Why I'm mad about climate change
Two awesome podcasts recently let me talk about the philosophy behind this newsletter. Plus, some other HEATED-related updates.
Welcome to HEATED, a newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis—written by me, Emily Atkin.
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HEATED is a community, and I love hearing from readers. If you have thoughts, questions, story ideas or tips, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An end-of-week update/cry for help
Hey ya’ll, it’s Thursday! We made it. Well, I made it. I don’t know about you. Yesterday was rough.
In addition to the impeachment hearings, yesterday the House Science Committee held a very long hearing on the EPA’s new science policy, which I wrote about on Tuesday. If you missed that hearing and would like a good re-cap, the Washington Post has one, as does Bloomberg.
But today, I want to ask you guys for help with something. I’m travelling to Boston this afternoon for a three-day climate journalism workshop, hosted by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. On Saturday, I’ll be speaking on a panel about how to tell climate stories in unique ways. The panel description reads: “Capturing people’s attention on climate stories can be a challenge, and finding ways to communicate and illustrate these issues is inspiring some creative and compelling journalism.”
My job for the panel is basically to talk about this newsletter. Of course, I have my ideas about why it’s compelling—but I’m not the audience. You are.
So, whether you’ve been a HEATED reader for just a few days, or since this whole shebang started back in September, I would love to know what you have found compelling so far. Is there something this format, or my approach to climate reporting, that has helped you understand this crisis better? What specifically is that thing, and why is it helping? If you think this newsletter is not helping, I would love to know that, too. But like, please explain why—otherwise, it’s just mean, ya know?
If you have any time to share your thoughts before Saturday, please do. Because ya’ll, they asked me to speak at freaking Harvard, and I am a person who got kicked out of high school and attended state college*. So yeah, uuhhhhh….help?
You can send your thoughts to me here: email@example.com.
Two dope podcasts
In keeping with the theme of talking about the newsletter, I thought today might be a good opportunity to direct you to two awesome podcasts that recently let me talk about HEATED at length:
The podcasts are awesome because they are run by two impressive, good-hearted people. Amy and Pete have very different podcasts, but what they share is an intense desire to make the world a less shitty place. Their genuineness and intelligence comes through in each of their respective shows. I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t believe that!
Anyway, like I said, both Amy and Pete recently had me on to talk about the philosophy behind HEATED—which is that climate change is first and foremost a corruption problem; that those responsible must be accountable; and that until those responsible are held accountable, the primary emotion climate change should spark within us is anger.
I’m going to post transcribed excerpts from those segments below, along with links if you’d like to listen to the interviews in full. Then I’m going to post a meme. Then I’m going to drink a glass of water. Then I’m going to do 10 push-ups. Then I’m going to take a nap.
(I apologize in advance for the cursing, I guess).
Why Amy and I are pissed off about climate change
AMY: What are the things that you're angriest about right now?
EMILY: I'm really angry just generally about the theme that fossil fuel companies have prevented us from doing anything about [climate change] for so long. About how many rich white dudes have benefited so financially from fucking us—from like, super fucking us. Like, we are so close to being fucked. And we only have a few years before X number of casualties happen … because old fucking white dudes who love oil money just paid all their oil money to make sure we didn't do anything about this, and didn't care that they were going to screw over a bunch of poor brown people.
And it's still framed all the time as if this is some problem with our air conditioners. And I'm just like, what? I’m like, “How did you not only manage to fuck everybody, but you also managed to convince us that it’s our fault? What?” I just look at the internet every day, and I see these pieces that are like “Oh, if only we recycled more.” And I’m like, “No!”
AMY: I see this all the time in internet comments, especially for very well-known people who try to say anything about climate—immediately they get a million trolls going, “Well maybe you should stop flying, buddy!” Like, yes—if people flew less, that’d be great. But that’s not the reason we’re in this mess.
EMILY: And also, we don't have time for these dumb-ass fights. I'm sorry. Like, you see the science. You see what the timeline is. Let's focus. Let's focus on what actually needs to happen, which de-carbonizing the electricity system, the agricultural system, and the manufacturing system.
AMY: And the transportation system.
EMILY: Yes. Those are the things we need to do. Stop fighting about whether or not I should eat a hamburger. And to be clear, I try not to eat hamburgers. But if I do eat meat, for example, my personal choice is about what system I want to support. So if I want to buy a chicken, I go find a pastured chicken that came very locally, that wasn't fed industrial grade corn byproduct, and that didn't travel 800 miles to get to me. And I go and I look for that because I want to support that system, not because I feel guilt about my own choice and I think that I'm causing the climate crisis.
One of the other things make me so pissed off about this whole thing is the guilt, the narrative that the fossil fuel industry has created, about this being a personal individual problem. It has caused people, particularly women, to feel like shit about themselves. There are so many women out there who are choosing not to have kids because of climate change. But if it weren't for climate change, then they would really want to have families. ..
And the thing I want to say to them most is just, have a baby. You should do it, because this isn’t your fault. Sure, population is a thing, I guess. But our goal is to have a net zero economy. That means every person emits net zero emissions. That means in terms of climate change, it doesn't matter how many people are on earth. You know what we need? We we need to win this fight against these jerk offs. And to do that, we need people on our side to be happy and healthy and ready to fight.
You can listen to my entire conversation with Amy by clicking HERE.
Why I criticize media so much
EMILY: People think that I started doing this because I'm passionate about climate change, and it's just not true. I started doing this because I'm passionate about journalism, and that's always been my goal.
My goal was never to be a climate change reporter. I wanted to cover politics, or I wanted to cover health care. When I was in school, I didn't go to school for environmentalism. It was journalism.
And when I look at climate change as as a issue, I look at it as a journalistic issue. I think that it's not been communicated honestly by journalists for a long time. I think that's our main problem. I think that journalists haven't approached climate change with the same level of vigor and ruthlessness that they've covered other political topics. I think it's because for some reason, the fossil fuel industry has convinced them that that there is no corruption to be seen here. There's a reluctance among journalists today to take climate change seriously as a corruption story, which is the heart of what our profession does. And I think that that's harming democracy, because people don't see climate change the way that they should, in the most truthful way. Journalists, as a whole, aren't living up to their responsibility. That’s what I’m passionate about.
PETE: When you say journalists didn't cover it correctly—We're talking about newspaper or magazine? Local or national reporting? Are we talking about television, all of it? How do you break down journalism? Because I feel like every time we talk about the news and media and journalism, I feel that people are so often they're only talking really about cable news, like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News or television news, and they’re not talking as much about print journalism. Have journalists as a whole or gotten it wrong on climate change, or would you segment it?
EMILY: There's an argument for segmenting it now, of course. But I wouldn't segment it for the majority of the last 30 years. I first started in climate change reporting, I got hired at Think Progress to be a climate change reporter in 2013. And that same year, NPR had just laid off its entire green desk, and so had the New York Times. They just got rid of all their environmental reporters.
PETE: Why? Because it wasn't making money. Because people weren’t reading it?
EMILY: Yeah. And that same year, CNN President Jeff Zucker said “We haven't figured out how to solve the climate change story yet. People just don't care about it.” Something along those lines, I'm not getting the exact quote right.
PETE: How dare you misquote Zucker.
EMILY: Ugh, how dare I. But that quote is, I think, representative of how everyone saw it at the time, which was that they needed to prioritize what was making money, what was selling, and the environment coverage just wasn't doing that. And that’s our mainstream public radio, our biggest most respected newspaper. I will give both of those institutions major props for upping their coverage right over the last six years, and especially within the last two years. But is that enough to create an informed citizenry that is able to respond to complex problems? Because that's the purpose of journalism. The purpose of journalism is to create an informed citizenry that is able to make the right decisions about the biggest problems facing it. I don't think that we have that information right now.
You can listen to my entire conversation with Pete by clicking HERE.
ICYMI: Tucker Carlson graduates from climate denial to straight-up eco-fascism
Meme by HEATED’s editorial memeist, @climemechange.
Yesterday’s issue was about how Tucker Carlson said admitting climate refugees into America would “pollute” and “despoil” the country—and why experts on eco-fascism found the comments “disturbing.”
OK, that’s all for today—thank for reading HEATED!
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See you on Monday!
*my college journalism education was actually fantastic and I am extremely proud to be a SUNY New Paltz alumnus.