The battle to reverse climate change is a long and unending one. How do we keep our optimism in this trying and tiring fight? Corinna Bellizzi sits down with the climate optimist herself to get the answers. Anne Therese Gennari is the founder of the Climate Optimist, Rolemodels Agency, and Hey Change Podcast. She shifts the narrative around climate change and paints a future that we can look forward instead of one we should avoid. Listen in as they discuss how to shift your mindset when engaging and shifting into a more sustainable regenerative lifestyle.
About Anne Therese Gennari
Anne Therese Gennari is an entrepreneur, a speaker, an educator and an environmental activist. She’s the founder of the Climate Optimist, Rolemodels Agency, and Hey Change Podcast. As an educator and consultant, she helps shift the narrative around climate change so that we can act from courage and excitement instead of fear.
Connect with Anne Therese:
Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anne-therese-gennari/
Guest Website: https://www.theclimateoptimist.com/
Guest Social: https://www.instagram.com/annetheresegennari/
00:00 – Introduction
01:29 – Catalyst to Action for Climate Change
05:06 – San Francisco Composting System
08:01 – Zenagee Artis and the impact of youth
10:44 – Value of people and community
12:00 – Find an area of passion to Care
13:29 – Small daily actions turn into habits
18:50 – What it means to be climate activist and how to remain optimistic: fear Vs optimism
25:21 – Positively incentivizing change and the five barriers to climate action
28:25 – We need to do less
31:58 – Ecological impact of trade shows and the move towards tech as we go back to “normalcy”
36:06 – Regeneration and carbon offsets
37:30 – The power of community
43:33 – The future in an optimistic world
47:52 – Conclusion
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Additional Resources Mentioned:
- Hey Change Podcast E83. Rethinking Growth and Uncovering Psychological Barriers with Per Espen Stoknes – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/e83-rethinking-growth-and-uncovering-psychological/id1221250672?i=1000536854608
- Hey Change Podcast E84. Optimism in Activism with Zanagee Artis from Zero Hour – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/e84-optimism-in-activism-with-zanagee-artis-from-zero-hour/id1221250672?i=1000537535365
Exercising Climate Optimism And Shifting Perspectives For A Brighter Future With Anne Therese Gennari
I have a treat for you because we’re going to talk about all things climate-related and remain more optimistic. Many of us struggle with remaining optimistic when we’re faced with the daunting task of reversing climate change. Through this conversation and with tools in hand, you’ll leave this discussion with inspiration. I’ve created a five-step guide to help guide you on your journey to be a climate activist. It’s available to our entire community. All you have to do is go to CareMoreBeBetter.com and sign up for our newsletter. You’ll receive a welcome email moments later that includes a download link.
I’m thrilled to be joined by the climate optimist herself, Anne Therese Gennari. Anne Therese has an interesting history. She is an entrepreneur, a speaker, an educator and an environmental activist. She’s the Founder of the Climate Optimist, Rolemodels Agency and Hey Change Podcast. As an educator and consultant, she helps shift the narrative around climate change so that we can act from courage and excitement instead of fear. Anne Therese, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.
I’d love to know a little bit more about your specific catalyst. What propelled you into action to move forward for climate change?
I feel like it’s my life purpose. It’s something that’s been a big part of me since I was a child. I spend a lot of my childhood roaming around the woods and biking to my nearest little park. I lived in the countryside but there was this mountain where I could feel like I was in the wilderness. I would be around there for hours and pretend I was out in the wild on my own. I loved it so much. Nature has always been a big part of my life. I’ve always felt very safe with nature. Growing up, I became aware of things fairly early in life. I learned things like water shortage and how people in different parts of the world were suffering.
It didn’t sit well with me that I had all these privileges living in a country like Sweden and knowing that other people in other parts of the world didn’t. That connection clicked for me early on. As I grew older, I learned more about the environment, the recycling issue, and what we should be doing. I became the recycling cup in my family and amongst my friends. There are so many funny stories where I lived with five roommates in Brooklyn. I had to put up signs like, “This is what’s in here. This is the bin for paper.” They got to a point where they would leave things on the counter and say, “I left it here for you to make sure you sorted the right way because I don’t want to mess it up.” I’m like, “It’s not that hard.”
For the majority of my life, I’ve been known as someone who’s passionate about climate change or the environment, but it wasn’t until I moved to New York City that I was introduced to how big and complex this issue is. Living in the countryside of Sweden and a small town, there’s waste and you get introduced to all sorts of things but living in New York City amid this disposable waste culture that exists there where everyone is ordering lunch at lunch hour or taking out dinner, seeing how much waste is consumed and created every single day and minute. I was overwhelmed and I realized that this was about so much more than me.
This is a systemic issue and we have to shift culture. I got so deeply interested in human psychology and what triggers us. I had chosen that path in marketing because I wanted to learn how to work with messaging and create art to empower people and spark action. It’s hard to pinpoint a moment where like, “I’m going to work for the environment.” It’s always been a part of me. I’ve been trying to pivot my way throughout my whole life.
You remind me of myself being the recycling Nazi at every company I’ve ever been at. I’m also somebody who travels frequently. I would go with my portable coffee mug with me in my suitcase, my water bottle, the same thing. People be like, “She’s refilling her coffee cup at the airport? Who is this person?” It’s tattered. It’s like got worn edges everywhere, but it serves its purpose. I’m not throwing away plastic and paper every time I get a copy when I’m out on the road. These small steps and changes can make a big difference.
I also think all the times that I’ve been in New York City. You notice people putting garbage right on the street. There are trash bags on the streets in piles. That helps us to see the tangible problem that is garbage. Whereas when you live in the suburbs where everything goes in a bin and every week, the trash compactor comes through and picks it up, it doesn’t resonate the same way as when you see it in piles street granted that there are these giant plastic bags on the street Manhattan.
They’re in your face. You can’t escape from the issue. That’s important.
It’s such a stark contrast to many European cities. If you go to Berlin, for example, they will have these concerted efforts. “This is your compost goes. This is where you put your glass bottles.” That ended up getting refilled, not recycled. Each element of your garbage has a very specific place. They implemented in San Francisco a composting system where they’ve been able to reduce household trash by something like 80% because you’re separating your compost. I wonder, has something like that happened in New York or is it coming?
I don’t know if I’m the right person to ask. I wish. I hope so. I lived in San Francisco for years and I was back visiting for a wedding and friends over there. Landing at SFO, a San Francisco International Airport, is like entering a different world because they’re so aware of climate action, I feel. There are many systems set up. San Francisco is a city that doesn’t exist in other parts of America. There are composting bins at the airport, which I love. Being able to live in San Francisco and separate my food waste into a compost that gets picked up by the municipal system, that should exist everywhere, in my opinion.
It’s easy to say it’s a no-brainer. There’s a lot of work that goes into creating that system. New York is working towards these kinds of improvements too. They importantly got halted because of COVID, but I was part of a social campaign. We put some pressure on using our social media in the early days of COVID to make sure that not the whole program was slashed because they wanted to take it out completely because of budget restraints. They continue to keep composting at farmer’s markets and different parts of the city. It’s yet to be a curbside pickup system, but composting does exist in New York if you go online and look at where you can drop it off. I’m hoping that the city will pick up the program again and start implementing this into people’s everyday lives.
I’ve been thinking about something else since listening to a couple of your podcasts. You interviewed Zanagee Artis from Zero Hour. He was a teenage activist who propelled a movement forward and got even some protests happening. I would love for you to talk about for a moment the power and the influence of younger generations to fuel this climate optimism that we’re all being tasked to feel.
First of all, Zanagee is so amazing. I highly recommend checking out his episode. He’s the Founder of Zero Hour, This is Zero Hour on social media. It’s a youth-organized group. They do marches and put pressure on governments. They do a lot of work in DC because that’s where the action is. We talked a lot about that in our conversation with him because we can see that the youth is so needed because of these youth-led movements in the past few years. A lot of it has to do with Greta Thunberg, her success and her movement with Fridays For Future. We can see how much awareness has sparked worldwide and leaders are stepping up, which is great.
We need the energy and passion that the youth brings. I feel like when you were that young and I can relate to when I was the same age, there was an all-or-nothing attitude. Everything’s clear. It’s like, “We have a problem. We need to face it.” You get older and get more immersed in the complexity of all the systems. You start to be like, “I don’t know. This is never going to happen.” You start to get more complacent. We need to mix that young energy with the experience and wisdom of the older population too. That’s something we talked a lot about with Zanagee because he was like, “It’s not lost to me that we would not be where we are unless we had collaborated with older people.”
This movement is intersectional, not just in terms of race and background and culture but also in age. There is this collaborative element to it that we cannot overlook. We need everyone from different ages, backgrounds, experiences and passions. To solve the climate crisis, we need everyone to rethink everything and start new. The youth has brought a lot to the table that we should recognize and celebrate.
We need people to care. We don’t have to care about the same things. Pick your field and what sparks your passion and work for that.
This lays nicely with the mini-episode that I recorded for the next episode. It was Indigenous People’s Day and I don’t look at these coincidences, especially unplanned ones, as anything but serendipity. I was working through Paul Hawkin’s book and sure enough, the chapter I’m covering on the next episode is people. We dive right into Indigenous People and many youths out there moving and shaking what we need to do, what we need to change, how we might want to change our future, our approach to politics and activism endemic to that episode.
It’s interesting work that a lot of individuals are doing around the globe with regenerative farming, trying to make that more of a mainstay as opposed to some budding activistic movement and bringing that into a central frame. People as activists were all needed and it’s about all of us. Getting all on deck is critical. Each of us can make some change happen.
This is important to know. Reading this show, I’m assuming that you were somewhat interested in climate change and climate action, but we all need to remember that we need people to care. We don’t have to care about the same things, picking your field and what sparks your passion and work for that. Not everyone has to advocate for solar panels, go out and save the land. Find something that you burn for, that your community is already active in and join that. We all need to care more, not just because the world needs to but because it makes us better people and we live better lives. Also, finding something that sits right with you and taking off that pressure of having to do it all.
Find something that you can champion. That’s the other thing. You can’t be an expert in 100% of the world about climate change. It’s a daunting task. You can do a little bit in a lot of different areas. I compost at home. It’s easy for me because I have land that I can do that on. Not everybody does. When you live in a city that makes it more difficult, you can freeze your compost and participate in a composting program, but that’s extra work you have to do. Not everyone will do that, but refusing a plastic lid on your coffee when you go to a coffee shop is fairly easy. A lot of little things that you can do. I was connecting with Julie Jess Logan, who has a podcast of her own as well.
We reviewed Regeneration.org. That website is a treasure trove for anyone who’s trying to find out what they’re passionate about or what they can do because you can go into something like fashion and say, “These are the bad actors in fashion. I can email the CEO of Zara and tell them I’m not happy with some of their practices.” Maybe if enough of us do these things, it becomes apparent enough that change needs to happen. We can create that big, more systemic change on a global scale. That’s what we need. If you’re passionate about fashion, check that out. There are podcasts out there about fashion and sustainability. You can do that too. Participate in the purchase of slow fashion and natural fibers, as opposed to a bunch of polyesters. We keep going one thing after the other.
Finding an area of passion where you like, maybe start getting more involved, then you should pick a cause. With the small daily actions, it’s like riding the wave of someone else’s work but taking it bite-size. If you’re new to the game, how can I eliminate plastic in my home and life? You start there. As soon as that becomes a new habit, you start to automatically look for different products in the store. It’s a no-brainer to turn down a plastic lid in the coffee shop. The first 10 to 15 times, it’s going to have to be a conscious decision. A reminder of like, “I don’t need the plastic.” It becomes a part of who you are and that’s easy, then you move on to the next thing.
That’s exactly what happened to me. I started to become aware of the food industry and take out meat and dairy from my diet for that reason. That was my focus for a while, but then that became easy because I started buying different things in the store and learning about the fashion industry and moving on to fashion. You can keep moving forward, keep adding on, and keep growing as a person, but if you want to dive deeper into anything, pick one field so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
I’ll give you an example that is tangible for me. I have been working to limit my dairy consumption. I have a son who’s allergic to milk, so we get oat milk. I’ve been frustrated by all the packaging of the oat milk. I got to a point where I started making it. It’s surprisingly easy to make. You can get oatmeal or rolled oats just about anywhere. You can get them in fiber tins. They’re like metal and a little bit of cardboard. Get your Quaker oats or whatever brand. It doesn’t matter. Utilize those. I’m buying organic and non-GMO so that’s what my input is.
We need an optimistic mindset and framework in order to be creative and solutions thinking.
I’m making my oats so I’m not having this extra packaging. Ultimately, I can then use whatever’s left-over, compost that and put it in my garden. Full-circle use and it’s not more junk going to landfill. Packaging is one of the biggest problems that we all have. It’s unavoidable when you go to the store and there are certain grocery stores that I simply don’t go to for that very reason. I know a lot of single people that love Trader Joe’s but walk in. It’s packaging side to side of the store. I can’t deal with it.
I have certain items at Trader Joe’s. Their tahini is amazing and it comes in a glass jar. I know what I’m looking for in there, but I go to different stores. I’m the weirdo that will pick different places. I want to say kudos to you, though. I tried making my oatmeal milk. I did a few batches and I wasn’t getting it right. If you have a secret recipe on how to do it, please share because I need to. That’s my Achilles heels, my non-dairy milk that comes to me. I love it on my coffee, but I don’t know what else to do.
I’m using my Vitamix. I don’t know if that makes a huge difference.
I was using an old t-shirt and squeezing up. Maybe I need to upgrade my tools a little.
I’ll share it. There were two things I read about with oat milk. One of them is that if you’re using a Vitamix or some mixer like that, only blend it for about 30 seconds. You limit how much time, then turn it right off. When you are filtering it, do not be tempted to squeeze it through because it brings out all the bitterness. If you want your oat milk to remain creamy, taste good and not bitter, then you have to wait to let it settle through. You take whatever’s left over and that’s the garbage. Maybe a little wetter than you’re used to having it, but it probably will taste a lot better. I use maple syrup to flavor it because I like maple syrup with a little bit of vanilla.
I haven’t refined it beyond that, but my son loves it, so I’m like, “I hit that. I checked that box.” We’re working through it. Let’s get to the root of it. What does it mean to you to be a climate optimist? How do you remain optimistic when you get some bad news concerning the environment, like the IPCC report published in August of 2021, which is fairly damning, a little bleak and sometimes can feel overwhelming? I love your perspective on how you deal with that and what it means to you.
First of all, my mission as a climate optimist is to shift the narrative on climate change so that we can start acting from courage, excitement and not fear. It’s important to mention that because to be a climate optimist is to be on a mission. It’s to be on a journey and understand that this journey will not end tomorrow or next week. If you sign up for thinking that this is something I put in all my effort and we’re done and over it, that’s not going to sustain you. It took me a lot of difficult turns to realize that. I was what I call an angry activist for a long time trying to shake awareness into people and thinking that was going to help them understand the urgency in the matter.
The reality is people are consumed with much other information every single day. I kept asking myself, “Why is it that we don’t get to more action?” I was curious to figure that out. I dove deep into human psychology and read many books on change and how we respond to different kinds of information, coming from a marketing background. There are some ways to shape a message if you want people to do something like a call to action. There’s a different way if you want to have people paralyzed. The majority of the time that we talk about climate change, we’re paralyzing people.
Messages of fear, doom and gloom and sacrifice, although we get afraid and might feel like at the moment, “This is so bad. We need to do something.” That doesn’t translate into actual action. More of that messaging that we add on, we get more used to it so we can take on more without feeling as triggered. At the same time, unless that fear is tied to some action, which is strong energy and that could be utilized if we do it the right way, the opposite happens where we start to build up inside and try to forget about what we knew. We can’t stay at this high level of awareness all the time. We don’t function that way. We have to, at some point, go back to everyday life and eat, take care of kids or whatever it is.
Regeneration is so important because we need to regenerate and give back more than what we’re taken or what we’re taking because we already surpassed that line.
When we reached that level of fear, don’t have actions tied to it, can do something with and funnel it into something positive, we’re going to keep storing it inside until it starts consuming us when we get anxious and depressed. That’s why a lot of people are suffering from climate anxiety, equal depression or whatever term you want to use. It’s because we have been continuously fed this message of doom and gloom. We have no future to look forward to because if we believe in climate science, which I hope we are, there’s no positive outlook.
The question, which you asked me, is how do you stay optimistic and how are you a climate optimist? It took me many years to realize that I couldn’t choose optimism. I’m telling myself like, “I want to be optimistic. I’m going to keep looking for reasons to be optimistic and hold on tight to those few climate optimistic news out there.” You will see something positive, but they’re not enough. They will get overwhelmed by everything negative. If you only fuel your optimism from looking around yourself in the world to give you that input, you will fail and start feeling more anxious. I’ve been there in very deep ways. I realized that to be optimistic, we have to create optimism. We have to be optimists.
First of all, getting to the action. The fastest way to pull yourself out of anxiety is to do anything. Here’s when the magic comes in because as soon as you start doing things and actively empowering yourself as a leader, however big or small that is for you, you start to create what I call happiness hormones. You’ve produced dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Oxytocin is produced when you do things with others. That is why community action is important because you feel like you belong to something. The more of this we do daily, we will fuel happiness hormones.
These happiness hormones make us feel better and the better we feel, the more optimistic we are. It’s a hormone in our body that makes us feel more optimistic. The important reason is that we need an optimistic mindset and framework to be creative and solutions thinking. These are deep issues because climate change has many different challenges, not only one. To figure this out, we need to stay open-minded, rethink everything and be curious enough to ask ourselves, what else is out there? What else could we do? How can we live life differently? How can we create society differently in a different way and live better lives?
For me to be an optimist is to every single day, wake up and say, “What can I do today? What is something we can do to rethink the system, do something different and continue to show up for that?” That doesn’t mean that I am not worried about the future. I’m terrified sometimes. I allow myself to have those days and allow myself to express that to others. We have to talk about that. Show others that it’s okay to not always know the answers because we don’t know the answers and find comfort in that.
The more we start talking about it, we realize, “There are others out there that also don’t know what we’re doing. Maybe if we are enough people not knowing what we’re doing, we can come together and figure something out.” It’s taking away the pressure of feeling like, “We need to act or else we’re doomed.” That doesn’t lead to anything. To give ourselves the space to say, “This sucks. This is bad. That makes me feel awful.” You can journal on that. I highly recommend journaling or talking about it to someone. The second thing is, “What can I do? Now what?” That’s what common optimism is for me.
In another episode of your podcast, you interviewed Per Espen Stoknes. I enjoyed how he laid out how that negativity is completely counterproductive to inspiring people to act. I wondered if you could give us the highlights of that conversation and why you look to him for his work and his book on the subject.
I will share this because this is interesting. I had come to very similar conclusions in my thinking. I go hike and go to a mountain top. I sit and things come to me. I had figured out like, “There was something here that we’re not acting on the right way.” I came up with this framework of there’s the fear-based change that we’re trying to evoke change by trying to push this fear on people, but that’s not going to work. We have to move to positively incentivize change where instead of avoiding an end goal, we’re working towards a goal we want to reach. In that, I’m like, “I feel like I’m onto something here and figured something out.” I’m not sure because I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t have a professional background in this. I’m the only someone who grabbed this thought from the air.
In researching my thesis, I found this book called What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming. It caught my eye because I’m like, “This title speaks to everything I believe.” I had to order the book. I read the book and underlined everything. I took notes and started implementing everything. I sound like, “This is what I’m talking about.” I started sharing a lot of his work on my Instagram and tagging him. That’s how we got connected. Finally, I was like, “Per, I would love to have you on my podcast.”
We figured that out and he came to my podcast. We got a chance to nerd out big time. You talked about what he calls the five Ds, which are the five barriers to climate action. They are Distance, Doom, Dissonance, Denial and Identity. It’s how we are framing the conversation around climate change. It feels distanced to us in many different ways. They can go and listen to the show because we do go into details.
If you’re nerdy, this is your episode. What you learn is that there are many different psychological reasons why we’re not acting on climate change. A big one is that it feels too distant to us on a psychological level, even. In understanding these barriers, we can also understand what we can do to shift this narrative and do more. I highly recommend taking out that episode.
We are in for such a beautiful future that you can’t even imagine.
One of the things that spoke to me was specific to the climate deniers because I felt like, “How does somebody get to the point where they’re are completely discarding all of the science, evidence and everything that is in front of them?” It starts with that sense of overwhelming earlier on, then led to them shutting down because the thing that happens to all of us, if we’re being propelled into fear, then we’re controlled in a way. This is the same way that religion and government also seek to control us. We could get into a deep conversation about how politics does that, but the reality is you start to get more insular and tribal.
Instead of expanding out the contract, their family units become the thing that matters more and everything else is outside or other, when we get to that space of othering, we become more separate as opposed to a cohesive group and unit. It’s all there. It’s in the roots of psychology and evolution. My background before was I’m an undergrad with all anthropology and human evolution. That’s the thing that I geeked out on for days and it all made sense to me logically speaking, given that frame of reference.
The bottom line here is that this is a human issue. It’s bringing it back to ourselves and to anyone reading, to give yourself that break in that space. I keep coming back to in a lot of my interviews on Hey Change Podcast and conversations with friends and colleagues are we need to do less. Honestly, I know we feel like, “What can we do? We need to do more.”
We do need to act 100%, but part of that act and action is to do less. When we slow down and create space, that’s when the answers come to us. What we will realize is that we already know a lot. We already know a lot of the things that we need to be doing. We have so much more value in being instead of always chasing something new. I’m trying to remind myself to do less, breathe and create more quality in whatever we are doing in the here and now.
This is a constant theme in my recent life. In fact, in the show episode that I have with Scott Perry, he talks about doing less. We talked about the fact that when you start to do something like a podcast and have a little bit of success, suddenly it feels like you have to be everywhere all at once. You have to be on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Clubhouse. Before you know it, your attention is spent on a divorce between ten different platforms. You’re trying to make all of them sing. You’re overwhelmed and less effective. One of the things that he did was parallel down to two. He said, “These are my two social platforms. If you want my content, then that’s where you go. They’re the ones that make sense for me and that’s it.” I was like, “That’s refreshing.”
Are you telling me I don’t have to get on TikTok? I would love that. I keep getting like, “I need to on TikTok,” but I don’t have the time.
I wanted to speak about something else a little bit ago. This is relational to the many business trips I’ve been on. Trade shows are one of the most wasteful industries that there are. The amount of waste that is generated, not only through business travel but also at the hotels and conference centers, is ridiculous. Over the last couple of years, many of us have not gone to as many trade shows or events because they simply haven’t been happening.
Trade shows are also getting a lot greener. They’re doing things like not rolling out carpets in certain halls and each of these things has an impact. I wondered what your thoughts are about where we’re headed and how we might want to architect or change, how we’re interfacing when we come to these in-person meetings versus what we’re doing in the virtual space, which, frankly, has an ecological impact.
It’s also wasteful and there’s a lot of energy that goes into all these data systems, which is another reason to maybe not having to be on every platform and creating that extra content. I’m feeling the same. I feel like we are easing back into some normalcy, whatever that looks like or means. People come at it with a new lens in a different sense of awareness. We should all take with us that compared to pre-COVID times when it was taboo to speak up too much. You like to accept things what they are. They’re awful like, “It’s a lot of waste. They don’t look at it and try not to acknowledge it.” Don’t get too frustrated.
It then feels like, “There’s this opportunity too if we do see something that could be better to speak up. It doesn’t have to be hating or shaming.” Someone is putting on an event and they already have so many things to care about. Nudging like, “I see here that you’re using paper cups or plastic cups. I know about this awesome company that rents cups ands they will pick it up and wash it for you afterward.” Plugging those thoughts if you do attend something. Share thoughts and ideas about how things can get better. It’s that collaborative space that we need to move into more. It’s not about pointing fingers, shaming one another, cancel culture here and there.
It’s about like, “I acknowledge you for the work you’re doing. Here’s how you can do even better. I will love to share my thoughts and inputs on that.” Staying aware and not jumping on every opportunity because you get invited like, “Could you attend virtually? Does it make sense for you to travel to go to this one thing?” Pick and choose. We don’t have to go to everything. That will provide some FOMO from time to time. As we get over the FOMO, we realize, “If I do go to everything, I’m missing out on my own life instead.” I hope that’s what we’re moving into.
It’s not about sustaining what we already have but it’s about rethinking, regenerating, renewing everything that we know and also renewing our hope for the future.
I am leaving on my first business-oriented trip since COVID hits. I’m going to She Podcasts Live and that is a flight to Arizona, one out of how many years. I did also got invited to a retreat in Costa Rica. I started looking at flights. I wanted to bring up a tool that I didn’t know about until not so long ago. Flights.Google.com is what I’ve used many times, but they added a new feature. It’s a carbon calculator. You can go to Flights.Google.com. Type in the destinations you want to go and it will sort them. You can sort it any number of ways but also by its carbon footprint. I’m going to use that tool to decide which flights I might take. It’s becoming more mainstream.
As this becomes more mainstream, then we have access, knowledge and the ability to make an informed decision. Paul Hawkin and the Regeneration Team are asking people to buy carbon offsets of 2 to 3 times what you’re generating, which is smart because a few saplings replace the one big tree that got cut down. It’s going to take a while for those saplings to be able to produce the oxygen and sequester the carbon that that Oak one did. One for one isn’t always right.
We have to recognize that we are so past sustainable. That’s why regeneration is so important. It’s because we need to regenerate and give back more than what we’ve taken or what we’re taking. We have already surpassed that line of equality. I love that. I was so thrilled when I learned that news from Google.
Do you know when that occurred? I hadn’t looked for flights and so long.
My husband shared an article with me when they announced this news. They have a few different ways. Google Maps have some service as well where they can calculate the best lowest carbon footprint route to get to where you want to go, so stuff like that too, which is cool.
Let’s talk for a moment about the power of mobilizing and finding community so people can get this loop of optimism working for them, all the feel-good hormones like the oxytocin and serotonin kicking into overdrive and making them happier. I know many protests are happening around the globe. There are events where people can physically go, but even if there are community resources that you would recommend, you also have a community that you host. Let’s talk about that for a moment.
I want to start by saying that we shouldn’t overlook how powerful communities are and it’s becoming more evident to many people, but you might look silly to look at these signs and teenagers marching like, “It was all good.” You get to get your photo opportunities and posts on social media. I’ve been to these marches sometimes. You’re like, “What is this going to lead to?” On that day, you are so high.
I talked about this with Zanagee as well. It doesn’t compare to many other things. You’re like, “I feel like a superhuman.” It’s the adrenaline from being around people who care about what you care about and marching together with people. If you go back in history and look at culture, every time there’s been any movement, people have been chanting, singing and dancing together because there is power in that collective movement in singing and chanting.
That for itself, even if you join a local march or a protest only to fuel your feel-good hormones, that’s a great start. I talk a lot about activism, especially in mobilizing or doing it in community with others in my climate optimist class as a way of sustainable activism. I say that because it’s so easy to feel alone and feel like, “I do want to change the world, but no one else cares as much as I do or even if they do how to connect.” You might lose yourself in despair because there is much negative news out there. For me, a community is someone else. It’s a reminder for me that there are other people out there. I’m not alone.
On the days when you are not as high and don’t feel as motivated because we can’t change the world every single day, only a reminder that there’s someone else out there doing it for you that day. I see it as a road trip where if we pack the car with friends, we can take time driving, take naps and chill because that’s when we pull them to. You don’t have to necessarily mobilize. If you find a lot of joy in being a leader and activating people, then find a way to mobilize.
It can be something as simple. I know this wonderful young woman Sharona. She is originally from Portland, but she started with another girl, Tuesdays for Trash. Every single Tuesday, they ask the community and their social following to pick up trash in the communities. It’s very simple. It’s something everyone can do. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s like, “What can we do? How can I invite others to do this with me?”
That’s also very important to recognize. We can’t continue to tell people how bad things are and how everything is wrong in the world. We have to provide solutions because when they feel like they can be part of something good, that’s when you invite them onto this journey. For me, community work and mobilizing in whatever capacity you want to do that make me feel my happy hormones. It’s my fuel to my electric vehicle on this journey of climate optimism.
The oxytocin part is important because it’s a bonding hormone. It’s something that mothers, for example, have a lot of when they have a baby because they need to bond with their baby. When we do things for others, if that’s dancing, singing, hugging or even eye gazing, which is one of my favorites. If you gaze with someone, you will start to produce oxytocin. It’s this feeling of being.
Be careful. Scientific research shows that if you stare into somebody’s eyes long enough, you will fall in love with them.
Don’t do this too much if you’re already committed like I am.
The power of connection between people related to our eyes is so huge and cannot be understated. That’s where I feel like the Zoom lifestyle isn’t 100% of what human connection should be.
It can be done from a socially safe distance. Maybe it’s more powerful if you’re close to someone, but you can wear a mask. You can look into each other’s eyes, start to fuel up your engine and be able to do more work. For me, it’s like doing things with others. That’s a ripple effect. We will create a much bigger movement and have a much bigger impact on numbers. That’s the number one obvious reason. Also, for me, it’s a way for me to feel better, continue to show up for the work, not get burnt out and find support. That’s important.
That Trash for Tuesday sounds like that would be a very easy hashtag campaign to get going and every community. I might try that myself. #DoATrashForTuesdays and see what I can generate.
Their hashtag is #TuesdayForTrash. Please use that. They will be happy.
I also have a five-step tool that I created for anybody who joins my mailing list. Go to CareMoreBeBetter.com. You can receive, which does include many of the thoughts that you have already shared with us, Anne Therese. Community is one of them. Finding accountability and activist partner to be in it with you, even if they’re not in the same space. That can mean that you then have somebody to collaborate with. The power of collaboration should not be understated.
When I interviewed David Johnson, who’s a Stanford professor, he also said, “If you’re ever seeking to get motivated, show up at a march. It’s so powerful. You’ll leave feeling like you’re on cloud nine and motivated to make the change that you want to see.” I love that. What I wanted to ask as we prepare to wrap up is since you’re the climate optimist, I would like for you to share with us your vision of what the future will be by the time that you’re old and gray. Let’s say this is your swan song. It might be your last decade on earth. What does it look like? What is the optimistic world that we have created?
I smiled when I got this question because it’s one of my favorite questions. We are in for such a beautiful future that you can’t even imagine. Cities will be lush, full of life and quiet in one sense because all the industrial noise is gone but loud in other ways because there are many people, music, art, porcelain clinging and bird songs. For me, it’s a way to rethink everything. It’s hard to imagine that future. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen, but it’s a future where we commute less because we don’t have to.
When we do commute, we use public transportation, which is fast electrical trains. They’re quiet. All the highways have been redesigned as pathways as gardens. Food is not transported around the world anymore because we have a mix of old-style, regenerative agriculture mixed in with new technology and how to grow food sustainably inside the city landscape.
It’s important to permit ourselves to think of a world that’s much better. It’s not about sustaining what we already have but about rethinking, regenerating, renewing everything that we know, and renewing our hope for the future. To allow ourselves to believe that things can be and get even better because it’s not just about avoiding a climate disaster. It’s about inviting a climate thriving future and world. When I think of the future when I’m gray and old and hopefully, I have more energy than because I feel like my life trajectory will look like, I will step out and smile.
I have this weird vision that when you meet people, there’s whole different energy and exchange between people in the future. There’s this energy that you can feel and you can see it in people’s eyes that don’t exist because we are so distracted and consumed by things that pull us further apart. Everything is about to change. It’s easy to feel as if everything is crumbling apart because it is. The world is winnowed. It is falling apart, but we have to let it because we have to realize and remember that the world that builds is not working. Let it fall, crumble and come back or amid all this craziness. How can we see ourselves in the womb that we are about to be reborn and life on the other side is going to be much more beautiful than anything we’ve ever seen?
I want to end on that very optimistic note, but I thought of something that I want to mention often: we have to remember that things for the next decade or so will worsen. It’s inevitable. We already have reached fresh thresholds where there’s no going back. Even if we were to stop climate change tomorrow, there’s always a lag. We are going to have to keep showing up for the work, commitment, passion and optimism while things are getting worse.
I say this because we cannot give up hope and we’re not going to get the evidence right away that things are working. We can be working towards a much better world, and it will look like we’re not. At least the first few years or the first decade or so, but that’s why we need a community to keep reminding ourselves and each other that, “No, we are heading in the right way.” We need to keep showing up and keep asking the right questions. We have to keep believing that that future is possible.
I want to share something from my experience when COVID first hit. If you think about the fact that suddenly everybody stopped driving, the airplanes weren’t even in the sky, I didn’t hear the airplane noise, animals started coming back into spaces where they hadn’t been for a while. There are cougars wandering the streets in Santa Cruz County. All of this energy that we had been spending through driving around everything else had gone into the home. We became more insular. One of the things I noticed because I go on hikes every single day myself is the air was cleaner. There was less noise. Animals were becoming more present in every space I went into. The clouds were fluffier. The sky was bluer. It was obvious that the change was happening.
We can find these small wins along the way. We can look at our air quality index along the way and say, “We changed these six things and these industries have been impacted.” Look at what the air quality is looking like and look at how the carbon being emitted into our atmosphere has plummeted. You can start to keep that motivation chugging along so that you don’t lose sight of the end goal and the paradise that you could work to create.
Thank you for that, too, because I feel like I haven’t said that. We need to seek out the climate optimist news because there are many so that we can remember that things are happening.
Sometimes they’re small and might be few and far between in some cases, but you can find the wins and you have to celebrate the wins.
Solar panels are 99% cheaper than they were decades ago. That’s crazy right there. Things are happening.
Thank you so much, Anne Therese, for joining me. This has been simply a joy. I loved listening to your podcast and this conversation was fun too. We’ll have to keep connected and perhaps someday I’ll come on your show.
I would love to have you. Thank you, Corinna. This has been so much fun and thank you for having me.
Thank you so much, Anne Therese. It’s always nice to find another podcast that I enjoy listening to. I put it in my listening queue and perhaps even find another future guest I want to interview on this show as well. At this point, I’d like to invite everyone to act. It doesn’t have to feel like it’s a huge effort or some mighty task like climbing Mount Everest.
It could be as simple as sharing this show with somebody in your community that you think needs to know the message that we’re talking about. If you’re itching to become a more effective activist, you can go ahead to CareMoreBeBetter.com. Sign up for my newsletter and get a download link right away to that key tool, five steps to unleash your inner activist. Thank you, audience, now and always, for being a part of this show and community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more and be better. Thank you.
- Climate Optimist
- Rolemodels Agency
- Hey Change Podcast
- Zanagee Artis – Past episode on Hey Change Podcast
- This is Zero Hour
- Fridays For Future
- Per Espen Stoknes – Past episode on Hey Change Podcast
- What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming
- Scott Perry – Past episode
- Tuesdays for Trash
- David Johnson – Past episode