24 June-5 July 2024 (online)

Television and Sustainability

In 2015, the UN proposed 17 Sustainable Development Goals that are meant to guide humankind towards a more equitable future on a liveable planet. They address questions of health, society, culture and the distribution of resources while also being aware of the urgency to address climate change. As a key communicator of human aspiration, as a tool to educate and inform, but also as an industry fraught with inequality and often accused to pandering to ‘valuable’ taste communities i.e. those of economic and other advantage, television emerges as a key site where our ability to respond to those aspirations can be assessed. How does television respond to the climate crisis? How does it aim to reduce poverty and inequalities by, for example, addressing local working conditions, offering traineeships to disadvantaged groups or address issues of outsourcing ethically? What steps does the industry take to reduce its carbon (and other polluting) footprint? How does it promote peace?

These and many other questions relating to television and the Sustainable Development Goals will be at the centre of the slow conference, which will be spread out over two weeks. The conference will take place online with only a limited number of panels on each day to allow delegates from across the globe to catch up and take part.

Our Keynote

Anne Marit Waade, Aarhus University, Denmark
What has television to do with climate? Green screens and green shooting

A crucial interdisciplinary research field is emerging focusing on the relationship between media and environment, in some contexts framed as ‘environmental media studies’ as part of environmental humanities, and in others ‘Anthropocene television studies’, ‘cli-fi’, or just ‘green screens’ and ‘green shooting’ (Doyle, Redclift & Woodgate 2011; Kääpä & Vaughan 2022; Leyda 2021; Iménez-Morales & Lopera-Mármol 2021 +2022; Saunders 2024; Soernesen & Noonan 2022; Souch 2020). In this talk I will map the different approaches to study and understand the relationship between television and climate. I will include both how television content represents and contributes to the ongoing societal discussion about environmental issues (green screens), as well as how the screen industry considers climate issues in the production practices (green shooting). Based on my own research on Nordic television drama series and screened landscapes, I will give some examples of both

green screens and green shooting. Nordic noir and Arctic noir have in many cases dealt with climate issues as part of the narrative and the landscape aesthetics. In my talk I will draw on my work on the Danish series Borgen – Power and Glory (2022, DR/Netflix) taking place in Greenland, and Midnight Sun (2016, Nice/Canal+) set in Kiruna, as good examples of green screens and Anthropocene television drama (Grønlund & Waade 2024; Souch, Saunders and Waade 2023; Waade 2020). However, green screens are not restricted to fiction, but encompass also other kinds of television content as news, documentaries, and factual entertainment.

When it comes to green shooting, there are different kinds of considerations and research approaches, from critical political economy viewpoints, industry regulations, case-based production studies, technological and economic angles, to environmental production activism and community work. In this context I will give three examples, all of them focusing on technological potential and contradictions in screen productions; The first is the screen tourism app Detect Aarhus (2019-2021), the second is the blue sky crime series White Sand (TV2/Viaplay, 2021) shot on the Westcoast of Denmark, and the last example is Trom (Viaplay, 2021) set on the Faeroe Island and with an extensive use of drone shots. In general, on location shooting and screen production are not particularly climate friendly, it requires electric power, tracks, transport of the crew, flying in creatives, managing catering and trash and sometimes access to vulnerable locations and communities. Based on my examples, I will discuss to what extend different kinds of screen technologies can contribute to greening television productions. 

In the end, I will reflect on how research can make a difference when it comes to green screen and green shooting; How we can deal with the climate unconscious and banal Anthropocene in television (Leida 2021), and in what ways we as television scholars can work in interdisciplinary, creative, and critical ways to engage in climate conditions (Bengesser & Waade 2021; Weissmann 2024).