What Has Been Causing These Historic Droughts?

The Showtime series explores links between climate change, drought and war.


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In a world where a forest the size of Germany is leveled and burned every year… where formerly fertile farmlands have been reduced to desert…where biblical-sized drought has caused communities to crumble and pushed nations into war… humankind must either join the fight to change the course of history or risk dooming the planet.

Now read that line again with the deep timber of the late great voice-over actor Don Lafontaine, bring in Titanic director James Cameron and actors Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jessica Alba, and it sounds like you’ve got the breakout blockbuster event of the year. While Showtime‘s Years of Living Dangerouslyfeatures both the Governator AND Indiana Jones, this is no post-apocalyptic popcorn flick. The 9-part documentary series, which premieres this Sunday, April 13, covers the biggest story of our lives: how years of waste and profit-driven, destructive decision-making are leading to climate calamity around the world.

The first episode, available to preview this week on YouTube, explores the fallout of year after year of rising global temperatures, which has led to widespread drought in hotspots around the world. Don Cheadle heads to a Texas town that saw 10 percent of its workforce put out of business as drought forced a dairy farm to close. Meanwhile New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman goes to war-ravaged Syria where former farmers turned revolutionaries blame the government’s lack of aid during a terrible period of no rain for pushing them to take up arms.

Check out the first episode “Dry Years” below, and explore our own photo essay on the war over water in a thirsty state.

The initial episode does well to put a human face on the effects of climate change-fueled drought. As in Texas and Syria, in California we’re seeing firsthand how a record breaking dry spell has begun to divide people. Corporate megafarms in the arid southern central parts of the state are pressuring politicians to disregard environmental protections and allow profligate pumping of freshwater from the Bay Delta. This could hand down a death sentence to many of the species that live in those waters, not to mention endanger a way of life for 4 million people that call the Delta home. California may be the Golden State, but increasingly water is the most valuable commodity. As Years shows, the same is true around the world.

Maggie worked at Earthjustice from 2014–2021.