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New PBS program chronicles our ‘Changing Planet’ — and offers dose of hope

© Sebastien Gabriel

If the rise in “once-in-a-lifetime” floods and record-breaking wildfires is showing us one thing, it’s that climate change isn’t coming — it’s here. 

A new PBS series is exploring exactly how climate change is disrupting six of the world’s most iconic biomes — from Africa’s savannas to the icecaps of the Arctic. 

Hosted by Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan, “Changing Planet” isn’t all doom and gloom; it also spotlights the communities confronting the climate crisis head-on through traditional practices and innovative solutions. 

“Resilience in the natural world could give us the opportunity to withstand the worst that is still to come,” Sanjayan said in the show’s first episode, which begins with a visit to Northern California’s Klamath River Basin. 

Fueled by climate change, wildfires are ravaging the region’s forests while warming waters are killing salmon, which can overheat when temperatures are too high. Living in the heart of this ecosystem, the Yurok Tribe — more than 6,000 members strong — relies on these fish for food and income. 

To save salmon habitats, this Indigenous community is merging modern science with thousands of years of traditional knowledge as part of the biggest dam removal project in U.S. history. Some of their strategies will help restore forests surrounding the dam by setting controlled burns to prepare for fire season and planting trees to provide shade and cool the water. This initiative aims to open up more than 643 kilometers (400 miles) of rivers for the salmon between Oregon and California. 

But it can’t stop there, Sanjayan stressed. 

“Their restoration goal is big,” he said. “But even that on the scale of… a planet is a blip. What we need is really millions of these projects, communities everywhere doing this with this intensity of purpose.” 

Throughout the series, viewers will be transported to places like Cambodia’s Mekong Delta, coral reefs in the Maldives and Kenya’s Chyulu Hills, where Conservation International has helped the local Maasai community establish a forest restoration project through the sale of carbon offsets. 

Recognizing that these changes won’t happen overnight, the “Changing Planet” crew will return to the featured locations each Earth Day for the next seven years, documenting climate impacts and continuing to chronicle reasons for hope. 

“The answer to climate change is communities everywhere creating more resilience in the natural world to rebalance the planet,” Sanjayan said. “That must be the key that can save us all.”

Tune in: For U.S.-based viewers, the first episode of the “Changing Planet” series premieres Wednesday, April 20, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS, and the PBS Video app.    



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

Cover image: A forest in California (© Sebastien Gabriel)