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Television: Sundance Goes Green:

The Sundance Channel has devoted a big chunk of its programming to showing information about how to improve the environment. Or at least, that’s what they’re saying. They describe The Green as “television’s first regularly-scheduled programming destination dedicated entirely to the environment.” It is presented by Sundance founder and front man, Robert Redford, and will present “multimedia content focusing on earth’s ecology and concepts of ‘green’ living that balances human needs with responsible care for the planet.”

With its groovy high concept color scheme, the website shows this Green TV idea to be an entertaining one – clearly aiming for the Leonardo DiCaprio/Julia Roberts/George Clooney and now Al Gore crowd who have devoted a lot of energy and time to making the public aware about the effects of global warming.

One of The Green’s programs will be called Big Ideas for a Small Planet and will educate viewers about alternative forms of fuel, biodiesel and other ways to cut down on the gas consumption, which is, as we all know, in this country alone, at an incomprehensibly grotesque level.

While the Sundance Channel’s The Green idea is a good one, I can’t help but imagine all of those moms at my daughter’s school who champion the environment, go see An Inconvenient Truth, rail against the president, donate to Heal the Bay, recycle their cans and bottles, but then drive off campus in a gas-guzzling Escalade. It strikes me that many of us buy into this “Go Green” thing as a way to make us look good, but really, we’ll never give up our big cars, our appliances, our airline travel, our successful way of life.

Nonetheless, that is no reason not to watch Big Ideas, a green documentary series. Many of the usual suspects will appear on the show, including Laurie David (Larry David’s outspoken environmental leader), along with Willie Nelson, Tim Robbins, Daryl Hanna, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Josh Lucas.

Sundance’s move towards “Green” is co-sponsored by Lexus, of course, which is good for sales of their hybrid vehicles, especially since they’re hitting the target demo for those types of cars: eco-concerned folks with lots of disposable income.

It sounds interesting enough, but in a way it’s difficult to really get excited about something that is so narrowly focused on the very people who already are concerned and active to begin with. Real change needs to happen on a much larger scale. To better effect, perhaps, was Discovery’s recent highly acclaimed (and heavily promoted) series, Planet Earth. When one sees our lovely blue orb in all of its wondrous glory, one can’t help but want to protect it.

If watching The Green inspires people to make better fuel, if it inspires better and more affordable cars, more power to it. How can anyone complain when people are out there just trying to do good for the world? It’s much easier to sit back and watch non-challenging television, which represents the other 80 percent of what’s available.

Redford himself hopes that the series will attach itself to the younger generations, who don’t have much to fight for these days except for the right to own as many gadgets, toys and cool shoes as possible. Redford recently told, “I do think there is a pervasive apathy among young people. Some say it’s because there’s no draft, some say it’s the consumerism, some say it’s the media. But I also sense change. I think the pendulum might be ready to swing back the other way, where young people start to engage. I think kids are beginning to realize that there’s more to life than just having an easy life. It hasn’t happened yet on the grand scale, but it’s rumbling. I can feel it underneath my feet.”

It has to start somewhere, so why not with the converted?

Big Ideas for a Small Planet will be shown Tuesday nights on Sundance Channel’s The Green.

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