Photo: striatic

Ten years ago, environmental themes were only seen on public television specials, explored in dry documentaries by male narrators with ponderous voices.

Today–who would’ve thought?– almost every network has at least one popular show built around ecology or environmentalism.

Here are some of the best we’ve seen:

Exiled:

Most Matador readers know that travel changes lives. Getting out of our home environments and seeing how other people live can make us more empathic, more grateful for our own opportunities, and more interested in taking responsibility for the global community. And the earlier this happens in our lives, the more permanent and profound such change is likely to be.

That’s the idea–sorta–behind Exiled, MTV’s reality show about spoiled American teens whose parents send them to other parts of the world for a reality check.

In their sprawling pre-fab American homes, the girls are preoccupied with hairspray, make-up, convertible cars, and very conspicuous consumption. But in Kenya, they learn how some rural homes are built of cow dung. In Mongolia, they learn how families live off the land. They get a taste of what it’s like to be subjected to the elements (nature, not the chemicals in the can of hairspray), and they experience the distinct differences between living in community and living for the individual.

While the changes they undergo may not be as meaningful or as long-lasting as the parents (or the viewer) may hope, one’s left with the impression that they might, at the very least, be more aware of people who don’t live with the kind of largess they’ve enjoyed for all of their young lives.

ExiledMTV Shows

Though Exiled is no longer being aired, you can watch clips here.

EcoTrip:

Don’t roll your eyes when you learn that the Sundance Channel’s EcoTrip is hosted by David De Rothschild, a handsome 30 year old with a degree in natural medicine who just happens to be an heir of THE Rothschilds of England banking fame and fortune.

The guy has some brilliant ideas about how to make people more interested in environmental issues.

When he’s not busy hosting the show–a 30 minute exploration of the life cycle of common objects like napkins, light bulbs, a chocolate bar, bottled water, and cell phones– he’s trying out all sorts of DIY eco projects… like sailing a boat made entirely of recycled bottles from San Francisco to Sydney. Or reclaiming waste from the Pacific Garbage Patch (you know, that floating morass out in the middle of the ocean) and working with artists around the world to turn trash into public art.

There are just three more episodes of EcoTrip: May 17, 19, and 26. Check listing times here. You can also watch past episodes here. Here’s a clip from the chocolate episode:

Green Porno:

Yep. You read that right: Green Porno.

Another Sundance Channel series, Green Porno is part of the network’s “The Green”– a batch of eco/enviro shows intended to engage a new generation of audiences by playing on the good looks and quirky characteristics of show hosts while delivering solid information that can be understood by even the most science-naive viewer.

In Green Porno, Isabella Rossellini explores the sex lives of different animals, from small creatures like starfish to massive mammals, like whales. The show is funky, creative, and conceptual… a radical 21st century version of the Wild Kingdom shows I used to watch as a kid.

Green Porno may be gimmicky, but it’s also good. And hey, if it gets people interested in the environment, then I’m all for it:

Community Connection:

What are your favorite “green” shows? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Feature photo: The Sundance Channel