International Environmental Journalist Visiting
Top International Environmental Journalist Visiting New Zealand
Television can be a powerful tool in changing behaviour – and a visiting American producer is challenging local producers to bring environmental issues alive.
For over 20 years, Barbara Pyle has pioneered environmental television programming as the Corporate Vice President of Environmental Policy and CNN’s environmental editor. She has produced more than 50 films, including the 26 part series People Count distributed worldwide.
She is a keynote speaker at the Ministry for the Environment’s Information to Motivation Conference being held in Wellington June 5 to 7. It is New Zealand’s first ever state of the environment conference.
Barbara Pyle says research has shown that television does change behaviour, and cites the example of her animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers that has considerably changed the environmental and social attitudes of young people.
“We all know people model what they see on television. If it is used properly and with thought and care, it is proven to change behaviour for the better.”
“It has to be entertaining, it has to be fun and it has to be interesting. If you use the “talking head” with experts giving their views, it will be deadly. No-one is going to watch it – it is a turnoff.
“These sorts of programmes may be worthy but they are dull – and the problem is that the producer gets terrible ratings and won’t produce an environmental programme again.”
Barbara Pyle says the documentary series People Count is at the core of her philosophy and it is important that everyone contributes to solving these growing problems.
“It is about each person taking control of their own destiny. We are facing an emergency that needs addressing now and if we don’t face up to it now we are not going to survive.
“If people understand the facts, they can either continue to be part of the problem or decide to become part of the solution. I say to people get involved – if everybody gave a couple of hours a week to something, there would be an amazing cumulative effect. People need to start thinking about their own impact. Just look at our consumer levels, consumer culture will be the death of our planet.
“The earth will not be saved by any one big decision but by many individual choices. Television has an important role in providing the information necessary to enable us to make these choices."
She says coming from a rural background has given her grounding in being concerned about the environment.
“I have always been very aware of the relationship between humanity, our fellow species and the earth. What we do to earth we do to ourselves. I have watched the continued degradation of our environment during my life. It is shocking what I have seen disappear during my lifetime.”
She says during her visit to New Zealand she plans to look for potential stories for her series.