Tuning in for that new Tomorrow

Environmental television program reaches for viewers beyond tree huggers

There's a new way to learn about sustainable living, from the comfort of your own home.

'Sustainable Tomorrow,' an hourlong program airing on public-access cable television, covers topics to help us all live more consciously.

The idea for 'Sustainable Tomorrow' was born during conversations between Robert Shields of Sustainable Solutions Unlimited and Gordon Westfall of Brainstew Productions.

'We were just two guys who had a passion for sustainability,' Shields says. They liked the idea of using television to help educate the public and promote sustainable living.

The program is geared toward mainstream viewers who might not know much about green living.

'We're not just trying to reach out to the tree huggers,' says Shields, who was the original host for 'Sustainable Tomorrow' and now does all of the program's field reporting.

Shows air live the second Tuesday of each month from Willamette Falls Television in Oregon City, and then are rebroadcast throughout the month.

Each program features a news segment, community and business spotlights, and an in-studio interview with a community expert. The show closes with an opportunity for users to call in with questions.

'The first show we did, we got somebody to call in and ask if soapsuds could clean the economy,' Shields says. 'But we've gotten some decent calls, and people impart some good ideas to us.'

This month, trees are focus

December's show, airing live at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, will cover forestry and wood products. 'People need to know really what's happening with our trees, and who's making off with all the goods,' Westfall says. 'What we need to do is figure out how to use the trees more sustainably and allow the trees to regrow for generations to come.'

The show will focus on salvage wood and larger forestry issues.

'I want to provide a bit of context about what's going on in the world's forests today,' says David Ford, chief executive officer and president of Metafore, a scheduled guest for this month's show. 'A lot of degradation of forests in the world is occurring because of poverty, not because of consumption.'

He says a major contributor to global deforestation is cutting down forests as a source of fuel or to make room for agriculture.

Consumers can sway market

In his appearance on 'Sustainable Tomorrow,' Ford will spotlight what individuals can do to encourage larger companies to embrace more environmentally responsible practices.

'The consumer can play a very important role in just asking the question. 'Where does this wood come from? Where does this paper come from?' ' Ford says.

Other 'Sustainable Tomorrow' guests for this month are Tim Delano, community outreach coordinator for Hopkins Demonstration Forest, and Ed Mays, president of Endura Wood Products.

Past topics have included community, conservation and food. January's program will focus on transportation.

Westfall sees the show as an important tool to help the mainstream public achieve sustainability goals.

'We can't evolve unless we're knowledgeable.,' he says. 'It's up to the individual to be the change they wish to see.'

Shields laughs about their low-budget operation. 'For the first couple of shows, Gordon was running around trying to do the sound, do the editing, trying to keep everything flowing, and then answer phone calls.'

Volunteers keep the faith

Now with a crew of 12, 'Sustainable Tomorrow' is directed by Tom Hopkins of Asia-Pacific Productions and is currently hosted by Darcy Hitchcock of AXIS Performance Advisors.

'Everybody's a volunteer right now,' says Westfall, who has been producing cable access shows for more than three years. Westfall's Brainstew Productions also produces the public-access programs 'Nature's Ways,' 'The Doctor's Corner' and 'Brainstew.'

Current program sponsors include Sustainable Solutions Unlimited, Green Hammer Construction, Oregon Rainforest Co. and Maui Camp Three Cafe. As the show attracts more sponsors, Shields and Westfall say it will be able to offer additional viewer resources, like a dedicated Web site.

More funding will also mean better production quality. Shields and Westfall hope to get the program onto Oregon Public Broadcasting and eventually have the show go national.

'Portland's very progressive about sustainability,' Shields says. 'The East Coast is about 20 years behind us.'

Shields emphasizes the necessity of balance between the short-term needs of people and the long-term needs of the planet.

'Regardless of your personal views, energy bills are going up,' Shields says. 'There's no one person that's going to change that. It's going to take all of us working together to fix things.'

'Sustainable Tomorrow'

When: Broadcast live from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month (check local listings for rebroadcast times); call-in number: 503-650-0275

Where: Willamette Valley, Channel 11; Milwaukie, Channel 23;

Clackamas County, Channel 23;

Multnomah County, Channels 23 and 24;

Washington County, Channels 22 and 24


Brainstew Productions, 503-657-0702, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.brainstewtv.com

On the Web

To join an online group for 'Sustainable Tomorrow,' visit: