Category: Climate Change

Art, Storms, Stories

In the climate crisis, those who help you will not be your Twitter followers. They will be your neighbors. -Jenny Odell

Princella Talley

Princella Talley lives in Louisiana. As an artist, a writer, and a climate advocate, she is deeply engaged in her community, and even more so now after Hurricane Laura brought so much damage to her town. She has organized fundraising and disaster relief efforts. On Friday she published a piece for Grist, In Louisiana, grief surges with another storm. So does hope.

She writes about Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005. Being on the front lines of climate change has changed people’s attitudes about a crisis that many ignored or denied for so long.

Fifteen years later, the psychological and economic destruction have not left us. And Louisiana continues to serve as a real-time state of reference for the harrowing effects of climate change. In 2016, Isle de Jean Charles, mostly home to residents who belong to the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, became known as the first place to have climate “refugees” from Louisiana.

We’re still face-to-face with grief. But acceptance is also evident. Last year, Republican Congressman Garret Graves took a stand against climate denial. In February of this year, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the formation of a new Climate Initiatives Task Force to address climate change by reducing carbon emissions and building resilience for the coast. Just last week, in a historic move for our state, he signed two executive orders on behalf of this initiative.

Last week I released a podcast episode in which Princella tells some of her own climate story. As a queer woman of color, she was unsure where she fit in a climate movement that looked very white and heteronormative. As an artist and a storyteller, she knows she has a lot to contribute. She speaks candidly about moving into predominately straight, white climate spaces, and how she found her place in Citizens Climate Lobby. In the episode you will also hear Clara Fang speak about and read her poem, The Children on Why They are Striking on Climate. Krista Hiser shares recommendations for cli-fi and sci fi.

Flood of 1972

I live in rural Central Pennsylvania. My attempts to learn about the history of the original inhabitants before Europeans arrived has been challenging. It takes digging around as there are no public markers or easily accessible information. Therefore, I was thrilled to chat with Elizabeth Wisler. She is part Lenape and Choctaw, and is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation. For five years she lived in nearby Williamsport, PA working in theater and the arts. She walked along the Susquehanna River keenly aware of what was missing.

“I just couldn’t help but feel an absolute absence and erasure every time I walked on the River Walk. I would really like more people to understand what happened there—to the land, to the trees, to the people. An enormous amount of trauma happened in that area,” she says in the interview I feature in the most recent Susquehanna Life Out Loud podcast. She speaks about the land and the people, and reads a letter from President George Washington that made my blood go cold. He gives the command to destroy the land and the original inhabitants. It is a powerful conversation.

Joining me on the show is Andrew Stuhl, an associate professor of environmental studies and sciences at Bucknell University and someone very involved in the local Green New Deal chapter. Andrew is committed to hearing and sharing people’s stories. He believes the memories and experiences of the past can guide us today and for the future. With the Agnes Flood Project, he and his team are connecting with local survivors of the historic 1972 flood. He sees valuable lessons in what they have to share.

You can hear both of these stories in Fall 2020 episode of Susquehanna Life Out Loud.

Featured photo by Princella Talley for Vogue Italia

Telling a New Kind of Climate Story

A Puzzle

Since 2014 I have been trying to work out a tricky puzzle, “How do we talk about climate change?” There is no simple answer of course, but every presentation I have ever heard on climate communications and public speaking always starts with the same advice: Know your audience. Having your audience squarely in mind will help you decide what to say and how to say it.

This weekend I presented Telling a New Kind of Climate Story, a Breakout Session for the Citizens Climate Virtual Conference.

After previous in-person climate communications workshops, participants walked away saying they felt motivated and inspired. Many told me new ideas and fresh approaches popped into their heads.

That is lovely to hear, but almost every time I walked away feeling like I somehow failed them. There has been a missing piece to the puzzle. No doubt people went on to share meaningful stories that may all have been influential in other people’s lives, but for me the quest to climate storytelling has continued.

A Breakthrough

Last August I experienced a major breakthrough. It came by chatting with Climate Communication experts Blair Bazdarich from the San Francisco Zoo and Hannah Pickard at Boston’s New England Aquarium. As part of  NNOCCI, the National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation  they stressed we need to stop talking so much about the impacts of climate change. Instead we need to talk about the impacts of the solutions we are offering. Help people see what a better world might look like.

In the same episode Citizens Climate volunteer, Sean Dague, shared a thought experiment: Imagine a world without fossil fuels. What will it sound like? smell like? look like?

It is an excellent show and one of the most downloaded of my nearly 50 episodes.

Citizens Climate Radio Ep 39 Envisioning and Communicating Climate Success

A New Approach

With all of that buzzing in my head, this weekend I decided to try a whole new approach with my climate story presentation.

  • Tell a story that reveals the future you want to see and the share values behind why it is so important to you.
  • Most importantly know your audience.

Ah, but here is the twist! For a moment forget about the members of congress, your friends on Facebook, or that uncle who you have been trying to reach for years. Instead tell your story to a new audience–YOU. Tell yourself a climate story that inspires you, motivates you, keeps you going even when it looks hopeless. Develop a climate story like that and see what happens.

You can watch Telling a New Kind of Climate Story for yourself. I’m curious about the stories you start to tell.

I also recommend watching the three minute video I produced along with Sean Dague. It gives people a chance to experience a new world, one without fossil fuels.

 

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.

via GIPHY

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