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Category: Climate Action

Climate Change, Art, and Women

Chantal Bilodeau, playwright

Playwright, Chantal Bilodeau, raises an interesting point about the large percentage of women doing creative work around climate change. While women are wildly underrepresented in climate sciences, when it comes to the crossroads of arts and climate communication, women take the lead.

I have been doing work at the intersection of arts and climate change for over a decade, and though I have no scientific data to back what I’m about to say, I have observed that women climate much more than men—that is to say, this particular intersection is overwhelmingly female. I have found this to be true again and again, whether I’m leading workshops, commissioning playwrights, or publishing essays by artists who engage with the issue. As soon as you say “arts” and “climate change” in the same sentence, the traditional male/female ratio gets reversed.

As part of the annual HowlRound series on Theatre in the Age of Climate Change series, Chantal looks at a variety of studies that explore gender and climate change. Her article, Why Do Women Climate More than Men? is well worth reading. And check out the other climate themed pieces appearing this week.

How Climate Change Affects our Emotions, and How to Face Them

In November I got to speak with an amazing climate advocate at a Citizens’ Climate Lobby conference in Ottawa, Canada. Marlo Firme was born in the Philippines and lived in both Vancouver, BC and Manila. From the earliest age he heard about climate change, and it bothered him. Anxious, angry, guilty, overwhelmed, he experienced many emotions. Still he find he needed to do something about it.

Prototypes of artistic solitary bee habitats.

Marlo speaks with such emotional honesty and with wisdom. I include our chat for Ep 19 of Citizens’ Climate Radio.

Also, I feature Emily Puthoff, a sculptor who is using her skills to build bee habitats in her community. Learn about the many different types of bees in North America, the risks they face, and ways we can help foster healthy bee populations.

New Web Series — Funny, Smart, and Really Good!

I am so grateful to Daisy Simmons over at Yale Climate Connections for writing about The North Pole show, a new web series about a group of friends in Oakland, CA. What a blast!

I love how it plays with the stereotypes of environmentalists and re-centers the conversation to look at earthlings in cities, gentrification, justice, and friendship.

Over on their YouTube page they explain the show this way:

The North Pole is a political comedy web series that hits on our generation’s biggest social issues: Gentrification. Global warming. Gluten-free donuts. The show follows three best friends born and raised in North Oakland, CA (better known to locals as The North Pole) who struggle to stay rooted as their neighborhood becomes a hostile environment.

Across seven outrageous episodes, Nina, Marcus, and Benny fight, dream, and plot hilarious schemes to save the place they call home. Facing both local displacement and global climate change, they combat evil landlords, crazy geoengineering plots, and ultimately each other.

It is the connecting of these various issues that do not normally get into the climate change conversation that makes this show shine. Check out the trailer.

Now watch Episode One

Nina, Marcus, and Benny head on a unique tour of their rapidly changing North Oakland neighborhood. Hit with an unexpected rent hike, they have to find a creative solution to stay in their home.

Can a Car Racer also be a Climate Advocate?

Aaron Telitz

The short answer is, yes of course. We need climate advocates in every field and profession. Still a race car, which pumps out tons of greenhouse gases in a single seasons seems like the unlikely place to find a climate advocate. Or so I thought.

Then I met Aaron Telitz, the 25 year old Indy Lights driver. He drives fast and is concerned about climate change. He also puts his money where his mouth is, and agreed to charge himself $15 per ton for the fossil fuels he burnt and used up with tires (so many tires!)

It seems like a modest start, but this is the model a group called Citizens’ Climate Lobby is proposing. Price carbon so much per ton, then every year raise the price. Following this plan, Aaron will pay $25 per ton during his next season. All the money he is donating to Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

I sat down with Aaron to talk about his self-imposed carbon fee, but as these things go the conversation bounced around lots of other issues. I learned a lot about car racing, why drivers like him need to keep his weight stable, some of his favorite food cravings during the season, and the superiority of electric engine compared to combustion engines.

You can hear a sample of our conversation and see pics of Aaron in this video below.

Hope Clark doing community art around climate change

You can hear the entire interview on the Citizens’ Climate Lobby channel in iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, or wherever you get your podcasts. The show also featured Hope Clark, a dancer who is using movement and art to help her community better understand climate change and make connections to their own lives. Here is a direct link.

Or just click play right below.

Coming Out as a Gay Climate Activist

There was nothing in my previous work as an LGBTQ human rights activist and as a queer Bible scholar to indicate that I would make a radical shift to climate action. These days I spend much of my time thinking, researching, writing, and talking about climate change. I lead workshops on climate communication, I perform on stage, and I produce a monthly podcast about it.

Here I am coming out at the People Climate March with the Queers for the Climate. See peeking in the bottom of the frame.

So what happened? How did I go from being aware and concerned but not engaged to someone who can’t stop talking about climate change? Did I receive a Al Gore into my heart? Did I have an encounter with a polar bear? Did I get abducted by environmentalists? Nope, none of the above.

It was love that drew me into climate work, love for my husband, Glen Retief, who suddenly felt gripped by the reality of climate change and initially powerless to do anything about it. His distress triggered something in me that led me to learn more. But what ultimately woke me up to the reality of climate change was not any of the normal triggers. No, my climate story is definitely queer. It had nothing to do with polar bears and everything to do with pasta.

In this video I break it down for you. Yes, I am shallow, but that shallowness got me engaged, so that’s something.

Coming Out Again? This time as a climate weirdo. from Peterson Thomas Toscano on Vimeo.

Quest for Water: 300 women Dig Wells

In these days of climate change I need to look out for stories where people and communities are resilient. We have work ahead. I learned about this story about a group of women in Southern India.  Maneka Gandhi tweeted:

Megha Varier writing for The News Minute tells the story:

All photographs sourced from Panchayat President Jayadevan K

How 300 women dug 190 wells to save their panchayat from drought in Kerala.

Lakshmikutty (39), a resident of Pookkottukavu panchayat in Kerala’s Palakkad district, has been working under the central government’s MNREGA scheme since the past six years. Lakshmi used to be wary of heights, but not anymore.

Lakshmi, along with 299 other women have defied their inhibitions and have dug as many as 300 wells in their panchayat over a period of six months. Now, she climbs down the wells with practiced ease–tying two ladders together, suspending them inside the wells and then climbing down to dig the well deeper, until she finds water.

Earth Pride Day

In 2014 I came out as somebody concerned about global warming. I marched in the Peoples Climate March. It felt more like a parade than a marchto me. I saw strolled along with the colorful Queer’s for the climate. 

Three years later on the eve of another big climate march, this one in Washington DC, people are asking if I will take part in that event. I will not. Not that I’m opposed to it, but I will be traveling from the Midwest that day just as I traveled the same day as the women’s march in DC back in January.

I like the idea of people coming together, for joining together and taking a stand. There is a place for a March and a large public gathering. There are also many other creative and effective ways to communicate to the public and bring our concerns to people in power.

In taking on concerns for earthlings–human and non-human, we have many tools to use and many roles we can play. Some people like me are more introverted and contribute much more by creating a Podcast or writing an article or a letter. Some people are organizers who can help communities determine how they want to act. Some are rebels who engage in direct non-violent action. 

It reminds me of a passage in Paul’s writings in the Christian Scriptures. How we are many parts to the same body. Some are more visible and seem to be more important, while others are humble and often overlooked. But each part of the body is a essential. 

So March On! Or not. Be faithful to where you feel led to serve and how you feel led to serve. There is a lot of work from r all of us. 

Rebel, Advocate, or something else: Deciding our Roles

A Quaker Rebel

Recently I spoke with Eileen Flanagan. She is a writer, a social change teacher, a Quaker, and an activist.

Eileen Flanagan

Currently she is teaching activists about how to organize and to understand their role. In an interview with me for Citizens’ Climate Radio, Eileen told me about Bill Moyer and his Strategic Framework Describing The Eight Stages of Successful Social Movement. She also shared with me the four roles that change agents have traditionally taken:

Amani Thurman

  1. Helper

  2. Advocate

  3. Rebel

  4. Organizer

In this month’s episode, Eileen explains these roles and gives examples. I also speak with Amani Thurman, a college freshman with experience as a rebel and who has begun stepping into the role of an advocate.

Which role do you typically take?


Also appearing in this episode is Elizabeth Jeremiah, a comic creation of mine. Hope you enjoy her.

It’s not up to YOU! A stable planet requires a Collective Response

Clara Changxin Fang

Beyond Lightbulbs and Shorter Showers

Clara Changxin Fang recently gave a talk at the New York State Sustainability Conference. In a well-reasoned, carefully presented, well supported presentation, she stuck her finger right in the eye of the traditional environmentalist. She means no harm, rather her talk helps to refocus people concerned about the climate and the environment. She wants them to see a more effective path forward.

Clara published the talk on her blog, Residence on Earth. She writes:

Instead of organized political resistance, protecting the right of future generations to have a livable planet became a matter of individual lifestyle choices. The rhetoric from environmental and government institutions became, the planet is dying because individuals are making unsustainable
consumer choices. So what if the majority of the country lacks convenient mass transit? You can buy a hybrid car! Or, our industrial agricultural system is ruining our land, water, and atmosphere, but you can buy local and organic. In this manner the sustainable lifestyle becomes the domain of the elite, a way for the wealthy to ease their guilt and feel protected from the problems that are making the planet an increasingly hostile place to live. Instead of regulating pollution from industry and building sustainable communities, we are told that we should buy greener products.

Not only does this approach ignore the source of the problem, it doesn’t work. The reason is that the vast majority of environmental impact is the result of industrial activities, and individual actions do not address the incentives and structures that created the problem. Let me provide a few examples:

She then goes on to give excellent examples. I encourage you to read the whole piece for yourself. When it comes to sustainability, we need to celebrate past efforts and successes and up our game. 

The Case for Advocacy: Individual Vs. Collective Action in the Environmental Movement by Clara Changxin Fang

Also, hear Clara tell some of her story on Citizens’ Climate Radio Ep 2 Duh, We are the Children

Clara also formed the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Higher Education Action Team. Read about the great work they are doing and learn about resources they offer that can help you on campuses.

Ten Reasons to Feel Hopeful About Climate Change in 2017

Clara Fang

Clara Fang

Clara Fang is a writer, environmentalist, and photographer currently based in Detroit, Michigan. I featured her on Episode Two of Citizens’ Climate Radio, and I will include her poetry in an upcoming episode. She recently wrote an encouraging, thoughtful, and smart piece about why we have reasons to be hopeful about climate change in 2017. Yes, it is easy to imagine the worse, but that then absolves us from actually doing anything.

Clara gave me permission to re-post her essay here. Check out her website — to discover more of her writing. The only thing I added were some photos of original art by Christine Bakke and me.

Ten Reasons to Feel Hopeful About Climate Change in 2017

By Clara Fang

During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump said that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese, he intends to remove barriers to drilling and fracking, and pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. In addition, Republicans have majorities in the House and Senate, which will make passing progressive environmental legislation very difficult. While this situation makes the urgent work of protecting our future much more challenge than before, all is not lost. Progress is still being made and much can be done without the support of the administration. Here are ten reasons to feel hopeful about climate change despite the election:

All power does not reside with the President. Our founders came from nations ruled by monarchies, and they designed a government so that no one person would have all the power. Congress passes legislation, and the President can sign or veto them. Laws that have already been passed have to be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in order to be abolished. While it would be difficult to pass progressive legislation with a conservative Congress and President, a complete rollback of existing laws and regulations is not likely or easy. The Clean Power Plan, for example, took effect before this Spring, and will be extremely difficult to undo because it has passed the time period for Congress to review it and strike it down in a provision called the Congressional Review Act. Legislation that passes between now and January may get the ax after Trump takes office, but legislation from the last eight years, including Obamacare, cannot be easily abolished.

img_5708Don’t take campaign rhetoric at face value. Political campaigns are about rousing people’s emotions. When Barack Obama campaigned on hope and change, he promised to end the war on terrorism, heal race relations, and stop the seas from rising. Those didn’t happen. Bernie Sanders inspired enthusiasm with his ambitious goals to provide free higher education, institute a living wage, and ban fracking and other harmful extractive practices. While we admire politicians for promoting lofty goals, we shouldn’t expect that their election means all their promises will be fulfilled. Already, I heard Trump say on 60 Minutes a week after the election that he doesn’t intend to call a private investigation on Clinton, one of the things he said he would do during his campaign. If we could take Bernie’s campaign promises with a grain of salt, Trump’s promises to build a wall, ban Muslims, get rid of the EPA and other outrageous ideas should not be taken at face value either.

Climate change skepticism has declined in Congress as well as among Americans general. According to the latest research by the Yale Program on Climate Communication, the percentage of Americans who say they are alarmed or concerned about climate change increased from 39 percent in 2010 to 45 percent in 2016. The percentage of Americans who say they are dismissive or doubtful about climate change declined from 29 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2016. There are now twice as many people who are concerned or alarmed about climate change as there are who are doubtful or dismissive about it. The rest, about 34 percent, are cautious or disengaged.

When it comes to Congress, research conducted by Citizens’ Climate Lobby shows that interest in carbon fee and dividend as a policy solution to climate change is rising. In June 2016, volunteers visited 275 offices of Republican members of Congress; 162 offices showed clear and genuine interest in carbon fee and dividend, and only 16 were combative or totally uninterested. To put it another way, ten times as many offices were interested as offices that were hostile. This is a huge improvement from two years ago, when only three times as many Republican members of Congress were interested versus disinterested.

We have a bipartisan caucus in Congress committed to addressing climate change. Concern for climate change is rising among Democrats and Republicans. In February of 2016 two Florida representatives Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) founded the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the US House of Representatives to explore policy options that address the impacts, causes and challenges of our changing climate. Membership is kept even between Democrats and Republicans so that any proposed legislation has the best hope of being supported by both parties in Congress. The reelection of Republicans who support climate action such as Carlos Curbelo and Ryan Costello shows that Republicans do not need to fear that speaking out on climate change will cause them to lose re-election.

Support for renewable energy is strong. There is broad consensus among Republicans, Democrats, and even climate skeptics that renewable energy is good for the economy, the environment, and national security. The cost of solar energy has fallen from $76 per watt in 1977 to $0.36 per watt in 2014 and advances in technology will make all renewables cheaper and more viable in the long run. There is little the federal government can do to prohibit the development and implementation of state level renewable energy policies, and federal incentives for solar extend to 2019 for wind and 2023 for solar. EPA Chief Gina McCarthy said in an interview for the Associated Press recently, “The train to a global clean energy future has already left the station. We can choose to get on board – to lead – or we can choose to be left behind, to stand stubbornly still. If we stubbornly deny the science and change around us, we will fall victim to our own paralysis.”

img_5706Local actions will continue. While actions at the federal level may stall, actions at the local level will likely get a boost. Back in 2008, after Congress failed to pass national cap and trade legislation, we saw a huge surge of action at the local level. Hundreds of towns and cities committed to the Kyoto protocol and created climate action plans. Over six hundred universities signed the American Colleges and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, and the triple bottom line continues to motivate businesses. Renewable energy policies were implemented at the state level, and entire regions like California and the Northeast instituted carbon trading. Climate action has a host of co-benefits such as revitalizing communities, reducing air pollution, stimulating the economy, and saving money for businesses and households. Sustainability makes sense from a scientific, moral, and business perspective, regardless of what party is in the White House.

International support for climate action is strong. The United Nations Climate Summit met in Marrakech on November 18th, with 111 nations ratifying the historic agreement to limit global warming below 2 degrees C. Since President Obama signed the agreement in April 2016 and it has already taken effect, formally withdrawing from it would take four years to accomplish, according to Robert Stavins,head of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements. The United States could simply ignore the commitment as it is voluntary anyway. However, nations who are committed to the agreement will likely go forward with their climate action plans. Action continues to be strong in Europe, Canada just passed a national carbon pricing policy, and China, the world’s largest emitter, has pledged to cut carbon emissions per per unit of GDP 60 percent, get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil sources, and peak its emissions, all by 2030. Since Canada and China are two of the United States’ largest trading partners, this puts pressure on the US to participate. Globally, 39 national and 23 sub-national jurisdictions have implemented or are scheduled to implement carbon pricing instruments, including emissions trading systems and taxes.

Not all of Trump’s ideas are bad. Ok, this one is a stretch, but he could have been worse. We could have had Ted Cruz, or Mike Pence. Trump is not a religious conservative with some right wing agenda. He has said that he wants to increase spending on infrastructure, something the country desperately needs and could provide a stimulus to the economy. Being more protectionist in our trade policies has potential benefits. I believe that the free trade deals of the Clinton era enables a race to the bottom that weakens labor rights and environmental protection around the world, not to mention all the greenhouse gases emitted by shipping products from abroad. I’m not in favor of cutting taxes for the wealthy, which his tax plan proposes, but deductions for childcare would benefit middle class families, and we’d still have a mildly progressive tax plan.

Trump is the leader of an outgoing generation. The majority of Trump’s supporters were white and over fifty. Young people overwhelmingly favored Clinton, and even more, Bernie Sanders. In about twenty years, there will be more people of color than whites in the United States, and young people with more progressive and egalitarian values will replace the those who voted for Trump. As they say in politics, “Demography is destiny.” Trump is the last throttle of an older generation nostalgic for the way America used to be, but the future belongs to the young, and time is on our side.

The next election is only 2 years away. There are only 19 months between Inauguration Day and the next election–midterms. This is a blink of an eye in political history, and the chance to vote in members of Congress with progressive stances. It is plenty of time for those who want to see change run for office, prepare strategies, and vote. Congress is most powerful when it comes to passing legislation, and midterms gives us a chance to further limit Trump’s power and take back the White House in 2020.

What You Can Do

img_5707Edward Snowden said in an interview recently, “If we want to have a better world we can’t hope for an Obama, and we should not fear a Donald Trump, rather we should build it ourselves.” Our founders created a government of checks and balances, limited terms, and power in state and local governments. We can still do a lot under a Trump presidency and protect the liberties that are still core in our democracy. Here are a few suggestions:

Call your members of Congress and tell them that you oppose climate denier Myron Ebell from being appointed to the head of the EPA, that you support policies to put a price on carbon, and for the United States to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Join an organization like Citizens’ Climate Lobby and meet with your members of Congress with other volunteers to advocate for climate action.

Support state climate policies by calling/writing/visiting your representatives in your state legislature. Visit to learn more about how to support renewable energy policies at the state level. 

Join a sustainability committee and support local actions including those in your city, town, work place, or civic organization.

Share good reporting on climate change and continue to educate others on ways to take action.

Donate to to help maintain this website, support the writing of articles like this one, and my work on climate advocacy. Donate to other environmental organizations that resonate with you.