The Occupy movement of 2011, which started in New York City before quickly spreading to hundreds of cities around the world, was one of the most successful - and energizing - activist moments of the last few decades. Not only did Occupy change the discourse, and raise the issue of income inequality world-wide, but it also galvanized a new generation of activists.
But its co-founder, Micah White, considers Occupy a 'constructive failure', one however that that has important lessons for those of us interesting in creating social change - especially those of us working on climate change.
In our interview with Micah, we talk about the story behind how Occupy Wall Street started, the future of protest, and how in his view, activists need new strategies - and new tactics - in order to bring about the social change that our world so badly needs.
Toronto is Canada's biggest city, and it also happens to be one of the country's biggest successes when it comes to acting on climate. While the average emissions for Canada have kept climbing, Toronto has managed to not only meet its targets for cutting greenhouse gases, but exceed them by more than double - all this while steadily growing as a city.
David Miller was the mayor of Toronto from 2003 until 2010 (before being succeeded by a rather more infamous Toronto mayor that you may have heard about), and for the last two years in office Miller was also the chair of the C40 - The Cities Climate Leadership Group. But really throughout his two terms as Mayor, David Miller made environmental sustainability a key focus of his leadership.
During our time in Paris we had the chance to catch up with David Miller to ask him about the policies Toronto put in place to meet its emissions cuts, what some of the challenges were to implementing them, and a bit about his current work for WWF Canada.
Listen to ourinterview with David Miller here, or subscribe to the Elephant podcast in iTunes.
How our cities are run and designed can have a huge impact on the carbon footprint we have as individuals. Is there convenient and affordable transit available for example? Or are the buildings heated and cooled efficiently? But fortunately cities around the world are increasingly making their planning decisions with climate emissions in mind. In fact, actions by cities have been a rare bright spot in an otherwise mostly stagnant decade when it comes to climate action.
The C40 is a network made up of some of the world's biggest cities who together are working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The C40's executive director is Mark Watts, and during COP 21 we sat down with him to hear about some of the ways that cities are leading the way on climate.
Listen to our interview here, or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
If you care about climate change, then it's hard to imagine a more turbulent and consequential couple of weeks on the U.S. supreme court than the ones we've just had.
First, in a surprise decision the court issued a stay against the EPA's Clean Power Plan - dealing a devastating blow to the U.S.'s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. And then just a few days after that ruling, Antonin Scalia, one of the 5 conservative justices who voted for the stay - and one of the justices most consistently opposed to environmental regulations - died at age 79. Scalia's death unleashes a battle over the future of the court of the type we haven't seen in decades. And the implications couldn't be bigger, literally impacting the future temperatures of the planet.
In order to get the lay of the land we spoke to journalist John Upton of Climate Central about the coming political showdown, and what the recent stay, and Antonin Scalia's death, means for both America, and the future of the climate.
Listen to the interview here.
In the landmark Paris accord, 195 countries from around the world agreed that they would collectively keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees, and that they would pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. But what does science have to say on actually keeping those goals? And how fast, and by how much, will we have to cut our emissions to get there?
Professor Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the influential Tyndall Centre, is a climate scientist who looks at exactly this question. And the math he comes away with, isn't pretty. We look at the small timeframe we have to make the Paris declarations a reality, and why it won't be as straightforward as perhaps some of us have been led to believe...
Listen to our interview with Kevin Anderson here, or simply subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Jose Maria Figueres, Former President of Costa Rica - 'Creating Low Carbon Economies is an Opportunity'
Jose Maria Figueres is the President of the Carbon War Room, an organization that supports initiatives by private companies to reduce their carbon emissions. And before that he was the president of Costa Rica from 1994 - 1998. So he has led efforts to combat climate change from within both the public and private sectors. And apparently concern for the environment runs in the family, because his sister is none other than the executive secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres - the top UN authority on global climate change who played a critical role in the COP 21 talks in Paris.
While in Paris for those UN climate negotiations, we had the chance to catch up with Jose Maria Figueres for the podcast. We talked about why he sees transforming our economies to a low-carbon future as an opportunity to combat other systemic issues such as inequality and poverty, the dynamics between the public and private sector, and about Costa Rica's own ambitious efforts to become carbon neutral by 2021.
Listen to our interview with Figueres here, or subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes.
In 2014 a startling announcement came from the heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune that made headlines around the world. Through their philanthropic organization 'The Rockefeller Brothers Fund', they announced that they would be divesting their entire $860 million dollar charitable trust from fossil fuel related holdings.
The announcement marked a major turning point in the divestment movement, which suddenly saw itself catapulted into the mainstream. After all, if the descendants of the money that came from Standard Oil and Exxon thought divestment was the right thing to do, was it really such a radical idea? During COP21, we caught up with Stephen Heintz, the president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to talk to him about the fund's daring decision to divest (especially so early on), why they made it, and his thoughts on how the divestment movement has been growing in the time since.
Listen here, or simply subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes.
On Saturday Dec 12th, as the final hours of the Paris agreement were coming together, a mass mobilization of 15,000 climate activists gathered near the Arc de Triomphe and marched to the Eiffel Tower to call for climate justice and show that a "liveable climate is a red line" that the movement is prepared to defend.
We went down to hear the sounds and meet some of the people taking part, including Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben. Listen here!
Up until now, the economy hasn't exactly done a great job of taking care of our planet's climate. And one might say that business models that are oriented towards profit while ignoring externalities are part of the problem. But can companies that have sustainability at the core of their businesses and yet that are run for profit, be part of the solution?
Enter Climate-KIC, a large European public-private partnership that helps grow start-ups whose products and services are focused on sustainability. We first sit down with Mary Ritter, co-founder and former CEO of Climate-KIC, to discuss the role sustainable businesses can play in saving the climate. And in the second half, we talk to Climate-KIC's Director of Education Ebrahim Mohamed about what's wrong with the way economic models are taught to business students, and how changing economic education may help change the future.
Listen to the episode here, or simply subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes.
Naomi Klein is one of the foremost writers and thinkers in the world today. Her books No Logo and The Shock Doctrine were powerful indictments of the logic of neoliberalism and became not only international bestsellers but manifestos of sorts to the progressive movement.. Her latest book This Changes Everything, has been no less influential.
In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein turns her focus specifically to climate change, and examines how the logic of austerity,deregulation, and globalization, has in effect tied our hands when it comes to dealing with climate change and made it much harder to solve. But what is a difficulty, she argues can also be an opportunity, one that will allow us while fighting one crisis, to potentially solve in tandem the other crises our society is facing, from rising inequality, and unemployment,, to rampant social injustice.
We caught up with Naomi in Paris this week to speak with her about the current UN climate talks, what we can learn from looking at World War II and The New Deal, and why, when it comes to dealing with the climate crisis, we need to temper our fears with hope for a more positive future.
Listen to our interview with Naomi Klein here, or for all of our episodes, subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Former NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen is one of the most respected climate scientists in the world. In fact he's famous for helping first-bring the issue of climate change to wide-spread public attention way back in 1988 when he testified in-front of congress to alert senators that the greenhouse gas effect was real, and that we were already starting to see its impacts on the climate. We caught up with Dr. Hansen at COP 21 to speak with him about what the world needs to do to act on climate, and why when it comes to global warming "we’re already at a level of emergency."
Nearly 150 world leaders have assembled here in Paris for the start of COP 21, the UN climate summit. And whatever may come out of it over the course of the next two weeks, it's hard to overstate the crucial importance of this year’s conference.
Elizabeth May has seen these UN climate conferences inside and out. She was at the Earth Summit in Rio when the UNFCCC was first created in 1992, and since then she has attended most, if not all of the 20 COPs. This year Elizabeth May is attending COP 21 as a member of the Canadian government’s delegation. We reached her by Skype a couple of weeks ago to talk to her about what the process is like, what the obstacles to an agreement are, and why when it comes to Paris, there's never been a more critical COP.
Listen to our interview with Elizabeth May here, or simply subscribe to The Elephant in iTunes
Yeb Saño for years was the lead negotiator at UN climate talks for the Philippines. But he first came to worldwide prominence in 2013 when he delivered an emotional speech at COP 19 in Warsaw, urging countries to set aside their differences and commit to averting the looming climate disaster.
While no longer on the official delegation for his country, Yeb hasn't stopped passionately speaking out about the climate crisis, and he recently finished a 1500km walk from Rome to Paris to urge the world of need to act.
We reached Yeb to speak to him about his people's pilgrimage, and what he hopes to come out of Paris.
The United Nations climate summit in Paris - or COP 21 - is just around the corner. But there's a lot to get a handle on with how these negotiations actually work. You might wonder, why have they failed in the past? What is it like to be there in the room? And what are the main points of contention between countries?
To get insights into these questions, and just what we can expect from Paris, we rang up Kevin Conrad, who for 8 years represented Papua New Guinea at UN climate talks, and this year is on the delegation for Panama.