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Episode Twenty One — Getting Personal and the Future of Snow

On Episode 21 Climate Stew host, Peterson Toscano, gets personal and shares why he shifted away from LGBTQ activism and Bible scholarship to get on the climate action bandwagon. He reveals some origin stories that shape his thinking today. We also hear how in the future even without a proper winter they will still have proper winter fun. Tony Bufusio shares the news about California’s redwood trees and how it personally affects him. We are serving up a show with a lot of heart. Climate Stew is available on  iTunes,  StitcherSoundCloud, or Listen here  on our site.

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Transcript

Intro

Welcome to Episode 21 of Climate Stew. Greetings from Colorado where I will be presenting this week. Today’s show has a lot of storytelling to it. In That Day in Climate History we hear about a childhood experience that lead to a creative fun response to a changing planet. I also share some of my own personal story and why I feel so passionate about climate change. But first Tony Buffusio brings us the news.

News CA Trees

Thank you Peterson. This is Tony Buffusio in the Bronx and our Climate news story today takes place in California. Being a New Yorker, I really don’t like the idea of Southern California. It’s just not my style, but I’ve always been fascinated with Northern California and the Red Wood Forests. So a few years ago Tina and I got in the Camaro and headed West. Wow, let me tell you. I knew the Redwoods were gonna be big, but I really had no idea of just how massive.  Like standing next to the Empire State Building, but its all so quiet and ancient and beautiful. It gives me goose bumps thinking about it.

The researchers suspect that climate change is the biggest culprit and that big trees are acting as the ‘canary in the coalmine’ for the effects of global warming on the world’s forests

The researchers suspect that climate change is the biggest culprit and that big trees are acting as the ‘canary in the coalmine’ for the effects of global warming on the world’s forests

So I was not too happy when I heard this story from England of all places. Writing for the Independent, Tom Bawden says, “California’s iconic big trees are dying at an alarming rate, according to new research which finds that more than half of the state’s redwoods, Ponderosa pines and other woodland giants have perished in less than a century.”

What are you talking about Tom? Perished? That’s a serious word. These are huge trees we’re talking about, some have been around for over 2000 years, what could be killing something so big? Turns out the culprit may just be climate change. I’m starting to hate climate change as much as I hate cancer. The heat and droughts over the past 90 years have taken a toll on the trees. Big trees can’t handle the heat and water shortages as well as the smaller ones. It’s like my Uncle Tony’s Great Dane, what a big dog, but it is half dead in the summer heat. Unlike my mother’s Chihuahua which is indestructible.

Statewide the big trees are suffering and dying with a prognosis that its just gonna get worse. Oh, and the study they did ended in 2010, so it doesn’t even factor in the most recent droughts.

I don’t know, it might sound weird to you, but I somehow bonded with those trees. I felt a connection or something. And They seem too big fail. Like my grandfather. He looked great and then one day he feels a pain in his chest goes to the hospital finds out he’s loaded with cancer. Two months later he’s gone, God rest his soul. Who knew that that giant of man would go so quickly. Crazy.

Not only are we losing these beautiful majestic trees, but when they die they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is somehow called a positive feedback, but the consequences sound negative to me. I don’t know but this story shook me up, like I lost a friend or something, you know?

Alright back to you Peterson

Thanks Tony for that report and for sharing so much of yourself with us.

Main My Climate Story

Perhaps it’s time that I tell you a little of my own story. For those who know me and the work that I have done over the past 12 years, it is surprising that I have jumped onto the climate action wagon. Truth be told, I’m not really an environmentalist. Not that I don’t care about the planet. But when I say I’m not an environmentalist, I mean that it has not been the focus of my activism until now. It’s not my jam. I have worked primarily as an LGBTQ rights advocate and as a scholar looking at gender non-conforming people in the Bible. I’ve been concerned with religious violence against LGBTQ people and have tried to tell stories that bring out our humanity. Using my voice, my comedy, and my art to address the climate crisis? That’s something new.397307857_l

Let me give you some back story: As a kid in the Catholic Church growing up in New York, I seriously considered becoming a priest. I felt a stirring to know God and serve God. At age 17 I left the Catholic Church to study at a Christian and Missionary Alliance College. As an Evangelical Christian, I then determined to be a missionary in a foreign country telling the good news of Jesus. For nearly 20 years that’s what I pursued doing mission work in New York City, Ecuador, and Zambia. But I had an abiding problem that interfered with my Christian service. I was a guy attracted to other guys, which was forbidden in the churches I chose to attend. From the age of 17 I desperately tried to de-gay myself.. I spent 17 years and over $30,000 on three continents in hopes that I would find the elusive key to become straight and more masculine. I believed a lot of faulty science mixed in with Bible teachings. Bad science mixed with biased ideology inspired destructive choices.

Peterson_Toscano-Homonomo

Peterson’ comedy about trying to “de-gay” himself

In my early 30’s I finally came to my senses and then slowly came out gay, trying to figure out what to do with all the various parts of me, especially my faith. Through comedy I begin to tell my story. I created a play called, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, which comically chronicles two years I spent in a Christian rehab in Memphis, TN designed to make gay men straight. I found I could use comedy to talk about deadly serious issues, ones that were contentious and uncomfortable.

And as I came out, I was shocked by the discrimination I witnessed among other gay guys—racism, sexism, and classism seemed just as rampant at a gay club as I imagined it was in most straight frat houses. And the prejudice against transgender people and gender non-conforming fem guys was epidemic. This genuinely confused and angered me. I didn’t come all that way to break out of oppression only to land right in the middle of a rainbow draped version of an oppressive world.

It reminded me of what I witnessed as a child. My family is Italian-American, and my dad, Pete Toscano has a slew of siblings. The clan includes, in order, Joey, Petie, Rocky, Mary, Louie, and Frankie. I’m not making this up. What is striking is that my dad is the only one of the bunch to marry another Italian-American, my mom, Anita. Uncle Joey married a Sicilian, Aunt Francis, who to my grandparents didn’t really count as a proper Italian. The others married (some divorced then remarried) spouses who were Irish, English, Puerto Rican, Black, and Philippina.  A Toscano reunion looks like a mini-UN family picnic.

Peterson as a child

Peterson as a child

As a kid, I saw how the adults acted towards each other and their children. There were two distinct classes. There were the good ones and the bad ones. The trusted ones and the suspect ones. The dividing lines were always class and race. Perhaps it wasn’t always as simple as that, but to my young eyes I saw that my Black and latino cousins, TJ, Louie, Jr. Donna, and the rest, did not get the same welcome from my grandparents as did those of us who were whiter. We were all Toscanos but we did not receive the same perks and privileges.

So a value I clung to long before I was religious or involved in LGBTQ activism is that its not right when people get treated differently just because of who they are, what they look like, where they live, and what they have or don’t have.

Which brings me to climate change. When my husband, Glen and I began to understand the severity of the crisis and the devastating effects rising temperature would have over the next 100 years, it shook us to the core. But what really got me was how climate change is already affecting all of us, but not equally. In fact, it almost seems that climate change is sexist and racist, globally affecting women more than men and targeting people of color in developing countries. Folks like me in North America, where we had produced so much of the carbon pollution, are protected by wealth, infrastructure, and geography. As island nations begin to flood in the South Pacific and people must flee their home, we can build flood walls in lower Manhattan. And even here in the US, when an extreme weather event rocks New Orleans or New York City, everyone suffers, but not equally. Some people receive better services and protections than others, and that most often happens because of race and class. Also, people of color in the US experience more pollution on a daily basis than white people. There is something profoundly unequal in the world, and as the shocks of climate change hit us, we see this disparity magnified.Screen-Shot-2014-08-22-at-10.02.42-AM1

So over the past year I have partnered with other people, The Climate Stew Crew, and launched this show and our Climate Stew website. I developed talks, A Queer Response to Climate Change—What Would Walt Whitman Do? and Climate Change—What’s Faith Got to Do with It? and I created a new play, Does This Apocalypse Make Me Look Fat? A Comedy about Broken Bodies, Large and Small. In my work I want to assist with the grieving process that many of us are experiencing as we see the planet on which we were born change under our feet and over our heads. I want to help people come close to a topic, global warming, which is so hard to comprehend and often terrifying. And I want to join the chorus of folks calling out for justice, that as we seek answers and solutions to the climate crisis we also consider people and envision a better future that is not simply fortified against the effects of climate change, but one that is more peaceful, loving, and fair.

That Day in Climate History — Indoor Winter Sports Parks

Snow_in_México_City_Yes!_In_‘Villa_Nevada’bb_

Ice Skating in the Zocalo in Mexico City

I am Timothy Meadows, it is Saturday February 9th, 2165 and time for That Day in Climate History.  While the occasional winter hurricane buried cities in North America and Europe, the planet warmed and most people began to experience shorter and milder winters. Places once renowned for skiing, iceskating, and other winter sports needed to transition in order to provide other types of activities and  excursions that were not dependent on cold weather and snow.

christmas 3 002

Sledding in Mexico City

Still people longed for the bite of cold, snow, and ice and winter activities. Raul Martinez, a Mexican businessman who had invested in the popular Kidzania theme parks, decided to take a memory from his childhood and turn it into a reality on a new planet. Growing up in Mexico City every Christmas his parents took him to the Zocalo, the city square, where city planners artificially created a winter wonderland inside giant tents. He was only ten years old in 2012 when the newly reconstructed Zocalo hosted a giant wind powered  iceskating rink. The memories stuck with him.

Thirty years later Martinez travelled to Sweden and along with famed Swedish children’s furniture designer, Alexandra Ellstrom, they opened the world’s first Winter Park in Stockholm. There young and old entered giant halls of ice and snow, harkening back to winters past. The original Winter Park offered sledding, cross-country and downhill skiing, an ice sculpture park, snowball throwing games, and the wildly popular build-a-snow person activity. The idea quickly took hold and by 2045 Winter Parks opened in Paris, New York, Minneapolis, Tokyo, and Moscow. Today while we have books and films that help us envision the winters of old, thanks to the creative visioning of Raul Martinez and Alexandra Ellstrom, we can still experience jack frost nipping at our nose. On this day in 2165, we remember that day in Climate History.

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Closing

I hope you enjoyed listening to episode 21 of Climate Stew. If so, please share us with your friends. We are going to produce 25 episodes of this cheeky climate program. If you want more, do NOT send us your money, just a comment over at Climate Stew dot com or email me info@climatestew.com that’s info@climatestew.com Our opening music is by Mark Chadwick, Closing music by Poldoore, segment music by Viktor Van River and  Erik Jackson. Special thanks to Glen Retief, Janice Hambridge (hey Jan!), oh, and Joe Gee, who like the witch in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe knows how to dress for winter and has a thing for Turkish Delight.

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Peterson Toscano

Author: Peterson Toscano

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

This post has 11 Comments

  1. Wally on February 9, 2015 at 8:33 am Reply

    I really liked the last two episodes. Tony Buffoosio is so funny and charming. He hates climate change like hates cancer–damn right! I really appreciated the winter parks story from the future, sweet, nostalgic, and sad all at the same time. I also loved the “personal essay” about the Toscano clan and justice.

    Please carry on with this podcast. It’s a really unique take on climate news and thought and very entertaining and well done. We need more podcasts like this and we need people to listen to them.

    P.S. I don’t know if others are like me, but almost any web site inviting comments requires the commentator to leave an email address. In this case, I left my standard junk email address, but mostly, I just decide to maintain my online silence rather than share private, personal information. I understand why web sites do this, a mixture of the host’s wanting to maintain a database of contacts and accountability in case people post obnoxious, accountable, or threatening messages. But given the podcast mentions some frustration at how few people comment on the web site, I wonder if this requirement is in some way a limitation for other people? Also, the comments section requires loading, and scrolling down, a very long web page with lots of text of it.

    Anyway, thanks again and keep up the good work!

    • Peterson Toscano
      Peterson Toscano on February 9, 2015 at 1:19 pm Reply

      Wally! Thanks for the comment. I am doing the comment jig even as I type this from a little cafe in Boulder, CO.

      Thanks for the feedback. I am glad you liked this episode. I am understanding more and more the importance of personal stories in communicating climate. I love how Tony Buffusio gets so tender about the red woods, that personal connection to that wild Western nature from an Italian guy from the Bronx.

      I had a suspicion that filling out the comment form was inhibiting people from commenting. I also think about the many people who listen on the run while they are walking or driving or on public transport. As a result, they can’t easily leave a comment. Lately I have added that people can send comments directly to me at info@climatestew.com That might be easier and less invasive for folks.

      Thank you for listening and for the encourageing feedback. I will share your comments with the Cimate Stew Crew!

  2. Allan McClendon on February 18, 2015 at 9:04 am Reply

    Awsome work Peterson. Blessings on your ministries 🙂 !

    • Peterson Toscano
      Peterson Toscano on February 18, 2015 at 1:41 pm Reply

      Thanks Alan! I appreciate you listening!

  3. Wendy Sanford on February 18, 2015 at 2:06 pm Reply

    Peterson I love your show. thanks for making this your best birthday present, that friends listen! Loved hearing your story. sorry the Mexican and Scandinavian gentlemen were not available for a live interview, but their names alone are thrilling. And Tony, Tony, is that you? xoxo, Wendy

    • Peterson Toscano
      Peterson Toscano on February 18, 2015 at 2:41 pm Reply

      Yay Wendy! Glad you listened. I will get to do some of this work LIVE and in person at NEYM this year AND I should be in Cambridge some time in April for a performance at Harvard Divinity School, so hopefully we will see each other this year.

      Thanks for listening. Now is Tony mean? Whatever do you mean? He is his own man (trapped in my head)

  4. Meredith on February 16, 2016 at 4:42 pm Reply

    Ack, I meant to subscribe when you started it. I will mend my ways immediately! Thanks for tackling climate change (not capitalized so as not to scare the faint of heart away : )

    • Peterson Toscano
      Peterson Toscano on February 16, 2016 at 5:14 pm Reply

      haha, well now there is lots of stuff you can go back and sample. And thank you for commenting!

  5. Rachel Mark on February 17, 2016 at 11:24 am Reply

    I heard this before but this time really appreciated your personal reflection with reflective music. Very Happy Birthday Peterson!

    • Peterson Toscano
      Peterson Toscano on February 17, 2016 at 11:45 am Reply

      The music is as important to me as the story. Actually have to pull myself back from adding more music. If I could I would have an entire podcast with just music. Thank you so much and I look forward to doing great work with you this year.

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