Climate change has caused the sea ice in the Arctic to shrink 40% since 1979, NOAA.
“My greatest hope is that this documentary will inspire meaningful community action towards climate change so this can make local changes that will have a global impact”, Tehya Jennett, director and producer of Gen Z Mental Health: Climate Stories
The land that supports our feet, the air that fills our lungs, every particle that forms our body and all that is needed for us to go on living is a component of our planet, a crucial part of the delicate balance required for our existence; although many of us hardly ever acknowledge it and admit our personal responsibility to safeguard that equilibrium.
For the younger generations, the constant news about the climate crisis and its effects on our environment has had a negative effect on their physical and mental health. In a survey conducted on Americans from Generation Z, which were born between 1994 and 2009 and are now between 14 and 29 years, Climate Mental Health Network indicates that 75% of them have experienced stress, anxiety or depression due to news about climate change.
“People are joining and talking about the climate crisis,” explains Tehya Jennett, director and producer of the short documentary on climate change and mental health titled, “Gen Z Mental Health: Climate Stories”. “It is not being so much ignored on a wide level but the actual steps that we need to take in order to make sure we don´t get to 2 degree celsius are not being followed in any way. We are just talking about what should be done instead of taking any tangible steps to prevent it.”
The Reality of Climate Change
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains how the impact of climate change affects human living in many different ways, from diminishing food production to the spreading of diseases due to flooding, and the increase of wildfires or having stronger hurricanes.
According to the agency, temperatures around the globe have risen 1°C from 1901 to 2020, about 1.8°F; and the sea level has risen from 1.7 mm/year to 3.2 mm/year since 1993. This has affected the glaciers which have decreased over 60 feet since 1980, while the sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk 40% since 1979.
Although some might think that the Covid 19 pandemic and slowdown in the economy decreased the carbon dioxide and methane emissions, NOAA explained that in 2020 their rise has continued. In fact, the agency reported that the amount of carbon dioxide increased by 40% since the Industrial Revolution.
A Documentary That Wants to Make a Difference
The climate crisis has always been relevant in Tehya Jennett´s life. She grew up in northern California and the redwoods have been an essential part of her life. Tehya studied environmental science and became a climate activist and a filmmaker.
“I went to science camps growing up,” remembers Tehya. “I used to spend summers in the redwoods, and finding out how those environments are impacted by climate change was a shift for me, especially with the wildfires that we have experienced, and having people I know lose their homes. It is very hard to have to hear the amount of people, young people especially, that are bearing the brunt of this in terms of climate trauma and learning more about people who have lost their homes or had to evacuate and the trauma that comes from having to leave your possessions and being in a terrifying life or death scenario. A lot of children are living this also right now. Learning about that made me put myself into other people’s shoes.”
While Tehya was in college she wanted to look at the environmental field through the eyes of the media, and she ended up writing her thesis on using film and media tools for environmental awareness. This led her to become the co-owner of Stranded Astronaut Productions, which is an artist collective and production house that focus specifically on climate and social impact content. In 2022, Tehya became the producer and director of the short documentary, “Gen Z Mental Health: Climate Stories”, which explores the emotions, resilience and actions of young people from around the world in relation to the climate crisis.
“I struggled with climate anxiety a lot as a young adult and as a child, and I never really had many terms for it,” says Tehya. “I always thought this was something I was experiencing on my own. And just being able to watch and spend so many hours with all of these perspectives from other incredible young adults who are really invested in both the climate field and in self care and reflection and meditation, just being able to listen to them and watch their perspective made me feel more validated in my emotions. It made me realize there is a very large spectrum of climate emotions, from fear and anxiety and depression to climate joy and love for your community.”
Campaigning to Address the Climate Crisis
For the 8 minute short documentary “Gen Z Mental Health: Climate Stories”, Tehya interviewed 12 people from 6 different countries including: USA, Canada, India, South Africa, Iraq and France. They addressed questions like: What are you most scared of in terms of the climate crisis? What do you do to build emotional resilience in your life? What do you need to see in order for us to build a better future?
“We had a challenge to interview people from all across the globe without actually having our film team travel and contribute more to emissions, so we used media tools like Zoom and had people self record.”
The hard work made by half a dozen volunteers paid off. As a part of the impact campaign to create awareness and exchange initiatives, the documentary has participated in 7 different festivals. It has won 2 awards from Achievement and Social Impact and Environmental Justice from a Show for Change in Los Angeles and from Better Earth International in India. Also, since February they have received over 130 requests for screenings all over the world having already shown it in several US cities as well as Oslo, Toronto, Budapest, Johannesburg and Vienna. The impact campaign will continue until the end of 2023.
In order to be able to fund the cost of two screenings of the short documentary in Los Angeles for over 200 people Tehya reached for The Pollination Project.
“Sarah Newman from Climate Mental Health Network sent me the application and said: “You have to fill this out. This is an amazing organization.” And it definitely was,” recalls Tehya. “When we knew we were getting the TPP grant, that was a pretty great moment. This was the first actual money we had gotten for this entire campaign. And knowing that someone believed in us was a very exciting moment. I am so incredibly grateful for the support from The Pollination Project.”
Solutions to the Climate Crisis
Tehya recognizes that there is a lot of talk about the climate crisis yet very little action. Some great steps are being taken but it’s not enough and we all need to get involved and do the best we can to create tangible solutions.
“Join a community group in your neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be one of these big organizations, it can just be a neighborhood coalition that wants to plant more trees on your block or a community garden,” recommends Tehya. “There are a lot of different ways to help and it just comes down to approaching it in a way that is meaningful to you personally or joining an online channel where people are talking about climate solutions. A lot of people think that if they can’t spend 20 hours a week working to help the climate crisis they might as well do nothing but the important thing is finding someone you can connect with and work towards the world that we want to build.”
If you are inspired by this work and have an idea for a project that addresses an issue that you are passionate about, we’d like to invite you to submit an application and together we will build a better, more compassionate future!
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