Archive for December, 2005

Death motivates

Thursday, December 29th, 2005

My attendance at the Keeling memorial was facilitated by my own father’s health requiring my presence in San Diego. That series of events culminated in his death on December 4, and accounts for a good deal of the time that has passed without mention on this site.
Death has become a theme in the discussions of this project. Seems that one of the criteria for consideration of what constitutes compelling television is “who dies this hour?” Programmers seem to think that it is only death that galvinzes the public’s attention, and it needs to be impending death at that. They have good reason to think this way.
Climate presents a pretty interesting challenge in this regard, as it is weather events that wreck havoc and leave souless bodies behind. Climate, being something that takes place over vast areas and significant parts of lifetimes, is a bit more difficult to make ominous. So while it is easy to answer the question in terms of geologic time (“well then we all do”) for the sake of drama, we are busy converting every climatic impact into something that demands immediate attention.
Let’s just share a couple of examples. There is of course the top of mind mother of recent woe hurricanes. Hurricanes provide us with a number of very interesting opportunities. Driven by the interactions of wind and water, and dramatically altered by the temperature of the water they pass over, and thus currenlty unpredicatable to us because we have yet to generate a sufficient network of temperature sensors at depth, hurricanes build up tremendous force by driving the sea before them. The winds produce spectacular flying debri and the ever present weather reporter leaning into the wind, but it is the surge of the storm that tears apart buildings, ports and produces the flooding that ultimately casues the most destruction, and death.
Another example would be fires. Where the rain falls and how often determines the most likely places to burn, how intensely and for what range. As climate changes occur, these areas ebb and grow. Where and how we build, how we provide for adequate water supply for the growing population, which is attracted to both dry and warm climes, are critical matters of risk, compounded by human activity both in advance planning, and in sparking the blaze. Again, destruction and death are the outcomes that result, and compell the viewing public to turn to the live news channels.
Ultimately it seems that it is death that also gets us to bring our focus to these longer range issues that our daily lives do not. As New Orleans and Katrina portray so clearly, the challenges are not in the knowing. Whether or not the hurricane intensity is related to climate change ( and all the science we see says that it is not) the fact is that we knew that New Orleans was at risk and there was a probability that a disaster would occur.
Who among us would not have spent the relative few billions to build up the wetlands and or dikes to prepare instead of the estimated several hundred billion now required to rebuild an area of economic and cultural significance? What was missing? Do we really need the living to die to be motivated?
For us, developing this show, the question is can we make enough stories in which someone might die this hour? Or can we find a distribution partner that trusts a public understands that enough real people have already died and wants to know what they can do to prevent more disasters?