Call Us: 570 483 8194

Climate Stew Blog

BIG Stories Require Better Storytelling Skills

Writing for Forbes, Solitaire Townsend recounts hearing Harrison Ford speak about climate change in a very unconventional way,

“Let’s kick this monster’s ass!” roared Harrison Ford at the Global Climate Action Summit yesterday.

Now, as a girl, Indiana Jones and Han Solo got me hooked on storytelling, character and yes, fighting monsters. So, the idea of climate change as a monster story hooked my imagination.

But there’s a problem.

Because if you review most climate messages in the media, then this story actually has two acts: man makes monster, then monster destroys man.

It’s a grand morality tale which neatly fits a primordial structure in our subconscious. This plot sings to something deep within us, a tale we’ve told since we sat around fires weaving myths in the dark.

She goes on to explain,

Climate change isn’t presented to the public as plucky rebels against the empire. Instead climate is told as a Frankenstein story: that with our avarice and vanity, we have created the horror that will ultimately defeat us.

The narrative necessity of this climate story is hard to escape. Throughout this summer of ‘hothouse earth,’ and the decades leading up to it, this human hubris story has been the basic blueprint of climate change messaging.

If you want to be a better climate communicator, I urge you to read the rest of the article. I find it thought-provoking and helpful.

The Epic Story of Solving Climate Change

How to Talk About Climate Change Without Being a Total Downer

I don’t know about you, but it is easy to be that person at the party who brings the festivities to a halt. “Hey Peterson, what’s going on in your life and work?” I straighten up, smile, and say, “I’m really excited about my presentations about climate change.” People tense up. They expect the prophet of gloom and doom and shame and blame to start spewing forth.

It is easy to do. Climate change is downright dire and scary. I learned a long time ago though when talking about sexuality and the Bible, people need help to come close to these hot topic issues that stir up strong, negative emotions.

via GIPHY

Sara Peach at Yale Climate Connections asked me about the role of comedy and climate change communication, so I told her about the Homo No Mo Halfway House.

Toscano said in a recent interview that comedy can be an effective strategy for engaging people in difficult topics. Toscano, who is gay, spent nearly two decades undergoing conversion therapy, the discredited practice of attempting to alter a person’s sexual orientation. After abandoning the therapy and coming out, he struggled to talk about the harm he had experienced.

“I needed to tell that story, but telling it directly was too overwhelming for me and my audience,” he said. “It was too heavy, and it was bringing in hot-topic issues of faith and sexuality that provoked people. I realized I needed a different way.”

He tried comedy, eventually writing and starring in a 90-minute satirical play called “Doin’ Time In The Homo No Mo’ Halfway House: How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement!

Toscano said sharing his experiences in this way made the topic more approachable.

“The problem is, when people are tense, particularly when they’re afraid or ashamed or angry, they don’t think as clearly,” he said. “So comedy helps, because it can address a lot of those things. It relaxes the audience physically and mentally so they can hear what you’re saying.”

To read more of the article (and see delightful gifs of Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live) check out Yale Climate Connections’ Advice Column.

via GIPHY

 

Processing Grief in a Time of Climate Change with Extinction Rebellion and Hope Clark

We have entered an age of fierce and essential protesting. The #BlackLivesMatter Movement demonstrated the power of organizing and demanding to be heard on-line, in the media, and on the streets. Now in regards to climate change, we are witnessing a global uprising of young people and adults insisting they need to be heard by the powers that be.

Robin Boardman of Extinction Rebellion

While to many people much of these uprisings seem totally spontaneous and the leaders appear to have come out of no where, often there has been a great deal of thought, care, and strategizing by people who have been seriously engaged with these issues for awhile. Also, behind the scenes, many of these protesters are processing strong emotions of grief and sadness about the suffering they are seeing in the world.

In my latest Citizens Climate Radio podcast episode, I speak with one of these people, Robin Boardman, a university student in Bristol, England, who has taken some time off from his studies to organize actions with the group Extinction Rebellion. He shares what it is like to shut down a major bridge in London. Robin also reveals the values and principles that ground the work he and his colleagues at XR do. He also talks about how XR takes time to acknowledge grief over climate change. Finally, he tells us about future major actions in the works.

You will also hear from Hope Clark, (pictured above) a dancer who as been honestly and vulnerably exploring the role addiction has in her life–particularly her addiction to cigarettes. She connects these to our shared addiction to fossil fuels. Through dance and words, she is trying to make sense of it as she works through the climate grieving process that many of us feel even if it is deeply hidden and distracted by various comforts.

Below is a one-minute trailer for the show and then a link to the entire podcast.

Citizens Climate Radio Ep 34 Extinction Rebellion trailer from Peterson Thomas Toscano on Vimeo.

Power Will Sketch 1 from Hope Clark on Vimeo.

You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher RadioSoundCloudPodbeanNorthern Spirit RadioGoogle PlayPlayerFM, 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.

 

On a desert island in a time of climate change #Philippines

Gael Henry Carlut grew up in the Philippines on what was once a desert island. Gael’s father is from France and his mother is from Iloilo in the Philippines. They fell in love and in 1986 settled on Pandan Island.  Their goal was to protect the extraordinary coral reef that surrounds the island and then share it with others. Gael left the Philippines and settled in France to study environmental science and water treatment processes. He felt a strong pull though to return not only to the Philippines, but to this remote island. I recently visited Pandan Island and chatted with Gael about the island, climate change, and the pursuit of happiness.

Marissa Slaven talked to me about her novel, Code Blue, an eco-mystery. Drawing on her love of the coast in New England and even her background a palliative care physician, Marissa has created a near future world that is stressed by climate change in a society has chosen to respond creatively to it. She expertly weaves in various mysterious her main characters, Atlantic or Tic, a high school student, must solve. These mysterious are both personal and scientific. Her book is one you cannot easily put down once you start reading it.

Pollution so racist? Pollution does not affect everyone equally.

Brentin Mock

Brentin Mock writes about a new map that highlights how pollution and the ability to process it in a community affects residents of low-income or high-minority neighborhoods.

Chicago suffers from inequality in many forms, including uneven exposures to pollution and toxins throughout its many neighborhoods. Now, a sophisticated new map of the Windy City shows how, even among the dirtiest streets, not all pollution is created equal.

That’s because some neighborhoods are better equipped to handle these environmental risks than others—perhaps because they’re wealthier, or have more time, or enjoy closer access to their political representatives. Meanwhile, residents of low-income or high-minority neighborhoods can sometimes be all but forgotten by their representatives. It’s a distinction of which policymakers must be mindful when planning new developments in Chicago.

Created by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the new map combines both the environmental and socio-demographic characteristics of each Chicago neighborhood. It considers factors such as cancer and respiratory risks from air toxins, lead paint exposure, and proximity to Superfund sites; on the socio-demographic side, it incorporates poverty, minorities, linguistic isolation, and the percentage of young and old people.

Read the piece and see a high res image of the map at CityLab.