On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
The news about climate change can be, well, depressing. So how do we sidestep “doom and gloom” defeatism and feel empowered to act in the face of what can seem like an insurmountable problem?
In the fifth and final installment of our climate change series, we focus on hope and action — and hear from the scientists, teachers, students and activists who are making a difference.
Produced by Julie Depenbrock
- Nathan Hultman Director of the Center for Global Sustainability, University of Maryland School of Public Policy
- Fred Tutman Patuxent Riverkeeper
- Lesley Younge Teacher, Whittle School and Studios
- Mamta Mehra Senior Fellow of Biosequestration Modeling, Project Drawdown
- Nadia Nazar Founder, Co-executive Director & Art Director, This Is Zero Hour
Zinn Education Project
Jump to : Introduction * Teaching Resources * Teacher Stories * Share Your Story * Pledge * Organizing * Workshops * Youth Engagement * Donate The climate crisis threatens our students' lives. And yet, throughout the United States, schools have failed to put the climate at the center of the curriculum.
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned into "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU 88.5. Welcome. Today is the fifth and the final in our series on climate change. And the news about climate change can be, well, depressing. So, how do we side step doom-and-gloom defeatism and feel empowered to act in the face of what can seem like an insurmountable problem? In this fifth and final installment of our climate change series, we're focusing on hope and action and hearing from some of the scientists, teachers, students and activists who are making a difference. Joining me in studio is Nate Hultman. He is Director for the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Nate Hultman, thank you so much for joining us.
NATHAN HULTMANGreat to be here.
NNAMDIHow do you talk about climate change in your classroom? What's your approach?
HULTMANWell, it's a tough challenge, as you've outlined in the beginning, here. Climate change is a major emergency, as people call it, and it's important for us to be clear and honest with the people we're dealing with about the urgency of the problem and the severity of the potential consequences. At the same time, though, it's essentially important for us to realize and recognize that there is still a window open for action. And I think that that's area that all of us are here to talk about today. And it's the area of action that is most fruitful when we're talking with students, young people, in fact, people around the country that are thinking about taking more action on climate change.
NNAMDIIndeed. You have said that it's essential to not just beat people over the head with how terrible things are. What happens when we only talk about global warming in apocalyptic terms?
HULTMANWell, I think that there's an important element that happens when people hear experts and scientists telling them that there are these severe consequences, but they don't hear about the opportunities that are at hand today that can actually make a difference. People can despair. They feel like there is no point doing anything, and they feel like there's no action that's even been taken up to today. The reality, of course, is quite different. Many people around the country, around the world have already been taking significant action. They've been making a difference. And when we focus on those kinds of actions -- the things that are, in fact, moving the needle today -- people are much more likely to actually step up and join in to help solve the problem.
NNAMDIDo you believe that climate change is a solvable problem?
HULTMANI absolutely do. It's really important as I said to be transparent and honest about the severity and challenge that we face. There is a significant challenge in front of us over the next decade or so, but that window is still open. And as I like to sort of tell that the audiences that I speak with that window is barely open today, but it is open. It's important to remember that there have been rapid technological changes in the past. It's important to remember that we have also been wrong repeatedly about the level of clean energy technology progress that we've seen. And we are today seeing a groundswell of activity that is, in fact, adding up to some significant action, not only in other countries, but even here in the United States.
NNAMDIAlso joining us in studio is Lesley Younge, who teaches math and humanities at the Whittle School in Washington D.C. Lesley Younge, thank you for joining us.
LESLEY YOUNGEThank you for having me.
NNAMDIHow do you incorporate lessons about climate change into your day-to-day curriculum?
YOUNGEWell, I'm extremely excited this year to be at a school that features a curriculum where we aspire to be interdisciplinary, experiential and project-based. I've been really fortunate to have partnered with Teaching for Change and Rethinking Schools, located here in D.C., and to have been exposed to the materials they provide from the Zinn Education Project, which have been really a source of guidance for me, as I've sought to expand the amount that we teach about this, and to also find ways to make it really engaging for young people. I teach middle school. They have a low tolerance for anything that is not presented very, very well. And so, recently, just this December, we concluded our first project featuring climate change. And what we did is the STEM teacher, my colleague Scott, was teaching about deep time and extinction level events, which have also become part of the conversation on climate change.
YOUNGEI was teaching about early American history through an indigenous perspective. And we came up with the idea of teaching climate change through indigenous perspectives as a project. And we were able to incorporate the materials from the Zinn Education Project. And because they have a simulation of a conference that happened in 2009 that was a coalition of indigenous people meeting together to talk about how climate change was affecting them, and they have just really awesome materials that got our students started on the research required to study issues that are affecting indigenous people, and then to present those in a simulation of a model UN-style forum. And they got really into it.
NNAMDIAnd that was your approach to teaching your students climate justice. Is that correct?
NNAMDIFor listeners who might not know, what is the Zinn Education Project?
YOUNGEThe Zinn Education Project strives to provide teachers and students with materials that teach about American history through perspectives that aren't often in textbooks. And so, you can visit their website. It's fantastic, and you get all kinds of ideas for how to do many things differently.
NNAMDIOf course, Howard Zinn's most book is “The People's History of the United States.” What effect has teaching “The People's History” had on your students?
YOUNGEOh, they realize that -- we have a very diverse community of students. And they realize that they come from a particular perspective, and that the other students in the room have their perspective, and that when we all come together, we have different perspectives, and that we have to be able to have conversations about those perspectives and what has brought us to believe the things that we believe. And that, together, the truth is somewhere in the room and somewhere in the middle, but that their own perspective is not something that they can rely on, solely. They have to start talking to people. They have to start listening to each other to understand how America has worked, how it will continue to work, and what is actually going on.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Stacy in Tacoma Park, who says: besides planting a tree and picking up litter, what are things I can do that can help restore the planet, besides eating less meat, driving less, using less and buying less all of which I do and encourage others to do? In other words, what can I do more of that won't have any adverse impact and will actually have a positive impact? Well, Stacy, we will hear about that during the course of this broadcast. But I omitted to tell you what was the first line in Stacy's email. It says: climate change terrifies me. So, Lesley, how do you talk about the effects of climate change with kids without terrifying them?
YOUNGEWe have to assure them that we have not tried everything yet. We haven't done it all yet. We haven't even begun. And I thought the indigenous perspective unit had a great impact on me because I realized that these were not strategies that I grew up knowing anything about. They were not things that are trying and we were exposed to individual activists in the indigenous communities who are doing so much to protect the land and the water that's in their care. And I learned so much about what we can do to support those activists. And so just reassuring them that there are so many people who are doing this work, and that there are so many ways that we can support them, in addition to doing all the things in our daily lives, has been a source of great inspiration to both me and to my students.
NNAMDITo what degree, if any, should we be shielding children from some of the harsher realities of climate change?
YOUNGEOh, not at all. We took our students, as part of this study, to the Deep Time exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History and that exhibit is very terrifying because you learn in great detail what has happened in the past when there have been extinction-level events. And when you hear Greta Thunberg say that we are in a extinction-level event, and then you go to that exhibit you understand what's at stake. And I think that that is really important for them to know, that this is very serious, and that it does require their participation, but also to assure them that there is a lot that we are currently doing, a lot that they are currently doing, a lot that we will do, and that in partnership together, we can continue on a path that will not lead towards that.
NNAMDIWell, I read Stacy's email about how many things Stacy is doing, but how many more things Stacy would like to do. I think Dana on the Eastern Shore in Maryland might have an answer for Stacy. Dana, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANAThank you so much, Kojo. And this is a very exciting show. I'm really happy that you're broaching this subject. I believe in bottom of change. I think that each and every one of us has contributed greatly to the situation we're in by the products we've been buying and our daily actions. And I've just written a book. It should be coming out in the next month through Green Writers Press. It's 170 pages of all kinds of things you can do that are super-easy. And many of our bad habits, like for instance, you know, plastic water bottles and things like that, we've just picked up in the last seven to 10 years. It's very easy to go back to far more sustainable habits. And if we do it, as a bloc of people, if everybody kind of gets on this bus, we can make a huge difference very quickly.
NNAMDIThank you so much for your call, and I'm hoping Stacy in Tacoma Park is listening to you. Nate, why is it so important that we're having these conversations about climate change in American classrooms, in particular?
HULTMANWell, you know, we are in the United States. We're the world's second-biggest emitter. There's a lot that we have been doing, and there's a lot more we need to do to drive our own country's solutions to this problem, and also help lead I think globally in a way that maybe we haven't been doing as effectively the last couple of years. I also to connect this to this excellent point that was just made, in fact, the two comments we heard about what we can do and bottom up action. And I think that that is something that we might return to in this conversation. But just to kind of touch on that just briefly, the kinds of work that Lesley's been talking about, the kinds of communication that we're talking about here speaking to individual students, to youths, to people around the country who are interested in doing more it's essentially important. I think as part of the message to say, yes, we are doing something now. There are options that haven't been tried yet that are still at our fingertips that we can actually grab and do.
HULTMANAnd, equally importantly, we also have to think more broadly about not just our own individual actions, but also helping the many organizations of which we are a part, whether they're community organizations, communities of faith, any other kind of group, state and local governments, and, as well, all the way up to the national government, to help effect different kinds of policy choices with that energy and motivation that we're now bringing to the table.
NNAMDINow joining us from studios in Baltimore, the studios of WYPR in Baltimore is Nadia Nazar, co-executive director and art director for Zero Hour. Thank you so much for joining us, Nadia.
NADIA NAZARThank you for having me.
NNAMDIFirst off, can you explain the mission of Zero Hour?
NAZARYeah, so Zero Hour is a youth-led climate justice organization. And a lot of the work we do is to bring urgency to the climate crisis and not only that, but to get youth involved in the movement and for our generation to understand that this is a turning point in time, that we need to be taking action now. And we need to be holding our elected officials and holding corporations accountable. We also do a lot of education around climate justice, in teaching people how climate change disproportionately affects people all around the world.
NNAMDIWhat's the meaning behind that name, Zero Hour?
NAZARYeah. So, we really see the climate crisis like -- we use the term climate anxiety a lot, and how we kind of -- I kind of feel like there's this looming, like, cloud over my head like something inevitable is happening. And so this is zero hour, saying, like, this is zero hour to act on climate change. We don't have that much time left, but we do have a little sliver of hope left, and we need to be taking action now in order to solve the climate crisis.
NNAMDIAs I mentioned, you also serve as Art Director Zero Hour. Can you talk about the intersection of art and activism and why it matters to you?
NAZARYeah. I see art as a language that's accessible to many, many people all around the world, regardless of language and so many other barriers that keep us separated. And visual art is so good at, like, bringing awareness and in calling attention to different issues. So, using art can really help bring awareness to the climate crisis. And we've used it to, like, enhance, like, marches and events by making like massive banners. For the September 20th strike, we made like nine foot puppets of fossil fuel executives and there's the Parachutes for The Planet Project. There's lots of different artistic elements that we love to bring in to our actions in order to really get people engaged. And I think that's it's so important to do storytelling. And I think art is one of the best ways to do storytelling, because it feels like, for the past few decades, part of the climate movement is only talking about, like, the data and the science and the facts.
NAZARAnd, really, I think the best way to get people involved in the climate movement is talking to them and like showing them how people are actually being affected by the climate crisis and how they could one day be affected like them, too, and that we all need to be taking collective action working together, and really like making that human to human connection and I think art is one of the most powerful tools for that.
NNAMDIYou're working on a campaign that launches today. Tell us about that.
NAZARYeah. So, Vote for Our Future actually launches tomorrow, but I'd love to talk about it. We are launching a campaign with the National's Children's Campaign called Vote for Our Future, where we're asking young people to go out to register to vote and turnout for their primaries and for the general elections, and to vote for our future. And not only are we asking young people and we're asking adults and older generations to go out and vote for our future generation's future. And through that, we're doing a lot of voter registration, education on the Green New Deal and really making sure that this election we get a massive youth voter turnout in order to achieve climate action for the next few years.
NNAMDII should mention that Nadia is doing all of this work while also attending school each day. You are a high school senior. Is that correct?
NNAMDIAll right. Got to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue with this conversation. You can still call us, though, at 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. How do you remain hopeful in the midst of what seems like a crisis of climate change? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. This is the fifth in our series on climate change, our final for the time being. We're talking with Nate Hultman, Director of the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Lesley Younge teaches math and humanities at the Whittle School in Washington. And Nadia Nazar is co-executive director and art director for Zero Hour, a movement of youth activists fighting for a livable planet. Lesley, this is for both you and Nate. Youth have been leading the climate movement. Why do you think young people are so infilled with this issue, in particular?
YOUNGEThey are looking for the truth. Every year, when I get a new group of students, I am just so remarkably struck by how much they crave understanding our world and what's really happening in it. And I think climate change, for them, feels very urgent. It feels like it matters. It feels like something they can touch and feel every single day. And then they learn that it touches everything that they love and care about, involves everything that they love and care about. I love what the young person just was referring to in terms of art and storytelling, and it being an awesome medium. I think, for every student, they feel like there is something for them to get involved in when it comes to talking about climate change and climate justice.
NNAMDISame question to you, Nate.
HULTMANYeah, thanks. You know, clearly one of the dimensions is that this is their future, too, and that's been clearly a motivator. Another element that I think builds off of Lesley's is that this is a young generation we know throughout history. Youth have often been a generator of change, and it's partially because of this enthusiasm that they bring. Partially because they are wonderfully inpatient with the excuses that they hear from those who may be older and more embedded in the system. And I think that is a wonderful dimension of the narrative that they're bringing. It's a wonderful energy that they deliver into this movement, and I think that we would do well as the older generations to listen to them, and then actually do what we have in our control to kind of help move that process forward.
NNAMDII'd like to play a clip of Greta Thunberg's speech at the UN Climate Change Conference, where you talks about hope.
GRETA THUNBERGRight now, we are desperate for any sign of hope. Well, I tell you there is hope. I have seen it. But it does not come from the governments or corporations. It comes from the people, the people who have been unaware but are now starting to wake up. And once we become aware, we change. People can change. People are ready for change. And that is the hope, because we have democracy. And democracy is happening all the time, not just on Election Day, but every second and every hour. It is public opinion that runs the free world.
NNAMDIGreta Thunberg, at the UN Climate Change Conference. Nadia, do you feel hopeful?
NAZARI do feel hopeful, and I think a lot of it is because I'm doing this work every day, and I'm seeing this massive community of young people -- not only young people, but millennials and folks in older generations that are working so hard every day in putting so much of their free time towards this movements and towards working for change. And just seeing that community and that collective people-power is really inspiring, and it just shows me that there is a massive amount of people actually working to get change done behind the scenes.
NNAMDILesley, when you talk to your students about climate change, do you find that they're generally optimistic or pessimistic about the future?
YOUNGEI think they're generally optimistic, for sure. I don't know a lot of young people that doubt their capabilities to change the world and do many fantastic things. And I think this really rallies them to think about the ways that they are going to one day be in charge and be able to make the decisions. And everything that they disagree with will one day be in their control. And I think that inspires them every single day.
NNAMDIA couple of our listeners want to talk about young people. First, Andy, in Mount Pleasant. Andy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANDYYeah. Hi, I think, great program. Thanks to everybody here. I really strongly agree with Greta. I think she may be a little optimistic about public opinion alone changing things, but she's right. It's like people are waking up. I'm a retired environmental journalist. I've been writing about this problem for 40 years. And people are waking up in huge numbers. That's reason for great hope. What I'd like to say about young people, and I say to young people a lot, the different ways of thinking about heroes in history, in one way says heroes make history. In another way says that historical crisis provide the opportunity for people to be heroes and the necessity for people to be heroes. Franklin Roosevelt was a hero partly because he had to face the Great Depression and World War II.
ANDYLincoln was a hero, because he had to face the fight over slavery that led to the Civil War, and he faced the Civil War. Young people today, unfortunately, or fortunately, have chances to become all they can be, as the U.S. Army puts it. You're in a battle to really change the world to preserve the world from crisis, and you've got an opportunity to develop your academic understanding of science.
NNAMDIAnd to, in fact, become heroes yourselves. I interrupt you only because we've got a lot of show to do, and we don't have a great deal of time to do it. But your point is well-made and well-taken. So, thank you for your call. Here is Mark in Silver Spring, Maryland. Mark, your turn.
MARKSure. I got a couple of educational parodies, but I'd let you make the decision. When the CO2 goes up, up, up, crop nutrients go down, down, down. Less iron and zinc and weed and other crops release that CO2. You have to put out all the stops when the CO2 goes up, up, up, crop nutrients go down, down, down. Sorry (unintelligible) show how you're mean. You're putting in your people's rice much less protein. To American farmers can beat around the bush. Your breakfast for champions will become breakfast of mush.
NNAMDII'm assuming you write those songs for children. Where do you get the opportunity to sing them to children?
MARKI don't get the opportunity. But --
NNAMDIThat's why you're on our airwaves today.
MARKI just do this for fun.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for sharing that with us. Joining us in studio is Fred Tutman. He is the Patuxent riverkeeper. Fred Tutman, good to see you again.
FRED TUTMANHi. Great to be back. It's been a few years.
NNAMDIFor anyone in our audience who does not know, what is a riverkeeper? What do you do?
ANDYSo, we run an organization that actually protects a particular watershed. We rally citizens. We work on actual watershed problems. And I'd say we're a symbol of hope, since hope is the theme of the day, for protecting and saving Maryland state's longest and deepest intrastate waterway. It stays entirely in Maryland.
NNAMDIWhy and when did this become a passion for you?
TUTMANI've always been attracted water. I've always been challenged by nature. It's like this personal transaction I have. I like to test myself. I went swimming in a sea storm once, just to see how that felt. So, I think nature is kind of this formative thing, this personal thing that we have to all transact ourselves.
NNAMDIWell, we need you to continue to be the Patuxent Riverkeeper, so please don't go swimming in a sea storm again. (laugh) Tell us about your family's roots in Prince George's County.
TUTMANWell, my great grandfather founded a farm near the banks of the Patuxent River back in the 1900s. My family's been living on that farm ever since. It's a matter of some pride, an African-American family living on land that's been passed on from generation to generation. So, yeah, my roots and my ties are to the land and to the river that runs past it.
NNAMDISo, what does, I'm wondering, climate change mean to you?
TUTMANSo, climate change is a very complicated and mixed bag, because it's an issue that doesn't always have a face. It's hard to draw a picture of it. And so to draw people in to get on that bandwagon -- and mind you, it's also a little bit of a social bandwagon, right, the people who get climate change and the people who don't.
TUTMANPeople who don't want to know about climate change, because either they don't respond to science or because they don't like the people who work on climate change. That's real. That's real. They don't want you to be right. So I don't waste my time talking to people about climate change who don't really want to hear it, that's for sure. That's for sure.
NNAMDIWhy is it so vital to champion environmental needs of underserved and maybe disengaged communities?
TUTMANWell, it's important to champion the needs of underserved communities because these are the folks who suffer the most, no matter what, whether it's climate change, whether it's bad water, whether it's bad air. These are the folks who are feeling the actual impacts of these disparities that exist, which are acculturated in our society, right. Lots of disparities, not just environmental ones, economic disparities, social disparities, but the environmental ones are fairly crushing.
NNAMDIHow do you advocate for that in your own work?
TUTMANSo, my dealings with local communities is to keep the work very, very local. So, I identify issues and concerns with the help of the community that bear on climate change. And we work on these through the lens of a local issue or problem, right. Issues are very generic. Problems are very local, very specific to the local.
NNAMDIAs far as I know, you are the only African-American riverkeeper in the country. Is that correct? And if so, tell us about that experience.
TUTMANSo that's true. It hasn't always been true. African-American water-keepers have come and gone. We're also an international movement and so there are many water-keepers of color in other countries. In America, I think how we experience the environment is also very individual.
TUTMANAnd I think it's very challenging to be an African-American environmentalist, most especially so. Much more challenging to find funding. Much more challenging to change people's expectations for us, because they're not high expectations, right. The focus on diversity is not the same as the focus on equality. Diversity is something quite apart from equality and equity, and that's troubling. It does make it work harder. And I think those people figure my job is to be diverse, which is ridiculous. (laugh) It's much bigger than that, right? It's actually to connect these communities to these resources such that we can save them together.
NNAMDIDo you think that it's a privilege to, quote-unquote, "care" about the environment, perhaps a privilege that's not available to people who are struggling with their own pressing needs?
TUTMANWell, I think everybody cares about the environment. We just don't always agree on what the environment is. And I was raised by the farmer's daughter, my mother, who grew up in the country, right. But I was also raised by a father who came from Baltimore City. And we experienced both, as children. Both my parents wanted us to experience both sides of that.
TUTMANSo, I saw the environment in Baltimore which was very specific to what people experienced there. It may not have been the same environment we enjoyed out in the boondocks, out in the country, farming, and out in the woods, but it was the environment nonetheless. So, I think people have to be clear about that. What are we talking about when we talk about the environment? It's where you are, it's your habitat.
NNAMDILesley -- and, for that matter, you, too, Nadia -- I'm wondering if you have noticed also this equity problem within environmental advocacy circles. I should mention that you, too, Lesley, are African-American.
YOUNGEI am. I am. It was very important to me to center voices of color in our classroom when we were talking about climate justice, simply to address this perception that the only people who care about the environment are white, right. That's not true. And also to highlight for my students who come from many, many different backgrounds that people who are indigenous to their communities, people who are people of color, people who are underserved by their governments, by their communities, economically, those, as Fred just said, are the ones who are suffering the most, who are going to be the most immediately impacted, and to make that part of the urgency, right.
YOUNGEThat the urgency is not just selfish but it really is about extending this empathy locally and also nationally and globally, and to understand how, well, you can't wait until it affects you personally, because you might be a little ways down the line. But there is somebody who literally won't know where their next meal is coming from or whose house is going to be washed away, and we need to act now because of them, even if we are not immediately being impacted.
NNAMDINadia, I'm wondering if you, too, have noticed this equity problem within environmental advocacy circles. And what do you think would be effective in making the youth movement truly inclusive?
NAZARYeah, definitely. It's definitely been a problem in the climate movement, I think, for a while. And you look at the fossil fuel industry and all of the industries that are causing the majority of the emissions. And you're seeing that the higher-ups of those industries are mainly white and mainly male. And a lot of, like, tables and conversations around energy and so much more, it's very white male-dominated, and it has been for a long time.
NAZARAnd I think that in order, like going off what Lesley said, we do need to listen to indigenous people and listen to people of color. And we need to listen to everybody and make sure that everyone's at the solution-building table. And in order to do that, the climate movement has to be as inclusive as possible. And not only do we need people of color and indigenous people and black people in the climate movement, but we need (word?) leadership in the climate movement.
NAZARAnd Zero Hour is a majority women of color, youth-led organization. It's a very, like, safe space for me, because I feel like I can be comfortable, and I don't have to have, like, certain obstacles because of my identity. And it's been really great for me. And I know a lot of other of my co-organizers may have, like, experienced, like, some hard times because of, like, the racial disparities in their groups, and just really making our spaces as inclusive and safe as possible for frontline youth to come in and for people of color to come in is most important. And we need to make sure that not only are we bringing them in, but we're listening to them and really going off of what they're saying and making sure that we're valuing their opinion.
NNAMDISo, Fred Tutman, tell us about the upcoming Taking Nature Black conference.
TUTMANSo, Taking Nature Black, I guess this is the third one. This will be an Audubon Naturalist Center in Bethesda. It is a gathering of people of color who are involved in environmental work on many different levels, activists and advocates and educators and people in the professional realm. And it's a forum. It's a forum where people of color can be ourselves and tell our stories, which is an important side of this diversity question. These movements don't just have to listen to us. We have to be able to be involved on our own terms.
NNAMDIWhat do you see as the biggest problems facing our waterways, particularly the Patuxent River?
TUTMANI think the biggest problem is apathy, the presumption that everything is well in hand if you just keep sending checks. That's ridiculous. Again, it's local. Your water is your water. (laugh) And I assure you, the government's not coming to fix it. Actually, for the most part, the government sees these as unfunded mandates.
TUTMANSo, local activism, I guarantee you, if you're good and mad and angry and active and involved and engaged in your community, you're going to have a better environmental quality than some community that's just simply doing it by the numbers.
NNAMDII want to go back to the phones and talk with Mike Tidwell, who heads up the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Mike Tidwell, thank you for joining us.
MIKE TIDWELLIt's good to be on your show. You know, I formed Chesapeake Climate Action Network 18 years ago, precisely to take action on this issue of climate change. And I'm glad you played Greta's clip earlier. There's another clip that I would encourage your listeners to find on YouTube. She gives a TED talk in Sweden where she talks about hope. And she encourages people to stop looking for hope among young people, and stop looking for hope from world leaders.
MIKE TIDWELLAnd she distills (laugh) it quite well. And she says, if you want hope, take action. When you take action, that's when you feel hope. And when you take a lot of action, you feel even more hope. And that's how we're going to solve the issue of climate change. And I would encourage listeners to, as you take action, stop being an individual. It's great to turn out the lights and drive an electric car, but more than anything, develop a relationship with one group where you live in your region who's taking action on climate change.
MIKE TIDWELLAnd I really want to give a shout-out to all the activists in Virginia, because the Virginia General Assembly, just last week, passed a really strong climate bill called the Clean Economy Act. It's going to lead to the largest offshore wind farms in the nation, in Virginia. It shuts down all the state's coal plants in the next 10 years. That's what action looks like, and that's what gives us hope.
NNAMDIThank you so much for calling in, Mike Tidwell. Got to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation that we're calling climate hope. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about and with sources of hope in the fight against climate change. And joining us now in studio to continue this conversation is Mamta Mehra, a senior fellow at Project Drawdown. Thank you so much for joining us.
MAMTA MEHRAThanks for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIExplain for our listeners, what exactly is Project Drawdown?
MEHRAOkay. So, Project Drawdown, I think, is founded with an objective to bring hope when most of the climate discourse around this topic was more negative and fearful. So, we try to bring a shift of discussions to more of hope, positivity, possibility empowerment and action. So, Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organization founded in 2014, where a coalition of researchers, scientists, advisors, they are measuring, mapping and modeling a collective area of solutions having the potential to reverse global warming to achieve drawdown.
MEHRANow, what is drawdown? Drawdown is a point in time when the greenhouse gas emissions begin to decline on a day-to-day basis. So, that's the target we have, to reach to a world of drawdown in the near future.
NNAMDIWhen you say near future, do you want to give us a time estimate on that?
MEHRASure. So, our analysis, where we have studied a hundred solutions across the globe, the solutions which exist today, the actions we all are doing already, and they have the potential to be up scalable at the global scale. So, when we have analyzed that for the next 30 years, 2020 to 2050, we see we can achieve drawdown.
NNAMDILet's talk about some of those solutions. How do we slow global warming?
MEHRASo, the point is that you need all of these actions. And these are just a hundred what we have studied, as of now. There could be many more. And as you know, everybody in this forum has talked about, actions from local to national, too, on a global scale are required. And talking about just few, a lot of time, in climate change discussions we're having, most of the solutions were coming from the energy sector, the (word?) sectors.
MEHRABut equally important are the solutions or the practices we are doing on our land, indigenous peoples, forest management, which is one of the solutions we have, is showing, you know, how these people are conserving and protecting our ecosystem from centuries. And it is the time to give them their due title. Because the way they are protecting the forest, it's far much better than that is done by the government agencies. So, this is one of the examples.
MEHRAAnd a lot of examples are...
NNAMDI(overlapping) I was about to say, can you give us a few more specific projects that you're working on?
MEHRASo, Project Drawdown has, besides the research we are doing and talking about, the solutions we have in the platform, Drawdown 1, where we are engaging with teachers and students, too, you know, so that they can understand these solutions in a simple language and come up with a project they can run in their school or communities. So, that is one thing.
MEHRAAnd we are also working with different regions, because at Drawdown 2.0, where we are right now working, it's important to -- because, so far, we have shown that there's a hope and possibility to achieve drawdown. But there are equal challenges when it comes to the implementation. So, we are working with different partners in different regions and countries to see the translation of these solutions from book or from, you know, just a potential to actually how they can be transmitted on the ground.
MEHRASo, this is the other global research platform at what Project Drawdown is working on. And Project Drawdown are meaningful, because it's also on communicating this complex information on climate change in a very simple, story-telling way (unintelligible). So, communication is also one of the important areas what Project Drawdown is working on.
NNAMDIBack to the telephones. Here's Joe, in Manassas. Joe, your turn.
JOEOh, hi. Yeah, thank you. I have a question for the guests, there. What's being done to educate young people about the economics of all of this climate change and everything? Because, in the reality of the world, you know, businesses still have to exist. We still need energy. We still need development. And I think part of the problem and the pushback against a lot of climate change activists is that they mix agendas. I've even heard it on this station.
JOEYou know, you talk about climate justice, but if you look at the science of climate change, let's stick to the science without the politics. If you look at the science, you do not want to push production into dirtier countries. And so the way not to do that is not to make production in clean countries more expensive, like so many of the climate activists want to do in Western Europe and in the United States, and putting the regulations on here, but letting India and China and Russia and the developing Pacific Rim and developing countries, quote, “get a pass.”
JOEWell, that doesn't do any help for climate change. Now, that is a political redistribution effort, but -- and then there's also the mixture of climate change versus environmental protection. It's very different to have a polluted river, which is environmental protection, versus decreasing CO2 levels worldwide.
JOESo, I think part of the problem, and I come at this from an economic background, have studied this from economic background, is that, you know, you don't go to a 16-year-old accountant or a 16-year-old doctor. You go to the scientist. And part of the science is also economics and business. And I think so many in the climate change world, activist world completely ignore the reality that we need energy, we need development and everything...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Well, allow me to have Nate Hultman respond.
HULTMANSure. I mean, I think it's a great point and absolutely correct that economics and a lot of other considerations are important elements of any real transformative solution. We're talking about a rapid transformation of our economy, whether it's the U.S. or state's or global economy, over the next 10 years. How do we actually accomplish it?
HULTMANWe do have to understand economic dimensions there. Fortunately, the news is actually fantastic, because at this point, clean energy is cheap energy. And it's still kind of a sense that, well, we're going to be paying more for this electricity. It's actually not the case anymore. The renewables cost for PV and wind, in particular, but across the board for a lot of, essentially, all clean energy technologies including batteries and other kinds of generation have been dropping precipitously over the last decade.
HULTMANPV costs have dropped something like 80 percent since 2009. And there's lots of other great examples out there. This is not a show that's going to go into all those details, but the upshot is that we are now facing opportunities to transform economies in ways that indeed do hit multiple goals, multiple development goals, multiple economic goals simultaneously. Is it difficult to do all those things all at one time? Yes, but it's also possible. And that's the kind of challenge that I think we are both sort of facing in some ways with some trepidation, but also I think with some heart and excitement over the next couple of years.
NNAMDIMamta, care to comment?
MEHRAYeah, I just want to add, like, you know, that in saying that even if you don't talk about what will happen in future, but the historical growth of the green area within the last 10 years, it's so commendable that, if you go by the same trajectory, we will have all renewable energies globally, maybe ready soon in 2030, 2040. That's the chances.
MEHRAAnd one of the reasons is that the economics behind that, those appliances and those things are quite cheap and available at low, affordable prices. So, things are quite positive. I just want to quote an example that science-based target initiative has sold for 797 companies, have set their target to adopt a (unintelligible) in the next coming one or two decades. So, that's commendable, that companies are coming forward, and they are setting the target to adopt a low-carbon economy growth.
NNAMDINadia, care to comment?
NAZARYeah. Well, first, I just wanted to acknowledge that I don't like how you called China and India dirty countries. I don't think that's an appropriate term to reference two countries like that. I do think that young people should be able to voice their opinion on the economy, because the economy does very well. Yeah, intersect economy crisis and getting renewable energy.
NAZARBut I think it's also important that we look at how capitalism has been detrimental to the climate crisis, and how capitalism has really pushed profit over people. And now, we have to make sure going forward that we can put people and put the land and put animals in life on Earth, like, before profit, and make sure that we aren't falling back into corruptive, greedy systems and letting corporations and industries take over our government, like they're doing right now. So, I think it's important that young people voice their opinion on economics. And I think that's very much interconnected into climate justice. And we need that voice. Yeah.
NNAMDIHere's -- oh, you were about to say?
MEHRAJust a quick note. India is going to be leading the global solar initiative.
NNAMDIThank you. Here's Wendy, in DuPont Circle. Wendy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
WENDYHi. Thank you so much. I really appreciate Nadia's comments that she just made about the greed that seems to be getting in the way and making -- there's no political will. And a lot of it has to do with money influence. I'm coming from the perspective of the climate activists. I'm with Extinction Rebellion in D.C., and we're known for taking the sometimes seen as extreme tactic of shutting things down, of giving you all traffic jams (laugh) and that sort of thing.
WENDYAnd the reason for that is because we see so much hope, we see so many possible solutions in the form of different environmental solutions, economic solutions. It's all out there and people are waking up. But the political will is lacking. And I just wanted to put it out there, as one of the many ways of getting involved is to take to the streets. And there are many ways to do that, as well. And Extinction Rebellion is one of them. And we stay hopeful by joining together and having a regenerative culture.
NNAMDIThank you so much for your call. Lesley, you wanted to say.
YOUNGEI did. I feel that the previous caller really highlighted the need for an interdisciplinary approach to this problem, and why it does need to be in so many classrooms and different types of classrooms and all of the disciplines that our students are learning. They need to be encouraged to look at climate change, climate justice, climate economics from all of the perspectives that they can.
YOUNGEThere's often a conversation that accompanies this type of work with teachers wondering, well, will it be rigorous enough? That word rigor gets thrown out, and I've always said that there's nothing more rigorous than asking a student to consider a problem adults can't solve or haven't solved yet. There's nothing more rigorous than that. And so I think that makes this topic extremely exciting for our students to study. And when they start to see all of the different ways that it can be approached, I do think that gives them hope.
NNAMDII'm afraid we don't have much time left, but I wanted to get Derrick in Bethesda, Maryland. Derrick, you only have about 30 seconds. Go ahead, please.
DERRICKAll right. Thank you very much for your time. I'm a faculty at the University of Maryland. I'm an African American glaciologist, one who studies ice sheets. And I wanted to raise the question to the speakers about representation in earth sciences. We have a significant issue related to representation among the scientific community in regards to participating in the research exercise. And there are substantial institutional barriers that still need to be overcome in order to enhance the distribution of voices in the earth sciences. And I was hoping the speakers would be able to address that.
NNAMDIWell, we won't be able to address it in this conversation, but we've already made a note of it for a future conversation. So, thank you about raising that, Derrick. And I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Nate Hultman, thank you so much for joining us. Lesley Younge, thank you for joining us. Nadia Nazar, thank you for joining us. Fred Tutman, thank you for joining us. And Mamta Mehra, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIOur series on climate change was produced by Julie Depenbrock. This was the fifth and final installment in the series for now. Coming up tomorrow, Maryland lawmakers consider an overhaul of the state's education system that could cost billions. So, where will the funding come from? Plus, a high school senior who's also a professional race car driver? We'll sit down with Rajah Caruth. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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