November 2015—

On November 5 at eTown Hall in Boulder, Colorado, Media Impact Funders (MIF) and Vulcan Productions joined forces to assemble top documentarians, journalism outlets and funders focused on climate change.
The day’s speakers honed in on the question of how to assess whether productions are moving audiences and policymakers to action, and how best to collaborate — especially given that all eyes are trained on Paris this week for the COP21 talks.
MIF Executive Director Vince Stehle and Hilary Sparrow, Vulcan Productions’ senior supervising producer, set the agenda and welcomed environmental expert Spencer Reeder to discuss the current state of the climate change debate.
Reeder, who advised the former governor of Washington on climate policy and currently runs Vulcan’s philanthropic arm focused on climate, noted that scientific analyses of environmental issues often fails to convince audiences.  Rather than a question of scientific literacy, he suggested, perhaps the issue is one of conflicting values. Scientists are not always the best communicators, except in cases where the evidence is “unassailable.” Even so, facts fail to move. Instead, “haunting images, analogy, metaphor” may be more evocative.
Throughout the day, the other producers, reporters and experts noted below discussed what works and what doesn’t when tackling this crucial but controversial topic. See our comprehensive wrapup for details on this important conversation—including background on the unprecedented global premiere of the documentary Racing Extinction  on the Discovery Channel.
Welcome and Introductions

Vince Stehle, Executive Director, Media Impact funders
Hilary Sparrow, Senior Supervising Producer, Vulcan Productions

 Overview: The State of the Climate Change Debate

Spencer Reeder, Senior Program Officer, Vulcan Philanthropy, Climate Portfolio

Defining Impact: What’s Working in Climate Communications

David Fenton, Founder, Fenton Communications
Jeff Horowitz, Founder, Avoided Deforestation Partners & Executive Producer, Time to Choose

Understanding the Impact of Chasing Ice

Jeff Orlowski, Founder and Director, Exposure Labs

Building Climate Awareness Over Generations

Dennis Dimick, Executive Environmental Editor, National Geographic
Kaitlin Yarnall, Executive Editor for Maps, Graphics, and Art, National Geographic

Spotlight: To the Arctic

John Lamson, Executive Vice President, Resource Media

Looking Forward: The Global Release of Racing Extinction

Olivia Ahnemann, Producer, Oceanic Preservation Society
Jon Bardin, Director of Documentaries and Specials, Discovery Channel
Ted Richane, Director of Engagement and Impact, Vulcan Productions
Hilary Sparrow, Senior Supervising Producer, Vulcan Productions
Nick Forster (moderator), Co-Founder, eTown

Reporting for Change: Collaborations in Journalism

Matt Grisafi, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Grist
Steve Katz, Publisher, Mother Jones
John Schwartz, Director and Founder, Voqal
Vince Stehle (moderator)

Using Communications Strategies to Ensure that Stories Drive Impact

Ann Christiano, Frank Karel Chair, Public Interest Communications, College of Journalism and Communication at University of Florida
Annie Neimand, Executive Editor for Frank, University of Florida

Discussion: Conclusions and Next Steps

David Fenton and Jeff Horowitz