Sundance film puts human face on climate change

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The Independent Culture

The devastating impact of global warming on communities worldwide is the subject of a powerful Sundance documentary aiming to put a human face on climate change.

Michael Nash's film - "Climate Refugees" - is a compelling look at the millions of humans displaced by disasters arising from incremental and rapid ecological changes to the environment and more frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanses, cyclones, fires and tornadoes.

A conference to discuss the subject is to be held on Sunday at the sidelines of the Sundance Film Festival, the annual celebration of independent films in Utah which runs until January 31.

"Three years ago, people concerned about global warming were thinking about how long polar bears would survive," said Nash, whose film is being screened out of competition at Sundance.

"And the fact is that what's happening today is affecting tens of millions of people all over the world," Nash told AFP.

Nash's film includes interviews with experts, political leaders and officials from international and humanitarian organizations while traveling to all corners of the globe to explore the phenomenon.

Countries and regions visited include cyclone-prone Bangladesh, China, Africa and the idyllic South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, which is threatened by rising sea levels.

The film also studies the fate of 300,000 climate refugees closer to the United States, those left destitute following 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

"People in America are concerned about the hurricanes, or mudslides and fires in California, or tornados, but that's nothing compared to 50 or 100 million climate refugees crossing the borders looking for food and water," Nash explained.

Nash participated in last month's turbulent international conference on climate change in Copenhagen, an experience he described as "frustrating" after the failure to agree on a treaty that would roll back the threat posed by greenhouse gases and provide funds for poor, vulnerable nations.

"I was at some panels in Copenhagen talking about this problem of migrations and it was frustrating," Nash said. "It was almost like trying to solve a rubik's cube blindfolded. Because everybody had his own agenda."

Nash said the focus of his concern was people already suffering from the effects of climate change rather than the causes of the problem.

"It really doesn't make any difference what type of shark attacked the woman that's bleeding on the beach," he said. "We need to take care of the bleeding woman."

Nash said the millions affected by climate change suffered because there was no international law that gave protection to environmental or climate refugees.

"We need to create another organization through the United Nations, or a completely separate organization that is going to take care of the humanitarian aspects of our changing climate," he said.

"The United Nations is not prepared for this. And I don't believe there is an organization right now that can handle what's coming."

"When an environmental disaster takes place, there should be funds moved immediately to where those people are taken care of, within hours."

Nash cited the earthquake disaster in Haiti as a case in point.

"The earthquake caused the destruction in Haïti. But you know, those people have been living the last three years with no food," he said.

"The humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Haïti right now should really be an embarrassment for humankind."