By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Most climate change documentaries strike a gloomy, pessimistic tone. Often, they spend much more time on the problems than the solutions. Wondrium and Bill Gates want to change that.
There’s a reason Bill Gates’ 2021 book on climate change has the wordy title How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. The tone of the book is much more hopeful and optimistic than the majority of projects on the same subject. Keeping that tone in mind was essential when Wondrium began to adapt the book into the documentary film Solving for Zero and its 10-part companion series Solving for Zero: The Search for Climate Innovation.
The film follows five innovators who are fighting climate change in their respective industries in major ways. Manufacturing, transportation, power generation, agriculture, and even carbon capturing, each take the spotlight, as do the men and women working to reduce carbon emissions.
In an exclusive interview, Walter Jacob, senior writer/producer for Wondrium, explained how the film explains a dire situation without settling into gloom and doom.
A Collaboration for the Ages
Jacob, who served as senior content developer and producer for Solving for Zero, said that the film originated from an effort by Bill Gates and his team to bring more attention to the issues in Gates’ book.
“They came to us—and Bill has been a fan of The Great Courses for a long time—and raised the idea of maybe doing a series or something like that in connection with the book,” Jacob said. “Out of that conversation came the idea that we pitched of doing a series or kind of a docu-series and a separate, stand-alone documentary that would be kind of a conversation starter for the series.”
Wondrium stayed hands-on with both projects throughout their development, outsourcing some of the work to Blue Chalk Media. According to Jacob, they did the “heavy lifting” of shooting the film, while Wondrium worked with them to shape the project into its final form.
Facing a Major Concern Head-On
“The whole idea behind the book and what both productions are focusing on is, we’ve obviously got a big climate problem on our hands as a planet,” Jacob said. “Bill Gates, who has a technological background and a lot of experience in bringing bold ideas to the marketplace, feels strongly that this is a solvable problem, that human innovation can address climate change successfully; so, he’s putting a lot of attention and effort into encouraging innovators to come up with solutions of various kinds [for] this problem.”
Solving for Zero spotlights the lives of the innovators who are featured, as well as the solutions they’ve come up with so far—and those that have yet to come. For example, maize breeder Yoseph Beyene works at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, which is better known by its Spanish acronym CIMMYT.
In response to climate change-based droughts that threaten crops in Africa, Beyene and his CIMMYT team in Kenya are developing drought-resistant, flood-resistant, and pest-resistant crops that could save millions of lives from starvation.
“It’s very inspirational,” Jacob said. “I’m actually a lot more hopeful than I used to be. It sure isn’t gonna be easy, but people are doing some really encouraging work.”
Solving for Zero is now available to stream on Wondrium.