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241: 40 Seconds to Save The World!

With Paul Goodenough

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About this episode

This week, the hosts discuss the much celebrated ruling last week at the European Court of Human Rights when over 2000 women aged 64 and up, took the Swiss Government to court for failing to protect them from the growing effects of climate change which proved detrimental to their health. The court in Strasbourg ruled in favour of the women, opening up a pathway for other similar cases to now be heard. The hosts briefly discuss the ruling as well as the backlash experienced among some MPs in the UK and Switzerland and why their accusations of infringement upon country sovereignty is false.

We are then joined by the incredible Paul Goodenough, an award-winning, purpose-driven storyteller and entrepreneur, working in the environmental, charity, peace-building and entertainment sectors. In 2019, Paul co-founded Rewriting Earth (formerly Rewriting Extinction), a global collaboration of 300+ of the most influential storytellers creating non-political, non-judgemental content to reach mainstream audiences not typically engaged with environmental issues. It was a brilliant, fun and inspiring interview - make sure to listen to hear how Paul G describes how he hopes the stories he helps bring to life ‘throw an arm around people’ and welcome them into the climate space. The more the merrier we say!


Paul Goodenough, an award-winning, purpose-driven storyteller and entrepreneur, working in the environmental, charity, peace-building and entertainment sectors
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Rewriting Earth
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Rewriting Earth’s book, The Most Important Comic Book on Earth: Stories to Save the World, launched in the UK in 2021 and is available at Bookshop.org. The book is launching in Germany next week and is available at Panini Shop.

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Full Transcript

Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism, I'm Tom Dickinson.

Paul: [00:00:15] I'm Paul Carnac. No, no, Christiana do Christiana Ana.

Christiana: [00:00:19] And I'm Christiana Figueres.

Tom: [00:00:23] We love you, Paul Polman. Today we're going to talk about some recent exciting updates in the battle to deal with climate change through the courts. We're also going to discuss the ways in which we both are and are not communicating climate change effectively to broad audiences through an interview with Paul Goodenough. Thanks for being here. So we've got a lot to cover this week, interesting conversation last week with Simon, hope everybody enjoyed that. And he, of course, is now on his way to the spring, Simon Stiell. 

Paul: [00:00:54] Simon Stiell, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC.

Tom: [00:00:57] I'm assuming everybody had listened to it, but you're absolutely right. Thank you for pointing that out, no, you're right.

Paul: [00:01:01] Simon, totally first name terms with like every famous person in the whole world. And Tom Carnac. Tom.

Tom: [00:01:08] Right back to business. This week, he, of course, on his way to the spring meetings of the World Bank. There's going to be a lot happening there in terms of updates of the critical finance agenda. We will get to that in future weeks. But today we wanted to start off, there's been some really interesting things happening in the whole sphere of how the courts can be utilized to change our trajectory on climate, both in the US and in the EU. And to kick us off, Christiana is going to tell us what's been happening. Over to you. Load More
Christiana: [00:01:33] So on the podcast a couple of times we've been mentioning the rise of climate litigation, most of them not being successful, but a couple of them really making it all the way up to the top courts and, getting successful rulings. So just recently the example is Switzerland, where, almost, what, eight years ago, some 2000, Swiss women aged 64 and up took the Swiss government to court, arguing that the Swiss government was infringing on their human right to health because of the insufficiency of climate action. The Swiss courts rejected that case. So in 2020 they took it to the European Court of Human Rights. A very interesting move because what the European Court of Human Rights does, it interprets the European Convention on Human Rights. And last week.

Tom: [00:02:40] That's sort of like a kind of would US listeners think of that as like a Supreme Court of Europe for human rights kind of thing, like everything devolves up there if they keep being contested?

Christiana: [00:02:48] Well, well, yes, yes. And however, the interesting thing is that when the court ruled in their favour, criticizing Swiss authorities for not, timely implementation of the Paris Agreement, they said, A, it's a violation of human of, human rights, of Swiss population. But they did not impose any measure on the Swiss government. They just said, look, it is a violation, and now Swiss government, you figure out what you're going to do about this. So they did not come down with, with specific actions. And it reminds me way over on the other side of generations, the Montana case, that was where this is not the oldies, these are the youngies, where 16, young Montana citizens that were aged between 2 and 18, won a very interesting case where they took, the Montana court, this is not the Supreme Court, took to the Montana court their case of their human right or their rather, their constitutional right to, to a healthy environment. And that court ruled in their favour as well. And did not impose any specific measures on Montana, but also said Montana, as a state, you need to figure out what you're going to be doing about this. So it's very interesting, A, that there is now a series of cases that are coming up that are being won by those who are impressing upon the legal system, that their rights are being infringed upon, but that these courts are not imposing a specific measure.

Paul: [00:04:57] This is an incredibly exciting case. I think the courts feel that they have to, you know, obviously they understand nation states have their sovereignty and all the rest of it. And we also know that there are lots of states and every single country participating in climate change, in a sense. But the respect for the dignity of individual human rights is a sort of sacrosanct principle. And when the courts find it like this, I think it helps us all collectively think about what to do. Last point I'll make is that, you know, I think it was 1 or 2 shownotes ago in the show notes there's a link to, but anyone can find it on Google. The extraordinary case from the state of California against oil and gas majors. Read that case. I cannot emphasize it enough. There's incredibly good information in there about how, you know, our political processes have been subverted. I think the courts and these rulings have fantastic potential to sort of open the door to us, you know, finding our mojo again and demanding that the system deals with climate change.

Tom: [00:05:55] So, I'm just wondering, so if they've been found that their rights are being.

Christiana: [00:06:02] Infringed upon.

Tom: [00:06:03] Infringed upon, does the government then have and I suppose this is dependent on the constitution of the individual country, but does the government have a legal responsibility to actually not infringe those rights?

Christiana: [00:06:17] Well, that's the question, right. That is exactly the question. And, to the two of you would love to hear some reflections from the UK perspective, because the UK has actually reacted pretty dramatically to this.

Tom: [00:06:35] You mean with the suggestion that they would remove themselves from the European Court of Human Rights, which that's that that's kind of where I was going with this. And the parallel I immediately thought of when I saw this is actually the Kyoto Protocol, Christiana in Canada, who you will remember much better than me, were in contravention of their commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, then just announced the day before they were due to receive a fine. They were pulling out of the convention. So if we go through this process particularly, it's different in the.

Christiana: [00:06:59] Sorry, pull out of the protocol?

Tom: [00:07:01] The agreement. Sorry, not the convention. It's different in the case of the US, but in the case of Europe, if the European Court of Human Rights starts ruling against individual countries as then they're actually infringing upon their citizens rights, what will break that, will it be, what will then happen? That's the interesting question. Will that then mean that the legislature and the executive falls in line with the judiciary and starts to actually take action in line with the science and in line with this ruling? Or will the country just say we won't be beholden to this? 

Christiana: [00:07:34] We're out.

Tom: [00:07:34] We're out. So how this lever of power works like we're pulling on one end of it, and I think we're going to find if it's connected to anything to actually deliver leverage and purchase. Obviously it's having an impact, but whether it will have the impact we think it will is a really fascinating question. We should get a judge or a lawyer on to to talk through. I don't feel like I have anything like the legal chops to kind of have a clear view as to what happens next with all of that.

Christiana: [00:07:59] No. That's true. That is that is the question on the table now. And let me let's just play that scenario out, okay. Let's just play out the very unfortunate scenario that the UK decide that they want to leave the EU Court of Human Rights. I have no idea what that means, what the process is for that. Et cetera. Et cetera. None of us have that legal.

Tom: [00:08:22] And we should point out the UK is considering that for immigration reasons as well, due to this terrible decision to try and send immigrants to Rwanda. It's not just about this decision, but yes, sorry. Carry on.

Christiana: [00:08:32] But even even so, without minimizing the huge impact of that, I wanted to circle back to what Paul said at the very beginning. What all of these cases are doing is they're actually reflecting a change in the general mood, in the general acceptability right. What is within the window of tolerance, public tolerance, that window of public tolerance on climate irresponsibility is closing, it is not as open as it used to be. The window of tolerance is beginning to close from a public perspective that is very linked to anxiety, to not knowing what is going to happen about, about unaddressed climate change to the fact that we're getting more and more scientific information of the disaster that we could visit upon ourselves if we don't do the right thing. So those two things are for me, are really, really linked. And even if there is a political slash legal step of some countries leaving, that I would argue, doesn't change the window of tolerance. In fact, it might even accelerate the fact that the window of tolerance is closing because public opinion at large is very concerned, is really in deep despair and overwhelm about what is happening and political or legal moves to ignore responsibility could actually not be not play in their favour.

Paul: [00:10:25] Our societies are designed around a separation of powers, and we rely upon, for example, you know, the democratic process to elect legislatures, and they can pass laws that sort of reflect the will of the people. But the interpretation of law is something that's given to the courts. And, you know, there might be some interpretation of law that says, well, we can admit, you know, however many millions or billions of tons of CO2 we want. But there's another interpretation of the law that says you have a sort of human right to not have your environment smashed up by climate change, so you've got laws in kind of conflict. It's funny you said we should get a kind of legal scholar in Tom, you know, someone, a judge or whatever. Maybe, maybe we should, but maybe we should get, like a great orator in as well. You know, often these debates are settled by a brilliant speech or, you know, you know, Martin Luther King wasn't necessarily primarily known as a legal scholar, but rather somebody who was able to or Mandela, people who are able to make, the populace of a nation or indeed the world recognize the truth of a situation and the inevitability of a change of behaviour.

Tom: [00:11:41] Yeah. I mean, hopefully I mean, I agree with you definitely on the tolerance element. And if the infrastructure, the institutions of our world can't absorb that pressure and lead to change, but instead get rejected or moved beyond or bypassed, then we're in a really complicated, weird world that actually, you know, you see evidence of that.

Paul: [00:11:59] I think we're in one of those already, dude, we may be already have. I think maybe we get bored on the third planet from the sun. Welcome to Earth. Complicated, weird. Have a good time.

Tom: [00:12:10] Right. Shall we, anything else to say on this issue? Because I know we've got Paul Goodenough joining us in a few minutes, so maybe we should just take a couple of minutes to set that up.

Paul: [00:12:17] Well, only tiny thing. I just wanted to pick up on comments in the FT reported that Europe trails China and the US after monumental energy mistakes. And this is the IEA. I also think it's just fascinating to have the IEA commenting on different countries climate policies and industrial strategy. And I think the reason I mention it is because I think it's actually linked to the discussions we've also had, we're having just a moment ago about human rights. I think nations are sort of coming to terms with conflict in, in the way they manage climate change. And it's actually it's bubbling up to the national government level and to the courts. And I think we should see this as a very positive sign that we're kind of maturing in our analysis of climate change, because it's starting to to settle down into, into the rules that govern our societies. And I think that's a very positive step. So that was my only other comment.

Tom: [00:13:08] Very nice. Now okay, so so then moving to our interview, there's going to be a lot.

Paul: [00:13:14] This is not a mystery guest, right. This is somebody maybe one of us knows quite well. Is that right?

Tom: [00:13:17] Well, I know him reasonably well I have, I hesitate to mention this now, Paul, after the way you teased me at the beginning. But he's the only person in the world who was introduced to me by Leonardo DiCaprio. We were at some very swanky event at COP26. Leo, of course yeah, and, I was talking to Leo about how we communicate climate change. And he said, oh, you must meet Paul Goodenough. And then he introduced me, and I've known him off and on ever since. And I think just to introduce this topic, I would love to just ask you both before we start, because this is going to be about how we are and are not communicating the moment that we're in. Paul is a very creative, different kind of communicator, and he has a lot of criticisms for the way that climate change has been communicated over the years. What would you both say about how we're doing as a climate movement at the moment, to communicate the enormity and the transformative nature of the moment we're in?

Christiana: [00:14:06] Oh, we're doing a totally brilliant job, can't you tell?

Paul: [00:14:13] We're absolute rubbish. We're kind of like the worst. It's like we're saying, ah, there's a fire, building's on fire, and everyone's like, staying in their seats and ignoring us, and it's kind of like, huh.

Tom: [00:14:23] But that's interesting. You both think we're doing so badly that that was almost a point of derision. That's really interesting in and of itself. You're like, there is no question this is going well. It's a disaster. Correct? Go one level deeper, why? 

Paul: [00:14:37] With a little bit a little bit more, with a little bit more sympathy for those who are trying so hard. I think it's quite difficult.

Christiana: [00:14:43] For us, by the way, Paul, we are included there. Carry on.

Paul: [00:14:47] Yes that's true. I have, I have my my dear brother in law sometimes says to me, kind of like, you know, it's not going very well for you lot, is it. And I'm like, he's got a point. Now, of course, I like to point out that, you know, he happens to inhabit the same planetary spaceship I inhabit, and therefore what's bad for me is bad for him. But oddly enough, you know, maybe in this little story I've just told, there's this notion of a a distance between those who are kind of in the climate solutions world and those who are outside of it. And that distinction might be why we're failing or not doing as well as we could.

Tom: [00:15:24] Christiana, what do you think?

Christiana: [00:15:26] Well, I feel like we have discussed this ad nauseam on the podcast without really, without really having found the magical way out. I think we have discussed A, that we tend to be we we as in the all of us in the climate community, but including ourselves. We tend to be very complex in our messaging with many different factors, because we're aware that it is a complex thing, and so we feel the need to communicate in a complex way that most people don't understand. It just goes over their head. We are communicating about something that seems like it's far away in both geography and time, and yet we know that it's getting closer and closer, but the perception is that it's far away. We tend to communicate with numbers and statistics and graphs, all of which just goes to people's head or in one ear, out the other. We don't tend to communicate in a way that is compelling to action. We tend to communicate mostly bad news, doom and gloom, rather than, than the opportunities that we have in front of us. And we just use weirdo, weirdo language that doesn't mean anything to anyone. So we haven't done a brilliant job.

Tom: [00:16:55] I mean, I agree with both you, and it's not for want of trying, right. I mean, recently there has been more effort put into this, and I think that's actually one of the things I'm really excited about, about this moment on climate is that there are I mean, Paul will be here in a minute, will introduce himself, but he's very much not from the climate movement, comes from the creative industries, came at this from a completely different direction and came up with totally different solutions to those that I've seen, people of the climate movement think about. So I think that part of our challenge is we haven't attracted people whose whose native instinct has been to communicate a different way. We try to do it ourselves. And of course, we've grown up and thought about this from a policy perspective or a corporate lobbying perspective. Whatever it is, there are people out there who are native to this and think about it in a different way. Those people. 

Christiana: [00:17:38] Native to communication?

Tom: [00:17:40] Yeah, exactly, native to communication.

Christiana: [00:17:41] That's what you're saying, native to. Yeah, yeah, so we are we are native to the climate nerdiness and we communicate out of that. And what you're saying is we should attract people who are native to communication and let them carry the message.

Tom: [00:17:55] And then and then partner with them.

Paul: [00:17:57] Or even let them, yeah, I was going to say, I think if I know anything about Paul, it may not be that you say, oh, you carry my message. You've got to actually be in a co-creative process with people on that message. 

Tom: [00:18:08] Totally.

Christiana: [00:18:08] Right, good point, yes yes.

Paul: [00:18:09] Just a horrible quote I'm going to share with you. But I think, Christiana, you said that we communicate in statistics, there was a there was a very unpleasant quote that was attributed to Stalin who said, one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic. And the point being that there's something about our statistics that masks the seriousness of this. So it's it's, you know, it's not very helpful to shout out there's a 79.1% chance of a fire. You just shout fire. Or maybe there's another way, but we got to get these people to leave the building.

Christiana: [00:18:46] No no no no, we've got to get these people to protect the building Paul. That's the point.

Paul: [00:18:52] I'm, we can go deeper. We've got to get these people to want to protect the building. No, we've got to organize things so people naturally want to protect the building.

Tom: [00:19:02] Is it possible that we're modelling the problem here?

Paul: [00:19:05] Just shut up, all of you.

Christiana: [00:19:07] There you go.

Tom: [00:19:11] All right, so let's let Paul in.

Paul: [00:19:13] Thank god he's here at the very moment.

Tom: [00:19:15] Thank god he's here. 

Christiana: [00:19:16] To save us.

Tom: [00:19:47] Paul, how nice to see you.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:19:49] Hey, guys. How you doing?

Christiana: [00:19:51] Hi, Paul.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:19:53] Oh, look at that.

Paul: [00:19:54] So good.

Tom: [00:19:54] How are you?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:19:55] Yeah. No, not too bad. How about you all?

Tom: [00:19:58] We are doing very well. We're very excited to have you, we've just been talking about climate communications and Paul Dickinson, who you haven't met, but delighted to introduce you. Was tying himself in absolute knots, making a mess of it. So thank god you're here to save us. 

Paul: [00:20:12] We all agree that essentially, I think I could quote you, Paul, the overachieving people trying to tell other people what to do. I'm definitely one of those people, and it's just not going very well for me thank you very much indeed. So it's good that you're here to tell us what to do.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:20:22] Oh, well, I'm not sure I can teach you guys anything, but yeah, I'm happy doing whatever I can.

Paul: [00:20:27] Oh, not so fast. 

Tom: [00:20:29] Awesome. Paul, it's so nice to see you, thank you so much for taking the time to join us. Now we want to get into a range of things around your project on Rewriting Earth, I think you've been incredibly creative and thoughtful in how you've taken on this difficult challenge. But just before we do, give the listeners a little bit of who you are, you've got this really interesting personal background, we'd love to just give us a few minutes on kind of how you came to make this kind of wild decision to give up on your career and put your own time and money into this new idea. Where did you come from? How does that connect to kind of how you grew up, and then how did you make the decision to then make this big change?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:21:06] Well, the first thing to say is probably I'm actually quite lazy. So the reason that I, I'm doing what I do for the planet comes from selfishness and laziness. I think that's just to get that out the way straight away.

Christiana: [00:21:20] That is the first time I have ever heard that being uttered by anyone.

Tom: [00:21:25] And those are actually. 

Christiana: [00:21:26] I'm not going to believe it, but it's a pretty good line. It's a pretty good line.

Tom: [00:21:30] It's a good line. And those are two qualities we need to harness for environmental good, actually so I think. 

Paul: [00:21:34] It's the first problem where we have to stop doing things but Paul.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:21:36] Yeah I mean so for me okay, so my background I've done many, many things. I did a lot of work in mass public engagement for people like Warner Brothers and BBC and Red Bull and all that sort of stuff. And then over the years, I guess I tried to sort of move into doing that for good. So I worked on a lot of like CSR projects with big companies. And I think probably about maybe ten years ago I actually got really moved. And we all have these moments where we, I guess we stop our normal life and we change. And it was when I didn't see any caterpillars that year at all. And I'm one of these weird people who prefers caterpillars to butterflies. And I remember thinking, well, why are there no caterpillars around. And so I started sort of digging in, sort of gradually finding out more. And it occurred to me the reason I had no idea is because none of the communications about the planet or anything were getting into my sphere, none of them. And if they did, they were very, very scientific, or they were very worthy or they kind of framed around liberal mindsets. And so it just wasn't penetrating into my world. It was kind of mass entertainment stuff.

Christiana: [00:22:45] Paul, when was this just to get us a placing in time, more or less?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:22:50] Yeah, more or less probably about sort of 2014, something like that.

Christiana: [00:22:54] Okay, okay.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:22:55] And it occurred to me if it wasn't getting through to me, it wasn't getting through to other people like me. And this is where the lazy, I'm sorry.

Christiana: [00:23:03] Paul, I'm just going to stop you one minute there, because it's really interesting that this is 2014, right. Because there was from the perspective of the climate nerds, there was a hell of a lot of communication going on for the Paris Agreement. And so when you say. 

Tom: [00:23:16] We thought we were talking to everyone. 

Christiana: [00:23:18] And we thought, well, not only that, Paul, Tom, we thought, everybody's listening.

Tom: [00:23:24] That's right.

Christiana: [00:23:24] And so this is such a really, really good, sobering statement that you're making here, Paul, that in 2014, slash 15, I'm assuming that it just wasn't getting through. So thank you for that. That is a sobering statement. Carry on. Sorry for the interruption. 

 Paul Goodenough: [00:23:45] No no worries. And honestly, I need to give people like yourselves and everyone in the in the industry just to such credit because it was getting through.

Christiana: [00:23:53] Yeah, yeah, you don't you don't need to say that. Just go ahead, go ahead go for it.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:23:58] But it wasn't trickling down. It wasn't coming down into kind of like popular society. It wasn't getting down into kind of popular culture. And this is where the laziness and selfishness comes in. So I thought, well, hang on a minute. If, for example, my brother and my dad aren't hearing about this and they don't know about it, how could I transform and translate what people like yourselves are saying into language and entertainment that they understand. And that's what I do to to basically introduce it to everyone. What I think happens a lot of the time is you've got climate scientists and incredible people who are effectively doing what English people have done a lot on holiday, which is they're trying to talk to somebody who doesn't have the same language as them and just shouting louder.

Paul: [00:24:40] Louder, louder.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:24:42] Yeah, exactly. And it happens in media too. You know, we all get very frustrated when media takes little tiny nuggets of information that the environmental movement give and they misinterpret it. It's because think of it like different languages. They only know certain sort of phrases and certain things. And that's what they latch on to, the tiny nugget that they understand.

Tom: [00:25:04] And also explain because you also say that it's about liberal, left leaning worthy, you know, that kind of stuff. So talk us through that as well.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:25:12] Yeah. And I think a lot of that the media has a little part to play in that as well. So a lot of the figureheads of environmentalism and a lot of the people who are being portrayed on the media or are standing on the stage, let's face it, they are massive overachievers. They are some of the kindest, most intelligent and wonderful people on the planet.

Paul: [00:25:34] I'm glad you noticed, Paul.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:25:36] I was specifically referring to you, Paul actually just you. But I kind of want to see, like, somebody who's is a, like a football fan or a factory worker, somebody who's basically said, look, hands up. I used to not be into this stuff. But then something changed and I've just now I've stepped up and this is what I do. Whereas, you know, I was once at COP26, actually is where Tom and I met and I went down to the extreme hangout and there was there was four people on stage, and one was this amazing person, and they were one of the world's first and youngest people to have like a UN position. Somebody else had written like four books and somebody else was, given an honorary doctorate. And I was like, do we think as a movement, these are kind of indicative of all the people over the world, it's like.

Tom: [00:26:25] No one sees themselves in that, right. It's too remote and it feels like it's just not me and it's not mine.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:26:32] Absolutely. And there's people out there, sorry.

Christiana: [00:26:34] And how were they communicating, Paul?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:26:36] In a very, very, very sort of, I guess, steeped in the language that we all use, you know, intersectionality, racial justice, all of these phrases that mean something to us. But the average person, it doesn't land. They don't know what it means.

Tom: [00:26:53] It doesn't mean anything. Totally agree with the analysis. But what I think is interesting about you is you saw that which others have seen, but you actually took that and found solutions to it. So how did you go from that insight into sort of well, I'm going to find a solution to move forward?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:27:06] Well, again, at the risk of being denigrating to myself, I just stole lots of ideas from Richard Curtis, he did it really really well with.

Paul: [00:27:15] He's been on the podcast twice and is an absolutely brilliant kind of switching station right. 

 Paul Goodenough: [00:27:19] Yeah, he's amazing. And what he did with like Comic Relief is he took basically a lot of issues that people felt disconnected from in the UK. You know, things that are happening in, say, Africa or the global South. And then he used entertainment as a kind of a way of saying, actually, people need entertainment. People have often got sad lives and they often struggle with just everyday problems. How can I give them something valuable, and how can we give them something that they enjoy. And then when doing so, entertain and educate at the same time.

Tom: [00:27:54] And so that I totally get. But when what does that then turn into. How did you manifest that. Like what did that turn into in the world when you grabbed it and made that happen?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:28:03] Well, for me, I've got, as you guys can see, but people can't hear behind me, I've got a couple of comics. When I say a couple, I mean 20,000, so what I thought was that comics is a medium. They do better than everybody else at taking big ideas and distilling it right down. And so I thought, what could we do if we took some of the most incredible people on the planet, some big celebrities, some big activists, politicians, and we asked them to basically really distil down what they're trying to say and then told it in an emotive comic. So that was my first project, which was to make a book called The Most Important Comic Book on Earth, got 300 people together, and we told their stories through some of the best comic creators on earth. And it just went so well.

Tom: [00:28:52] And tell me about.

Paul: [00:28:53] Sorry, I'm interrupting.

Tom: [00:28:54] No go for it.

Paul: [00:28:55] Is it the stories they are trying to say?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:28:57] Yes. So it's not my story, none of it's my story.

Paul: [00:29:00] That's interesting.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:29:01] And so this actually, Paul, to your point, actually, this was what I was saying about being lazy. For years, I did a lot of writing for other comedians, so I would write their jokes, and I got very used to writing in a kind of a ghost capacity, finding their voice and then writing things that actually sounded like them. And so that was my kind of default go to here, which was to basically get out the way and just translate what one person's trying to say into another medium.

Tom: [00:29:29] That that look of intensity that Paul is fixing you with is actually because he's long dreamed of having someone write ghost write jokes for him on this podcast so that he sounds extremely funny.

Paul: [00:29:37] Make me as funny as Stephen Colbert, that's my dream.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:29:41] Let's do it. Let's do it. How hard can it be.

Tom: [00:29:43] So tell us about the emotional experience, because I have a copy of your your brilliant book, and also now I, as the parent of tweens, I see the degree to which they and all of their friends consume comics or graphic novels as they're now known, way in excess of anything else. So as a medium, it's incredibly smart. What's the emotional experience of reading that book, would you say?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:30:05] Well, actually, you're right, because comics and graphic novels are now far exceeding, books as the predominant way of people taking information in, especially those who find reading perhaps a little harder, and for me, I think the power of comics is best described by one of the comics we we've actually featured in our book, which was called Little Mo by Jenny Jinya. And I heard this horrific, horrific story about how many millions of birds died from plastic ingestion, you know out eating bits of plastic on the oceans and the open seas. But I couldn't ever get that in my brain, millions, it's just it's just very ephemeral and hard to grab hold of. Whereas Little Mo is a story about an albatross mother whose chick is sick and she's trying to go out and find food for her chick, and she invariably, unfortunately, is feeding it cigarette butts and plastic waste because she doesn't know what else to do. And in trying to save her chick, she actually kills it. And I've had scores of people come up to me at various signing events and say that that story changed their life, because every time they held a bit of plastic in their hands, they thought, if I'm putting it in this bin or this bin, is that going to end up in a in a bird's stomach. And that went on to get tens of millions of views.

Christiana: [00:31:30] Wow.

Tom: [00:31:32] It's, it's I mean that one I remember I also remember there's one with a tortoise, isn't there. Yeah, yeah, tell us about that one.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:31:40] Well, this was this is actually one of the most seen bits of environmental content on the planet, and if you guys have got a moment, do sort of check out us on social media, which is Rewriting Earth and myself, Paul Goodenough, because it's it's such a heartbreaking story. And we worked with the incredible, group called Dinosaur Couch on it. And I remember being on the brainstorm because all of our stories come from brainstorms. We put somebody who knows about the matter like a subject matter expert. We put a comic person, we put like a celebrity, whatever it might be. And we were in it and I was talking to the team and we said, how are we going to get dinosaurs into this. Because that's their brand. They do dinosaur comics. And someone said, I don't know if it was even me, actually. But someone said, wouldn't it be sad if the dinosaurs knew they were going to die out, and they asked somebody else to look after the planet after they're gone. And, it was, yeah, it was, it was, we all felt it on the call. We said you had a dinosaur talking to a tortoise, and he just says, promise me you'll look after the planet after I'm gone. And you skip forward in time. And this little tortoise is watching deforestation. It's watching oil getting dropped into the sea. And it's looking at all these factories that are taking over the planet. And he just says, I promised, please. And it's just oh, but yeah, that's been seen by just again, tens if not hundreds of millions of people now, that's just on the channels that we run, let alone it's spread outwards.

Christiana: [00:33:12] Wow.

Tom: [00:33:13] Christiana.

Christiana: [00:33:16] You know, Paul, the wisdom of form to communicate, I was just thinking as you were sharing perhaps the most distinguished, well-read historian intellectual, I would even say philosopher of our times, Yuval Noah Harari, has sold 45 million copies of his books in 65 languages. So it's not it's not certainly not for lack of writing or selling books, but I think it's very interesting that he then chose to publish what he calls a graphic novel, which is taking his books on history and putting them into comic form for children and not just children. And I think that that step of Harari was such an interesting step, because he could not have come to the conclusion, I'm not selling enough books.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:34:31] No.

Christiana: [00:34:33] Right. And so he must have and we haven't talked to him about this, but he must have come to the conclusion that the books are doing their job, obviously. And how can he go deeper in his communication. I just think it's fascinating, fascinating that he then basically came to the same conclusion that that you came to.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:35:02] Absolutely. And I think for me, just to go back to the point I was making before, I think we all whenever we're communicating, we need to remember that people aren't necessarily like us, for example, there are people out there who are Amazon delivery drivers, they've just done a double shift. They've been peeing into a bottle in the back of their van, and they're coming back to a tiny home, maybe on their own.

Christiana: [00:35:25] With a screaming child.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:35:26] With a screaming child. Yeah. And they often have extreme amounts of sadness in their life. And I tend to think about a thing that I call the, the currency of attention. And people nowadays would almost rather give us their money than, than their attention. And if for me, if we want to reach the biggest possible audience, we have to basically give them as much value for their attention as we physically can, think of it like an exchange at a shop. They're looking for value, so we all work at different parts of that spectrum. Some people work on having people for much longer. I work on the smallest part of the spectrum, the 40 seconds or lower the quick pick up read it while you're on the train, the forward it in your in your WhatsApp groups. And it's exactly your point. It's that comics distil down from a big thing to a smaller thing. And I'm, with Rewriting Earth, I'm trying to do that even smaller again. Video, music, computer games, board games, anything that basically can reach out and say to someone, look, we want to put our arm around you and make it easy for you to come into environmentalism.

Tom: [00:36:39] So I'd love to ask you, sorry, Paul.

Paul: [00:36:41] I was going to say, didn't you say tell people the stories and entertain them at the same time?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:36:45] Absolutely. They've got to have something for it, you've got to give them something.

Tom: [00:36:49] Yeah. And I think what's interesting in those examples that you just gave, I mean, with the, with the, with the comic strips, I mean, we could feel it just on this podcast right. It cuts straight to enable people to feel a reality that is actually before you came on, Paul made the point about Stalin's quote that one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic, right. And actually, that can often be what we struggle with. There's all this noise of tragedy and breakdown, but we kind of feel weirdly disassociated from it, and we can't actually get to the heart to feel it. And I think one of the things I've observed, both reading your book and also seeing others read it, is that there are these moments of these incredibly profound touchpoints that I sort of didn't expect in a, in a four, you know, a four image comic. You get there really quickly. And it is also, you know, to the title of this podcast, it's light and shade, right. You have optimistic, funny things and you have very sad things, and you have to kind of intersperse between them. So how are you now taking that and translating that more for a digital audience with short form videos and other content that you're putting online? And how's that going? And then after that, I want to ask you where this is all leading and what all of this exposure actually turns into?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:37:56] Yeah. So what we are doing a lot more of now is video content, a lot of people probably know that we've worked with a number of celebrities, and what we did is we told their story through comics, which was natural for some celebrities and not natural for others. So we're now moving into things where we're working with folks to tell their story through video. So things like the Oblivia Coalmine video doing more like that. Having fun finding original and new ways of getting it into the media cycle, you know, so that PR people can actually grab on to something and entertaining people, but giving them, again, a warm arm around their shoulder to welcome them in and just to sort of quickly move on from that or carry on from that. For me, I think we need to learn from things like the gym industry, because when I was growing up, a gym was where fit people went to get fitter. Over the last 20 years, what they've done is they've switched that around and said the gym is somewhere you go to be healthy, and it doesn't matter if you're going on a treadmill or you're basically bench pressing 300, you're all welcome. And that's how I think we need to try and get environmentalism to feel. And not everyone has to lift the same weight, but everyone does have to be in the gym.

Christiana: [00:39:18] Interesting, very interesting analogy. Paul, and I'm curious whether that is related to your change of title, because you started working under the name Rewriting Extinction, and then you moved to Rewriting Earth. How and when did you make that change and why, and why?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:39:44] There's a public answer and an offline answer.

Christiana: [00:39:47] Well, guess which one we want.

Tom: [00:39:49] Let's have both.

Paul: [00:39:50] Both.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:39:51] So the simple answer is people kept thinking we were Extinction Rebellion, and we were getting basically blackballed for funding because people were so lazy, they didn't actually think to even look into what we did. And so that was one of the main reasons. And there was particularly a really big project, in America.

Christiana: [00:40:09] You know, honestly, I think that's a compliment to Extinction Rebellion.

Tom: [00:40:12] It is.

Christiana: [00:40:13] That there's such name recognition that people don't know the difference. Good on them, good name recognition. Sorry for you, but good on them.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:40:21] So yeah, so that was one of it. But also we wanted to expand out what we're doing. You know, we wanted to basically reach people of different in different ways and different manners and actually not just make it about extinction. Because one of the things that I feel is, I know you guys spoke to Hannah about this before, about the data science, and is we are too focused on the fire and not the fire extinguishers, so Rewriting Earth is a bit more of a positive as well.

Tom: [00:40:46] So, so help us understand, you know, people are absorbing this content. They're having these moments of profound connection. It's sometimes funny, sometimes joyful, sometimes sad. It's kind of so what, what happens, so what if millions of billions of people experience that?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:41:00] Yeah. So what we try and do, Tom, is we we make the the content that sits as a spear tip on other people's campaigns. So say, for example, that you guys wanted to really push home, the SDGs are at the halfway point now and we're off schedule and we need to get more money into the SDGs, we'll say, okay, great. You tell us, the audience you want to reach, what they look and feel like, what their factors are, to stop them from doing something. And we will make content against that, to act as a spear tip, as a spear tip of your campaign. And then whether it's behavioural change, whether it's petitions, whatever it might be, we make that content and we don't want to be the experts. We don't want to pretend that we know more about, for example, sustainable development than everyone on this podcast, because we clearly don't. But what we do understand is people. People's lives who don't look and sound like you. We're like a translation service, basically. So we take the French that comes in and translate it into German, out the other end.

Christiana: [00:42:11] You take the scientific gibberish and translate it into human, how's that?

Paul: [00:42:16] You take the self-satisfied hectoring and turn it into an invitation to join.

Christiana: [00:42:21] Wait, wait, scientific policy, economic. I mean, you know, that whole that whole gibberish, that, that we use is quite wide and then you translate it into human. I love that.

Tom: [00:42:33] Into human, I like that. 

Christiana: [00:42:34] Into human, yeah.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:42:36] It's exactly that. And actually you're saying about that international stuff. We're doing that right at the moment, trying to point out the relationship between international finance and how debt relief could actually help some of the, the, the countries that can do the most about climate change to actually adapt. And actually, that's going to that's going to help all of us. So we find again, funny simple little ways of doing that in a story.

Christiana: [00:42:57] And we're going to see a comic about that?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:42:58] Oh yeah. There's, you can already see some we've done the past and there's a new one coming out next week.

Tom: [00:43:04] Oh nice. All right. We'll put it in the show notes.

Christiana: [00:43:06] Yeah, I mean Tom and Paul Dickinson, we can just shut down the podcast, okay. Because we tend to stay in the in the space of this gibberish constantly, so maybe we should just.

Paul: [00:43:23] But I don't think you're appreciating the impact of the fourth or fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. AR6 made clear that radiative forcing is completely off the charts. If we don't make some kind of sulfate aerosol geoengineering intervention to fundamentally reduce the energy from the sun by 1 to 3%, you know, it's it's curtains. But, Paul.

Tom: [00:43:42] You should make a make a comic with Paul about that, that would be really good.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:43:45] Yeah, that's simple, one panel, one panel.

Paul: [00:43:49] How do people, you know, if you need, `you know, help getting your message punched through, how do people contact you?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:43:57] It's very simple, honestly. I mean, just you can do it through the website, social media. Instagram is our big, big place. Either myself, Paul Goodnough or Rewriting Earth. Very, very simple to get hold of us. I'm Paul Goodenough on any platform you could imagine. 

Paul: [00:44:11] We'll put this in the show notes for sure.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:44:12] Yeah, absolutely. And we basically read everything.

Christiana: [00:44:15] And and Paul, how do you choose which topics to engage with, which topics to translate into human? How do you choose that?

 Paul Goodenough: [00:44:24] Yeah. So we don't, is the simple answer. We work with a whole collaboration of people. So people like in the Climate Coalition, we work with experts and we work with climate scientists who say we and they'll say to us, we think there's an inflection point here. There's something you can do. You can help us change public opinion on this thing, or you can help us get penetration on that thing. And if that thing is unchanged, we can make this effect. We did it with, for example, the Global Oceans Treaty. So, there was needed more signatures. It was on I think it was stuck on about 4 million signatures. And we made a little comic and Instagram live and got about an extra million signatures, in the first three hours as an example. But that is abnormal. That was very, very good.

Paul: [00:45:08] Super, super inspiring work. And congratulations on bringing so many, extremely famous and significant people into kind of our movement. And if I'm not mistaken, doing it by asking these celebrities what they wanted to communicate rather than asking, asking them, will you communicate what I want to communicate. So just thank you for that little bit of genius here, which is at the heart of communicating with the communicators.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:45:31] Thanks, man. And yeah, that's exactly it. I mean, at the end of the day, I'm a storyteller. I'm not the person with the story.

Tom: [00:45:38] So, Paul Goodenough. Thank you so much for joining us. It's been a joy to see you and so inspiring to hear the work you're doing and the impact you're having, every guest that comes on the podcast, we ask them a closing question, which is, please can you tell us something that and specifically around the topic we've been talking about around communications and narrative, what makes you feel optimistic and what makes you outraged? I always do that, what makes you outraged and what makes you optimistic?

Paul: [00:46:03] Basically Tom's been getting it in the wrong order for like five years now. But anyway.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:46:07] I know, don't worry, I've heard it a few times now, but actually, Tom, could I actually answer it the the way you first questioned it? Because it makes more sense this way to me. So the thing that I'm optimistic about is I think we are just on the cusp of getting mass public engagement behind us. Just having everyone feel the same way. I think we are really, really close there. And I think once we get everybody pushing in the same way, we'll start seeing environmentalism the same way as we saw things like the pride movement and BLM, where supermarkets and shops and schools were devoting time and love to it, and it just made sure that it felt like it was, we all had one heart pushing in the same direction, and I think we're really close to it. My outrage is that it usually takes something horrible and horrific to make that happen. So with BLM, the George Floyd murder, with, with various forms of the LGBTQ plus world, people had to die and suffer. And that's what I'm outraged about. So I'm trying as much as I can to get that public heart behind it without having to have a horrible disaster.

Tom: [00:47:19] Amazing. That's a great answer. Paul, thank you very much. Wonderful to see you. Congratulations on the brilliant work, hope I'm sure we will see you soon. And, thanks for joining us.

 Paul Goodenough: [00:47:28] No worries and lots of love guys.

Tom: [00:47:30] Cheers.

Christiana: [00:47:30] Thanks.

Paul: [00:47:30] Thank you Paul, bye for now.

Tom: [00:47:39] So, Paul, sadly, Christiana has had to drop off because, that interview took longer than we thought because Paul Goodenough was so fascinating, what did you learn from that conversation? When did you take away from it?

Paul: [00:47:49] I'm just inspired by someone who, thinks about communications in incredibly practical sense, you know, I don't think any one person has the answer to climate change communications, but I absolutely sense that Paul Goodenough is somebody who has a very interesting, answer, something really to contribute to the to the whole debate about how climate change communication should occur. And, his, his ability to sort of marshal, celebrity content and his, his, do you know what I think maybe his most significant is that he has a passion for kind of comics, and he brought his passion to climate change. And maybe that to me is is the great gift here. Here's a communicator with a passion who applies it. What did you make of it?

Tom: [00:48:40] Yeah, I mean, I've, I have long been inspired by Paul. I mean, we knew each other a few years ago. I haven't seen so much of him recently. But one thing that struck me there is he's done something amazing. If you look at his book, which I would recommend listeners to buy, you can get it, you know, on Amazon or wherever you get your books, The Most Important Comic Book on Earth. And he gets an incredible participation from incredibly senior, celebrities. And actually, he is a person. You can kind of see how he did it, because he's so humble and willing to give everyone else the credit. Like you think about the number of times in that conversation you said, well, I'm just lazy, you know, I'm just trying to find my way here. You're all the experts. He kept like, you know, giving away all of that, kept trying to give all of the accolades to everybody else as a kind of character trait and that like, intrinsic generosity. And I know him well enough to sort of say that really is him to the core, I think is a key part of how he's been successful, because he's been able to bring people together because they can see he's not trying to build this for his own ego.

Tom: [00:49:38] He's motivated by the outcome and a whole range of other things that I think are inspiring about his story. I mean, when he got going in this space, he had no experience of like climate funding, so he just paid for it himself, put all his savings into it to make it happen. You know, that's an amazing story, that someone is prepared to do that rather than pay off their mortgage in order to create a product in the world. And he's gone on and created content that to me feels deeply intrinsic, very funny, very sad, it sort of cuts straight to where, to meet you in a manner that sort of changes you. I still remember, many of the strips that I read in his book a few years ago, and I already knew a lot about climate change by then right. I mean, this was already like the Glasgow COP. It's only a few years ago, but it's still touched me in a really deep way. I think he's providing a remarkable service, actually.

Paul: [00:50:26] I know I couldn't agree with you more. And, the most important comic book in the world is that the title of the book?

Tom: [00:50:33] The Most Important Comic Book on Earth, that's the title, [00:50:36] Stories to Save the World. [00:50:38]

Paul: [00:50:38] It's very clever to go and put the kind of thing the commentary about, as the title. I remember somebody put the what was it called, an Earth, an earth, an earth shattering work of staggering genius or something. And I was like, that's the thing that's normally written on the back, and they put it on the front. But, no, I mean, you know, what a what a superstar, in a way. And I was thinking, actually, of Schindler's List. I don't know if anyone's ever seen that film Schindler's List, but it's a it's a very powerful film, of an extraordinary story. And the point Steven Spielberg makes quite brilliantly in the film is that Oskar Schindler didn't necessarily start off being a good person, but he got touched by something small, or he was doing something kind of practical, but he developed the sort of will to good or the process of good, and it turned him into an extraordinarily good person who did some amazing work, to, to to rescue people from, from the unimaginable horrors of, of all of that.

Tom: [00:51:27] And we're not describing we're not saying Paul Goodenough is like Oskar Schindler, of course are we.

Paul: [00:51:32] Well, why not? I mean, I mean, Oskar Schindler is is recognized in the kind of annals of time as a very, very great human. And and Paul Goodenough is young and give him give them time. You know, maybe, maybe, maybe the best is yet to come with Paul Goodenough, you know, but he's just achieved amazing things already. Just one other thing. I would mention that he, I picked up on a podcast where he was talking. He spoke about actually being at Goal's House, I think it was in Glasgow at the informal meeting, although it was kind of a bit select, but it was convened by Freuds Communications anyway, he said the informality of it was incredibly powerful. So I think just I wanted to sort of salute. Here's someone who's into comic books, who's had a really interesting career in comedy and has become a very interesting actor in terms of climate change, and is still relatively young and may do all sorts of incredible things. With anyone listening to this show, please reach out to him. You know, he claims that he has this power to break through. We all want to break through. This is the perfect time for us to do some collaboration.

Tom: [00:52:35] Love it. Great. All right, so I think that's it, hope you've enjoyed this week's episode. I think it's been a really fascinating one, actually. And, I am off to the spring meetings today, so I will be in the US, for the next few weeks. When I cross the Atlantic, I try and make it count for a few weeks. So I'm going to be in DC and New York and a couple of other places back in a few weeks time. So, we'll be speaking to you from there, and no doubt that will be.

Paul: [00:52:58] This technology does work, transatlantically Right. And we haven't lost you completely.

Tom: [00:53:01] No, no, no, I will still be on the podcast. In fact, I'll be with Christiana, so that'll be fun.

Paul: [00:53:05] There you go.

Tom: [00:53:06] All right.

Paul: [00:53:06] Well have fun.

Tom: [00:53:06] Lovely to see you, Paul. And, see you all next week. Bye.

Paul: [00:53:10] See you. Tom, see you all later. Bye.

Clay: [00:53:16] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. Clay here, producer, thank you so much for joining us this week on the podcast. I'm aware many new listeners are joining us this week, and we can't thank you enough for taking the time always better when we're together. And what a privilege to have Paul Goodenough on from Rewriting Earth. Now we always encourage listeners to give a follow to our guests online, and this week is an extra fun one to share, especially because these pieces and posts that Paul and Rewriting Earth are making, they generate so much positive engagement and empathy and understanding and learning. I don't know what your algorithm looks like, but mine desperately needs some more. So I am following Paul and Rewriting Earth at Paul Goodenough and at Rewriting Earth. Easy to find, I know at least that's their Instagram accounts. But go check out the influential and needle moving work that they're doing. Links are available in the show notes and be like Paul, be lazy. Just click the link. Don't worry about typing it in. It's so easy. And what better way to celebrate this day, week and month as more and more people are thinking about the sustainability of the planet, what stories are going to reach people. Well, as you heard, Paul Goodenough has a book, The Most Important Comic Book on Earth: Stories to Save the World. There are stories in there by Cara Delevingne, Ricky Gervais, Jane Goodall, Scott Snyder and Taika Waititi. Run, Don't Walk, available wherever books are sold. Link in the show notes. Go check it out.

Clay: [00:55:03] Okay, no musical guest this week, but, next week on Thursday, we will have a special musical guest for Earth Day Week, where Tom and Christiana will be in New York together and keep an eye out for an episode going live on Monday, which is actually Earth Day. I'm like 99% sure we have one going out. I probably be able to give you 100% answer on Friday, but it's not Friday. It's Wednesday here in Detroit and Thursday morning London time. So 99% is all I have again, just, you know, keep your eyes open for something on Monday dropping in your podcasts feed from us. And the best way to make sure that you do not miss Monday's, you know, 99% that it's happening. But don't come after me. If it doesn't, don't come to my house and knock on the door and wake me up or anything. The best way to not miss that is to hit subscribe right in your podcast app, where you're subscribing to our podcast Outrage + Optimism. I'll give you a second to do that. Actually, that silence kind of felt aggressive, not my intention. And we will be sharing Outrage + Optimism in your feeds online on social media. So check the show notes to follow us. Stay tuned for everything cool happening during Earth Week next week. So you know, Earth Day, Earth Week. I'm sure it's Earth Month. I'm sure it is. It's got to be. It's all happening. We're glad to be together for it. Okay, that's all from us. We will see you right back here next week.


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