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244: Movies, Mosses and Stories to Change the World

With Kara Hurst

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About this episode

This week, Tom and Christiana are in Seattle recording in the Amazon studio where they are joined by special guest Kara Hurst, Chief Sustainability Officer at Amazon. Together they bring you an eclectic mix of topics of outrage and optimism ranging from the introduction of the Bechdel test for climate change, storytelling with the National Geographic and mosses!

The nature sounds that close the podcast come from One Square Inch located in the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park. Thanks goes to Quiet Parks International for allowing us to use the audio of this oasis of calm and quiet. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do! 


Kara Hurst, Chief Sustainability Officer at Amazon
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Gordon Hempton, Bioacoustician and Co-Founder of Quiet Parks International
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Full Transcript

Tom: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage + Optimism. I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Christiana: [00:00:15] I'm Christiana Figueres.

Tom: [00:00:17] Today we're coming to you from a studio in Seattle, in person with a very special guest.

Christiana: [00:00:21]  A professional studio.

Tom: [00:00:22] Professional studio with a very special guest talking about what makes us outraged and optimistic. Thanks for being here. So Christiana, this is big for us. We are actually, it feels.

Christiana: [00:00:48] I mean, how did we get to be in a real recording studio.

Tom: [00:00:52] Does it feel like we've grown up.

Christiana: [00:00:54] Yeah, but the problem is this is only today we don't get to keep the studio and we don't get to come back here next week. 

Tom: [00:01:01] You know what, we did this once before, and actually that's where Clay came from. So I don't know if listeners know this, but once before we recorded a podcast in a studio in Detroit and Clay Carnill was the studio.

Christiana: [00:01:13] At the very beginning.

Tom: [00:01:13] The very beginning. Exactly, exactly. Anyway.

Christiana: [00:01:16] And since then, we haven't had anything like this.

Tom: [00:01:18] We've just done it remotely. But today is very special. So we're in Seattle. We've been here all week having amazing meetings, talking about much of the work we're doing that we'll get into it, but we are not alone and the person we're joined with is not Paul Dickinson. So, now we have a very special guest and I'm going to let you introduce her, Christiana. But I'm going to tell you something first that you said about this woman that we're sitting next to when she was named in TIME as one of the 100 most influential leaders in climate. And you said her willingness to stand up and show the way is what makes her exceptional. And I, for one, am glad and grateful to have someone with her grace, intelligence and fierce commitment in such a pivotal position at such a pivotal time. Load More
Christiana: [00:02:03] Ah, that is a really nice thing to say and so deserved, right.

Tom: [00:02:08] Kara Hurst, Chief Sustainability Officer of Amazon, at last, welcome to Outrage + Optimism.

Christiana: [00:02:14] Kara Hurst of Amazon, so delighted to have you.

Tom: [00:02:16] Christiana is tearing up.

Christiana: [00:02:17] I know, I'm tearing up because it really is true Kara.

Tom: [00:02:21] Now we've been friends with Kara for a long time. We work together, we do all kinds of things. It's truly wonderful to have you on the show, so welcome.

Kara Hurst: [00:02:28] I am beyond thrilled to be here and to welcome you to Seattle, and.

Tom: [00:02:34] And to your studio.

Kara Hurst: [00:02:36] You are welcome in the studio anytime. I hope you come and stay here every week.

Christiana: [00:02:40] We'll be back next week, thank you.

Tom: [00:02:41] This is the very studio listeners where Alexa voices are recorded. So I'm just going to tell you we're in the Amazon building. We're very excited. Thank you to everyone here who made this possible. So, Kara, we are we're inviting you here to participate in this kind of new form of Outrage + Optimism. This is only the second week, but you get to be part of the trial run, where we all bring something that we're outraged and optimistic about. And we're going to get into that in just a minute. You have been chief.

Christiana: [00:03:07] Wait, wait, Tom, can we just say something? This just, listeners should just know that this is not, it's the first but it's not the last time that we get to talk to Kara, because we're coming up on the fifth anniversary of the Climate Pledge, which is a partnership between Amazon and Global Optimism. But we will Kara ask you if you can come back for a more traditional format with us and be a formal guest, in which you will be interviewed and grilled by the three of us, if you can take that, closer to the fifth anniversary, which is September.

Tom: [00:03:40] September, yeah.

Christiana: [00:03:41] September. So this is the first trial run, and then we will have you back in September and you will probably be sitting here. You will probably be sitting in this gorgeous recording studio, and we will be behind our little zoom monitors, probably.

Tom: [00:03:56] So in that context, we're very much going to have you on as the CSO of Amazon and the co-founder of the Climate Pledge, which is something we have been thrilled to be running with you for the last five years. But today you're here as our friend because we love chatting to you.

Christiana: [00:04:09] As Kara.

Tom: [00:04:09] As Kara. So I'm going to bring us back to task, though. We're going to crack on and I'm going to go first this week, if that's all right with you. And the thing that I am outraged about this week is that less than 10% of movies in the last decade acknowledge that climate change exists. Okay. So we'll turn to you in a minute, but let me just break this down for you. Now last month, a non-profit group called Good Energy Story launched what it called the Bechdel test for climate change. Do you know what the Bechdel test was?

Kara Hurst: [00:04:38] No.

Tom: [00:04:40] Christiana?

Christiana: [00:04:40] Well, now you've educated me so.

Tom: [00:04:42] She seen my briefing note. Okay, so the Bechdel test, it's worth explaining this little bit of history. This was created in 1985 to look at female representation in movies.

Kara Hurst: [00:04:52] Oh I do know this, yes.

Tom: [00:04:53] There you go, okay.

Kara Hurst: [00:04:54] Yes, now I'm remembering.

Tom: [00:04:54] So it has three criteria. Number one, are there two named female characters. Number two, do they speak to each other. And number three, do they speak to each other about something other than a male love interest, right. Fairly low bar, I would imagine, okay. However, in the last 40 years only 46.9% of movies have passed this test. And the BBC recently analysed that more movies passed it in the 1930s than passed it in 2018. So that's just a little bit of background.

Christiana: [00:05:27] Ouch, that really hurts.

Tom: [00:05:29] I, know. So that's a source of outrage in and of itself. But what I wanted to talk about this week is that there is now a Bechdel test for climate change. And there are two criteria. The movie has to acknowledge that climate change exists and a character has to know it somewhere in the film. And only 10% of movies passed this test. Now, I think this is an interesting thing for us to get into because on one level, I feel like climate change is like the underlying cultural issue of our day that should infuse so much around how we understand this moment in history. And on another level, I don't necessarily want to turn on Netflix and kind of see storylines about climate all the time. So I wanted to bring that because I'm outraged about it, because it's so small. But I also feel like it's a little bit complicated. So what do you two think about that finding?

Kara Hurst: [00:06:19] My first thought is I want to see the Venn diagram between the gender.

Tom: [00:06:23] That's a good point.

Kara Hurst: [00:06:24] The gender and the climate change but I'm afraid of that data, that it would be sub 1% or something very depressed. But yeah, I mean, there is a form of entertainment which is escapism, right. And the climate anxiety is so high, I can I see your point about, you know, are we infusing our entertainment with the reality of the day, or is it meant to distract, and is it meant to be a form of escapism. But I think more and more our entertainment does, is a mirror to ourselves and does reflect back the reality that we're living in. And if we're not showing that reality that we all experience and whether that's, you know, increasing heat indexes and, you know, floods and fires and all the effects of climate change that people are feeling right. And that people are in many places around the world losing the places that they live right. Or their homes are under threat, that that's a reality we should be talking about.

Tom: [00:07:28] That should be getting baked into our culture in some way.

Kara Hurst: [00:07:30] Absolutely, and I think you can do that in ways that are subtle.

Tom: [00:07:34] How would you do that?

Kara Hurst: [00:07:34] Well, I think you can talk about, you know, species loss. You can talk about, you know, what that means to our food systems. And you don't have to use all the terminology that we use. I think that's very alienating, you know, in sustainability, I think you can talk about it. What does it mean to our food system, you know, and weave those kinds of things into storylines.

Christiana: [00:07:55] Or specific foods. What does it mean to coffee, what does it mean to wine, what does it mean to chocolate.

Kara Hurst: [00:07:58] Right, or have a character drive an EV and talk about that. And, you know.

Tom: [00:08:03] That's a great point actually, because that then integrates it into what's aspirational in our culture right. And it stops kind of fetishizing these high carbon lifestyles and makes it more normal.

Kara Hurst: [00:08:11] Absolutely.

Christiana: [00:08:12] So for me, there is a challenge here, which is obviously our, our, our mantra in life at Outrage + Optimism. And the challenge is to bring what I would call a warning sign into these movies. So yes, we are living in a very precarious moment, but also not stay there, but also then at some point in the movie indicate that there is hope, that there is a light that we can, that we have agency, that we can do something about it. I think, you know, where where I would get really upset is if movies incorporated more information of climate change and made me feel more hopeless or more helpless, then we've really defeated the purpose of the whole thing. If movies are actually there to be the basis of emerging culture, then the emerging culture around climate should be understanding the science and knowing what's happening, but also giving me the tools to know that I can do something about that. I as an individual, I as a mayor, I, as you know, the head of my household or, you know, whatever many roles that we play in life. So that's a difficult challenge, right. And it's a challenge that, that we always struggle with on a daily basis on that podcast, and, and, and that we see so many people struggling with because it's easy to fall into either one of those baskets. It's easy to fall into the doom and gloom. That's really easy. Or you can close your eyes and go into la la land, right. And say, oh, well, you know, everything is going to be fine. We have, you know, renewables and we have EVs and we have batteries and. 

Tom: [00:09:54] Which doesn't serve anybody. 

Christiana: [00:09:55] Yeah, which doesn't serve anybody either. So it's it's not an easy challenge. It's not an easy challenge because in order to be effective or in order to help us understand and take action on climate, it would have to walk that very, very difficult narrow line.

Tom: [00:10:14] Yeah. Do you do you guys know the story of, the designated driver campaign? That's actually something else, which I think is really interesting. That was it's a collaboration between studios right, they came together. Is that right?

Kara Hurst: [00:10:23] Yeah. And I think Mothers Against Drunk Driving was the leader involved.

Tom: [00:10:27] Okay. Mothers Against Drunk Driving. But also there was a collaboration of studios that decided to just normalize in culture the idea that anytime people were drinking on screen, one person would say, I'm the designated driver. So it was never pushed down their throat because I think one of the interesting statistics I saw recently is here in the US, 80% of people feel like the climate movement isn't welcoming to people like them.

Kara Hurst: [00:10:50] Interesting.

Tom: [00:10:51] And I think part of that is just how moralizing it's become, right. It's about, it's about guilt, it's about other things. So in a way.

Christiana: [00:10:57] Pointing the blaming finger.

Tom: [00:10:59] Pointing the blaming finger, like part of what I think culture can do is, is sort of not tell anyone they're doing anything wrong or highlight bad behaviours. It can just normalize how we could all engage and actually make it part of our lives.

Kara Hurst: [00:11:10] Yeah, and who doesn't want cleaner air to breathe. And healthier communities, yeah.

Tom: [00:11:15] Right.

Christiana: [00:11:16] More energy efficient appliances at home.

Tom: [00:11:18] Yeah. So I'm going to give you a few movies that have passed the Bechdel test for climate change.

Christiana: [00:11:22] Okay.

Tom: [00:11:23] The amazing Spider-Man 2, The Fantastic Four, Aquaman. There's an interesting trend here, actually, they're all kind of.

Kara Hurst: [00:11:30] Are they all superhero movies?

Tom: [00:11:31] Godzilla v's Kong.

Christiana: [00:11:33] All sci fi?

Tom: [00:11:33] Yeah, exactly. Jurassic World Domination. That's interesting actually, isn't it?

Christiana: [00:11:37] Sci fi.

Tom: [00:11:38] Yeah, slightly sci fi movies.

Kara Hurst: [00:11:39] Interesting.

Tom: [00:11:40] Great. Anything else on this?

Christiana: [00:11:42] Well, you didn't mention any of the cli-fi.

Tom: [00:11:46] Well, cli-fi I think is a is a literary genre, right. It's this climate fiction. I'm not sure there's an enormous amount, although it kind of gets in in some of the dystopic things. Can you think of examples?

Christiana: [00:11:56] Well, what was the movie that everybody loved and that I didn't?

Tom: [00:11:59] You can't tell everybody that you didn't like that movie.

Christiana: [00:12:01] Okay, I can't tell. All right, all right, all right, all right. That will remain a secret.

Tom: [00:12:04] You know, it's just hitting me as we sit here that one of us runs one of the world's largest production studios. But maybe we shouldn't. I can't quite think why that's coming to me quite so late in the day. Kara, maybe we won't put you on the point.

Kara Hurst: [00:12:17] Well, no, I my other question, I guess, is what qualifies under the test? You know what, what is when climate change is, qualified as coming up in a movie, I'd be really curious what's the definition of that? Is it any mention of climate. Is it any mention of, you know, what are the kind of what's the rubric testing.

Tom: [00:12:39] It is very, very light. So any mention at all, it can even be written on a, on a, like somewhere behind, like some indication that it exists.

Kara Hurst: [00:12:46] So very subtle.

Tom: [00:12:47] It's very subtle.

Christiana: [00:12:48] But what about a movie like The Day After Tomorrow that is all about, that's cli-fi?

Tom: [00:12:53] That's a great question. And also, I mean, Don't Look Up is listed in here, even though they don't actually mention climate change.

Christiana: [00:12:59] Avatar, you would also see.

Tom: [00:13:00] Avatar. Game of Thrones. 

Christiana: [00:13:02] Game of Thrones. 

Tom: [00:13:02] Many people said was actually about climate change, yeah. That's actually a really good point. In a way. The analogies are more powerful where you have this kind of like, deeper thing that people can see themselves in, rather than trying to talk specifically about it, yeah.

Christiana: [00:13:16] Okay.

Tom: [00:13:18] Amazon Studios is trying to deal with this issue?

Kara Hurst: [00:13:20] I mean, absolutely, I think to try and make it a theme within and and everything from children's programming to documentaries to, you know, the the content that's produced in series. So, yeah.

Tom: [00:13:32] Okay, nice. All right, thank you. Kara?

Christiana: [00:13:36] Kara, what would you like to bring?

Kara Hurst: [00:13:38] Well, I think we'll, continue a little bit on maybe the, the storytelling aspect, but in a different way. I'm optimistic.

Tom: [00:13:47] All right.

Kara Hurst: [00:13:48] I thought I'd try to bring some optimism.

Christiana: [00:13:50] Yay!

Kara Hurst: [00:13:51] I do love outrage, but I thought I'd bring some optimism. And one of the things that, I have been really trying to obsess a little bit about is that lane of storytellers in the climate movement, and I had the opportunity yesterday to speak to a group of women leaders, women executives at Amazon, who are working all across our entertainment businesses. So everything from our gaming with Twitch to our studios businesses to some of our ads businesses, and talk to them a little bit about the ways that they are working within those businesses to tell stories and to use our platforms to talk to customers. And I thought it was really interesting, they invited me in as someone working on sustainability, to talk to them about what we're doing, to figure out are there partnerships that we could create and to bring that sustainability, exactly that, to bring that sustainability aspect more into what they are doing. But their concept of entertainment and storytelling was, you know, is very broadly defined, right. Because you think about gaming as a place where so many people.

Tom: [00:14:52] That's amazing, yeah.

Kara Hurst: [00:14:53] Are really engaging in content in a different way. And we're reaching different generations. And what can we do there. And one of the things that I'm super optimistic about is we have, you know, over the years I've been involved in sustainability. I've said this a few times already, I think during this conversation is I do think the jargon that we use and some of the policy that we create around sustainability is very alienating to people right. And we tend to use a lot of words and things that either make people feel that they are disconnected from the issue, or they are disempowered or they can't do anything about it, or that it's fatalistic and it's going to happen and there's just not much they can do. And I think telling stories of change and telling stories of ways in which we still have time in this decisive decade, but also where communities have turned things around or where amazing things have happened, either inventions have happened, new technologies have been created, or where people have even done very simple things in their communities to make a healthier connection for themselves and their families, I think are just incredibly powerful. And those small changes are so needed right now because we're going to need each and every person. We're going to need big corporations to do things. We're going to need governments to do things, and we will and we are.

Kara Hurst: [00:16:12] But we also need people to be optimistic. And the power of story in that to me, is so inspiring. So we've done a couple of things that as I know you all are a part of through the Climate Pledge, where we have a partnership with National Geographic and their storytellers. And one of the things I love about that is it's not just, you know, the typical the documentarians, which are very important and telling the actual stories of climate change, but it's visual artists, you know, we started with there was a woman who was making just visual art out of peat moss, which was really incredible and taught people a lot about the preservation of peatlands and wetlands. But we also have someone we just funded who's a South African photographer, and he's documenting how on a global scale, the intersections of humans and animals and habitats and how they interact and sort of how we're on a quest for better planetary health. And we're talking about people who are, you know, documenting the lives of women and how they're interacting in their communities. And I thought back to one of the first movies I ever saw that actually, was illuminating for me, which is called Solar Mama. Have you ever seen that film?

Christiana: [00:17:24] No.

Kara Hurst: [00:17:24] It was about grandmothers being trained out of a village on how to be solar engineers, and.

Christiana: [00:17:30] So cool, probably in Africa.

Kara Hurst: [00:17:32] Yes, it's a barefoot college it was. And the reason they targeted grandmothers is because they, they started off training really young people to be solar engineers. But the young people would then leave and the grandmothers would go back to the village and stay and bring the solar engineering back to the village and change the lives of everyone in the village.

Christiana: [00:17:51] Love that.

Kara Hurst: [00:17:52] And so, you know, I think these stories and these different kind of, just inventions of the ways that communities can change, I think is so aspirational. And we all the other thing I just thought I'd bring up is we all visited The Arena, Climate Pledge Arena here in Seattle on, on Friday night.

Tom: [00:18:10] AJR, fantastic. They've been on the band, they've been on the podcast.

Kara Hurst: [00:18:13] Yeah, for the AJR show, which was phenomenal, and you know, that is in and of itself something that we did here that's a part of our storytelling, which is, you know, why would Amazon and the Climate Pledge work to take the naming rights to a big sports arena and name it Climate Pledge Arena? It's because we're reaching a whole different audience of folks, hockey fans and WNBA fans and music fans, and we've got climate education throughout the hallways of that arena, when people are in there to enjoy a game and they're there for entertainment, but they can also learn about climate in a really fun way, in you're you know, you're in there with your family, but you're walking through the hallways and you see the green wall, or you see the education about what different business are doing.

Christiana: [00:19:00] Well plus the food that is served.

Kara Hurst: [00:19:01] Everything about it.

Christiana: [00:19:02] Plus the waste that is not there.

Tom: [00:19:04] No rubbish bins was the thing that blew me away. 

Christiana: [00:19:04] No rubbish bins. That's so fantastic.

Tom: [00:19:05] None at all, just recycling.

Kara Hurst: [00:19:07] That's right. Zero waste facility, no plastics. We've got, you know, the greenest ice in the NHL, made from rainwater collected in the cisterns. I mean, there's so many different aspects of that which are just really fun stories to tell, right. Electric Zamboni's, who doesn't want to ride on an electric Zamboni.

Tom: [00:19:25] You're going to have to explain what an electric Zamboni is.

Kara Hurst: [00:19:27] In hockey, they clean the ice. The big machine that comes out and cleans the ice, it's called a Zamboni. We'll have to get you to a cracking game.

Tom: [00:19:34] All right.

Kara Hurst: [00:19:35] But, you know, that's in and of itself is a very physical manifestation of storytelling is to go into that building. And I think the other part of that that you just touched on in, in your outrage part, it's all a better experience. So you go in there, you don't lack anything. It's not, it's not oh, sustainability, it's a worse experience. It's a better experience. You know, you feel like who wants to go to an event and then leave and see a bunch of waste, you feel bad about it.

Christiana: [00:20:02] Garbage at the end, yeah, it's so clean, it's so.

Kara Hurst: [00:20:04] You don't want to see that, you go to this event, beautiful music, great hockey game.

Christiana: [00:20:10] Delicious food.

Kara Hurst: [00:20:11] Delicious food, locally sourced. And you leave and it's a clean venue, you know, and it's just it's just overall a better experience. So sustainability can be better for people.

Tom: [00:20:20] Why do you think so, I love that and I totally share that perspective that this the storytelling element that is now the momentum that we're building is because we're telling different narratives, we're imagining different futures. And and we've known that's been necessary for a while right. But we've been so bad at it.

Kara Hurst: [00:20:36] Terrible.

Tom: [00:20:37] We've really been so bad at it. It's all been about blame. It's been about guilt. None of it's been about where we can get to. Why have we been so bad and how can we do that better at scale?

Kara Hurst: [00:20:48] I wish I had the answer to that, I really do, but I think that's exactly what we have to work on and I, I want to be so optimistic that we can do it better, because I think for a long time, for some reason, the mental model around sustainability has been you have to take away something or you have to lose something, or you have to give up something. And I think.

Christiana: [00:21:09] It's a burden, it's a sacrifice.

Kara Hurst: [00:21:12] It's a sacrifice or it's a burden or.

Christiana: [00:21:13] Discomfort.

Kara Hurst: [00:21:14] Exactly. And I, I remember the first time I got my first EV, and everybody said, oh, well, you know, it's going to be a real pain. You're going to have to, you know, figure out how to charge it and do all this stuff. And it was like this mental model of it's going to be a pain. And I learned very quickly. I loved never having to go to a gas station. It was fantastic. So it turned out it made my life so much better. And I thought, why is no one talking about that, right. I loved never having to go to a gas station, and so I think this idea that I don't know where it came into being that, you know, sustainable luxury fashion can be much better. But somehow when you talk to people about sustainable clothes, they probably still conjure up a picture of scratchy hemp fabric or something, right. Not a beautifully made garment that is more durable and will last you longer.

Tom: [00:22:09] And there's I want to let you come in, Christiana, but there's there's also a tension, isn't there, because whenever nothing's perfect in this world, and whenever we try and tell a story about something that is inspiring, there's always a reason why it's not quite enough. And and that reason can sometimes be a pathway to actually removing momentum because it's good, but it's not quite there. So how, you know, there's something in there where we end up not quite allowing ourselves to celebrate the wins we do get, because as soon as we look down the valley around how far we've come, we also look up to the mountain and see how far it still is away. And so both are needed. But if you all you do is look up at the mountain, it's really exhausting.

Christiana: [00:22:48] And we somehow have this trait that we look for the shortcomings of the things that are new and different and better and, and, and we go at that with a lens of, let me see what's wrong with this. And we don't do the same thing with the habits.

Tom: [00:23:09] Oil refineries, yeah.

Christiana: [00:23:11] Yeah, or with having to go to a petrol station the whole time right.

Kara Hurst: [00:23:15] Right.

Christiana: [00:23:16] Because we've normalized the price, quote unquote, we've normalized the price that we pay for the habits that we have been using for decades, and we haven't normalized yet the price that we will have to pay because nothing is perfect, we will have to pay for our new habits. We will have to pay a different price that it was very often less than what we did. But we don't really compare that. At least we don't compare it objectively. Somehow the price that we pay for the better habits looms so much bigger because we haven't incorporated it yet. And then we focus on the negatives of it. Oh my god, I'm going to have to find a charging place. Yes, but you would have to go to a gasoline station anyway, right.

Kara Hurst: [00:24:10] Right, right, absolutely. And get out of your car in the rain and, you know, whatever else you have to do there. Yeah. I think, you know, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good right.

Tom: [00:24:18] There you go, yeah.

Kara Hurst: [00:24:18] And I and I think all of this progress comes with some price. But sometimes, you know, we just have to get so much better about telling our stories and really owning so much of the good, and then also really calling out, I think some of these benefits that are less noticeable too right. There's so many other things that are great about sustainability that we're not claiming, and we just need to get, you know, I think so much better about telling those stories. And I think we have so many amazing storytellers and so many people coming up in the next generation that are so eager to tell those stories and do so in so many compelling ways, I'm just so excited to hear their stories.

Tom: [00:25:00] And, I know we have to move on. But, one place I would say I always get inspired by that is young people from because I recently spent some time in Southeast Asia, young people in some of those middle income countries, the level of innovation and entrepreneurship and enthusiasm, they're aware of the climate crisis, but it gets immediately focused on what can I do, how can I accelerate. I always find that really inspiring. That's a great suggestion. I love your I love your optimism storytelling. Now, Christiana, I'm sure you're bringing something deep and technical associated with the energy system.

Christiana: [00:25:31] You know, yeah, I'll get there. But, the the previous CSO of Nike, Hannah Jones, who's now the CEO of the Earthshot Prize, when she was at Nike, I heard her speak very often and she constantly said, we take the carbon constraint as our most productive, richest invitation to invent and reinvent and reinvent. That's an attitudinal approach to a constraint, right, or to a price that we pay. And I just think that's that is such a refreshing, and and that's what really breaks down the barriers is not to see it as a constraint, but rather, thank God we have this constraint, because this actually forces us to think beyond the boundaries that we have invented for ourselves and within which we have operated for years. so it's all about our head. It's all about our mindset, right. How do we look at this, do we do we see it as an invitation or do we see it as a punishment.

Tom: [00:26:35] Right, or a thing to be a victim about.

Christiana: [00:26:37] Or a victim about. So my turn. Da da da da da. So I have a little question for both of you.

Tom: [00:26:45] All right.

Christiana: [00:26:46] What is tiny, really tiny, and almost ubiquitous in nature?

Tom: [00:26:57] Ooh, tiny and ubiquitous in nature.

Christiana: [00:27:00] Almost, almost ubiquitous.

Kara Hurst: [00:27:02] Seeds.

Christiana: [00:27:04] Okay, that's good.

Tom: [00:27:06] Fungi.

Christiana: [00:27:09] Let's say a plant.

Tom: [00:27:12] Okay, well, fungi isn't a plant. But it's, it's a plant is it that you're thinking about? Bacteria?

Christiana: [00:27:18] We're, now, come on. We're in Seattle, okay, this is the Olympics.

Tom: [00:27:24] Seafood.

Kara Hurst: [00:27:25] Drops of water.

Christiana: [00:27:26] Drops of water. We're in Seattle. We spent the weekend in Olympic National Park. And so, I'm sorry, but I cannot leave Seattle tomorrow without talking about the tiny, mighty mosses, okay.

Tom: [00:27:42] Okay, so your item is mosses?

Christiana: [00:27:43] Mosses, oh, my God.

Kara Hurst: [00:27:46] I can't wait to hear if she's outraged or optimistic.

Christiana: [00:27:48] I am so in love with mosses. I just cannot tell you. And you shouldn't be laughing because you're in love with mosses too.

Tom: [00:27:55] That's true, but I'm not the one who chose to bring this to the podcast.

Christiana: [00:28:02] Okay, so we spent the weekend, Tom and I, with my daughter and her husband in Olympic National Park, just admiring these amazing mosses that grow everywhere. Now, what everyone should know before we go into moss gorgeousness, is that Olympic National Park is a.

Tom: [00:28:28] You realise you were coming on a very strategic podcast relevant to your job as CSO.

Christiana: [00:28:30] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just wait, you just wait. UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site since 1938. And of course, when you walk into this national park, the first thing that you see, because that's the way we humans react is what's the biggest thing here, right. And so we see these huge, huge trees that are there that are spruce, hemlock, douglas fir, etc., etc.., and they can be 50, 60m high, they can be up to a thousand years old, which is the oldest one that we saw. So yes, majestic, fantastic. Now what else is there, the forest within the forest, and the fact that most of these trees are completely covered from toe to head with these fantastic, tiny little mosses. It's just, honestly, it's breath-taking. You walk in there and you go like you're in fairyland. You feel like this cannot be natural. This has got to be someone painted these trees or somebody, you know, pasted this. I mean, it's just unbelievable that nature has spread throughout these huge, huge trees, all of these mosses. And yes, Tom, lichens. Tom and I had this fight the whole time that we were there because he was saying, no, no, no, no, it's only mosses. And I'm like, no, Tom, it's both mosses and lichens. No, it's only mosses. So, Tom, I hate to tell you that.

Tom: [00:30:10] So you're using the podcast purely to prove me wrong?

Christiana: [00:30:13] Yes, yes, exactly.

Tom: [00:30:15] This is a new low Christiana.

Christiana: [00:30:16] This is exactly right. Because, you see, we have to be in total respect and honour of mosses. Because do you know that they are one of the most ancient plant groups alive today, okay. They evolved more than 400 million years ago. Now, you.

Tom: [00:30:35] Really, I did not know that.

Christiana: [00:30:35] Okay, well, is your.

Tom: [00:30:37] So that's, shared the world with dinosaurs?

Christiana: [00:30:38] Is your is your respect for them growing here? I hope I really hope so. There are between 12 and 15,000 different species of mosses of which we all know some.

Tom: [00:30:47] I don't like the tone to suggest that I disrespect mosses.

Christiana: [00:30:50] Yeah, well. Well, no, you actually do love them, don't you?

Tom: [00:30:53] I do love them.

Kara Hurst: [00:30:53] Do you love lichen too?

Tom: [00:30:54] I do actually, lichen I know a bit more about, yeah, but yeah.

Christiana: [00:30:57] You do?

Tom: [00:30:59] So lichen is an amazing being if they call it a being. Lichen is actually a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an algae. It's two creatures that are entwined at a cellular level. So it can both, I'm stealing your thunder, aren't I?

Christiana: [00:31:16] Yeah. No, no. Go, go, go, I love this.

Tom: [00:31:19] Yeah yeah, it can both decompose broken down life matter as well as photosynthesize.

Christiana: [00:31:24] Correct.

Tom: [00:31:24] And it shares those things between itself.

Christiana: [00:31:26] Correct. And the amazing thing of what we saw is this interplay between the mosses and the lichen that were hanging from the trees. Because, listeners, you will have to know that Tom insisted that all of this hanging from the trees, they were mosses. Well they.

Tom: [00:31:44] They were mosses.

Christiana: [00:31:45] Well, okay, I will have you know that according to my research, they were old man's beard and witch's hair, both of which are lichen.

Tom: [00:31:54] Okay, okay so.

Christiana: [00:31:55] Now what are we going to do?

Tom: [00:31:57] Well, I'll tell you exactly what we're going to do.

Christiana: [00:31:59] The thing is, we have to expand our love for mosses to lichens.

Tom: [00:32:02] No, I love lichens as well. I respect your research. I have a good friend who is actually a moss PhD at the at the British Natural History Museum. And next week, surprise guest

Kara Hurst: [00:32:15] Clearly the next podcast guest.

Tom: [00:32:16] Will carry on the theme, exactly. Of trying to prove each other wrong. We'll have to go back to Olympic National Park.

Christiana: [00:32:22] Okay.

Tom: [00:32:23] Yeah.

Christiana: [00:32:23] Now, would you agree that when was the last time you were in Olympic National Park?

Kara Hurst: [00:32:28] Probably about a year ago.

Christiana: [00:32:30] Okay, and do you agree that it's spectacular.

Kara Hurst: [00:32:32] It's stunning.

Christiana: [00:32:33] It is really stunning. Now we've given you a little journey through the.

Tom: [00:32:38] Can I just share with listeners one thing that you said. I remember walking through the forest trees covered in mosses, and then you'd come to one that that did not have moss on it. And Christiana was like all in awe and looking around. And then she said to me, does it look to you like it's been shaved? And I said, what the hell are you talking about. Well, after I've seen all the trees with mosses on, one without appears to have been recently shaved.

Christiana: [00:32:59] Yes.

Tom: [00:33:00] It was a real insight into how your mind works.

Christiana: [00:33:02] Yes, well there you go, there you go. So, friends, that's a little journey into the landscape of the weekend. But where I really want to invite you in is into the soundscape.

Tom: [00:33:15] Oh, okay.

Christiana: [00:33:16] Okay. Are you ready for this. So did you know that that place where we were in the Olympic National Park is a spot on earth that ranks very, very high in the very few spots on Earth under a category called one square inch of silence. And one square inch of silence is the square inch literally measured the square inch where you can go for 15 minutes without hearing a man or a human produced noise. No industrial noise, no plane noise, no car noises, no air conditioning. None of that okay. One square inch of silence. And there's actually a project to protect these tiny weensy little one square inches of silence. Now.

Tom: [00:34:23] I think we're going to have to tighter guidelines for the things we can bring on here.

Christiana: [00:34:25] No no no no no, hold on. If you, you have to humour me here. And give me 30s of silence on the podcast. Because if you do that, then I will play a recording from the very spot that we were, a recording of the.

Kara Hurst: [00:34:46] Was this secretly recorded while you were there?

Tom: [00:34:48] I don't know, I don't know. And also, are you gonna make us be quiet for 30s then play us a recording of silence?

Christiana: [00:34:55] Aha! You see, Tom. You have absolutely no appreciation. I am so sorry. No, I'm going to play you a recording that was recorded by Gordon Hempton.

Tom: [00:35:05] Okay.

Christiana: [00:35:05] In the Olympic National Park, in this little one square of silence. And the thing is that if you really have the discipline to not listen to the human made noises. You begin to realize that we live in a world of unbelievable noise pollution, and that we tend to focus on the noise pollution. We tend to focus on first human voices because we think that that's the priority. How do we communicate with ourselves. Then we focus, consciously or unconsciously on all of the other noises, the industrial noises, and we do not hear the noise that nature makes the sounds of nature. Until we remove all of that, we peel it away, and then we begin to hear the sounds of nature. So 30s of silence, my friends, so that you can hear what we were not aware of while we were in the park.

Kara Hurst: [00:36:09] This is now an ASMR podcast.

Tom: [00:36:12] Yes, it's an ASMR crossover. Okay.

Kara Hurst: [00:36:14] Okay.

Christiana: [00:36:16] Okay.

Christiana: [00:36:49] So, my dear friends.

Kara Hurst: [00:36:51] Did your whole neurobiology relax while you were there?

Christiana: [00:36:54] Yes, yes, it really is. I mean, if, if you are aware, as I'm trying to increasingly be aware of what is surrounding you and what where are you paying your attention. I mean, when we got off the park and we came here, I was like, whoa, too much, too much, too much. Because you can modulate your sensitivity to whatever input you're paying attention to. And the fact that we don't pay attention to the sounds of nature even when we're in a city, because we allow.

Kara Hurst: [00:37:35] But you live in a very peaceful, beautiful place? Yes.

Christiana: [00:37:39] At home, yes, but then I have to travel to urban cities, right. And the challenge here is to be able to do both at the same time. That's my invitation.

Tom: [00:37:49] I have a little example, which I remember when I was living in Thailand, and I was traveling with a more senior monastic than myself, and we were at an airport and there was a little pool in it that had three frogs in it. And the frogs were making this like, you know, frog sound. And he said, look around at the people nobody can hear them.

Christiana: [00:38:09] Exactly.

Tom: [00:38:10] And then he took three coins out of his pocket and threw them on the ground, and everyone turned around.

Christiana: [00:38:15] There you go.

Tom: [00:38:16] It's really interesting, the types of sounds that we're hyper attuned to and others we just.

Christiana: [00:38:20] Because we're programmed to it right. We're so programmed to it and and in in so doing, we are stopping ourselves and closing ourselves to a whole other soundscape that if we were more attuned to, would keep us connected with nature and would honestly keep us more sane right. It would keep us more sane in this crazy world that we are forced to live in and work in. So that is my invitation. My invitation is no not everybody has the incredible privilege of hiking and walking through rainy, drizzly, cold, freezing Olympic National Park okay, I'll grant you that. But, can we actually invite ourselves to be attentive to the work that we have to do, but not just do that. Can we also, at the same time, be attentive to the sounds of that which we are working to protect. Because how ironic is it that we're all working to protect nature in one way or the other, that's what climate change is, that's what biodiversity protection is. But we don't even listen to it. We're like completely deaf to it.

Kara Hurst: [00:39:34] It's also ironic, though, that the thing that is causing people so much anxiety can also heal people.

Christiana: [00:39:39] Yeah.

Kara Hurst: [00:39:41] You know.

Tom: [00:39:42] That's a really good point.

Christiana: [00:39:44] What do you mean by that?

Kara Hurst: [00:39:45] I mean that we're, talk so much about climate anxiety, and we spend so much of our time in our world talking about climate change and what it's driving for people and all the anxiety that it's driving. And but it's also what, by spending time inside of nature, it's what's going to heal us and what's going to reduce our anxiety. 

Christiana: [00:40:08] Well, the Japanese, and Natasha is a total Japanese fan by now, but they call it forest bathing, which we definitely did since we were soaked, after our hikes. But but it is going into nature and being more attuned not just to what we see, because that's that's the point. We go into nature and we go like, oh, well, I've been watching all of these beautiful, you know, living walls of Amazon, right, that you have in all your buildings. And I go like, wow, these plants are absolutely gorgeous. And then I've been asking myself, and what are they saying. Because I walked away from Olympic Park more attuned to the sound, and we tend to only use our eyes for nature and not our ears. So this is an invitation to use both our eyes and our ears, which will make us much more sane.

Tom: [00:40:58] Okay.

Kara Hurst: [00:40:59] I like it.

Tom: [00:41:00] Are we hearing a piece of sound?

Christiana: [00:41:02] Yes. Well, Clay will play us out. We have permission to play five minutes of the soundscape, we have legal permission.

Tom: [00:41:12] Why only five minutes?

Christiana: [00:41:12] We can only play five minutes of the original soundscape of that recording done in that one little square inch, in Olympic National Park.

Tom: [00:41:26] So our musical artist this week is moss.

Christiana: [00:41:28] Is nature, is moss and lichen.

Kara Hurst: [00:41:32] Is moss and lichen.

Tom: [00:41:32] And lichen, I love it, I love it. All right, well, Kara, this has been such a pleasure and a joy to have you. What fun to finally.

Kara Hurst: [00:41:40] This is a very fun podcast.

Tom: [00:41:42] Have you on the podcast, well and the good news is.

Christiana: [00:41:44] Very random as you can tell, we go

Tom: [00:41:47] I'm sorry about her, I mean, you know.

Kara Hurst: [00:41:49] I listen to this podcast all the time, but this one seems to be, you know, it's just, very diverse. 

Christiana: [00:41:53] More random than usual.

Tom: [00:41:54] Very diverse, yeah.

Christiana: [00:41:57] No but Kara, how, I mean, put yourself in my shoes. How would I leave tomorrow right. I'm leaving Seattle tomorrow without paying tribute to this gorgeous park.

Kara Hurst: [00:42:07] I agree with you. It is a very special corner of the world that we have up here. And I think when you see what's been preserved there and the beauty that's there, I agree with you, it's worth mentioning.

Tom: [00:42:20] Wonderful. And we will have you back soon, because in a couple of months we're going to talk about the Climate Pledge, what we've been working on these five years as we approach the five year anniversary. So wonderful to have you.

Kara Hurst: [00:42:31] I can't believe it's been five years, and I'm very excited to talk about it. And just so honoured that you all agreed to co-found the pledge. And all that you've brought to it has been amazing. So thank you for that. And thank you for having me on Outrage + Optimism.

Tom: [00:42:46] Huge pleasure, all right.

Christiana: [00:42:47] Thank you for coming and talk to you soon.

Tom: [00:42:50] And moss is going to play us out.

Christiana: [00:42:52] Yay!

Tom: [00:42:53] Thanks everyone.

Clay: [00:46:44] So there you go. Another episode of Outrage + Optimism. I'm Clay Carnill, joining you from Detroit, Michigan, to wrap up this podcast episode. The natural silence you just heard was recorded by Gordon Hempton in the Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park. Now you may be fighting with me in your mind. Silence Clay really. As Christiana mentioned earlier in the show, by listening to natural silence, we feel connected to the land that we're on to nature as we are nature, the interbeing of it all. Here's a quote from Gordon Hempton that defines it better than I ever could. Quote, silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything. I can hear your mind exploding right now. Now, Gordon Hempton, who is known for being a bio acoustician, is also the co-founder of an organization called Quiet Parks International, and their vision for our world is one where everyone has daily access to quiet and opportunities to listen to sounds of nature. I'm actually reading this directly from them. Quote, a world where the experience of quiet nature is directly linked to inner quiet peace and joy of being.

Clay: [00:48:11] Now, we could not get more behind a vision of our world, so it has been an absolute privilege to be able to play this original One Square Inch recording from Gordon Hempton. So thank you to Gordon. Thank you to Vikram and the team at Quiet Parks. Please go check out the work that they are doing to protect, defend and promote quiet onesquareinch.org and quietparks.org. Links are in the show notes. Gosh so cool. Thank you to our guest this week, Kara Hurst, who hosted Christiana and Tom while they were visiting in Seattle. You can connect with Kara in the show notes on LinkedIn and Twitter. And Kara, we're looking forward to having you back on. Thanks for joining us and a special shout out and thank you to Tirzo Argueta for recording this week's conversation. Okay. Hope your weekend is full of quiet and joy. Thank you for your patience as we got this episode out to you a bit later than normal this week, but next week we will attempt to record an episode on schedule. Will we do it? Find out. Hit subscribe. We'll see you then.


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