When humanity first travelled into space, it didn’t just mean exploring new worlds and frontiers, it also meant for the first time seeing our home planet in an entirely new light. What from the ground seemed infinite and indestructible - something that we could never impact -from space suddenly appeared finite and fragile.
When it comes to truly understanding that blue marble we all call home, few people can claim as much insight as Piers Sellers. Not only as an astronaut did Piers get the chance to witness Earth from that ultimate bird’s eye view, but now as the division director of NASA's Earth Sciences department, he oversees the work of 1600 scientists tasked with understanding how the natural systems of our planet operate, and how they’re changing because of humanity's collective impact.
In this special Season 1 Finale of The Elephant, we speak with Piers Sellers about his experiences as an astronaut and what it was like to view earth from space, the exciting new science of understanding the earth’s natural systems, and why despite the serious work ahead, he’s optimistic humanity will be able to overcome the challenge posed by climate change.
Listen to our special season finale episode featuring Piers Sellers here, and remember to subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Storms, Isolation, and Endless Days: Inside The Science Investigating Greenland’s Changing Ice Sheet
The Greenland ice-sheet is massive. So massive that if it were to melt completely, global sea-levels would rise by more than 6 meters. So if we're to successfully adapt to the challenges that climate change is going to bring about, it's critical that scientists understand how the ice-sheet is changing because of the extra heat our emissions have been trapping in the atmosphere.
Liam Colgan is a glaciologist and professor at York University who specifically studies the Greenland ice-sheet, and we managed to get a hold of him by satellite phone while he was in Greenland on a 36 day research expedition led by NASA. In our conversation with Liam, we learn how the nature of the Greenland ice sheet is changing due to climate change, why it matters, and what it's like to do research in such an extreme environment.
Listen to our episode about the science behind the Greenland Ice Sheet here, or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
For decades famed linguist Noam Chomsky has been one of the most important political dissidents and intellectuals in the world. Now in an exclusive new interview with The Elephant, Chomsky reflects on the incredible period in human history we find ourselves in, one in which we are making decisions that will be felt for generations to come. He points out the remarkable fact that the political and economic systems we've set up, put considerations of short-term profits ahead of the very future of our species.
In our conversation, Noam Chomsky also shares his thoughts on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, what he thinks of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and why advertising has a tremendously distorting effect on our society.
Listen to our interview with Noam Chomsky here, and remember to subscribe to The Elephant podcast in iTunes.
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is at this moment suffering from what is the most devastating bleaching event in recorded history, with 93% of its reefs experiencing at least some degree of bleaching. Many of these reefs will be killed permanently, and similar damage is occurring to countless other coral reef systems around the world.
And the culprit? Human caused climate change, which is increasing the temperatures of the oceans worldwide. Scientists have long warned that the mass-bleaching of coral reefs would be one of the first tipping points of climate change, and sadly we're now seeing those warnings come true.
We called up professor Justin Marshall, a coral reef expert who has been studying these ecosystems for over three decades, to learn about the damage being done, why it matters, and why our only hope for saving these wonderfully diverse eco-systems is to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.
Justin Marshall founded a non-profit called Coral Watch where citizens help to monitor the health of coral reefs worldwide. Listen to our interview with Justin Marshall here, or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
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.