Episode 41: Tuskegee University Research Breakthrough


Dr. White and Dr. Curry

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.

Tuskegee University is a historically Black university in Alabama founded in 1881. From the early work of George Washington Carver, Tuskegee has trained generations of researchers who are unraveling mysteries from the natural world. Dr. Carver wrote, “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” 

Two researchers have been tuning in and making a series of extraordinary discoveries all from agricultural waste. Out of the muck, Dr. Michael L. Curry, Dr. Donald White, and a team of other researchers found a natural alternative to plastics—one that will biodegrade in less than 100 days. This could keep us from adding even more pollution to a very polluted world. 

Further researched revealed this material also has other extraordinary properties. According to Business Alabama, “Scientists working at Tuskegee University have found a bio-based material that shows promise for capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—a more immediate solution to climate change than revamping land and forestry usage or geo-engineering.”  

In this episode, podcast host Peterson Toscano chats with Dr. Curry and Dr. White. They discuss their findings and the important ethical issues that must be considered when introducing a new product into the marketplace. Hear an informative and inspiring conversation with two researchers who are actively seeking solutions for the challenging problems we face. Dr. Curry and Dr. White continue in the tradition of George Washington Carver and the many curious, well trained, and highly skilled researchers at Tuskegee University.



The Art House

Helping the public engage in climate change requires skillful communication and a lot of creativity. One troupe of performers in Northern Europe decided to break out of the box altogether. In the summer of 2019, they presented a performance piece in Norway and Denmark. Instead of bringing the audience into a theatre, Acting for Climate took their show to eight different harbors. For a stage, they used a very large wooden boat. “Into the Water” is a theatrical circus performance aimed at raising ecological awareness. In addition to the performance, they organized festivals at each of the harbors.  

Acting for Climate members Abigael Rydtun Winsvold and Nathan Biggs-Penton recreate the performance for our listening audience. Hear about the circus artists and their amazing feats as they climb the eight-story high mast, do acrobatics, and take the audience on a wild and moving ride. 

After each performance, the troupe connected with the audience for further discussion.  Abigael found the response to be better than she imagined, “People came up to us and said that they were really really touched. Even 60-year-old men, which I don’t normally see crying. They came up to us and said, ‘Wow! I’m really touched. I’m just going to take a walk and cry for myself right now.’ That was really touching for us to hear people were touched by the performance, not only excited, but also shaken a bit somehow.”


We will extend the puzzler question from last month: After attending the recent climate strikes, imagine you run into your cousin, Kristan. She saw news reports about events around the world. She says, “I love the sign ‘system change not climate change,’ but it seems like a total fantasy. They expect everyone to go vegan or something? What systems can we change that will make any difference with climate change?”

Kristan needs some help envisioning the kind of change that you are pursuing. How would you answer her?

Send Peterson your answer by November 15, 2019, along with your name, contact info, and where you are from. You can email your answers to radio @ citizensclimate.org or leave a voicemail of 3 minutes or less at 518.595.9414. (+1 if calling from outside the USA.)

Dig Deeper

You can listen to Citizens’ Climate Radio on these platforms:

Also, feel free to connect with other listeners, suggest program ideas, and respond to programs in the Citizens’ Climate Radio Facebook group or on Twitter at @CitizensCRadio.

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