By Kartik Chandramouli
How does climate change affect our daily lives? Why and how should we adapt to these changes? Answers to these questions could be daunting, but those are the conversations Neelima Vallangi and Deej Phillips want to spark through their documentary film, temporarily titled Demystifying Climate Crisis Through Human Stories.
The film, which is still under production, will be a collection of stories that illustrate the consequences of climate change on the lives of people in the varied geographical regions of Nepal. Through this, they aim to make the concept of climate change more relatable and make people aware of what they can demand from policymakers on climate action. “The documentary specifically shows the human cost of climate change,” explains Vallangi, an Indian writer-photographer and the brains behind scripting and directing the film.
In 2019, overwhelmed by the disastrous consequences of climate change in India and across the world, Vallangi started a series of conversations on the crisis on Instagram where she has over 45,000 followers. After sharing information on topics such as greenhouse gases, the fossil fuel industry, and climate justice and interacting with her followers, she realised that many don’t necessarily understand how a warming planet could affect them personally.
As South Asian countries such as India and Nepal become increasingly vulnerable to climate change, around 800 million people in the region live in locations projected to become climate hotspots and face a threat of declining living standards. The Global Climate Risk Index 2020 report ranks India fifth and Nepal twentieth based on the impacts of extreme weather events and associated socio-economic data.
Research shows that, ultimately, people’s perception of the risks posed by climate change in India is heightened by how they imagine their personal situation as climate crisis unfolds – and this perception is often shaped by the media. So, climate change communication invariably becomes critical for public awareness.
Globally, experts are now pushing for further research and communication about the links between climate change, public health and well-being as one of the ways to catch audience attention and make the crisis relatable.
Aligned with similar thoughts, Vallangi, while in Nepal on a writing assignment, gathered intimate accounts of lives derailed by events such as floods, scarcity of water, human-animal conflicts – all exacerbated by climate change. Along with Phillips, a filmmaker from London, the two decided to document these present-day impacts on everyday lives.
“If people can’t imagine what climate change does, then they will do nothing about it,” says Vallangi.
Blending emotional stories and science
A woman copes with health disorders as she travels far to get water home, where there is a scarcity of freshwater. A young girl loses her life as a flash flood sweeps away a road. A group of children face hindrances in their training, development and ambitions as their football ground is regularly flooded. With ‘water’ as the central theme of the film, the duo carefully identified stories such as these to illustrate how climate change contributes to too much or too little water, which in turn affects the daily lives of people and communities.
“But how do you connect these stories to climate change? It seems unreasonable to imagine how a one or two-inch rise in sea level could mean an increase in storm surges that can flood your region,” says Vallangi. The roughly 40-minute film which will primarily be targeted towards an urban audience has interviews with scientists and experts from the mountainous country. It will be coupled with animation and motion graphics to explain the science behind occurrences such as increased rainfalls, glacial melting, and so on.