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Don Cheadle: 'Climate Change Is Real and We Must Act'

By Eric Pooley

In the studio of a Los Angeles radio station, host Tina Mastramico was kicking off another edition of her show Celebrity Chat. "We're here with Don Cheadle," she said, "to discuss the Environmental Defense Fund [EDF], his new movie."

Cheadle, the actor-director and climate activist, seemed taken aback. "Um, EDF isn't a movie. It's an organization that helps protect the planet."

Environmental Defense Fund

"Oooh … like an alliance of superheroes?"

Cheadle chuckled. "Sort of. They've found ways for both parties in Washington to make our air and water cleaner, and the products in our home safer."

"Interesting plot," Mastramico replied.

"It's not a movie."

It wasn't a radio interview, either. Cheadle and Mastramico were taping a public service announcement for EDF at KSWD, a Southern California classic rock station that's part of the Entercom radio network.

The nation's fourth-largest radio broadcasting company, Entercom Communications had given us a generous gift of free airtime on its network, which includes 124 stations in 25 markets around the U.S. (Our thanks to Entercom and all of the great people there who made this happen!)

The PSAs began airing across the network Thursday.

A Witness to the Impacts of Climate Change

We needed a celebrity voice and reached out to Cheadle who donated his time and talent to help more people learn about our work. (Thank you, Don!)

We'd long admired his own work in films from Boogie Nights to Miles Ahead and we also admired his stance on climate change, an issue highlighted in the new radio campaign.

As an on-air correspondent for the television news magazine Years of Living Dangerously, for example, Cheadle explored with great sensitivity how the people of Plainview, Texas, were coping with the crippling drought that shut down the town's biggest employer.

The show's second season, on the National Geographic channel, begins in October and will include a segment about EDF's climate work in China.

Cheadle told me that he'd first noticed the impacts of a changing climate during his high school years in Denver, "when we could only water our lawns on certain days because of the water shortage."

"I have been watching the steady increase in the effects of climate change ever since," he said. "I'm happy to have thrown my lot in with organizations like United Nations Environment Program, EDF and the Citizens Climate Lobby, as well as the people behind Years of Living Dangerously ... to wake people up and raise the alarm. Climate change is real and we must act."

'Hope Without Action Isn't Worth Much'

For Cheadle, there's a strong connection between acting and taking action.

His Oscar-nominated role in Hotel Rwanda, the true story of a Hutu hotel manager who saved Tutsi refugees from genocide, led Cheadle to become a leader in the campaign to end genocide in Darfur and Sudan.

And his work on Years of Living Dangerously, he said, "expanded my horizons with regard to climate and continues to open my eyes and introduce me to more soldiers in this fight."

I asked Cheadle how he stays hopeful while chronicling the harsh impacts of climate change.

"I do have hope," he replied, "but hope without action isn't worth much. We need leadership and follow-through. EDF is providing a blueprint. Let's all execute."

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