In the past few months, I’ve enjoyed watching climate deniers, delayers, debaters and detractors squirm when prompted to respond to teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. Their discomfort shouldn’t be surprising. She’s unfazed by the people who want her to step aside, quiet down and otherwise go away. And to those people, who are used to making people step aside, quiet down and go away, her unwillingness to budge on that matter is, I’m sure, frustrating.

I have no sympathy.

But Greta is also one of the most effective environmental activists of recent years, and the backlash to her is likely…

This week, news outlets reported on a study finding that North America has 29% fewer birds today than it did in 1970. While the news was sad, it wasn’t surprising. Populations of all sorts of wildlife, from bears to frogs to fish, are declining around the world. Habitat loss is the main driver, but species are also losing out to climate change, pollution and hunting.

This global biodiversity crisis hasn’t spared North American birds, of course. But the base year of the study — 1970 — struck me. 1970 was right before the creation of the EPA, the passing of…

Last week, author Jonathan Franzen published an essay on the futility of hope when it comes to the climate crisis. At least, that’s the impression the world (and, more importantly to the zeitgeist, the Twitter-verse) took away. Of course, the zeitgeist responded.

Much criticism of the essay focused on his somewhat shaky take on scientific facts and his heavy-handed doom-saying. I found most of the criticisms valid. But I also didn’t think Franzen’s take was as fatalistic as Franzen himself seems to think it is.

The essay, “What if We Stopped Pretending?” asks what happens if we stopped pretending that…

The bad news is that Climate Optimism will be on hiatus until early September. I’m out to tell stories about nature that require a little more hands-on time and effort, but fear not — once back in the depths of my routine, this column will be back in the joys of its routine.

The good news is that I’ve got a parcel of good feelings to send us out of what I’ll call “Season One” of this column.

Now, I’m not one to preach the gospel of technology as a cure for our ecological woes. While innovation may be necessary…

If you’re anything like me, you’re worried about climate change.

But if you’re a lot like me (or David Wallace-Wells), you’re scared to death of the impending eco-apocalypse.

Sometimes that fear manifests as an abstract doom, more of an ennui related to a future without penguins or glaciers. Sometimes that fear manifests as a specific, stinging pain, reading about communities who will soon lack easy access to clean water. But sometimes, that fear becomes a self-consuming void of hopelessness, where this epic ecological catastrophe filters visions of the future through the sieve of despondency.

So what to do when the…

I’m sorry for implying that climate change was your fault.

Ive not insinuated that you, specifically, are to blame, mind you, but I’ve implied that you contributed greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and hence, are part of the problem. You bought a not-the-most-efficient vehicle, kept the lights on, and forgot your reusable shopping bags.

Yes, not doing those things would have been better. I’ve done those things, too. But we, as human beings, need to survive. And to survive, we need to pollute. …

It was very hot this week.

Here’s the science: this past weekend, a heat wave struck the eastern United States with the force of a thousand suns. Forecasters had warned us to prepare for the fires of Mt. Doom coming in on Friday and sticking around (no humidity pun intended here) to ruin our weekend.

But all jokes aside, it was so hot that newspapers ran the obligatory stories about frying eggs on sidewalks. (These articles will continue for decades but in 2045, Bon Appetit will run this story in their issue on “exciting new recipes for the now-undeniable climate…

Someone on Facebook commented on a Jacobin story about the Green New Deal with this comment:

“We’re standing in a burning house. AOC is proposing a fire hose. People are calling her unrealistic while fighting over whether we should use a glass of water or whether the whole fire is made up.”

Someone should nominate this comment for the Pulitzer. It speaks volumes.

For years, the political debate on climate change has been between maybe doing something that might have a little impact and denying that the climate crisis even exists. Now, some former deniers agree that sure, they…

Today, torrential downpours and flooding stranded drivers on their cars in Washington. The riverside parks along the Potomac became mid-river parks and National Airport received over three inches of rain in an hour.

Oh, and the White House basement flooded.

Climate activists use these weather events to illustrate the current crisis. Other media outlets … sometimes do. Some studies find that linking these events to climate change might sometimes change minds. But other studies find that this linkage doesn’t always convince skeptics of the impending crisis.

This should be a foolproof way to overcome climate skepticism. When the climate crisis…

According to legend, FDR told A. Philip Randolph, civil rights organizer, that he, the President, agreed with Randolph on the need for civil rights legislation. But he needed Randolph to “make [him] do it.”

This phrase is often repeated to describe the activist-politician relationship. The politicians want to make the change. They need the activists to make the issue big enough.

I’ve been thinking recently about the dissonance in this statement. The politician is right that only grassroots organizing can create a lasting shift in public opinion. But the politician isn’t using their impressive power to change the conversation. Is…

Ethan Freedman

Conservationist, storyteller, semi-professional Ira Glass impressionist.

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