Texas Tech Soil Scientists, Filmmakers Look to Tell the Story of Climate Change in Alaska

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There have been plenty of documentaries made about the topic of climate change, but  Texas Tech Soil Science professor David C. Weindorf said that his new film “Between Earth and Sky” is unique because it uses soil as a lens to watch changes in climate.
 
Weindorf, the Associate Dean for Research at Texas Tech’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, has been studying soils in Alaska for years, and what he’s found has shocked him.
 
“I was part of a research study with Dr. Chien-Lu Ping (of University of Alaska Fairbanks) about five years ago that was funded by the National Science Foundation. We were looking at rates of coastal erosion on the Beaufort Sea, which is on the northern side of Alaska and what we found it the sea is cutting into the tundra and eroding it at a rate of 15 feet per year–and that’s going on for hundreds of miles,” Weindorf explained.
 
He added that if something similar was occurring on the California coastline, he believes people would be in panic. Weindorf watched as his students were awe-struck by what they learned about Alaskan ecosystems and decided a film would be the best way to help the general public get a similar experience.
 
He teamed up with another TTU professor, Paul Allen Hunton, to make a documentary through KTTZ-TV which Hunton is the general manager of. 
 
They’ve invested thousands of hours already and on Earth Day (April 22) their team is heading to Alaska for another production trip.
 
Hunton said this is one of he most ambitious projects he’s been involved with. He explains that both soil science and media students from Texas Tech have aided in this film. Hunton added that Alaska was an ideal place to film with the nearly endless hours of daylight in the summertime
 
From farming, to local wildlife, to soil,  the film highlights tangible changes in Alaska. Through interviews with locals, the filmmakers hope the film shows the human impacts of these climate-driven changes. 
 
“In that very first production, we interviewed 41 people, about 90 percent of those were some of the most world renowned scientists in soil and climate who you can find,” Hunton explained.
 
One of those experts fellow Texas Tech Professor and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.
 
The scientists they interviewed explain that Alaska is a good indicator of how climate will impact people’s lives in other places. They want to bring their experiences in Alaska to communities around the world.
 
“Years ago we didn’t have the technology or the know-how to make those kinds of measurements, today we do, we have global positioning satellites, we have temperature equipment that can document small  increments in temperature changes. We have the technology to know what’s going on around us, so ignorance is no security blanket, we can’t stick our heads in the melting permafrost so to speak,” Weindorf said.
 
Weindorf said soils aren’t glamorous, but they tell a story that he believes everyone on earth needs to hear.
 
Hunton recognizes that climate change is often a politicized issue. But he hopes that this film allows viewers to put aside politics and look at the science from researchers like Weindorf.
 
“I’m not here to give you an apocalyptic scenario, because we don’t know, and that’s the biggest thing, we don’t know. But what we do know is we need to start talking about it now, and we need to start making personal decisions that make our climate better and our world a better place,” Hunton said. 
 
The third trailer for this film will come out later this summer and the finished film is set to come out in 2017. The filmmakers anticipate that it will play in several Lubbock locations as well as film festivals around the country. 
 
 

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