In Years of Living Dangerously, a new series starting this Sunday, Nelly Montez describes the day she and 2,300 of her neighbors lost their jobs at a Cargill meat packing plant in Plainview, Texas. The plant closed last January after years of drought pushed ranchers to thin their herds; Cargill simply didn't have enough beef to process. Montez had to leave Plainview for a job that paid less money, putting her home at risk of foreclosure. She isn't alone. Many families have gone in search of work, and more businesses have shuttered in Plainview. The drought still hasn't let up.
Montez's story reveals once again that climate change isn't just about melting glaciers and polar bears. It's about people -- people losing their homes, their livelihoods, and their dreams for their children.
I attended a screening of Years of Living Dangerously on Wednesday and found it powerful and engrossing. The series combines the Hollywood storytelling prowess of James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Schwarzenegger with the reporting expertise of 60 Minutes' Joel Bach and David Gelber. Top leaders in the field of climate science consulted on the series, and Don Cheadle, Harrison Ford, Mark Bittman, America Ferrera, Jessica Alba, and others act as correspondents.
The series helps connect the dots. I have talked to people across the country struggling in the face of an altered climate. New Jersey homeowners are trying to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy. Miami government officials are trying to plan for rising seas and flooded streets. California farmers are trying to make it through the state's worst drought on record. Years of Living Dangerously shows how challenges like these are part of the larger pattern of climate change.
In the first episode, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech and a devout evangelical Christian, explains why warming temperatures brought on by climate change will make Texas droughts more extreme in the coming years. Climate change, she said, "was urgent when I started studying this problem. It's way more urgent today," Dr. Hayhoe says. "Until we have policies in place to actually start curbing carbon emissions and reducing the impact we are having on the planet, I have to keep going."
Luckily Dr Hayhoe is not alone. People from all walks of life -- farmers, ranchers, business executives, religious leaders, mayors, governors -- are working toward that same goal. You can do your part as well. In June, the Obama administration will propose the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants -- the source of 40 percent of all carbon pollution in our country. Click here to tell the administration you support strong carbon limits.
You can also help build momentum by watching Years of Living Dangerously with your friends and family. The nine-part series premieres on Showtime on Sunday April 13, and you can watch the first episode here:
Our partners at 350.org are organizing watch parties all over the country and encouraging people to join a live web-chat afterwards to talk about where we can go from here. I encourage you to host a watch party this Sunday or join an event near you. Together, we can call greater attention to human toll of climate change -- and the need to address it now.