Fellow Helps Matt Damon Communicate Science

The origin of the universe. Climate change. Cloning. Hot-button issues like these often stall in the mire of public opinion. Sabrina McCormick, 2009-11 Executive Branch Fellow at EPA, hopes her work on a major documentary series will help push the issue of climate change forward and spur action. With stars and journalists including Matt Damon, Jessica Alba, Leslie Stahl, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the series promises to do just that.

Years of Living Dangerously” is an innovative documentary series that reveals the human impact of climate change with an aim to educate the public on why it matters to them and how they can help.

Years of Living Dangerously | Showtime

Famous actors become correspondents reporting on individuals deeply affected by, and seeking solutions to, climate change. Each correspondent explores a different impact of climate change – from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy to the political and social unrest precipitated by droughts in the Middle East. The first episode will be available to watch online for free at SHOWTIME. The entire series will launch on the SHOWTIME channel with the first episode on April 13 at 10 pm ET/PT.

McCormick spent the two years of her fellowship at EPA’s office for Global Climate Change Research. Today, in addition to making documentaries, she is associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University. She studies how communities prepare for and respond to heat waves, oil spills, and other events that impact environmental health, and teaches students about environmental health threats and how to communicate about them effectively. “My goal is to understand how we as researchers can work together with communities to create healthier environments,” says McCormick. 

While studying sociology at Brown University, she got involved with film production at Rhode Island School of Design and has continued to make films ever since: “For me, film and research go hand in hand.” Later, she founded a production company called Evidence Based Media. While researching the role of environmental factors in breast cancer, she realized that making a documentary would be an ideal way to reach people who might not choose to read a book on the topic. Her work resulted in an award-winning documentary, “No Family History.”

Sabrina McCormick

McCormick was instrumental in the production of two episodes of “Years of Living Dangerously.” She developed a story on heat waves, then did the background research and found the characters; Matt Damon served as correspondent. She also spent about a month in Bangladesh – “a country among the most vulnerable to climate change,” she notes – on another episode with Michael C. Hall reporting. 

“This documentary is designed to change the way we think. Climate change is not just an abstract phenomenon about polar bears,” McCormick says. “This documentary is the most ambitious climate change communications project to date – and science is its backbone!”