction combine with natural forces."We wanted to document people's experiences and find out what they are doing to become more resilient in future against events like that."He said Toco, another fishing village, has been experiencing depleted fish stock and bleaching of reefs in a trend that could see an end to their traditional way of life within a generation. The film project will suggest some ways that they can adapt.
Bacchus says working on the Sea Change project is a natural progression: "Sustain T&T has always had an interest in producing community communication vehicles and, just as with Green Screen, we see film as an innovative way to reach communities through edutainment."He notes that last year's film series featured animated shorts produced by the group about climate change issues, with a local voice."Now, we're getting into more substantive content."Sustain T&T Board member Dawn Cumberbatch, of Doux Doux Darling Productions, is the director of the film, while Michele Matthews, who worked on Green Screen last year, is project coordinator.
The ultimate aims of the project, Bacchus says, go beyond just making the movie. We want to eventually exhibit the environmental content we create and use it to develop and execute behaviour change, through community campaigns related to sustainability and environmental issues.With this in mind, the project has entailed going into the communities, conducting the interviews, looking at local realities, and suggesting some ameliorative techniques with the guidance of environmental specialists.Sustain T&T will engage in community training on climate change issues, using the film as a teaching tool. "We hope to transform participants into ambassadors of climate change awareness, local experts in their communities."Participants will also gain the benefit of training in the area of film production, so they can go on to tell their own environmental stories through the medium of documentaries."We will encourage them to use the Green Screen platform, to submit those works and be part of our series."
The project is in post-production and is expected be completed next month. A Sea Change will be screened at Green Screen, a series of community outreach screenings and at the launch of the UNDP's Knowledge Fair in June.Bacchus says support from communities has been good, but notes: "one of the more alarming things is that people in general don't understand the concept of climate change. They see the negative effects but are not able to make the connection to climate change, and as a result they feel quite powerless."Citing the example of the Diego Martin floods, he says: "None of it is rocket science. Unchecked development on hillsides, slash and burn deforestation, improper waste disposal–hese things have an impact. Coupled with unusual concentrated and sustained rainfall, well, we saw the result.
"There are big issues that need to be tackled at the policy level," he adds. "In Mayaro and Toco, it's clear that the local economies need to be diversified; communities can't depend on fishing alone anymore. Residents are realising it but haven't gotten support to forge a new direction.""Hopefully, armed with the information from the film and the training, they may feel a bit more empowered to do something to ensure the viability of these important communities in the future."