“PLANET FORWARD” Empoyers Citizens To Explore Solutions to Energy and Climate Change Challenges

oil barrelPBS BROADCAST: APRIL 15, 2009 AT 8 PM

Washington, DC (RPRN) 04/04/09— PLANET FORWARD, an innovative media project that advances the discussion on energy and climate change and migrates from the web to television and back, has launched online at planetforward.org. A virtual public square, PLANET FORWARD is fueled by the power of ideas — from students to scientists, entrepreneurs to activists — as they make their case for what they think about the nation’s energy future. Managing editor Frank Sesno will host the first national broadcast of PLANET FORWARD featuring Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. The PBS broadcast premier is April 15, 2009, at 8 PM (check local listings).

Others confirmed for the PBS broadcast include Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO, Better Place; James Connaughton, Former Chairman, Bush White House Council on Environmental Quality, and currently Executive Vice President, Constellation Energy; and L. Hunter Lovins, President and Founder, Natural Capitalism Solutions.

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“PLANET FORWARD is empowering citizens to take direct action on one of the most challenging issues of our time: energy and climate change,” said Sesno, Emmy Award-winning journalist and professor of media and public affairs at The George Washington University. “In this age of citizen journalism, we are inviting all Americans to join the debate, offer opinions, and let their voices be heard.”


The PLANET FORWARD web site (www.planetforward.org) features content ranging from video Op/Eds and essays to photos to poetry to blogs from scientists, educators, students, business owners and activists. From nuclear power to wind turbines, from biodiesel to building technology, from solar energy to sustainability, PLANET FORWARD invites discussion on all options.

Videos currently on the site range from “Transit Vision,” which uses animation to imagine the future of commuter rail in New Bedford, Mass.; “Pavements,” which explores capturing and re-using the heat generated from asphalt surfaces; “Nebraska Rides the Wind,” about how life in a small town has been transformed by the arrival of giant wind turbines rising above the prairie grass; “Sioux Turbines,” about an Indian tribe generating revenue through wind power not casinos, produced by a student from The George Washington University, and “From Potato to Engine,” which focuses on a shuttle bus converted from diesel to dining hall fuel (the bus is entirely powered on used canola oil from the Roger Williams University cafeteria) and commentary from Jack Gerard, President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, encouraging an energy reality check.

A new opinion survey from Public Agenda will be released through the PLANET FORWARD site. The research tracks public attitudes around issues such as energy, climate change and economic impact, revealing what the public knows and what it needs to know to come up with solutions to these challenges.

Launched during the critical first 100 days of the Obama presidency, the PLANET FORWARD website engages and connects the online community through commissioned pieces and user-generated content. Driven by a rating process, the most provocative and interesting content will rise to the top through the input of site visitors and will be among the pieces included in the nationally televised PBS Special.

PLANET FORWARD Television Special
April 15, 2009 at 8 p.m.

Taped before a live audience at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C, the PLANET FORWARD television special will feature not only the online content from planetforward.org, but will also bring together an esteemed group of experts, scientists, policy makers and business leaders in the fields of energy and climate change. Those panelists will engage in dialogue, debate and discourse with each other and the audience about whether we can — or should — move rapidly away from fossil fuels.

Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, will appear in the special and interact with citizens and experts.

Dispensing with the old top-down model of public affairs programming, in which experts expound to voiceless viewers, PLANET FORWARD’s emphasis is bottom-up, with citizens leading and driving the conversation. Seeking to engage a young and diverse audience, PLANET FORWARD is based at The George Washington University and involves students, faculty and administrators from several universities including Roger Williams University, the University of Nebraska, and Middlebury College, as well as local public television stations, to create a groundswell of engagement and local activity.

PLANET FORWARD is public affairs for the next generation: think innovation, not pontification.

PLANET FORWARD is a co-production of the Public Affairs Project at The George Washington University and Nebraska Educational Telecommunications in collaboration with Public Agenda and Sunburst Creative Productions.

About the PLANET FORWARD Guests

Carol Browner was appointed Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change in January 2009. Prior to her current position, she served as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet-level position she held for eight years, during both terms of the Clinton Administration. Browner developed partnerships with business leaders, community advocates, and all levels of government. Before EPA, Browner was Secretary of the State of Florida’s Department of Environmental Regulation. She also served as Legislative Director for then United States Senator Al Gore.

James Connaughton served in the Bush Administration from 2001 to 2009 as the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). In this capacity, he served as the senior environmental, energy and natural resources advisor to the President as well as Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which oversees the development of environmental policy, coordinates interagency implementation of environmental programs, and mediates key policy disagreements among Federal agencies, state, tribal and local governments and private citizens. He is currently Executive Vice President of Constellation Energy.

L. Hunter Lovins is President and Founder of the Natural Capitalism Solutions. In partnership with leading thinkers and implementers, NCS creates innovative, practical tools and strategies to enable companies, communities and countries to become more sustainable. Trained as a sociologist and lawyer, Hunter co-founded the California Conservation Project (Tree People), and Rocky Mountain Institute, which she led for 20 years. Lovins has consulted for scores of industries and governments worldwide including the Royal Dutch Shell, Wal-Mart, the Pentagon, numerous cities, and the governments of Jamaica, Australia, and the U.S.

Shai Agassi is the founder and chief executive of Better Place, a company focused on one of this century’s biggest challenges — building a scalable and sustainable personal transportation system that ends oil dependence. He works directly with government leaders, auto manufacturers, energy companies and others to make his vision of zero-emission electric vehicles powered by renewable energy a reality in countries around the world. Recognizing Agassi’s visionary leadership with the Better Place model, Time Magazine recently named him one of its “Heroes of the Environment 2008.”


The George Washington University Public Affairs Project was established to enhance the understanding and practice of public affairs media as technology transforms the way information is conveyed. Created to be an incubator for ideas and innovation, it includes students who will shape the future of journalism but who already are practiced experts in digital media. The Project is enhanced by leveraging access to government and business leaders, experts and diverse communities found only in the heart of the nation’s capital. Learn more at http: www.smpa.gwu.edu.

Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) is one of the nation’s leading and most innovative public media organizations with a distinguished history of creating radio, television and interactive media content melding public policy, science, and the environment. NET’s latest production for NOVA on PBS is a major new documentary about Antarctic research and climate change, which will be connected to a national educational outreach initiative. It also created the WonderWise educational multimedia project which was funded by the National Science Foundation. NET is currently a partner in a new cutting edge science education project which will develop new skills for students and teachers in using media tools to understand complex scientific matters. Its radio and television news and public affairs unit is the recipient of numerous national and regional awards for its political and environmental coverage.

Public Agenda is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization based in New York. For over a quarter of a century, Public Agenda has been providing unbiased and unparalleled research that bridges the gap between American leaders and what the public really thinks about issues. Public Agenda’s mission is to help American leaders better understand the public’s point of view and citizens know more about critical policy issues so they can make thoughtful, informed decisions.

Sunburst Creative Group, in Colts Neck, New Jersey has produced and supported high profile, issues oriented Programming for more than 25 years. Sunburst has helped introduce and aggressively adopted new technologies, distribution methods and production techniques to enhance the content, access and appeal of issues-related public affairs programming.

Frank Sesno, Managing Editor and host of PLANET FORWARD, is Director of GW’s Public Affairs Project and a professor of media and public affairs at The George Washington University. He is an Emmy-award winning journalist with 30 years of experience, including more than 20 years at CNN, where he served as a special correspondent, Washington Bureau Chief, anchor and White House Correspondent. His recent work includes documentaries and special projects for CNN, PBS and The History Channel ranging from global energy to national security and politics.

Colette Rhoney, Executive Editor of PLANET FORWARD, is a web pioneer and seasoned network television producer. Ms. Rhoney oversaw the development and launch of America Online’s premiere broadband programming product, AOL Plus. At NBC News, she produced the top-rated program, “Meet the Press.”

Scott Bittle, Web Director of PLANET FORWARD, is Executive Vice President and Director of Public Issues Analysis at Public Agenda. He oversees web content and online public engagement, including PublicAgenda.org, which has been twice nominated for a prestigious Webby Award by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

David Feingold, Executive Producer of PLANET FORWARD, is Assistant General Manager-Content at NET (Nebraska Educational Telecommunication). He is the chief content officer for NET Television’s three state-wide television networks; the network’s television production group; Nebraska’s public radio network – NET Radio; and NET Interactive Media. NET has received numerous awards for enterprising and thoughtful news coverage, and for significant outreach initiatives on difficult and often controversial issues.

Mark Ganguzza, Executive Producer of PLANET FORWARD, is founder and President of Sunburst Creative Group, Inc. of Colts Neck, New Jersey. He is a 35-year veteran of network television and private, issues oriented events.

Ruth Wooden, President of Public Agenda, has been an outspoken advocate of public dialogue and civic engagement. Before joining Public Agenda, Ms. Wooden was Executive Vice President-Senior Counselor at the international public relations firm of Porter Novelli where she led the Advertising and Cause-Related Marketing Practice. From 1987 to 1999, she was President of The Advertising Council, the nation’s leading producer of public service announcements.

About the PLANET FORWARD Station Engagement Campaign

Under the auspices of the National Center for Media Engagement, PLANET FORWARD is working with four pilot stations to engage their communities on the issues surrounding the project: KQED in San Francisco, KTOO in Juneau, Alaska, WXXI in Rochester, New York, and Houston PBS. The station’s outreach activities include soliciting submissions from viewers and local educational institutions, promoting the series and website on their sites and through their networks of partners and sponsors, blogging and outreach on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, partnering with local journalism classes, creating localized shows to air in conjunction with the national broadcast, reaching out to young filmmakers, and partnering with local green activities and organizations.


CaraMar Publicity:
Cara White 843 881 1480 cara.white@mac.com
Mary Lugo 770 623 8190 lugo@negia.net
Abbe Harris 908.233.7990 abbepub@aol.com

The George Washington University:
Tracy Schario 202.994.3566 tschario@gwu.edu

Carol Browner, Top White House
Energy And Climate Adviser, To Participate

Website: http://www.planetforward.org
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/planet_forward
Blog: http://www.planetforward.org/blog

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