“Years of Living Dangerously,” a new documentary series airing this Sunday on Showtime reminds us that our planet is a unified system. What happens in one corner of the globe, impacts us all — and in more ways than we can imagine.
Actor and series correspondent, Harrison Ford opens the premiere episode by hitching a ride on a NASA jet that measures carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere.
Upon landing, he asks NASA scientist Laura Iraci how she feels when she sees these levels rising. Her answer sets the tone for the rest of the episode.
“Personally, it’s pretty scary. The world is going to be suffering in a lot of ways from this physical reality for a long time to come.”
Indeed, we are already suffering. Episode 1, “Dry Season,” puts a very real face on climate change by tying it to job losses in Texas and civil war in Syria.
It also cuts right to the root of the problem, beginning with deforestation in Indonesia, which has turned the country into “one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases — THE driver of human-caused climate change,” notes Climate Mama, Harriet Shugarman.
Moneyed interests set fire to dense jungles so that they can plant palm plantations and harvest highly lucrative palm oil. In the process, they aren’t just causing the extinction of irreplaceable natural resources, they are releasing tons of carbon into the air that had been stored for hundreds of years both in the trees and in the peat-laden ground supporting them.
You not only see, but you also share the anger on Ford’s face as he later views the devastation to Indonesian rain forests from a helicopter. “I can’t WAIT to see the minister of forestry,” he says, practically gnashing his teeth in anticipation, and viewers aren’t able to wait either.
How does this connect to the civil war in Syria, and a plant closing in Texas? The greenhouse gases resulting from those fires drive climate change, which, in turn, has caused severe droughts in different parts of the world.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman traces the roots of Syria’s civil war to the worst drought in the country’s modern history—lasting from 2006 to 2010. Year after year, the farmers suffered and they told Friedman that the government did nothing to help them.
In all, over 2 million people were displaced, moving from the country to the city, and 1 million of these farmers found themselves living in extreme poverty. Over time, their anger only increased. According to one of Friedman’s sources, “Most people in the revolution are from the countryside.”
Indeed, National Security Advisor Susan Rice tells Friedman that,
“Climate change is now understood to be a national security issue.”
Actor, Don Cheadle takes us to Plainview, Texas, where 10 percent of the area’s workforce lost their livelihood when the local meat packing plant closed after a three-year drought devastated the state’s cattle herd.
Cheadle also tackles the conflict between religion and science, asking climate scientist and devout Christian, Katharine Hayhoe, to help deeply religious Plainview residents understand what was behind their job loss.
“God’s creation is speaking to us,” Hayhoe tells them, “When I look at the data, I have no doubt that God’s creation is telling us that it is running a fever.”
After hearing Hayhoe, one of the unemployed workers tells Cheadle, that until that day, she hadn’t heard of climate change.
For me, that admission was the most shocking of the episode. It proves that now, more than ever, we must heed Climate Mama’s advice, and “Grab the kids in your life and watch it now.”