2015 - Ongoing
Whether we recognize it or not, climate migration is already part of the American story. Millions have moved inland from hurricane pounded coastlines of the Gulf and thousands are now fleeing from the fire ravaged West. The communities that receive these migrants are changing too, reshaping the very cultural and political fabric of America. But what we are witnessing today is just the leading edge of an unprecedented wave of human migration that is yet to come: by the end of this century nearly 1 in 2 Americans will likely experience a significant decline in the quality of their environment. An estimated 4 – 13 million will be driven from their homes. Millions more will follow, ousted by fires, floods, drought, and extreme weather. The age of the climate refugee has just begun.
Eroding Edges is a documentary project exploring the rapidly changing lives and identities of American communities who are on the frontlines of climate change. While these communities are vastly different in geographic and cultural heritage, they share a tragic commonality: the land that they have called home for centuries will be rendered uninhabitable in less than 50 years. While the project bears witness to unprecedented loss and hardship it also focuses on the quest for leadership on a rapidly warming planet, with an emphasis on courage and community driven solutions that are being implemented to preserve cultural identity and facilitate meaningful migration in the face of unprecedented change. The project explores the process of loss, transition, and rebirth: What will these migrants let go of? What will they hold on to? How will they adapt to survive? What can they teach those who are yet to follow in their footsteps? And how can America prepare for the magnitude of what is yet to come?
The project documents 6 communities around the United States. Each have evolved a profound sense of place over hundreds of years (or, as is the case with Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific coast, thousands of years) and how their cultural existence is being threatened by rising temperatures. We will meet unique characters such as Pal, a seventh-generation waterman from a small Island in the Chesapeake Bay; Kirby, an Alaska Native who is rapidly building berms to hold back the floods and is holding a vote to see if his community will stay or go; Rosina, a Louisiana fisherman who is raising her house and making ready for the next hurricane. These characters must grapple with unprecedented changes, community division, powerful storms, and a local and national culture that seems to be in denial.
The project explores the struggles of communities in the throes of great change and probes the intersections of race, gender, and climate chaos.
Finally, the project will examine the solutions that each community has pursued to retain their cultural identity while migrating away from the place that has cradled it for centuries, finding rallying points of hope, courage, and agency. By holding up the vanguard of climate change as heroes, rather than victims, the project seeks to inspire healing in the impacted communities and engagement regionally and nationally. The broader outcome of the project - its core purpose - is to show that climate change is already a reality for people who are our neighbors, friends, family and countrymen. The impacts of climate change are common to us all, regardless of our income, race or party identity. This is a problem that we have to work together to solve. And it is one that we are – at present – woefully unprepared for.