One Way or Another, We’ll Pay for Climate Change
plus... I SAW BEYONCÉ LIVE AND THAT'S REALLY ALL I NEEDED
Me and Elizabeth living our best lives at SoFi Stadium Saturday night to see Beyoncé.
My relatively geo-stable summer is over. I’m sending this newsletter from Minneapolis-St. Paul, where I’m visiting family and likely attending my first State Fair in decades. Then I’m back on the road for a few weeks, largely to promote Season 2 of my PBS series, America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston, including a few weeks in my beloved former home of New York City. We’ve got some exciting events planned for the show, including a screening and Q&A at the Patagonia flagship store in Williamsburg this Friday September 8. Next week, on September 14, we’re going all-out and hosting a massive outdoor screening in Fort Greene Park, just a half block from where I used to live!
The series launches this Wednesday, September 6, at 8 p.m. ET, and you can catch it in the PBS app (I call it “The People’s Streamer”), or on Amazon Prime, or if you’re still one of those people, watch on actual television in Classic Mode via your local PBS station. The most accessible way to watch the first episode will be on YouTube Live at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. I’ll be answering questions and sharing commentary in a live chat, and afterwards I’ll do an Instagram Live.
I recognize my good fortune in being able to promote a television series during a record-setting double strike of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. My series is covered by the latter, but public television’s agreement with the union is in good standing. Meanwhile, I recognize that most people in positions like mine aren’t so fortunate. I encourage you to listen to this recent episode of KCRW’s Press Play with Madeleine Brand, which features the firsthand experience of workers in the entertainment industry who aren’t on strike but who can’t work because of it. The discussion really humanizes the impact of the work stoppage. If you’re in a position to donate to a strike fund, or if you need the help of one, check out Entertainment Community Fund.
Other items grabbing my attention include:
Anthony Conwright’s piece in Mother Jones makes the case that the conservative anti-“wokeness” movement is merely the latest version of efforts to shame white Americans who ally themselves with Black people. In previous generations, the pejoratives included “negrophiles” and “negro lovers” (or the uglier version of that phrase).
Adam Grant argues in The New York Times that elections are bad for democracy. On the surface, it’s a radical position, but it’s one I’ve come around to in my work on the How To Citizen podcast. My interview with Astra Taylor on how the Greeks practiced democracy reveals part of the story. My interview with Claudia Chwalisz, on other ways we can include the people’s voices in their own self-governance (through randomly selected citizen assemblies), completes it.
Meanwhile, Beyoncé put on an epic show Saturday night at Los Angeles’s SoFi Stadium, and I was there! The last time I was in a stadium was the summer of 2008 when Barack Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination. I’m not comparing a Beyoncé concert to that historic moment but I’m not not comparing it. She slayed. She’s in insane shape. The show was a masterclass in dance, vocal agility, technology and old school diva vibes. Oh, and there was a pregnant trumpet, and some of the best dancing I’ve ever seen ever.
Happy birthday and Virgo season to my fellow Virgos!
Also, in celebration of Puck’s second anniversary, subscribers can now offer their network a 30% discount on an annual subscription by using the code INSIDEACCESS at checkout. (If someone forwarded you this newsletter, you can also subscribe right here to access the discount). And don’t forget to check out Puck’s suite of other fantastic private emails here.
Now for this week’s main event: how we pay for climate change. As I’ve witnessed and experienced the impact of increasingly damaging weather, it’s become even more clear to me that climate action isn’t “too expensive”—on the contrary, we’re vastly undercounting the cost of doing nothing.
America’s Carbon Bill Is Coming Due
One way or another, we’re paying for climate change.
full essay in Puck. Excerpt below.
It’s time for a climate change reality check. For decades, we’ve been warned about the consequences of filling the skies with carbon: biblical flooding, uncontrollable fires, unbearable heat, refugee camps overflowing with the displaced. Now that future—Al Gore’s apocalyptic vision—has come to life. Even those of us who have been paying close attention, who have always taken climate change seriously, are experiencing genuine shock over the pace of recent events. Yesterday’s climate predictions are today’s weather.
It seems that every week, new “natural” disasters are unfolding whose impact is amplified by human-caused climate change. The devastating fires that tore through the Hawaiian city of Lahaina, on Maui, may have receded from the headlines, but they left at least 115 people dead, the highest U.S wildfire death toll in over 100 years. In Southern California, where I live, we just experienced our first tropical storm in 84 years, flooding deserts, spoiling crops, and destroying homes. Just last week, a Category 3 hurricane, supercharged by 100-degree ocean waters in the Gulf, whipped through Florida, inundating the coast and leaving behind some $9 billion in damage. Heat records continue to be broken across Europe and Asia.
Fires and floods offer powerful visual representations of the climate crisis, but the consequences are everywhere, and sometimes out of sight. A months-long New York Times investigation, published last week, found that America’s groundwater—our great natural inheritance—is also running out, as we drain aquifers that can take thousands or millions of years to replenish. The result is roads that buckle, crops that don’t grow, and people and cities that don’t have enough water to sustain recognizable patterns of life.
I experienced this myself, firsthand, while filming my PBS series, America Outdoors, in Utah. There, I connected with climate ecologist Ben Abbott to bike across what was, according to Google Maps, the Great Salt Lake. Abbot is part of a group of scientists who have been warning that the lake could completely disappear in five years if severe and dramatic measures aren’t taken. But you don’t need to be a scientist to understand what’s happening in Salt Lake City and so many other communities around the world. Simply walk out to where the lake used to be, where islands are now peninsulas, and the air is choked with dust.
Climate change is costing us dearly, and it’s only getting worse. I feel so intensely frustrated, largely because the preventative actions we could have taken were not mysterious to us: invest in renewables, transition from greenhouse gas-emitting energy generation, and put a price on carbon. We’re finally making some progress on green energy, thanks to advances in wind and solar and battery technology. But for decades, the fossil fuel industry and our captive politicians cynically and speciously argued that the economy should come first. News flash: We’re going to pay more for the cleanup than it would have cost to prevent these disasters in the first place.
In the rest of the article I share
my conversation with Gen Z climate activist Jamie Sarai Margolin
more stories of climate change and climate action i’ve seen while filming America Outdoors
the missing role of a carbon tax in the U.S.
what I consider to be a major missing piece of the story we tell about identity loss in America and how climate change is a threat as big as technology, economics, and culture in terms of destabilizing our identities and our politics.
Have a great day. Be nice to those who labor, including yourself.