2019 Explanatory Reporting, Small Newsroom finalist

Hawaii 2040

About the Project

“Hawai 2040” is a year-long effort to shine a spotlight on one of the most important stories of our time – climate change.

Unfortunately, global warming and the slow deterioration of the planet is also one of the most difficult stories to hold people’s attention. We hear so much about it these days, it seems like it’s happening to someone else, not each of us individually.

We set out in January to use this year to experiment with different storytelling models and engagement strategies to get people in Hawaii really thinking about what climate change means to them personally. Some of the techniques are old-school – good old-fashioned political and government accountability reporting – but we’ve also empowered our staff to do whatever they think might work.

To that end, reporter Nathan Eagle and multimedia producer April Estrellon both became licensed drone pilots. The visuals in the series so far are pretty stunning and really show how sea level rise and more damaging storms are already eroding shorelines and reducing beaches.

From the first story, we have embedded a Google form that gives readers an easy way to tell us what is happening in their neighborhoods. We have gotten dozens of responses and used those as a way to map out our reporting.

We outfitted the Civil Beat van – we call it The Wavemaker – with audio and video capability and we are using the mobile reporting studio to go out into the community and get people talking about what they are seeing. What is happening to their own traditions and culture as the environment changes? What can they as individuals do to change things?

The van excursions have resulted in an explainer video with climate scientists giving a visual tour of our changing shorelines as well as allowing readers to empathize with residents across the island as they see and hear what is happening.

The project also includes a space for readers own ideas – we kicked that off with the Civil Beat crew planting 100 trees in a climate change challenge. And we have included interactive maps and carbon calculators to give people even more of an idea of the problem and solutions that they can be part of.

Our goal is to build a body of work that by the end of the year will give people a very real sense of what is happening in Hawaii and what all this talk about climate change means to them. We want to use our journalism to get them thinking about their own role in the changing environment and what they can do about it even if it’s on a very small scale.

We believe that community engagement on this scale is vital and that journalism can be part of the solution to this most important problem.