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Category: Climate Action

Fiery, Fierce, and Flat Out Rude — A Climate Prophet

In the current Bible Bash podcast you will hear Rev. Scott Kershner, chaplain at Susquehanna University, and Peterson Toscano talk about John the Baptist from the Matthew 3 narrative. While Scott shares the historical context of the story and its significance, Peterson connects it to contemporary times and the roles performance artists play to use costume and setting to deepen the message they want to communicate.

This is seen most dramatically and effectively in the work of the young Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg.

Like John the Baptist, she made a spectacle of herself, sailing to America, then she stood on the world stage and addressed the rich and powerful. Her directness offended many who deemed her disrespectful and even rude. By dismissing the messenger, they attempted to shift focus away from her message.

Hear the latest Bible Bash Podcast and be inspired to be a prophet yourself.

(Featured Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash)


Civil Disobedience is Essential for our Survival

Since 2014 we have been talking about the need for non-violent, direct action. From the first episode of our Climate Stew podcast, we recognized that for any real action to happen that leads to policy and systems change, it will require putting pressure on the system.

One model we have looked at is the model early HIV/AIDS activists displayed when taking on a system that ignored the people who were suffering and refused to act.

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Our curator, Peterson Toscano, speaks out regularly about the lessons we can learn from earlier generations of activists. People are listening.

Elizabeth Rush, author of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, was inspired by the connections Peterson has been making. She writes:

A little over a year ago, I had a conversation that would change the way I think about climate activism. It was a day so swelteringly hot that the interview I was to give for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby podcast got rescheduled indoors. As Peterson Toscano, the host, and I fell into a deep discussion, I found myself turning the tables on him, asking a string of ever more personal questions.

I was beginning a new project about gender and the Antarctic, and I wondered how, for Toscano (a self-proclaimed quirky, queer climate activist), the climate crisis intersected with queer rights. Toscano’s response has stuck with me to this day and is best summed up with a line from his one-man show Everything Is Connected—An Evening of Stories, Most Weird, Many True.

He says, “I’m going to tell you the worst-case scenario with climate change, promise me you will not freak out. Promise? Well, we are looking at the potential extinction of the human race…but what other people on the planet have faced potential extinctions and exterminations before? Lots of people. But also LBGTQ+ people…There is a special time in our history when we learned a lot of things that might be applicable today. I’m talking about the HIV/AIDS crisis.” Toscano told me that the activist movements of the 1980s didn’t just change hearts and minds; they changed public policy.

It occurred to me then that a cross-movement conversation in the era of climate crisis would bear vital fruit. A few months ago, I had the great pleasure of chatting with Peter Staley, a founding member of ACT UP, and Roger Hallam, a founder of Extinction Rebellion. It’s my hope that this conversation can demystify direct-action activism while helping us think about what comes next.

What follows is an extraordinary conversation. You can read it for yourself in Document Journal.

‘We’re facing a societal collapse’: Extinction Rebellion’s Roger Hallam speaks to ACT UP’s Peter Staley about disrupting the world in order to save it

(Featured Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash)

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.