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Witnessing Change–Video Competition, Submissions Due April

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Witnessing Change Video Competition

 The Witnessing Change Video Competition for high school and college students is the field component of the Climate Cost Project. The video competition gives students the chance to work with members of their own communities to document climate impacts, and through their work, become advocates for change. Videos can be nominated by teachers or schools to compete in the nationwide competition. There will be separate competitions for high school and college students, and cash prizes of $500 and $250 for first and second place for each competition. Winners will be promoted by the Climate Cost Project and through partner environmental organizations. Students may produce their videos individually or in teams.

The competition is intended as a capstone assignment for classes that have used the Climate Cost Project’s educational materials, including the You Change It climate change economics game and the Environmental Pricing 101 Chapter. These materials were designed for teachers who do not already have environmental economics incorporated into their curriculum, and can be found on the Climate Cost Project’s website. However, teachers can assign the video project separately if they already have their own environmental economics curriculum, or if they feel their students are sufficiently advanced. The video assignment is also appropriate as an independent study for highly motivated students.

The Climate Cost Project was launched last year in Hurricane Sandy affected areas of New Jersey. 2016/2017 will be the inaugural year for the national launch of the Climate Cost Project and Witnessing Change Video Competition. Submissions are due April 1, 2017.

The Importance of Witnessing Climate Change

 We know that climate change is currently harming American communities. Storms such as those that recently struck Louisiana and the southeastern United States have forced millions of people from their homes, causing significant personal and economic losses. This kind flooding is more likely to happen because of climate change[1] and, in fact, the Louisiana flooding was one of five 1000-year flooding events that occurred in under a year’s time.[2] Further, we know that across the country people are increasingly suffering from other climate-related impacts, such as vector borne diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus. The spread of vector-borne disease is considered by the U.S. EPA to be an indicator of climate change.[3]

Despite these compelling signs, a recent analysis found that broadcast news coverage of climate change decreased by five percent in 2015 over the prior year, even as 2015 eclipsed 2014 as the hottest year on record.[4],[5] At the same time, Americans’ concerns about climate change are low relative to the severity of current impacts. A majority think climate change is important, but less than 25% think it is very serious,[6] and only 41% think that climate change is already harming people in the United States.[7] Sixty-one percent of Americans have little or no idea how climate change is affecting their own health and the health of their families.[8]

Students taking part in the Witnessing Change Video Competition will fill a much-needed role by documenting the personal and financial costs of climate change at a grassroots level, with stories sourced, produced, and told by communities themselves. By providing a platform for Americans to connect what they are experiencing to climate change, the Project aims to foster a common identity among affected people and create a personal way for them to engage in implementing solutions. In the process of making and sharing the documentaries, the students will also raise awareness of the impacts of climate change, both in their communities and the country.

2016-2017 Witnessing Change Video Competition

 For the 2016/17 competition, the Climate Cost Project is seeking short videos documenting personal stories of climate change damages. The videos should highlight the emotional and financial costs of climate change to the individual. This year, we are inviting documentaries related to extreme flooding, drought, fire, and climate-aggravated vector borne illness such as West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. There is also an additional ‘open’ category, for which students must seek pre-approval.

We have chosen these impacts because they create significant personal costs to individuals. However, we acknowledge they are not comprehensive, and that there may be other costly climate impacts. Therefore, we have an additional ‘open’ category, in which students may seek pre-approval to do a video on a climate impact that is not specifically listed above.

Entrants wishing to apply to the open category should write a short letter to the project (not to exceed half a page) detailing the climate impact they would like to cover, where the impact occurred (or is occurring), why it is related to climate change, and the personal costs it has created for their interviewees.

 Video Competition Requirements and Guidelines


All videos must follow the requirements. Any videos that fail to follow them will be disqualified from the competition.

  • Video length should not exceed 2 minutes, excluding credits and references.
  • Videos should not exceed 200 MB in size and should be submitted in MP4 format.
  • Background music should be instrumental only, and must either be appropriately licensed or available in the public domain. Where open access licenses require giving credit to the artist, these should be provided in the production references at the end of the film.
  • Sound in the video must be high quality. Microphones should be used for interviews if there is any background noise while recording, as well as for recording telephone conversations. Where possible, recordings should take place in an environment where background noise is minimal or absent altogether.
  • Videos must contain some original footage and/or photography. In-person interviews with affected individuals will qualify as original footage. However, videos that also contain original footage/photography of climate impacts will likely receive higher consideration. All footage that is not original should be available in the public domain (e.g. government photos, or materials with a creative commons license, and given credit in production references where required). Students using non-governmental organization and news outlet sources must have these organizations’ permission to use their materials.
  • Signed media release forms will be required for all persons who appear in the video, either visually or through audio, including personal photographs of individuals that are not in the public domain. If the person in the video is under 18 years of age, a parent must also sign the release form.
  • If an interviewee provides medical information, a HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release form will be required. If the interviewee is under 18 years of age, a parent must also sign the release form.
  • All required forms must be completed, signed, and submitted along with the video. The forms will be available on the CCP website.


Videos should focus around an individual or family who has been financially affected by extreme flooding, drought, fire, or climate-aggravated vector borne illnesses.

In interviewing impacted people, it is appropriate to reach out to local experts on infrastructure, ecology, public health, medical professionals, etc. and/or provide student-generated (or researched) graphs and analysis to show the impacts of climate change in the region. Graphics, photos, and footage from government sources also provide excellent material to complement interviews.

Specific guidelines 

  1. Science elements 

Stories of impacts experienced by participants must be explicitly linked to climate change. For example, if the documentary is focusing on a farmer whose fields have been damaged by drought, the video must make clear how climate change is exacerbating drought. If appropriate, it should also address the challenges that the region or community is facing from that climate change impact outside of what the individual interviewed is experiencing personally. Videos that do not contextualize the impact in terms of climate change will be disqualified.

The contextualization should demonstrate a reasonable understanding of climate science, the difference between climate and weather, and the effect of climate change as a threat multiplier. Videos should also touch upon expectations for future trajectories of climate change in the affected area.

  1. Economic elements 

Strong videos will show participants discussing some of the economic costs they have experienced as a result of their hardship. Costs not covered by insurance companies or other institutions are particularly important, because many of these are undocumented.

Individuals may have been financially affected because their homes or businesses were damaged or destroyed by flooding, drought, or fire, or because illness caused them to miss work or seek expensive medical treatments. Financial losses from illnesses might also be indirect; for example, illness may result in missing school or other professional development opportunities.

III. Solutions 

Videos must discuss possible solutions to improve resilience or mitigate carbon emissions. The solutions can be either global or local, and students can focus on areas of solutions that are most compelling to them personally. Examples of different types of solutions might be instituting carbon pricing, public policies promoting renewable energy, organizing for political action, local initiatives to bring clean energy to the community, or local efforts for resilience planning.

  1. Overall Presentation 
  • Videos should tell a compelling story about the experiences of the person and community affected by climate change.
  • Different elements of the documentary—science, economics, personal stories—should be skillfully and creatively integrated in a way that makes the video interesting and engaging.
  • Overall production and editing quality of the video should be high. Video footage should be of high quality and skillfully edited using appropriate video production software.

 Submission process, deadlines, judging, and prizes

Submissions will be open from March 15th, when the Climate Cost Project will provide a submission link on its website where videos, forms, and payment can be submitted. The final deadline for submission is 11:59 pm, April 1, 2017. Winners will be announced on May 1, 2017.

Judges with expertise in climate change and video production will review and evaluate the videos based on the elements laid out under these guidelines. High school and college student submissions will be judged separately.

Cash prizes of $500 and $250 will be awarded to first and second place winners in both the high school and college competitions. Winners might also be featured on the Climate Cost Project’s website and promoted by the Climate Cost Project through social media and partner environmental organizations. Teachers and schools of students selected for prizes will be given a recognition award by the Climate Cost Project.

Instructors or their institutions, which will be considered the school for the high school competition and the academic department for the college competition, will submit videos, forms, and payments on behalf of their students. Submissions should not be made directly by students. Fees are $20 per video entry.










Author: Debra Kutska

Thanks for visiting! I am the Sustainability Specialist for Oakton Community College. I look forward to introducing you to the many green initiatives in which we engage and collecting input from YOU as to how we can continue to improve. Please feel free to contact me with your suggestions at any time at

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