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166: No Mud, No Lotuses: The Last Episode of Season 5

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About this episode

So here we are! 30 episodes later we have finally arrived at the end of Season 5 of the Outrage + Optimism podcast. And what a rollercoaster it has been for all of us in the global climate community since the start of the year! We are due to take a well-earned break over August before we return with gusto in September, but first let us take you on a whistlestop tour of the last six months of the podcast.


As Paul Dickinson says in the intro: “Buckle up, because this is going to be a ride!”


Before we begin our retrospective can we just take a moment to digest the news coming in from the US? News of the surprise deal between Senate Democrats delivered by Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, all the more surprising as he is best known as the holdout Democrat who has so far thwarted President Biden’s attempts to get the much promised climate package through the senate.  Many are calling this new announcement the most ambitious climate action undertaken in the US and it could not have come at a better time, following the recent spate of rollbacks in environmental legislation via the recent Supreme Court ruling on the EPA.


Sadly this news is tempered by reports of a looming recession and high inflation in the US, forcing the democrats into a defensive position.  We will be following this deal’s progress carefully so expect some in-depth analysis from the hosts and their guests on the state of play in the US in the run up to the mid-terms elections in November. 


Now let us take you back to February of this year…..


The Outrage + Optimism team kicked off Season 5 with a special season opener by Stephen Harding who shared with us his Deep Time Walk, a collective moment of reflection and connection to our earth, based on the late James Lovelock’s GAIA Theory, a reminder to us all of the what and why we do this work.


Our hosts Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac and Paul Dickinson returned with a tour de force of incredible interviews with Hollywood Writer, Director and Producer Adam McKay; Historian, Philosopher and Author Yuval Noah Harrari; and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Panama Erica Moynes.

“It's not been pleasant, but at the same time, I'll always choose being awake over being asleep,” mused Adam McKay as he reflected on his own personal journey of realizing the extent of the climate crisis, the result of which was the Netflix blockbuster “Don’t Look Up”.  


Yuval Noah Harrai explained his own campaign to wake up the politicians and leaders to the reachable task at hand - That it would only take 2% of global GDP to finance the ready-to-implement solutions to the climate crisis. “2% for 1.5!” chanted Christiana on the episode - a simple, effective slogan to unite behind!


In February, the global community recoiled in horror as Putin ordered Russia troops to invade Ukraine. Although there had been speculation around this course of action, it sent shockwaves through the globe as we witnessed the impact on the lives of innocent Ukraine citizens.  This move also had severe ramifications for the transition to clean energy as Russia threatened to cut off gas supply to Europe, while Europe in turn vowed to wean itself off Russian oil and gas.  Two forks appeared in the road: one leading us on a dangerous path of ramped up fossil fuel production and infrastructure in order to secure energy independence; the other to double down on clean energy transition, already proven to be cheaper, more efficient, and safer while giving us a fighting chance to limit dangerous temperature rise. A no-brainer right? Not so much…..


Our hosts invited a wide range of expert guests ( David Milliband and the Rt Hon Lord William Hague, Kingsmill Bond and Rachael Kyte) onto the podcast to lend their valuable insight into what the impact of increased fossil fuel production might mean for the goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5, an issue especially poignant against the backdrop of two increasingly urgent IPCC reports released in early 2022, stating clearly that the time to act on this was NOW.  


“We better get our butts in gear” exclaims Ko Barrett, speaking to Christiana and Paul about the findings of the second IPCC report on mitigation.  


Our two Future of Food episodes on adaptation and the global food crisis, supported by the marvellous people at The IKEA Foundation, performed a deep dive into the reasons behind our broken food system and how this has made it particularly vulnerable to the geopolitical tensions and extreme weather events that saw many regions ‘marching towards starvation’ (UN).  Once we understood what was broken, we quickly learned that there is no shortage of transformational solutions offered by our diverse range of guests, leaving us eager to follow up on food systems later in the year at COP 27. 


While we grappled with further extreme weather events, Biden’s stalled climate legislations, the Roe vs Wade and West Virginia vs EPA regressive rulings delivered by the Supreme Court (the formidable Gina McCarthy and John Podesta provided fantastic analysis for us with respect to the EPA ruling ), Boris Johnson’s resignation, and the growing ‘Net Zero’ backlash, we remained committed to amplifying the many voices of those who are committed to positive action, even if the face of doomism.


The voices of new and old(er) activists Vanessa Nakate, Leah Thomas, Bill McKibben, Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young-Lutunatabua provided a source of hope in the darkness of the news cycle and extreme weather events, as they spoke of their commitment to securing social and environmental justice and countering the narrative of doomism causing people to question the point of continuing to fight for climate change action. 


As Rebecca Solnit reminds us: “We're running out of time. It's an emergency, but an emergency means things are still happening, not that it's over. And so it is, according to them, not too late. And so we're here to just try and bring people to strengthen the best possibilities and help choose them. Help shift what happens.” 


Playing us out is a fantastic track by the talented Australian TV weather presenter and musician, Jessica Braithwaite. Jessica contacted the team recently to share her positive feedback and offer us the use of her single ‘Hello (You Got My Heart)’ to play out the season. We jumped at the chance and invited her to reflect on what it means to working as a musican (and weather presenter) in an ecological crisis.  We loved her answers and be sure to check out more of her music. 

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As we bring season 5 to an end, we hope our listeners will enjoy revisiting the wisdom and inspiration our guests and hosts offered up over the last six months.  Even though it has often felt we are in dark times, we invite you to draw from these episodes the gritty determination to believe that we have what it takes to move the trajectory we are currently on to a safer, more resilient and just world. To paraphrase the teaching of Thich Naht Hahn that Christiana recalls in her interview with Plum Village: “No mud, no lotuses’. 

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