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5 Podcasts to Inspire You on Climate
Most days, the news on climate can be tough. Carbon dioxide levels reaching new heights. Glaciers melting even faster than we thought. White House officials celebrating the prospect of an ice-free Arctic. Not a whole lot of good ways to spin these.
But here's the good news. There are a lot of smart and committed people working to solve this. And if you need a bit of hope, a bit of inspiration, we've got five podcasts with conversations and stories that'll light a fire inside, change how you think about the crisis, and get you ready to fight again.
Because the truth is, sometimes we all need it. Enjoy.
1. Mothers of Invention: A Second Chance at Life
If you've ever looked at the climate crisis and got lost heading down that "IT'S. SO. BIG. WHAT. CAN. WE. DO?" rabbit hole, listen to Mothers of Invention. If you appreciate flat-out inspiring stories of women thinking big, thinking boldly, thinking smart, and just generally applying feet to rear ends on climate, listen to Mothers of Invention.
Actually, just skip the qualifiers: Listen to Mothers of Invention.
Now two seasons along, Mothers of Invention takes on the climate crisis from a feminist perspective, all with more wit, humor and warmth than should be legal. Hosted by former Irish President (and long-time social justice activist) Mary Robinson and comedian Maeve Higgins, the show's manifesto is simple: "Climate change is a man-made problem – with a feminist solution!"
And they've got the stories to prove it. Picking just one episode is like trying to pick one flavor of ice cream from a menu with 100 delicious choices, but we say start by jumping in with the fourth episode in season two, A Second Chance at Life. (And then going back to the start.)
Now go listen.
2. Displaced: Mary Robinson
Double-dipping with Mary Robinson here, but worth it.
Today, there are more people displaced from their homes and on the move than at any point since World War II. It seems like you can't watch the news for more than five minutes without hearing about migration and some part of this displacement crisis. But what you won't often hear is how the climate crisis is one of the greatest factors behind it, with rising temperatures and longer droughts crippling farms and communities across the planet (to name only a couple reasons).
In the April 9 episode of Vox Media's Displaced, host Ravi Gurumurthy of the International Rescue Committee talks to Mary Robinson about how the climate crisis is already forcing millions from their homes in search of a better life and how this trend will shape the twenty-first century.
For listeners in developed nations, the conversation is a call to rediscover the clarity of conscience and act. After all, Mary Robinson has spent much of her life and career fighting to make this world fairer for the most vulnerable. Listen to the quiet righteous indignation bubbling through every syllable as she talks about the inequities of a planet where those least responsible for our changing climate suffer its cruelest impacts and you'll want to do the same.
3. With Friends Like These: You Can't Build Things With Pitchforks and Torches
Back in 2010, then-Republican Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina committed the cardinal sin of telling a radio host the climate crisis already fueling stronger hurricanes and wicked wildfires was, you know, real, and humans might have something to do with that.
After a pair of oil billionaires whose name rhymes with "smoke" helped make sure he was free to pursue other career opportunities outside of Congress, Inglis became a leading voice for a conservative approach to solving the crisis.
In this 2017 episode of Crooked Media's podcast With Friends Like These, he talks to host Ana Maria Cox about why conservatives should be all about climate action and what progressives can do to bring them into the movement. You don't have to agree with everything he says or every position he's taken to appreciate his perspective and see how we can build a truly diverse coalition to win. After all, that's the only way we will.
4. Longform: David Wallace-Wells
"It is worse, much worse than you think."
David Wallace-Wells begins his moving meditation on the climate crisis, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, with a haymaker and doesn't let up for 230 pages, charting how the crisis is already transforming every aspect of life on earth and the unconscionable catastrophe waiting for us if we don't act.
It's probably the most terrifying book published in English in 2019 (so far). And – judging by the extraordinary response it's getting, with people everywhere grappling with the truly existential threat we face – it might be the most important.
For years, the Longform podcast team – Aaron Lammer, Max Linskey and Evan Ratliff – have talked to some of the most interesting writers, critics, media voices and more.
For the May 1 episode of the Longform podcast (which if you're not familiar, hosts some of the most intriguing conversations with the writers, media voices, and more shaping culture today), he sits down with Max Linskey to talk about the book, the incredible reception and the stark, historic choice we have today.
5. The Ezra Klein Show: Meet the Policy Architect Behind the Green New Deal
Even before it was introduced, the Green New Deal was being attacked. Mostly – rather cynically – by people who haven't bothered to actually read – much less understand – it. Sadly, it's meant there's a whole lot of confusion about what the Green New Deal actually is and is trying to do.
So if you've ever wondered, "What's the deal with the Green New Deal?" you owe it to yourself to listen to Rhiana Gunn-Wright. She's the whip-smart policy expert charged with the small matter of turning the big-picture goals of the Green New Deal into a practical set of policies that can drive a just transition to clean energy, helping the U.S. slash emissions while creating millions of green jobs and revitalizing communities from coast to coast. In Marvel movies, they give capes to people for this kind of stuff.
Gunn-Wright is also a powerful and compelling voice for connecting climate action and social justice. It's a subject that's only just starting to get the attention it deserves, and if you've read about the Green New Deal and wondered why it's so committed to justice, listen to her conversation with David Roberts filling in on The Ezra Klein Show. She might make you a believer too.
If listening to these conversations on the climate crisis has you thinking, "What can I do?", we've got an answer. Join us in Minneapolis from August 2-4 and train with former Vice President Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.
You'll learn just how the crisis is transforming our world and how together we can solve it. You'll also learn what you can do and develop the skills and know-how to mobilize your friends, family, neighbors, and more to act while we still have time.
As we say, give us three days. We'll give you the tools to change the world.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Climate Reality Project.
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Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:
Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."
According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.
The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.
But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.
The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.
Archer Daniels Midland soy silos in Mato Grosso along the BR-163 highway, where Amazon rainforest has largely been replaced by soy destined for the EU, UK, China and other international markets.
An Uncertain Future
The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.
Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.
There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.
Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).
Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.
One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).
Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."
Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.
The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.
The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."
Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.
Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr
Alternative Amazon Funding
Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.
In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.
Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."
Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."
Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.
Council of Hemispheric Affairs
Looming International Difficulties
The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.
In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.
But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."
The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."
Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.
Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.
Senado Federal / Visualhunt / CC BY
Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."
Such a delay could have severe repercussions for Brazil's struggling economy which relies heavily on its commodities trade with the EU. Analysists say that Bolsonaro's fears over such an outcome could be one reason for his recently announced October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.
Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."
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