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Category: Climate Action

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 — ResidenceOnEarth.net 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 SEIA.org/policy 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 Residenceonearth.net 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.

A Trip to Capitol Hill — A Volunteer Lobbyist Finds Hope

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Lobbying in DC 2016 Jerry Lee Miller, Carson Middleton (legislative director to Joe Pitts), Elke Arnesen, and Brandi Snyder

This is a little reminder of your importance.

Last week I was in Washington, D.C., lobbying for a brilliant piece of legislation known as the Carbon Fee and Dividend (CFD). It was weird.

I had gone twice before that for the same purpose. The Congressional offices – all of the offices – were normally if not always inviting and kind to the members of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Over time, we saw the questions posed in meetings evolve from “why do we need carbon pricing?” to “okay, so how exactly do the border adjustments work?” There’s an active conversation in which more and more constituents and elected officials are participating. And that conversation is about climate solutions.

I was hoping for the same trend when I returned, especially for reassurance in these politically uncertain times. I got something a little different.

You see, D.C. is almost on hold. Staffers in those offices, as I was told in one meeting, aren’t handing anything into their bosses until more solid groundwork is down; the lunch tables in the underground cafeterias were abuzz with postulation; and the phrase used in nearly every conversation was “up in the air.”
Frankly, I was a bit down. But then I had a meeting with the legislative assistant to a Representative of a district in Florida. She outlined the facts: times are uncertain, the POTUS is unpredictable, and
elected officials will always do what their constituents want if for nothing else but job safety. She said as long as there’s the constituent will, climate action will happen.

That’s so cool. I hope you take away from this a renewed sense of power. Your power. The power to make a difference.

Have a great week and don’t be trashy.

New solar roof tiles for homes — pretty damn sweet

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Elon Musk and his new solar roof tile

More thinking outside the box, this time from Elon Musk. His new solar roof tiles help maintain the visual integrity of a dwelling (no bulky and unattractive after-market roof installations) while at the same time generating energy. Darrell Etherington (@etherington), Greg Kumparak (@grg) write about it in TechCrunch and provide photos of the solar panels you would never know were there.

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk wasn’t kidding when he said that the new Tesla solar roof product was better looking than an ordinary roof: the roofing replacement with solar energy gathering powers does indeed look great. It’s a far cry from the obvious and somewhat weird aftermarket panels you see applied to roofs after the fact today.

The solar roofing comes in four distinct styles that Tesla presented at the event, including “Textured Glass Tile,” “Slate Glass Tile,” “Tuscan Glass Tile, and “Smooth Glass Tile.” Each of these achieves a different aesthetic look, but all resembled fairly closely a current roofing material style. Each is also transparent to solar, but appears opaque when viewed from an angle.

Read more here:
These are Tesla’s new solar roof tiles for homes

Don’t Despair — Here are 4 things you can do!

A millennial weighs in on climate change

My brother and me on top of the world

My brother and me on top of the world

On Tuesday night, I interviewed one of the people I admire most in this world: my brother, Leif. An insanely busy and passionate millennial with a full time job who works out everyday and is “plotting world domination through some kickass startup that will vault [him] into the health and wellness field and make [him] 30-ish million dollars.” He’s driven.

The intention of the interview was to portray how climate awareness affects people, specifically young people, and the level of action they’re willing to take. The recently released documentary Before the Flood – found on YouTube – induced this long overdue conversation with my brother. I highly recommend it. Leonardo DiCaprio cannot do film wrong.

Yeah, but what on earth could I possible do???

I went into the interview expecting a turnaround story about how watching the film inspired him to become part of carbon pricing campaigns and devote more of his time towards promoting climate action. That’s the hopeful environmentalist in me. But I was greeted instead by the busy reality of already hardworking people.

“For me, I’d have to be able to do it from my house,” Leif said in response to what would get him involved in a campaign. “I can’t go anywhere. That’s a waste of time. So I’d have to be at my house and do it on my computer, and I really need it to be spoon fed to me. And compensation would be preferable.” Good one.

“If there’s something I could do for five minutes a day, from my computer, I’d do it.”

Well, Leif, there is.  

Some Action YOU can do!

Join me and the national carbon pricing campaign Put A Price On It by executing the following action items for this week:

onit1.Take a photo to show you are #OnIt

People across the globe are now showing their support for carbon pricing by taking a photo using our #OnIt format. You should do the same and email it back to tom@theclimatesolution.com. It is a great way to share your story and be featured on our social media! Here is an example:

2. Write a letter to your Congressional Office

We are gaining momentum across the country and in Washington D.C. To be a part of it, you should write a letter to your Congressional office introducing our campaign and why you are a part of it. Here is an example letter. 

3. Host a Years of Living Dangerously watch party!

The world premiere of Years of Living Dangerously (the carbon pricing episode) is November 30th on National Geographic!! Please let me know if you want to host a watch party either on that date or after and we can help you. Here is an easy guide to get you started.

4. Calculate your carbon footprint and voluntarily pay a carbon tax! Check it out here!

img_3772Of course the first one is the easiest and most recommended for busy beavers, but the others, though they take a little longer, are extremely helpful. The goal is to broadcast this campaign as much as possible, and the instruments are right at your fingertips. #PutAPriceOnIt

And please, have hope

Although the new US President is not in favor of climate action nor renewables, the time is still now. We cannot wait for the “ideal”political climate as we certainly don’t have the luxury of time. Besides, the power is and always has been in the people. It’s in the best interest of elected officials that they represent their constituents for their own job security and reputation. So if you get enough people and support and passion together in one massive, strong movement, you can do anything.

So let’s carry on, play hard with the hand dealt, and get #OnIt.

Have a great week and don’t be trashy.

Scotland: enough wind energy for every household for a month!

An Alternative Universe

article-2221277-159ef263000005dc-702_634x425We interrupt the constant obsession with the US election to bring you some good news.

With alternatives available instead of polluting fossil fuels, the question remains, why use fossil fuels? More and more we are hearing success stories of communities and countries that get their energy needs met through cleaner sources than traditional fossil fuel-based generated electricity.

To me it is a complete failure of imagination to continue to use death-inducing fossil fuels when life enhancing alternatives are currently available. Yes, I said death-inducing. I feel strongly about this.

Stirring up political will

Of course what we lack is political will. We also face incredibly low-priced carbon intensive energy sources. But investing in cleaner sources of energy has immediate health benefits and can potentially create a stable locally produced energy.

0101492Writing for the Independent, Paul Ward offers some good news regarding alternative energy sources.

Scotland Generates enough wind energy to power almost every household for an entire month: Wind power is helping Scotland avoid ‘over a million tonnes of carbon emissions a month’

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Thanks to a combination of increased capacity and stronger winds, output from turbines surged by more than a quarter compared to the same period last year – supplying power equivalent to the electrical needs of over two million homes.

As well as helping to power our homes and businesses, wind power is helping Scotland to avoid over a million tonnes of polluting carbon emissions every month.

Also learn about five countries leading the way to a fossil fuel future

Welcomed Doubt – The Highs And Lows Of Environmentalism

Seriously Hopeful?

img_1983Hi! I’m Elke, and if you care about the environment and are seeking to hear stories, laugh, and become a bit more knowledgeable of climate, you’ve come to the right place.

As a fairly open-about-my-passions environmentalist, I often get the question: How on earth do you stay hopeful?

Well… sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think about how utterly impossible this task at hand is. Addressing global climate change to preserve a livable future despite political divisiveness and government subsidies? We must be crazy, taking that on. But the fact that it’s so hard indicates that it’s so worthwhile.

No great achievement was accomplished with ease. And yes, that’s your cheese of the day.

There are people who have doubted me, told me that my work is futile, laughed at me when I tell them my dreams. Well luckily for me, I’m eminently stubborn, and those actions – though they hurt – remind me of how important and altering this work is. Plus, there are daily encouraging reminders everywhere.

Climate Parents

Hiking with my dad

Hiking with my dad

Right before I sat down to start typing this post, my mom emailed me an article from the Sierra Club. The article focuses of the “most powerful force in the world to our movement: unconditional love.” Attached was a video from the new addition to the already thriving club, Climate Parents. The name says it all; it’s a group of parents devoted towards improving our environment for the sake of future generations, a rather classic rationale. The video reaffirmed that a group can make a difference, especially a group “inspired to take action on behalf of our kids.”

Movement is Happening!

And we’re seeing change elsewhere, too. Citizens’ Climate Lobby has tens of thousands of members worldwide. 197 parties agreed to the Paris Agreement. Nationally, now 20 members of Congress have joined the bipartisan climate solutions caucus and Republicans have introduced the Gibson Resolution.

Things are happening. Sometimes that doesn’t seem so. Sometimes people get you down. Sometimes we take a step back. But things are happening. Don’t let the occasional setback keep you from trekking on.

Have a great week and don’t be trashy.

Hello Climate World! Introducing Elke Arnesen, 18-yo climate activist

Polar Bear-Free Zone

My name is Elke Arnesen, and I am here to start a weekly column with all of your environmental needs–well lots of them. Expect policy updates, opinions on environmental issues, and a lack of polar bear imagery. I know, scandalous, right?

image1But for now, I’d like to introduce myself. I am an 18-year-old gap year graduate who is currently interning with the one and only Peterson Toscano, scheduling events and, on occasion, opening for him.

Pop Singing Dream Recycled

I live in Lancaster, PA, and yes, that’s the city with the worst smog pollution east of Utah (See page 14.) When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to be a pop singer, and now I know it’s best for everyone that I stay in the shower-singing-only circuit. Plus, the music industry was no match for my newfound interest in the natural world.

I don’t have that “turning point” moment in environmentalism when I realized we must take serious and meaningful action now to address these climate issues. Instead, there was a long period in which I slowly made connections among topics in school, experience in the Florida Keys, and incessant googling to figure how exactly how writing letters to Congressmen makes the seas stop rising.

From Concern to Action

By the time I consciously thought “we need to address the environment,” it was already such an obvious statement. “Of course we do; everything is connected.” From there, I started a column at my high school called Our Hot Mess where I tackled the frequently inquired-about topics like national security and deliverance. Now I advocate for carbon pricing legislation as I volunteer for a group called Citizens’ Climate Lobby. I have also begun speaking publicly about our roles as constituents and humans. And for this year I intern for Peterson.

I look forward to telling stories, sharing thoughts, and hopefully bringing some laughter to your world through these weekly glimpses at the realm of environmentalism.

As I always say,

Have a great week and don’t be trashy!

Learn from LGBTQ people, Talk to your friends!

Have our brains been hacked?

Don'tEvenThinkAboutIt_HC_catThere is something so queer about climate change. Ever since I first read George Marshall’s excellent book, Don’t Even Think about It–Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change, I have reminded myself of our need to break the collective silence around climate change.

Even though 1/2 or more of what I read and talk about is climate related, the average person hears little about this–especially from their friends. I just learned about some data that backs this up.

Who is not talking about climate change 

My queer comrade, Zack Ford, sent me a great article that highlights this point.

Joe Romm writes,

The need to have more conversations about an uncomfortable subject is, I believe, one of two crucial messaging lessons the climate movement can learn from the LGBT community. The other is to focus on the immorality of inaction.

Even though “two in three Americans are either moderately or very interested in global warming,” public opinion research finds that 70 percent of Americans “rarely or never discuss global warming with family or friends.”

2016_3_ccam_climatesilence_3The article provides useful charts (if you are into that sort of thing.) As discussed in the latest episode of Citizens’ Climate Radio featuring Katharine Hayhoe, we have an in with people we know. They trust us, and they will listen to us in a way that they don’t listen to political pundits, celebrity advocates, and climate scientists.

A Spiral of Silence–What did LGBTQ people do?

Marching in Midtown

Queers for the Climate Marching in Midtown

I love the phrase, “spiral of silence” that Romm references from a Yale Climate Communications report: even people who care about the issue, shy away from discussing it because they so infrequently hear other people talking about it — reinforcing the spiral

Romm then looks to the LGBTQ communities and the ways we had to work against our own spiral of silence. Although actions like the Day of Silence raises vitally important issues, historically it has been through breaking the silence that LGBTQ people have brought about change. Room sees our success as a model for climate advocates and appeals for a vocalized action.

A central tactic was to get as many people as possible to start talking about LGBT issues. I’m not saying climate change and marriage equality are exact analogies since they aren’t — but turning the issue around did require people to talk about an uncomfortable subject because it mattered to them personally.

So let’s end climate silence now.

Making Climate Personal with Pasta–Save the Rigatoni!

That magic revelation moment

img_1991I recently posted a link to Citizens’ Climate Radio I produced featuring Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. Finding common ground and shared passions is essential in our work. Telling our stories is vital, but first we need to explore our own experiences to figure out what got us engaged.

For many people who are engaged in activism of any sort, there are many factors and experiences and relationships that get us to act. For some of us too, there is a single moment when something clicks, and suddenly we see the world with new eyes.

The Biblical word for it is Apocalypse. ἀποκάλυψις or apokálypsis. We translate it into English as revelation, but that word has been weakened in English. OMG, I just had a revelation–coffee cake doesn’t taste anything like coffee. Weird, right?

No, the sense of the word, as I first learned from Bible scholar and Book of Revelation scholar, Dr. Lynn Huber, is that Apocalypse is a REVELATIONas if a curtain has been pulled back and one sees what is hidden from sight. That visions jars that one awake. This is a soul shaking, life-altering seeing. We probably can only handle two or at most three Apocalypses in our life times.

Shaken AND stirred by global warming

This is what happened to me in regards to climate change. I was not in any doubt about climate change, and in some part of my mind I was concerned, but I was not at all engaged. I wasn’t curious or seeking more knowledge. I did not consider that I had a role in addressing climate change. I felt I had bigger fish to fry–namely LGBTQ human rights and queer Bible scholarship.

img_5198

This man is responsible for my apocalypse — meet Glen Retief

One day my husband, Glen Retief, had an apocalypse about climate change. The science that came out in the fall of 2012 revealed that things were worse than scientist first imagined and the things were happening faster than they feared. Glen had an existential crisis–how can I teach creative writing and work on a novel when there is this huge crisis happening in the world and few people are talking about it?

Save the Ravioli! 

types-of-pastaHis immediate revelation was not contagious. Sure I was concerned he was concerned, but still I had other work to do. But I did begin to read about climate change. I learned how a warmer planet will change what has been mostly stable–particularly growing of crops. This ultimately led me to a major soul-shaking, life-changing revelation. There will be lots of endangered species and lots of crop failures, including the potential failures in wheat production (I am blissfully gluten tolerant). This in turn could lead to possible global shortages in pasta. 

And that is when I got hooked. That was my moment, my foothold. I am glad to say that I didn’t stay there, mourning the possible loss of pasta as I stockpiled spaghetti and rigatoni. I began to see loads of connections to climate change and the things I find most precious–LGBTQ human rights, women’s rights, and racial justice. This led me to pursue comedy and storytelling to engage the world around me to hear and see these days in which we live and our potential roles on a new planet.

Finding a wider audience

In 90 seconds, the radio segment, Climate Connections, tells my odd odyssey. I have loved this show and even included it at times in my own Climate Stew show. What a thrilled to be featured in it. They did a super job of saying a lot in a short period of time.

You can listen here: The end of pasta? Not funny!

And if you want to tell your own climate story: Submit to Yale Climate Connections

Art is Vital in Climate Communication

Hot Scientific Grappling

I love podcasts, and one of my favorite ones at the moment is called Our Warm Regards. They describe themselves:

A podcast about the warming planet. Hosted by  w/ co-hosts  & . Produced by . We’re all in this together.

I especially like the episodes where I hear the presenters and guests, mostly scientists grappling with not just the science of climate change, but also the human aspects of it–who on the planet is affected and how do those people doing climate work process the many strong emotions around climate impacts.

You hear this in the show that featured Dr. Katharine Heyhoe.

Going Viral–Hot Climate Meme

The most recent show takes a look at a powerful visual tool that has zipped around social media. The info is not new–it shows how the earth’s temperature has changed during the time of humans starting in 2000 BCE to the dramatic recent increase in temperature.  They chatted with Gavin Schmidt from RealClimate about the science behind the cartoon.

Ah, but as they spoke, I wondered about the ART behind it. I hadn’t seen the image, so once the show ended, (I was cleaning the kitchen while listening) I found it and immediately understood why this image got such traction and interest from all kinds of people who maybe are aware of climate change, but not necessarily engaged.

It is a long big image that you can see here, but below is a ice core sample from it.

xkcd-temperature

The drawings are skillful while also appearing amateur, almost childlike. This expertly offsets the scientific graph. It brings balance and invites non-scientists in through a medium that is familiar and friendly. The font also is inviting and non-threatening. The viewer is drawn in by familiar events from history, some that are very human and relatable. The colors are muted. They don’t scream ALARM. Like the art and the font, they are inviting.

The historic role of Art and Political Action

To me these elements are interesting to discuss. The role of art in moving people to feel, understand, and act is vital. Historically this is true with the abolition of slavery. Novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped a generation of people to come close and to care. The famous meme of the cross-section of a slave ship, visually representing the cruelty African men, women, and children faced when enslaved still speaks powerfully.
plan

A plan of the slave ship Brookes, showing how 454 slaves were accommodated on board. This same ship had reportedly carried as many as 609 people; published by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade (source wikipedia)

In addition to ACT UP HIV/AIDS related art, Keith Harring's images about the Apartheid struggle communicated directly to the public.

In addition to ACT UP HIV/AIDS related art, Keith Harring’s images about the Apartheid struggle communicated directly to the public.

In more modern times we saw the same with all the art that developed during the South African anti-apartheid movement and with HIV/AIDS activists.

My husband is South African, and had been active in the anti-conscription movement, the queer liberation movement, and the anti-apartheid struggle. The ANC activists recognized that once the artists embraced the struggle, that is when they believed they were going to win. This is true with climate change too.

Calling All Artists!

While there is bad art, over-the-top movies, and didactic clunky presentations in art drag, more and more quality visual and performance art is emerging that addresses the many aspects of being humans in a time of climate change.

 Even at the risk of making bad art, those of us who do art–visual art, installations, performance, comedy, music, etc–need to try our hand at it. That’s why on the Citizens’ Climate Radio show, we have an Art House section that features poets, and others. Next week I will share an interview and music from singer/songwriter Michael Levy.
Calling all artists: You have a role on this new planet!