Dr. Diane L. Douglas conceived the idea of the Surviving Earth multipart series after presenting a paper on climate change and its impacts on culture at a UNESCO conference in Belgium in March, 2009. The overwhelming response of people in the audience, and follow-up emails and phone calls made it very clear that the information she presented should be shared with the public, and not confined to government agencies and academics. Dr. Douglas partnered with The Vault LA, a creative and talented production company, to bring her ideas to life.

Surviving Earth explores the relationship of humanity to the earth over the past 40,000 years. Ice ages have come and gone, and people have adapted to the environmental changes that ensued. We visit archaeological sites that were inhabited during the height of the ice age, as well as those that were abandoned as glaciers advanced on ancient villages and hamlets. Other sites portray how our ancestors adapted to droughts, or developed new technologies so that we could thrive in a changing world.

Over the past 200 years, we have done much harm to the planet – by polluting the land, sea and air, we have made it difficult for some species to survive, and others we have pushed to extinction. Today, many recognize the threat of climate change as paramount to human survival, as well as to the survival of other species. Most scientists agree that climate is changing; many disagree about whether people are causing the climate change we have observed over the past 50 to 100 years. Yet publicly, scientists are ridiculed if they urge people to examine more closely the natural forces of change.
The climate debate has become like a religion—rarely can the topic be raised without leading to an argument or raised voices. As a scientist it concerns me that people cannot have this debate, rationally. People are resistant to examining all lines of evidence without becoming incensed and walking away, or attacking those who propose an alternate view. The debate has become dangerous. At the extreme end, people’s lives are threatened; more commonly, scientists who have had respected careers are shunned and ostracized when they argue that more research is needed to fully understand the dynamics driving current changes in climate. Scientists who do not accept that anthropogenic emissions are the primary forcing mechanism causing global climate change observed over the past 150-years, are treated as though they have a plague. The scientific process is being dismissed by millions of people who passionately accept the argument that people are causing climate change, and refuse to critically evaluate the arguments and lines of evidence that their opponents put forth. History has taught us that people who challenge popular opinion are typically shunned; history has also taught us that some of the greatest breakthroughs in science have been made by people willing to challenge popular opinion.

The Surviving Earth documentary series provides a format for people to become informed about the science behind both sides of the debate in the comfort of their own homes while watching High Definition television. We show how the natural forces of climate change work using simulations and examples that can readily be understood by non-scientists. We show how people adapted to past changes in the global environment, either by developing new technologies or moving to new lands. We examine what we don’t know about climate change and discuss areas of research that are still required to better understand how earth’s dynamic systems respond to cyclic changes in earth’s orbit around the sun, as well as sunspot cycles. We also examine how people are affecting climate, and discuss the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports in a holistic manner.

Climate change and its impacts to earth’s systems, humanity and all life on earth is too important of an issue for any of us to assume we completely understand what is happening. Earth’s systems are complex and dynamic—given the teleconnections of systems throughout the world, scientists can barely predict weather for the coming week with a high level of accuracy. Yet some argue that no more research on the underlying natural forces of climate change is needed. They state authoritatively that we know that people are causing climate change, and the only thing we can do to stop it is to control our greenhouse gas emissions. What happens if they are wrong? What happens if the global community continues to spend billions of dollars trying to stop climate change, without planning for climate change that is going to occur no matter what we do? Some areas that will be threatened by drought will not have an adequate potable water supply. Others that will be threatened by storms and/or sea level rise will lose their homes, businesses and way of life. Planning and developing mitigation measures for threatened communities and resources is essential.

At this time in earth’s history, it is important for all of humanity to be informed about the natural and anthropogenic forces of climate change. It is your future, and the future of your children that are at stake. Surviving Earth provides a medium for every person on earth to learn about the natural and anthropogenic causes of climate change, and to see how these forces have affected different regions of the world over the past 40,000 years, and how they are affecting it today.

Upon completion of the 30 minute pilot for Surviving Earth, I had hoped that a network would see the potential of the series and back us in completing the first episode. I was disappointed to learn that the networks we met with think the public is only interested in television that has high-levels of emotion and/or footage of disasters. I was recently told by television networks in the U.S. that I needed to “dumb-down” my series to make it more appealing to a broader audience. They asked me to make the series more emotionally charged, to show people in tears, their lives ruined following a disaster—to me, that is the role of news stations–not a documentary series on climate change. I believe that people are bright enough and curious enough to want to know more about the natural forces of climate change and how these systems underlie everything else that people are doing to accentuate climate change. I believe it is time for the creation of an educational series suitable for distribution to schools, as well as video outlets. It is important to teach our youth about earth’s dynamic natural systems, as well as how people affect these systems. Without knowledge we cannot plan for our future—all of humanity needs to understand the complexities of our world to better plan for changes that are inevitable and to stop the changes that we can.

The Surviving Earth series will explore the remote regions of our planet, and introduce the diverse cultures of earth’s past and present. We will show how human ingenuity can overcome adversity. The series will illustrate how past societies succeeded by embracing change and developing new technologies or migrating to new lands. We explore how current societies are improving their communities, creating jobs, and cleaning-up earth’s environment by adopting green technologies. We also show how some of these communities recognize that simply adopting green technologies may not be enough to prepare for climate change that is inevitable.

I invite you to watch our trailer and our pilot. These were funded through $30,000 dollars of my personal savings—no money was accepted from anyone to ensure that the message I wanted to tell remained intact. The pilot was only completed by the grace of donated time by everyone involved in its production. At present, we are standstill and cannot complete the first episode or produce more without outside funding. If you would like to support our series, please see our donations page. If you would like to become a partner or sponsor, please review our partners’ page.

Diane L, Douglas, Ph.D.
Creator and Production Manager