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Fall ScholarSip Speaker Uses Film & Storytelling to Advance Climate Justice

December 9, 2022

On December 5, 2022, Assistant Professor Ben Kalina, an award-winning documentary producer and director, kicked off the Drexel Libraries’ 2022/23 ScholarSip event series with a “food for thought” session on climate activism and filmmaking.

During the virtual event, which drew a crowd of 30 Drexel faculty, staff, and alumni, Professor Kalina discussed his research and his work to create documentaries about the global climate crisis. Some of his films include Shored Up, Can We Cool the Planet?, and Plan C for Civilization, the forthcoming film that follows the scientist at the center of the controversial field of solar geoengineering, a technology designed to cool a quickly warming world.

“I’ve been interested in the environment and climate-related issues for most of my life—on storytelling that had to do with trying to address climate and environmental challenges,” said Kalina, who is an Assistant Professor at Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. “Some of my first films, like A Sea Change which was about raising acidity levels of oceans, were about global issues that needed fixing—issues that were not really known about at the time. Telling those stories and then hoping that intention would bring change and activism.”

Along with creating films that focus on global issues, Professor Kalina has recently turned his attention to focus on local climate change issues and climate change as a social justice issue, specifically in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been asking the question, ‘What is climate change going to look like in Philadelphia – the poorest big city in America with the oldest infrastructure of any big city?” Kalina explained. “There are all kinds of challenges here, and we’re going to have to adapt to climate change. We need to draw attention to and develop the solutions that help make people's lives better at the local level—that make their neighborhoods, their streets, their homes better.”

More specifically, his latest project focuses on the story of the Eastwick section of Philadelphia. Eastwick is a working-class majority Black neighborhood in southwest Philadelphia that borders the Cobbs and Darby creeks. It was prone to flooding even before climate change brought increased rain and intense storms.

“Most of the time, these creeks are just gently flowing creeks. But in climate-driven rain events—which we're seeing more and more often—those creeks overflow and swell,” he said. “There are only so many times your community can [endure devastating flooding] before you can't afford to rebuild or before you just end up giving up on some level.”

By drawing attention to issues at the community level, Kalina hopes to mobilize funders, activists, and policy makers to invest in their local communities that have long been disinvested in and help residents adapt to climate change.

“I think that's the message. To me, where [this] comes through and comes out is in this confluence of democracy and civil rights and climate justice,” he said. “…Right now, I'm really trying to make something that will have a very tangible impact on Philadelphia.”

Missed the event? Watch the complete recording of the session on the Drexel Libraries’ YouTube page.

About ScholarSip

Now in its 11th year, ScholarSip is an annual event series hosted by the Drexel University Libraries that seeks to nurture Drexel’s intellectual life and cross-campus community through informal gatherings where faculty and professional staff exchange ideas sparked by greater awareness of interdisciplinary research. Each event includes social time to build acquaintances and a short “food for thought” presentation from a member of the Drexel community. ScholarSip provides an opportunity for members of the Drexel community to gather for conversation – along with a toast to the end of the academic term.

For more information about ScholarSip or to suggest a future topic, please contact Libraries Communications Manager Stacy Stanislaw at