Bafta Wants More Climate Change On TV? Here's Some Ideas

From Ian Beale becoming a climate activist to Black Mirror episodes about antibiotic resistance, here's how to talk about the environment without spoiling your night on the sofa.

Bafta wants to hear more about climate change in comedy and drama. As their new research points out, currently climate change is discussed as much (or as little) as rhubarb. Twenty times less than Brexit and only just a little over half as much as picnics. If we’re going to tackle this crisis head on, we need our telly to step up.

This could result in a load of worthy shows you feel you should watch but never quite get round to. Or could be brilliant. Climate change is full of amazing stories and great characters. It’s not all lone polar bears hanging onto the last bit of ice, or boringly wonderful heroes battling cartoon baddies. It’s everyday people put in extraordinary positions – the basis of so much good drama and comedy.

So here are my top eight ideas. It’s only the tip of the speedily melting iceberg though.

Casualty’s hit by wildfires and the multitude of health problems exacerbated by a heatwave. The air-con breaks and there’s a half-arsed hospital sustainability drive runs in the background.

Black Mirror, but appreciating climate change is a thing. I don’t know about you, but I find Black Mirror’s visions of the future – so seemingly absent of any worry about climate change – oddly comforting. As if the killer robots are our problem, rather than crop failure, suppressive heatwaves and floods (in reality, it’ll probably be climate change and robots, tangled up with antibiotic resistance and nuclear war too, and no one can tell the story that kind of cluster of dystopia like Black Mirror).

The vegan episode of Bake Off was a lot of fun, but they’ve been nabbed by cancer as a cause. So let’s have Masterchef challenge contestants to work with foods most at threat from climate change. Do some visits to sustainable farms and swap William Sitwell in the judges for a climate scientist.

Nathaniel Rich’s new book Losing Earth tells the story of how we could have halted climate change back in the 80s, but didn’t. Even as a piece of nonfiction, it reads like House of Cards. If someone hasn’t already snapped up the screen rights, Netflix should get on it. If nothing else, there’s a great cameo for someone as a young Al Gore.

The story of Balcombe. This is Brit-com GOLD. Back in 2013, the normally quiet life of the village of Balcombe, West Sussex, was turned upside down when Cuadrilla decided to test a bit of fracking. The green movement were hot on their heels, with the world’s press not far behind. The village was left pretty bruised by the experience. They were divided too. People who used to be friends in the pub would hide from each other at the station. But they came together again with an ambitious plan to run the village on community-owned solar power. It’s got all sorts of great characters, and a bittersweet ending too, as ultimately their solar scheme was crushed by George Osborne’s 2015 solar cuts. Still, they also invented solar powered trains off the back of it, so there’s a nice bit of light at the end of the tunnel to end on. We can work up a fictional romance between a young fracking PR and a climate activist, Sheila Hancock can be the no-nonsense retired social worker pulling everyone together on the solar plan, Emma Thompson can drop in as the local MP who gets arrested and I’m sure we can find something for Bill Nighy and Hugh Grant to do too.

Guerrilla insulation. The UK housing stock is in a terrible state, with horrific amounts of energy leaking from our walls, roofs and windows. This is a public health disaster as well as a carbon bomb, and politicians are largely ignoring it. According to Green Building Council, if we’re going to meet even the least ambitious of climate targets, we need to refurbish more than one home a minute before 2050. That sounds like a DIY challenge if ever there was one. Get Nick Knowles on the case.

A sitcom based around a local Greenpeace group. While the activists at the central HQ climb the Shard and occupy Russian oil rigs, our heroes are on the high street, dressed as arctic animals, asking people to sign their petition. They’re an odd bunch and kind of hate each other, brought together by the common cause (and the fact that they are all too lonely to skip the fortnightly meetings). At least one of them is a furry.

Someone in EastEnders gets really worried about climate change. I want Denise Fox because she’d do the reluctant activist so well and skewer the racial and class politics of the green movement while she’s at it. But I’d settle for Ian Beale. Ian being smug about his heat pump and annoying everyone by gluing himself to the Queen Vic could do more for the UK climate movement than David Attenborough ever has.

Alice Bell is co-director at climate charity 10:10. She has a PhD in science literature and is writing on a book on the history of climate change.


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