deforestation and drought
After decades of scientific analysis of global warming trends failed to convince policy makers to take strong action, it seems to be time to take the emotional approach and appeal to our heartstrings. The first episode of this series makes a powerful statement without a lot of scientific detail but heavy on emotions. It interleaves several stories: Harrison Ford travels to Indonesia to see first-hand the destruction of forests in order to plant palm trees; Thomas L Friedman travels to the region near Syria to look at the way a severe drought helped trigger the Syrian war; Don Cheadle travels to Plainview and Lubbock, Texas, to see how drought in Texas led to the closing of the Cargill plant.
I found it a bit confusing at first to follow the repeated jumping from story to story. In my opinion, the best part of the episode was Kathrine Hayhoe, featured in Don Cheadle’s segments in Texas. She was the only one to give a simple, easy to understand explanation of how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere warms the earth. She even went through the set of alternative explanations for global warming and showed why they didn’t explain the data. And her deep connection with the evangelical Christian community was strong and clear, without reservation. Great job, Kathrine! She did a terrific job at our 2011 annual meeting so I wasn’t surprised. You can see that talk here: Audio | Slides
The concern about the corruption behind deforestation and the resulting release of carbon dioxide is more of a dramatic documentary but with little science on display. I guess it’s assumed. Both the Syrian and the Texan droughts are presented as very severe cycles of a long-standing pattern, which is only likely to worsen in time. The message is very clear: the impacts of these extreme events are very strong and affecting people severely. It’s an emotional appeal for action rather than an analytical one. The remaining episodes apparently feature similar stories each time. Will it work? That remains to be seen.