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

Eric Pooley

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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