BI teen wins 3 awards with climate documentary

Abi Subramanian of Bainbridge Island was homeschooled and as a result says she got a better environmental education than students in public schools.

So much so that Abi, 14, teamed with three others to make an award-winning film called “Youth Misinformed.”

Abi, a sophomore at West Sound Academy in Poulsbo, wrote, shot video, produced and edited the 9-minute documentary through the nonprofit Heirs to Our Oceans. Its Summit for Empowerment, Action and Leadership camp brings international youth together to collaborate to help the environment. This year, because of COVID-19, the camp was virtual.

The film doesn’t look at misinformation as much as it looks at the lack of information about the environment taught in public schools. The resources are there, but the information is not taught, the film says.

Her team picked that topic because it “impacts us all enormously- the education system, with a specific focus on where the education system falls short: educating us about the health of our planet. As we storyboarded, we discussed both the lack of education and misinformation perpetuated…we offered a solution that focused on project-based learning as an antidote to misinformation.”

When Abi was homeschooled until 2019, she learned a lot about climate change, the rising sea level and problems animals face. “It exposed me to ongoing issues. I have a strong passion for animals,” she said.

Her research on whales particularly interested her. She learned they store carbon so if they die naturally it sinks to the ocean floor, but if they are killed carbon is released into the atmosphere. She also was part of a protest in Arizona about orcas “in captivity being bad for them but us as well,” she said. To explain, she gave the example when people swim with dolphins. The animals go to the bathroom all day in the water so it becomes a “massive pool of wastewater.”

Abi got a lot of her filmmaking experience when she went to India in 2018 with her mom and brother and did a film on coal plants.

Abi hopes her film raises awareness because some special interests are spreading misinformation campaigns and some public funding is being cut regarding the environment. “Only half of all science teachers teach climate change. That fact really motivated me.”

The film adds, “There’s dire need for change in the education system.”

In the documentary, Abi is shown hiking in Olympic National Park. She talks about glaciers being an indicator of climate change, and how the Anderson glacier has in 80 years shrank to 10 percent of its former size. She said glaciers are an important source for water. “We’re not taking action to preserve them,” she said.

The documentary talks quite a bit about project-based learning. “You learn by going out in the field,” Abi said. “You talk to experts and get first-hand experience.”

Another team member talks about how in Guam students have 72 hours of project-based learning. That way of learning engages students more, makes them more driven, and gives them a “greater shot at saving our planet.” She talks about how Heirs teaches participants to become citizen scientists. She added it empowers youth to protect the planet.

Abi’s film was honored with The Nature Without Borders International Film Festival Award of Exceptional Merit. Also, the My HERO International Film Festival awarded the film The Eva Haller Women Transforming Media Award, as well as third place in the College Documentary section.

She is a member of the Bainbridge Island chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, where she co-leads the social media team with her brother, Arjun. Since 2016, Abi has been a member of the founding chapter of the Bay Area organization, Heirs to Our Oceans.

To see the documentary, go to: