How we can find common ground on climate change
Hey, it's Jordan, and I've podcast for you. Commons is Canada's most popular podcast about politics last season. They tried to answer the question how corrupt is Canada this time around. They're investigating our national addiction oil the currency's and featuring host Arshi man is called crude. And it's about Canada's relationship with the oil industry. The good the bad the ugly and the weird you'll find Commons wherever you get your podcasts. So go check it out. When we cover climate change, and we do cover climate change on this podcast. We get feedback. We get Email. We get responses on social media, and we get reviews, and I'm going to describe for you, the two typical replies. I is probably familiar. It is pessimistic and depressing. We have destroyed the earth with our greed. There's no point in even having children the predictions are catastrophic. And they're getting worse. It's already too late and our leaders don't care and fair enough. Lord knows I do feel that way. Sometimes more often recently. In fact, the second type of response, and this usually comes on social media is either denial or anger this winter was freezing. So how can this be true? Scientists are fudging the data the earth has been warmer than this and cool to gain in the past and any way I didn't cause climate change. Personally. What does the government expect me to pay for? And no, I don't understand that. Response, but I also don't engage within because I have learned that nothing. Good comes of yelling at people about how wrong they are on the internet. So we sat down last week after another set of bad news stories that you may have heard and we asked ourselves not how we should cover the latest round of awful climate news. But if there was a way to discuss this issue that would help us have a better conversation. If we could find a way to focus on the issue that would help those among us who are despairing find some hope and would also offer an olive branch and an invitation to talk to the people who just don't want to believe because honestly right now, not wanting to believe can feel kind of understandable. Today's discussion is our attempt to do that. And today's guest is the perfect person for it. I'm Jordan heath Rawlings. And this is the big story. Catherine Heyhoe is a climate scientist, she's a Canadian who's working as a professor at Texas Tech. And she is the guest editor of this month's edition of Chatelaine magazine. Of all the magazines to guest at it as a climate scientist, why a lifestyle magazine, my favorite thing to do is talk about climate change in places in an outlets where you would never expect it so people think of climate change as this green issue, or this environmental issue or increasingly this political issue, but climate change affects every aspect of our lives. And the choices we make in every aspect of our lives can go a long way towards helping us fix this problem. So in that sense where better to talk about this then in a lifestyle magazine. So give me a sense. And maybe from a broader perspective, but maybe if you have some specific examples of the way lifestyle choices can actually make an impact because we do talk about climate change every few weeks here because it's always a big story now, and one of the things that always comes up is that the little things sometimes feel too small to make a difference and the big things feel impossible that is exactly it. And so if we feel like nothing we do will ever. Ever make a difference. Then why even talk about it because it just gets depressing? Yeah. And so so what is where is there a sweet spot? I guess where you can do some things that won't, you know, won't make you change your lifestyle and move off the grid and start, you know, using one hundred percent recycled everything, but also aren't just insignificant things that actually do make a a measurable difference. Yeah. There. Absolutely. Are so often we have that perception of while, you know, if I really wanted to live in environmentally friendly life. I would move up to the Yukon and go off the grid. But the reality is I live in Toronto Montreal Vancouver or Edmonton. And that's not the way that my life is structured or set up to be. So what can I do interestingly, I think one of the most effective things that every single person can do whether they're a student or somebody who rents so they can't make a lot of changes even in their light bulbs little in their home. Whether we feel like it's really out of our budget to go with something super fancy like plugging car. No matter who you are. And where we. Live the number one most important thing that we can do about this issue is talk about it. Because surveys have showed that hardly anybody actually has a conversation about it. Because maybe we're afraid it might start an argument with uncle Joe or next door neighbor or often, we're just afraid it would be depressing. We don't have anything positive or constructive to say. And so we don't talk about it. And here's the connection if we don't talk about it. Why would we want to do anything about it? And if we don't want to do anything about it. Why would we make changes in our own lives? And why would we encourage others to do so too so talking, but it is really the most important thing. But not the science little details. Rather talking about what we talk about in the Chatelaine issue. How is climate change affecting our lives today in the places where we live if we live in the Maritimes if you live in BC, if we live in the prairies, if we lived in cities, if we live out in the country, if we live up in the Arctic how is it affecting our lives today, first of all as Canadians and then second of all. What are some things that we can do to fix it? And there's a whole range so there's individual lifestyle choices one of the most important things. We can do individually is step on the carbon scales. Google carbon footprint calculator and fill in your life. And it will tell you where the biggest bang for your buck is so for some of us if we live out in the suburbs, and we commute downtown on. We drive ourselves. It might be our commuting. That is actually the biggest part of our footprint for others of us. It's what we eat. If we eat very beef and meat intensive diets to route three times a day that contributes a lot to heat trapping gas emissions for me, the biggest part of my carbon footprint was my flying. Because I live down in Texas all my family's up in Toronto and Ontario. I also travel around to talk to people about climate change. And so I've been investing very heavily the last couple years in trying to transition I'm actually up to about three quarters of my talks to virtual talks online. And then when I do travel somewhere to give talks I make sure I have a bunch of them lined up. I was just in Indiana this past week, and I had seven talks and ate more meetings. That I didn't four days it was a lot of work, but the carpet per print of each individual event was actually quite low. What's the biggest problem that you see when you're trying to convince people that they really need to take this seriously and make those changes in their lifestyle. What do they doubt? Well, we often think that they doubt the science that the idea that somehow science is a matter of opinion, I can decide whether it's real or not. And if you follow the headlines, especially listening to politicians, you would certainly think that's the case because that's a lot of the talking points that they use. I just don't believe that stuff. It's just not real. But when we actually look at polling data across Canada and the US cross North America, we see that actually most people agree climate is changing and most people agree. It will affect plants and animals and future generations and polar bears where the rubber hits the road, though, is almost none of us think it's going to affect us personally. So it's something. That sure I would like to care about it for future generations or people in developing countries. But if it's not gonna affect me in the places where I live my family my community. Why does it matter? So I really do think that the most dangerous myth that the largest number of people have bought into is it doesn't matter to me. And if it ever does get serious or dangerous than somebody else is gonna fix it for us. Tell me a little bit about how you have those conversations with people you're a Canadian climate scientists in Texas, how did those conversations go? Do you meet a lot of climate change resistance? I think we have the stereotype up here. The Texas is deeply conservative. And there are a lot of people there who don't believe in climate change it is. And there are a lot of people who are very suspicious of the science. But today it's gotten to the point where almost anyone can point to some way in which climate is changing around them. Whether it's hurricanes getting stronger with a lot more rainfall associated with them whether it's wildfires burning out of control, greater and greater area record breaking floods or heatwaves people. Point two, something unusual. That's happening today. So today, many more people are curious even down here in Texas, then ten years ago, when we first moved here, I'm getting calls from landowners, and farmers and producers and water managers and people who are traditionally very conservative. But they want information on what's happening. So that's kind of a clue where to begin a conversation. Whether it again is with a family member, a friend colleague neighbor or somebody in our city or area who we want to talk about about making a difference begin the conversation not with something that you most disagree on. But begin the conversation was something that you most agree on. And if you don't know what that would be will then spend some time getting to know that person or that group. I figure out what makes them tick. What do they value? What's important to them? Start the conversation with something that you genuinely share with them. And then connect the dots because we both live in this location because we are both parents because we both are fiscal conservatives who care about. The economy because of who we are. Then actually were we already care about climate change. We just might not realize it because if we are person who cares about the place where we live. We want it to continue to be a safe and healthy and thriving place to raise our family and to support the local economy, if we care about being conservative with our money, then I think it should horrify us. The fact that we're subsidizing fossil fuels to the tune of over one hundred and sixty thousand dollars US per second around the world in the fact that clean energy release the way of the future and China is leading the world in that source of energy, are you? Okay. You know, so to speak Oncle Joe here in Texas. Are you okay? That China is beating the pants off the United States when it comes to the new clean energy economy. I don't think so. So so starting a conversation with a place something they agree on, and then bringing in some unexpected facts related to how many jobs we have in clean energy or the economic impact of growing in stronger weather extremes on Canada. And I talk about that. In my article in Chatelaine or talking about simple steps that we can take it home. Not just, you know, the big fancy ones like solar panels and plug in cars, but some of the smaller ones like looking at what we eat and reducing food waste. You know, we throw out a third of the food that we produce so reducing food waste is actually one of the biggest things that we as individuals can do to reduce our carbon footprint and hardly anybody ever talks about that. Give me an example of a conversation where you actually convince somebody who was a skeptic before. And after you guys had talked began to take action, or at least see things from more scientific perspective. Well, the key. There is I don't honestly care. They agree on the science or not as long as they agree on the solutions. So if a farmer here wants to put up wind turbines on his land because he recognizes that he'll make just as much money as he does from the oil wells. But those, you know, those pesky people won't be driving trucks on and off his land. All the time to get the oil. They just set up the winter. And they push button somewhere far away to operate them. So if he wants to be part of the solution, and then advocate for a greater participation of farmers in growing clean energy in the places where we live. I honestly don't care if he agrees with the science or not because he's part of the solution. And so we can often actually leapfrog over what people think we most degree on probably the the biggest question. I get her statement. I get every day just about on social media is don't you know, it's been warmer before it's just a natural cycle. And of course, they said, well, who do you think studies us climate scientists? We're the ones who told you it was warmer before. So, of course, we know we study natural cycles, but arguing over doesn't change minds. What does change minds is showing that there are solutions that are compatible with our values that are good for the local economy that help people in developing countries who are suffering from hunger, and poverty, lack of access to clean water energy, poverty, which is a real an a difficult issue that affects hundreds of millions of people around the world where they just. Don't have access to the form of energy and electricity that we take for granted. So talking about those solutions are what do change people's minds, even connecting on a simple thing. Like our our appreciation for fossil fuels. I'm actually very grateful for the benefits that they've brought us. We have dependent on fossil fuels for the last three hundred years and more. And because of that we live in a very different place in a very different way than we would if we went back three or four hundred years in our history. So being grateful for what fossil fuels abroad us is actually a place that we can commit. But then we know that just as we don't drive horses and buggies anymore, and we don't use party line telephones anymore. We know that technology progresses, and because we are grateful for and we acknowledge the benefits fossil fuels are brought us in the past in the same way. It makes sense to look to the future and say, how will we transition off these old ways of getting energy that have served us well in past decades and centuries to the new sources of energy because the world is already transitioning, and we don't want to be left behind. That's a really. Just against it. Because it gets at something else. I wanted to talk to you about especially after reading the issue that you guest edited is your very optimistic, and you know, the whole issue of Chatelaine has really optimistic, and I'm kind of sitting there looking at it like, you gotta be kidding me. Like, I know it's dire. This is a we're in a desperate situation. I hear that on the news like every single night. Well, I am. So glad that you brought that up because that was my goal. I feel like when it comes to climate change. Again, we often don't talk about it. And that's one of the most effective things. We can do is either is talk about it. And then also join an organization that amplifies our voice to talk about it, even more. We don't because we feel like it's depressing and fear and depression, you know, they can spark some short term kind of knee jerk reactions but to fix climate change. We're in this thing for the long haul in its hope in optimism rational hope that aknowledges the magnitude of the problem we face, but it is that hope that is going to take us long term. So when I was I asked to. Serve his guests editor I said, well, I really wanna get this hope across I want people to feel after they read it that there is something we can do about it. But it does matter to us. But it isn't just an issue for polar bears or for future generations, it matters to us here. But we can actually be part of the solution as well if we are paralyzed by fear, anxiety, and despair and believe me, I look these in the face every day, I'm a climate scientist. And when you look at what's happening in this world around us that does not give us hope. But I know that if we are dominated by fear anxiety, then it's just gonna lead us film liquid wanna pull the blanket up over our heads. We are going to be a self fulfilling prophecy of doom we need to feel first of all as if there is hope and second of all we need a vision of a better future. What do you do because I find that? When we talk about this stuff, and we talk about solutions and changes that we can make I often end up feeling positive and optimistic that we can we can do something. And then. As you're well aware every two days. Now, another report comes out last week. It was the one that said Canada's warming twice as fast as everywhere else on earth. And then you know, you end up right back in that. Well, this is inevitable place. And how do you counteract the kind of almost ceaseless drip of bad news? Now as a scientist almost every study published these days shows us that climate is changing faster or its impacts are more widespread than we thought in the case of Canada. We've actually known since the eighteen ninety s that the polls higher latitudes warm faster than the rest of the world. But across Canada, what we're seeing is all of these impacts that we didn't think about because often as Canadians we think, oh, well isn't warmer better. I'd love shorter winter in a nice summer. Right. But we don't realize that we are perfectly adapted to the climate. We have and so as it gets warmer. We see the spread of invasive species across the border. We see our native ecosystems being displaced our cities are not ready for the type of heat waves that we see like. We did last summer the heavy rain events that caused flood. We're seeing sea level rising or coastlines eroding up in the Arctic. What used to be permanently frozen ground is crumbling in thawing literally under people's homes and buildings and our infrastructure. Our winter road season his shortening some communities are being cut off entirely except by air. So we're starting to recognize that even though we are in northern country. There are significant negative impacts that counteract and in many places exceed the benefits of a longer growing season shorter winters and warmer summers. So I don't see a lot of hope as a scientist when I look at what's happening to this world. And I do that every day. But I do see hope when I go out and look for it. So hope it's not gonna find us. If we sit there absorbing everything the news has to throw at us. It is negatively it is bad news. It is people saying and doing horrible things it is not designed to give us. Hope we have to go out and look for that hope and the places. Where I find it is through looking at what individual people are doing often, the most unexpected people and places. So I often get invited these days to speak at small Christian colleges across the United States because I'm a Christian, and I I really liked to connect people's values as Christians as people have faith, and really you can do this for any major religious tradition, but connecting our values who we believe we are as Christians to why then we naturally already care about this issue. We just might not realise it. So in in going around the US talking to these little Christian colleges, you know, being a graduate of you've t- and going to public schools. I kind of had this stereotype of this bias that they'd be no super-conservative. They wouldn't think climate change is real they probably had all their food off styrofoam and throw it away. And I go to these colleges, and it is humbling, and it is very hopeful to see all of these little colleges taking the issue of Stewart's ship and sustainability so seriously. I mean, I drive up to this little. College. That's in the middle of the fields of Indiana. And they have a green roof, solar panels. They paint the tops the buildings white to reflect heat in the summer. They have a sustainable agriculture program. I go somewhere else, and they are already reducing their food waste one hundred percent clean energy, you go to college like an upstate New York. It turns out with twelve hundred students which he knows the size of average high school. This college has the biggest solar panel array of any educational institute in the state of New York. So there's really cool amazing unexpected things happening in places in with people that you wouldn't expect. And so I try to collect these stories, and I think the Chatelaine that she does a fantastic job of sharing some of these stories, and I often try to share some of these on my Facebook page too. Because I feel like the hope is out there. We just need to go and look for it. So speaking of finding it an unlikely places than in this goes back to another essay in your magazine. Tell me about Bornholm. Yes. So that is a little town. That is a smart village. What would a smart? Village be like if it was actually designed using modern technology to grow their own energy distribute, their energy, if the village was laid out so that we could commute or walk places. We didn't need to have a car intensive life growing local food, just, you know, the type of community that we all sort of look think. Wow, I would really like to live in that type of community by just don't think it exists. So it was actually built quite a while ago as that kind of test bed to see what a community would look like and that very much ties into news at the United Nations released a plan for building floating villages that could house ten thousand people that would have homes and parks and schools and buildings and it would grow its food underwater. So there's these really amazing, innovative ideas. And we look at them. We're like, wow, that's really cool. And that also I think goes a long way to counteracting the fear and depression and anxiety, and despair that comes at us when we look at the news, and we look at what's happening to our planet. But it also goes a long way to giving us that vision of a better future. Because right now, I feel like we're confronted with an apocalyptic vision of what will happen to the world if we don't act and then on the other side, we're we're presented with an apocalyptic vision of what happens if we pull the plug too quickly on fossil fuels to our economy to our jobs to our lifestyle. But what we're missing we're missing a positive vision of the future of future. That's better than the one. We have no worse a future that I want to work towards that. I would like to live on when you sit down and think about the world twenty or thirty years from now, what is the first thing that pops in your head? The first thing that comes into my head is a world that is more livable a world where my own lifestyle is more of what I wish it was today. And when that provides those resources to more people because unfortunately, we live in a world where inequity and injustice is growing year by year rather than shrinking. The gap between the haves and the have nots is increasing. And we know that our lives contain all kinds of things that we wish that they didn't commuting black of time to spend with people and with doing activities that are important to us not eating the right things. Not exercising enough. Not just enjoying the time that we have with our friends and our family, and the people that we love not plugging in and engaging with other people in our community, but living in our little boxes where we don't have that human interaction that makes us a community. So I would love to see a future, and I would love to live in a future where we very much embedded in our community where we have choices of of transportation and getting our food and walking around and enjoying the circumstances. We have well doing so in a sustainable way where we get our energy from the sun. We grow our food locally. We understand that the things that really matter in life are typically not things that you can actually buy. What does it make you do when I say that to me that sounds like a pipe? Well, if it's too much of a pipe dream, then we feel like we can't achieve it. So we've actually run some experiments as a scientist. I do a lot of work looking at what climate change means to us in the places where we live and how it affects our agriculture and our water resources in our cities and more. But I also do experiments looking at how we react to information and what we found. Yeah. Because that's that is very interesting. And what we found is that when when students are exposed to very utopian version of the future one that seems great but completely unachievable. Then what that does is it actually pushes us off the edge. It doesn't make us more hopeful makes us less hopeful. And we tend to disassociate say we'll fast the only way that we can fix climate change. I think that's so far out of reach that what's even the point about caring about anymore. I mean might as well just, you know, eat merry for tomorrow, we die. So that's what I think what the Chatelaine issue does is. So important is because it breaks this down into small steps it says, well, here's what a whole town. Looks like, but here are the changes that we can make in our own home in our own lives today. Here are the things that we can move towards in the future doing small steps at a time. So every year I take a couple of small lifestyle steps. So I'm not trying to go whole hog, you know, everything carbon-neutral and a single year every year. My goal is just do do an implement and be consistent about one or two new things. And then just roll that into my life as I go along, and it just makes me feel happy. So what are the things we did this year rather than doing the one giant shopping trip every two weeks and loading up the fridge in the freezer and cramming with an inch of its life and then eating our way through this food. And then having about a third of it go bad before we got to it, especially the vegetables and the fruit. I decided I'm going to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work because there's a grocery store rate, you know, on my way. So it's not out of my way, I'm gonna commit to doing like a to bag stop two or three times a week. So we get a lot more fresh food it almost. Completely eliminated our food waste in. We're actually eating some different things now because I don't have to worry about, you know, are they going to get bad before I can look up a recipe and actually make him. In addition. I'm looking at the big picture and big picture talking about this talking about why it matters to us number one. And number two what we can do to fix. It really is the most powerful thing that every single one of his can do whether we use our voice, whether we use our fingers, whether we do it online on social media as teachers are educators as parents as members of our business or the organization that we work for being advocates for energy efficiency, and reducing our carbon footprint. That's one of the most important things that we can do in every single one of us can do that. We'll thank you for talking to us today about thank you for having me. Katherine Heyhoe is a climate scientist and temporarily at least the editor of Chatelaine that was the big story from more from us head on over to the big story, podcast dot CA. Like, I said we cover climate change a lot we have to find a lot of episodes there. You can also find us and our brother and sister shows at frequency podcast network dot com to find us on social media. If you wanna yell at me of a wet climate change is not real we're at the big story. F P N. We're also at frequency pods on Twitter on Facebook on Instagram, and we are wherever you get your podcasts, apple Google, Stitcher and Spotify leave us a rating, leave us a review. Thanks for listening. I'm Jordan he throwing we'll talk tomorrow.