The issue on most everyone’s mind right now is coronavirus and the illness it causes, called COVID-19. We are witnessing major changes as our society responds to the outbreak of the virus. Individuals have rapidly and radically changed their behaviors, from washing hands to self-isolating. Nations and local authorities are each taking steps to stop the spread of this disease. We see in real time how quickly we can and must adapt to a crisis. We also are discovering where we have failed to anticipate this crisis that is upon us.
The resilience and adaptation we see happening all over the world, in our governments, and in our homes, have gotten some climate advocates reflecting on the preparations and rapid responses needed to address extreme weather events and other impacts from global warming. How is coronavirus similar to climate change? How is it different?
Citizens’ Climate Radio host Peterson Toscano convenes a panel of experts to consider these questions:
- Dr. Natasha DeJarnett, the interim Associate Director of Program & Partnership Development at the National Environmental Health Association. In previous episodes she has helped us better understand public health issues and climate change. Whether she is discussing environmental racism and pollution, the illnesses afflicting coal miners in Appalachia, or promoting mental health in a time of climate change, Dr. DeJarnett provides well sourced and grounded information.
- Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, the director of the Sustainable Finance Center at the World Resources Institute. He leads the Center’s work to drive finance into activities that promote sustainability and combat climate change. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy and Environment at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
- Alice C. Hill, a senior fellow for Climate Change Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Over 10 years ago she joined the Obama administration as senior legal counsel to Homeland Security Director Janet Politano. As a climate change resilience expert, she believes we possess the tools to respond to the impacts of climate change. She and Martinez-Diaz co-authored the book “Building a Resilient Tomorrow: How to Prepare for the Coming Climate Disruption.”
In discussing the connections they see between this pandemic and climate change, they suggest that governments do not properly plan for unexpected future events because of a collective failure of imagination. Martinez-Diaz explains the idea of availability bias, or “the difficulty that we all have to imagine things we have never seen before.” He says, “We have a lot of trouble planning and getting ready for things for which we have no living memory.”
In responding to crisis and suffering, the guests each point out the importance of having empathy towards those who are most at risk, particularly the most vulnerable in society.
This thoughtful and insightful conservation will help climate advocates better understand the work we seek to do in effectively communicating the urgency of climate change. Being able to tell stories to government officials and other stakeholders is a necessary skill to develop and hone.
This episode’s Art House features “Survivor Generations 2165,” an original radio drama by the Climate Stew Players. In it, you’ll hear the story of Yuri Ivanovich Petrov. As a boy he survived the infamous 900 Days Siege of Leningrad during World War II. Though he experienced the unimaginable hardships, he also developed inventive ways to survive. The lessons he learned during the greatest crisis of his generation can help give us hope and guidance for our own.
You are talking to your friend Charles. Charles is concerned about climate change but doesn’t know what we could do about it. You explain that carbon pricing is a powerful tool to help us decrease fossil fuel emissions. Before you can say more, Charles interrupts, “Are you out of your mind? Did you see what happened in France when they tried that? Those Yellow Vest protests! It was a political disaster. You really expect that to work here?”
How would you respond to Charles?
Send your answers to Peterson by April 15, 2020. You can email your responses to radio @ citizensclimate.org or leave a voicemail of 3 minutes or less at 518.595.9414. (+1 if calling from outside the U.S.)
- CCL Community’s COVID-19 forum – Ask questions about the pandemic and get advice for conducting your climate advocacy in this new context
- What would happen if the world reacted to climate change like it’s reacting to coronavirus? by Adele Peters for Fast Company
- Coronavirus Shows Us Rapid Global Response to Climate Change Is Possible by Jamie Margolin for Teen Vogue
- America Adapts Podcast: The Climate Change Podcast
- That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief by Scott Berinato for the Harvard Business Review
- Historical details and survivor narratives from the 900 day siege of Leningrad were drawn primarily from “Leningrad: State of Siege” by Michael Jones, “Leningrad Siege and Symphony” by Bryan Moynahan, “Writing the Siege of Leningrad: Women’s Diaries, Memoirs, and Documentary Prose” by Cynthia Simons, “The Besieged: Voices from the Siege of Leningrad” by Caroline Watson, and “The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad” by Harrison E. Salisbury. Research for the radio play was conducted by Alex Skitolsky.
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