Nature meets culture: Climate comedy, pleas for the planet and more


It can be hard to connect with nature in our daily lives. But with a little help, you can find nature everywhere. With that in mind, here are a few shows, podcasts and more that can help bring nature to life for you, wherever you are.

1. Late-night comedians get serious about climate change 

Climate change is no laughing matter — but last month it took center stage on some of television’s most popular late-night comedy shows.

Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah were among the hosts who teamed up for the first ever “Climate Night” across multiple networks. Why? Because the climate emergency “is not a ‘maybe sometime in the future problem,’ this is happening now,” Kimmel said

Other hosts agreed: “I'm thrilled to participate in ‘Climate Night, but maybe we should move it up a few days? Just because, you know, it's urgent?” Bee said

The shows focused on the impacts of human-driven climate change, such as sewage overflows caused by sea-level rise and a surge in female-only sea turtle populations, which could threaten the survival of the entire species. 

“This is how bad climate change is getting: wildfires in the West, floods in the East, freezing cold in Texas,” Meyers said. “Billy Joel’s going to have to write an update for 2021 and call it, ‘Actually, We Did Start the Fire.’ ” 

Each late-night host invited a variety of guests — from climate scientists and naturalists to actresses and musicians — to show that it’s going to take collective action to tackle this global crisis. 

At a time when daily headlines warn of climate doom, comedy can help people communicate and connect. 

“Humor is a very powerful tool, and it’s not being used as effectively as it could be,” Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan told The Washington Post in response to the special. “It isn’t used enough as a weapon — lampooning the forces of evil — or as a unifying force that de-stresses us and allows us to be engaged.”

Jokes aside, many of the late-night hosts signed a letter calling on entertainment executives to use their influence to push forward climate legislation in the U.S. Congress. 

2. A star-studded plea for the planet 

Comedians aren’t the only ones coming together to combat climate change. A number of world leaders, musicians, actors and more appeared in a YouTube Originals film this month to highlight climate action around the world.  

Pope Francis, musician Billie Eilish, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and actor Jaden Smith are among the presenters in the “Dear Earth” special — which they called a “a celebration of the planet.” Even the undersea cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants made an appearance to sing about the effects of ocean warming on marine creatures. 

Former U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the keynote speech, praising younger people who are leading efforts to end the climate crisis. 

"When you look at the history of so many social movements — whether it's the civil rights movement or decolonization around the world or anti-war movements — they're often started and sustained by young people," he said. 

"You don't see the way things are and assume that's the way they'll always be. You can imagine something different and you're willing to put in the work to make it happen. That's what makes me hopeful about the fight against climate change."

Between passionate pleas for climate action, the special included vegan cooking demonstrations and humorous skits with tips for individuals to reduce their emissions — and lobby politicians for more nature-friendly policies. 

3. A to-do list for reducing your emissions 

Earth is teetering perilously close to a tipping point — a state of environmental collapse beyond which humanity cannot survive. 

But it’s not too late to bring us back from the edge. That’s the focus of a recent Netflix film, “Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet,” based on the scientific discoveries of Conservation International’s Chief Scientist Johan Rockström. 

The documentary’s producers have also launched a climate action website with specific steps people can take to help stop a climate catastrophe by reducing their own emissions.  

“Following the film’s launch, viewers from around the world began to reach out to us, asking what steps they could take in their own lives to help humanity keep within the safe zone of our planetary boundaries,” said Jon Clay, the film’s director.

Created in partnership with the non-profit organization Count Us In, the website identifies individual and household actions that, if scaled up, could represent up to 30 percent of the total global emissions reductions needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. People can find 16 ways to act on climate change — from cutting food waste to transitioning to renewable energy. 

“What happens over the next centuries will be determined by how we play our cards this decade,” Rockström says in the film. “Now is the last chance we have to bend the global curve [of emissions]. It’s a question of framing the entire growth model around sustainability and have the planet guide everything we do."


Kiley Price is the staff writer and news editor at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates. Donate to Conservation International.

Cover image: Earth from space (© NASA)

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