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Green living with Ed Begley Jr.

Reasons to be cheerful: Ed Begley Jr. believes there are easy ways to go green.
Reasons to be cheerful: Ed Begley Jr. believes there are easy ways to go green.
  • Actor Ed Begley Jr has been a life-long environmentalist
  • New reality TV show gives tips on how to live a greener life
  • Begley : There is hope for future; action now is necessary

(CNN) -- Actor Ed Begley Jr., best known for his roles in "St. Elsewhere," "The West Wing," and "Best in Show" (he's also twice appeared on "The Simpsons"), is the star of "Living with Ed."

It's a reality show that follows him and his wife Rachelle Carson, as they attempt to live the green life on the outskirts of LA, while competing to out-eco neighbor Bill Nye.

Begley has been a committed environmentalist for decades and is the author of "Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life."

CNN asked him what it takes to "live like Ed" and his take on the current state of environmentalism.

CNN: What do you hope to achieve with "Living with Ed"?

Begley: To engage viewers with entertainment, then give them a "take-away" or two every show that will save them money and help the environment.

CNN: When did you "go green", and why?

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Begley: I did it because my father, Ed Begley, Sr. was a conservative that liked to conserve. We always lived in a modest home. We turned off the lights, turned off the water, saved string, tin-foil, we threw precious little away.

So, by the time Earth Day came around in 1970, I was primed and ready to take some additional steps, and do more. It's worth noting that my father died a few days before the first Earth Day, so I did it to honor him, as much as anything else.

CNN: The show has been very successful -- have you been surprised by the level of interest?

Begley: Yes. I've tried other "green" shows in the past. None of them worked. I credit "Living With Ed" success to the addition of my wife to the mix.

CNN: Right now it seems like environmentalists are losing ground to climate change deniers over global warming, with the email scandal at the University of East Anglia. Some polls show less people believe the science than a year ago. Do you ever get despondent? What gives you hope?

Begley: I find it a bit unsettling that the deniers are winning, for now. But, I think more people will understand our role in climate change over time. I just hope it's not too late.

CNN: Do you think one of the problems is that people feel overwhelmed -- both with fear for the future and the level of effort required to think about the moral, ethical dimension of all their consumer choices? If so, how can we move beyond this?

Begley: It's human nature to resist change. We did with our efforts to combat smog in the early 1970s. But finally people realized that we wouldn't go broke cleaning up the air, if we did it right.

They soon became aware that there were jobs making catalytic converters, combined-cycle gas turbines, spray-paint booths and cleaner fuels. We need to remind folks of our success in improving air quality and how similar clean-tech industries can spur the economy again today.

CNN: If you could ask CNN readers to do one thing, what would it be?

Begley: Get out of your car as much as you can. Ride a bike, if weather and fitness permit. Take public transportation, if it's available near you.

CNN: Do you think we should stop eating meat?

Begley: I stopped eating meat in 1970, and I'm a very healthy 60-year old man. It can be good for our health, and the health of the planet.

CNN: In the end, do you think making personal changes to our lifestyle will be enough? Or do we need a lead from government?

Begley: Personal action is one important component [but] Government and industry must also do their fair share.

CNN: Do you think that any big environmental legislation is likely in the U.S., given the scale of opposition?

Begley: Sadly, there will be no strong environmental laws passed anytime soon, as the extractive industries have been successful at convincing folks that we can't afford them. To give another prospective, [I'll not] only quote an oil man but the name of T. Boone Pickens who said, "We can't drill our way out of this problem".

CNN: If you had the chance to whisper some advice in President Obama's ear, what would it be?

Begley: Be true to the environmental ethic that you forged in the Senate. Do what's right, and great good will come of it; hopefully, sooner, rather than later.

CNN: Do you have a message for climate change skeptics?

Begley: Let's agree to disagree. Let's pursue fiscally sound green technology for the following reasons: to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, to clean up the air in our cities, to put money in our pockets. And if you do it right, you just bought an insurance policy to protect you against climate change, if the many scientists who believe in it are correct.

CNN: Arguably, we are moving into politically uncharted territory now, and the scale of the global co-operation required to deal with global warming, biodiversity loss and the other environmental problems we face is unprecedented in human history. Do you think we can do it?

Begley: Yes. But, we must act now. Tomorrow is too late.