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Every Show Needs a Climate Story

Every Show Needs a Climate Story

A Climate Story for Every Show

Writing climate into your favorite series, from “Seinfeld” to “Scandal.”

What’s your favorite television series? Fleabag? The Golden Girls? No matter what your preference, scriptwriters who created The Climate Storytelling Playbook think thereThere is a place for climate change in it. The playbook, a first-of-its-kind resource, was created to help Hollywood tell more and better stories about global warming—and about impacted communities of color that are pushing for solutions. The project creators have included an excerpt from the online playbook that shows how the climate crisis might appear on a variety of popular TV shows. Are these the right shows to tell your climate story?

Because the climate crisis impacts every part of our lives it can also fit into any genre. A climate romance-com will make us happy. (Climate activist falls in love, anyone? Detective fiction lends itself to this moment in time when we need all the problem solving skills we can get. Action-adventure, buddy comedies, political thrillers, police procedurals going after climate criminals, Wes Anderson-style ruminations on the meaning of home…

Every story should include climate. It is possible to integrate the climate crisis into any story. Any storyline and genre, from a passing mention to being the driving force of an episode. You don’t have to dutifully churn out pamphlets on emissions. (Please don’t do that; there are so many pamphlets.) You can still write those stories that matter to you. Climate can also be part of them.

There are many to choose from Soaps from the United Kingdom coordinated crossover climate-themed episodes ahead of the U.N. climate conference COP26. Imagine the crossover potential within the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

Drama is possible There are endless possibilities. A teenage boy embarks on a mission to destroy the plastics plant next to his home after his mother is diagnosed by lung cancer. As fires close in on Los Angeles, a woman must escape, and she has nowhere else to move but into her uncle’s climate-denying, hyper-religious household. A heat wave causes so many unhoused people to need the ER that a doctor loses his shit in the cafeteria, quits, and joins the circus—OK, that one’s a mess, but you’re the writer.

You get the idea.

In “Climate Stories in Action,” we illustrate the point using imagined climate loglines of off-air shows, plus case studies of films, TV shows, and novels that are already doing the awesome work of portraying the climate crisis in moving and entertaining ways.

PROMPT: For your favorite show, or the last one you worked on, try a climate story for the protagonist. How would Tony Soprano cope with the emotional consequences of yet another hurricane-forced flash flood? How would he deal with the uncertainty of climate change? Or what would Will Smith do if he had to cancel Uncle Phil’s surprise birthday pool party because of wildfire smoke? Jack McCoy would react if a climate activist were arrested and the case was placed on his desk.

Climate Loglines

Here are some climate loglines that we love for off-air programs. Many of them are written by those who work in these rooms.

BoJack Horseman
Genre: Animated comedy
Logline: BoJack returns to high school for his reunion, only to find all the monarch butterflies that he was part of in drama club are gone. (Written by BoJack Horseman writer/producer Elijah Aron.)

Scandal
Genre: Political drama
Logline: Outside the White House, there is a huge protest against an oil pipeline. When a famous Indigenous youth activist, Melanie, receives multiple death threats, Olivia wants to help but has a conflict of interest: Melanie has uncovered that President Grant’s campaign donors are major funders of fossil fuel pipelines.

The Golden Girls
Genre: Comedy
Logline: Dorothy is on the verge of hurricane season and is afraid. She wants to call their repairman to do some serious weatherproofing. Blanche is on board—If she can watch the handsome young repairman’s backside while he cleans out their gutters and downspouts. Rose tells her to keep her libido in check, and to Blanche’s horror, his $15k quote does exactly that.

Rugrats
Genre: Children’s animated comedy
Logline: Susie invites Tommy over to her house to see the “stroller panels”—creatures that live on the roof of her house and eat sunlight. Tommy is afraid, and it takes an adventure up to the roof for him to realize the creatures are friendly and “make Earth happier.”

Veronica Mars
Genre: Crime drama
Logline: When water usage is restricted in Neptune, 09er households disregard the regulation and continue to fill their mansions’ pools with no legal consequences. Veronica is irritated and determined to track down the billionaire briber Sheriff Lamb, and ensure that they are held accountable by the county police.

The Purge
Genre: Action/horror
Logline: This year on Purge Night, if the criminals don’t get you, the Category 5 hurricane might. (Written by The Purge executive producer/writer/showrunner Krystal Houghton Ziv.)

Preacher
Genre: Supernatural action drama
Logline: Jesse Custer makes an uneasy alliance with Hitler, who, now that he’s taken over for Satan, is pissed that global warming lets the Damned not mind the fires of Hell as much. (Written by Preacher creator/executive producer/showrunner Sam Catlin.)

Seinfeld
Genre: Comedy
Logline: After talking with his climate activist girlfriend, George, Kramer becomes agitated and tries to figure out the best way to act. He stops eating meat. Showering. What is the best way for you to be?!

Fleabag
Genre: Dramedy
Logline: Fleabag is invited by a hot priest to attend a climate protest. She agrees to go because she wants to troll for the best kind, end-of-the world sex.

See Also
This new book explores how climate denialism is making its way into US classrooms

Chewing gum
Genre: Comedy
Logline: Tracey wants to have sex with Connor, but he’s gone plastic-free and refuses to wear a condom.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Genre: Comedy
Logline: Flooding has occurred in Dumbo due to a big summer storm. The 99 are recruited to assist with the rescue efforts. Terry and Rosa get into a heated argument about how much debris each can clear, while Jake & Amy are left stranded in a building that has collapsed with hysterical residents.

Frasier
Genre: Comedy
Logline: Frasier invites the homeless man to stay the night in his studio during a severe snowstorm to shame Martin. But when the man invites a bunch of his friends to come stay as well, Frasier is torn between looking bad and having them inhabit his studio until March—“or longer, if this crazy weather keeps up!”

Community
Genre: Comedy
Logline: It’s been 75 degrees for a week in December, and the study group is loving that they can work outside in the sun—all except Britta, who gets them to help her stage a protest to get Greendale to divest from fossil fuels. It’s broken up by the dean, who tells them Greendale is already carbon-neutral: They can’t pay for fuel, so the power comes straight from a kinetic generator—powered by Chang running on a treadmill.

Genera+ion
Genre: Dramedy
Logline: When Greta’s neighbor is hospitalized for asthma, she discovers that she is living in a “sacrifice zone”—a typically working-class neighborhood within 2 miles of an oil well—and that asthma is rampant in her apartment complex. She calls upon the GSA for help to create a buffer zone between her community & the oil wells. But Chester, Delilah, and Ana decide to take more direct action—and are detained for trespassing. (Written by Genera+ion writer Michelle Denise Jackson.)

Excerpted with permission The Climate Storytelling Playbook, published by Good Energy Project and The Center for Cultural Power. Read more about the collaboration here.

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The Center for Cultural Power
is a women of color, artist-led organization, inspiring artists culture makers to imagine a world where power is distributed equitably and where we live in harmony with nature.
Good Energy
A story consultancy for the age od climate change. Their mission is to inspire, support, and accelerate stories in scripted tv and film that reflect the world we live in now—and help us envision a better future.

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