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Environment documentaries take center stage at Los Angeles public TV station KCET this summer

Artwork from The Cove
Artwork from The Cove, which won the 2009 Best Documentary Oscar, and screens tonight on KCET

California has long been at the cutting edge among states, and indeed many nations, when it comes to tackling serious environmental challenges.

These range from preserving its long beautiful coastline from accelerating erosion, to imposing tough air pollution standards on its millions of autos to taming greenhouse and carbon emissions that are considered a prime contributor to global warming.

And at a time when President Donald Trump and his six-month-old administration have made loosening or outright gutting of environmental standards a top priority, California is bucking the rollbacks along with other states in the courts, trying to maintain strict and hard-won pro-environment efforts.

So it makes sense that Los Angeles public television station KCET along with  its affiliated Link TV satellite service (carried by Dish and DirectTV nationally) will be devoting a significant part of its programming with the launch of EARTH FOCUS PRESENTS, a new series of eight critically acclaimed documentaries on Wednesday nights in July and August as the centerpiece to its multifold Summer of the Environment initiative.

Tonight, The Cove, which won the 2009 Oscar for best documentary and multiple other awards, is featured.

The film, a journalistic thriller described as a cross between Flipper and the Bourne films, follows an intrepid crew as it exposes shocking dolphin genocide in Japan, made worse by the revelation that poisonous mercury-laced dolphin flesh goes into school lunch programs.

The series kicked off on July 5 with The 11th Hour, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, on the perilous state of the earth and what can be done to change course before it’s too late to turn back.

Six documentaries on a fascinating kaleidoscope of environmental issues will follow on Wednesday nights through the end of next month.

“It happened kind of organically,” says Lou Fazio, who is charged with acquisitions and programming for KCET. “We came up with a very diverse set of documentaries that deal with the environment from many angles, from the big picture challenge of climate change to how communities are grappling with local problems, like the presence of health-threatening toxic waste dumps.”

“We think that presenting environmental issues is very important to our viewers,” says KCET chief Michael Riley. “It’s a big concern in the Los Angeles area and in the rest of California. The state has led the nation in dealing with such concerns, so we think this is really a great way for KCET and our LinkTV affiliates to make sure we are engaging and educating our communities.

“All the coverage in the press has galvanized the public to want to get a pluralistic point of view, so we are very pleased to be promoting this idea of environmentalism and activism this summer.”

Here are the upcoming documentaries in the series:

The Seeds of Time (July 19) is a portrait of agriculturalist Carey Fowler, who is on a mission to save the planet’s food supply by building a biological archive of plant species to protect and maintain a needed diversity that is now endangered by industrial farming and climate change.

A Fierce Green Fire (July 26) is a comprehensive 50-year history of environmentalism, from its grassroots origins in the 1960s when it was widely known as the conservation movement, to today’s urgent efforts to slow global warming and fight climate deniers.

The starry list of narrators includes Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Isabel Allende.

Tapped (August 2) examines the harmful side effects of the bottled water industry.

Thirty million plastic containers, most of which contain just purified tap water, get thrown away daily. Much of that plastic isn’t bio-degradable and ends up seriously polluting the oceans.

Breath of Life (August 9), narrated by actor Jeff Bridges, examines what behavioral trends are leading to a looming environmental catastrophe.

Short-termism, or the inability of people and corporations to consider the long-term consequences of our highly polluting industrialized society, is one main reason.

However gloomy the message, it is offset by beautiful photography of our magical world that’s rapidly being trashed.

The City Dark (August 16) looks at light pollution. The bright lights of big cities may dazzle but the downside is that night skies have darkened and once easily visible stars have all but disappeared.

This ingeniously presented documentary, backed by solid science, traces the surprising and alarming costs of light pollution.

We the People 2.0 (August 23) details the ravages of industrial neglect from toxic dumps to leaking hazardous containment ponds.

These are not just ruining the environment but are also threatening the health and welfare of average people. The film makes a strong case for local activism to fight these dangerous blights.

KCET’s environmental documentaries, part of their Summer of the Environment, air Wednesday nights in July and August.

Jack Egan is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has long covered entertainment topics — movies, television and online — and all aspects of the business... read more


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