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Optimism, Climate, and Tolstoy

The latest episode of Citizens’ Climate Radio is up!

As climate advocates, we come to this work with our own set of values. I speak with marketing researcher and volunteer climate advocate, Lesley Beatty about the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s Core Values. CCL founder Marshall Saunders joins in the conversation with a burst of optimism.

Art House

Marshall Saunders sticks around to help with our Art House segment. He 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.

Citizens’ Climate Radio Ep 12 Values with Marshall Saunders and Lesley Beatty

Who is the Most Creative of Them All? Engineers?!?

Dr. Hugh Sealy at climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany

For a long time I have been impressed with just how creative and artistic engineers can be. In my early 20s I met someone studying to be an electrical engineer. Along with his disciplined and detail oriented approach to his work, he also displayed an artsy side.

In my latest Citizens’ Climate Radio podcast episode I ask Dr. Hugh Sealy, an environmental engineer, about his creative side. As a problem solver, he is looking for solutions. Creativity is important to devise elegant solutions to complicated problems.

I aslo feature a 19 year old student, Adia Samba-Quee, from Springfield, MA. She is just beginning her journey as someone concerned about climate change. Her response? To use comedy and journalism.

For the Art House I get creative myself by imagining what a historian will have to say about us from the year 2167. Turns out the celebrities of our future will be engineers!

You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunesStitcher RadioPodbean, and now on Northern Spirit 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.

Moving Beyond the Traditional Climate Talking Points

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade, PhD

Climate Stew crew member, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade wrote an Op-Ed that was published in the Lexington Herald Ledger. She recognizes that most people are not moved by the traditional talking points when it comes to climate change. She is undeterred. Her response is to consider new talking points about issues that drive the point home.

No matter how much I think the ethics of our faith should be extended to our neighbors within the other-than-human world and to generations of people we will never meet, that is simply not the reality. Humans, generally speaking, care most about their personal circumstances, immediate family and short-term impacts on their wallets.

So why should someone care about climate change? Are there any immediate impacts on our health, family or wallets? As a matter of fact, there are.

 She then goes on to outline these impacts. Read more here

Can US Conservatives and Progressive Agree on Climate Action?

The Elephant Podcast has an excellent episode produced by Barbara Lucas. She asks if we can find common ground between Conservatives and Progressives when it comes to climate solutions. In order to find out, Barbara speaks with many people on all sides.

The episode is insightful, revealing, and hopeful.

Conservatives, especially in America, are known for doubting the scientific basis of man-made climate change, and the need to do anything about it. But earlier this February something surprising happened – several elder Republican statesmen released a proposal for what they call a Conservative solution to climate change. The plan consists primarily of carbon tax – something that many progressives have long advocated for. But controversially for Democrats, the plan also calls for repealing more intricate climate regulations such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

At this time when by all signs it seems like the divide between Republicans and Democrats is wider than ever, Radio producer Barbara Lucas takes a look at the plan, and asks, when it comes to climate change, can Conservatives and Progressives in the U.S. ever find common ground?

Climate Communication: Better Stories Needed!

How do you market a problem like the Climate?

I spoke with a marketing expert yesterday. Lesley Beatty, a volunteer at Citizens’ Climate Lobby, is concerned about climate change and its affects on her children. Part of our conversation centered on marketing climate change–getting people to understand and care about it. She says climate global warming may be the greatest marketing challenge of all. As a storyteller, I agree.

Stories matter. They help shape how we perceive the world and our roles in it. In considering our climate change narratives, Michael Segal explains,

Peter Sheridan Dodds has a nickname for us humans: Homo narrativus. Dodds, a professor at the University of Vermont, uses mathematics to study social networks. He has argued that people see the stories of heroes and villains, where there are really just networks and graphs. It’s our desire for narrative, he says, that makes us believe that something like fame is the result of merit or destiny and not a network model quirk.

Breaking out of the narrative binary

Segal says that with an absence of helpful stories about climate change, the vacuum has gotten filled with a glut of unhelpful ones.

Faced with an absence, we revert to old narratives, and there are few older than utopia and dystopia. The skeptic storyline of the rise of a dictatorial world government usurping American values must be considered not as a unique reply to climate change but as the latest instance of a well-established dystopic trope, stoked by the climate narrative vacuum. Something similar can be said for attacks on the capitalist enterprise from the left. The public, for its part, is served visions of an apocalyptic future, whether it’s from politicians or from Hollywood—and, simultaneously, the utopianism of far-distant science fiction, which as a category is consumed in greater quantity than science journalism and which reflects and encourages what sociologists call “optimism bias” or “technosalvation.” These utopian instincts are strengthened by a historical data point obvious to all: Our species has survived every obstacle we’ve encountered, and we are still here.

As a performer and climate communicator, I stay away from both utopian and dystopian visions of the future. They do not require that much imagination. It is more challenging is to imagine success and a practical, stable future that still has flawed humans in it with the on-going social issues we face that we carry with us into the future. It is an imperfect world, but a workable one. In part, that is why I created the series of monologues, That Day in Climate History.

Who is telling good climate stories?

One of the challenges that interferes with good climate storytelling is the vast scope of the problem. It is global and takes place over hundreds of years. Aaron Their, in his novel Mr. Eternity, has embraced the immenseness of the issue by setting his story over 1,000 years with five narrators and some characters who never die. They live as witnesses. I interviewed Aaron on my Citizens’ Climate Radio show where he also reads excerpts from his book.

In his article about climate narratives, Michael Segal raises lots of questions. He expertly points out how we are getting it wrong in the media and in the scientific community. He makes some suggestions but ultimately ends with more questions that need to be considered.

The narrative questions around climate change are broad. What does it mean for there to be a scientific consensus? How is the scientific method properly applied to a system that resists experimentation? What does a complex system look like? What is the nature of risk and probability? Each has a direct bearing on the climate change conversation without necessarily being about climate change. They, and others like them, constitute a suprascientific narrative that is necessary for science to become culture. In a way, every good science story is a story about all of science and helps us understand every other science story.

Read To Fix Climate, Tell Better Stories: The Missing Climate Change Narrative by Michael Segal writing for Nautilus.

(Art by Ernesto Neto : Cuddle on the Tightrope installation at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, NYC)