ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A team from Grand Valley State University is set to premiere a new documentary on climate change’s effects in Michigan and the importance of casting the fight to slow global warming in a positive light.
The documentary is called “Climate Sisu: The Stories of Climate Resilience from Northern Michigan.” A premiere showing will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Loosemore Auditorium on GVSU’s Pew Campus in downtown Grand Rapids.
The film is a project born out of the university’s Climate Change Education Solutions Network, a collaboration between GVSU faculty and students and K-12 educators across the state.
Elena Lioubimtseva, a professor of geography and sustainable planning, helped launch the CCESN in 2018 as a way to provide teachers with materials to teach students about climate change.
“What really prompted me to start thinking about the need for the (CCESN) was somewhere around 2016 or 2017, I started receiving invitations from my daughter’s teachers. She was at the beginning of high school at the time, and I started receiving invitations from her teachers to come to class and speak about climate change,” Lioubimtseva told News 8. “I thought, you know, great idea. As a mom, I want to support my children’s teachers. And then I spoke with some of my other colleagues who are working on climate change … they do exactly the same.”
She continued: “They all were very engaged in working with teachers at their children’s schools. And this is really where our conversation started about the need of a much broader support for schools in the community. Because, of course, not every class, not every kid has a parent who is doing research on climate change.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus shifted to virtual courses and offerings and led the team to the project that would ultimately become “Climate Sisu.” Lioubimtseva and her team developed virtual activities and collections of video stories as teaching tools.
Kristin Davis, who graduated from GVSU in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in film and video, worked with the CCESN during her time on campus. She said while out filming for their teaching series, it became apparent that these stories could be molded into something bigger to branch beyond the classroom.
“We decided to travel throughout Michigan and do interviews with experts and educators and stuff that went along with a different curriculum,” Davis told News 8. “And while we were doing it, I was seeing how impactful these stories were. Afterwards, I suggested making a documentary. So we kind of made a bit of an anthology of these different stories.”
Davis served as the writer and director for “Climate Sisu,” while Lioubimtseva and fellow GVSU grad Leah Anderson worked as producers.
Anderson was one of the first students to work within the CCESN. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental studies in 2020 and is working on her master’s degree at the University of Denver but returned to Allendale this summer to help with “Climate Sisu.”
Davis said her time working with Lioubimtseva and the CCESN and her time working on the documentary has helped change her attitude toward climate change.
“Going into this I was a very ‘gloom and doom’ thinker because I was fed that information,” Davis said. “But as I got to know the CCESN better and got to learn more knowledge from all of these experts, I was like, ‘Oh, wow. There’s not much I have to be afraid of.’ It’s really inspiring; being positive and making positive growth. And that what I wanted to show people.”
Thursday’s premiere is free and open to the public. “Climate Sisu” will be entered in a series of film festivals later this year and will be broadcast on WKTV and WGVU. Eventually, it will be released for free on public platforms.