President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Accord last June was largely met with widespread worry and anxiety about the future. But a new documentary paints a more hopeful picture about the inspiring way that many Americans are taking matters into their own hands and committing to protecting the environment — even when the government won’t.
Paris To Pittsburgh, which aired on National Geographic on December 12 and is produced by Bloomberg Philanthropies, showcases the difficult, even life-threatening impact of climate change across the country. Most recently, there have been uncontrollable wildfires on the West Coast and devastating flooding that has plagued the East. But despite the measurable impact of the changing temperature, many still deny that climate change exists. The agreement, an environmental deal supported by former President Barack Obama, is an international pledge signed by almost every country in the world to reduce carbon emissions. By withdrawing, Trump — who is a climate change denier — sends a frightening message to the rest of the world.
But in the wake of the Trump Administration’s announcement that they would pull out of the accord, cities across the U.S. announced that they would still align with the it and continue to work to reduce carbon emissions on their own. Paris To Pittsburgh highlights the efforts by local communities, from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, and features the people who are actively taking steps to participate in the sustainable energy sector. Two of these inspiring people happen to be young women: Faith Lutat and Jessie Moffitt, who are both students in Iowa Lakes Community College’s Sustainable Energy Resources and Technology program.
Both are pursuing applied science degrees in Wind Technology. Lutat’s father, Dan Lutat, oversees the program, while Moffitt decided to go into the field after receiving a bachelor’s degree in math from Purdue. The women are both adamant about the opportunities offered by careers in wind tech, despite the fact that it’s traditionally a male-dominated field, as it allows them the option to travel, be hands-on, and participate in protecting the environment. As Lutat told Refinery29, “the money isn’t bad either.” The sector is seeing a rapid increase in job growth, which appeals to students who are nervous about opportunities after graduation.
Lutat, who describes herself as a “tough, rough-around-the-edges cowgirl,” often urges her female friends to open themselves up to the idea of working in the sustainable energy sector, though many tend to picture it as the work of big, burly men. “I think they’re scared of the physical aspect of it, but it’s safe and there’s a job for everyone,” Lutat says. “Sure, it helps to be in shape, but there are also engineering roles, or you can just fly drones. It’s all about working smarter, not harder.”
Dan Lutat calls these women “pioneers,” but sees their hesitation firsthand when he gives talks at schools. “When I talk to young girls, I see their interest and their excitement,” he says. “But after 8th grade, we lose them in high school because that’s when they get all those messages about what it ‘means to be woman.’ It’s a shame.”
While working in a technical field may be a hard sell, both Lutat and Moffitt agree that the practical, hands-on work that comes with the job is the best part. Their voices brighten when they describe the feeling of climbing up inside a wind turbine. “It never gets old,” sighs Moffitt. “You climb up and think to yourself, ‘is this ever going to end?’ But when you finally get to the top, and the wind is hitting you fast and you see the beautiful landscape, you don’t even think about the height.” (The V82, which they usually climb, is about 25 stories high.)
Lutat and Moffitt agree that young people today must take initiative to protect the Earth. But even for those who don’t work in sustainable energy, there are small, actionable steps everyone can take to do their part in being securing the environment. They say that from riding bikes to work to turning the water off when you brush your teeth, every little bit makes a difference in making the world a greener place.
Starting on December 13, the film will be available for free on digital platforms on National Geographic’s website, mobile app (Nat Geo TV App), Video On Demand, and connected devices (such as Roku, AppleTV). Also starting December 13, the film will be available for one week on National Geographic’s YouTube channel.