Home #Hwoodtimes Four-part PBS series “Dynamic Planet” examines climate change and how we can...

Four-part PBS series “Dynamic Planet” examines climate change and how we can work to save our planet

By: Valerie Milano

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 6/15/2024 – Climate change is a topic that comes up in smart conversations almost everywhere these days. With our planet temperature heating twice as fast as it was four decades ago, the implications for our planet and everything living on it are ominous.

Temperatures are rising. Icecaps and glaciers are melting. Oceans are warming. Forests are burning. Weather patterns are changing. All of that is leaving the world as we know it under threat.

Beginning June 19th, PBS will shine a harsh light on the issue, and on the incredible ways our planet and its inhabitants, both human and animal, can work together to help correct things.

“Dynamic Planet,” a monumental four-part series filmed over three years, travels to the most extreme places on all seven continents to explore the work and lives of extraordinary people and animals on the front lines of climate change. Seen through the eyes of scientists on the leading edge of efforts to reverse climate change, the four episodes – “Fire,” “Ice,” “Water,” and “Earth” – highlight the causes and put forth solutions to this very real crisis.

One of those scientists is Emily Fairfax, PhD, an assistant professor of Geography, Environment, and Society at the University of Minnesota, who sat down with The Hollywood Times recently and talked about the series, and her part in the “Fire” episode, scheduled to air on June 26.

Fairfax, who holds a PhD in Geological Sciences from the University of Colorado, Boulder, said she was working as an engineer after graduation, but didn’t feel like that was the right career path for her. She wanted to be outdoors and to visit rivers, she said, until another PBS documentary caught her eye.

“I was lying on the couch, feeling sad and watching ‘Leave it to Beavers,’ and the hydrologists and scientists who were saying there was so much beavers could do to help, and we don’t fully understand it,” Fairfax said. “I was hooked. It was a legit career path, so I went to graduate school to study beavers, and I have not looked back since.”

Click below for our exclusive interview:

Indeed, Fairfax said her work with healthy riverscapes shows a grand potential for righting the ecological ship. But she emphasized it is not an easy fix by any stretch of the imagination.

“There is a lot of work to be done recovering from the damage that has already happened across the continents, especially in the context of wildfire,” she said. “We’re already seeing massive fires ripping across the landscape every year, and I think it is easy to look for the silver bullet that solves everything.”

“But in my work, what I have seen is that taking a lot of little steps can make a really big difference. So, we’ve focused in my lab on how rivers and healthy riverscapes can help us take down the intensity of some of these fires and provide safe places for plants and animals to survive, even when the fire is extreme.”

As the planet heats up, those fighting climate change show how science, nature and tradition can prepare us for the future.

Fairfax, who holds bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and physics from Carleton College, feels that despite the alarms being sounded she thinks there is still time to correct things.

“I don’t think we’re at the Point of No Return,” she said. “I like to remind myself it only took about 200 years to get to the state we’re in, so if we want to back out of that, it’s probably going to take some time. It’s not going to be overnight, because we caused problems on a pretty fast time scale, and I think people are smart, and animals are brilliant, and if we put our heads together, we can probably solve it on a similar time scale.”

“There is a path forward, I don’t know that it’s going to be easy or comfortable for everybody, it’s going to take sacrifices, but it exists.”

Really enjoyed both the
@BBC and @PBS
versions of Changing Planet. BBC went into much more detail on the science of #beavers & wildfires; while PBS tied it to related ideas in Australia.

Fairfax said she thinks the path to climate recovery starts with the “everyday person.”

“One of the biggest things that an everyday person can do to help is to learn about what challenges your specific community is facing,” she said, particularly when it comes to fire. “It’s going to be different if you’re in the mountains versus the lowlands, critical fish habitat versus places with a lot of houses and focus your efforts on your community.”

This is where her devotion to the beaver comes in. She pointed to how people can help their animal counterparts become part of the solution.

“If you learn, for instance, that beavers are living in your rivers and they are helping create these fire-resistant wetlands, then what you can do is figure out how to support the beavers in your landscape,” she said, pointing out that tangible actions, no matter how small they may seem, can add up to a massive impact.

In California, the reintroduction of North America’s largest rodent, the beaver, brings resilience to wildfires. A fact known for centuries by the Tule River Tribe and explained here by eco-hydrologist Dr. Emily Fairfax.

“It’s easy to want to solve the whole world’s problems,” she said, citing proactive actions such as doing a river cleanup or putting up signage to educate others about beavers and what they bring to the game.

And more importantly, investing in those solutions.

“Make sure you welcome those changes,” she said, “even if some of the control leaves our hands and goes into the paws of some unlikely animals.”

“Dynamic Planet” is produced by NHNZ Worldwide in association with ARTE France, SKY NZ, and Blue Ant International for PBS. Sue Woodfield and Martha Jeffries are the executive producers, and Ben Lawrie is the series producer. Executives in Charge of PBS are Diana El-Osta and Bill Gardner.

Fairfax uses a combination of remote sensing, modeling, and field work to understand how beaver ecosystem engineering can create drought and fire-resistant patches in the landscape under a changing climate. Her research has been featured in National Geographic, BBC, NPR, PBS, Scientific American, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times, amongst others.

The series will air on four consecutive Wednesdays, beginning June 19-July 10, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET/PT (check local listings) on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS App.