Nicholas LaScala says he’s not a typical conservationist. He rides snowmobiles and knows he pollutes. But he cares about climate change, and for an internship with Clarkson’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment, he’s producing a video series to bring the realities of climate change home to the Adirondacks.
LaScala, a Clarkson senior, has released 14 of these interviews with the experts on the ISE’s YouTube channel. The people he interviewed aren’t necessarily climate change experts, but they’re experts in ice climbing, plowing, tourism and building palaces out of ice.
LaScala said he believes the best way to talk about climate change is to avoid saying the words “climate change.” He said the phrase is off-putting for some, but that many people who work, live and play in the Adirondacks can see the effect humans can have on the environment for themselves.
“I’ve talked to a lot of snowmobilers who say the winters aren’t as cold or as snowy anymore, but then you ask them about climate change and they’re like, ‘Oh no, climate change is a hoax,’” LaScala said.
He said the common thread in his interviews is that nearly everyone says winters are becoming more unreliable.
LaScala said he tried to keep away from the scientific aspect of climate change, since he said that is less accessible to the general public, and focus more on people’s personal stories.
“There’s clearly a disconnect between scientists and the American people,” LaScala says in an introductory video. “Rather than talk about global average temperature changes, which can be very abstract and irrelevant to the average person, we are more interested in how climate change is affecting the daily lives of people in the north country right now.”
Some of the interviews LaScala has scored so far include Saranac Lake village Mayor Clyde Rabideau, state Olympic Regional Development Authority CEO Mike Pratt, the Rev. Stephen Rocker, a priest at St. Mary’s Church in Potsdam, and Dean Baker, longtime chief builder of the ice palace for the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, who was interviewed in this year’s palace while kids climb all over a yeti ice sculpture behind them.
LaScala said Dan Dudek, the Environmental Defense Fund’s vice president for Asia, gave him an “unreal interview.”
The project is an experiment, LaScala said. He’s wanted to try to tell the climate change story from a different angle, and he said this internship gave him the platform to do it.
LaScala said he grew up in New Jersey, but every weekend in the summer his family would come to their second home in Long Lake. They moved to Indian Lake, where he got his guiding license for rafting, hiking and camping, and got involved with town revitalization committees.
He now is planning to move to Lake Placid after graduation to manage the Crossfit gym there.
LaScala said the video series has a budget item in the ISE now, and that another intern will take over the project next semester. He’ll come back and coach that person on how to film and interview in the fall. He said he’s actually a bit sad to leave the project and that he wants to keep doing it himself.
“The closer I get to graduating, the more I think, maybe I want to keep these climate stories,” LaScala said. “It’s kind of a fun project. I really like doing it … and I’m not sure if I just want to give it up.”
Interviewing is not something he was used to at the start of the project, and his background was in photography more than audio and video, but he said he’s fallen in love with the format over time.
Each episode takes around 10 hours to produce, he said, and they are released every Wednesday.
The videos can be found at wdt.me/ClimateChange. A podcast version of the interviews is uploaded to Spotify and Apple Podcasts, too.