Review

Are you living dangerously?

Watch the world's best storytellers from Hollywood and around the world come together to tell the most important story of our time in a collection of short documentaries, Years of Living Dangerously.

Arnold Swarznegger

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Product details

Reviewer: Caitlin Howlett

Price: 3-CD pack for $39.95

G Rating:

3

Years of Living Dangerously makes it plain and clear that the consequences of our changing climate are severe, not just for the planet, but for our own lives.

This is the gift to give to that climate sceptic in the family or friend circle who would usually choose to watch a Hollywood blockbuster.

It's got all the big names; produced by James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Swarznegger, featuring stars such as Harrison Ford, Jessica Alba, and Matt Damon, and respected journalists including Lesley Stahl, and Thomas L. Friedman who wraps up the ninth-episode with an interview of President Obama.

Yes, it's quite American-centric, but the message is very much a global problem, and it's presented in an entertaining way.

Harrison Ford going to Borneo and Indonesia to discover more about the problem with palm oil is a heart-breaking introduction to the series. But fear not, because he becomes a real-life Indiana Jones to help create change – if not permanently on the ground, then certainly in raising awareness using his celebrity.

Arnold Schwarzenegger also shares a strong story about forest fires in California, saying of an elite team of firefighters known as the Hotshots, “these are the true heroes”. We then follow Schwarzenegger talking at an international climate conference about the problems of the increasing severity of extreme weather events. “There are no more fire seasons, we have fires all year round,” he says.

It's somewhat surreal watching Michael C. Hall, of the TV series Dexter fame, travel on a boat with profile shots of him comparable to his Hollywood persona, as he narrates the realities of a displaced life in Bangladesh, in the same voice and tone that he narrates the life of the character Dexter.

But despite all the big names, what makes the series all the more relatable is the stories of those everyday people affected by extreme weather as a result of climate change; the people that are being severely affected now – not in the future, but right now.

The broad selection of mini-documentaries is dramatically-presented, and of course, quite 'Hollywood' in the way your heartstrings are expertly tugged – don't be surprised if you're left feeling as though you've just watched The Notebook hearing some of the more personal stories. You'll be hard pressed not to be all choked-up in at least one of the 17 case studies told over the 3-disks.

So while we're waiting for the next Cyclone Sandy – which is profiled as one of the most destructive storms in history – the series shows a proven link that events like this are related to an unstable climate. All of the facts and information is founded in strong, respected, peer-reviewed science, and it's simply explained so that anyone can access the information.

A large portion of the episodes tackle climate sceptics from all backgrounds, and show examples of people who have switched their views and their actions in favour of the scientific consensus.

Of course it might take more than one conversation to do this for that climate-sceptic uncle that you gift this DVD to, but with 9 episodes, there's plenty of conversations to have.

A downfall of the series is that it does get a bit choppy, flipping between all the different stories, and it's not so much that it's hard to keep up, it's more that it's taxing rather than relaxing. But just as a teacher needs to adapt their style to a range of learning styles, there's lots of relatable analogies and explanations that need to be given. Fortunately, the series doesn't get repetitive, as each story is quite different.

Often, there is no solution presented, just the raw facts and some very leading, but important questions. What makes people switch and change their mind to accept climate change? How can the fast-paced media change the conversation on climate change from being 'long-term' to be about what's happening right now? Do we have the will to change our actions for the better? Will politicians step forward and lead on an issue that could get them voted out? Can we look back on ourselves and our actions, and say that we did all that we could to make the situation better?

There are some frightening statistics and predictions given, so hopefully people aren't so frightened that they shut down and bury their heads in the sand. The overarching theme is that there is still hope that there's something that can be done – that is, we need to make more people aware that all of the available oil and gas doesn't need to be mined, and fossil fuel burning needs to stop.

What is cringe-worthy about watching Years of Living Dangerously is that it's painfully hypercritical when the presenters are jetting about in planes, helicopters, and mucking-up the drilling of ancient coral samples. Surely they could have mentioned little actions they were taking along the way to reduce their impact? It's a missed opportunity when the presenters could have been supplied with reusable water bottles and coffee cups, or to practice what they're preaching by offsetting all of their travel emissions, and making a note of this in the end credits.

The only excuse for this is that it's the high-level change that has the most potential to affect real change, but unfortunately that means the series misses out on the way that many people make the connection to changing their way of living for the better – through living a slow, mindful, lifestyle that's connected to nature.

Yes, individual actions make a difference; such as the sharing economy, riding bikes, and eating less meat – but the truth is the biggest impact is coming from mining and burning fossil fuels. Lets hope that message gets out loud and clear to more voters, politicians, and decision-makers.

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Years of Living Dangerously won numerous Emmy Awards in 2014, including Outstanding Nonfiction Series. Available on DVD from Madman, or via a digital download at www.yearsoflivingdangerously.com.

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