Baratunde Thurston wants you to be part of nature. At present.

There was also a shock for me on the island of Tangier, in the Chesapeake Bay, with Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge from the community. On...


There was also a shock for me on the island of Tangier, in the Chesapeake Bay, with Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge from the community. On paper, me and this guy don’t have much to say to each other. He was in America’s most Trump electoral district by some metrics, and he’s very, very, very conservative. But I had the luxury of spending real time and feeling his energy and experiencing his hospitality. I learned that his house is disappearing because of sea level rise, because of climate change. He won’t quite call it climate change, but he recognizes that the waters are rising and wants to do something about it. He wants levees, he wants federal money spent to save his city. We were on the coast of his island and saw tombstones in the water. You can show climate change data and you can watch an Al Gore presentation and see the temperature rise. But then you can wade through a graveyard. To hear him describe having had to dig up his ancestor in his own garden; he got emotional talking about it. It made it real. I was not expecting this experience at all. I certainly didn’t expect to have it with someone who is apparently so different from me.

Doing a show about the outdoors is doing a show about climate change. We cannot evade the subject. In each place, I witnessed the effects of climate change: drought and lack of water in Death Valley beyond what is expected; firefighter training for these forest firefighters; in Idaho, smoke from western fires, low river levels and high river temperatures. In Minnesota, the premise of one of our segments with the Abbas family, the farming family, was trying to create climate-resistant trees that can withstand higher temperatures because the forest we were in is going to disappear. And so rather than just mourn that, what kind of new forest can we create in its place? They just engineer through basic biology to harden the forest so that their children have trees too. When we were in Duluth, Minnesota, we could barely breathe. Minnesota is having crazy fires now. We couldn’t see Lake Superior. I had to wear an N95 mask when we weren’t filming because it was burning inside.

Everywhere we went we had a climate story. Sometimes it was more of a focal point of the person we were talking to and the story; other times it just affected how we could do the show.

I want people to see the outdoors as a place where we can literally discover common ground among the wide range of differences that make up this nation. Almost everyone should be able to see themselves on the show – we have different time zones, different ecologies, different ages, different body shapes and abilities. I hope we have reflected the diversity of the nation in both its natural state and its human state. I want this show to be a mirror for everyone.

The Indigenous peoples I spoke to have a culture of being part of nature, as opposed to being apart of nature. We have to relearn that. This was a very big lesson for me, especially as the climate becomes more unstable over the next few decades. We should all stay connected that way. It’s not just something to use. It is something to belong to.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Baratunde Thurston wants you to be part of nature. At present.
Baratunde Thurston wants you to be part of nature. At present.
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