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A Time-Traveling Climate Change Podcast Episode RV Sci Pod

I am always hungry for climate change presentations that include playfulness, creativity, and thoughtfulness to them. Recently at Raritan Valley Community College, I met up with students who were working on the very first episode of their new science podcast. They decided they would start with the topic of climate change. Nothing like jumping right in to take on a tough issue.

Seriously, there is no topic more difficult to talk about than climate change. When I speak to Communications classes, I stress how hard it is to communicate effectively about climate change. Listeners shut down so quickly because of so many reasons–fear, shame, anger, despair, powerless, or a thick toxic combo of all those feelings. I joke that if you want to know if a on a TV cooking show a chef is really good, have that chef prepare a vegan meal. It takes real skill, nuance, and creatively. Similarly, if you want to challenge communication experts, have them give a presentation about climate change. It is the vegan meal of communications.

The students who produced episode one of RV Sci Pod, You Can Keep the Climate Change, met the challenge and created an effective, stimulating, whimsical, informed, and moving podcast about climate change. They play with time having some of the action take place in the future. They include characters, particularly a grandfather of the future and his grandchild. In an especially entertaining and insightful mock trial, they cleverly use real audio clips of famous people talking about climate change. They include the damning dismissiveness of Donald Trump and the passionate appeal of Richard Attenborough.

They pack all this and more into an episode of 35 minutes that never feels rushed or cluttered. The sound quality is excellent, and the tone they maintain throughout is welcoming, playful, and informed. This podcast is an excellent primer for the basics of climate change, but more than that it reaches the heart in unexpected ways. Just have a listen, share it with young people you know and older people too.

You can follow RV Sci Pod on Twitter or find them follow scipod_rvcc on Instagram

(featured image credit: Photo by Dynamic Wang on Unsplash)

Plastics in Waterways and Climate Change Messages in Grindcore Music

Nicole Chatterson

Plastics? Yuck!

Plastic is so naughty. These days plastic products are being vilified because they:

  1. are made from fossil fuels and release a bunch of greenhouse gases while being made.
  2. end up everywhere (including our bodies) except in recycling and landfills
  3. last for a very long time and then release even more greenhouse gases.

While I do a lot of work talking about mitigating and adapting to climate change, I haven’t spent that much time learning about plastic pollution. Thanks to Nicole Chatterson from the University of Hawaii and Dominic Scicchitano from Bucknell University, I know a lot more. Nicole has done research in the Pacific Ocean while Dominic looked into plastics in the Susquehanna River.

I wanted to include Dominic because I live on the banks of the Susquehanna, and I wanted a local perspective. They both appear in episode 35 of Citizens Climate Radio.

Dominic Scicchitano

They are both engaging speakers and told me a lot about micro-plastics, tiny plastics either designed that way for say skin care products, or broken down from larger pieces of plastic that did not get properly discarded. What I especially love is how they are looking at big solutions. Sure do what you can to use less single-use plastic in your own personal life, but they are looking for systems changes in packaging, production, and waste management.

The Art House

The other part of the show that came out really well is an interview with sustainability expert, Peter Buckland. He is a renaissance man–a poet, politician, musician, teacher, and more. He also loves heavy metal music. He told me all about Grindcore (which sounds like a new gay app or else a very gay workout regime) and Thrash Metal (which just sounds like it must be really loud.) These two sub-genres of metal take sources of negative energy, including greenhouse gas pollution.

For example there is the band Testament and their song, Greenhouse Effect.

If  you want to learn about the world, there are many ways of doing it. One of my favorites is host a podcast. It forces me to engage with people and ideas that fall well ourself of my experience and even comfort zone.

Check out Ep 35 for yourself and please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts

(Featured image: Photo by Nicola Gypsicola on Unsplash)

Another Extreme Weather Event? Yawn…

Kristen Pope over at Yale Climate Connections writes about how people are growing used to extreme weather. The new normal has not translated into action around climate change.

Quoting Francis Moore, assistant professor of environmental science and policy at the University of California, Davis, Pope writes:

“What we show is that, if you have unusual temperatures and this is the first you’ve ever experienced it, that generates a big change on Twitter and people are talking about it a lot,” Moore says. “But if you have that same change … two years in a row, then people begin to stop talking about it. And if you have that same change eight years in a row, then people completely stop talking about it. So what that implies is that people’s idea of normal has shifted from what it used to be to this new state that’s defined by what happened two to eight years ago. And so we’re estimating this is kind of what people think of as normal just based on the rates at which they stop tweeting about unusual temperatures when they get them repeatedly year after year.”

Moore’s recent study builds upon previous research about social media and climate change. In 2015, a PLOS ONE study analyzed tweets from September 2008 to July 2014 that used the word “climate.” The researchers found Twitter to be a valuable tool for sharing climate change information, and they wrote in the paper that “We find that natural disasters, climate bills, and oil-drilling can contribute to a decrease in happiness while climate rallies, a book release, and a green ideas contest can contribute to an increase in happiness.” They found climate change advocates were more likely to use the words than deniers.

Read the entire article for yourself: The growing frequency of extreme weather dulls people’s awareness of climate change impacts, Most people normalize extreme weather over just two to eight years, Twitter researchers say.


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.


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.