Video by Sunjin Kim '19 and Nick Meyer '19
Story by Sunjin Kim '19
For roughly twenty-five years now, Gene Pelizzoni has been guiding hikers around the Exit Glacier as a driver. This was his twelfth season fishing halibut in Seward, Alaska. He told us, with a cautious look, as if not wanting to let on too much about his belief or disbelief in climate change, that he has definitely noticed a significant size difference in the halibut over the past ten years. As a result, he explained, he has to throw back most of the fish he catches because they are too small.
This was Michael Boyles’ (Pappy) fiftieth year living in Seward as campground host. He has raised nine children and many more grandchildren and plans on staying in his motorhome trailer in Seward for the rest of his life. He told us when he and his wife first came to the campgrounds, the Portage glacier was right up to the edge of the highway railway. Now “you can’t even see the glacier, it’s around the corner.” At times during our interview, Pappy seemed to be wrestling with how to reconcile concepts like global warming and Alaska’s increasingly erratic weather (which includes warm weather in the winter). Pappy’s business of helping to host the campground has been suffering from the melting glacier as less and less campers come to the exit glacier area. Stories like these (stories of a very impact climate change has had on their lives) were why Nick and I decided to go to Alaska. We went to Alaska so that we could hear directly from the people who are most directly influenced by climate change in the US. But one assumption we had made was that the Alaskans would make the connection between the obvious effects of climate change and the manmade.
I remember clearly, on the first leg of our flight to Anchorage, that we had written “scripts” that we would have liked our interviewees to say while we filmed. We quickly realized after our first interview that this method of “storytelling” was both ineffective and unreal.
Then, we heard what they had to say.
It was shocking at first - to hear these Alaskans, who are clearly seeing and living through the effects of climate change, collectively say that these changes were somewhat part of a natural cycle. How could these people who have witnessed shrinking halibut, melting permafrost, receding glaciers, changing diets, and relocating villages still believe these effects to be less man made than natural? This was something Nick and I struggled with for a while after coming back home, and is the reason why we scrapped our film three times in a row. It definitely took some time to find the right way of presenting how they see it. We wanted to document their perspective as truthfully and accurately as possible. So with that being said, we hope you enjoy our film.