CCL in Action: Gavin Porter, ‘Who Gives a F About Polar Bears?’

When Gavin Porter attended the CCL course, one of the key topics he wanted to address was regarding the lack of diverse voices within the environmental movement, especially from the working class. He feels that, with some key exceptions, diverse voices are not amplified or given platforms to be heard. During CCL he decided that he would like to explore this issue further.

Following his desire to give agency to voices not normally heard in climate conversations, Gavin developed a CCL in Action project centred around exploring the relationship between working class communities and climate change. It is important to note that although he uses working class as a shorthand description Gavin recognises that this term can mean many different things to many different people. Gavin’s project involved interviewing and filming individuals that identify as working class about their views and understandings of climate change. He explicitly discusses the notion of ‘diversity’ in these interviews, beginning the interviews with the question of what ‘working class’ even means.

Gavin titled the documentary project Who Gives a F*ck About Polar Bears? He found it interesting how many people took this title literally, telling them they really do care about polar bears and so should he. In this project so far Gavin has interviewed six people and spoken with many more. Gavin talks of how he found it difficult to find participants because many people felt that they did not know enough about climate change. Those that he was able to interview were still reluctant to speak about climate change, as they did not feel they have the knowledge or authority to speak on environmental issues. He describes how he ‘learnt to reply that this is the exact reason that I wanted to talk to them, that we are all experts in our own realities and we are all affected by climate and environmental issues’. As climate change impacts intensify, particularly for marginalised communities,  it is increasingly important for the environmental movement to include as many voices as possible. Climate change cannot – indeed must not – be a conversation confined to certain classes or cultural and social spaces.

His hope was that these interviews would provide an opportunity for these voices to be amplified in climate conversations. He sought to make the connections between working class communities and climate change much more visible. So far, Gavin believes that this project has been a success; he has received really positive feedback and speaks of how the learning so far has been invaluable.

Following the current success of the project, Gavin believes it has potential to turn into a much larger scale project. These interviews are only the beginning. This project has cemented his ambition and made him ‘realise that this is the kind of work I really want to try to make’. Indeed, the project has inspired a number of other opportunities since. For instance, Gavin describes how he used this CCL in Action project for the basis of an artist development project he did with National Theatre Wales. He was also successful in applying for funding from Arts Council Wales, to developed a research and development project based directly on an idea that came out of a conversations he had as a part of his CCL in Action project. Currently, Gavin is still looking for ways to expand this work. When he recently showcased the documentary at a pitch to develop the project, It was recommended that he focus the work more. He comments how difficult this is to do when, not only is he tackling two huge subjects, but climate change is such an intersectional issue. As such, he is currently exploring different ways to focus it and make it more ‘television friendly’.

Like many who work with the topic of climate change, Gavin speaks of how personally challenging it can be to try and confront environmental issues in one’s work. The climate crisis can be an incredibly daunting and upsetting subject to work on. The struggles that accompany climate work are precisely why it is so important to create supportive communities and networks.

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