00:00:00 Intro
00:01:31 Coronavirus and truth
00:07:36 Economic impact of Covid and solutions in Climate activism
00:11:17 Americans and how we see nature
00:14:45 The fragility of our society
00:19:54 Health of body and planet
00:23:09 Nadia’s inspiration
00:26:52 Climate silence
00:28:37 The 2020 Election
00:32:04 Climate change solutions as healthcare
00:34:08 Bathtub metaphor
00:36:14 Regenerative Recovery
00:39:05 Things you can do to help
00:42:52 Outro

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hi and welcome to the crowdsourcing sustainability podcast my name is michaela and i’m ryan and we’re your co-hosts this podcast exists to help inform inspire and empower people to take action on climate we’ll do this by bringing on wonderful sustainability leaders listening to their stories and exploring meaningful actions we can all take so for those of you who’ve been following the crowdsourcing sustainability newsletter from the beginning you may know that i’m a climate activist i’ve done lobby days with citizens climate lobby been trained by the climate reality project to give climate presentations i got arrested for peacefully protesting at a sit-in in the halls of congress with the sunrise movement in 2018 and most recently i’ve been active in my local chapter of the extinction rebellion also known as xr what follows is a conversation between myself and a fellow extinction rebellion activist and friend nadia colburn we recorded this in may 2020 setting out to cover the similarities and differences between the coronavirus and the climate crisis because we’ve both just written articles on the topic but we also dive into a wide range of interesting topics such as humanity’s relationship with nature the culture of climate silence forces fighting against climate action how climate solutions are human health solutions the importance of this moment in time and the most impactful climate actions you can take all right on with the show and i hope you end up enjoying our conversation as much as i did

so nadia i know you wrote an article at least a few weeks ago now comparing the coronavirus to climate activism and kind of finding those similarities between the two i think that’d be a great jumping off point for this discussion so i’d love to hear more about that in detail and what that was all about yeah so at the beginning of um the pandemic here in massachusetts when it was really clear it was going to have a really big impact on everyone’s lives i wrote an article suggesting the ways in which climate activists could really help us understand how to deal with this crisis of the pandemic and then how the pandemic can also help us prepare for future climate and ecological crises down the road so i used the uh four demands of extinction rebellion which are one to tell the truth if we don’t tell the truth then we cannot address the crisis and the truth uh often is inconvenient but we can’t deal with any problem if we’re not really looking in the face and often that means we have to listen to the experts and really discern carefully what it is that that they’re saying and look at the whole truth number two is uh act now had china for example told the truth and acted immediately then the pandemic could have been controlled faster now i’m not blaming like the chinese but the chinese government is an authoritarian government that doesn’t like to deal with inconvenient truths and governments not only china but the us government very much so doesn’t like to deal with inconvenient truths and that leads us to a lot a lot of problems so we have to act now we can’t wait and i think we’ll talk about that more because it’s a little bit different for the pandemic and for the climax yes um three is uh beyond politics and we’ve seen with the pandemic how polarized different positions are and it makes it really hard to tell the truth and really see the nuances of the situation if two sides get entrenched and can’t come together to see the complexity and work together so this isn’t a political issue it is a matter of truth and working towards a healthier better safer future and in the u.s the fourth demand of extinction rebellion is just transition because there’s so much inequity that it’s absolutely essential that we protect the most vulnerable and all of our planning is done in a way that takes into account how everything we do will affect the most vulnerable and we’ve seen in new york city in particular i was just looking at the numbers really recently the death rates for uh people of color is like at least twice and often more i think it’s like two and a half on average yeah yeah so that’s really illustrating the systemic inequity of our society as so many things about this pandemic are and uh we have to address them as we are planning for our future um and so those four demands of extinction rebellion and i think they’re just super super helpful to think about how to address a pandemic or any crisis and then the fifth kind of ask or vision is to build a regenerative culture and it’s really that regenerative culture vision that i think is most exciting and actually ryan you said something that really interested me which was i was talking about the dif the similarities between coronavirus and the climate and ecological crisis and you said well there are these really big differences too and i think it’s related to that regenerative culture so i wonder if you could talk a little bit about some of those differences yeah yeah happy too uh first though i just want to say i think that framework is super useful as a land for viewing this and seeing what’s got what’s gone wrong what we could do better and how to approach these kind of issues next time because there are so many similarities between the two and like the very first thing you said was telling the truth and if we can get better at as a society in listening to the science which is our best tool at our disposal for finding truth and kind of act from a common set of facts like so much else kind of falls into place that’s a whole different discussion but anyway there’s there’s a lot uh in those four or five points you made that i think are worth diving into um but yeah in terms of differences there’s a few that stick out but i think the biggest one is also the most important one and that’s just for people to understand that climate and corona are different in that to address coronavirus we’re all sacrificing and we should be i mean we are prioritizing people and life and well-being but it’s not we’re paying a cost to do that in terms of you know staying home being away from our loved ones and that social distancing like it’s not it’s it’s not fun it’s not ideal um you’re gonna say something yeah and i think the economic cost also this is one of the areas where it’s been politicized but people are really really struggling financially and i just want to acknowledge that too and yeah it has real life consequences there’s so much suffering people are losing their jobs and droves tens of millions um and then you look on the flip side for climate action if we are going to solve climate change what does that look like what does that mean and you see that this is just a win-win-win all around um it’s going to improve people’s health we’re going gonna have to come together and work together to solve this and just overall it’s making our lives better not worse we need we need literally millions of people to solve this problem and in a way it really is the i mean i’m obviously biased we’re we’re going to talk about this uh more in depth but it is this solution just sitting in our back pocket to get us out of this coronavirus mess and not only to get us out of the mess but to solve the next enormous looming problem at the same time put people to work improve our health and make society more resilient yeah um absolutely there’s a really exciting report that the sierra club just put out saying that it has a plan to create nine million new jobs per year for at least the next seven years in infrastructure and uh so where coronavirus is making us lose jobs investing in green energy investing in our future is a job builder and it builds better jobs people okay they can’t work in mines anymore but that is a very painful difficult dangerous job with a very poor quality of life we can create better jobs for people across the board um in all kinds of really interesting areas so i think that’s really very very exciting um and you were talking about that that’s an important part of the solution too taking care of these workers in these industries uh who are working in fossil fuels and making sure that they have a just transition to work in this cleaner economy or in whatever jobs they’d like to find but just like really centering people uh in this transformation because there is going to be a lot of disruption and it’s for the best but you need to be mindful uh when these changes happen to take care of everyone along the way exactly i think there’s often a perception that caring for the environment is caring for like polar bears okay i care about polar bears i mean it’s actually incredibly tragic to imagine that you know the world i grew up in polar bears it never would have crossed my mind that we’d be talking about the extinction of so many so many species this is very essential um but there isn’t a separation between the animals and people we have to this is about people this is about people’s lives it’s about investing in a livable world for people and there’s no separation between the environment we live in and ourselves our health our well-being being and our ability to survive so absolutely yeah that i feel like we so often especially in higher income countries take for granted like the basic foundations of society which are like food water a safe place to live and climate change the climate emergency is threatening each one of those things uh and so it’s really just this fundamental idea that we are completely dependent on nature and a part of it not separate from and better than it so like really coding that into our laws and our society and the way we live so that we are in harmony with our world that we depend on instead of just you know destroying it and thus only hurting ourselves yeah there’s such a weird paradox in american culture around the idea of nature i mean there’s so much to say about that um you know even what is nature and what is wilderness and our our love as americans of nature and our fear of nature right i mean betsy devos says okay we can have guns in schools so we can kill bears like what a weird country this is um but there’s this love and fear of nature that we have in america of like wilderness and wildness but there’s a strange paradox that’s going on now because actually nature is we can live in harmony with it and i think that we forget that in the us right we’ve forgotten that which are our um really indigenous people here like native americans knew that you know we had like the national identity was in opposition to native identity so that harmony that people had here for thousands and thousands of years got disrupted and a whole different mindset came in but there’s this strange paradox now where we’re neither able to see the ways in which we’re able to live in harmony with nature but also strangely

our kind of cultural imagination of how powerful and dangerous nature can be also seems to be partly forgotten at least by certain like certain parts of our culture especially ones in the white house now right because the other day there was just high winds here and i was like wow this is really powerful i hope my house is going to be okay so there could be a storm and it could come through and goodbye new york city yeah and that’s there’s harmony and there’s also just the force of nature and we need to get back to harmony so that we can protect ourselves from nature really unleashing her enormous overwhelming force that is going to be so much more disruptive the coronavirus pandemic yeah i do think though building on that that the coronavirus is revealing is opening our eyes at least some people’s eyes for the first time that everything is much more fragile than we like to believe we are not invincible as people or as a society and we’re really at the mercy of nature at certain times when it gets going um and it’s kind of like

it’s a weird analogy but it’s kind of like uh when you’re growing up you think everything or i had this for a while living in a bubble

like everything’s under control like this they’re the best uh and you have that realization that your parents are just people at some point and then you have the same realization with society at another point and that’s like oh no one actually knows what they’re doing no one knows what’s going on this whole thing is not under control or necessarily moving in the right direction and you have to be an active participant in it to try to help shape it um i think that this pandemic is kind of waking some people up to some of those realizations or a reminder if you’ve already had them to be like these physical forces are completely out of our control at times and if you don’t figure them out you’re at the mercy of of them really and with corona it’s really bad and with climate especially with the path we’re on it’s going to be way way worse so uh yeah yeah and so the most we can do is to be proactive and try to take care of ourselves and take care of our earth and it’s just like this is a wake-up call right you think you’re going along nothing changes and all of a sudden boom

i mean here my husband’s a high school teacher he was kind of waiting but he went to school one day and then five o’clock you can’t come back the next day and that’s it for the entire rest of the school year suddenly so quickly things change yeah so if we can you know prepare beforehand i think the illusion that things are just going to keep on going in the same way has been for many people uh disrupted by this pandemic yeah if we can really be wise and think okay this is a reset how can we use this moment to create a more resilient future because we’ve seen that really we don’t as a society have things set up for a rainy day and that’s an expression that people use right but we’re going to get not just rains but storms to house you know floods a lot of a lot of disruption and how do we both mitigate that you know and we can talk about specifically what we need to do with carbon dioxide which the scientists have been telling us and telling us and telling us and telling us and also how do we prepare our culture to make those transitions yeah yeah uh i have a couple thoughts there’s there’s so much here

one is just on the the water and flooding front i think i’ll have to double check this but michigan just had a couple dams break or at least one dam break and thousands of people had to evacuate and this is mid coronavirus so you have these compounding crises stacking up on top of each other we’re just we’re really not ready for it at all but the other part of that is that the month of april was like one of if not the most precipitation that michigan has gotten in you know x period of time it’s it’s everything is moving at this accelerating exponential pace and we really do need to get ahead of it because prevention is always going to be better safer and cheaper than you know waiting it out and trying to react and adapt and just like flail um there’s actually last thing here there’s this really good quote uh from kim cobb she’s talking about corona and climate change and she says both demand early and aggressive action to minimize loss only in hindsight do we really understand what we gambled on and what we lost by not acting early enough and like you can see that right now with coronavirus and you’re gonna be able to see it it’s only gonna be magnified with climate change which is an era like this is like a whole 21st century problem yeah i mean i think the thing that’s scary is um you know i’ve had friends who seem very very healthy be diagnosed with late stage cancer and um

you know sometimes you can feel healthy and look healthy feel like you’re going along just fine and then all of a sudden when you start to get symptoms it’s too late um that’s not to blame people they didn’t know right like they didn’t know that they had cancer going inside their bodies but i think you can blame our society for not acting because we’ve gotten the diagnosis again and again and again and again and then people are saying well i feel healthy i mean i have plenty of friends who feel 100 healthy when they get their cancer diagnosis but they do not say i feel totally healthy i’m gonna just go about my life exactly the way i was going about it before at least not my friends they do something about it yeah that’s the situation we’re in now i mean we’re no longer at that stage actually where we are not seeing symptoms as you just said record-breaking heat record-breaking precipitation record breaking et cetera et cetera et cetera i think all of us now in our common perception are seeing signs all around us of the changing climate and atmosphere so we don’t need to just trust the experts anymore like we can see ourselves but we need to make that connection and act the way we would act not only ourselves maybe we wouldn’t take care of ourselves but if our child was diagnosed with cancer what would we do she could be running around acting happy but we would want to give her some treatment

and this is this is the thing

that is really frustrating is that we got this diagnosis on climate change decades ago uh i know that james hansen testified in front of congress in 1988 i was born in 1991 and it’s really just maddening and confusing and completely i feel like young people especially get completely overwhelmed by this they’re just like what happened here everyone like everyone’s trying it’s like it’s a normal thing just going about your day but you’re completely there’s this intergenerational injustice that has happened and is continuing to happen until we act and this is why you see so many young people leading on this and thank goodness for it because they’re we’re starting to wake other people up to the reality the truth the science like we talked about earlier of what’s going on here like we have we’ve had the diagnosis like you said it’s time when we act yeah yeah i know i’m so grateful to i’m older than you are i was born in 1972. so in 1988 i was 16 um and it hadn’t trickled down like i i hadn’t heard of climate change when i was 16. um i had heard of earth day um but you know i think earth day actually the first earth day was right right around when i was uh i think it was in the early 70s um but but actually it was hearing greta bundberg talk i think it was at her speech at davos um january of i guess it was 2019 and it was my son who said hey have you seen this young girl talking superstar yeah so it was actually you know the younger generation and greta said what have all the adults been doing my whole life and i listened to it i was like i am one of those adults what have i been doing my whole life okay i feel bad about that but now i have to do something i mean i had done some climate activism and was thinking about the

environment but i hadn’t really firmly said i’m going to really put this quentin center in my life and be more outspoken about it um and i’m happy to say that my kids my son and my daughter are both also really pretty involved now and in climate and environmental um and social justice activism and uh i feel like i’m following their lead to some extent that’s awesome that’s really really cool um yeah i honest so i similarly i guess maybe not similarly but i don’t think i heard about climate change until i was 20. and if i did it did not register at all and i think that speaks to some of what you were saying which is just culturally it seems like anyway it just wasn’t a big deal it wasn’t talked about that’s why we have this climate silence uh term but it’s the kind of thing where if no one’s talking about it no one perceives it to be a big deal it doesn’t matter or it’s not a threat and it feels like we’ve finally finally finally reach some sort of tipping point on climate um and it’s both exciting that we’re there infuriating that took this long but also just like this moment in this next day month year five years decade is so critically important uh that yeah i i think we’re finally at a point where there is some reason starting to be some reason for hope because if you just you went back a year or two and told us we’re going to be where we are now on climate and the energy and the the movement behind it how much it’s grown i think most people in the climate space would would take that bargain they’d be like we’re that far okay that means our rate of change our progression is accelerating let’s let’s build on that yeah that’s a really interesting moment because we have i mean you talked about climate silence which i think is a really important term um and it’s really important that people not only hear people talking about climate ecological crisis but also talking about climate silence because um i actually just created a whole series of videos about helping people talk about the climate and ecological crisis yes everyone should go watch that it’s fantastic um my main and i’m also a writer and writing coach and my main point there is you don’t need to learn how to do it the right way any way you talk about it is the right way because there is a vast um kind of you i think you were the one who introduced me to the term of the spiral of silence where this silence kind of snowballs around an uncomfortable issue so people feel uncomfortable and it’s very convenient for the fossil fuel industry so and the fossil fuel industry has spent at least one billion dollars since the paris agreement only a few years ago in misinformation about climate so we are battling that enormous force against us to try to keep us violent and we’ve seen in the white house now literally censorship to the environmental protection agency scientists even trying to censor and keep silent the truth so that’s going back to extinction rebellion’s first demand we have to tell the truth silence is always always dangerous so every time we talk about it we are taking a really important step um and of course there’s an election coming up and that is so important another way we have the powers that be want to silence us is to keep us from voting and to keep us thinking that our vote doesn’t matter and that both parties are roughly equally unbelievable and we’re disillusioned with them both at equal rates and so we just don’t vote well if you care about the environment probably people do if they’re listening to this and probably you agree with me so i’m not trying to necessarily convince people listening but i just feel so strongly about this um you know the trump administration has used their powers to roll back hundreds of environmental um legislations and protections and there’s a really great new york times article about that recently and uh these this happened silently it’s not reported on very much most voters don’t know about it and it has enormous enormous impact so um our vote is another way in which we uh we can speak and break that climate silence yeah yeah 100 and i to to echo what you were you’re saying a little bit ago of the stories uh and talking to people no matter your level of understanding like

are we’re able to reach people that we know in our networks uh far better than pretty much anyone else uh so even if you don’t know all the facts no i mean

there’s so much to know it’s impossible to expect anyone to know everything and speak to every single point eloquently uh but you just have to know the basics and why it matters to you and then you can go and talk to someone it might be a little scary but you do it a couple times and you realize it’s no big deal and also uh you realize that people

the the the surveys on behaviors and beliefs on global warming in the u.s show that over 70 of people believe this is happening and another two-thirds or seventy percent care about this so even though there’s a silence chances are when you bring it up to someone they’re gonna agree and maybe secretly be happy that you voice this because people are concerned and i think tying it back into politics i would love for this to be made a bigger issue in the media especially i really don’t think mainstream media does this issue justice at all um but it’s a winning issue it is a winning issue and if you look at the popularity of renewable energy and even the green new deal even after the fox news barrage against it those are very very popular uh policies people want to see this stuff and especially younger people and if we push on climate then i think that’s a winning strategy especially when you tie it into healthcare climate solutions are a form of healthcare there’s somewhere between 50 thousand and two hundred fifty thousand people dying here from air pollution in the us that’s massive happens every year uh it’s like 4.5 or in in that range i think that’s a low estimate a million people around the world globally yeah it’s like four and a half to i want to say eight and a half it’s insane yes um and it’s interesting that we’re talking about this when we have the coronavirus because they’re both things that affect the lungs and then the whole system yeah so we have to be healthier and also the people who are most um vulnerable to colonovirus or people who have yeah uh you know already compromised lungs yeah um and yeah so i think

i think there’s a lot to be done and talking about and educating people on the fact that climate solutions are human health solutions the the world health organization has said that climate change is the biggest crisis for human health of the 21st century like this isn’t like fringe ideas or niche things like this is this is everywhere we just need to internalize it and act on it and also i’ve i wish we would hammer home a bit or by we i mean the media um that like you said the trump administration has rolled back 100 plus regulations and they’re they’re rolling back even more right now in the middle of a health crisis they’re making people’s health worse as this pandemic is killing people and killing people at higher rates if you have pre-existing conditions so it’s just it’s just madness yeah i i heard recently um a metaphor that i want to share also maybe because i’m a poet but um of course similarly i guess uh so this is from uh cristiano figueres i’m not saying her name properly but um so because i think there’s everything is so interconnected that it can be hard to understand the basics

so she used an image of a bathtub and our world our atmosphere is like a bathtub and it can only take so much co2 and it’s been filling up and filling up and filling up and now we’re really really close to the top and it’s about to spill over and i’ve had water damage in my house it does a lot of damage it’s not something you want but this is going to spill over and it’s going to create worse than water damage and so the idea is to stop it we need to turn off the faucet so that more co2 is not going into the bathtub which means stopping all fossil fuels and we need to open the drain which means planting trees conserving even more important planting trees conserving the trees the wetlands the waters that we already have that regenerative culture that we’ve been talking about for the natural environment and for people’s jobs investing in those things for a healthier world and healthier people and i feel like sometimes even for me sometimes it’s like it’s so confusing because there’s water there’s droughts there’s lungs there’s air there’s like how do i understand it all and i just like that um i like that image because it’s pretty simple like everything else is connected to that basics yeah yeah that’s super super useful i hope people reuse that in their next conversation uh when talking about this um another another hugely important thing which i don’t think gets enough air time is even just like in the climate space uh is like carbon farming regenerative agriculture that’s a huge carbon sink if we get our spoils working for us and it also is a win-win like so many other solutions because it’ll make our food healthier um so yeah so to tie this size back into the big beginning of the convo uh of how these are win-win solutions we could do a whole nother thing on a green new deal or green new deal-like policies because we have the answers they’re here they’re ready uh we just need the power we need to build this power to make the changes happen and crucially like you said centering it on justice and really putting people at the forefront of this transition yeah and and this just even to bring it back to the beginning of the conversation even more this coronavirus pandemic is a time of reset a time when we’re seeing how uh you know vulnerable our society is we’re just seeing an even more relief the inequity and the unhealth and we are going to we are going to need to start up again and so it’s an opportunity to put into place um really

green healthy justice oriented solutions for a healthy safe just equitable future for everybody yeah yeah i that is a huge huge point uh there’s gonna be trillions there’s already been trillions of dollars dumped into the economy there’s gonna be trillions trillions dollars more in recovery to reboot the economy and we need to do everything we can right now to make sure that is a green stimulus because not only is it crucial for climate change but it’s also there’s this recent study that came out of oxford they surveyed like a couple hundred of the top financial people around the world academics uh banks investors you name it and they said that a lot of the top stimulus policy options were green they were low carbon options so again this is like a win-win critically important right now and we need to start talking about this stuff more so can we leave people maybe with just a few little action steps that they can do or that they can share with their community for what to do around us so how can we um leverage this message what what can people do yeah so i’ve actually done some research of my own on this before and by that i just mean i reached out to like 50 experts in the climate sustainability sphere and heard back from you know like 16 or 17. and basically what they all said as the most effective thing that people can do boils down into a few buckets um educating yourself talking about this issue with friends and family like we were talking about earlier voting huge huge huge election coming up in the us and i’m sure in many other places around the world um similarly calling your representative like you’re just saying this is a moment like we’re not going to get this kind of amount of money pumped into the economy again we need to make sure that goes to the right places so calling your reps letting them know what you want why you want it um you can throw in the green new deal if you’d like and then potentially the most powerful in my opinion especially when we can go and be together again is to organize with other people to work with each other towards that systemic change and i definitely like to plug xr um i also like sunrise there’s there’s i mean friday’s for future there’s so many movements out there i would just encourage people to learn about them and find the one that’s the best fit for them yeah if yeah if you’re not already involved in one of those groups there’s so many ways to get involved so uh you know it’s it’s really really crucial that uh we stand together and show people how um you know important these issues are to us because representatives listen they’re supposed to there their job is to listen to the people and i saw you know recently um that uh there’s a sanders biden climate task force which i was really encouraged to see and that is because um sunrise which represents the i mean partly because i’m sure there are lots of other things but partly because sunrise which represents the younger generation uh and biden really needs that vote uh care so much about this issue so that is just so to me encouraging that people because they have come out to the streets and said this matters to us politicians are paying attention and so um you know it’s super important to register to vote to know your rights uh in terms of absentee ballots because who knows how easy it’s going to be to get to the polls in november so most states uh allow people to register um and vote with an absentee ballot so uh and you know telling friends and family so all of this is so important um and ryan you have an amazing uh crowdcast solutions uh newsletter and community also with which has great resources for people who want to get more involved yeah yeah i can definitely throw a link to my email or crowdsourcing sustainability if anyone wants to chat i’m sure you can do the same if anyone wants to follow up on this yeah that’s great

so that is the end of our show thank you so much for joining us today if you enjoyed this conversation you may also appreciate signing up for the crowdsourcing sustainability newsletter that i write most weeks this will also give you access to our cs slack community and there’s a link to that in the show notes along with several other links we referred to today lastly please do consider giving us a review to help us grow this community and get this information out to more people we would really really appreciate that and i think that is all we’ve got for you today so thank you again take care and we’ll talk to you soon and we’ll talk to you soon and we’ll talk to you soon and we’ll talk to you soon

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