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.


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!

April 9, 2014 at 1:06 pm

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.

April 9, 2014 at 1:24 pm

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