Actor Harrison Ford with an orphaned orangutan baby. Harrison Ford stirred up quite a flutter during his reporting trip to Indonesia when he bore down upon the country's foreign minister, asking repeatedly nothing was being done to curb illegal logging. Photo: Earth Island Institute

By Maureen Nandini Mitra
11 April 2014

(Earth Island Journal) – But add in a star cast of Hollywood heroes — Harrison Ford, Jessica Alba, Don Cheadle, and Matt Damon. Mix in some hotshot journalists — The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, CBS’ Lesley Stahl, and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. Have them travel around the country and different parts of the world to report on the causes of global warming, and talk with regular folks who are bearing the brunt of our rapidly changing biosphere— and well, you just might have the right recipe for a crowd-puller.

At least that’s what the producers of Years of Living Dangerously, a nine-part series on climate change that kicks off this Sunday at 10 p.m., are hoping. As are most environmentalists (yours truly, included), who constantly struggle to find ways to communicate the grim fallouts of spewing invisible gases to our atmosphere to a public that’s exposed to a daily dose of climate denialism.

Conceptualized by former 60 Minutes journalists, Joel Bach and David Gelber, the executive producers of the series include Hollywood director James Cameron (of Avatar, Titanic fame), former California Gubernator Arnold Schwarzenegger, producer Jerry Weintraub (Ocean’s Eleven), and clean tech guru Dan Abbasi. The reporting is informed by a crack team of climate scientists, including James Hansen, Michael Mann, Joe Romm, and Dr Heidi Cullen, who described the series as “60 Minutes-meets-Ocean’s Eleven.” 

The series consist of multiple stories on climate change that play out over the course of nine episodes. Each individual “correspondent” explores a specific impact of our warming world — from Superstorm Sandy to political instability in the Middle East, to melting Arctic ice. The stories also focus on how climate change is affecting the life of everyday Americans and offers some ideas about how they can be part of the solution.

The first episode begins with three stories playing out in different parts of the world. There’s Don Cheadle exploring the vexed issue of climate and religion when he visits a small Texas town where the main source of employment, a meat-packing factory, has closed down because the long drought. There’s an increasingly angry Harrison Ford visiting the peat forests of Indonesia to see how they are being clear cut and set on fire to make way for palm oil plantations. And there’s Tom Friedman trying to get into Syria to find out if climate change has anything to do with the ongoing civil war there. (You can watch the episode free online here.)

Future episodes have Schwarzenegger learning about how forest fires are getting more intense and frequent, Mark Bittman focusing on Superstorm Sandy and the politics of climate change, and Jessica Alba following Climate Corps fellows to see what ideas they are coming up with to make the corporate sector more environmentally friendly. [more]

Showtime Series Uses Star Power to Drive Home the Truth About Our Warming World

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