Sesno launches activism contest

GW professor and CNN special correspondent Frank Sesno has launched a campaign to build the debate on energy, climate and sustainability through a new television-Internet hybrid expected to air nationally this spring.

Planet Forward, which began its partnership with GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs in the fall, will combine television and the Internet to link audiences from across the globe to discuss environmental issues with some of Washington’s leading officials, Sesno said.

Submissions can take any form – from video to poetry to animation – and creativity is encouraged. On March 30, the winning submissions will be shown to a panel of experts in the field to create the television program that PBS will air.

“So often you have a television show with a Web site, but [Planet Forward] would be a Web site with a television show,” Sesno said.

By creating a bridge between the student submissions and expert opinions, the Planet Forward team hopes to promote innovative ideas and create new ways to discuss a range of environmental issues.

“The whole idea of Planet Forward is not to put forth our solution,” said senior Joe Laliberte, lead student coordinator for Planet Forward and a Hatchet columnist. “We’re really just trying to drive the discussion towards finding a solution.”

Laliberte added, “It is almost impossible to explain this project in two to three sentences. But that’s what is so great about it: No one’s done it before.”

Sesno said he believes the environment deserves serious attention and creating solutions now is critical for the future. He said he hopes Planet Forward will help create progress toward finding a viable resolution.

“If we don’t get it right now, when these students come back for their 25th reunion, they might be underwater,” Sesno explained.

Though the Web site will not launch until March 6, submissions have already been pouring in from across the globe, ranging from a South Park-esque animation to a documentary on transporting oil to the Gaza strip. Sesno said he has been impressed with the project’s submissions so far.

“If your submission is one of the ‘winning pieces’ selected to be aired, you’ve now taken your piece from somewhere in Nebraska to the White House,” Sesno said.

Sesno encouraged GW to team up with Roger Williams University, Middlebury College and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in hopes of varying submissions and encouraging creativity.

“Too much of this conversation in this country is inside the beltway or East Coast,” Sesno said. “So there’s a real benefit to having a heartland partner such as the University of Nebraska.”

The PBS program will tape on March 30 in SMPA’s Jack Morton Auditorium and will be aired nationally on April 15.

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