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Environmental programming used to mean watching a story about an oil spill or some other environmental mishap on the news or tuning into that granddaddy of all nature shows, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins. Times have changed, and so has what we watch. From eco-reality shows to green how-to advice to a whole green network, environmental content is growing in TV land.

Find it! Green TV shows

Watching green TV shows helps you go green because…

  • The knowledge gained while viewing eco-television programs may cause you to green your life in ways that may not have occurred to you. Plus, if you pass on your new environmental know-how or tell others about these shows, the green ripple effect may kick in as well.
  • Learning about wild creatures and their habitats may increase your understanding and appreciation of them. Placing more value on their continued survival may move you toward action for their well being and preservation.

With a decisive call for “Action!” the TV industry is running fast on the heels of the world’s rising curve of interest in the health of the environment. Gone are the days when Green Acres or The Green Hornet were the most popular green TV shows. Now a plethora of programs have dedicated themselves to covering environmental issues, straddling the fine line between education and entertainment.

Not only are a growing legion of shows focused on green lifestyle or the natural world, but many non-eco shows meld green themes or facets into their programs from time to time. For instance, Oprah did her Earth Day Event show, and Live with Regis and Kelly broadcast their Green Week on Live. HGTV built a HGTV Green Home Giveaway 2008, they ran a special called Red Hot and Green, and their show Carter Can often provides green building solutions for home improvement projects. Interjecting some humor into the often serious state of environmental affairs, Comedy Central developed a public service campaign called Address the Mess.

Certain green TV efforts also stand out like the Discovery Channel’s acclaimed series Planet Earth and NBC’s unique Green Week in November 2007. For seven days and 150 hours of programming, all of NBC’s TV shows came with enviro-themes from news shows to soaps to prime time sitcoms. Cynics may smell greenwashing behind the attempt but NBC said they’d track audience awareness and actions to see if their blanket approach made a difference.[1]

Green network

The green telly move that trumps all others is the creation of Planet Green, a 24-hour US television network that totally revolves around eco-lifestyle topics. Look for household names like actor Leonardo DiCaprio, AFV host Tom Bergeron, and “kick it up a notch” celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. [2] The launch is slated for June 2008 and Discovery Communications, the force behind this enterprise, expects that Planet Green will be viewed in 52 million homes, building to 70 million homes within three years.[3] President and general manager of Planet Green, Eileen O’Neill, said, “It really is a new genre of TV we feel like we’re creating with this channel.” [2]

GY editors green movie picks

Sometimes you just want to pop in a great flick, dig into a bowl of organic popcorn, and veg in front of the TV. Here are some of our green favs:

  • Chinatown This 1974 thriller stars Jack Nicholson as the P.I. Jake Gittes, who gets caught up in an illicit web of intrigue involving water planning and land grabs in early 20th century Los Angeles.
  • Local Hero Mac MacIntyre (played by Peter Riegert) is sent on a mission by his slightly loony boss (played by Burt Lancaster) to buy the rights to a quiet, seaside town in Scotland to make way for an oil refinery. Instead, Mac falls in love with the town and its inhabitants in this 1983 film rife with gentle humor.
  • An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary that debunks the myths and misconceptions surrounding global warming. A must see.
  • Affluenza This hour-long 1997 documentary examines the forces that have shaped the US from a once frugal country to the ultimate consumer society. A return to simplicity is offered as an antidote to this crazy emphasis on things.
  • Koyaanisqatsi The title means out of balance in the Hopi language. The movie has no plot or narration but simply juxtaposes slow motion and time-lapse photography of natural landscapes and cities with a musical score leaving the viewer to invent their own message.
  • The Milagro Beanfield War Directed by Robert Redford, this Oscar-winning 1988 drama tells the story of one man's struggle as he defends his beanfield and his tiny community against much larger business and political interests in New Mexico.
  • The Lorax Dr. Seuss’s classic children’s story about the dire consequences of industrial greed as personified by the Once-ler who did not heed the Lorax’s warnings of environmental devastation.
  • Winged Migration The filmmakers spent four years and used balloons, gliders, helicopters, and planes to document the spectacle of birds on the move. Locations include the Himalayas, Saharan dunes, Greenland glaciers, the Great Wall of China, and Antarctica.
  • The Day After Tomorrow Dennis Quaid plays a climatologist who tries to warn the powers that be of climactic disaster caused by global warming. When his predictions come true, the action really heats up.
  • Erin Brokovich Julia Roberts portrays the real life Erin Brokovich who, while working as a law clerk, unearths a cover-up involving contaminated water that is causing devastating illnesses in a local community. Erin and her boss persist and end up receiving a $333 million settlement.


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