The Case for Intersectional Climate Coverage
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
One of the more bedeviling recurring debates in the Climate Messaging Wars is whether or not we should focus on the problem or the solutions. I’m starting to see more and more articles making the case for solutions-based journalism. The thinking is that people tune out of climate stories if they’re too gloomy or scary.
But the truth is, I’ve actually never seen a climate story that ONLY focused on the problem. Even the stories about active disasters—wildfires, floods, hurricanes—usually pay at least some attention to the solutions. Also, if the solutions aren’t being implemented, which is overwhelmingly the case, how does one make a news story out of that? Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense to talk about a solution without talking about the problem—or vice versa. We can actually do both. We have to.
And we have to ask ourselves: who is served by a focus on solutions at the expense of the problems? If we agree that the problem is the fossil fuel industry, and an economic and political structure that enables them, I’m sure they’re quite happy to have us focus our attention anywhere but on them. Let’s not do Exxon that favor, okay?
But if the question is how do we keep people engaged with climate coverage, that’s a bigger question and it deserves a bigger answer. I would argue that people don’t tune out of climate coverage because it’s too big of a problem, they tune out because it’s presented as yet another problem. That’s not what climate change is. It’s a deeply intersectional problem that is intertwined with every other Big Issue we face both at its roots, in its impacts today, and in its future. That’s how we should be talking about it. And to do that, we have to do the work to understand the problem.
Let’s take political will, for example. For at least the past decade, I’ve heard that it’s the biggest blocker to climate action. Yet, at the exact same time that we acknowledged it as the missing ingredient for a livable future, its absence was treated as immaterial. In fact, for the first years that I heard about this missing political will, it was framed as a silver lining. We have the solutions, the refrain went, we just need political will. However, if you don’t have political will… you don’t have the solutions, you have many, many problems. And you need to set about the work of understanding them before you can solve any of them.
Why isn’t there political will? Is it because of rampant disinformation that’s created a fractured reality? White supremacy that has taught people that there is no such thing as a greater good? Toxic masculinity that’s made people fear being labeled hysterical if they raise the alarm? Is it because of American exceptionalism that’s made us think bad things don’t happen here? See how many intersections there are in there? And that’s just scratching the surface!
The best way to cover climate change isn’t with a laser focus on problems or solutions, but on the truth, the whole truth.
The Line Between Inspiration and Extraction
By Amy Westervelt
There’s a new PBS Frontline/BBC docuseries out on the role of fossil fuel companies in obstructing climate action and I have some really conflicting thoughts and feelings about it. In general, I think people should watch it, and I hope they do—ep 1 is out now, and ep 2 is coming soon. There are a couple of really great new additions to the public archive of climate accountability here, particularly an interview with Terry Yosie, former American Petroleum Institute vice president, who provides some critical new insight into the trade group’s role in coordinating climate obstructionism, and a look at the fight over the BTU Tax (which would have taxed all fuel sources based on their heat content except for wind, solar, and geothermal), an early indicator of where this fight was headed, and the role that the Koch brothers would play in it. So, you may wonder, where’s the conflict?
The Real Fuckbois of Fossil Fuel
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
If you haven’t heard: the podcast is back! We released our season 3 premiere this Friday, our first episode after joining the Crooked Media network. The episode was released on Earth Day, so we decided to use the launch as a chance to reclaim the roots of the holiday: naming and shaming the companies doing harm to the planet. This episode goes back to the basics of why we hate the fossil fuel industry through case studies of the 4 Big Oil companies: BP, Shell, Chevron, and Exxon. We do away with the notion that climate change was some accident that they just waltzed into and frame it very much as an intentional crime against humanity.
If you’re thinking, “oh, I’ve been in this climate game for a minute. I won’t learn anything from this episode,” I encourage you to think again. Here’s something I learned from the conversation: it was an oil company that came up with the concept that corporations are people! Given what I know about their MO, it’s not surprising, but still, I didn’t know that!
And…while we released on Earth Day, it was just two days shy of our actual favorite holiday: Fuck BP Day! This year, we decided to take the BP-trolling back to its roots in homage to the twitter trolls from the immediate aftermath of the BP Oil Spill. That means we didn’t tweet at BP, we tweeted as BP. We created a new handle, @BPDeezNutzz, and tweeted what the oil giant is probably (definitely) thinking. We had a lot of fun. Maybe too much. We’re definitely going to keep this account.
Oh, and don’t forget to leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts! That’s all we really wanted this Earth Day!
Two Hot Recs: A Newsletter and a Playbook
By Amy Westervelt
Next week, on April 28, Mary and I will be doing a takeover of The Guardian’s newsletter Down to Earth. Subscribe to check us out over there, and also for their ongoing coverage of the climate issue, which is a great international complement to Hot Take!
I also want to share another project we both contributed to that’s out now, the Good Energy Playbook, a comprehensive guide to climate storytelling for screenwriters (and anyone else looking to tell climate stories for that matter!) Our pal Anna Jane Joyner, the founder of Good Energy, and her team have been working on this for a couple of years now and it is a really stellar resource whether you’re looking for inspiration or just a couple of character ideas. Just a few examples of the fantastic content in here: Some great recommendations of climate stories in novels and films from Mary, The Villain’s Backstory (by moi), an amazing Climate Science 101 primer written by our favorite climate scientist Dr. Kate Marvel, and this excellent Climate Heroes Ain’t Saints piece that encourages folks to think beyond the preachy, perfect environmentalist trope. There is so much more here, including resources for self-care when thinking and writing about climate. I can’t recommend enough that you go check it out!
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides
As permafrost thaws, the ground beneath Alaska is collapsing by Lois Parshley for Grist
Climate change and farming driving insect decline - BBC News, by Helen Briggs
Antarctic Sea Ice Hit Lowest Level Since Satellite Observations Began, Study Finds, by Audrey Carleton for Vice
Climate crisis could lead to rise of smaller bees, study finds, by Agence France-Presse for The Guardian
Climate Change is Spreading a Debilitating Fungal Disease Throughout the West, by Anne Marshall-Chalmers for Inside Climate News
'This is not typical': Arizona wildfire fighters brace for threat 'on steroids', by Gabrielle Canon for The Guardian
Five charts that show why our food is not ready for the climate crisis, by Nina Lakhani, Alvin Chang, Rita Liu and Andrew Witherspoon for The Guardian
In Bolivia, a battle over a receding glacier 'doomed to disappear' | Reuters, by Monica Machicao
The Climate Presidency
Both Major Parties Are Refusing to Address Climate Change and We'll All Die Early Because of It, by John Buckley for Vice
Want to Elect Climate Champions? Here's How to Tell Who's Really Serious About Climate Change, by Marianne Lavelle for Inside Climate News
Climate progress remains elusive for Biden on Earth Day | AP News, by Josh Boak, Chris Megerian and Matthew Daly
Biden signs Earth Day executive order to protect old-growth forests | Grist by Naveena Sadasivam for Grist
Cabinet officials spend Earth Week with vulnerable Democrats - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano
John Kerry doesn't yet 'see the evidence' of stronger climate pledges - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano
Groups push Congress to pass climate package before Memorial Day - The Washington Post, by Maxine Joselow and Vanessa Montalbano
Why Biden broke his promise on no new drilling on federal lands by Zoya Teirstein for Grist
Biden: Federal agencies must consider climate impacts of infrastructure projects by Diana Kruzman for Grist
Billions of federal dollars to cut emissions will come with few strings attached, by Michael Laris for The Washington Post
How Biden Can Help the Climate on Earth Day—Without Congress by Kate Aronoff for the New Republic
Biden unveils plans to rescue giant trees as part of Earth Day | Reuters, by Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt
Biden Restores Climate to Environmental Law, Reversing Trump - The New York Times by Lisa Friedman for the New York Times
7 Bonkers Corporate Earth Day Campaigns by Molly Taft for Earther
Canada's Elephant Hill fire burned for 3 months. No country claims its greenhouse gas emissions. - Washington Post, by Amanda Coletta, Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis, Naema Ahmed and John Muyskens
What 'greenwashing' means for climate change - The Washington Post, by Post Reports Podcast
Using geoengineering to slow global heating risks malaria rise, say scientists, by Helena Horton for The Guardian
China doubles down on coal by Somini Sengupta for the New York Times
Report: Oregon has $5.3b invested in fossil fuel companies | AP News, by Andrew Selsky
Justice Is Justice Is Justice
Climate change is making jobs deadlier — and OSHA can't take the heat by Emily Hofstaedter for Grist
How to fight the affordable housing and climate crises at once - Vox, by Rachel M. Cohen
The Global South Is Confronting a Debt Crisis, and the IMF Is Responding With Half Measures, by Kate Aronoff for The New Republic
What Does Climate Justice in California Look Like? By Liza Gross for Inside Climate News
Gulf Coast, Mississippi River cities eager for flood funding | AP News, by Michael Phillis
On Earth Day, climate activists rally against fossil fuels, by Al Jazeera
Climate Rallies Planned for White House and Across US by Lisa Friedman for the New York Times
The Global South Is Calling for Climate Reparations By Olúfémi O. Táíwò and Patrick Bigger for the Nation
Glimmers of Hope
Amid hopes and fears, a plastics boom in Appalachia is on hold by Beth Gardiner for Grist
Inspiring: Gigantic Floating Fossil Fuel Gas Station Now Runs on Electric Power, by Aaron Gordon for Vice
New York City's Central Park a 'lab' to study climate change | Reuters, by Christine Kiernan and Aleksandra Michalska
Yes, you can actually do something about climate change, by Rebecca Leber for Vox
Seeds of hope: How nature inspires scientists to confront climate change, by Washington Post Staff
Oxfordshire boy campaigns on climate change - BBC News, by BBC Staff
Tech Support: Solutions for a warming world, by Adam Clark Estes for Vox
Birth of six endangered red wolves has their advocates howling for joy, by Darryl Fears for The Washington Post
Climate in Culture
Remember When Earth Day Used to Be Cool? By Liza Featherstone for The New Republic
Just Stop Oil: The Young Climate Activists Shutting Down Fossil Fuels, by Hannah Partos for Vice
A Guide to Talking to Coal Miners About Climate Change, by Kim Paul Nguyen for Vice
The Climate Game — Can you reach net zero? An interactive game from the Financial Times
Home Growing a Cannabis Revolution | Atmos, by Jackie Bryant
Google doodle marks Earth Day 2022 with stark images of climate crisis, by Royce Kurmelovs for The Guardian
E.U. asks people to work remotely, reduce air conditioning to foil Putin, by Meryl Kornfield, Adela Suliman and Maite Fernández Simon
Climate and heritage experts call on British Museum to end BP sponsorship, by Nadia Khomami for The Guardian
TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook Are Letting Climate Denial Run Rampant: Report by Lauren Leffer for Earther
Quiz: How much do you know about climate change? By Ryan Bacic and Aviva Loeb for The Washington Post
You Asked, We Answered: Some Burning Climate Questions in the New York Times
Eco-Influencer Brown Girl Green on Transparency and Greenwashing | Atmos, by Yessenia Funes
AP PHOTOS: As world marks Earth Day, trash still big problem, by Drew Costley
Climate-Change Risks Get the Attention of Real Estate Investors by Amanda Abrams for the New York Times
Elon Musk-funded carbon removal prize announces 15 'milestone' winners by Emily Pontecorvo for Grist
These 9 cities are leading the solar surge in the US by Julia Kane for Grist
Remember When Earth Day Used to Be Cool? by Eleanor Cummins for Grist
Can Portland Be a Climate Leader Without Reducing Driving? by Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer for The New York Times
Dimming the Sun Could Be Climate Science's Trolley Problem by Robinson Meyer for the Atlantic
“Act or Die”: Earth Day, Still a Question of Survival | The Nation by Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope for the Nation
Of the Earth | Atmos, by Willow Defebaugh
Who Might Inherit the Earth? | Atmos, by Liana Demasi
The best stories our climate journalists covered this past year, by the WaPo Staff for the Washington Post
Sir David Attenborough named Champion of the Earth by UN - BBC News, by Georgina Rannard