Film asks how climate change affects children


Correction appended.

As a climate change advocate trained by Al Gore himself, and with a master’s in environmental science and policy from Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Riverdalian Jessica Haller is an expert on the physical dangers of climate change — rising sea levels, creature extinction and harsher storms, to name a few.

The psychological effect of the phenomenon, however, was a murkier topic. 

“I’m learning about everything coming from the scientific community, but I look at my four children, and I don’t know what to do with them,” Ms. Haller said. “How do I prepare them for the world they’re going to inherit?”

It was a question Ms. Haller and Riverdale-based psychiatrist Beth Haase set out to explore in their documentary, “And Then The Climate Changed,” a Kickstarter-funded film directed by Jon Felix that examines the mental toll environmental changes and threats take on children. 

Dr. Haase explained that the psychological effects of devastation from climate change could mean post-traumatic stress for millions of people, including today’s children.

“How do you help kids be anxious enough to decide and know how to handle an acute crisis, without scaring them silly?” she asked. 

“Even if we all recycle and compost and mitigate, it’s still going to be different in the future, and dramatically so,” Ms. Haller added.

The two women, who have six children between them, began filming nine months ago — starting their project with an interview with former Senator Joseph Lieberman and his wife Hadassah Freilich, chosen for their involvement in the climate change movement. 

As a senator, Ms. Haller explained, Mr. Lieberman brought several climate bills to the senate floor. 

“None of them ever passed, but the real question was, what gave you the perseverance to keep at it? It must have taken a tremendous political and emotional toll to keep fighting for federal climate change,” she said. 

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