British Columbia

The Climate Comeback: UBC student's documentary links inspiring sports comebacks with climate change fight

Grace Nosek says her film treats seemingly hopeless athletic circumstances as an analogy to inspire action on climate change.

Executive Producer Grace Nosek says sports has the power to connect people across partisan lines

Grace Nosek hopes her film Climate Comeback will inspire viewers to take action on climate change. (Grace Nosek)

When UBC student Grace Nosek calls her father in Philadelphia, their conversation always includes the latest update on the pride of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Eagles.

His stories are often thrilling chronicles of the football team making a miraculous comeback in the final stretch of a match to win the game. It was during one of these tales that Nosek drew a link between sports comebacks and the current climate crisis.

And it is what inspired her to produce the new short film documentary The Climate Comeback, which has a public viewing, followed by a panel discussion on Oct. 10 at UBC's Centre for Sport and Sustainability.

"I think we need new stories on climate," said Nosek to CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn.

She says her film treats seemingly hopeless athletic circumstances as an analogy to inspire action on climate change.

Harnessing the collective

Large sporting events have the power to connect people across partisan lines, says Nosek, bringing hundreds of thousands of people together in support of a common goal.

She likens the energy during Vancouver's recent climate strike to the same energy felt in Toronto when the Raptors won the championships and fans packed Nathan Phillips Square shoulder-to-shoulder.

Demonstrators participate in a climate strike in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Although people filled the streets for the climate strike and the parade for different reasons — one fear and frustration, the other celebration — she says at their roots, they were the same.

"They were both about a human desire to succeed," she said.

Nosek hopes the documentary will help people understand the power of the collective.

"I go to bed at night and I am terrified for our future," she said. "But if I come together with my team with this goal and I lean into that camaraderie, just like we've seen all these other [sports] teams do, it's amazing." 

Facing fear

The documentary highlights elite athletes who share their personal sports comeback stories, including figure skater turned UBC environmental science student Aspen Ono.

Growing up as a figure skater, Ono would launch herself, spinning through the air, landing hard on one leg.

"My mom has always said 'oh you're always trying to fight physics,'" Ono remembered while laughing.

Aspen Ono says her comeback after a figure skating injury involved getting over her fears, which she says parallels the insurmountable nature of the climate crisis. (Grace Nosek)

When she was 16, during an early morning practice, she caught the edge with her skate sending her headfirst into the boards at top speed. Ono blacked out.

Her doctors issued her a serious warning, telling her if she hit her head one more time, her career would be over.

Her comeback was a mental challenge.

"I was just scared to go all out, which in the end can often be more dangerous," said Ono.

"It took me a long time to feel confident in my feet and my training."

But she persevered and says it parallels the insurmountable helplessness people often feel in the face of climate change. 

"We should not let fear or knowledge that some action or policy won't fix climate change prevent us from pushing forward and continuing to improve," said Ono.

Nosek says her short film ends with a three-tiered call to action spelled across a black frame.

"Voice your climate concerns to friends and family, volunteer for our climate organization and vote," she said.

"That's climate action through and through."

You can listen to the full interview below:

Grace Nosek and Aspen Ono speak with Stephen Quinn about their film Climate Comeback. 8:16

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