Category: Climate Change

Oh, Geez. My own Bigger Love play in Geez Magazine

In 2019 I set the goal to learn out to write and produce radio dramas. After taking an on-line course in Dublin, Ireland. As part of the class I had to write the first act of a play and create character sketches. That took a long time, maybe three months to get right, but from there the play took off.

The play is set in New York City in the year 2028. The main characters, Kyle and Joey, are a couple with a lot of tension in their relationship because of all the queer friends they took into their one bedroom apartment after yet another storm hit the city. One of them wants to do more while the other just wants to leave the city immediately. While the topic is serious, the playfulness of the couple and the sexual tension between them comes rises to the surface.

For Climate Change Theatre Action, I submitted the first act as a stand-alone play, and it was read at events in North America and Europe during the fall 2019. Then while I was activist in residence at Susquehanna University, I asked two students, Jordan Sanderson and Israel Collazo, to read the play for me to record.

That is when the fun began! I added all sorts of sound effects to create a NYC soundscape. I included it in Decembers Bubble&Squeak show. The play was also published in Geez Magazine. They included it in an excellent issue about hospitality.

You can read the play here or listen to it.

Featured Photo by Alessandro De Bellis on Unsplash

Fighting for justice in a changing climate — Meet Solemi Hernandez

I recently met one of the most enthusiastic and positive people I have encountered in a long time. Solemi Hernandez is a new staff member at Citizens Climate Lobby and serves as the coordinator in the SouthEast region, which includes all of Florida. Originally from Venezuela, I asked if she would chat with me about her work.

Solemi speaks like a poet, so expressive and transparent. She speaks powerfully about her feelings during this dreadful time of climate change and how acting to do something about it in her community and beyond is the antidote she needed for despair. Listen to her in this one-minute excerpt from a recent Citizens Climate Radio episode.

I encourage you to check out the entire conversation.

You can hear Citizens’ Climate Radio on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher RadioSoundCloudPodbeanNorthern Spirit RadioGoogle PlayPlayerFM, and TuneIn Radio. Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.

Bridging the Political Divide. Is it even possible???

Now more than ever US citizens are polarized and at each others throats. With Thanksgiving coming up, some folks are dreading heading home and landing dab smack into the middle of awkward or even outright nasty family conversations about politics.

Fortunately for you there are two new resources you can hear that will help you navigate these challenging political waters.

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and a brilliant climate communicator, joined forces with Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, to create an audio guide, How to Talk about Climate Change at Thanksgiving Dinner.

She includes her signature humor and some important insights that comes from her unique background as a Canadian Evangelical living in Texas and doing climate work.

Another resource is my latest episode of Citizens Climate Radio. I speak with two Conservative Christian students from East Tennessee State University. Once they arrived on campus soon after the 20216 election, they grew concerned about the rancor between Reds and Blues. They decided to foster community conversations through the Better Angels program. It is lovely hearing these young men share strategies for leading conversations that result in friendship and understanding.

Featured Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Coming Out: AGAIN! It never ends

Last week we celebration Coming Out Day. I have been out gay for a long, long time. Still there are subsequent coming out experiences all the time.

Coming Out has its risks; people do not always respond well when they learn something new about us. When I came out gay, I witnessed a variety of strong reactions: Surprise, Delight, Admiration, Distain, Disgust, but perhaps most difficult of all–Silence. Some people said nothing. They just moved on.

It’s been almost seven years since I had my second major coming out experience, one that perhaps shocked and surprised people more than even the gay one. I came out as someone desperately concerned about climate change and enthusiastically pursuing solutions. People had strong reactions and they misrepresented me. “So now you are an environmentalist?” Uh, no. You do not have to be an environmentalist to be concerned about climate change. Sure polar bears, but I am in it for human rights and as part of the queer liberation movement.

On Coming Out Day, a UK based group, Hope for the Future, hosted a climate symposium in Edinburgh, Scotland, and they invited me to give a presentation. I accepted and gave my short talk even though at the very same time I was in the wilds of Pennsylvania enjoying the raucous Milton Fringe Festival (It was like a fringe fringe!) Through the wonders of technology, I appeared via video in a pre-recorded message.

In this short video I reveal how to talk about climate change with humor, hope, and humanity. Enjoy.

Photo by Florentine Pautet on Unsplash

Support, Determination, and Community: Addressing 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 KS KYUNG on Unsplash

Censorship and Butt Sex

Seems butt action has popped up twice in my creative work recently. For Meetinghouse.xyz I wrote the article, Butt Demons and Climate Denial. A few days later I uploaded the latest Bubble&Squeak podcast episode, Ass Whisperer.

In the essay I reflect on the wacky things I did to de-gay myself. This included an uncomfortable exorcism designed to extract demons that may have entered my butt through sex.

Joanne believed the demons entered me directly. “You probably picked up these demons when you had sex with another man.” In other words, an STD—a sexually transmitted demon. This was in the mid-1980’s at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS Crisis when researchers and public health experts began warning the public that the virus spread through body fluids exchanged during sexual activity. As I sat on her bed in a New York high rise with the city laid out before me erect with skyscrapers, she explained the dangers of spiritual transmissions. “If you had oral sex, demons crawled down your throat. If you engaged in anal activity, well, then, that’s how they got in. They quickly take over.”

I know a thing or two about denial. I wonder about how my gay denial is similar and different to climate denial. Turns out there are all sorts of climate denial–not just the outright rejecting of climate science. I explore these.

While some people may not deny the reality of climate change, they may be in denial about how serious the crisis is and what it means for us. They assume we can all just lower our carbon footprints, recycle, and buy the right eco-products, and we will eventually tackle climate change. Though well-meaning, these actions do not recognize the severity of the problem. As my husband, Glen, likes to say, “It’s like giving an aspirin to a cancer patient.” Large problems require large solutions.

Many religious leaders are in denial about the responsibility they have in pursuing solutions. They may pop up a solar panel on the church roof and get rid of styrofoam cups for coffee time, yet they renege on their call to provide pastoral care for their congregations and community. People are frightened, angry, overwhelmed, and hopeless. Ministers have tools and training to meet these needs.

I also write about “Hope Deniers,” those people who think we have gone too far and there is no fix, so we might as well give up. Please read and share the article:

Butt Demons and Climate Denial

The only known photo of Marvin Bloom

I end the piece with an appeal for action–no not to lower your carbon footprint. I provide alternative actions that people often undervalue but actually can have great impact.

With Bubble&Squeak I put together three things that seem to have little to do with each other.

  • Part one: Matthew Billy from the podcast Bleeped talks about censorship. From Drag Queen Story Hour to Mapplethorpe’s nude photos to climate change, he exposes the censors.
  • Part two: A prank call I made in 2010. I called sex advice expert Dan Savage host of the Savage Love podcast. I actually called in character, as Marvin Bloom. Mavin asked about struggles with anal sex. Dan took the call and aired it on Ep 202 of Savage Love Podcast.
  • Part three: a sound slice–The Path train from NJ to NYC

You can hear Bubble&Squeak wherever you get podcasts or just follow this link.

(Featured Photo by Jean Sabeth on Unsplash)

Inventive, smart, moving, and fun: The 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 Matthieu A on Unsplash)

Indiana Jones and the Communication Crusade

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.

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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 the Homo No Mo Halfway House Helped Me Talk About Climate Change

Trauma is no joke. Conversion therapy was no picnic. Yet, I learned so much about comedy and the power of storytelling through my own experience of trying to become straight through a variety of “Ex-Gay” programs. Now that I talk about climate change, I find I keep returning to the Homo No Mo Halfway House and the techniques I developed to help people give a damn about the the harm of conversion therapy. Yes, they needed to hear just how awful it was, but they also needed to see how ridiculous it was.

For instance in the gay rehab I lived in for two years, they had over 275 rules. But one time they added a new rule–No Bananas in the House. Apparently a fellow participant had a PFF–a Phallic Fruit Fetish. As a result, we were forbidden to bring into the facility any phallus shaped fruits. The condition though extended into the vegetable world–so no cucumbers, no zucchinis, no carrots–oh, except the mini carrots; they didn’t bother him.” Horrible and hilarious all in one.

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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.

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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.

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An Inconvenient Poof

At most festivals and conferences I attend, queer and straight, it’s like we are on a different planet–one that is not warming. Glad to see Greenbelt Festival 2018 is taking it on climate change and letting me do my quirky queer Quaker gay climate exposé.

One of the unfortunate consequences of climate denial both in the US and the UK, although it’s been less of an issue there, is that when someone does not deny climate change, they feel as if they’re somehow Progressive.

The bar is so low.

The reality is people who claim they’re concerned about climate change virtually put no thought into it. In fact, I think people who are dismissive of climate change end up talking and reading more about it than the average person who says they believe climate change is real.

I was just at a wonderful Festival in Ontario, Canada, and all of these incredibly earnest church leaders were asking questions about how they could make the church much more relevant, particularly to the young people. Yet nobody was talking about climate change. Whenever I brought it up, people’s response were typically, “Yeah it’s crazy that some people deny it exists.” Or something like, “We’re doing a lot to lower our carbon footprints.”

I rarely hear about a larger framework for understanding how to talk about this issue. I see no real curiosity to find out how.

Of course there are people who are beginning to wake up to this and becoming curious, but many want nothing to do with it.

I was the same way myself for a long time. I believed I had bigger fish to fry. Or I assumed big important people were taking care of it so I didn’t need to worry about it. But this is one of those issues that we need all hands on deck. And we each have something significant to contribute.