American Archive of Public Broadcasting
Casey E. Davis Kaufman
AAPB Project Manager WGBH
In addition to the recording of interviews and lectures with climate scientists, public broadcasting has served as a venue for journalists, students, and activists to advocate for action on climate change.
In 2005, Elizabeth Kolbert, journalist and staff writer at The New Yorker, wrote a three-part series titles "The Climate of Man," which examined the science and politics of climate change. The series won the 2006 National Magazine Award for Public Interest, the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award, and the 2006 National Academies Communication Award. After the series was published, WILL interviewed Kolbert and provided the opportunity for listeners to call in with questions. One listener asked about how scientists can compete with those "whose motives who are out to either deny or discredit the scientists?" Kolbert replied, "That's the job of people like me, and it isn't easy . . . ."
Also in 2005, South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) hosted a call-in show titled "Global Warming" where high school students from the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics answered viewer questions about global warming. The students discussed ways in which their generation and the generations that followed could make an impact and find solutions to global warming. "There are things in your everyday life that are affecting this issue; it's not just the big corporations . . . ." The students recommended purchasing hybrid cars, using energy efficient appliances, and walking or taking public transportation instead of driving when possible. One viewer called in to ask, "How is it that this young crop of South Carolinians proposes to translate this natural environmental conscious [sic] into political activism and ultimately change in legislation?" A student replied, "I think that education as to the importance of global warming especially people our age and younger whose . . . lifetime that it's going to impact...this is our problem primarily because we're the people who are going to live through it. I think especially with emphasis in the schools through classes like environmental science . . . so that when we get out of school and become doctors and legislators . . . we know what we're talking about and what needs to be done, and we can work to change what's happening."
Since the late 1980s, writer and climate change activist Bill McKibben has been a leading voice on global warming. Over the course of his career, he has discussed on the issue of climate change over the airwaves of public radio and television. In 1989, WILL interviewed him about his first book titled The End of Nature, which argues for a transformational shift in how society perceives our relationship of domination with the Earth. Speaking about his latest book Eaarth at the Harvard Book Store, he said that people across the world had already begun to feel the impacts of climate change. McKibben also discussed his founding of 350.org, a grassroots effort to mobilize citizens across the world to take action on climate change. Because more than 4,000 languages are spoken across the globe, he used the number "350," universally understood as the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide parts per million in the atmosphere, for the name of the organization. Today, 350.org works in every country to effect change on both the local and global scale, and activists around the world have dedicated themselves to the effort. Ken Ward and Andree Zaleska, two activists involved in 350.org, gave a recorded public talk in 2010 about how ordinary citizens can contribute to finding solutions to global warming. Others who took personal acts of advocacy told their stories as well. In 2008, WGBH recorded a public talk given by author and environmental activist John Francis, who witnessed a major oil spill in San Francisco in the early 1970s and gave up motorized transportation for 22 years in protest of environmental destruction.