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Episode 39: Envisioning Climate Success


As Education and Engagement Manager at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens, she runs the ZooMobile program, which brings animals to schools throughout the Bay Area.

Citizens’ Climate Radio is a monthly podcast hosted by CCL volunteer Peterson Toscano. Browse all our past episode recaps here, or listen to past episodes here, and check out the latest episode in the post below.

Climate Communication experts Blair Bazdarich from the San Francisco Zoo and Hannah Pickard at Boston’s New England Aquarium share proven insider tips about effective communication strategies. They are both leaders at NNOCCI, the National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation. They train aquarium and zoo professionals how to speak about climate change. NNOCCI is a network of individuals and organizations in informal education, the social sciences, and climate sciences.They are currently working in 170 institutions in 38 states. NNOCCI members reach over 190 million people each year.

In this episode, Hannah and Blair share the techniques they have been using, including a “values-first” approach. Through NNOCCI’s research, they identified two motivating values that prove highly effective in opening up conversations with members of the public. The first value is protection — we feel a strong need to protect the people and places we love. And the second is responsible management. We value solving problems earlier before they become too big.

In addition, NNOCCI advises climate communicators to speak less about the mechanisms leading to climate change and its effects. Instead, they encourage us to focus our conversations on solutions. Hannah and Blair share how to lead the conversation to a place of hopeful engagement. Providing achievable, large scale solutions coupled with a clear vision of the benefits these solutions will have on our communities and families is an extremely powerful combination. It will motivate people to believe, dream, and act.

Blair Bazdarich has spent the past 20 years becoming an expert in science communication, but she didn’t realize that’s what she was doing until recently. Through volunteering, performing, shoveling poop, learning new languages, teaching, painting, and advocating for endangered species, she has found her niche in the science community. In her current position as Education & Engagement Manager at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens, she runs the ZooMobile program, which brings animals to schools throughout the Bay Area, and several teen volunteer programs, where she mentors high school students in conservation and education. Blair is also an active member of NNOCCI, and serves on the Governing Council, working to unify the national narrative and action plan on climate change. In her spare time, she is the resident “Zoologist” on the podcast This Week in Science, or TWIS.

Hannah Pickard is Program Manager for NNOCCI and is responsible for network management and operations. Hannah has led NNOCCI’s efforts on curriculum development, facilitator training, and alumni support since 2010.  She has a background in education program development, implementation, and evaluation for families, schools, and community groups.  She holds a B.A. in studio art and Italian from Connecticut College and an Executive Certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania.  She also has training in evaluation from Lesley University and in conservation psychology from Antioch University.

Hear this conversations to gain valuable lessons from leaders in the field of climate communication.



The Art House

Sometimes we cannot easily imagine the impacts legislation and policy can make. Andrews Smalls from City Lab wrote the article, What American Cities Looked like Before the Environmental Protection Agency Was Created. “Since 1970, the agency has reduced the six most common air pollutants by more than 50 percent, reduced air toxins from large industrial sources by almost 70 percent, and eliminated the use of ozone-depleting chemicals. And this progress was accomplished even as the country’s GDP tripled, energy consumption increased by 50 percent, and vehicle use nearly doubled.”

Of course we have still have work to do. We need to reduce localized pollution and heat-trapping greenhouse gases globally. So how do we build the political will so that the public clamors for legislation and policy that will change how we get and use energy? We need to communicate to the public what success looks like. Envisioning success in our climate work, though, requires imagination.

Sean DagueTo help us with this task Sean Dague, the group leader for the Mid-Hudson South chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, leads us through a powerful exercise. He asks us, What does a decarbonized world look like? What does it smell like? What does it sound like?

Once you hear Sean’s vision of a successful future, we invite you to continue the exercise. Try some creative writing. Write a short story or a letter from the future about what you see, smell, and hear.  Maybe create visual art, a drawing or painting. If you can’t draw or paint, get images from magazines and on-line and then create a collage. Write a song, create a map, choreograph a dance. Use art to capture a vision of a decarbonized world. Even if you do not see yourself as an artsy person, just try it.

Towards the end of his life, writer Kurt Vonnegut would say, “Everyone should practice art because art enlarges the soul.”

PLEASE feel free to share your art with our host, Peterson Toscano, and let him know if he can share it with listeners, on the podcast, Facebook, and Twitter.

If you have art from this exercise to share or if you have an idea for the Art House, feel free to contact Peterson at radio [at] citizensclimate [dot] org.


Joining us to answer last month’s question about climate adaptation is Doug Parsons, the host of the America Adapts podcast.

New Puzzler Question

You just spoke to a group of middle school students about your climate change work. During the Q&A a student named Victor says, “I am freaking out because of all the bad stuff I am seeing and it seems like it is just getting worse and worse. I really do not see the point of even trying anymore. I think we are too far gone. What difference does this make?”

Lots of people young and old feel the same way. So how do you respond to Victor? How can you validate his fears while also giving him reasons to hope and pursue solutions.

Send us your answers. Leave your name, contact info, and where you are from.

Get back to Peterson by September, 15, 2019. Email:radio [at] citizensclimate [dot] org or leave a voicemail of 3 minutes or less: 518.595.9414. (+1 if calling from outside the USA.)

Dig Deeper

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Citizens’ Climate Radio is a monthly podcast hosted by CCL volunteer Peterson Toscano.

Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.