Two years of HEATED

A look back on what we’ve done in our second year.

When I quit my job in August 2019 to start a jerky climate newsletter, I truly did not know if it would fail or succeed. But it’s been two years now, and HEATED’s still herethanks in large part to you, the hot and hydrated community.

Let’s be honest: Year Two wasn’t easy. I fully burned out, which I announced in July. Really, it happened months before that; July was just the month I had the courage to admit it. You all stuck with me though, and since then, I’ve been better. Publishing once a week feels healthy and sustainable.

For the sake of accountability, though, here’s how burnout affected the numbers. From the initial launch of HEATED to the end of Year One, I sent out a total of 205 newsletters. But from the first anniversary up until Year Two, I only sent out 134. That’s about a 35 percent reduction in output, which for a pandemic year, seems about right. Still, it kinda sucks to see, written out so plainly and rudely like that.

But HEATED’s original reporting and analysis reached far more people in Year Two, and that makes me feel a whole lot better. Today we have just under 50,000 free subscribers, compared to just under 30,000 at the end of Year One. That’s about a 60 percent increase, if my math is correct, and that’s surely in large part thanks to other forms of media. I spent a lot of time doing that in Year Two: I started semi-regularly contributing columns to MSNBC, and got to talk about our work on CNN, NY1, Peacock, and Cheddar. Popular podcasts like Reply All and The New Abnormal also featured our work, and I got to teach a climate journalism class at my alma mater. These were all fantastic opportunities to help mainstream righteous anger toward people who profit at the expense of the planet. I was very grateful for every single one.

I was most proud, though of the actual newsletters HEATED published. So today, in honor of our two year anniversary, I’m listing some of my favorites for a little look-back.

The links to each piece are in the italicized dates at the end of each bullet point; let me know if I messed any up. And as always, if you liked any of this year’s journalism, you can show your support by becoming a financial contributor or sharing this newsletter with a friend. Whatever’s clever. Just stay hydrated in the process.

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Expanding the climate vocabulary

HEATED introduced readers to a bunch of fun new terms this year, some of which we made up and others we didn’t. They included:

  • “Petromasculinity,” researcher Cara Daggett’s word to describe a prolific type of masculinity in America shown to be a driving force behind climate denial. (October 2020).

  • “Oilsplaining,” our word for when some random dude who doesn't fully understand climate change explains the benefits of fossil fuels to you. (April 2021).

  • “Meatposting,” our term for posting pictures of meat on social media with captions that glorify its consumption. (April 2021).

  • “Greentrolling,” writer Mary Heglar’s word for calling out fossil fuel companies directly on social media when they try to greenwash. (December 2020).

  • “Eco-fascism,” a word we’ve used before in the newsletter and certainly not one we coined, but an important one to get re-acquainted with as conservatives embrace it. (January 2021).

Holding the powerful accountable

HEATED’s original accountability reporting revealed a lot in Year Two, including:

  • That Microsoft pours money into re-electing climate deniers in Congress while marketing itself as a climate champion. (September 2021) and (February 2021).

  • That NOAA’s then-chief scientist deleted a cadre of tweets disparaging climate scientists and activists before he was confirmed. (November 2020).

  • That six corporate signatories of a letter calling for Congress to act on climate were also funding a GOP takeover of Congress. (December 2020).

  • That Exxon’s climate plan actually allows it to increase emissions by using weird, tricky language. (December 2020).

  • That Big Oil was tweeting for Pride Month while donating to anti-trans lawmakers. (June 2021).

  • That some New York Times’ reporters are opposed to the paper’s fossil fuel ad policy. (August 2021)

Putting boots on the ground in Minnesota

HEATED dedicated an entire month of reporting to the Line 3 pipeline fight in Northern Minnesota this March, when the ground was just beginning to thaw, and before the story was attracting a lot of mainstream media attention. It still doesn’t have enough attention, but we’re proud of the stories we did, which you can find here.

Having original, unexpected conversations

HEATED had a lot of unique conversations this year. The subjects of our original Q&As included:

  • Legendary actress Jane Fonda about her anger toward Joe Biden over the Line 3 pipeline. (March 2021).

  • Minnesota climate justice activist Sam Grant in the wake of the Derek Chauvin verdict. (April 2021).

  • A guy who paid $25,000 to take out a climate denial ad in the Washington Post. He is an anesthesiologist in Texas and our conversation was wild. (December 2020).

  • A mom who went viral for tweeting about childcare during the pandemic, but no one realized she works in climate policy. We talked about the intersections between the childcare crisis and the climate crisis, and what people can do to help address both. (September 2020).

  • Climate justice activist Anthony Rogers-Wright about why racial justice and reparation is increasingly central to mainstream environmentalism. (April 2021).

Peppering in a bit of fun

Climate change sucks, so we try to do things every now and then that don’t feel terrible. Examples of semi-fun things we did this year include:

  • Introducing “Catch of the Day,” a section at the end of every newsletter that’s just a picture of my roommate’s dog, Fish. (December 2020).

  • Helping the Reply All podcast make a punk rock song about climate change. (December 2020).

  • Publishing a headline about Rush Limbaugh’s death that was just “Liar, 70, dies.” (February 2021).

  • Making a list of all the times people said Keystone XL was inevitable after Keystone XL officially died. (June 2021).

  • Explaining why being anti-marijuana is also being anti-climate. (June 2021).

Making an actual difference

HEATED started dipping its toes into solutions journalism, and it turned out to be some of the most impactful work the newsletter did this year. Last month, “What Can I Do? Anything,” a reported piece on the urgent need for climate activism, became the most popular article in HEATED’s two-year history. More than 120,000 people read and shared climate activists’ call to action to join the fight against fossil fuels. We followed it up with a How-To Guide for engaging in collective action, which we plan to continue in Year Three.

Again, HEATED’s work is made possible by its readers. It’s a 100 percent independent, reader-funded publication. If you valued anything we published this year—and if you can afford to do so—I hope you’ll consider becoming a paid subscriber. Your generosity helps ensure many more years of sassy climate journalism to come.

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Catch of the Day

Fish says thank you for a wonderful Year Two. He’ll see you next week for the start of Year Three.