Years of Living Dangerously: Two producers, coffee and a vision for climate action


Three years ago, a couple of television producers invited me out for coffee. David Gelber and Joel Bach both had big jobs at 60 Minutes, but had decided to leave the program for what seemed an improbable dream: they were going to raise a ton of money from foundations, cut a deal with a major network, and produce a 60 Minutes-style newsmagazine series devoted to the impacts of global climate change — except the correspondents would be Hollywood stars.

You probably know how the story ends. YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY premieres Sunday night on Showtime, and you can watch the first episode free below. This is riveting television — beautifully shot, carefully researched, powerfully told stories about people coping with the destruction that climate change brings.

Don Cheadle is in Texas, talking to ranchers coping with drought. Arnold Schwarzenegger is with the smoke jumpers in the American West. Harrison Ford is in Indonesia, where rainforests are being leveled to make way for palm oil plantations. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is in Syria, where water scarcity is driving civil unrest. The stories weave together into the single most powerful portrait of our climate-disrupted world I have ever seen — along with the stories of men and women (including many at EDF) who are working to put solutions in place before it is too late.

Now that I see what David, Joel, and their remarkable team have accomplished, it’s hard to remember exactly what I thought about them when we met over coffee three years ago. I’d like to think I knew they were going to pull it off — they were talented, passionate, determined professionals with a clear game plan — but that may be 20/20 hindsight. They had just read my book
The Climate War, an account of the great American campaign (still underway!) to get serious about climate change, but didn’t know I was thinking about leaving journalism to join that campaign (I would soon start working at EDF). So of course I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage anyone who was trying to shine a light on this issue.

We finished our coffee, kept in touch, and I ended up joining their board of advisors, which gave me a front row seat to a project that may one day be seen as a turning point in the climate campaign — a high-profile television event that helped galvanize people on the need for climate action now. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For the time being, just make plans for Sunday: gather with friends and family, make some popcorn, watch some incredible television. If you don’t have Showtime, consider attending one of the house parties being held all over the country. Or just click the video and tune in right now.

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Eric Pooley

Eric Pooley

Eric, our Senior Vice President of Strategy and Communications, works with program staff throughout EDF to develop and implement strategies to achieve our environmental advocacy goals.

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There is no point in subjecting our investors to risk in a market which I frankly do not understand.
--Julian Robertson

take a note from the hypocritical Mr. Robertson and don't tread something you don't understand. Hope the propaganda and sensationalism is going well...

The real issue is not how can we possibly escape the consequences of global warming(we can't), but what can we do not only to prevent skyrocketing global temperatures (go with renewable energy everywhere) but it is also necessary to reverse the present level global warming because even with completely green energy things will really get worse after the ice is all melted. The amazing good news is that it is possible to go completely green and reverse global warming using known hardware for carbon neutrality and known agricultural engineering to go carbon negative by irrigating the deserts and by using biomass fuels for power plants with carbon capture and storage. Not only is this possible but it is reasonably economic, see and and the author for additional details.
We need to get the word out ASAP to get these programs in motion.
James T. McKnight Phd
tel 508-944-2370

This long overdue....and needs to translate into meaningful action.

I am a doc filmmaker in Santa Monica. This doc series you produced is excellent and needs to be shown in High Schools, Colleges and Universities in the U.S. since it's the younger generation who are going to lead the fight against global warming in the future.

When they showed the projections for increased heat in the US, I thought it would have been helpful to recognize that temperatures may fluctuate from year to year (so it might be colder next year for example), but that cycles of warmer and cooler are edging warmer. The computer projections made it look like just a continuous warming and increasing drought, but as it was actually mentioned in the film very briefly, there are cycles of wet and dry. I think more ought to have been made of this point in anticipation of the nay-sayers who are now pointing to our extra frigid winter as counter-evidence. "If things are warming up," they complain, "why has it been so cold?" My understanding, however, is that even though there has always been some amount of cooling after each new and record high peak, the next peak is also ever hotter. So it comes as only a superficial irony that we are seeing this film about warming right after one of the coldest winters on record. But the next time around on the up-cycle, we may realize that the cold was just one more symptom of the impending hot.

On the issue of religion, I am squarely in the same camp as the Texan scientist and her husband. I am very religious, with a strong Judeo-Christian foundation, but also very scientifically atuned. I anticipate that much of the destruction of our days (of the "end times" as many call them), will probably come as a result of human choices. God warns us of wickedness, deceit, hatred, lack of love, selfishness (among many other things). Aren't these sins ultimately at the root of so much of the human activity that drives global warming. Our drive for convenience and pleasure drives a global market so valuable that corruption abounds and the environment and the climate (including the living souls, both human and animal) are sacrificed. Can't we all agree that the love of money, greed, and unconstrained consumption are major forces in the destruction of our world through climate change and war? If we choose to understand things this way, we can see the judgments of God not as supernatural, but largely as natural consequences for our choices. Furthermore, rather than look at one group or another as the targets of God's "wrath," I believe we need to see our responsibility to humble ourselves and live in harmony with the earth and with each other as a global issue with global consequences.

Taken together, climate change and its direct consequences, along with political and economic struggles, hunger, disease, and war (maybe even nuclear war), and then potentially heaped on top other natural catastrophes, such volcanoes and earthquakes, or even dangers from space, such as meteors, could spell out a human devastation of Biblical proportions. But rather than running away from these issues as irrelevant, I believe we need to embrace the issues of these troubling times. I believe we have the stewardship and responsibility to our families and to our fellow beings to make changes now in personal and public choices and priorities, and prepare ourselves to survive these trials, through provident and responsible living, public and political action, stepping out of the paradigm of modern life, and giving our heart and soul to living with and for others.

Excellent documentary!

The film makes me think of the movie Avatar which depicted so well how humans exploit. We exploit our planet, we exploit other humans and we exploit our beliefs for profit, power and often just because we can. And, we do this because we are led by sociopaths who have no moral conscience. Read the book "the Sociopath Next Door," by Martha Stout.

I'm anxious to see the rest of the series. This film does a good job explaining the problem as do most documentaries on climate change. What needs to be done is a story of a broader vision of how people can and must live in the future to slow down or reverse climate change. While we know of the benefits of solar energy and the use of other renewables, Americans and developing nations are all still rushing towards an "American Dream" where people can exploit resources at will to achieve a vision of "prosperity" which is outdated in today's environment. Until people can experience a more sustainable way of life that feels good to them, they will continue to exploit resources, consume more energy and release more carbons (and other toxins) deteriorating our environment and ultimately contributing to our extinction.

There is always hope. Let's hope this series gets people to not only act in defining and educating on the issue of climate change, but also moves people to actively change their lives to address climate change. Let's hope we can find the necessary leadership with enough moral courage to move whole societies in the right direction. And, let's hope we can hold the sociopaths currently in positions of authority and power accountable for their despicable actions.

I turned on the video trailer that you have sent me for
climate change issues.
I teach climate changes issues in college.
I thought that your video might be a sensitive depiction of
the process of climate change.
The opening scene is Harrison Ford in a NASA jet.
Jets are contributing in a huge manner, CO2 emissions.
Air craft are a huge problem for climate change emissions.
I do not want to show this video with air craft featured, it is stupid.

What are the solutions? Most economists and scientists say a price on carbon would bend the emissions curve away from its current trajectory of the eventual death spiral of our civilization, even our species..

Carbon taxes are fees put on polluting industries (not citizens) to compensate for carbon's social cost (estimated at 100's of billions of dollars/year in studies by, for example, the Harvard Medical School)

Such carbon taxes are the policy in BC, Canada. Emissions have dropped 10% since the carbon tax, and the fees are used to reduce income taxes. Win-win.

Similar bills are in Congress, where fees are to be rebated to citizens. This will more than compensate for increases in dirty energy costs.

And with significant risk of runaway, irreversible climate change impacts, what options do we have?

Of course the fossil tools in Congress will scream "Socialism!!, "Taxes!!". All the while Coal/Oil is receiving billions in subsidies.

No surprise there. We simply need to vote smarter.

Climate change policy will not happen unless and until the US government recognizes the seriousness of it. And, this will not happen because our government is run by corporations and wealthy donors who do not belief in it. We help them rape the earth and suck its resources (by our consumption) and they do not give a damn to those who are weak and powerless, as long as they profit from it.

In my culture we belief the Earth is a spiritual mother and one day when its spirit is low, which is not very far off, its going to whip us badly.

I sincerely thank you and EDF for your belief, dedication, passion and handwork. I will share the email and short film with my family.

Thank you,

Lydia Smith

I believe it is imperative that we we educate students and adults alike. The magnitude of those who are clueless on this issue is stifling. We can no longer afford to sit and wait for someone else to create a solution. Its a multifaceted issue that will require numerous solutions by a multitude of people. The time to act is now! How may I be of assistance?

K.L. Carrillo

This is so, so necessary. Congratulations to all of you who are moved to take action to inform, educate and warn us about the coming monumental changes to our planet. One can only hope your information reaches those who still cling to denial. We will host house parties.

If you want it to make a splash, you should give it away to anyone who wants to see it, including web sites and TV broadcasters, then find some other way to fund it. I tend to be skeptical of those who limit the viewing to only a small audience who can pay. This is especially if the film is depicting such dire outcomes.

This is really sad and terrifying. Terrifying because one can see these are people just like oneself, maybe a lot more brave and calm than I. Sad because it is so hard to redirect the momentum of civilization. The inertia seems insurmountable; how do you tell people not to want to modernize? by consuming more energy, and how do you tell people to cut back on energy use when they feel it threatens their standard of living? Denial! It does seem so natural now.
I feel so nakedly foolish offering my little bit. Yes, I have worked on it since high school, but what if I am wrong? Everybody tells me I am wrong, I only persevere because I have to trust reason. I don't know if I am fooling myself too, like the deniers of climate change, it is just as natural.
If you are a scientific literate person, please look at and my work, and tell me honestly if my work is wrong, or if it worth persevering. I think I can take correction. If I can't, well that's just natural; isn't it.

RIDICULOUSLY TRUE!!!....Humans will destroy themselves...and their surroundings soon!!! here!...and it is not reversible....sorry for our future the noun!!!

Your effort needs to include a promotion aimed at every Senator and Congressman to sign a pledge card to watch each segment of Years of Living Dangerously as well as to issue news releases of their reaction to each of the showing.

In exchange for signing the pledge card they should be offered a copy of the book The Climate War.

The President should be asked to sign the first pledge card as well as host a house party for each showing.

Thank you very much by this content, I am going it to share with my bride who this very interested, thanks

It's great that more people are becoming conscious of what is happening to the planet - conscious of the role our own decisions in how we live our lives each day either contributes to the destruction OR toward the natural processes that support life on the earth.

The attitudes and actions that have led to the destruction showcased in this program have been ingrained in society for a long time: a world-view based in shortage and fear. Which is strange if we stop to think about it; the environment that gives rise to life supports that life.

In spite of what we have been taught, nature is more co-operative than competitive (our bodies have trillions of cells, and more non-human cells than human cells, for instance). Nature produces abunantly. In natural eco-systems their is NO WASTE.

For info on how to work with nature to assist the process of restoration and regeneration of our planet search: Geoff Lawton (Regreening the Desert, Permaculture), Allan Savory of Holistic Management Int'l, Mark Shepard Regeneratibve Agriculture, Darren Dougherty of Regrarianism, Jonh D. Liu in Green Gold - just to name a few.

Five things we can all do today to help the planet - and ourselves: 1. use vinegar, baking soda, etc to clean instead of commercial cleaners containing toxic chemicals. 2. Do we need 9+ chemical containing personal products every day? Why not try natural soaps? Look for natural alternatives to skin care products. Could women be beautiful without painting their faces with chemicals every day? 3. Eat real food, produced locally. Buy directly from the farmer when possible. Choose organic when shopping, as much as possible. 4. Avoid mercury bulbs (all flourescent bulbs, including CFLs). 5. Allow our bodies to adjust to the changing seasons & reduce heating/cooling costs. Wear a sweater in winter; use fans in summer. 6. Plant shade trees on the east, south, and west of our homes - and windbreaks on the side toward prevailing winds to reduce heating & cooling costs. 7. Grow some of your own food, even if just a window-box of herbs, or sprouts in a glass jar. 8. Avoid plastics. Carry your own drinks from home in stainless steel or glass containers- save the planet, your health (plastics leach harmful substances into food & drink), reduce pollution, save wildlife, and your money!

And a bunch of well-known things that all add up: walk or bike instead of driving whenever possible; plan ahead and combine trips; run errands during the week and treat yourself to day at home on Saturday! Use a reel mower-save on gas & oil, reduce pollution, get good exercize & reduce noise. Have a natural lawn. If you must kill weeds or fertilize, use natural products (the Internet is at your fingertips!).

Bet you can think of several more. Every step we take will add up!

Anyone else get the irony of collecting air samples to test for air pollution with one of the most polluting machines ever invented? Look up how much pollution per minute these high-powered jets produce; it's staggering.