Remember that time in the 1980s when we almost took serious action on climate change? OK, I don’t either, and not just because I was a pup. We were never really that close to acting, although we certainly missed an opportunity to get the ball rolling. Journalist-novelist Nathaniel Rich tells the whole tale in his new book, Losing Earth: A Recent History.
That history is close to my heart: After the ensuing decade of relative inaction, I founded Grist as a young lad. In the 20 years since, I’ve certainly met the enemy — and damn it if Pogo wasn’t right, s/he/they is us.
But you know the gloomy news. What we don’t hear enough about is how momentum is building for positive change. I’m placing my bets on the people who are relentlessly moving forward, like those in this year’s Grist 50 — people like chef Tim Ma (with his carrot tops), investigative journalist Robin Amer (with her podcast), and policy wonk Rhiana Gunn-Wright (with her Green New Deal?!).
That’s why I’ve started a new program within Grist called, simply, Fix. Serving as Grist’s solutions lab, Fix identifies and lifts up a diverse array of leaders —Fixers— to usher in a whole new narrative of what’s possible.
This newsletter, which I’m pulling off the shelf after a long hiatus, will follow that story, and the people who are working to make “shift happen,” as the title says. We at Fix are holding out hope for the future, and I want to show you why.
–Chip, Grist founder
1. Your new hero
With a name like hers, of course she’s a superhero: Kate Marvel is a Columbia University and NASA climate scientist with just the right mix of cynicism, star power, and social media following to bring her work to the masses. Catch her talking about the unexpected role of clouds in climate change on Freakonomics, and check out the killer piece she wrote for Scientific American about how we’re not actually totally doomed.
You can also find a little sanity by following her on Twitter, where she makes quips like this: “Can you imagine how much scarier it would be if climate change was actually being caused by something beyond our control?”
2. Your pick-me-up
- TOWERS OF POWER: New York City has about 1 million buildings, and now, they’re going green. The city passed a law this month that requires buildings like the Empire State Building and Trump Tower to slash their greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent. San Francisco, meanwhile, rolled out a plan to make all buildings over 50,000 square feet run on renewables by 2030.
- PACIFIC NORTHBEST: Washington state is mandating more efficient buildings, too, as well as household appliances, and the legislature passed a bill this week that would push the whole state to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. Vox’s David Roberts says the legislation contains “some of the sexiest utility business model reforms of 2019.” Yow!
- STEADY STATES: Washington is just the latest state to swear off of fossil fuels. California and Hawaii led the parade. New Mexico committed to a carbon-free electric grid in March, while Nevada jumped on the bandwagon April 22, Earth Day. Illinois seems poised to join them.
- HOLD THE CARBON: California restaurants can soon charge customers an extra 1 percent to offset the carbon cost of diners’ night out — money that’ll go directly to California’s Healthy Soil Program, which supports farming practices that put carbon back into the soil.
- FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Philadelphia has its first ever “farm czar.” Urban Agriculture Director Ashley Richards will lead the city’s plan to support and expand community gardens and urban farms, which includes efforts to ensure that farmers have rights to the land they work.
- PARIS ON A BUDGET: The estimated cost of meeting the Paris climate accord’s 2050 clean-energy targets just dropped by $10 trillion, thanks to increased affordability of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
- OFF RAMP: Finally, Grist’s very own Jesse Nichols explores what happens when cities decide to get rid of their freeways — in many cases, it’s not just doable; it also makes life better.
3. Your reading list
Finalists for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes were announced earlier this month, and I was stoked to see writer Tommy Orange on the list. Orange’s debut novel There There, follows the lives of 12 Native Americans navigating their cultural history in urban America before bringing them all together at the Big Oakland Powwow.
Orange has a lot to say about our connections to the land, even in the concrete jungle. “I see cities as coming from the Earth in the same ways as, you know, the superstructure of an ant colony,” Orange told CityLab in an interview about the book. “We act like we’re aliens here, or like we’ve been given everything to dominate by God.”
4. Your next move
- Pay up: Do something great for your fellow humans today. Donate to ongoing relief efforts in Mozambique in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.
- Science rules: Cuts to federal science funding got you bummed out? Become a citizen scientist— it’s basically looking at cool nature stuff for a cause.
- Get to work: Grist is hiring a Fix Program Director and a Network Weaver based in New England, among other roles. Apply or tell your friends!
5. Your Sunday plans
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when life gives you stinging nettles, well, make yourself some pesto! In Washington state, where I live, the stuff is everywhere this time of year, and it hurts like hell when it rakes across your shins.
A couple of years ago, my kids came home from school insisting that we make nettle pesto and tea. “Ridiculous!” I thought. “I’m not eating that stuff!” But I confess that they had a point. The tea is quite tasty, and the pesto, well, I’ll just say it’s an acquired taste. Try it for yourself!
- 3 cups fresh nettle leaves (careful!)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- Boil a pot of water and (if you care for your life) use tongs to dump the nettles in; boil for one minute.
- Remove nettles and place them in ice water, to cool rapidly.
- Cautiously, gingerly separate leaves from stems.
- Strain leaves well, getting out as much water out as possible.
- Put nettles to food processor. Blend.
- Add garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, and cheese.
- Blend until smooth. Add salt to taste.
Presto pesto! Spread on noodles, or use on a sandwich, or serve as a dip. Just like that, you’ve disarmed the opposition and turned an unpleasant situation into a delicious meal, with all the fixin’s…