Welcome to "BASELINE"

From John D. Sutter. CNN climate analyst. National Geographic Explorer.

Hey everyone — Welcome to the shiny-new “BASELINE” newsletter!

Maybe you were a follower of CNN’s “Two Degrees” series back in the day (wherein “the day” = 2015). Maybe you found this on my Twitter feed. Maybe I met you in a hallway and harassed you into signing up for this thing. Regardless, I’m pumped to have you here to talk about a NEW climate-change project I’m developing with support from the National Geographic Society, the Nieman Foundation and others.

Four locations. Every five years. Until 2050.

It’s called “BASELINE.” And the idea is wild enough I think you might like it: I plan to revisit four locations on the frontlines of the climate crisis every five years. Until the year 2050. Think of it as the environmental version of the “Seven Up!” series. (That’s the one where Michael Apted has been interviewing the same “kids” every seven years since the 1960s. The kids were all 7 at the start; now they’re in their 60s.)

The point of this project is to counteract “shifting baseline syndrome” as it applies to the climate crisis. Here’s one definition for that wonky term I find useful:

In normal-speak: Environmental change happens slowly enough that we don’t tend to see how wide-ranging and truly alarming these changes actually are.

I want to stretch the timescales over which we’re telling the climate story — to turn a consistent lens on four communities and refuse to look away.

Here’s a visual hint about ONE of the places I’ll be telling you about:

Any guesses on the location? Follow along here for an answer, and for updates on my travels. I expect the eventual output of “BASELINE” to be a feature-length documentary series, with the first installment focused on the year 2020, and new editions being released at five-year intervals (at least) until the year 2050.

Important: I need your help

Consider this the start of a big (really big!) conversation. Just like with the “Two Degrees” project, I’ll need your help to pull this off.

Questions? Thoughts? People I need to meet? Please reply to this email.

Thanks for following along.

And more soon.


This newsletter is written by John D. Sutter, director of the “BASELINE” series. Sutter is a National Geographic Explorer and CNN climate analyst.