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TV Review

PBS Special Features Eco-Success Stories

September 08, 1997|CONNIE KOENENN

After basking in the spotlight of Earth Day 1990 and enjoying enthusiastic lip service during the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, "the environment" seems to have slipped out of sight. Except for an occasional unsettling headline about global warming, it appears that saving the planet isn't on anybody's agenda these days.

Or could it be that people are hard at work and nobody is noticing? With that in mind, environmental architect William A. McDonough toured the country looking for eco-success stories and found enough for a three-hour PBS special airing tonight, "Planet Neighborhood."

McDonough and his production team from Washington's WETA-TV turned up dozens of individuals and groups working mostly on the margins rather than in the mainstream to achieve creative environmental breakthroughs.

Presenting the material in three segments--home, office, community--he achieves his goal most vividly in the opening hour. The green building movement is bubbling. Old, drafty homes can be upgraded by a new breed of housing diagnostician using infrared technology. Cutting-edge appliances can make dramatic dents in energy and water use (and utility bills).

The workplace section focuses on sick buildings versus eco-buildings and highlights the world's first environmentally friendly skyscraper, being built on Manhattan's Times Square. And the final community sequence showcases such grass-roots success stories as Chattanooga's impressive cleanup of air and water pollution through a massive citywide effort.

Although McDonough's optimistic vision of a day when everything is designed to be recycled is still far from reality, he does present a cheering progress report. "Planet Neighborhood" is also the basis for a nationwide multimedia effort--the Public Television Outreach Alliances' Earth & Us Campaign--which includes teacher workshops, adult education classes, CD-ROMs, video modules, viewer guides and museum activities, plus a national bulletin-board Web site:www.weta.org/planet.

* "Planet Neighborhood" airs 8-11 p.m. tonight on KCET-TV Channel 28 and KOCE-TV Channel 50.

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