Citizens' Climate Radio Episodes
In the Citizens’ Climate Radio podcast we highlight people’s stories, we celebrate your successes, and together we share strategies for talking about climate change. Listen to the show wherever you listen to podcasts (You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, SoundCloud, Podbean, Northern Spirit Radio, Google Play, PlayerFM, and TuneIn Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio).
Episode Table of Contents:
- Episode 62: "Hispanic Republicans and Geraldo Cadava"
- Episode 61: "High Conflict and The Big Mistake with Amanda Ripley and Katie Patrick"
- Episode 60: "Sovereignty, Land Rights, and Climate Change with Mary Kathryn Nagle and Jacques Kenjio"
- Episode 59: "Black Birders Week with Tykee James"
- Episode 58: "How To Keep Your Cool On A Warming Planet"
- Episode 57: "The Tide Is Rising"
- Episode 56: "Rev. Tony Campolo’s Call To Save Creation"
- Episode 55: "Climate Change And Creation Care – WWJD?"
- Episode 54: "Justice, Football, and Talking Trash"
- Episode 53: "Andrew Stull & Lessons from a 1972 Flood"
- Episode 52: "Doug Parsons On Adaptation, Resilience & Coronavirus"
- Episode 51: "Art and Identity in a Time of Climate Change"
- Episode 50: "Big Climate Problems Require Even Bigger Global Solutions"
- Episode 49: "Unleashing Our Imagination with Hannah Pickard, Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, and Sean Dague"
- Episode 48: "Republicans Ready To Tackle Climate Change"
- Episode 47: "Eco-Grief in a Time of Coronavirus Mourning"
- Episode 46: "Coronavirus, Climate Adaptation, and a Resilient Tomorrow"
- Episode 45: “How to Engage Young People in Your Climate Group. A New Jersey Success Story"
- Episode 44: "The Extraordinary Marshall Saunders"
- Episode 43: “From the Oil Fields in Venezuela to Climate Justice in the USA—Solemi Hernandez"
- Episode 42: “Better Angels Bridging the Political Divide"
- Episode 41: "Tuskegee University Research Breakthrough"
- Episode 40: “Fashion and Climate Change with Tatiana Schlossberg and Climate Poetry with Catherine Pierce”
- Episode 39: “Envisioning and Communicating Climate Success”
- Episode 38: "Lew Blaustein and the Green Sports Movement"
- Episode 37: “Baseball, Circus, and Climate Change with MLB pitcher Brent Suter and circus artist Eliana Dunlap”
- Episode 36: "How to be an extraordinary climate advocate with Sam Daley-Harris and Glen Retief"
- Episode 35: “Plastic Pollution and Heavy Metal”
- Episode 34: "Extinction Rebellion and Students Demanding Climate Action"
- Episode 33: “One of 7500 Islands in the Philippines”
- Episode 32: “Coal Miners Speak Out”
- Episode 31: “Dr Katharine Hayhoe and Dr Jeffrey Bennett”
- Episode 30: "What Does the Bible Say About Climate Change"
- Episode 29: "Truth, Fact, and Cli Fi"
- Episode 28: "College Students Modeling Systems Change"
- Episode 27: “Telling Better Climate Stories with Sara Peach and Hayride Casualties”
- Episode 26: "In Deep Water with Edgar Westerhof and Elizabeth Rush"
- Episode 25: "Race, Pollution, Justice — Brentin Mock, Tyree Daye, Dr. Natasha DeJarnett"
- Episode 24: "Climate Comedy"
- Episode 23: "Your Mental Health and Climate Change"
- Episode 22: “Claire Vaye Watkins and Climate Storytelling”
- Episode 21: "Day Zero — Cape Town Water Crisis"
- Episode 20: “When the oil folks embrace the wind"
- Episode 19: "Promoting Emotional Health and Bee Populations"
- Episode 18: "Aaron Telitz Race Driver Climate Advocate"
- Episode 17: “Resilient Power Puerto Rico”
- Episode 16: "Pursuing Climate Justice"
- Episode 15: “Panama”
- Episode 14: “Apocalypse Now?”
- Episode 13: "Pets and Climate Change"
- Episode 12: "Values with Marshall Saunders and Leslie Beatty"
- Episode 11: "Engineering Climate Solutions"
- Episode 10: "Aaron Thier, Global Warming Storyteller"
- Episode 9: "Rebel and Advocate with Eileen Flanagan"
- Episode 8: "Nepal to the Marshall Islands"
- Episode 7: "A Conservative Approach to Climate"
- Episode 6: "Health, Climate, Community"
- Episode 5: "Diving Into Denial"
- Episode 4: "Dr. Katherine Hayhoe and Communication Myths"
- Episode 3: "Cloud of Witnesses"
- Episode 2: "Duh, We Are the Children"
- Episode 1: "Beginnings and Transformations"
Click on any of the following topics to be directed to the corresponding written transcript for responses to the Puzzler questions featured on Citizens’ Climate Radio:
“COVID-19 Versus Climate Change?”
For a new puzzler question, let’s imagine that on Earth Day, you had an online conversation with your friend, Gretchen. You share your renewed commitment to promote climate solutions, but Gretchen said, “You know, I am concerned about the planet too, but with so many people affected by COVID-19, I think we are just going to have to deal with that first. Climate action is very important, but for so many people right now, there are more pressing issues.” Gretchen is correct. When people are struggling to pay bills, put food on the table, and as they recover from so many different losses, they often don’t have space for climate conversations. In fact, this has been true for lots of marginalized people for a long time, even before coronavirus. So this puzzler question is for you to answer for yourself. How do you navigate your climate work as we deal with the impacts of coronavirus?
“Yellow Vest Protests and Carbon Pricing"
“For this month’s new puzzler, imagine that you’re talking to your friend Charles. Charles is concerned about climate change but doesn’t know what we can do about it. You explain how carbon pricing is a powerful tool to help us decrease fossil fuel emissions. Before you can say more, Charles interrupts, ‘Are you out of your mind? Did you see what happened in France when they tried that? Those Yellow Vest protests were a political disaster! You really expect that to work here?’ How would you respond to Charles?”
I received many answers to this question. Here are some of them. John O’Brien left the following voicemail:
- “You know, in France, they didn’t give the revenue generated by the carbon tax to citizens. They didn’t deliver that dividend as an equal monthly check. That’s what our system would do, and, over there, what they did was just spend it on wind power and, you know, subsidize renewable energy. So, that’s where they went wrong, and it made it so that folks couldn’t afford fuel when they had to commute. I guess we don’t have to worry about an uprising like that. You can see right now with these stimulus checks coming out that it’s quite a popular thing for the government to do. I don’t think anybody is going to be disappointed.
Alan Leirserson in Nashville, Tennessee outlines the process he would go through with Charles:
- He’d start by saying, “Hey Charles, it seems like those riots in France hit you pretty hard. I’m guessing you may have been thinking that putting a price on carbon was a good idea. Now, you’re discouraged to see what happened when France tried it. Alan explained he would then pause to let Charles respond. Maybe Alan’s guess was on the mark. If not, it doesn’t really matter. Alan will listen to whatever Charles says about why he reacted so strongly, and then he will acknowledge what he heard. Then, Alan would ask Charles this question: would you like to hear how a bill introduced in Congress would do it differently than the French approach? Alan stressed the key is to let Charles speak first. “Let him know I hear him before I bring up the bill.”
Finally, Edward Beshore, a volunteer with Citizens Climate Lobby, sent in this thoughtful answer:
- “The Yellow Vest protests in France were a symptom of a much larger discontent than fuel prices. While it was initially motivated by a tax on fuel and its carbon content, concerns included the cost of living, wages, and a wide range of eclectic topics, mostly related to democracy, social, and fiscal justice. Furthermore, revenue collected from the fuel tax was destined for use by French regional and national government. The majority of the Yellow Jacket movement wants to fight climate change, but they are opposed to forcing the working class and the poor to pay for a problem they say is caused by multinational corporations. Aside from the underlying discontent that spurned the protests being deeper than climate change, CCL’s proposal anticipates many of the French concerns by not retaining from the fee, returning 100% to American households. This will shield the working class and poor from the increased cost of energy, something that was entirely missing from the French proposal.”
“No Time for Climate Work?”
“Imagine you are at a political rally chatting with a new friend. Let’s call her Heather. When you ask her if she wants to join your climate group, she says, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t have time for climate work. I feel bad saying that, but I work full time and have two children still in school. I don’t have time for protesting right now.’ How would you respond to Heather?”
Leslie Sand, a co-leader of a Citizens Climate Lobby chapter in Iowa wrote:
- “When I talk to concerned individuals that don’t have time, I tell them about the Grand Canyon project. I describe that I am given a suggested script each month. It takes me about two minutes to make my call, then pass on the information that I’ve made the call. It’s quick and easy, and it fulfills CCL’s mission of working to create the political will for a livable world."
Alan Leiserson, from Nashville, Tennessee, had this to say:
- “I hear you saying two things: you are very busy with work and family and don’t have much time for other things and also that you equate work on climate change with protesting, maybe because we were at this rally. This is not what I meant by climate work. Would you like to hear about a different way to work on climate change?”
Louise Stonington, from Washington State CCL, shared the following:
- “Raising kids. When I was doing that, I hardly had time to comb my hair. I think it’s the most important job in the world: creating relationships with brand new people, and that’s what we do at Citizens Climate Lobby: build relationships, not with babies, but with people in our communities and with our leaders in a respectful and appreciative way. We hear their concerns about extreme weather, pollution, and democracy. Then, we tell them that a clean energy economy will give us all benefits, for profits, for jobs, for better health and safety. Many volunteers with CCL take one short action each month, like write a letter to their Member of Congress, listen to a webinar, come to a meeting, send a letter to a newspaper, or invite a speaker to their workplace, church, or social group. Could I send you a link so you could send a letter to your elected Member of Congress saying you are concerned about climate change and want legislation to get us off fossil fuels?”
“Troubles with the Dividend”
“You are talking to your neighbor, Darren. You explain the many possible ways we can address climate change. One proposal is to charge energy companies a fee when they extract fossil fuels. The money collected then goes to households. You say this carbon fee and dividend plan will serve as an incentive to switch over to cleaner sources of energy. Darren replies, “Well that’s stupid. People will just use the dividend they get to continue paying for fossil fuels. Giving them money enables them to stay in their fossil fuel lifestyles?” What do you have to say to Darren?”
I received answers from many listeners, and here are some of them. George Galamba sent in this answer:
- "Well, Darin, you are half right and half wrong. You are right in that people will, at first, use the money they get from the government to continue their carbon lifestyle. But, it's not stupid. It is, in fact, very intelligent. The dividend they get won't be enough to go out and buy a Tesla, so they will keep their old car. But one day, they will need to buy a new car. Some folks will continue to drive the same kind of vehicle, but many others, I suspect, will say to themselves, 'I can use my dividend to continue to buy gas that has become quite expensive, or I can use it to make payments on a new car that will use less, or even no gas.'
- "The same thing applies for home insulation. If I use my dividend to insulate my house, I will spend less for heating and use some of the dividend for more enjoyable things like beer and Netflix. In short, people are sensitive to price. As fossil fuels becomes more expensive, people will use whatever funds they have to find ways to use less of them. It is good for the people and good for the planet."
Jay Michael O'Herron in his answer reveals an important effect of the carbon fee, which is invisible to most people. He explains:
- "Most of the carbon footprint from US families comes from the goods and services they buy, which are not the obvious gasoline, heating and electricity. Manufactures of these things will not be compensated for their additional fossil fuel related costs. The executives of each company will challenge their designers, engineers, architects, and purchasing managers to make changes in their systems to reduce their exposure to the steady, predictable rise in these costs. The companies that are most effective in these efforts will deliver products to the market at lower costs than their competitions. Shoppers for these products will only choose the lower priced items to help drive the economy to a lower carbon intensity. No environmental education is required; only self-interest."
Kate from Rochester, NY left the following voicemail:
- "Hey Peterson, this is Kate. Darin says that people will continue using fossil fuels as much as they want. I say, 'That's great. Yes, they will. For things that are really important to them, people will continue using fossil fuels, and nobody's going to tell them that they can't. So, if I want to I go take a plane and go visit my dad, I can still do it. But, there are a lot of things that people don't really care about that much. They're going to want to save money on those, so they're going to want to choose the less fossil fuel intensive solution. For instance, if I buy an air conditioner, I must start looking every closely at the Energy Star stickers. Or, if I'm going to start looking at cars, I'm going to start looking closely at the mileage.
- "As far as the policy goes, there are going to be more and more twists because there are already more and more good choices. In fact, studies show that the policy's efforts will reduce emissions by more than forty percent in the next twelve years."
“Systemic Change, Not Climate Change”
“After attending the recent climate strikes you ran into your cousin, Kristan. She saw news reports about events around the world. She says, ‘I love the sign—system change not climate change, but it seems like a total fantasy. They expect everyone to go vegan or something? What systems can we change that will make any difference with climate change?’ Kristan needs some help envisioning the kind of change that you are pursuing. How would you answer Kristan?”
I received several answers to this puzzler, including the following two voicemails.
- "Hi, this is Monica Lewis from Richmond, VA. I made a sign that said 'system change, not climate change' and I carried it at some of the rallies around September 20th, so I was really interested in this puzzler. I was worried that people might not understand it. Here is one example of I system I would like changed: imagine that when we file our taxes, we're also filing a sustainability report. That would, of course, create the issue of who would judge what is sustainable and what is the best environmental practice. So, we'd need people with those jobs, and I'd like to have a lot to of people it's those jobs. I would like every corporation and college to have an Office of Sustainability. Right now, this work of being energy efficient is falling to facility managers and it's falling to volunteer green people. So, let's change that system. Let's start compensating people for this important work, giving them proper financial aid to show that we really value what they're doing."
- "Hi, this is Andrew Sool. I'm calling from the center of it all: Louisburg, PA. My answer to the question is to tell Kristin that we can change the political system. We have the power in the United States as voters to put champions of sustainability, equity, and climate facts into office. We can do this at every time there's a vote- every time there's an election, whether it's at the local level, the county level, the state level, or the federal level. And once we put champions into office, once we have a political system that represents us and not the fossil fuel billionaires, things will change very quickly.
- "We do not need to change technological systems. We already have solutions to clean energy, regenerative agriculture, and retrofitting buildings. We're addressing many of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And we don't necessarily need to change the systems of thinking. Public opinion polling of climate action conducted through the Yale School of Climate Communications shows that there's a majority of support in all fifty states for climate action. The majority of people in all fifty states already accept the science that humans are driving the climate crisis and climate breakdown. We don't need to change those things. All we need to change is the political system, and that's not going to be easy. But, we can do it.
- "Here is how we do it: we ask anyone running for office to sign a pledge to not accept any money from fossil fuel billionaires. Fossil fuel billionaires have changed the whole system. They're buying off politicians and they're confusing the public to protect their bottom lines. We have to say that's enough. Anyone who wants our vote has to make that pledge. Second, once those people who we elect that don't receive money from billionaires to get into office, we hold them accountable. We show up at their offices, we show up at public meetings, we show up at town halls, and we say, 'You're now in office. You need to do something about it.' That's what we need to do, Kristin, and we need to do it starting today. I hope you'll join me."
“You just spoke to a group of middle school students about your climate change work. During the Q&A a student named Victor says, ‘I am freaking out because of all the bad stuff I am seeing and it seems like it is just getting worse and worse. I really do not see the point of even trying anymore. I think we are too far gone. What difference does this make?’ Lots of people young and old feel the same way. So how do you respond to Victor? How can you validate his fears while also giving him reasons to hope and pursue solutions.”
Two students from Susquehenny University have answers for Victor:
- "My full name is Alexander William Organ, but I prefer Alex. I am in the Class of 2021 and I study creative writing. I think I'd tell him to definitely not pacify or calm down because he definitely needs to get his views out there and be heard. I would say that he should get involved with things like this. He should find different protest movements and connect himself to different groups that definitely care about the environment and care about helping all others. We don't have a whole lot of time, but with what little time we have, we might as well use that time to improve and better others. Supporting bills and legislation like the Green New Deal and support politicians within that sort of mindset.
- "My name is Cheyenne Nouse, and I am a senior. I would tell Victor that anything that he does is something, and that something is better than nothing. And if he teams up with likeminded people, then he can make a bigger impact."
At the student climate strike in Louisburg, PA, I got to hear students from River Valley Nature School give a short presentation. Hearing the elementary students speak, I thought that what they had to say might also be a huge encouragement to Victor.
- "What do you get when you cross a globe with a microwave? I know! Global warming! That was supposed to be a joke, but global warming is not funny. Animals on our planets are losing their homes, like polar bears and snow tigers who cannot find ice. All animals could someday be extinct. It could even lead to war. Too much carbon dioxide is causing the problem, so we need to stop cutting down trees. We need to use different kinds of transportation, like electric transit and bikes. Adults need to slow down in cars and make good choices. Our future is in your hands.
“Community Resilience in the Face of Climate Change”
“On Facebook you reconnected with a childhood friend, Lydia. She has become worried about climate change and is wondering about what she can do right now to prepare for the effects of climate change. While she admires your work in mitigating climate change, she feels a growing interest in adaptation. Lydia asks you, ‘What are ways I can help my community to get ready for climate change?’ This is a big question and hopefully the beginning of a larger discussion about climate adaptation. What are some ideas you have for Lydia? Where might she start in adapting to climate change?”
I recently spoke with Doug Parsons, the host of America Adapts Podcast. He just featured Citizens' Climate Radio on his 95th episode. His podcast looks at the many aspects of climate adaptation. So, I asked Doug to answer our puzzler question:
- "I would first encourage Lydia to actually learn what climate change might mean to her local community. You never quite know what it's going to mean for someone that lives in the interior of the United States or someone who lives in a coastal region, but there's a great information. There's the National Climate Assessment tool, I mean, if she's really curious on what she can do, there are tools that allow her to see that we're going to be impacted by drought and that we might have more heat events here to get her to a basic understanding.
- "Then, the next step is to ask what we can do as a community to respond to this. The answer is getting involved in local government, asking them what they're doing, like discouraging people from living along the floodplain. I know I don't want my insurance rates to go up, I don't want to have to spend money when people shouldn't be living in these areas. What is our local city manager going to do? Then, I think you start thinking a little bit higher. What are federal politicians doing? Is our state adapting to climate change? Is there even a plan? Most states don't even have any sort of adaptation plan for the state, which should really be a structure and a guiding force for people like her to kind of understand the things that they're going to do.
- "But, the first steps at a home basis- if she was looking at buying a new home- the first thing she could do is to make sure that she's not going to buy a new home in an area that is prone to disaster. In an area prone to wildfires, like in California, they are doing a lot of very innovative work, but at the same time, at the local level they are not discouraging people from living in this wildfire interphase. People live out in the mountains and we hear about all this destruction that occurs out there just because more people are buying and building in the fire zones. Just get educated."
“The Color and Sound of Climate Change”
“It’s a weird one, but there is a method in my madness. We need to expand the ways we talk about climate change. Here is the question: What color do you associate with climate change and why? What sound do you associate with climate change and why? Answer either or both.”
On our Facebook page, I received the following responses:
Jeff Joslin said:
- "The color red: the color of Noah charts when temperatures are really hot and creating records; the color of fire; the warning color; the color that says 'stop CO2.'"
- "The yellow brown of parched earth, unable to support life; the heaviness of silence, when bird song is still and there is no one to rustle a leaf."
I also received a voicemail from John Clark in Pennsylvania:
- "The color I must associated with climate change is orange. Orange is the color associated with heat most of the time, and also the sound, kind of for the same reason of heat, would be calving glaciers. The melting of glaciers is making them crack apart, so I see a lot of news stories about, you know, calving glaciers and that rumbling, cracking sound of the glacier is the sound I must associate with climate change."
“Advocacy Vs. Civil Disobedience”
You attended one of the recent student walk-out demonstrations. While there you spoke to a parent, Claire. Claire’s daughter was a protest organizer. You told Claire about the work you do speaking to legislators about laws that will address fossil fuel pollution. You see yourself as an advocate, working in the system to bring about change. Claire confessed, “I would never have the patience for that. I am so angry and I need to protest.” She then asked, “Why do you do that kind of advocacy work instead of protesting and civil disobedience?”
In May, I chatted with Jerome Foster II. Jerome is a high school student from Washington, D.C. He was in the middle of organizing a protest event in front of the White House. Still, he finds himself more drawn to advocacy. This is what he had to say:
- "Well, I see myself as more of an advocate because I started out as an advocate before we had this Zero Hour March, we had the Zero Hour Lobby Day. We actually went out to meet with congress members, and I work with congressmen now. I have been an intern with Congressman John Lewis since January. Also, I have been working with Eleanor Thornton and so many other different congress members now. You can't just fake it at this point. My generation is following up on you, and we're going to make sure that we're actually publicizing whether or not you're taking action. So, I really see me being an advocate.
- “This Friday, when I held the Rise for Future March in front of the White House, right after I ended the strike at 12:00 PM, my internship started at 12:30 PM with John Lewis. Within an hour of me being in the office, I had the Select Committee on Climate Crisis call me and say, 'Hey, we would like some congress members to actually come out and support you. We would like some congress members to come out in front of the White House in the next following weeks and join you in your strikes.' They already know me from interning with Congressman John Lewis, and now they see me organizing out in front of the White House. They have that sense of personal connection to me, so that helps them to feel comfortable when they go out and actually strike. I really do see myself as an advocate because it's interconnected to every other action that I do."
“Global Warming and Cold Weather”
“You are at a family dinner when you mention your excitement about more and more people becoming concerned about climate change. Your Uncle Ralph interrupts, ‘Global warming? Seriously? What about all this record cold weather we have had? It doesn’t seem its warming at all?’ So what do you say? How can you open up a conversation about climate change that doesn’t just turn into a debate?”
- "You know how when you get the flu, your body gets a fever and your body gets the chills? The same thing happens with climate change. Global warming means the planet is running a fever, but it also gets the chills. And like breaking out in a sweat, the warmer atmosphere changes the patterns of air flow, pulling cold air down from Canada in the winter and pushing warm air up towards Greenland in the summer."
Brian Ettling in Portland, OR left the following message:
- "Hey, Uncle Ralph, interesting point you made. Fellow Missourian Mark Twain once said 'climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.’ I've spent many years learning as much as I can about climate change, and I'm still amazed how much people confused weather versus climate. Well, Uncle Ralph, according to the Weather Channel, weather is something we experience on a short term or daily basis. Basically, is it sunny or rainy outside today? Climate is the overall average of weather conditions in a certain area over a twenty to thirty year period. Climate is the percentage of long underwear versus shorts in your closet. Weather is if you're going to decide to wear long underwear or shorts today."
“Dealing with Discouragement”
“At a family gathering you are chatting with your cousin, Dan. You mention climate change and he has a meltdown. He says, ‘I feel so discouraged. All over the world you have leaders in Brazil, the US, and parts of Canada opposing any action on climate change. I hate to give up but maybe we just have to wait a couple of years before we can do anything about it.’ What do you say to Dan to help address this discouragement she has? If national leaders are not acting on climate change, what can we do?”
- "I would tell Dan: 'Are you crazy?! Wait a couple of years?! If everyone on our side did what you're saying- to step back and shut up- who gets the airwaves? People on the other side. No, we have to work harder. And don't think of these people as leaders, by the way. They're representatives; their job is to reflect what their society believes. Our job, at this point, is to change peoples' minds so that they vote for the right people, and doing that isn't easy. It's easy to hear yourself spout off to people who agree with you and enter a big echo chamber, but it's hard to listen, to try to understand where other people are coming from, to hear their concerns, to admit you might be wrong in some areas or ignorant or have some holes in your thinking. And then maybe, maybe you'll change, they'll change, and we'll get to a better place.
- 'You can't sit it out. It's like when your house is on fire. You can't say that you'll call the fire department in a couple years when we have better firemen or when your phone works better. You can't expect that if there's a big fire, everyone's going to see that the house is on fire and that they'll just come and put it out. Yeah, I'm afraid there's no alternative, and we have to act now.'"
“You are part of a group that pursues bi-partisan economic solutions to address climate change. One of your co-workers, Janet is a Progressive Liberal who also wants to see us do something about climate change. But she is pushing back against your ideas. She says, ‘Right now I don’t trust any plan that has Conservatives involved. How do I know this is not some group that is lying, greenwashing, and is an enemy of environmental justice?’ Janet has fears and doubts that need to be addressed. How would you respond?”
I received several emails from you. I will share two of them with you, and I invited voice over actor Richard Bowen to read them for us. A listener from England cheekily calls himself Will Askerly, and he writes:
- "Janet's right to be wary, since she had her trust burned. She needs to build trust again when she's ready. The art is to find overlap with the things people want to positively endorse and negatively avoid. If you have an intersection of interest, engage with those people. If we're to stay within the 'Goldilocks zone' of not too cold, not too hot for most people on the planet, we need to find the 'Goldilocks zone' of adequate community interaction. Irreversible climate change is going to be avoided by building community with allies: people who share an intersection of interest and have earned out trust."
We also received this message from Arvia Morris in Seattle, WA:
- "I would listen to Janet's concerns and acknowledge her fears. I would make an effort to get to know Janet better on a personal level. Knowing we have a concern for climate change in common is very motivational for me. Since we are coworkers, maybe go out to lunch or bike to work or do something low key that we both enjoy. Hopefully, we would develop a level of personal trust and I would learn more about her ideas and how she views the world. If there is a climate event I think she would enjoy- a movie event, speaking, training, lobby day, etc.- and I want to go too, I would make a big effort to try to go together. If our personal connection is pretty good, I would invite some of my friends in my bipartisan group and ask her to invite some of her friends. I would see if anyone wants to meet before or after to just relax and do more 'get to know you.' We don't want to get into a policy debate, but focus more on who we are and why we care about climate change.”
“What’s Faith Got to Do With It?”
“You are at a place of worship and you have fliers about an upcoming climate change event. You hope to get some folks involved. Louis, someone you know from your faith community asks why are you involved in climate change work. You say, Lots of reasons, but a big part is because of my faith. Louis looks puzzled. He asks, Climate Change? What’s faith got to do with it? So what do you say to Louis? How is climate change connected to your faith or religion or spiritual practice?”
Jay Greene from Salisbury, England called in and confirms what Kyle, Karina, and Rev. Josh Gibson already told us:
- "I think it has got everything to do with it. First of all, we've got the stewardship principle from Genesis, where God gave the Earth to mankind to look after. And so, we have a responsibility to keep it right so that we can hand it on to successive generations, and in time, back to God. But more importantly, and way more relevantly, Jesus asked us to love our neighbor; to love our neighbor as ourselves. And so, I think about my neighbors in California suffering from the wildfires. A lot of this is caused by climate change. I think about the people in East Africa who are suffering because of droughts, which lead to famine and migration into cities and homelessness. I think about my neighbors in the Philippines and in Bangladesh where they've had terrible floods. I think about hurricanes and cyclones. I think about all this, all those people suffering. They are my neighbors, and this is all because of extreme climate events.
- "And then, of course, when we think about creation, we think about animals- big animals like polar bears. Some of them drown because they cannot swim far enough. They get exhausted and there is not enough ice for them to crawl out onto and hunt. There are many, many animals now facing extinction because of climate change events year after year after year. I think faith has everything to do with it."
Sherry Michalovich called in with the following answer:
- "I'm a Christian, and I try to follow Jesus' teachings, and one of Jesus' most important teachings is to love our neighbors and our enemies as we love ourselves. But since climate change is hurting my human neighbors and enemies, that breaks my heart the most. I live in an urban working class neighborhood, so most of my local neighbors have kids whose asthma has been exacerbated by pollution and climate change. And people in other parts of my country and other countries around the world suffer and are dying from fires, droughts, landslides, crop failures, and all of the other effects of climate change."
“To Save or Not to Save the Animals”
“You are on a break with a coworker, let's call him Murphy. You tell Murphy about a climate change conference you attended hoping to engage him in conversation. Murphy blurts out, ‘Seriously. I never pegged you as one of those save the whales and the polar bears kinda person. The way I see it, humans are the most adaptable beings on Earth. Whatever is coming our way, we will be able to handle it. Sucks for other creatures, but humans will be just fine.’ Murphy has put just you in a certain environmental box. It may or may not be a fit for you. But how can you respond to Murphy to help crack open the conversation?”
- "'I pegged you as one of those' I feel is a little bit of a tribal, aggressive statement. It makes me want to be separate from the crowd, and the speaker acts as though they're a bit superior. So, this is my response: 'Well, you're quite right. I am one of those. I am a conservative person, but I know I believe in science, I believe in good economics, and I want those who cause problems to pay for them. I also feel that probably as a species, we all will adapt, but I do believe that you bought me right. I am one of those very conservative people that believes in paying for damage that has been done to the environment, and we're going to put a price on carbon.'"
Sam Sultansal from Maine answered with this following message:
- "If I am looking for a hook to get into a discussion of climate change, I say: 'Well, we have some long distance travelers coming to visit and I'm not sure we will be able to feed them. And after waiting a bit, my way of explanation will be: 'Every time I sit down for breakfast and look out the window at this time of year, I see colorful birds in my backyard. I think about what an amazing journey some of them have made from the tropical region where they spent their winter. I think about the long journey they have made to get back to Maine and even farther north. Their survival is dependent on finding food along the way, and it was always timed according to the climatic conditions along their route. Now, the climate is disrupted and there is less certainty that they will find the nourishment they need.
- 'The same holds true for many other species that migrate, and it makes me sad and angry that we humans have caused this. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the same extinction of both flora and fauna, and it is predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. Extinctions have a lot to do with climate change, so I believe that the rapid climate change we are experiencing is something that we must do our best to stop, or at least slow down.'"
“On FB you encouraged people to engage in climate action and join your group. A friend of yours, let's call her Samantha, comments, ‘That's very noble of you, but really the only solution is going to be a technical one. It's gone too far and they are going to have to geo-engineer a solution. Don't stress about it. They are working on a fix somewhere.’ So what do you say to Samantha who believes geoengineering will solve all of our climate woes and we should just live our lives until the patch is available?”
I received excellent and insightful answers to this one. Jan Storm left the following voicemail:
- “I would say to Samantha that many of the changes that are under way, if allowed to continue, are basically irreversible within our lifetime and certainly the lifetime of our grandchildren and their children and their children. We won’t be able to recover a stable climate. Basically, we cannot un-melt the ice caps, and continued warming and acidification, for example, of the ocean could completely drive out coral reefs. These kinds of extinctions are forever, so we can’t keep allowing carbon to go into the atmosphere until we have a so-called ‘geo engineering fix.’ The other thing is that geo engineering fixes to take carbon out of the atmosphere are unproven, very expensive, and unknown as to whether or not they can be implemented at a scale that could be meaningful.
- "The good news is that there is a natural solution we know of right now that can extract giga-tons of carbon from the atmosphere and store it long term in soil, plants, trees, and roots. We know it can be done at scale. The Keeling Curve, which shows the planet breathing and basically shows the decline of CO2 when the northern hemisphere is in full leaf, illustrates the power of photosynthesis to modify carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The other good news is that transitioning to this kind of regenerative or sustainable agriculture, which prioritizes healthy soil, has tremendous co-benefits for communities. For farmers, it makes them profitable. It protects water quality. It encourages and protects biodiversity, so in that way it helps with all of the other sort of extinction related issues associated with climate change. So anyways, that’s what I would say to Samantha.”
Chris Wiegard from Richmond, VA wrote this lively answer:
- “Oh no, Samantha, I have to differ with you regarding the concept that geo-engineering will become our salvation from climate change. The most common proposal for a geo engineered fix to climate change is to inject reflected particles into the very high atmosphere. These would reflect solar radiation away from our planet. In essence, this would be a short term fix for a long term problem. Carbon dioxide, our chief greenhouse gas from fossil fuel burning, lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. High altitude reflected particles, by contrast, settle out of the atmosphere within a few years and therefore must be constantly replaced. There are at least three extremely serious problems with this idea.”
- “Problem number one: if we are trying to counteract the warming of our planet in this way, it is essential to keep doing it. If we would ever stop pumping reflective particles into our sky, we would experience a sudden, shocking temperature rise. We should be frightened by this prospect. Problem two: what we call climate change is not just a matter of heating and cooling; it is also a chemical process. Ocean acidification is an important aspect of climate change. It is the process by which the world’s oceans absorb much of the carbon dioxide from coal and natural gas burning, and thereby becomes more acidic. If we get a handle on the temperature rises temporarily by the use of high altitude reflective particles but witness the transformation of our world’s oceans to a lifeless acid soup, we gain nothing. The third problem with geo engineering is that of human psychology. If we solve a problem with another problem, we solve nothing, but we reuse fooling ourselves into a sense of complacency. There is a large minority in the human race that prefers to pretend that climate change is not a problem. If we paper it over with the illusion that we have addressed it, this faction will grow and will further delay vital decisions on how to reduce our carbon emissions. We may even decide to simply ignore those emissions until there is no hope left. Samantha, for the love of humanity, don’t be fooled by this mirage of water in the desert. You will end up drinking sand.”
“Personal Carbon Footprint”
“You are at a community event talking to a neighbor, let's call him Greg. You reveal your passion about climate change and climate solutions. Greg looks you up and down and says, ‘So I guess you don't use any fossil fuels yourself. You don't drive a car, travel by plane, or heat and cool your home? What are you actually doing to address climate change in your life?’ Greg's question sounds more like an accusation. How do you answer the question while also addressing the accusation?”
- “‘Hey, I’m with you on that. I say that if you don’t walk the talk, you’re wasting your breath. But tell me this: do you think that we can solve global warming if we just depend on conscientious people like you and me to shrink our carbon footprint, especially when our economic system seems to encourage climate pollution by making it free to pollute? What do you think?’ I call this approach ‘rise to the bait and swallow the fisher’ because I immediately agree with him and pull him into my point of view.”
Paul Perkins in Bathe, ME wrote in the following answer:
- “First, you disarm the critic by agreeing with Greg and letting him know that you fully accept the validity of his criticism. You go on to say that he has put his finger on the heart of the issue, mainly that we are dependent on fossil fuels and that transitioning to a clean energy society will take collaboration, innovation, creativity, and perseverance. Furthermore, we welcome his willingness to be frank and welcome any ideas he has to address climate change.”
Continuing with the voicemails, David Cain has this to share:
- “My response is: ‘Greg, I want you to know first of all that your question is right on the mark. It’s something that my wife and I struggle with. After all, who wants to be all hat and no cattle? We’re slowly turning the screws as we emotionally come to terms with the reality of global warming. One of our dreams once we retired was to see the world and travel like my parents did, but I’ve been telling my children and grandchildren that jumping on a plane is one of the worst things that they could do, offsets not withstanding. So, it has involved real sacrifice. It’s hard, Greg, to give up on a dream.’”
Finally, I received this message from Ted Obard in Berkeley, CA:
- “Well, I would hope that I would use humor and join him in his ambivalence about climate action. Maybe something like, ‘Well, I can tell you what I’m NOT doing. I’m definitely not trying to will myself to become a self-sacrificing saint, because that is NOT going to happen.’ And then maybe, ‘It’s confusing, right? How can I care about climate and also be selfish? I mean, I do want to drive my car and heat my house and fly in planes, and I also want to fight climate change. It’s normal to want to help but also want what we want, right?’
- “At some point, I would want to weave in, ‘For me, it is super important to be real with myself about that balance. I do some individual actions in terms of my car and house and such, but beyond that, I need help. This shouldn’t be- and I don’t think it can be- on any one of us. It’s just not going to work. In my experience, it just makes me feel bad about myself.’ Then, I would listen again. My guess is that this would all connect on some level.
- “Ultimately, I would want to segue into a Carbon Fee & Dividend pitch. It’s fair, we could pay for what we pollute, and it’s not too much for anyone. The dividend covers the most needy, and because it’s shared, it’s on a scale that’s effective. My hope is that with a little self-deprecating humor and an invitation to air out his own inputs, we could find a way to connect.”
“Weather Events and Climate Change”
“You are chatting with a neighbor. Let's call her Joan. Joan has family in Florida who were affected by Hurricane Irma. You start talking about climate change and the connections you see to these current weather events. Joan interrupts you, ‘No, you are wrong. Climate change has nothing to do with these hurricanes. They have always had hurricanes. Scientists make it clear that there is no way you can say climate change has anything to do with these storms.’ So, is Joan right? How can you effectively and accurately talk about these weather events and climate change?”
To answer the question is Glenn Ritiff from Sunbury, PA. Glenn teaches Creative Writing at Suscahenry University:
- “I think about this like gambling or doping in sports. If you have to roll the dice, you can’t say the given double sixes that you threw is caused by the loading of the dice, but you can say the loading of the dice makes the double sixes much more likely. Along the lines of doping in sports, you can’t say that it was the dope that caused Ben Johnson to win the 100 meter in the Olympics, but you can say that it made it more likely and that it wasn’t fair. Right now, we’re doping up our climate and causing all kinds of weird effects. “
“You are chatting with an acquaintance, let's call him Larry. Somehow you get to talking about windmills and the rapid advances in renewable technology. Larry is sympathetic but bothered by something. He says to you, ‘Yeah, I understand that these windmills can help to get us off of coal and gas, but they look so ugly! I hate how they are destroying the countryside.’ So, what would you say to Larry? Try to think of something that will open up the conversation and get him to better understand climate change.”
I received several responses, including the following voicemails:
- “Hello, this is Johnathan Abbot calling from the UK Citizens’ Climate Lobby. You wanted a response to Larry; what would I say to him? I would say to him, ‘Larry, you’re right about the beauty, and the potential for ugliness, but we get used to things. I was traveling to Oklahoma in June, and I was swept by the sight of wind turbines next to an oil pump. You know, a pump jack. They’re all over the west. They seem to be familiar, iconic, and important to US industrial history. Are you really telling me that the elegant, silent, clean modern turbine would be somehow uglier than these noisy, smelly, dirty, wasteful sight of the pump jack? It’s not so great. Oklahoma produces 28% of its power from wind and has the capacity to provide 10% of all Us energy. Yet, this is the heart of Trump country where people don’t believe in climate change. They’re not motivated by the desire to reduce emissions. Like other states, it's leading as an economic strategy. Wind energy is secure, it’s clean, inexhaustible, the costs have plummeted in recent years. Even to the unromantic midwesterner- even to you, Larry- it is strangely beautiful.’”
- “This is Leah Shade. I teach at Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, KY, and I wrote a book called Creation Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit. If I were talking with Larry, I would consider his concern: that he doesn’t like the look of windmills along mountain tops or off the shoreline. It bothers him to see glint of solar panels sprawled across grassy meadows. What I would do is pull out my phone and google pictures of mountain-top removal scalping the landscape and coal slag-heaps touring over rural towns. I would show him pictures of the abandoned town of Centralia, PA, still burning from coal fires beneath the Earth’s surface. We would look at pictures of oil and gas refineries shooting methane fires into the sky and oil-soaked birds and animals along shorelines coated with crude from spills and leaks. We would look at clear-cut forests for fracking. And then, we would go back to those pictures of windmills and solar panels and I would ask him, ‘Larry, which landscapes do you prefer?’ Maybe that would help to give him some perspective.”
“When I think About Climate Change”
“Using metaphor to talk about climate change is very important. We can relate the effects of climate change or our response to it to our own lives in many ways, including our childhood experiences. So here is your puzzler question: Fill in the blank. When I think about climate change, it reminds me of when ___________ Think back to your childhood. The memory may have absolutely nothing to do with climate change. It might be about a loss you experienced, a sudden change in your life, or a revelation about your role in the world. When I think about climate change, it reminds me of when _________. Fill in the blank and explain.”
Virginia Burnall from Santa Anna, CA wrote:
- “When I think about climate change, it reminds me of when I became gradually aware of how widespread child poverty was prevalent around the world. I’d been moved by impoverished children in my hometown in Peru. When my widowed mother remarried, my family began living and traveling in various continents, and I was impressed at the enormity of the problem. This was back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Much progress has been made around the world to reduce the worst of economic and educational deprivation. However, climate change threatens to undo it all, and worse. It threatens the very existence of civilization. So, the prevalent association I have when thinking about climate change is the feeling of immense grief felt for humanity that I felt so long ago.”
Sid Madison from the Edison Chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby left the following message:
- “When I think about climate change, it reminds me of when we went to my uncle’s funeral. It was out of town and we did not go to the wake. We arrived just before the service and were asked if we wanted to stand at the coffin. I have always regretted saying no. It reminds me of the scenario I have heard where a parent is asked by the younger generation, ‘what did you do to stop climate change?’ I’m hoping fewer and fewer people will regret their answer. I regret just telling people about the climate problem and joining the climate movement but not CCL. Now that I am with CCL, which focuses on national climate legislation and the parallel process of empowering individuals, I have no regrets.”
Finally, Stephen Hole from Traverse City, MI wrote this answer:
- “When I think about climate change, it reminds me of when my mother warned me not to eat the snow that fell on our little backyard skating rink. I was a boy of three or four in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, yet as she explained it to me, I was able to imagine the radioactive fallout from atmospheric atomic bomb tests sailing like snow on the winds around the Earth. The feeling was of pale and doom. She said it was the Russians, which fit the narrative of that time. The unintended consequences of powerful technologies threaten the livability of our Earth then as now. The nations of the world were able to eliminate atmospheric atomic bomb tests. We have the ability to stave off the worst of climate change through agreements with our neighbors across the world.”
“Favorite Foods Affected by Climate Change”
“What is a food you love that is affected by climate change? How exactly is global warming threatening it?”
At the recent Citizens Climate Lobby national conference, I asked this question and received some of the following answers:
- “My name is Nadine Sapirman, and I am from central New Jersey. There are many foods that are affected by climate change. I’ve been talking to farmers in my district who have expressed concern about their crops, like apples and pears and peaches and all of those stone fruits. They’re having difficulty because of the extreme weather, like the cold and extreme rain. It’s affecting farmers in my area.”
- “My name is Tommy Evans. A food that I love that’s affected by climate change? Well, that would be chocolate, of course. Hershey is really concerned about the ability to grow chocolate in places where it won’t grow anymore.”
- “This is Jim Tolbert. A food that is threatened by climate change that I love are hamburgers. Eating a hamburger is like driving a racecar with your pedal all the way down. There’s so much methane emission there. If you care about climate change, it’s something you’ve got to give up, and I hate that.”
“What’s the Deal with Melting Glaciers?”
“You are at a family event. Everyone is catching up and having a good time. You have cornered your uncle and are updating him about your climate work. Your Uncle, let's call him Jim, says, "Ok, maybe this is a stupid question, but what is the big deal with melting glaciers? It seems everything I read about climate change, they are freaking out about these glaciers. Why the obsession?" So, how do you respond to Uncle Jim? In addition to the science behind glacial melting, what will you say to deepen the conversation?”
Well, thanks for all the answers you sent. Eve Simmons from Cardath by the sea in California left the following message:
- “Hi, Peterson. In response to Uncle Jim’s query: ‘Well, Uncle Jim, that’s a great question about melting glaciers. One of the reasons I work on climate is because all those glaciers are expected to melt by 2050, and I know that over a billion people depend on that glacial melt for their yearly source of water. That’s used to cook with, to clean, and to drink and grow crops. That’s a lot of human suffering: one in seven people without access to clean and safe water. So, I’d like to see us all have that right to clean safe water. So, I’m building political will for a livable world.”
“Resources to Better Understand Climate Change”
“You are talking to someone named Barbara. You helped her see that climate change is a serious issue that needs her attention. Barbara then asks you, What should I do next? This is the question climate communicators long to hear. So what do you say when someone wants to know more about climate change? What are resources you recommend that help people better understand the issues and how we can respond? Tell me about books, websites, video series, podcasts, and more.”
I received a bunch of answers to this one! I will make sure to post them all in the show notes and leave the information for how to get that at the end of the show. So, who do we hear from? Sarah Jenkins in Paris, Ontario wrote:
- “If Barbara is a Christian, I recommend she read Creation Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit by Leah D. Shade. Also, check out Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.”
Tahndi Tinabu in South Africa emailed. She suggested Philippe Squarzoni’s graphic novel Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science, and I agree. I have seen this graphic novel and I’ve read it, and it’s very good, very clear, and you get a lot of good science in it. And if you like graphic novels, I suggest AD: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld.
In addition to the emails, I also received some voice memos from listeners. Ron Driez from West Houston, TX left this message:
- “I’m calling to recommend a source of climate change information. It is called Climate Change: Evidence, Impact, and Choices. It is published by the National Research Council of the National Academies, and it explains quantitative change in thirty six pages. No, it’s not technical, but it explains the evidence for human caused climate change, the warming climate’s impacts into the 21st century and beyond, and making climate choices, and it’s kind of a climate change primer. The book is a dollar from the National Research Council. When I ordered six copies, I got them for ninety cents each. It’s readable and speaks to what climate change is and why it’s happening, and so forth.”
And Sid Madison from Piscataway, New Jersey outlines what he would say to Barbara:
- “Barbara, there are three areas that I usually cover about climate change: science, consequences, and solutions. SCS. It seems to me that you understand the science and the consequences, so we should talk about solutions.
- “With solutions, there are three areas that I usually cover. One: effective action needs to be collective. Two: a carbon tax is the most important action. Three: Citizens’ Climate Lobby has a collective action to pass a national carbon tax. A good primer on the need for collective action is a short op-ed that appeared in The New York Times in September of 2011 titled ‘Going Green, But Getting Nowhere.’ You can find it on the internet.
- “There are many sources that call for a carbon tax as the most important single action to take against climate change. George Mankiw, a Harvard Professor of Economics, conservative, and former advisor to Bush and Romney said, ‘a carbon tax is as close to a silver bullet as there is.’
- “The third key to solutions is Citizens’ Climate Lobby. We are collective with a single focus- a carbon tax- and, more importantly, we empower our members to lobby, something that most of them have not done. The dual approach of CCL, a single focus for a national carbon tax and empowering our members, is what makes CCL the best solution. To find out more about CCL, visit our website- citizensclimatelobby.org- and join a local chapter.”
“Why Are You Passionate About Climate Change?”
“Believe it or not many people are not all that concerned about animal extinction or the plight of future generations. For them there needs to be another climate hook--one that is closer to home. So here is your question: Besides the welfare of animal species and future generations, why are you passionate about climate change?”
I received answers from lots of people, including this one from Dr. Stephen Hanson. He told me about an event in February at the Carter Center in Atlanta. The focus of this international gathering was on climate change and health:
- “Dozens and dozens of health risks that people are largely unaware of in terms of severity and geographic locations and new diseases, like Zica, and a bunch of other things as far as asthma, chronic diseases, or cardiovascular diseases, are exacerbated by climate. The perils important to the community include personal health and population health.”
I also sat down with Dave Barbier. He is the Sustainability coordinator for the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point. He shared many practical and logical reasons to address climate change, including this one:
- “When I’m talking to people who are coming at it from a more conservative perspective , one of the things I like to talk about is national security. And so, we talk about looking at one of the weakest points of our infrastructure is the fact that we live on a traditional electrical grid system powered by these huge power stations. And so, those are very understandable likely targets for attacks on our country. And so, the development of renewable energy in micro-grids across our nation help to vastly improve our security because we don’t necessarily have to be as reliant on one sole source of utility electrical grid to get our power.”
“Finding Shared Values”
“You are at a meeting with other climate advocates. There are the fresh young faces. There are also the seasoned older faces. And there's Charlie, a crusty old curmudgeon who's been on the climate change band-wagon since the 1970s. You just heard a presentation about the need to build on shared values with lawmakers and leaders in the fossil fuel industry. Charlie blurts out, ‘Shared values? Really? These are determined folks we're up against. They don't play nice. We are not going to win by playing nice with them.’ What do you say to crusty old Charlie?”
I heard from a lot of you, so thank you for all of your responses. Don Schuld from Stillwater, MN has this answer:
- “Thank you, Charlie, for your strong, passionate, unwavering anger. Were not for voices like yours, the opposition would never have agreed to come to the table to engage in conversation with us, equally passionate, but more reserved, advocates.”
I heard from Thomas H. Prichard of the Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA. Thomas writes:
- “I would tell Charlie that yes, there are some in the denier world we can never reach until they are finally ready to listen. However, there are still many people out there who are either on the fence or have views that have not locked into stone. Those who you are trying to reach you can only do that by interacting with them and others in a respectful manner. Remember, the person you ultimately reach may not be the person you are directly engaging, but the bystander who is silently listening to the whole dialogue.”
“Does Global Warming Have Some Upsides?”
“You are at a party, and you mention to a neighbor your renewed commitment to address climate change. Your neighbor, let's call him Samuel, says, ‘Wait a minute, I kinda like the idea of a little warming. We could sure use more heat up North. Think of the opportunities for agriculture. I don't know; seems like global warming has some real upsides to it.’ Samuel is not alone in thinking this. So what would you say to Samuel?”
I received many responses. Thank you for all of them, I wish I could share them all. But, I do have two I want to share. One is from Donald Scipeda:
- “Hey, Samuel, that is a great point. However, this increased warning will come at the expense of other people in already warm climates. On a global level, costs will far outweigh the benefits. However, if you are only concerned with the well being of your area, everybody else be darned, there is no reason to be concerned. Given how long we’ve let the current pace of climate change continue, why should we believe that we will stop it later if we’re not willing to stop it now? This has been an effort that has taken decades just to reach where we are today, which still isn’t going to be enough to offset all of climate change’s negative effects.
- There are real concerns that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s projections are too low, and that we could blow past levels for global climate freeze in the north as well. Civilizations has flourished in regions at more temperate climates, but it has died off in the winter. If we take away that safety net of colder seasons for us, we are putting ourselves at risk for the kind of seasons that plagued and hindered development in currently hotter parts of the world. We risk our food supply with the excess heat and precipitation that will come, which will dehydrate our crops on many days and flood them on others.”
Thank you, Donald. I also heard from a climate communication expert, Melissa Tier. Melissa is the Sustainability Program Manager at Swarthmore College. She also worked as a research assistant at Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. Here’s what she had to say:
- “So, there’s been a lot of social science research on some of the best ways to communicate about climate change. A lot of this is focused on policy makers and scientists, but it can very much be used at the individual level in conversation. I think there are better and worse skills for when you’re talking about topics like this. And we know that there are a lot of psychological biases that limit folks’ abilities to think about climate change. It’s a tough topic, it’s depressing, the effects are in the future, and we’re not good at talking or thinking about any of those things.
- “In a conversation like this, I would focus on bringing the issue back home. The personal effects of climate change are where it’s a little more real. Less snow might be nice, but perhaps he’s a gardener and that would affect his crops. Or, perhaps he grew up on a farm, and we could tie the effects of climate change to agriculture and make that danger a little bit more present to him.
- “But, I think the point is that you’d need to have a conversation with that person and get to know him. In my opinion, you’re better off not addressing it head on and not saying, ‘well, let’s sit down and list all the ways that climate change is really negative.’ That’s probably not your best approach. The better way to go about this is to have a personal conversation, draw out what is meaningful to that person, and then connect climate change to it, because as you know well, Peterson, climate change connects to everything.”
“Isn’t CO2 a Good Thing?”
“You are chatting with a neighbor and you mention your commitment to addressing carbon pollution because of the dangers it poses. Your neighbor, let’s call her Lucinda, is genuinely confused. She says, ‘But back in school I learned how important carbon dioxide is for plants and photosynthesis. Our teacher said that without carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we couldn’t survive.’ What would you say to Lucinda?”
- “Hi, this is Jean Johnson in Alexandria, MN. Here’s my response to Lucinda: “Lucinda, you’re absolutely right. It took the Earth a long time to reach just the right amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so there’d be enough for plants to use and to help keep the Earth warm with a protective blanket of atmosphere all around it. But since we started burning the big 3 CO2 emitters- coal oil, and natural gas- we have burned so many billion tons of carbon that now we have so much CO2 in the atmosphere that it’s keeping us too warm. That’s the main reason for global warming.
- “And you know what, Lucinda? If a good part of that excess CO2 was not going into the ocean, we’d have an even hotter temperature. But the oceans can only do so much, so we have to cut back gradually, on coal, oil, and gas. Especially coal. Thanks for listening.”
Thank you, Jean. I love this answer. You know, what I like about Jean’s answer is not just the content- I mean, what she said is really good- but just her tone and the way she went about it. I think that’s one of the things I’m trying to do with the puzzler question is to help us not only figure out what to say, but how to say it. Because I know as a communicator, the style and the tone is as important as the content.
“Climate Advocacy in Trump’s America”
“You are at a community event and people are talking about the historic upset as they speculate on what a Trump Presidency will look like. You pipe up, ‘Well, as you know I am concerned about climate change, so I am going to work that much harder to raise awareness and get the government to change energy policy.” People laugh. They snort. One says, ‘Oh, nothing is going to happen for the next four years. We are back to coal and other fossil fuels. Might as well take up a new hobby.’ So what do you say? How do you respond? How can you share what’s in your heart as well as what’s in your head.”
Well, I got a ton of responses to this one. I wish I could share them all, but Peter Bucklin of State College of Pennsylvania left the following voice memo:
- “Since I’m a local elected official, I’ve been answering the question you asked this way: the federal government has never actually been in charge of our energy use or its portfolio. Plain and simple, the US doesn’t have our government controlling our national energy strategy. It has got a whole bunch of little energy strategies from households and small companies, states, and megacorporations, and people can act on every single one of those levels to affect change.
- “Right now, I’m an elected official in a municipality in Ferguson Township, PA, and I’m focusing my efforts at that level. I’m serving my four year term, and in 2017, we are rewriting our zoning and it will include incentives for green infrastructure, we’re getting proposals for a new public works building that will have to be LEED Gold, and finally, we will conduct a comprehensive assessment of our township owned properties for solar energy. Those three steps, those little steps, will lead to something greater.
- “Now, I say that hope is an action, and by acting with my board in my municipality for a lower carbon future, I’m fulfilling a promise to myself, to the voters who elected me, to my son, and to this beautiful home that we call Earth.”
So, Peter encourages us to not despair or be paralyzed, but to act locally. David Spence, a doctor from Flagstaff, AR, advocates appealing to Trump’s deal-making nature. In David’s voice memo, he explains that once other countries like Canada place a fee on carbon, US exports may be slapped with tariffs. In order to compete in the world market, he advocates a carbon fee and dividend program for the USA:
- “It is a market-based solution, which factors in the amount of carbon pollution by the type of energy and its carbon content. This gets the government out of the business of choosing between winning and losing technology and lets the market choose. Some economic functions are best left to each state to enact. However, carbon fee and dividend must be a national program, since the fees are assessed at the mine, well, or port of entry, which are all national activities by their nature. Congress will understand this and give the president a bill that he will find in order to make America great again.”
“Is Shifting to Renewable Energy Impossible for Low Income Families?”
“When I blog on climate change or go to public hearings on it, I often hear or read fossil fuel defenders say that ‘shifting to renewable energy is unrealistic because low income people are dependent on low energy prices. The cheapness of fossil fuel is all that keeps certain people alive.’ And Chris is right, poor and working class people cannot easily afford buying expensive energy hybrid cars and installing solar panels and the other alternatives currently on offer. So how might you respond to the argument that shifting to renewable energy is unrealistic because low income people are dependent on low energy prices.”
I received several answers. I will share with you one from Sabrina Fu, Mid-Atlantic Co-Regional Coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. She writes:
- “We all know that if we put a price on CO2 emissions, the price of most everything will go up, since almost all of our goods and services are based upon cheap fossil fuels. Increasing prices with a carbon fee will take a much larger percentage out of poorer peoples’ budgets. The solution? Equitable distribution of a carbon fee in the form of a monthly dividend check. A monthly dividend check will more than make up for the increase in prices for people of lower economic brackets, allowing them to not only weather the transition, but with some planning, become less fossil fuel dependent. An example of this would be to use some of the dividend to insulate homes.”
“Why Bother With Climate Policy?”
“You are at an event with folks concerned about climate change and the environment. There you meet someone, let’s call her Margaret. You tell Margaret about your work as a volunteer lobbyist. You explain how you connect with lawmakers and offer climate solutions with the goal to change policy. In response Margaret rolls her eyes. She lets out a big sigh and says, ‘Oh, please, those bozos can’t even rename a post office without shutting down the government. There is no way they are going to get anywhere with something as big and bold as climate policy. Why even bother?’”
I got a lot of answers. Here are two of the many responses I received. First, Jennifer Hunsinger, a licensed professional counselor, who is concerned about climate weighed in:
- “I'm thinking that it absolutely matters that we initiate dialogue with lawmakers, even if they don't give the response that we want. First of all, coming from Contextual Therapy Theory, what is important is the attempt at dialogue, not the other person's response. The attempt increases our self esteem and is a way to earn constructive entitlement. And our efforts to start conversations and contact lawmakers are how we can earn merit, which is what we need to do when we're dealing with our injuries on a changing planet.
- “Second of all, if no one said anything under the assumption that lawmakers don't care or are inadequate, no one would literally know that anyone cares about the climate science, let alone that it exists. There would be no voice at all, and then it's more likely that lawmakers wouldn't consider taking action because not enough people are interested or care.”
Now, this question, ‘If we don't talk to lawmakers, who will?’ comes up in a response I received from Ricky Bradley, who is Citizens’ Climate Information Technology Director:
- “If you aren't in a meeting with them, who do you think are in a meeting with them? It's industry, it's their party, it's other folks who are influencing them from the oil and gas industry. It's only the fact that we're in there and trying to make a difference that's going to make a change. Maybe I'm still young, fresh, and into this movement and idealistic about it, but I know that if we're not in there talking to them that they're definitely not gonna hear from us.”
“What Difference Do Our Actions Make?”
“You are talking to someone who you think could be an effective climate advocate. This may be a lawmaker, a faith leader, or a friend. After sharing your passion and what you are doing to address climate change, the person you are talking to, let’s call him Simon, shrugs and replies. ‘What difference does it make if we do something in our country when its China that’s doing most of the polluting?’ Now Simon’s answer sounds to me like a very American reaction. If Simon does not live in the USA, he might instead ask: Why on earth should we do anything when the USA has done much of the polluting and is doing so little to act? In addition to his actual question—why should my country do something when others do not--what do you hear in Simon’s words? What emotions, fears and beliefs might his question reveal? How might you answer Simon’s question while also addressing what is unsaid?”
This puzzler generated lots of fascinating answers. I heard from Eve Simmons from San Diego, CA:
- “I would say something like, ‘it sounds like you're concerned about fairness and equality.’ I can bring up the point that per capita, the US is producing more emissions than China or India, in fact, five times more emissions than China and tweety times more emissions than India. Of course, what right have we, in the US, to pollute so much more than other countries. Why on earth should we do anything when the US has done much of the polluting, and its us? Because we are our brothers and our sisters’ keeper. Why not be that candle in the darkness? And any of us that model that behavior, take those first steps, and profoundly affect what happens to the ripples through the way we think and our actions, it matters. And I would say that hope is so profoundly healing, and action is totally the antidote to despair.”
I got another voicemail from Creeger Lake, OR from Brian Ettling:
- “I would say, ‘Wow, Simon, I can see that you care very deeply about the United States. It looks like you want us to not be disadvantaged in trade and business when you see that China pollutes so heavily. Am I hearing you correctly?
- “Digging into this issue, I recently learned that China, according to Bloomberg News, was the biggest market in the world for renewables in 2015. China invested over 110 billion dollars in renewables, and that's almost double what the United States invested in renewables in 2015. China built more wind turbines than any other country also in 2015, and China has emerged as the world's largest market and manufacturer of solar panels. According to Fortune Magazine, China is now buying a lot of its own solar panels.
- “Let's be honest, if you do follow the news, you'll know that China has a serious problem with pollution. Air pollution in China is now killing up to 4,000 people each day. There is a lot of internal pressure on the Chinese government to take action on climate change. The latest news, if you haven't heard, is that over the past two years, coal use in China has actually declined.
- “In this clean energy race, I want America to win and be number one, and I'm sure you do also. If we do, we create jobs, we sell products to China instead of buying them, we also create cleaner air and water and greater national security, and the energy savings actually put money directly into our pockets. The key question for all of us is, which would you rather have: China selling renewable energy technology to the United States or the US selling clean energy technology to China? I am going to go to Washington, D.C. in November to lobby my members of congress to support Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Carbon Fee and Dividend so that we can win the energy race.”
And finally, we hear from Jennifer Hunsinger, a licensed professional counselor. She puts a different spin on her answer:
- “Simon is acting out of what is called destructive entitlement, and that is from the Theory of Contextual Therapy: a person has been wronged or hurt in some way and as a result, that person does harm and takes it out on others. The first thing I hear is that sense of unfairness, anger, bitterness, and resentment in Simon. He lives in a country that hasn't been the biggest contributor to carbon emissions, so he may feel it's unfair to do something to help when he didn't cause it. He's mad, he's hurt, he's scared, but he's reflecting it through criticism and blaming in his destructive entitlement.
- “So, we want to help Simon develop what's called constructive entitlement, and that's when a person is involved in making something positive to benefit posterity. I would say, ‘Simon, pretend you are a child, and you and your brother were accused of spilling milk on the kitchen floor. You know you didn't do it, your brother did, and your mom tells both of you to clean it up. You want to say, ‘well, I shouldn't clean it up, I didn't do it!’’ I would ask Simon, ‘What would you do? How would you respond in that situation?’ I'm sure he would say that he would clean it up because he doesn't want to step on the sticky floor or smell the sour milk.
- “So then, I would explain that's how I feel about our planet. My country may not have been the biggest cause of it, but it's my planet and I care about it and my feelings of hurt and anger and fear diminish when I do something to help. So, I would definitely take time to listen to Simon’s story and how he earned his destructive entitlement. Maybe his home was the victim of flooding due to rising sea levels and temperatures, or maybe he's stressed out about the increasing heat and humidity from climate changes. I would take the time to listen to his story and his feelings to understand the scenario.”
“Individual Consumption Habits”
“Imagine you are chatting with someone while traveling somewhere—bus, train, plane, camel—however you travel with others. You reveal that you are concerned about climate change. You say you are pursuing a variety of solutions. The person you are speaking with, let’s call him Sven, replies, ‘I could not agree more. In fact, I am doing so much to address global warming—I recycle, take shorter showers, ride my bike to work, and I have become a vegan. If we each would just do our own part, we will tackle this problem.’ What do you think about Sven’s response? Is he correct to assume that if enough people change their individual consumption habits, we will tackle this problem? He clearly cares about addressing climate change and is putting lots of effort into cleaning up his personal lifestyle. How would you answer Sven?”
I received many excellent answers. Dr. Richard Bailey from the Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter in Marin County, California wrote in:
- “Unfortunately, individual actions which we all should be doing are nowhere near enough to stop carbon emissions, and certainly not enough to remove carbon from the air so that levels drop to a point where the warming stops.”
Chris Wiegard, a CCL volunteer from Richmond, VA, echoes this thought:
- “Sven has such good intentions. I would try to answer him gently, but I would explain that it’s not enough and it will never be enough. We can beg our friends and relatives to act in defiance of the market place and live lives of sacrifice, but most will refuse, as they have for the past forty years ever since the oil shocks of the 1970’s. Wouldn’t it make more sense to change the rules of the marketplace so that good intentions and money would be on the same side of the fence? We call this Carbon Fee and Dividend, and we are working to pass it as national legislation in 2017.” Well, that is a bold statement, and very exciting news!
I also received some voicemails. Taking time out from her preparations for her epic bike tour across the USA, Mindy Aller of Minnesota left a message for Sven. Here is an excerpt:
- “I see myself on a train on the way to start my bike ride across the country for climate action, and I’ve just shared with Sven that I’m biking 4,000 miles through 14 states doing conversations on climate solutions. I start by thanking him for his personal dedication and commitment to creating a better world for himself and others, and it sounds to me like personal responsibility is something he really values. Another way to take personal responsibility is by connecting with our elected officials and advocating for policies that will have an impact on a larger group of people. Putting a price on carbon will increase the cost of everything, and items with a higher carbon footprint will increase more than things with a lower carbon footprint, thus guiding more people to change their consumption habits, even if they’re not as conscientious about it as Sven is.”
Finally, Sid Madson from New Jersey sent me an amazing detailed response, in which he considers every possible twist and turn in the conversation with Sven. Now, in his answer, he shares a very useful quote from William Nordhaus, a leading climate economist:
- “Economics teaches us that it is unrealistic to hope that major reductions in emissions can be achieved by hope, trust, responsible citizenship, environmental ethics, or guilt alone. The only way to have major and durable effects is to raise the price of carbon emissions.”
Like many of the answers I received, Sid also advocates for big answers to a big problem:
- “How do we alter the decision making of the actors in the system to choose renewable energy sources? Like Nordhaus, I believe this requires a fee on fossil fuels. I would then introduce Sven to CCL’s revenue-neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.”
“More Pressing Issues Than Climate Change”
“You are at a party, perhaps a graduation party or something for work or it really doesn’t matter. You are chit-chatting, and you let drop that you are concerned about climate change. You say you are involved in a group that is pursuing solutions. The person you are chatting with, let’s call her Claire, smiles and says, “Well, I too am concerned about climate change, but really I think there are much more pressing issues that we need to address.” How might you respond in a way that opens up the conversation? See if you can offer an answer that affirms Claire while moving her closer to climate change advocacy.
John Wittmer wrote:
- “You’re right, Claire. We need to address many serious issues and we should press on as many as we can. What issues top your priority list?” So, John suggests we answer with a question and get to know a little more about Claire and what she’s concerned about.
One response from down under does something similar:
- “Hi Peterson, this is Rob Mitchell from CCL Australia. My response to Claire would be: ‘That’s really interesting, Claire. Please tell me what they are. I would love to know.’ Then, we could discuss whatever she comes up with.”
Expanding on these answers, Madeleine Para, the Program Director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, explains:
- “I would first want to find out what seems most important to them, you know, and come back with a question. What are your most urgent issues? Then, I would listen to that a little bit because there are a lot of things that people care about that are urgent besides the climate. And then, I would like to see if we could make a link. Maybe ask that question: ‘Can you see any common ground between what I am caring about with the climate that seems so urgent and what you are? What are the connections between our issues?’”
It seems like we’re getting a consensus here. I know this might seem like basic information for some people, but I actually turned to an expert who said that these responses that you’re hearing are not the typical ones.
I spoke with Dr. Joe Huxster, who is a post-doctoral research fellow at Bucknell University. As an environmental studies scholar, she surprised me by saying that she actually works in the philosophy department. She studies the public understanding of climate change science. Joe confirms that these answers that your hearing were on the right track and that research backs up the answers:
- “Claire’s response is incredibly common. It’s the kind of thing that you hear almost all the time. For a lot of us, our first instinct is to get sort of angry or to immediately yell at Claire and say ‘how could you not think that this is the most important thing that is standing in our way right now?’ What you may have noticed, and what psychological research backs up, is that this kind of response is actually more likely to alienate Claire than to bring her on your side. The more forceful your response is, the more likely it is that she is going to back up or even trench herself further and try to fight against you.
- “The first way that you can combat this and deal with this type of response is to start with something we call a grain of truth. That is acknowledging something in what Claire says that you think rings true with you. This can be really hard, given some of the responses you can get. But with Claire, it is not too difficult to say ‘oh wow, there are so many big things going on right now that take so much of our attention, aren’t there?’ By doing that, what you’ve done is sort of put yourself in her shoes and you’ve shown her that you heard what she said and that you’re listening to her.
- “Then, you can maybe ask Claire what kinds of things it is that she is concerned about; those things that she thinks are a bigger issue than climate change. You can actually then relate that or tie it back to taking action on climate change in some way. You can bring in how climate change may affect or exacerbate whatever she finds most worrying at this time. You have shown her that you’re listening to her and then you’ve done something called framing, which is where you have made something that she cares about pertinent to climate change or made climate change pertinent to something she cares about. This connects it personally to her and may help her at least see why you think climate change is a big issue.”
Glossary of Featured Artists in Art House (Episode by Episode)
Episode 58: Sarah Jaquette Ray
Sarah Jaquette Ray is a professor of environmental studies, a writer, and a mom. She doesn’t necessarily see herself as an artist. In taking on climate change, though, she recognized the essential role of the arts. On Earth Day 2020, in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, she published a book that is helping people navigate their strong feelings about climate change.
Episode 57: Annie Patterson & Peter Blood
In the Art House, we feature song leaders Annie Patterson and Peter Blood. They are liberal Quakers in New England who have been leading singing for over 30 years. They talk about the songs that motivate and inspire climate advocates. Some are protest songs and others are beautiful ballads. They discuss the role of music in social movements as they offer up their own tiny desk concert.
Episode 56: ASU's Climate Stories Collaborative
Returning to the Art House are Jennie Carlisle, the curator and director of the Smith Gallery at Appalachian State University, and Laura England, a senior lecturer. They are two of three co-facilitators of ASU’s Climate Stories Collaborative. Both Jennie and Laura appeared in Episode 49 and told us about how in spring 2020 they quickly adapted to the global pandemic by putting their annual Student Climate Stories Showcase onto Instagram.
Episode 55: Keep It Good
In the Art House you will meet Lindsay Linsky. A Bible-believing Christian in Georgia, she is the author of the book, “Keep It Good—Understanding Creation Care through Parables.” Through her book, she seeks to break through environmental apathy and partisan noise to show Christians God’s simple yet beautiful message of creation stewardship.
Episode 54: Tuesdays For Trash
Peterson talks trash with college student Sharona Shnayder. As the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down, Sharona simply could not stay inside any longer. One Tuesday, she joined a friend at neighborhood park near their university in Portland, Oregon. Together, while maintaining a safe physical distance, they picked up trash. People in her community begin to notice and join in; word quickly spread. Now there are Tuesdays for Trash events happening all over the world.
Sharona, who grew up in Nigeria, shares how picking up trash is bringing people together, lifting spirits, and getting people engaged in climate work. In fact, this may be a project your own climate group wants to take on in order to connect in a new way with your own community.
Episode 53: Artichoke Dance Company
How does an artist decide to do the work she does? How does that work evolve overtime? What impact does it have on the audience and how can an artist deepen that impact? During a recent conversation with dancer and choreographer Lynn Neuman, Peterson Toscano encountered an artist with boundless curiosity. This curiosity drives her work.
As director of Artichoke Dance Company, Lynn recognizes the vital role art plays in addressing issues like climate change. Entertaining and educating are not enough for Lynn and her company, though. They always want to do more to get people to act. Through community engagement and direct outreach to lawmakers, they are training community members how to change legislation.
And during the pandemic, Lynn Neuman and Artichoke Dance Company have been adjusting and adapting once again. See their Covid Creations. “It reflects our feelings of isolation and desires for connection during the coronavirus,” Lynn explains. “Filmed at various times of day, the series reflects the available bandwidth of the internet.”
Episode 52: Jason Davis
Joining us in the Art House is musician and composer Jason Davis. Jason curates ClimateStoriesProject.org. The site hosts videos from people all over the world. They reveal the impacts of climate change in their lives, and how they are responding. Jason takes some of these stories and composes music to accompany them. You will hear a moving and powerful testimony from John Sinnok, Inuit elder in Alaska. Woven around the story is Jason’s haunting and beautiful composition for the double bass. He calls the piece Footsteps in Snow. You will also learn how you can share your own story on the website.
Episode 51: Clara Fang, Princella Talley, and Krista Hiser
Poet and climate advocate Clara Fang shares her powerful and moving poem, “The Children on Why They are Striking for the Climate.” She also tells us about the poetry she reads and how it connects her to the natural world. Clara serves as Citizens’ Climate Lobby Student Engagement Coordinator. She holds a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from University of Utah. In the episode, she announces plans to organize a creative writing action group on CCL Community.
Photographer, writer, and climate advocate Princella Talley tells us about the vital role of art in her life and her work. Her interests in visual art and storytelling started at a young age when observing dolphins in the ocean. After a successful career as a professional writer, Princella worked on a freelance writing assignment that ultimately drew her into the world of climate change and her role as diversity outreach coordinator at Citizens’ Climate Lobby. In her conversation with podcast host Peterson Toscano, Princella speaks candidly about the challenges of being a person of color in predominantly white climate spaces.
Krista Hiser, PhD, is a professor of composition and rhetoric at Kapi’olani Community College in Honolulu, Hawaii. She also directs the Center for Sustainability Across Curriculum within the University of Hawaii system. In the spring she taught the course “Landscapes in Literature—Cli-Fi, Sci-Fi, and the Culture of Sustainability.” In this episode, Dr. Hiser outlines for us the difference between science fiction and climate fiction and provides examples for each. She also raises concerns about the many apocalyptic narratives that flood the Cli-Fi market and that play a prominent role in climate conversations. She believes there are better ways to talk about climate change.
Episode 50: Olivia Oguadinma, Doerte Wihan, Shane Petzer, Solomon Goldstein-Rose, and Violet Kitchen
Olivia Oguadinma in Nigeria discusses the role of storytelling in motivating her peers to meaningful action. Through her Gems on Earth podcast, she reaches young people throughout Western Africa and beyond.
Doerte Wihan, a mother of five and a kindergarten teacher in Berlin, Germany, had not given climate change much of a thought. Then she attended a student climate strike with one of her children. This one event launched her into the world of extreme climate change activism. She is now a member of the climate protest group Extinction Rebellion. She talks about her dramatic transformation and the strength she has found being in community with fellow climate activists.
Artist Shane Petzer in Barrydale, South Africa, talks about turning trash into art. Through the Magpie Art Collective, he and fellow artists create breathtakingly beautiful chandeliers all made from trash. Two of these hung in the White House in the Obamas’ private quarters.
And from the U.S., we feature Solomon Goldstein-Rose. In 2017, at the age 22, Solomon was elected to the Massachusetts legislature. After a two-year term, he decided he would not run again. Instead, he has been ramping up his efforts to get us thinking and acting about climate change. In March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, Solomon published his first book: “The 100% Solution. A Plan for Solving Climate Change.” The book is filled with whimsical and technically accurate illustrations by visual artist and writer Violet Kitchen. She tells us about the role art can play in change movements.
Episode 49: Jennie Carlisle and Laura England
Jennie Carlisle and Laura England are both part of the Climate Stories Collaborative at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. “The Climate Stories Collaborative is our response to the growing call for more trans-disciplinary and creative approaches to climate change communication,” they explain. “Our mission is to grow the capacity of our faculty and students to be more creative and compelling climate storytellers.” While many of the students finish with completed pieces of art, Jennie stresses that the process required to produce the art is their primary goal. Of course, they also want to reach out to the wider world whenever possible. At the end of the school year, the Climate Stories Collaborative hosts a showcase for the student artists. This provides them with an opportunity to engage with the wider public in a large gallery space. Laura explains that in the past, students, faculty, and community members would mingle in the gallery to view the art and see performances. The Climate Stories Collaborative now reaches many more people all over the world through this Instagram online showcase.
Episode 47: Elizabeth Rush
In the Art House, writer Elizabeth Rush returns with good news. Her book “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore” has garnered awards and was chosen as the Read Across Rhode Island pick. At the kick off event Elizabeth watched an excerpt of a play based on her book. Observing herself portrayed on stage gave her a chance to realize something about her own grief process she had not noticed before. She talks about what she learned and reads selections from her book.
Episode 46: Climate Stew Player
This episode’s Art House features “Survivor Generations 2165,” an original radio drama by the Climate Stew Players. In it, you’ll hear the story of Yuri Ivanovich Petrov. As a boy he survived the infamous 900 Days Siege of Leningrad during World War II. Though he experienced the unimaginable hardships, he also developed inventive ways to survive. The lessons he learned during the greatest crisis of his generation can help give us hope and guidance for our own.
Episode 45: Shirley McMillan
Irish author Shirley McMillan wanted nothing to do with climate change. A busy mom with a young child, she did not deny the reality or seriousness of climate change, but it all felt too much. She was also uninspired by the many suggestions for how women can do all the hard work to lower the family’s carbon footprint. Then something changed: Shirley began to see climate change as something more than just an environmental issue. She realized it is also a human rights issue. Hear a lively conversation between Shirley and Peterson as she shares why it took her awhile to warm up to climate action. Learning about her reasons may help you better understand why your own friends and loved ones switch off when you start talking about climate change. Discover how, over time, you can influence your friends to embrace climate action on their own terms.
Episode 44: Leo Tolstoy Excerpt
Days after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Peterson interviewed Marshall again and asked if Marshall had book recommendations for listeners. Instead of suggesting books of nonfiction about climate, policy, or civics, Marshall immediately pointed to a 19th century novel, Leo Tolstoy’s “Resurrection.” The book is about a man who loses his way in the midst of a quickly changing industrial world. Tolstoy’s most philosophical work, “Resurrection” reveals flawed characters in need of redemption and the wisdom they discover as they find their way back to the places where they belong.
Episode 43: Chantal Bilodeau
Playwright Chantal Bilodeau returns to the Art House. Every two years to coincide with the UN COP meetings, Chantal and her team organize an international event called Climate Change Theatre Action. They select 50 short climate-themed plays from playwrights around the world. This fall, over 200 communities organized events in 30 countries where they read some of these plays. Chantal shares highlights along with good news about how the movement is growing both in and outside of the theatre community. A book with all 50 of this year’s featured plays will be published in 2020. The collection of 50 plays from 2017 is available now.
Episode 42: Editors of “Rooted & Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis”
Being a climate advocate can be very difficult. How do you maintain hope in the face of bad news and apathy from those around you? Where do you find encouragement and inspiration? What role can faith play in our climate work? These are the questions Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade and Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, the editors of a new anthology of essays by climate change faith leaders, wanted to answer. They bring together 21 climate leaders in their book “Rooted & Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis.” Contributors include Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Rev. Fred Small, Cristina Leaño, and Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman. In his introduction to the book, Bill McKibben argues for the need for a faith-based book about climate action, “Love, I would suggest, is what finally roots this volume: a love for the world around us, in all its improbable glory, and for the people who alone can bear witness to that glory and rise to its defense. If they are indeed summoned to that calling, it may be in part by fear—by the proper functioning of the survival instinct. But I suspect it will be more by love, the ever-great mystery. This volume opens some windows on that mystery, because the people whose words are collected in it have been powered by that force.” In the Art House, the editors speak briefly about the book, and then contributors, Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, a research coordinator at the National Environmental Health Association reads a portion of her essay, “The View from My Window.” Corina Newsome from Young Evangelicals for Climate Action shares how her hope was rekindled through the process of writing her piece, “The Thing with Feathers.” Once she received her copy of the book and read the other essays, she found even more hope.
Episode 41: Acting for Climate
Helping the public engage in climate change requires skillful communication and a lot of creativity. One troupe of performers in Northern Europe decided to break out of the box altogether. In the summer of 2019, they presented a performance piece in Norway and Denmark. Instead of bringing the audience into a theatre, Acting for Climate took their show to eight different harbors. For a stage, they used a very large wooden boat. “Into the Water” is a theatrical circus performance aimed at raising ecological awareness. In addition to the performance, they organized festivals at each of the harbors. Acting for Climate members Abigael Rydtun Winsvold and Nathan Biggs-Penton recreate the performance for our listening audience. Hear about the circus artists and their amazing feats as they climb the eight-story high mast, do acrobatics, and take the audience on a wild and moving ride. After each performance, the troupe connected with the audience for further discussion. Abigael found the response to be better than she imagined, “People came up to us and said that they were really really touched. Even 60-year-old men, which I don’t normally see crying. They came up to us and said, ‘Wow! I’m really touched. I’m just going to take a walk and cry for myself right now.’ That was really touching for us to hear people were touched by the performance, not only excited, but also shaken a bit somehow.”
Episode 40: Catherine Pierce
What does it take to create a poetic masterpiece that also expresses the complex emotions we feel around climate change? Poet Catherine Pierce describes her process crafting her moving poem, Anthropocene Pastoral, which first appeared in the American Poetry Review. Inspired by the California “superbloom” of 2017, Pierce captures the strangeness of living in a world that is rapidly and dangerously changing but at the same time can be unseasonably pleasant and beautiful. Pierce opens the poem with the line, “In the beginning the ending was beautiful.” In the podcast, she reveals the choices she made as a poet to create the haunting mood of the poem and the lush landscape in it, filled with a riot of images, animals, and life. She explains some of the techniques and devices she uses to construct the poem. Then she reads the poem for us. You can read more of Catherine Pierce’s climate change-themed poetry online, including High Dangerous and Planet. Pierce’s last book of poetry, The Tornado is the World, is about an EF-4 tornado/extreme weather. The filmmaker Isaac Ravishankara produced a beautiful short film out of one of the poems in the collection, “The Mother Warns the Tornado.” Catherine Pierce is the co-director of the Writing Program at Mississippi State University and the author of the award winning collection of poetry, “Famous Last Words.” She is working on a new book of poetry, “Danger Days,” which continues her exploration of climate change.
Episode 39: Sean Dague
Sometimes we cannot easily imagine the impacts legislation and policy can make. We need to reduce localized pollution and heat-trapping greenhouse gases globally. So how do we build the political will so that the public clamors for legislation and policy that will change how we get and use energy? We need to communicate to the public what success looks like. Envisioning success in our climate work, though, requires imagination. To help us with this task Sean Dague, the group leader for the Mid-Hudson South chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, leads us through a powerful exercise. He asks us, What does a decarbonized world look like? What does it smell like? What does it sound like? Once you hear Sean’s vision of a successful future, we invite you to continue the exercise.
Episode 38: Liz González
Poet Liz González joins us in the Art House. Her background is important to her work. She describes herself as “a fourth generation Southern Californian on my mother’s side and the daughter of a Mexican immigrant father who died when I was three.” A teacher of creative writing through the UCLA Extension Writers Program, Liz writes poetry and creative non-fiction. Through her writing, Liz captures the beauty and the challenges of a rapidly changing landscape. For the Art House she reads from her book, “Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds: Poems y Cuentos New and Selected.” She explains how the power of the Santa Ana winds serves as a metaphor for the early years of her marriage. She also reads a poem from the anthology “Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California.” Though she is very passionate about the suffering that comes from pollution and climate change, Liz reveals how difficult it is for her to write about social justice issues. “It has to just happen naturally. I can’t sit down and decide I want to write it. It always ends up sounding preachy, and there are people who do it so much better.” Experience the natural beauty Liz recreates in her writing and learn about some of the challenges artists like Liz face in a time of climate change.
Episode 37: Eliana Dunlap
We talk with circus artist and podcaster Eliana Dunlap, who is using circus arts to raise awareness about climate change. Eliana was not born into a circus family; instead she learned circus arts at a circus school in Quebec. Her circus skill set is impressive and includes acrobatics, juggling, dance, and her specialty, the German Wheel (pictured below). She has been performing circus arts in non-traditional spaces. She is also someone who is creatively responding to climate change. Through her podcast, “Changing the World and Other Circus Related Things,” she is connecting with other concerned circus artists. She is also one of the founding members of the Circus Action Network. Eliana likens the high stakes world of circus arts to the challenges we face with climate change. She also sees examples from the circus world about how we can get people from various backgrounds to work together. This summer she and a friend will do street performances of a new circus art show called “High Stakes—What’s the Plan(t)?” In addition to lots of juggling and acrobatics, the show features a live plant as part of the action. In this fascinating interview, Eliana opens up about the world of circus and how she and other concerned artists are creating avenues for a deeper conversation about climate change
Episode 36: Elizabeth Doud
Elizabeth Doud takes on the role of Siren Jones in her one-person performance, “The Mermaid Tear Factory.” Based in Miami, Florida, she has been a catalyst to engage other artists in conversations around climate change. Each year she helps organize Climakaze Miami. Elizabeth explains why she sees Miami as the city of the future—both with its international changing demographics and the many ways climate change is reshaping the city. She also shares why artists need to break away from telling the story of climate science and instead dig deep into the hard emotions around climate change.
Episode 35: Peter Buckland
Peter Buckland is a local politician, a sustainability expert at Penn State University, and a poet. He also loves to listen to music. In this episode, he talks about the powerful environmental messages he hears in heavy metal music. Discover how this loud, fast music speaks directly to the climate change problems we created and must address.
Episode 34: Hope Clark
Returning to the Art House is Hope Clark. She is a dancer concerned about climate change. In a past episode she told us how she decided to engage her community in the Washington, D.C., area through a public art project. To do so, she used giant parachutes. Creating an art piece can help us process our thoughts and feelings about a topic as large and challenging as climate change. No surprise then, once she completed the Make a Movement Parachute Community Project, Hope began to go deeper into her own feelings. She found herself returning to an old comfort—an addiction to cigarette smoking. Hope is making powerful connections between her own addictions and society’s addiction to fossil fuels. Through spoken word and dance, she is exploring the comforts we seek that have failed us
Episode 33: Marissa Slaven
Marissa Slaven talks about her novel, “Code Blue,” an eco-mystery. Drawing on her love of the coast in New England and even her background as a palliative care physician, Marissa has created a near future world that is stressed by climate change in a society that has chosen to respond creatively to it. She expertly weaves in various mysteries her main character, a high school student, must solve. These mysteries are both personal and scientific. Her book is one you cannot easily put down once you start reading it.
Episode 32: Michelle Irizarry
In the Art House section of the podcast, you will meet Michelle Irizarry. She is a visual artist and civil engineer living in Orlando, Florida. As a result of climate change, she has seen a big transformation in her work as an artist. Hear about her powerful new paintings and the role of art in her life as she deepens her understanding of climate change.
Episode 31: Dr. Jeffrey Bennett and Roberta Collier-Morales
Dr. Jeffrey Bennett and illustrator Roberta Collier-Morales created the whimsical and moving children’s book, “The Wizard Who Saved the World”. While most of his Dr. Bennett’s “Max the Dog” books are about space travel, Jeff felt it was time to write about what was happening on earth with global warming. Not only did he tap into deep emotions, he also found a new illustrator who could capture the story of Diego, a boy suddenly alarmed by climate change and motivated to do something about it. To create the vibrant images about Diego’s inner and outer world, Roberta Collier-Morales drew on her own childhood struggles with dyslexia and the role imagination played in her young life.
Episode 30: Peterson Toscano
In this section of the episode, Peterson Toscano also creates a fictional persona called Tony Buffusio to explore the question “What does the Bible say about climate change?” He tells the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, who lives in Egypt during a time of temporary regional shifts in the climate. Not only does he predict changes in weather patterns, he develops a plan of how to look after the people. Peterson is a Bible scholar with a passion for looking after the welfare of people who are affected by extreme weather events.
Episode 29: Elizabeth Rush
We learn about climate fiction or “cli-fi” from Elizabeth Rush. Although she is the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed non-fiction book, “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore,” she also teaches cli-fi at Brown University. She reveals the differences and important contributions both humanities and science students bring to the course. She also provides us with a reading list and discusses “Gold, Fame, Citrus” by Claire Vaye Watkins, “10:04” by Ben Lerner and “New York 2140” by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Episode 28: Dante Flores
The Thanksgiving holiday table can play host to some of the most dramatic family encounters all year. In his play “Dad,” theater student Dante Flores decides to magnify the tension. In this podcast episode, he talks about the setting, tone, and structure of his play. By putting the action on a repeat loop, he deepens the theater experience.
Episode 27: Dan Dewald
Singer-songwriter Dan Dewald produces music as Hayride Casualties. His album “Fossil Fuel Kid” is all about climate change. The songs explore how climate change affects us, pointing to the complications of feeling complicit in contributing to the pollution. In addition, his songs address the fierce passionate response needed to deal with our growing fossil fuel problem.
Episode 26: Elizabeth Rush
Author Elizabeth Rush reads from her new book, “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore.” She traveled to U.S. coastal communities to hear from residents about sea level rise. The encroaching waters threaten these communities, but the crisis is also waking people up to the growing risks of climate change.
Episode 25: Tyree Daye
Joining us in the Art House is poet Tyree Daye. As an African-American man living in the U.S. South, Tyree weaves together stories and voices from his family. He artistically expresses the collective trauma they have experienced and the deep insights passed down. Rivers, water, and flooding continually come up in his book of poetry called River Hymns. Tyree talks about his poetry and reads pieces from the book and new poetry.
Episode 24: Chantal Bilodeau
Playwright Chantal Bilodeau returns to the Art House. This time, she tells us about two visual artists whose work helps make the invisible worlds of pollution and climate change visual in very visceral ways. Learn about American artist Eve Mosher with her flood lines, and Chinese artist Brother Nut and his pollution bricks.
Episode 23: Fritz Horstman
Artist Fritz Horstman shares the story of his trip to the Arctic Circle to take underwater photographs. The visual landscape of the frozen and thawing north captivated him, but the sounds really inspired him. He asked his fellow artists on the voyage to recreate the creaks and groans of the glaciers for his video, “Ice Voices.”
Episode 22: Claire Vaye Watkins
Claire Vaye Watkins, author of the cli-fi novel Gold Fame Citrus, is Peterson Toscano’s guest on this month’s podcast. Claire talks about her book and the importance of storytelling in this time of climate change. With her writing and imagination, she allows herself to go to places many climate advocates avoid. In doing so, she raises important questions about our work and this critical time in history. Wise, insightful, and witty, hearing this interview will help you hone your own skills as a storyteller.
Episode 20: Chantal Bilodeau
Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright originally from Quebec province in Canada. Her award winning plays take on climate change. Set in the Arctic, they are beautiful, original, and are moving audiences all over the world. In her Arctic Cycle plays, she has roles for human and non-human characters. Chantal believes live theater experiences create special opportunities for audiences. In order to address the loneliness and isolation that can come with doing creative work around global warming, Chantal created Artists and Climate Change, a website that is connecting artists all over the world and making their work known to climate advocates. She is also committed to bringing original quality climate theater to many communities. She talks about Climate Change Theatre Action. Learn how you can easily and inexpensively host a reading of short climate plays.
Episode 19: Emily Puthoff
Can art save the bees? Sculptor Emily Puthoff is attempting to do just that through the Hudson Valley Bee Habitat. She along with her fellow artists are engaging their community in a large scale art project that builds bee habitats. Learn about this ambitious project and about the essential roles bees play in our everyday life.
Episode 18: Hope Clark
Hope Clark is the director of Wheelbarrow Productions. A trained dancer from the USA, Hope began doing community art in Northern Africa. Now based in Kent County, Md., Hope has turned her attention toward climate change. She is working on a community art piece called Make a Movement. Learn how she is attempting to use movement and a very large parachute to help community members young and old to explore climate change.
Episode 17: Josh Neufeld, Dave Eggers, and Patricia Smit
Peterson shares three books that look back at Hurricane Katrina. Learn about a graphic novel, a work of nonfiction, and a book of poetry: “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge” by Josh Neufeld, “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers, and “Blood Dazzler” by Patricia Smit.
Episode 15: Anna Fritz
Singer-songwriter Anna Fritz is a classically trained cellist based in Portland, Ore. She fuses her artistry with her passions for justice and the environment, creating a whole new style of folk music with her cello. She talks about the inspiration for her songs and her role in encouraging climate advocates. Hear two songs from her new album, “On a High Hill.”
Episode 14: Jason Zeikowitz
Sung to the tune of “Be Our Guest,” the classic “Beauty and the Beast” song, Jason Zeikowitz performs a showstopper about scientists. Zeikowitz is a master of sustainability at Arizona State University. Check out his videos on YouTube and follow Science Sigh on Twitter.
Episode 13: Dr. Timothy Meadows
In the Art House, we travel back to the future with Timothy Meadows and “That Day in Climate History.” Reporting from the year 2167, he reveals the pets of the future.
Episode 12: Leo Tolstoy/Glen Retief
Marshall Saunders has a book recommendation to share, a novel written in 1899 by Leo Tolstoy. Marshall tells us why he thinks climate advocates should read Tolstoy’s Resurrection. South African author Glen Retief reads excerpts from the novel.
Episode 11: Dr. Timothy Meadows
We travel back to the future to hear from climate historian, Dr. Timothy Meadows. He broadcasts from the year 2176 to look back to our time. In this segment he highlights the incredible achievements of three engineers known as “The Three Beans.” Starting around 2028, they made their mark as creative and skilled designers of major adaptation projects. They also operated with style and playfulness. The Three Beans stirred up hope in a difficult time. They became three of the biggest celebrities of the mid-21st Century. Hear from an eye-witness from the future and also discover what they are advertising 150 years from now.
Episode 10: Clara Fang
Joining us in the Art House is Clara Fang. Clara is a writer, environmentalist, and a photographer currently based in Detroit, Michigan. She is also the higher education liaison at Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Her poems have been published in numerous journals. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She won The Lyric poetry contest, and was a finalist for the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award. Clara was born in Shanghai, China, and immigrated to the United States when she was nine years old. She reads the poem, “Love in the Time of Climate Change.
Episode 9: Peterson Toscano
Elizabeth Jeremiah, a comic character created by Peterson, talks about blessings and curses. To help drive her point home, she explains how carbon dioxide polluted by humans acts as a generational curse, one that falls upon the heads of the children "and the children's children's children." Drawing on lessons she learned in church, Elizabeth Jeremiah issues a call for national repentance. Turn away from that flamboyant, sinful, fossil fuel lifestyle!
Episode 8: Ashley Mazanec
Ashley Mazanec, a singer/songwriter from Encinitas, California, joins us in the art house. She tells us about some of the songs on her new album, “Let’s Talk about the Weather,” and fills the segment with her powerful and lively music. In addition to making music, Ashley holds regular monthly events that bring together other eco-artists.
Episode 7: Lilace Mellin Guignard
Joining us in the Art House is environmentalist, professor and poet Lilace Mellin Guignard. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals, and her book “Young at the Time of Letting Go” was published by Evening Street Press in 2016. She joined the podcast with a timely and moving poem about winters, present and future.
Episode 6: Dr. David R. Bowne
Joining us in the Art House is Dr. David R. Bowne, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Elizabethtown College. Using his scientific expertise and tapping into his creative side, David wrote a short story, “Henry Ford Hated Glaciers.” He reads an excerpt with us.
Episode 5: Marvin Bloom
In this month’s Art House, you will meet Marvin Bloom, a fictional comic character who takes a serious look at climate denial. Through his playful meditation on the issue, Marvin humanizes the denial experience and considers various types of climate denial. He also reveals a weird place where he is still stuck in denial.
Episode 4: Michael Levy
In this month’s Art House, you will meet Marvin Bloom, a fictional comic character who takes a serious look at climate denial. Through his playful meditation on the issue, Marvin humanizes the denial experience and considers various types of climate denial. He also reveals a weird place where he is still stuck in denial.
Episode 3: Christian Missionaries
What will they be saying about us in the future? We take a trip to the future to look back at the present day about the role that Christian missionaries can take as witnesses to their churches at home about how climate change affects the people in the countries where they serve.
Episode 2: Lilace Mellin Guignard
We hear from ecologist and poet Lilace Mellin Guignard, who asks the profound question, How do we raise children in a time of climate change? She answers this question with a poem.
Episode 1: Peterson Toscano
Peterson Toscano, shares a comic monologue with five of his wackiest characters. Together they reveal the Five Stages of Hot Climate Action!