Student Author

Brittany Bondi '19

Faculty Co-Authors

Salma Monani, Department of Environmental Studies

Sarah Principato, Department of Environmental Studies

Christopher Barlett, Department of Psychology

Class Year


Document Type


Date of Creation


Department 1

Environmental Studies


Purpose: The aim of this paper is to evaluate the effectiveness of film in communicating issues related to climate change. While previous studies demonstrate an immediate effect of a film post-screening, this study also considered if a film can inspire long-term effects, and if supplemental educational information plays a role on participant understanding.

Design/methodology/approach: Using surveys, we assessed undergraduate students’ climate change responses pre-, immediately-post, and 9-weeks post watching the climate change documentary The Human Element (Prod. Earth Vision Institute, 2018). In the 9-week interim before the final survey, half of the participants received weekly information on climate change via a custom website, while the other half served as a control. Nonparametric statistical tests were completed in SPSS to determine significant changes across all three surveys.

Findings: Friedman tests and Wilcoxon Signed Ranks tests demonstrate statistically significant self-reported impacts on climate change responses such as of motivation, concern, and understanding immediately post-screening. At 9-weeks, 3 × 2 Mixed ANOVAs demonstrate that the group that received the website reported statistically significantly higher understanding than those in the control group. However, the website has no statistically significant effect on other responses like motivation and concern.

Originality/value: These results highlight the important power of film’s visual appeals in framing climate change. We also show that there is a long term effect of film on participant understanding. The study also prompts questions about current models of climate change education, which emphasize objective understanding, often without viable support structures to help students’ concern and motivation to act.


Written as a Senior Capstone in Environmental Studies. Funded in-part by the Kolbe Fellowship, senior funds, and the ES department.

Presented at the American Association of Geographers Conference 2019.

Required Publisher's Statement

This article is available on the publisher's website.