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Episode Twelve — Ebola, Bush Meat, and a new wave of Missionaries

On the 12 Episode of Climate Stew my true climate love gave to me–one amazing chat about ebola, bush meat, and climate change. Dr. Jennifer O’Brien, an ecologist, Climate Stew member, and master high school teacher at the Watkinson School in Hartford explains the connection between global warming and an increase in diseases like ebola. That Day in Climate History reveals the power of public witness in changing the world–particularly the Anglican church. In the news we look at the World Bank’s latest report. The president of the World Bank may have a NYC cold or something.  Listen here or on  iTunes, and Stitcher. You can also now listen on SoundCloud. Please rate and review–it makes a difference and it makes us feel so good.

Children in KwaZulu-Natal

Children in KwaZulu-Natal

Music Credits





Hello and welcome to episode 12 of Climate Stew, the ridiculously serious global warming show. Having survived my month-long, cross-country train odyssey, I am back in the studio with the team cooking up something special just for you. Climate Stew member, Dr. Jennifer O’Brien sits down with us to talk Ebola, bush meat, and climate change. And direct from the year 2164 we also receive Timothy Meadow’s latest installment of That Day in Climate History. But first, the news.

News: World Bank Releases Latest Climate Report

Our Climate News Story today comes from the World Bank. Concerned about development in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, the World Bank has issued its latest in-depth study, Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal. Speaking about the study, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, Quote: “Past emissions have set the world on an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades that will affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people the most. We’re already seeing record-breaking temperatures occurring more frequently, rainfall increasing in intensity in some places, and drought-prone regions like the Mediterranean becoming drier. These changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and put in jeopardy the livelihoods of millions of people.” End Quote, sounds like President Kim has been spending a lot of time in New York. . The report also explains that mass migrations may well be a feature in the future, and it is quick to point out that there is still time to act. But is there will? If genuine concern for those already suffering form the effects of climate change in Africa and Latin America do not motivate leaders in the EU and US, what will? If compassion because of drought, starvation, & political unrest don’t perhaps the concerns about the projected numbers of immigrants threatening to flood over their borders will?

Main Section–Ebola, Bush Meat, and Climate Change

This a Jen O’Brien, a member of the Climate Stew Team. When Peterson asked for my thoughts as an ecologist and educator about Ebola and climate change, I immediately thought about bushmeat.  Yes, bushmeat…what topic better to show the connection between animals and people as well as culture and conservation.

As I started the year in my high school Zoology class, I threw aside my usual lessons to spend a few weeks exploring Ebola. It was all over the news and my students had these vague notions that Ebola came from animals such as the monkeys that are often the prefered bushmeat eaten in parts of Africa.  So here it was- world events providing me with a lesson plan that is deeply connected to climate change and ultimately about social justice.  Who creates the pollution?  Who suffers the brunt of the consequences changing climate?

Once again, it is the developing world that is paying the price for the climate change we in the first world with our cars, factories and insatiable thirst for electricity have created.  With shifting weather patterns, crop failures and animals and the diseases they carry coming into closer contact with people, Ebola is another canary in the coal mine alerting us to the climate changes happening around us.

While it is easy for me with my Purdue chicken in the refrigerator to look down on the consumption of bushmeat (a likely source of Ebola), don’t forget, it wasn’t too long ago that we all ate what we now call bushmeat. In fact. It is technically locally hunted meat.  Even the pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving did it…those were not Butterball turkeys.

People believed to have contracted Ebola, or been exposed to it, waited outside a treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia, on Friday. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

People believed to have contracted Ebola, or been exposed to it, waited outside a treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia, on Friday. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

As an ecologist, I am not promoting the hunting of endangered or threatened species, but I have to remind myself to think about bushmeat from the cultural perspective and economic realities of someone living in a small village in Africa. Life isn’t so clear cut.

In my zoology class, we watched a video from VICE News reporting from Liberia this past June. It shows how deeply embedded eating bushmeat- particularly monkeys that may be carrying Ebola -is in the culture of Liberia.  Despite the fact bushmeat is illegal, the report shows people buying and selling bushmeat in markets and preparing it in their homes.

So how do I show a group of teenagers in Connecticut this report and have them learn something rather than be mortified.  I asked the students to suspend their cultural and dietary biases. To objectively view the video to examine Ebola from the perspective of someone living in Liberia.

A bushmeat seller holds a monkey at the bushmeat market of Yopougon in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, May 12, 2006. Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters

A bushmeat seller holds a monkey at the bushmeat market of Yopougon in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, May 12, 2006. Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters

To help frame our thinking and put the students in the right mindset to learn and frankly not to judge, I asked them to think like an anthropologist…to practice what is called cultural relativism. Temporarily suspending our own esthetic and moral judgements. To understand and empathize with a different lifestyle and treat it as “as good as” our own.

Because if climate change is forcing people and animals in closer contact, if people traditionally eat bushmeat that is a possible source of Ebola, we need to understand the culture to save lives.

I also asked my students to think like a conservationist using this quote from Birute Galdikas, the famed orangutan researcher working in Borneo who is one of my personal heroes.  Her words apply to humans too, because we are after all- primates.

Birute has said..”Be cognizant of the fact that most primates do not live in Western culture. So, to do conservation, you have to adapt to the cultures where they are.”

In my view, if anything is to be learned from the current Ebola crisis, it is that we need to be more deeply aware of how culture and climate change are interwoven.

If you are interested in learning more or watching the VICE News report from Liberia check out the resources for this podcast on the Climate Stew website. This has been Jen O’Brien for Climate Stew.

(See links above for further resources)

That Day in Climate History

I am Timothy Meadows, it is Saturday, December 8, 2164 and time for That Day in Climate History. In 2014 the Environmental Network of the Anglican Church in South Africa released Season of Creation a study guide for church members that explored Climate change, Eco-justice, Water, Creation and Redemption.


Two years later a group of teenagers at St. Cyprian Church in Nkandla, Kwa Zulu Natal spent time together during their school holiday working through the guide. Deeply moved not only by the projected water shortages, rising temperatures, and food scarcity that had already begun to affect them directly, they felt anger towards and compassion for church members in North America and the United Kingdom. Using video, visual art, and personal essays, they began to record the changes they witnessed in KwaZulu-Natal province. The project spread to other parts of South Africa, to Kenya, Australia, and Bolivia. They felt a sense of mission, that like prophets of old, it was time to cry out for justice, repentance, action.  Like the early church evangelists, they also believed they had good news to share including a vision for a brighter future for all. Most importantly they saw the growing climate crisis as the single biggest issue threatening health, happiness, and stability in the world. As the worldwide Anglican community started to fall apart over social issues regarding the sexuality and gender of their clergy, the Southern Climate Witness Team provided clarity and focus to church leaders in North America and Europe and helped unified the church to use its resources to educate, lobby, provide pastoral care, disaster relief, and hope for the future. On this day in 2164, we remember That Day in Climate History.

Advert: Climate History is brought to you by the Koch Brothers Foundation for Climate Justice, Undoing the damage and working towards a better tomorrow for all.


And thus ends episode 12 of Climate Stew. Our listenership is growing all the time. We are available on iTunes, Stitcher, at our site and now on SoundCloud. Please share us with your friends. If you have ideas for the program, contact us at ClimateStew dot Com or tweet me, Peterson Toscano, at p2son. We provide a full transcript with links and music credit at Special thanks to Jennifer O’Brien, Lori Kershner, oh and Joe G who once was a podcaster and still dreams of that microphone in his face.

Peterson Toscano

Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

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