Program host and author of the companion book, Richard Alley, geology professor at Penn State, member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a communicator once called "the Woody Allen of climate change." Near Big Sur, California. Photo by GEOFF HAINES-STILES.
Richard Alley flying out toward the coast of New Zealand's South Island, tracing the route of the advancing Franz Josef Glacier—the result of falling levels of CO2 and colder temperatures some 20,000 years ago. Photo by ART HOWARD.
Richard Alley (to left, in his distinctive orange parka) and a mountain guide/climbing safety guide beside a giant crevasse on New Zealand's Franz Josef Glacier. Photo by ART HOWARD.
Columns of sunlight reflected up from some of the 684 mirrors at Abengoa Solar's "Plataforma Solucar" near Seville, Spain. PS10 was the world’s first commercial power station to use mirrors like these to beam back energy to a tower designed to harvest Concentrated Solar Power. Photo by GEOFF HAINES-STILES.
Videographer Art Howard during war games at the Army's Fort Irwin California. Photo by ANNA BELLE PEEVEY.
PEGGY LIU, Chairperson, JUCCCE (Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy) interviewed during a weeklong workshop on sustainable practices for Mayors from cities all across China. "China is throwing spaghetti on the wall right now, in terms of 27 different cities doing LED street lighting, or over 20, 30 different cities doing electrical vehicles…" Photo by ART HOWARD.
Producer Erna Akuginow rides a camel on dunes near the edge of the Sahara, Morocco during taping for a sequence showing what life is like for the more than 1.5 billion people worldwide who live "off the grid" and who will need clean energy in the years ahead. Photo by ART HOWARD

On Sunday, April 22, 2012, PBS (check local listings since some stations will time shift the program) will feed an encore presentation of "Earth: The Operators' Manual" and premiere two new specials, POWERING THE PLANET and ENERGY QUEST USA. “Earth: The Operators’ Manual” dispenses with politics, polemics or punditry; instead, it presents an objective, accessible assessment of the Earth’s problems and possibilities that will leave viewers informed, energized and optimistic. POWERING THE PLANET offers case studies of nations such as Brazil, China and Denmark that have begin the transition away from fossil fuel, and ENERGY QUEST USA showcases positive steps being taken in five very different U.S. communities: Alaska, Kansas, Fort Worth (Texas), Baltimore (Maryland) and Portland (Oregon.)

"Earth: The Operators’ Manual” dispenses with politics, polemics or punditry; instead, it presents an objective, accessible assessment of the Earth’s problems and possibilities that will leave viewers informed, energized and optimistic.

Host Richard Alley – a geologist, contributor to the United Nations panel on climate change and former oil company employee whom Andy Revkin of the New York Times once called “a cross between Woody Allen and Carl Sagan” – leads the audience on this engaging one-hour special about climate change and sustainable energy. Alley’s book of the same name, a companion to the program, is published by W.W. Norton & Company

Earth: The Operators’ Manual” (“ETOM” for short) is a rigorously researched, beautifully filmed and ultimately uplifting antidote to the widespread “doom and gloom” approach to climate change. The program opens with a thorough grounding in Earth’s climate history and an overview of the current dilemmas, but its main thrust is an upbeat assessment of our many viable sustainable energy options.

To illustrate the evidence and the way forward, “ETOM” takes viewers on a High Definition trip around the globe. In New Zealand, the audience follows Richard Alley into a deep crevasse to understand how the advance and retreat of massive glaciers during Earth’s Ice Ages are tied to changing levels of carbon dioxide. In Denver, Colorado, we peer over his shoulder at the National Ice Core Lab to see how records of temperature and atmospheric composition trapped inside chunks of ancient ice conclusively demonstrate that today’s levels of CO2 are higher than at any time in the past 400,000 years, due largely to our burning of fossil fuels over the past several hundred years.

Then it’s on to locations where developments in sustainable energy are already proving it’s possible to do things differently. A solar power plant near Seville, Spain, will soon provide electricity to 200,000 homes – promising news for the sunniest place in the world, the deserts of the U.S. Southwest, where solar energy could account for 80% of Earth’s current use. On the North Island of New Zealand, a geothermal generating station is a reliable source of carbon-free energy.

We travel to Brazil, a land of cars running on flex fuels using sugarcane ethanol, and on to the gas-guzzling city of Houston, which is working to support e-vehicles. At the Army’s Fort Irwin and the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton, we learn why the U.S. military has made it a priority to significantly reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. And in Xi’an, Shanghai and Beijing, we see how China, the world’s largest energy consumer, is evolving from “the factory of the world” into “the clean-tech laboratory of the world,” in the words of Peggy Liu, chairperson of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy.

From low-tech solutions to high-tech innovations, “ETOM” shows the wide range of practical options available to meet Earth’s growing need for energy. Says producer Erna Akuginow (who directed the critically acclaimed “Childhood” series and the Passport to Knowledge series of electronic field trips): “In creating this program, we were awed by the raw power of the Earth and of human ingenuity, and happily surprised by some of the most ambitious goals for clean, low-carbon options.”

“ETOM” was produced in High Definition and taped worldwide in Xi’an, Shanghai and Beijing (China); São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Ceara and Iguaçu Falls (Brazil); Marrakesh and the Sahara (Morocco); Seville (Spain) and high on the heavily-crevassed snowfield of the Franz Josef Glacier and at “Hell’s Gate” hot springs and geothermal reserve, Rotorua (New Zealand.) Production continued across the United States, from New Orleans to the California coast, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to the Algodones Dunes, near Yuma, Arizona, at the National Renewable Energy Lab, and at the National Ice Core Lab in Denver, Colorado.

"Earth: The Operators’ Manual” is produced by Passport to Knowledge/Geoff Haines-Stiles Productions, Inc., and made possible by a major grant from NSF, the National Science Foundation. The program is available for teachers  to download and use in class for one year after the PBS premiere. It is also available for purchase on DVD.

Cars and computers come with manuals. So why don’t we have one for the most complex operating system of all, the Earth? Now we do. Is the planet due for an oil change? Could we meet our growing need for energy with renewable options? What actions could keep Earth operating at peak performance? Check out ETOM on-air and online for answers.

“If we approach Earth as if we have an Operators’ Manual,
we can avoid climate catastrophes, improve energy security,
and make millions of good jobs.”

—Richard Alley, Host of “EARTH: The Operators’ Manual

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