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Apple TV's new drama "Extrapolations" is a climate cautionary tale - Axios

Apple TV’s new drama “Extrapolations” is a climate cautionary tale – Axios

Photo of actress Sienna Miller in a smoky forest from the Apple TV+ show "Extrapolations."

Actress Sienna Miller seen in a smoky forest in an episode of the Apple TV+ series “Extrapolations.” Image: Apple TV+

“Extrapolations,” a new, star-studded Apple TV+ series, depicts humanity’s future under ever-worsening — yet largely realistic — climate change scenarios in strikingly ambitious ways.

Why it matters: The series is arguably the most far-reaching and experimental portrayal of climate change yet attempted. It sputters in some respects, with characters weaving in and out of episodes in sometimes confusing arcs.

Driving the news: Creator, producer and writer Scott Z. Burns told Axios in an interview that the show explores the “messy middle” of the climate story.

  • Now available for streaming, “Extrapolations” is not an end-of-days, apocalyptic disaster series, where nothing can yet be done to rein in global warming.
  • Rather, it examines timeframes in which humans still have some agency to shift course on greenhouse gas emissions.

In just the first episode, you’ll find a U.N. climate summit taking place, as well as a detailed discussion of China’s observer status in the Arctic Council.

  • For climate professionals, it may be a show that stays with you long after it is finished, be it a rabbi struggling to save his congregation’s place of worship in a sinking Miami; or a frighteningly realistic rogue geo-engineering (featuring Edward Norton).

Zoom in: Burns, known for producing Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and serving as a writer on “The Report” as well as “Contagion,” said he was most heavily influenced by an essay by Amitav Ghosh called the “Great derangement.”

  • He also consulted with Gore, along with climate activist and writer Bill McKibben, former NASA climate scientist James Hansen, among others.
  • Burns aimed to tell the story of climate change at different time periods and from different perspectives, reflecting the fact that its effects vary widely depending on one’s economic circumstances, race and class status. In this way, the show shines a spotlight on climate justice.

What he’s saying: “I was really interested in the kinds of stories that were going to occur in the messy middle, not the post apocalyptic moment, not in the final analysis, but in the human sized increments that a person might experience, that a couple might experience that a child and a parent might experience,” Burns said.

  • Co-producer and writer Dorothy Fortenberry said she and Burns made an effort to tell stories during the time period when decisions made by characters near the beginning of the show continued to have ramifications near the end, which is in line with climate science findings.

Between the lines: Both Burns and Fortenberry told Axios they hope that this show will inspire other creators in Hollywood to tackle climate change on film and television.

  • “This is one show, this is one way to do this,” Burns said. “I hope that we put a little crack in our industry, and other people will pry it apart further.”

The bottom line: You may find the dialogue in this show lingering in your head as you process it, especially if you work in the climate space.

  • This line, in particular, has stuck with me: “You know the problem has never been technology. The problem is us, always has been.”


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