Ramesh Laungani and guest co-host Joe Mascaro speak with young activists Olya Wright and Lily Gardner from iMatter Youth about their efforts to bring about real climate reform. It’s a conversation that will leave you impressed, inspired and hopeful for the future.
Also, Ramesh and Joe share some news about climate making bees leaner and data on what the public thinks about climate change.
Here’s the Fat Bees study: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/…0628105009.htm
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Transcript by Joe Stormer
[Instrumental theme music]
Ramesh Laugani: Welcome to Warm Regards — conversations from the front lines of climate change. I’m Ramesh Laungani, an Associate Professor of Biology at Doane University. My regular cohost, Dr. Jacquelyn Gill, is at Michigan State giving a talk and so will not be able to join us today. However, we have a guest cohost today, Dr. Joe Mascaro. Dr. Mascaro is the Director of Academic Programs at Planet Labs. You might remember Joe from a previous episode about studying climate change from space. It’s a great episode, so after you listen to this one, you should definitely go back and listen to Joe’s episode. While Joe’s episode on climate change talked about working with climate change from space, today we’re going to talk with two youth activists who are making change on the ground in their local communities. We’ll be speaking with two members of the climate change advocacy group, iMatter, Lily Gardner and Olya Wright. We’re also going to wrap up with our new segment on unexpected science, talking about how bees are being impacted by climate change and what happens to their fat metabolism. So Joe, how’s it going, man?
Joe Mascaro: Pretty good, Ramesh, thanks for having me.
Ramesh: I know you’re out in San Francisco, but I’m in the middle of the country so we’re digging out of the polar vortex here. What’s it been like out there in San Francisco?
Joe: It’s been pretty wet here, but actually I was in Michigan over the vortex and it was pretty dicey. We got down to about -17 or -18 Fahrenheit, so it was pretty cold.
Ramesh: Okay, so you’ve been dealing with quite a bit of that as well. One thing that’s really interesting about the polar vortex is we have these periodic episodes and inherently we get -17, I think Minneapolis got to -50 or something like that — something ridiculous. And we start hearing, if it’s so cold, where’s all this global warming? But what’s really interesting is the idea that maybe this polar vortex is actually impacted by climate change. Joe, have you heard of the connection between the two?
Joe: I have. You know, I was also thinking back to my childhood in Michigan, Ramesh, actually. And of course we would get cold snaps all the time, but I don’t recall things like this — certainly not lasting as long as they did. The other thing that’s been happening is, you know when I was a kid, we’d usually get our first snow in southern Michigan before Halloween, or certainly before Thanksgiving. And this past year, 2018 (this fourth warmest year on record), we didn’t get snow until into January 2019.
Ramesh: Wow! So we’re starting to see these almost contradictory pieces. We get these blasts of cold air, but then we have these other climatological signals like late snowfall. And I think there are other signals like the one you described, Joe, happening all over the country — winter being pushed later and later. But I want to take a second and talk about the potential connection between the polar vortex and climate change. And now this is going to get a little atmospheric in terms of its description (and remember, I’m a plant ecologist so I’m pushing outside of my wheelhouse) but, suffice it to say that one of the reasons that we are feeling this polar vortex is because of climate change warming and changing temperatures in the Arctic where these cold air masses sort of hang out. And really because of some rapid arctic warming, we sort of lose a temperature difference between the North Pole and where we are — sort of Continental U.S. And what this does is this causes air masses, one of them being the jet stream that many of us have heard about and this other air mass that sort of hangs out, normally, in the Arctic, to sort of mix around differently. And when we experienced a polar vortex that causes those cold air masses to dip down low and and hit us in the Continental U.S. and Canada. And so, it’s a really interesting paradox because oftentimes it’s hard to imagine climate change and global warming leading to these cold snaps. But, Joe, I think you just said we just had the fourth warmest year on record. I think that was declared yesterday, right, by NOAA.
Ramesh: So, Joe, I don’t know if you also saw this recently; there was a survey put out by Yale Climate Communication showing that more (I think it’s 73 percent) of Americans now believe that global warming is happening, and I think 62 percent believe that it’s being caused by human activity. What are your thoughts on that?
Joe: Yeah, it’s an interesting development, Ramesh. These numbers have clearly been moving up over the last ten or fifteen years, almost corresponding to global temperature increases. I mean, certainly in the 90s you would have seen these belief numbers closer to the forties or fifties in terms of the percentage of people that believe that this is happening and that is caused by humans. So there’s definitely been a trend.
Ramesh: Yeah, I didn’t even think about the belief going up with temperatures. That’s a really good point. I’m sure somebody has made that graph somewhere to sound very science-y. So you think about these, temperatures going up; you think about the fourth warmest year, and you see this sort of upward trajectory. And another really important upward trajectory that we’re seeing is sort of a rush of new energy around climate action and specifically a lot of that action is coming from the youth who have said enough is enough and have organized to take action on climate. Our Children’s Trust, the Sunrise Movement and the group that we’re speaking with today, iMatter. iMatter is a youth led climate change advocacy group, and more specifically we’re going to be talking with Olya Wright who has led an iMatter campaign in her city and is leading a statewide initiative in Minnesota called “Minnesota Can’t Wait”. And we’re also going to be speaking with Lily Gardner who’s involved with a national high school Green New Deal campaign in Kentucky, if I remember correctly. So Lily and Olya, welcome to Warm Regards.
Olya: Thank you for having us.
Lily: Yes, thank you.
Ramesh: So I described iMatter as a climate change advocacy group, but how do you guys [sic] see iMatter? What is iMatter to you?
Olya: So to me, what I did with iMatter is we work in our city, on a local level. So really what I’m seeing from iMatter is they’re helping youth across the country take action on climate change in their hometowns and on the local level.
Ramesh: So, Lily, how have you gotten involved with iMatter?
Lily: So actually I had not gotten involved with iMatter until I heard about it through Sunrise Movement. So obviously Kentucky is a place where environmental movements usually do not begin; I think that’s a very diplomatic way to put it. I think we’re very polarized in our view of climate change, fossil fuels, and other things that are intrinsic to the movement. So that makes it kind of a difficult starting ground. I had become involved because I was really interested in making a difference and a change against something that I had observed in my community since I had grown up and I can explain a bit more about that later if you want. So I hopped on a random national Sunrise call and I got this text while I was on it that was like, “Hey, you’re one of the first high schoolers who we’ve ever had on the call. Would you be interested in helping us figure out how Sunrise can become more accessible to high schoolers?” And I was like, “Absolutely, of course.” And from there I was introduced to the lovely, lovely people at iMatter and I wish that I had heard about them sooner. I wish that that was something that had been exposed to me. I think advocacy group is the best way to describe them, but they do more than simply advocate. They connect with people. They also empower people to make change in their communities. So advocacy is so multifaceted for them, which is so interesting to me.
Joe: Lily, is one of the goals of iMatter to move these belief numbers. I mean, do you encounter people that are climate change skeptics and actually confront them directly?
Lily: Climate change skepticism for a lot of people who I encounter, comes from a desire to not want to believe. I don’t know if there’s a better way to put that, but because so much of either their livelihood or someone they know’s livelihood or even their community on the whole’s livelihood, is dependent upon things that are inherently hurting the environment or are fueling climate change — then they do not want to believe. It’s not that they disagree with the concept of science in general. It’s that because this is a personal issue, they don’t want to. And so I would say that, not frequently, but I still do encounter people (more than most) who do not believe.
Ramesh: When you have those conversations, how do you approach those conversations? Because I think that’s an important thing that — as a member of the scientific community — one of the challenges we face is that we think that, “Hey, if we just throw a lot of facts that people, they’ll come around to it.” How have you engaged in conversations with people who are skeptical about climate change?
Lily: So usually I try to begin a dialogue that is not founded in this idea of climate change, because I think when people hear that immediately (even though it is not and should not be at polarizing topic), it is one. And so I think that that’s never how I begin the conversation once I learn through any which way that they do not believe in it. I always say, “Okay, let’s talk about something else that is inherent to your community. Let’s talk about cyclical poverty. Let’s talk about a lack of jobs. Let’s talk about the flight of fossil fuels,” specifically coal — any number of those issues. And then I ended up bringing it back to this idea of, “We can solve those issues through something like,” for example, “the Green New Deal.” But the real issue we’re solving is this idea of climate change. So if you begin to accept the idea of climate change, then your circumstances are also going to change. I think you have to make it very tangible in a way that isn’t scary.
Ramesh: Olya, what about you? Do you run into individuals who are skeptical about climate change? And, if so, how do you approach that?
Olya: Yeah, definitely. I haven’t run into a ton of people over my environmental action time period that I’ve been working in. There’s definitely been a few, a couple of years ago when I was younger and working more in my city and giving presentations and people would have questions — not as much talking one on one. But I definitely agree with what Lily is saying. You definitely have to bring it around that it’s not just that the glaciers are melting it — climate change encompassing humanity as a whole. We need to work on multiple issues to stop climate change and things like the Green New Deal will help cover that.
Ramesh: One question is, how did you both so passionate about climate change?
Lily: So I alluded to this a bit before, but I grew up in Magoffin County, Kentucky. I lived there until middle school. It’s in the heart of eastern Kentucky. It’s part of Appalachia. It’s dependent upon coal and logging and other extractive industries. Throughout my childhood I would say I observed the negative consequences of these industries on the people around me. It felt as though they had made these grand promises that were 1) impossible to keep and 2) now that their resources we’re running out or no longer able to be extracted, those promises were either forgotten or the idea that they would assist the communities in a transition away from those industries to something more sustainable or renewable was totally lost. It’s so important to note that my mother moved to Kentucky thirty years ago from New England and as soon as she moved there, people around her started to say, “In thirty years we are not going to be able to rely upon coal anymore, and people recognize that. But as the deadline came closer and closer, people became more and more fearful. Corporations and companies became much more interested in saving face than truly figuring out a way to equitably transition away from what they had. So I think all of those factors really culminated when I was a child because that is when I started to observe these catastrophic effects. Even though nobody in my family is a coal miner, I still observe them in my community and to this day I observe them because they cause so many of the other problems. And so I think that’s how I really got into this work, in kind of a lengthy verbose explanation.
Ramesh: No, that’s okay.
Joe: That’s really interesting, Lily. I remember BP (British Petroleum) rebranding some years ago as “Beyond Petroleum” and thinking to myself, “Wow, that’s great. They’re moving beyond petroleum,” only to find that they’re basically just pouring money into excavating new and deeper sources of petroleum.
Lily: So I think that when you have a community where people begin poor and you promise to change that and then they remain poor (but this still appears to be the only way out of their cycle of poverty), even I had hope that fossil fuel corporations or coal companies would decide that they were going to do something moral and something that was best for the people, for once — even though that might be naive or ignorant, especially after observing things like black lung, bad working conditions, all these small things that didn’t even impact coal company revenues or anything like that. I think we all had this hope that maybe a disenfranchised region would not continually be manipulated by outside forces.
Ramesh: Olya, What about you? How did you get so passionate about climate change?
Olya: It was quite awhile ago. I started a Nordic Nature Group and I can touch more on this later. But I started a group with friends and we did all these fun activities outside, but eventually I started to feel like, “Oh, we’re not doing enough by just going on hikes.” Sure, it’s very fun, but we’re not having a great enough impact on the environment. And I was getting very overwhelmed and distraught and not really sure how to act on this issue cause it just seems so big and so overwhelming to me. I never was able to take action until someone told me about iMatter. I don’t remember who, but someone sent me an email, “I found out about this cool youth organization, you should look at it. They sound really cool.” So we looked at it and I attended a call online and got just really involved and was amazed that there were actually these other youth out there that felt similar to me and we’re actually taking action, too. So that really helped me get involved cause, like, wow, we may actually be able to make a difference. It’s not just me up here in Grand Marais that cares about this. There’s people all over that care about that. And that’s really where I got started from.
Ramesh: So what are some of the should of climate change actions that you are involved with now? Legislation? Are you involved in presentations? What are each of you doing now in your local communities to move the needle on climate change?
Olya: I started out working with our city on a local level with iMatter and we help their city get a grade on climate change. We gave them a report card on how they are doing at addressing climate change at a local level. And then we presented that to them, along with a youth climate inheritance resolution that asks them to create a climate action plan, include youth in decision making that has to do with climate change and the environment, and start the creation of their climate action plan within three months or something. And so we did a lot of presentations around our community, me and my Nordic] Nature group. We got signature that had a bunch of people show up, and our resolution passed to a standing ovation.
Ramesh: That’s awesome.
Olya: It was pretty cool. So that was back February 22, 2017. Currently, I’m now working in my city on this action team that’s creating our climate action plan, and we’ve hired a climate action plan coordinator that’s helping write it (taking the lead on it) and we have this action team that looks at it and helps review it and things. And I also got involved through iMatter with this statewide youth coalition called Minnesota Can’t Wait. We have multiple asks: one which is stop all pipelines, including Line 3. The other one is asking [Governor Tim] Walz to take executive action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. And then the third and biggest one that we’re doing is we are working on creating a statewide Green New Deal and we are working with representative Frank Hornstein on that. So, currently, I am involved with my city and our climate action plan and also with Minnesota Can’t Wait on the statewide level working on a Minnesota Green New Deal.
Ramesh: That’s awesome. Lily, what about you? What are you working on these days?
Lily: On a local level, I’m aiming to get my city to pass an endorsement of a federal Green New Deal. So I’m working with other environmental organizations across Kentucky, many of which are founded in youth environmental activism that just haven’t, they’ve been quite decentralized for a long period of time, and high schoolers have also been a missing piece of that, too. When they say youth, usually they’re referring to college students — which is a really problematic view and excludes a large chunk of the population who are going to be greatly impacted by the effects of climate change. So that’s what I’m doing at a local level and that’s also what high schoolers across the nation are doing at a local level, facilitated by a partnership between the Sunrise Movement and iMatter. So we’re having tons of campaigns across the nation, which is super exciting to know that I’m not alone in this quest and (despite being now in a city that I believe will be accepting of an endorsement), I know that there are other people in very conservative states who are working to do the same things as me. On a statewide level, we have a Sunrise hub in Louisville and so they are lobbying John Yarmuth, who we began to lobby on December 10th with the Green New Deal action.
Joe: So is he a locally Congressman or a Representative or Senator?
Lily: Yeah, he’s one of Kentucky’s House Representatives in the National House of Representatives. They’re really trying to lobby John Yarmuth but, on a broader level, they are again at trying (in vain, I suppose) to contact representatives such as Andy Barr (who is from my district), but also Senators such as Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. And unlike where Olya is, a little bit, a lot more of our work is founded in how can we make an environment movements sustainable for a state like Kentucky. We try to support all of these national initiatives as best we can, but ultimately we have to reach a compromise that allows for buy-in in our state. And I think that’s a really delicate line to walk.
Ramesh: Right, I agree.
Joe: Lily, I’m curious; this question is going to date me unfortunately and Ramesh by extension, but I remember vividly the first time I could vote in a national election, which was the Gore-Bush election in 2000 — which obviously had some major themes around climate change and environmental protection generally. Do you feel frustrated that — I don’t know if you voted yet (but I assume not), and I’m curious what your thoughts are and whether climate change advocacy of the type you’re pursuing would benefit from lowering the voting age and getting more high schoolers to exercise their opinion at the polls.
Lily: That’s actually really interesting that you bring that up. To date you even more, I was not even born in 2000.
Lily: So I have yet to vote, unfortunately. But I actually really believe in this idea of lowering the voting age, because I think that youth apathy turns into apathy as adults, and I think that’s the greatest threat to progress. I think if we were to extend the voting age to sixteen-year-olds (as is kind of the common age that’s been thrown about by organizations like Vote16), then I think that we could start to nip some of that apathy in the bud. Because I think youth across the nation — especially in Kentucky and especially where I’m from in eastern Kentucky — are really angry about their circumstances and, if possible, they would vote to change those even if they don’t think of that as a form of advocacy. But it still keeps them involved. Either they aren’t being listened to, they haven’t been empowered at any point in their life, and nothing they have to say matters. I think that’s when we have a real problem and that’s when people start to not believe in climate change or start to deny climate change actively, because it’s convenient for them. I am totally in support, even if it means that people are going to vote against what I would necessarily vote for.
Joe: Olya, what about you? What do you think about lowering the voting age?
Olya: No, I definitely agree with what Lilly’s saying. At least for me, that’d be a couple of years off, but I definitely feel like since youth are going to be most impacted by climate change we definitely need to have a voice in the decisions that are being made about our futures. Voting is a convenient way to do that, because you can have a say in the legislator and who gets elected to support you. So I definitely agree with what Lilly’s saying. I think that could be a very important part of the climate change movement.
Ramesh: I’m curious to find out — so you’re taking these awesome actions. And let me just be clear here (if it already hasn’t come through to our listeners); our two guests today are currently in high school. So I feel embarrassed, for my generation, that all I could do was watch Captain Planet and feel like I’ve done something. So I want you to know Lily and Olya, you’re putting myself and Joe Mascara to shame here. We’re just shame spirals right now. So, um, I guess, what are some barriers that you have faced in trying to move your initiatives forward. Are there barriers that you’ve overcome and what are some barriers that you keep running into that make you want to sort of smack your head against the wall? What are some of those challenges?
Olya: One quick thing first, just for fun — just so you know, I am only 13 so I’m not in high school yet.
Ramesh: Oh my God.
Joe: All right.
Ramesh: That’s awesome, by the way.
Olya: So, barriers There are definitely some on the statewide-level campaign — not as many. They don’t seem as as many. There definitely are, but I haven’t been writing the bill, so I have them run into quite as many as when I’ve been working on this climate action plan up in my town. But in Grand Marais for our climate action plan, one of the big barriers is Grand Marais’s power source — Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, also known as SMMPA. And they produce very, very little renewable energy and a big huge chunk of their energy comes from coal. And they just a couple years ago (a couple like ten or something) built this huge coal-fired power plant called Sherco 3. So they aren’t very excited with Grand Marais wanting to get to zero net emissions by 2040 because that’s not going to help them sell their coal power. We’re in this contract till 2050 with them and we can’t get out of it. That’s one of the challenges is how to get our city to net zero emissions before our contract is up.
Ramesh: So, Lily, What about you?
Lily: I think a lot of the problems I face — unlike Olya, who I really commend because I do not know what I would do in that scenario if I felt like those factors were against me and that’s so incredible that you’re doing this — but I would say a lot of the problems that I have faced so far have been on a more general level. I hate the term youth activism because youth have to be qualified if they want to be activists, or the word “activist“ has to be qualified when you’re a high schooler or even a middle schooler. One of the things that I’ve constantly faced is this idea that you are not legitimate voices and that our opinions (despite being the future) do not actually matter or hold relevance or are simply just ignorant in the present. And I think that’s a perception of my generation that persists throughout the nation, even if it’s more prominent in some areas than others. So I think even just staking our movement out as a legitimate entity is a huge barrier. Even though, again, climate change is something that’s going to impact my generation and Olya’s generation more than any other.
Ramesh: Right, right.
Lily: And actually if I may add; when you said the bit (and I know that it was in passing), but the bit about how you were so disappointed with how you — or not disappointed — but you looked like a slacker compared to us when you were in high school. I think that the scary reality is that my generation and Olya’s generation is having to deal with so much fear and anxiety and we’ve had to grow up so quickly. Well, at least if you’re conscious of the issues at hand, you’ve had to grow up so quickly. And I think that spurred many of us to action. And I really love this line in a poem by Grace Paley that says,
This world is a wreck said the children
When they came home with their children
There are bombs all over the place
There’s no water the fields are all poisoned
Why did you leave things like this
Where can we go said the children
what can we say to our children?
And I think all of us have a collective fear about the future that we do not want to pass on and I think that motivates us to make a change. Sorry if that super depressing.
Ramesh: No, it’s things like that that are actually really — I know at least for me it gives me hope because I know that a lot of people I guess of my generation, we feel a lot of climate anxiety as well. And I’m a scientist so I just feel like, well, the science is out there so why are we still debating it? And so seeing organizations like iMatter, just talking to you both is I know I’m going to tell my students at my college. I’ll play them this episode and I’ll say, “Alright, time to time to step up your game a little bit. So it wasn’t depressing at all.
Joe: No, I didn’t find it depressing, but I did get quite inquisitive and stare into space for quite a while.
Ramesh: So can you describe a little bit, Lily oe Olya, because there’s the Green New Deal and there’s a Sunrise Movement and there’s iMatter; and to a number of our listeners a lot of these things, sort of seem the same but they might be different. Do you feel like you can sort of separate those three? I mean, I know they’re connected, but what’s your understanding of the Sunrise Movement versus the Green New Deal versus iMatter.
Lily: So I can do it really briefly. The Green New Deal is a resolution that was, as of today, put forth by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in the House of Representatives and Ed Markey in the Senate. Before that, it had been an idea that had percolated throughout a lot of I would say Green Party circles (if we’re going really far back) but even now many liberal ideologies. But also a lot of people who don’t identify as liberal have been touting this idea of a 100 percent transition to renewable resources and renewable energy sources. It is also, though, a jobs guarantee and education guarantee, especially for people who will become disenfranchised with the flight of fossil fuels. And those are the two main principles. It has a lot of other subsets that are going to evolve as the resolution itself evolves, but those are what it’s founded upon. Now Sunrise has been supporting it since it’s conception. Sunrise is a youth-led climate movement across the nation that began a couple of years ago to save the climate and get tons of green jobs in the process. So it fit that they immediately endorsed the Green New Deal because it fit exactly with their principles. Sunrise is driven primarily by college students, by young adults, and even by many adult allies across the nation who are working in decentralized hubs to lobby their representatives and also take action in their communities to continue this fight for 100 percent renewable energy. Olya, do you want to clarify kind of what iMatter is in your mind because you’ve done a lot more work with them?
Olya: Sure I can. So, iMatter is an organization that supports youth and is kind of youth-led, I guess. They work with youth in their local communities to help them help their cities tackle climate change at the local level. So iMatter is basically a support system and youth-led organization that is helping youth across our country take action at the local level.
Ramesh: I was sort of clicking around the website a little bit; I saw it offers trainings, is that correct? And you mentioned the climate change report cards. So is this something that iMatter has come up with or is this something that iMatter is helping to sort of disseminate?
Olya: So yeah, the trainings are mostly for helping people take action in their city, so they’ll have a training on how you present to your schools and some helpful tips on how you can present. The trainings are online calls where they help youth get informed and answer questions that might occur. And then the report card, you basically give to your city, and iMatter created this with help from leading climate scientists. They have this tool on their website and you gather all the information that is necessary from your city and enter it into this report card tool, and it comes up with a report card that is a grade on how your city is doing at addressing climate change at a local level. So it looks at youth involvement, renewable energy, do you have a climate action plan, do you have a greenhouse gas inventory, what’s your waste, things like that. And it looks at those types of things and then calculates a grade from those numbers and percentages you gave.
Ramesh: You said you gave one to Grand Marais. What was the grade Grand Marais got? If you feel like calling out Grand Marais on a podcast.
Olya: Oh, no problem! Grand Marais got a D+. So I won’t say we were very good before we came along. We had some groups that had created a plan, but the emission reduction goals weren’t clear so it wasn’t really being put into action by the city. So when we came along with our resolution, along with our grade of our report card with a D+, we told them, “So you have a pretty bad grade, but we’re not just trying to show you what you’re doing wrong. We’re also trying to help you stop climate change, and that’s what this resolution is about.” That’s why our youth climate inheritance resolution worked in partnership with the report card because we can show them what they had been doing and then show them a way to fix their grade and also stop climate change.
Lily: If Grand Marais got an F — or a D+, excuse me — I’m pretty sure that most of where I’m at would be getting at least an F.
Joe: Wow. I’m curious, you both identified so many detailed local initiatives that come out of the congressional districts that you both reside in several national issues as well. Do any of the groups that you work with have an international flavor? And I ask the question because as you were noting, the effects of climate change are going to fall so pervasively on younger generations compared to older ones, but another feature of it is that those living in the developing world — the developing countries — tend to also experience some of the worst effects. Are there any kind of international issues that you’ve gotten involved in?
Lily: So one of my friends likes to joke (but I actually believe in in reality) that we need a green Marshall Plan. Even organizations like Sunrise and iMatter who do incredible work in the United States, their scope is not beyond our country. The issue of climate change highlights one of the most pervasive problems in international politics in general. The idea that developing countries are not creating the bulk of climate emissions or really very many at all, however they’re burdened with many of the effects. I mean even in this nation, obviously minorities, people of low socioeconomic status — all of these people who are also not inherently causing more emissions, or at least not by their own doing, are also burdened with the effects of climate change. Sorry if you heard my dad in the background, he was laughing at me. Anyway!
Ramesh: No, that’s okay, that’s alright. This should be a family affair.
Lily: He’s been in this for awhile so he thinks it’s kind of funny that I’m just now making it my thing. Anyway. Without any type of international agreement where all stakeholders can truly commit to it, then a lot of this is going to be in vain.
Ramesh: I mean, it’s got to start somewhere, right? And the actions that both of you and your colleagues are taking are great. You are going to inspire youth all over the globe who wonder if they can tackle these things, and you are proving that they can at local level and they can get in touch with their government and they can get in touch with her representatives and give them a grade. If I give my students a D+, I know they’re pretty motivated to fix that grade. You’re right that international action is going to be needed, coordinated international action is going to be needed. But things that you’re doing are definitely where it needs to start. I just want to ask one last question here. Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you’d like to mention?
Olya: I might just add that it’s very important for other youth to get involved, so if they have a strong desire to get involved, please get involved because we need every one of the youth out there that are interested in being involved to help stop this problem. And also I just like to throw a shout out to my friends in the nature group that I started in 2014. I mentioned them earlier before, but they were a, they played a crucial role in the climate action plan for Grand Marais and are still playing that role there and helping on the statewide level too.
Lily: I think one thing that’s super important to remember is that especially when you’re dealing with rural communities and especially when you’re in high school, it’s easy to be perceived and to create a dichotomy between the people who you’re trying to help and yourself, because of the lack of opportunity. When you’re going into these rural communities that have been disenfranchised because of fossil fuels, when you’re one woman (as is the case for me) who if everything that you’re advocating for changes doesn’t work out, I still have a future ahead of me. It’s not dependent upon fossil fuel industries or coal mining jobs or anything that put them in this cycle of poverty in the first place. So I think having that empathy and knowing how to create buy-in at the root, knowing how to combat that perceived lack of opportunity and that fear of becoming involved and that fear of jeopardizing your future job chances (even if in reality they don’t exist) is super important when we discuss rural communities. We all see the land differently. While I see it as something that can be conserved, that’s because that’s my privilege. That’s because I’ve experienced national parks or even simply experience the effects of nature working in the ways that it should. But if you view the land as something that is there to provide you with a livelihood, if it’s something that must be destroyed so that your family can eat or survive, then it’s a very different mentality. And so fundamentally the environmental movement and the youth environmental movement has got to struggle with this and we have to figure out how to overcome it and be mindful of it.
Ramesh: Olya and Lily, thanks so much for sharing your great activism on climate change; it’s really inspiring to see youth tackling the problem head on. And I know that you all are going to keep inspiring the youth around you in your communities and I can’t wait to hear all the great things that are going to come from your actions.
Olya: Thank you so much, and thanks for having us on the podcast. We really appreciate that.
Ramesh: Yeah, thank you.
Lily: Thank you guys so much for having me on! It was really a pleasure to speak with all three of you. It’s really empowering to know that climate activists such as yourselves are taking the youth movement (and specifically the youth climate change movement) so seriously because this is something that impacts us and we are genuinely passionate, and we are fighting against the stereotypes of apathy for our generation for a livable future. And to know that there are adults out there ready to be our allies — ready to support us — is so important.
Joe: Thanks, you guys [sic], it was really amazing to learn about what you’ve been doing.
Ramesh: So it was really great to talk with Olya and Lily about their great youth activism. So now what we’ll do is we will turn our attention to some unexpected science. This is a recent segment where we’re trying to talk about some of the science of climate change that most people don’t think about. So recently a cool study came out this year about climate change and bees. And the researchers were trying to understand how a warming climate would impact the physiology of bees and they were studying a bee called the Mason Bee. This is the primary pollinator of a southwestern shrub. And they did this really, really interesting but sort of elegantly simple study where they manipulated temperatures of the nest at the bees were living in just by painting those nests a different color. So they raised temperatures by painting a certain proportion of nests black. And these were man-made nests; these are not natural nests that they’re going out and painting. They painted some of the nests white and they left some of the nests unpainted. So the white nests to were cooler than average. The black nests were warmer than average, and then the unpainted nests were sort of ambient, normal temperatures. And they found some really interesting results. The lead author on the study. Paul Caradonna found that the bees in the warmer nest emerged with smaller bodies and lower body fat. He thinks that’s the case because warmer temperatures caused the bees’ metabolism to increase. Who would have thought but climate change to get less chunky? I guess I never really thought about fat content of bees. What about you, Joe? Did you even know that bees had fat content?
Joe: I thought bees were pretty lean, actually.
Ramesh: Yeah, so I don’t know how much body fat they have to lose, but apparently climate change is making them lose it. While we’re sort of laughing a little bit about this, one thing that’s really important is think about what we get from our own fat stores, right? We get energy and so the bees also get energy. So if they’re emerging with lower amounts of fat, that’s going to affect how far they can migrate to deal with climate change; that’s going to affect how far they can fly to pollinate plants. And so there’s a whole suite of ecological interactions that might be impacted just by changing the fat content of bees. But those are questions that need to be answered in subsequent studies. Joe, have you ever heard anything like this before? Any other organisms sort of slimming down because of climate change?
Joe: I’ve definitely seen a few studies where you’re seeing evolution as a result of human caused changes to lands. There was a really interesting study about some birds in England that are growing slightly longer beaks sizes so that they can access human-created bird feeders. So it’s certainly the case that organisms around the world are adapting to the human influence over the biosphere. But I’m definitely going to have to brush up on my bee aerobics this weekend to keep up at this time.
Ramesh: Fair enough. Well, on that note, I think we’ll close. We had such a great show today. We learned about the power of local action on climate change and how that action is not something that that only has to be done by quote-unquote “adults”. Olya and Lily are amazing role models of action on climate change for people all ages, myself included. Thank you to my cohost Joe Mascaro. Warm Regards is produced by Justin Schell and Eric Mack. Katherine Peinhardt runs our social media and Medium page and Joe Stormer is producing transcripts of our show. Thank you again to our guests and cohost. Please subscribe to the show so we can keep up with our conversations on climate change and please leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. It helps bring some more visibility to the show. For the entire Warm Regards team, have a great day.
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