With the sun shining and deer quietly nestled on patches of lawn at the wooded, tranquil NASA-JPL complex in the foothills near Pasadena, it’s easy to forget that some of the world’s most advanced research is being conducted—right here in our own back yard—on how to counteract the dark threat brought on by global warming.
Hollywood, Health & Society led a select group of writers on a “Jurassic Park”-style tour of remote Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Santa Barbara to learn about the effects of climate change, wildlife restoration efforts and how to live in a sustainable, off-the-grid environment. Accompanied by two experts from The Nature Conservancy—John Randall and Ric Wiles—the six writers and HH&S support staff departed early-morning, overcast Ventura Harbor for the hour-long crossing by ferry. A bumper sticker on the ship’s bridge read “I Brake for Whales”—a harbinger of things to come later in the day. On the way back, the group was spellbound by a rare treat—a mega-pod of thousands of dolphins swimming alongside the ship, with a handful of 50-foot humpback whales that repeatedly surfaced as they all feasted on great schools of anchovies.
On a recent morning beneath beautiful blue skies, a bus full of Hollywood writers and producers pulled up to a space-age-looking entry gate, where a sign next to the familiar NASA logo greeted them with the words: “Welcome to Our Universe.” For the latest Storybus Tour organized by Hollywood, Health & Society, this was a mission to learn about climate change from some of the world’s top scientists and engineers at the NASA-JPL complex just northeast of Los Angeles.Through these signature series of research trips, HH&S offers writers and producers real stories about real people and places—unusual, compelling and dramatic—from climate scientists, other experts and community members on the ground.
Hollywood, Health & Society took top entertainment industry writers and producers to get a look at what a ZIP code reveals about someone's health. From the St. John's Well Child and Family Center in South Los Angeles, with its mission of quality medical care and efforts to improve tenants' housing conditions, to the communities along the 710 Freeway corridor threatened by toxic waste and pollution, the Storybus Tour participants were given a first-hand look by visiting sites and listening to activists and organizers working on the front lines for change.
Hollywood, Health & Society launched its Storybus Tours, a signature series of research trips for TV writers to various locations—this time to gather first-hand reports from those working to ease gang violence in the schools and on the streets of Los Angeles. Created in partnership between HH&S and Neal Baer—director of the USC Institute for Global Health's Center for Storytelling, Activism & Health—the tours provide writers on-the-ground experience in examining health issues. It also gives them the chance to meet and be inspired by stories from local community members and activists who are working for change. The inaugural Storybus trip on Jan. 18, which started in the morning at the Writers Guild of America, West, featured three stops, 15 or so excited participants, a lunchtime full of conversation and—in the end—an education.
For two weeks in May 2011, Hollywood, Health & Society Director Sandra de Castro Buffington took six TV and film writers on research trips to Johannesburg, South Africa and Mumbai, India, to learn about global health challenges and low cost, effective solutions. The groups explored each city, learning about health problems and social issues and meeting with individuals and organizations working for positive change. The writers also participated in panel discussions in both Johannesburg and Mumbai with local TV and film writers and others involved in entertainment education in each country. All panelists showcased their work and shared their thoughts on how television can educate viewers, and transform society for the good.