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Category: Climate Change

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)


Talking Climate Change in a Time of Coronavirus

The Climate Stew Crew has been busy including an appearance in Citizens Climate Radio. Host, Peterson Toscano writes about his show which covers Coronavirus & Climate Change.

Through Citizens Climate Radio, I spoke to three experts who helped me better understand and similarities and differences between the Coronavirus and climate change. How local and national government responds, the need for an engaged and active imagination, and the role of empathy come up in our conversation.

I chat with Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, the interim Associate Director of Program & Partnership Development at the National Environmental Health Association, Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, the director of the Sustainable Finance Center at the World Resources Institute, and Alice. C Hill, a senior fellow for Climate Change Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the Art House section of the program, he includes our own original radio play, Survivor Generations 2165.

Hear the show on Podbean or wherever you get your podcasts.

(Featured Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash)

Dealing Directly with Climate Grief

A university professor reached out to me and asked me what resources I have for people who are concerned about climate change and who are beginning to feel distress and grief about it. We can get easily overwhelmed in taking on climate change and with the good work we are doing. In order for our work to remain sustainable so we do not lose our minds, we need to consider our mental health and wellness.

Through Citizens Climate Radio I take on this issue in a number of ways with some pretty amazing guests. Below are some episodes that address climate grief and despair. They provide helpful steps for how you can take care of yourself.

Ep 39 Envisioning and Communicating Climate Success features communication experts from NNOCCI—National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation. They are zoo and aquarium educators talking about climate change and base their techniques on research. In the episode they speak directly about climate grief and PTSD and how we can look after ourselves. The entire episode serves as encouragement and inspiration for anyone doing climate work.

Ep 23 Mental Health and Wellness features psychiatrist and expert on climate psychology, Dr. Lise Van Susteren. Also, public health expert Dr. Natasha DeJarnett joins her. It is a very honest and helpful discussion about how climate change emotionally and psychologically affects the public and climate advocates.
She might also appreciate my conversation with Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. We talked about the hope-despair binary and how she addresses climate dread.Ep 31 Dr. Katharine Hayhoe
Another great resource is The Good Grief Network , which “builds personal resilience while strengthening community ties to help combat despair, inaction, eco-anxiety, and other heavy emotions in the face of daunting systemic predicaments. The state of the world seems unmanageable, chaotic even.” They have articles, a podcast, and 10-Steps climate advocates can walk through.

What resources do you know about and want to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Over on Facebook Sherri Michalovic shared this article that appeared in the Guardian. Don’t Despair: the climate fight is only over if you think it is by Rebecca Solnit.

The histories of change that have made me hopeful are often about small groups that seem at the outset unrealistic in their ambition. Whether they were taking on slavery in antebellum USA or human rights in the Soviet bloc, these movements grew exponentially and changed consciousness and then toppled institutions or regimes. We also don’t know what technological breakthroughs, large-scale social changes, or catastrophic ecological feedback loops will shape the next 20 years. Knowing that we don’t know isn’t grounds for confidence, but it is fuel against despair, which is a form of certainty. This future is as uncertain as it’s ever been.

Featured Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

Sexy Sex in a Time of Climate Change

Last month Peterson Toscano launched a new podcast, Bubble&Squeak. (You can hear it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, PodBean, and Google Play.) The show is weird and wonderful, a delightful mix of storytelling, comedy, radio drama, and commentary.

Each episode is short, only 15 minutes, and in addition to hearing from Peterson (as himself and playing multiple characters) he has also featured writer Elizabeth Rush and actor Danny Glover.

In his most recent episode, Sexy Sex, he includes a short radio play, a prank call to the future. Peterson dials into a sex advice call-in line with the dilemma, “My boyfriend and I are not having enough sex.” No this is not because of internalized homophobia, rather they are temporary residents in an emergency shelter after a storm. Dr. Judith Housemeyer is adamant about finding a solution to the problem.

You can read the script below or better yet hear it in all its glory.

A prank call to the future: Dr. Judith Housemeyer Sexy Sex in a Time of Climate Change.
by Peterson Toscano for Bubble&Squeak

Dr. Judith: This is Dr. Judith Housemeyer. Yes, caller, this is Sexy Sex in a time of climate change. What is the problem here? Don’t be shy!

Peterson Toscano : Yes, Dr. Judith, I’m calling because, well, my boyfriend and I are just not having enough sex.

DJ. Oooo, the problem with the butt sex. We have heard of this. What exactly is wrong with this? Is he resistant? Are you uncomfortable with it? What is this? It is very normal!

PT No, no, no we love it. We love it,  It’s just that are in an emergency shelter right now because of a storm and there is no privacy

DJ:  I have heard, this is becoming a growing problem, yes for everyone, for the straights, for the bis, for the pans, everyone is having this problem.  Right, ok, well, have you been been able to perhaps try something, like go outside at night time.

PT Well, that’s hard because once it gets dark they lock the doors and that’s that. We can’t go in and out

DJ:  Yes, I have heard this. For security reasons. I understand. What about in the toilets? They have toilets there, ya, stalls? You could do a quickie there in the stall. Its not the first time, ya?

Photo by Honey Fangs on Unsplash

PT Well, yeah, but their disgusting. Oh my gosh they are so overcrowded and overflowing and its just…

DJ Oh, it’s a whole lot of backup of waste. I understand, ya ya, no no. Are there any other places that are private there?

PT Yes, there is one other place. There is attached to this is a pet, an emergency pet shelter

DJ Oh that is good, but there must be lots of people as well there taking care of the pets

PT Actually no, they’re really low on volunteers right now; they could use some help, so it’s pretty quiet

DJ Well if you don’t mind the animals watching, which is very normal for them just don’t get them involved, this is not Berlin in the 1930s hahahaha

Photo by Justin Chrn on Unsplash

PT No of course not, we could do that oh except my boyfriend he has some pet allergies.

DJ: mmmm, this does not have to be a bad problem, this could be fun, ya, ya,you get surgical masks, you could play doctor, uh, you could get the skimask, you can play muggings, this could be fun. Have fun with it! In this time of climate change we have to become creative and adapt, adapt to it and have fun.   Ok? thank you caller

This is Dr. Judith Housemeyer, with more Sexy Sex in a Time of Climate Change coming up. Call me with all your problems; I want to know I want to know.




(Featured photo by Elvin Ruiz on Unsplash)

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)

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.



Good Wines from Poland and England?

Yes, the climate is changing, and as a result wine production is shifting away from the previously reliable wine-growing regions into new territories. According to Akshat Rasthi writing for Quartzy,

The map of the wine world is undergoing a dramatic change. World wine production is set to fall to its lowest levels in decades, largely due to the weather, according to estimates from the International Organization of Vine and Wine. Meanwhile, wine production in the UK has reached record highs, with sparkling wines leading the way.

Though experts remain divided on which areas of the world will lose and which will win, they all agree that the world’s most famous wine regions are not going to remain the same. As global average temperatures rise, the best lands to plant a vineyard are moving away from the equator, creeping up into the northern hemisphere and down into the southern hemisphere.

Still the jury is still out about how reliable these new regions will be as wine producers.

But the study was criticized (pdf) for its poor methodology. Though these traditional regions are definitely under threat, follow-up studies have painted a more complex picture. As global temperatures rise, local weather changes may play out differently across the world: Some regions will experience droughts, and others floods. A better way to predict these changes is to study individual regions.

The reality is that we will likely see a continuation of lower yields in wine production, and perhaps more concerning, a shift in the taste of wines. While Jesus counseled that we need to put new wine into new wine skins, it is still unpredictable about what kind of wine will be produced in new wine regions.

Read the whole article for yourself: The Improbable New Wine Countries Climate Change is Creating.

Climate Change? How Very Queer!

A homage to Robin Williams by a sociology professor who marched beside me and other Queers for the Climate at the People Climate March in 2014.

Since 2014 I have obsessed, mused, marveled, and expounded on queer responses to climate change. I am please to say that my growing interest in the topic have not abated. Next month I will co-present a workshop, Everything is Connected–Trans Lives and Climate Change, with Liam Hooper, a trans man and fellow Bible geek.

While I look at the more direct connections to LGBTQ people, Liam will bring in theory. He told me, “I am working with the various parallels of queer practice that relate to the inextricable connections between exploitations of land and exploitations of bodies.”

If you are in the Philadelphia area on September 7, and you want to take part in the workshop, check the details here.

In looking models in history, I have returned time and time again to Walt Whitman. The groundbreaking American poet was a gay man who wrote about bodies, identity, and nature. I would not call him an environmentalist. He was a lover of beauty and he writes of a deep connection to other humans–friends, lovers, and strangers, as well as to the natural world.

Writing very much about himself in the preface of the first edition of the Leaves of Grass (1855,) Whitman talks about these many loves and of beauty:

The known universe has one complete lover and that is the greatest poet. He consumes
an eternal passion and is indifferent which chance happens and which possible contingency
of fortune or misfortune and persuades daily and hourly his delicious pay. What balks or
breaks others is fuel for his burning progress to contact and amorous joy. Other
proportions of the reception of pleasure dwindle to nothing to his proportions. All
expected from heaven or from the highest he is rapport with in the sight of the daybreak or
a scene of the winter woods or the presence of children playing or with his arm round the
neck of a man or woman. His love above all love has leisure and expanse … he leaves
room ahead of himself. He is no irresolute or suspicious lover … he is sure … he scorns
intervals. His experience and the showers and thrills are not for nothing. Nothing can jar
him . . . suffering and darkness cannot— death and fear cannot. To him complaint and
jealousy and envy are coipses buried and rotten in the earth … he saw them buried. The
sea is not surer of the shore or the shore of the sea than he is of the fruition of his love and
of all perfection and beauty.

With his eye fixed on all Americans, not just white men in his world, his willingness to get his hands dirty during a huge crisis (the American Civil War,) and with a view to both the present and the far future, I find Whitman a constant source of inspiration as I mull over the query, “What is my role on this new planet?”

Next month at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, I will present my performance lecture, A Queer Response to Climate Change–What Would Walt Whitman Do? I will also present this same piece at SUNY Cortland in mid-November for the New York Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education Conference.

I am always curious to hear what other people think of this topic: Queer Response to Climate Change. Please feel free to leave comments with your ideas.