Extrapolations: Visualizing climate realities through fiction

Creator Scott Z. Burns and Executive Producer and Writer Dorothy Fortenberry talk about their new show during a panel with Joe Arvai, director of USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies.

After coming home from a day at school, work, or just running errands, we turn on our televisions to see characters doing the same daily tasks, even as the biggest crisis of our lives rages outside our windows.

Even as television shows and movies are supposed to be manifestations of the human experience, there exist so few stories about breathing polluted air, experiencing life-changing hurricanes and droughts, or several other disasters that are increasingly becoming normal.

That makes one wonder: is Hollywood the greatest climate denier of all major institutions?

Scott Z. Burns and Dorothy Fortenberry are trying to change that narrative with their new show Extrapolations, piloting the future of climate storytelling within Hollywood. An Apple TV+ special, Extrapolations consists of eight episodes that tell several international, intergenerational, and interconnected climate stories set between 2037 to 2070.  

The audience starts their journey in the middle of a dystopian future, where world leaders at COP42 (a futuristic version of the annual U.N. climate conference) are saddled with making difficult decisions as the consequences of the climate crisis ramp up. In this world, not a single species on the planet is safe, especially not humans.

Along the way we meet the last blue whale on earth (who is voiced by actress Meryl Streep), a stepmother and stepson duo that take drastic taboo measures to combat rising temperatures, a powerful billionaire who believes capitalism will save the planet, and many more characters with equally compelling narratives. Each episode highlights a specific and unique climate story that gives us a peek into what our future may look like if meaningful action is not taken today.

Read the full story