Policy wonks and academics produce voluminous tomes on sustainability issues, but how to get these before a larger audience? One wonkish think tank hard at work on this problem, the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, is producing a series of short films to tell the stories that move these concerns toward a wider audience. The idea is to take complex, interacting factors and show how they affect real people.

Global Trends, Local Stories, a recent forum in Washington, DC, discussed one such nexus, population, health, and the environment, or PHE, as featured in a trio of short films on the New Security Beat website. These films “tell stories that capture the voice of communities,” explained Roger-Mark De Souza, director of Population, Environmental Security and Resilience for the Woodrow Wilson Center. The films share something with Ernest Hemingway’s “iceberg principle” in briefly showing what’s on the surface, implying the vast richness beneath it. In Hemingway’s case this is the emotional life of his characters. In these films, the substrate is an economic, environmental, and social complex that shapes people’s lives in complex ways. The stories are thus a way to begin thinking about a vast underground maze of factors affecting all of our lives, yet focusing on impoverished and stressed regions.

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