DR. KEELING’S CURVE: Mike Farrell Interview

(Photo courtesy of KCETLink Media Group)
(Photo courtesy of KCETLink Media Group)

Fitting in perfectly with observation of Earth Day, Link TV’s new special focuses on DR. KEELING’s CURVE.  Originally written as a one-man play, the Link TV television special will intersperse clips from Mike Farrell’s live theatrical performance, while talking to him about the project that aims to bring awareness to the growing problem of global warming.  Climate change is not the most sexy of topics, but it is one that concerns every single person on the planet.

Earth’s rising temperatures and the increase of carbon dioxide levels is a problem that affects everyone — no matter what country they reside.  Accordingly, it deserves a spotlight as politicians and business are doing their best to cloak or divert attention from this issue that affects us all.  It is startling to realize that instead of helping increase awareness that state, local and even the federal government, as well as news organizations, are using word-play to derail the education of viewers about global warming and its immediate ramifications.

DR. KEELING’S CURVE is all about increasing awareness. Former M*A*S*H star Mike Farrell feels passionate about this project and has devoted a large portion of his current professional and personal time and energy to this project.  Written in 2011 by George Shea specifically for Mike Farrell, the play DR. KEELING’S CURVE began touring around the United States in 2012.  Since then Mike Farrell has been a staunch supporter of educating about the effects of global warming and why it is imperative that steps are taken now to rectify the problem.

In an exclusive interview, Mike Farrell shared his thoughts on the importance of awareness and education about global warming and climate change.

How did you first hear about DR. KEELING’S CURVE and get involved with it as a one-man show?
MIKE:  I was approached by George Shea, the eventual author of the piece, with the idea.  I had served with his wife on a community committee and he just introduced himself and told me about this idea he had, and I said I thought it was interesting but that I was concerned that it sounded like a lecture rather than a play, and he said, “let me see what I can do.”  Then he went off and wrote it, and some time later came back with a script and I read it and responded to him.  I said, “It’s very good and very important, but I think again it’s a lecture and not a play.”  So there were two or three iterations before it took the shape where we thought it worked as a play, and I took it to a local theater with which I had worked and the director there thought the same thing. Over time we have developed this project which I think is important, and I think it is entertaining — that was the primary concern — and I certainly think it is timely.

Is it exhausting for you to do the one-man play on your own?  It seems like you would want someone to play off of.
MIKE:  [Laughs] That is always the problem with a one-man show.  But it is the third one-man show I’ve done, so it is not new to me.  I remember saying about the one-man show about Clarence Darrow for which we did a national tour and somebody asked me how it was and I said, “You always want to be able to at least come off stage and talk to your castmates about how do you think it’s going or that guy is snoring in the front row — but all I can do is look in the mirror and say, ‘How do you think it’s going?'”  So it is a bit odd when you’re trained as an actor to interact and react with the material and the other castmates, but the one-person show is a kind of unique animal that many people have done, and some very successfully.  I have found in this particular instance it’s very enjoyable.

How did your one-man show DR. KEELING’S CURVE get connected up with Link TV for an Earth Day television special?
MIKE:  Kim Spencer at Link TV has always been interested in issues that are pertinent.  I contacted him when we got the show up.  I thought he might be interested in seeing it, and he was very interested when he saw it and came up with this idea of showing pieces of it.  Although it was not intended for broadcast, we had recorded the show at one of the presentations at CalTech in Pasadena.  So we had a recording of the performance to show and Kim thought it would be interesting to use it for Earth Day as a promotion of the idea of awareness of the reason for this thing that Dr. Keeling was the pioneer of discovering — the reason for global warming, the problems attendant to climate change — particularly in an era in which there is a whole industry trying to deny the fact that the climate is changing and the impact that change is going to have. So Kim came back to me with this idea, “Would you do an interview about the show in which we intercut some segments of the show that we already have recorded?”  And I said, “I think that sounds like a terrific idea.”  So it is going to air on Earth Day on Link TV, which is available across the country through DirecTV and the DISH network, and those people who are looking for interesting programming, it seems to me that they will find themselves wrapped up in something that will pique their interest.

With the recent statistics coming out that California is amidst a severe drought that it is running out of water, it would appear there would be a heightened interest in this topic, particularly for Earth Day, which is good timing for your special.
MIKE:  All of the issues pertinent to climate change — certainly the drought or dryness in the southwest, as well as the hideous size of the storms in the upper east and the various things in the southeast, plus the tornados in the midwest — tell us that there really serious changes and we need undertake some serious consideration about we can do protect ourselves, our economy, our society, and our neighbors.  But there is this very deeply-invested group that suggests that it is all nonsense and we should not concern ourselves about it, that it is all natural development, it will pass, etc.  And as things go on, I think it becomes more urgently important for us to get this information out.  So I found that this play was a really effective way to do it because it is not strident and it’s not telling people to pick up pitchforks and chase down the bad guys.  It’s just simply saying, “Here is a man who had a vision of what he wanted to do, which was to study science in nature and who fell into this discovery of the rising level of CO2 in the atmosphere and became famous in scientific circles as a pioneer with this discovery and was never an activist, never somebody who was out there on the husting saying we have to do something.”  So we sort of picked up the cudgel, if you will, and are doing it for him.  Sort of bringing him back.  Dr. Keeling died almost 10 years ago and we sort of resurrect him and tell his story through is eyes and his voice.

For you, was what the first warning sign that you saw as evidence of global warming in your world?
MIKE:  Anybody who reads the newspaper has some awareness of it, but I live in California and I have been very aware of the increasing levels of drought for some time.  But I have also been aware because of I am Minnesotan by birth and I’ve been aware of the changes in the weather in different parts of the country.  I am also a motorcyclist and I have been around many parts of the world and have seen signs in various places.  Things are changing and they are changing more rapidly than anybody expected, and they are changing in a manner that is much more drastic in some areas than than others.  But all of it is going to have an impact on all of us in this little blue globe hanging out in space.

Dr. Keeling’s work made everyone aware that there were rising carbon dioxide levels.  Did he suggest how we can counterbalance or counteract those rising levels?
MIKE:  What he said was we have to be aware of it and the awareness will trigger the kinds of discoveries and the kinds of remedies that can be applied to it.  He didn’t himself, other than try to raise awareness of it and point out the inevitability of the dangers associated with this rise in parts per million, the rate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  But I think his work was the precursor to a lot of the work being done today.  For people who are interested, there are some scientific projects, like vacuuming carbon out of the atmosphere and that sort of thing.  But I think more to the point is the kind of “green” endeavors that have been put out there, like:  immediate and serious cuts in the use of hydrocarbon fuels, gas and oil, we have got to find ways to use alternative sources of energy, we’ve got to find the ways to use things that are not “use it and throw it away” that was so popular for a long time — which is becoming to be understood as dangerous — we’ve got to learn to recycle, to use recyclable goods, to just live in a manner that is more consistent with the survivability of the species and of the planet.

You have obviously been doing this play for awhile, how has it been received in each place that you have gone to? Has it really helped raise the awareness level or do you find people still resisting it?
MIKE:  Nobody comes up to me after the show and says, “You’re crazy. This isn’t happening.”  Most of the people who have come — well, there are lots of reasons that they come — but the reactions have been quite wonderful.  The reactions have been people saying, “Thank you for this information” and other people saying, “I had no idea that this was  as serious an issue as it is.”  Many, many people say, “Thank you for this because I have been very worried about this for a long time and we need to be getting the word out and this is a great way to do it.”  So it differs.  But one of the things we want to do is get the show into different parts of the country and perhaps different parts of the world, eventually.  One of the significant parts is simply raising the level of awareness among the people that this thing is a reality and that there are things that we as concerned citizens can and should be doing.

What would you tell the average person who comes to you that they can do on a personal level to help with that?  Is it just getting the awareness out there?  Is it recycling more?  What is the number one thing you tell people?
MIKE:  I think it is all of those things.  I think it is recycling, certainly.  I think it is cutting down the use of energy — certainly the hydrocarbon producing energies.  Even automobile companies are putting out alternative fuel cars, like electric cars and hybrids, and I think the same thing is happening in other industries.  The problem that we face really is the hydrocarbon producing industries — the gas, oil and coal technologies that we relied on for so long and the people, who frankly, have made hundreds of millions and billions of dollars  by utilizing those things and by exploiting the Earth’s resources without consideration of what the ultimate cost to the environment is going to be.  And those people are opposed to any knowledge about the climate change — as it has come to be known.  Everybody poo-poos the idea of global warming, so there is an active body of opinion out there — and I think it is wrong and I think it is intentionally intended to cloud people’s minds, to divert people’s attention.  This is a group that took Al Gore, the former Vice President of the United States and tried very hard to make him a laughing-stock because he had the audacity to put out this information through his documentary film and his books.  So there is a very serious, well-funded, vested interest in insisting that this is not a problem and not wanting people to be aware of it.  So I think our job is primarily to raise awareness.

With the hope that his play and this special will help raise that awareness and inspire innovation into how to combat global warming and eradicate the rising carbon dioxide levels, Mike Farrell hopes that viewers will fine in for the premiere of DR. KEELING’s CURVE on Link TV.  The Link TV special will air on Wednesday (Earth Day), April 22nd at 5:00 p.m. and 8 p.m. and will reair on further dates after that, including April 23rd, 25th, 26th and 27th.  Information about those broadcast dates and times can be found HERE.

To find out more about Link TV’s special for DR. KEELING’S CURVE, you may read about it HERE.

(Photo courtesy of KCETLink Media Group)
(Photo courtesy of KCETLink Media Group)
(Photo courtesy of KCETLink Media Group)
(Photo courtesy of KCETLink Media Group)
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