The documentary film “Between Earth and Sky: Climate Change on the Last Frontier” will be screened at 7 p.m. on April 12 at The Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg. David Weindorf, the film’s executive producer, will be on hand to introduce the movie to a Blacksburg audience.
Sponsored by the Global Change Center at Virginia Tech and the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech, the event is free and open to the public. Among the many scientists interviewed in the documentary is John Galbraith, an associate professor of crop and soil environmental sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist.
“This film educates through interviews about an important subject that is not widely acknowledged by people who live far away in warmer climates,” said Galbraith. “They learn that a dangerous feedback loop has started. Rising temperatures and enhanced wave action erode and melt permafrost, accelerate carbon dioxide and methane release, warming the planet further. The effects are global.”
The film mixes interviews with some of the world’s leading scientists in climate change and arctic soils with the day-to-day struggle of native Alaskans living on the front lines of global warming. The film shows the calamity of climate change that has started in Alaska but will soon engulf the globe, according to the film’s producers.
“Alaska has been the source of myth and legend in the imagination of Americans for centuries, and what was once the last frontier of American expansion has become the first frontier of climate change,” said Weindorf.
The film especially focuses on the island of Shishmaref, which has been home to the Inupiaq people for thousands of years. As sea ice retreats and coast storms increase, the people of Shishmaref are faced with a disappearing island and a $200 million price tag to move their people, which will result in an untold cost on their culture and history.
Permanently frozen ground known as permafrost in the Artic and Subarctic sequesters 40 percent of the Earth’s soil carbon. Alaska has experienced the largest regional warming of any state in the United States, increasing 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1949. In fact, this increase is more than twice the warming seen in the rest of the United States, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Alaska’s warming has created a feedback loop of carbon to the atmosphere and the thawing of permafrost.
“The film provides a compelling glimpse of how climate change is directly affecting Alaskans today, not implications in the distant future. Similar coastal impacts are currently being experienced by communities around the globe, including high population centers in the U.S., such as Miami, Florida. We are well past the point of abstractions; the effects of climate change are observable right now,” said Bill Hopkins, director of the Global Change Center. “The film also highlights the disproportionally large effects of climate change on certain segments of society, raising important issues of environmental injustice.”
Producer David C. Weindorf currently serves as associate dean for research for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and BL Allen Endowed Chair of Pedology in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech University. Weindorf is 20-plus year member the Soil Science Society of America, past chair (2016) of the pedology section, and a licensed Texas Professional Geoscientist.
Director Paul Allen Hunton is a three-time Emmy award winning documentary film maker and serves as managing director of Texas Tech Public Media.
The film is supported by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Texas Tech Public Media, Soil Science Society of America, BL Allen Endowment in Pedology, and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
For more information about the event, please contact the Global Change Center at 540-231-5400 or visit their website.
The Lyric Theatre is located at 135 College Ave. in Blacksburg.
Story by Lindsay Key, Communications Director, Fralin Life Science Institute