“Years of Living Dangerously”- a Powerful, Impactful Series – if We Make it So

April 7, 2014

I’m not kidding – based on the first hour, this is powerful stuff, and it needs to be emailed, shared, facebooked, tweeted, and seen widely.
I’m told that the quality is good throughout.

Here, above, a discussion with producers and contributors to the show.

If you have not yet watched the first hour, which is free on YouTube, go do so here.

Now we have to figure out how to get the whole series busted out of ShowTime and on to the wider media-verse where it can be seen.


There’s a scene in Showtime’s glossy new climate change documentary in which Republican Rep. Michael Grimm, a longtime skeptic, appears as if he’s about to undergo a conversion of faith on global warming.

The Staten Island, N.Y., lawmaker is shown working day and night in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy to help victims in his district, including a woman who lost both her husband and daughter when floodwaters burst the second-floor walls of their family home. The climate has changed, Grimm allows early on, but he calls it simply part of Earth’s natural evolution. Man’s involvement, he said, is a political debate that he prefers to “leave out” of the discussion.

Later, though, he has a heart-to-heart discussion with former Rep. Bob Inglis, a conservative South Carolina Republican who was defeated by a tea party candidate in 2010, in large part because Inglis professed belief in climate change. Inglis encourages Grimm to consider why Republicans “have gotten in this spot of distrusting the scientists” and argues that representing an area devastated by Sandy — which scientists say because of sea-level rise amplifying devastating coastal flooding will be in even greater peril when the next superstorm hits — could give Grimm the political “room to move” on global warming, despite widespread GOP opposition.

When Grimm meets MSNBC host Chris Hayes for an intimate chat toward the end of the episode, the congressman confesses that he was moved to do his own climate research and has in fact evolved his position.

“The vast majority of scientists say it’s conclusive. So I don’t think the jury is out,” Grimm says, and Hayes looks hopeful. But then Hayes asks what Grimm intends to do about it, and politics as usual is back in play. There’s no “oxygen left in the room” to take on global warming in Congress, Grimm insists, not with immigration, jobs and other pressing issues at hand. As Hayes grows more frustrated, noting that Grimm’s very constituents face serious threats, the lawmaker finally lays it on the line.

Belief comes, but political action might not

“Washington is not real life. … You’re talking the substance and the science. My point to you is, [that is] irrelevant,” Grimm tells Hayes. “It’s much bigger than me. I don’t think Americans have the will to do it.”

That is the fundamental challenge that “Years of Living Dangerously,” the eight-part series that launched last night, offers to viewers. Will Americans resolve to act on the climate threat, which the world’s leading climate science body says is unequivocal? And, more to the point, will they push political leaders to make the difficult economic choices needed to cut carbon?


22 Responses to ““Years of Living Dangerously”- a Powerful, Impactful Series – if We Make it So”

  1. redskylite Says:

    Excellent interchange – hopefully will shake people out of lethargy and help focus on what we are doing to the carbon cycle.

  2. Lets hope they can make it into several seasons. As the panel say, there are a lot of stories to be told about the impacts of climate change, and no doubt more stories will unfold in the coming years.

  3. This needs to be seen globally not just in the US. Showtime is not available on cable up here in Canada. They need to put these episodes on YouTube once they have played.

  4. Wes Says:

    Been reading Paul Gilding’s “The Great Disruption” and he believes that humanity will continue in denial and avoidance until we’re going over the cliff, and then we’ll see a WWII level response. That’s a really short abbreviation of his analysis, which is quite good. Highly recommended. I’d say that this Showtime series is helping prepare the way for our climate response, and as such is very important, but I wouldn’t expect any significant changes until we’re forced to realize that our addiction to endless population and economic growth on a finite planet is the real problem.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Something I posted on the “NBC” thread but apropos to Wes’ comment.

      I’ve made comments like this before on other threads. I’ve also made comments about the large number of hockey sticks that we are seeing appear on the “score sheet” of the human race. Once again, let’s look at some population dynamics:

      1) Estimated world human population at the dawn of civilization 8-10,000 years ago was ~5,000,000 (5 million)
      2) Estimated human population in 1800 was 1,000,000,000 (1 billion)
      3) It took 130 years to add another billion and reach 2 billion (1930)
      4) It took 30 years to add the third billion (1959)
      5) It took 15 years to add the fourth billion (1974)
      6) It took 13 years to add the fifth billion (1987)
      7) It took 12 years to add the sixth billion (1999)
      8) It took 13 years to add the seventh billion (2011)
      9) Estimates are that it will take 13 years to add the eighth billion (2024)

      Google “human population growth” and view the graphs for yourself—you will see a huge and near-perfect hockey stick. The growth rate IS declining, and the UN projects that there will be 10 billion humans in 2062, ~50 years from now. That’s adding roughly one billion every 25 years. Now you need to superimpose the many hockey sticks I have previously referenced from “blog2009 The Graph: A Picture of the Present and Future”.

      Then realize that the hockey sticks of UN-sustainability you see there result mainly from the activities of the 20-25% of the human population living in the developed world and that most of the remaining 75-80% want to achieve the same “standard of living” (read “consumption level”) as we in the west enjoy. Then do some extrapolation, and you will find that if that occurs, the carbon footprint of the human race 50 years from now could be equal to as many as 40 to 50 billion “2014 human equivalents”.

      Look at how Exxon Mobil intends to burn every last bit of fossil fuel they can find, and how much coal India and China (with 1/3 of the earth’s population) intend to burn over the next 50 years. Then tell us we’re not whistling past the graveyard as we head towards 500 PPM of CO2 fifty years from now. The story is not here in the U.S. or in Germany or in France and what our energy mix is going to be, but “our addiction to endless population and economic growth on a finite planet” as Wes puts it, and we are running out of time. Once the PLANET flips on us, even a “WW2 response” will likely not be enough.

      • The hockey stick has, in the past, applied to human population crashes. While we did live through past crashes, this type of population response is more likely to lead to extinction than other types. Not saying we’ll go extinct soon, then again, who knows? We just don’t know.

        I wonder of the oil companies want to extract every drop because they have a sense that we’ve already gone past the point of no return, so why not live large while (they) can. Maybe that’s why they’re doing it? I can’t imagine the psychology that would drive them to push us all off the cliff.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          We’re heading towards the Sixth Mass Extinction, the one that is unique because it will be due entirely to the presence of man on the planet AND because it may kill every living thing on the planet if Earth “goes Venus”.

          You say you “can’t imagine the psychology that would drive them to push us all off the cliff”. IMO, it’s because the “psychology” of the human race is simply defective—-we are basically just another animal with an animal’s survival needs, and we have NOT evolved intellectually (particularly morally and ethically) to the point that we can deal adequately with what we have wrought with “modern technology” and the resulting AGW. To perhaps oversimplify:

          What I would characterize as the “good” people are in the minority, certainly in terms of having power. The “good” people try to behave in truly “christian” ways, with concern for the greater good of humanity and all that surrounds them on the planet. They tend to be liberal-progressive-communitarian-rational thinkers, and they would deal with AGW if they could..

          The “bad” people, (who, by virtue of what makes them “bad”, have seized more power), are mostly the greedy rich and those who want to be rich. They have seized upon capitalism and the idea of free markets as the force that governs everything man does, and that is the driving force behind AGW and all the other sustainability issues we face. They tend to be conservative-authoritarian-hypocritically libertarian and religious fundamentalist believers, not rational thinkers. They will not deal with AGW because doing so would interfere with their “profits”.

          In between the extremes of “good” and “bad” are huge numbers of people who are too busy trying to survive to be either, those who can’t be bothered to even think about it all, and those who are too busy texting, twittering, and watching reality TV to even notice. The “bad” people will continue to behave in ways that will push us over the cliff until they are taken down, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Citizen’s United and now McCutcheon will allow them to continue to buy the U.S., and once they completely own the U.S., any real long-term hope for the world will be gone.

        • Phillip Shaw Says:

          I’d like to offer a different take on the actions of Big Oil and the major civil engineering firms like Halliburton and KBR – that the motto tattooed on their corporate heart’s is “In Crises there are Profits”. They understand as well and anyone that continuing BAU instead of sanely transitioning to a low or non carbon based culture will result in massive problems – they just see those problems as business opportunities instead of global disasters.

          So long as there are profits in oil, coal and natural gas they will continue to be mined. And when the time comes that the profits dry up, who do you think will have pockets deep enough to buy up the renewable energy companies? That’s right, the same Big Oil clique we have today will simply re-brand (greenwash) themselves and continue making profits. We can see this today in ventures such as BP Solar. Big Oil doesn’t love fossil fuels, it loves money and the power that comes with it. People will still need energy and Big Oil, er, I mean Big Green, will supply it . . . for a price.

          The same is true of adaptation – dealing with looming issues such as sea level rise or the drought in the American West will involve massive (and expensive) civil engineering projects. And there are only a handful of firms large enough to take on projects of that magnitude. Here in the US two of them are Halliburton and KBR – the same companies that made billions in profits off providing infrastructure for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

          For example, look at the number of major airports around the world which are sitting just a few meters above sea level, and are therefore vulnerable to storm surges and rising sea levels. The cost to upgrade them to handle the higher sea levels, by raising them or surrounding them with levees, will be staggering – and you can bet who will be bidding on those contracts. In addition to airports there will be civil engineering projects for seaports, highways, bridges, railways, aquaducts and, of course, miles and miles of levees. Every bit of this work will be done at a profit – and the more urgent the work, the higher the profit.

          AGW is a wet dream for the directors of big business. The fact that it’s a nightmare for the rest of us probably doesn’t bother them a bit.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Actually, that’s pretty much the same “take” that Dwight D. Eisenhower had on the military industrial complex, Teddy Roosevelt did on the Robber Barons, and Abraham Lincoln and George Washington did on the war profiteers and “corporations” of their day. Not to mention that George W. Bush’s ancestors were getting rich by dealing with both Germany and the Allies in WW 1.

            The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars proved Eisenhower correct, and you are correct to point out that in the “war” against AGW, the same folks will be playing the same games. Someone said “The more things change the more they stay the same”, to which we can add Yogi’s “It’s dejas vu all over again” and Pogo’s “We have met the enemy and he is us”.

    • Depressingly, I think by the time enough people realize we MUST act, it will be too late and the climate system will be in a tailspin. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I agree with you, and I hope we’re both wrong. Unfortunately, “hope” (and prayer) are not likely to turn things around (ever).

  5. jimbills Says:

    I just watched it. The Christian stuff in this first episode doesn’t bother me – that’s just describing reality on the ground in America’s heartland. That’s what it is, so how do you reach such people? Mocking these people won’t reach them – it’ll only close them off further. Besides that, one has to view this issue beyond their own cultural perspective. Someone from a more secular area has a hard time understanding how someone from a deeply religious area relates to the world, and vice versa. Each subculture needs its own people to stand up and speak from that subculture’s language. Would Jerry Falwell have any appeal to an atheist? Would Christopher Hitchens have any appeal to an evangelical?

    I’m deeply pessimistic about humanity, but people like Katherine Hayhoe are frankly the only bright spot I see. Her efforts (and efforts from those like her) are the only possible means of reaching people in that culture. But, I mostly saw a very sparsely attended room with a lot of smarmy arse grins. I could practically see the defensive shields surrounding each person. The only one who didn’t have it was the person who had never heard of climate change.

    The thing that did bother me was the ‘action hero’ approach it seems this series is going to take, as if Harrison Ford is Han Solo fighting the Empire. He’s going to swoop in and cause the Indonesian Forestry Minister to reverse the deforestation trend – which is pretty retarded, frankly.

    But, it was good they covered deforestation. The problem is systemic and global, and that segment hints at the complexity and scale of the issue.

    • I believe the rain forest part is important as it touches a systemic problem as you say, one that we as consumers have not taken a deliberate choice in but are made for us by the companies making products. It shows how important it is for a company to arrange its financial output lower than its ethical output and the only ones that seems to be able to force them into this is government regulations. Its at the heart of the political debate where the right don’t like any kind of regulation, that the market will decide – if the buyers are ethical – they will choose products with no palm oil in it and so the market responds. But this isn’t working because the people don’t care about rain forests in Indonesia, and neither do they understand how we wreck our planet through externalizing costs through our consumption choices. We as consumers often point to the companies to do the “thinking for us”. So assuming that each individual consumer will make a wise and ethical choice simply doesn’t work.

      There is also a big battle between companies right to conceal the resource input into their product so they have a fair chance at competing on an open market. The clothes business is a primary example, where child labour and terrible salaries and workplaces are commonplace. Here in Norway we recently had a big deal about that after a factory collapsed in Balgladesh. A few companies said they would not disclose where they got their goods from as they felt it was revealing their “company secrets”. This is a culture that needs to be rooted out – we need openness and transparency at all levels even if it means harder times for businesses to compete with each other. Business profits is secondary to the wealth of the planet and its inhabitants (both human and animal). It also begs the question whether government should demand manufacturers to mark their goods with big stickers saying “Created from child labour” – “Contains palm oil from Indonesia” – or even better “Contains planet wrecking components”.

      While the masses are ignorant about the whole problem… even after watching and learning about the devastating consequences of e.g. palm oil plantations in Indonesia, they still go out and buy biscuits and all kinds of stuff. It’s really info that should bring people out in the streets with protests against the industry and that its time to get responsible about it.

      • jimbills Says:

        John – everything you say here is true, and it would help.

        But what I meant by systemic is that the problem extends past just, for instance, Ben & Jerry’s choosing to put palm oil in their ice cream. The deforestation in Indonesia is really a story of globalization and technology, which combined are a means of extracting resources from previously virgin areas. It doesn’t have to just be palm oil – it could be one of many different resources that go into the seemingless infinite variety of produced products we in the West consume. We’re the main beneficiaries of globalization and technology, so in a very real way we’re the ones burning down those forests.

        So, Harrison Ford is going to go and try and talk a guy into changing his country’s forestry habits, when that guy probably knows darned well that it’s the West financing and demanding the deforestation, and it’s the West providing the lifestyle model that the rest of the world is trying to emulate (and so be more and more willing to sacrifice their own environment to achieve it).

        And back home in the West, we exist in a delusional bubble, floating around in that lifestyle supported by these cheap resources, thinking it will never end, and thinking it’s the ignorant Indonesian’s fault for burning down the forests. We don’t see protests about this – which is really the root of the matter.

    • I remember hearing about Harrison Ford going off on the Indonesian Forestry Minister, must have been a couple of years ago. Now I know where and when that rumor came from. It makes it more interesting to see it in the video. I’m not sure if that was scripted or not, to me he looked genuinely angry. Honestly, how could someone seeing it up close and personal like that NOT be angry?

      The root of the problem is our Western dependence on convenience items, coupled with poverty in that part of the world. That’ll change when hell freezes over, or when corporations make a decision not to destroy the world for a buck… which is to say never.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Don’t be so completely pessimistic with the “never”. There have been some recent victories.

        Proctor & Gamble is backing off on its palm oil deforestation in Indonesia. Perhaps you are also, but I have been part of many petition and letter campaigns organized by many groups that put pressure on P&G in the name of stopping deforestation because of climate impacts to those protecting orangutang habitat to those protesting the economic imperialism of P&G and their treatment of the indigenous people.

        On another thread, we are talking about a similar victory with whales, and Rio Tinto is backing out and donating its stake in the Pebble Mine project to Alaskan charities. I have been involved in those campaigns as well. Activism CAN convince corporations to not “destroy the world for a buck” (or at least find less visible ways to do so).

        • jimbills Says:

          “or at least find less visible ways to do so”

          Which is what they do. In a profit-driven world, only profit matters. Matters of ecology are turned over to their marketing and PR departments.

  6. No surprise, the usual suspects have been attacking the series (Pielke pops up like a whack-a-mole on every climate related thing these days):


  7. Alteredstory Says:

    Gotta say, I’m getting a little tired of people asserting that “we won’t be the first generation to leave a destabilized planet to the next because it’s too horrible/we’ll turn it around.”

    The planet is already destabilized, and that’s the whole point of this series.

    If you want a note of optimism, go for “We have the means to overcome the challenges of the coming years and build a better society in doing it” or something like that, but as far as I can tell there is nothing supporting the notion that we will be able to stop the warming at any point in the next hundred years (if not much, much longer), let alone RE-stabilizing after all that’s been done.

    Warrantless optimism just serves to make people think they don’t have to make any changes.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      To repeat—-“Warrantless optimism just serves to make people think they don’t have to make any changes”.

      It bears repeating because that’s one of the better sentences on Crock of late. And only 15 words long.

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