Finding Your Role in the Climate Fight
This is an all-hands-on-deck moment in history. Every ton of CO2 that we keep out of the atmosphere in the next thirty years, every fraction of a degree of warming that we prevent, will mean that the centuries to come are full of less death and suffering, fewer injustices borne by the most vulnerable among us, and fewer species with which we share the earth driven to extinction.
This website is for anyone who feels living at this moment as a weighty responsibility – or as a tremendous privilege – and wants to find a way to use the incredible leverage that they have, just by being alive right now, to make the world better, more just, and more full of life.
This website is built to help you find a career that will contribute to the fight against climate change and for environmental justice.
Because climate change will touch every aspect of life on this planet, the range of careers that can help to address it is almost inconceivably wide. Some of these are things that jump to mind when you hear “climate career:” we need organizers working to move the political system, and scientists and engineers, inventing and building out the renewable energy and other technologies that will allow us to decarbonize our economy. But the world also needs artists and poets and television writers, to convey what this moment demands and what a better world could look like; it needs regenerative farmers and aquaculturalists, to transform the way we grow our food, so that the earth and the oceans remain sinks for greenhouse gasses, rather than emitting more; it needs architects and urban planners to design buildings and cities that make it easy for people to live climate-positive lives; entrepreneurs and financiers to build and fund an economy that is circular, rather than extractive; psychologists to help people cope with the climate anxiety and climate grief that our changing climate is already bringing. Whatever your talents, skills, and interests, there’s a place for you in the climate fight. This website is meant to help you find it.
Here’s a diagram:
(Borrowed with modification from Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson)
Take a moment, and write down on a sheet of paper what your skills and talents are; and write down a list of activities that bring you joy – things that make you want to get out of bed in the morning. You can use this website to fill in the third circle: work that is impactful.
How to use this Site
The site is divided into two parts. The first part provides a rough map of the landscape of CLIMATE SOLUTIONS, so that you can see how all the parts fit together, and how much a given solution can accomplish, relative to others. This is an overview, but if you want to know more about a given solution (say, decarbonizing the energy system), you can click on it to dive to a deeper level of the site, where you’ll see this broad topic divided into narrower ones, like “decarbonizing transportation.” At each level, you’ll find an overview and a curated set of readings and podcasts, accessible to a reader without any technical background. (The links with arrows [⇒] pointing to them are really good, and are an important part of the site. Click on these, don’t scroll past!) At the bottom, you’ll find some links to much more detailed resources, including more technical ones, and also to a database of businesses and non-profits that are working to develop solutions in that sector. We’re still building the site, so we don’t have everything in place yet – but there’s enough to begin.
Of course, the world needs people to pursue careers building and implementing climate solutions. But it also needs people to support and enable these solutions in many other ways, from political advocacy to marketing to finance. The part of the site on CLIMATE CAREERS provides a tour of many of these important, enabling careers. Even if you don’t think you’ll ever work in a career implementing solutions directly, we still encourage you to explore SOLUTIONS and get a sense of the landscape. That way, when you’re working as an activist, you’ll have a good understanding of the solutions you want to push politicians to embrace; or when you’re working as an artist depicting the clean, healthy, just future we should work toward, you’ll be able to imagine it in realistic detail.
Three Essential Books
In addition to linking to online articles and podcasts, this site makes constant reference to readings from three wonderful, essential books.
If you’re interested in climate solutions and climate careers, you should buy these, or get them from your local library. You can read through them in one go, or use them as companions as you explore this website. If you think of this site as a self-guided college course, then these are the textbooks.
Before you begin: Reckoning with your feelings
Climate change threatens so much: people, of course (especially the poorest, most marginalized people on the planet, who are least responsible for the problem), but also innumerable animals, plants, and ecosystems with which we share the planet, and which make the planet a beautiful home for humanity. So, thinking about climate change can evoke powerful, sometimes overwhelming feelings – of fear; of anger; of anxiety; of grief. There is nothing wrong with feeling any of these – indeed, the situation we’re in might call for them. But they can be overwhelming, and debilitating. Rather than trying to ignore these feelings, spend some time now reckoning with them before you begin your journey, and allow yourself to keep returning and working with them as your journey progresses. These wonderful essays, from All We Can Save and online, can help:
- Ash Sanders, “Under the Weather,” All We Can Save, pp. 231-247
- Amy Westervelt, “Mothering in an Age of Extinction,” All We Can Save, pp. 249-254
- Emily Johnston, “Loving a Vanishing World,” All We Can Save, pp. 256-265
- Susanne C. Moser, “The Adaptive Mind,” All We Can Save, pp. 270-278.
- Mary Annaïse Heglar, “Home is Always Worth It,” All We Can Save, pp 279-283.
- Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson, “Onward,” in All We Can Save, pp. 371-4.
- Kate Marvel, “We Need Courage, not Hope, to Face Climate Change”
- Ezra Klein, Your Kids are Not Doomed
The economics, politics, and technology of climate climate change are all changing fast. One of the best ways to come up to speed and then stay up to speed is to subscribe to a few of the many great newsletters and podcasts devoted to the climate fight.
Here are three wide-ranging, general purpose resources that are good for everyone, whatever your more specific interests. We recommend all of these highly!
The Crucial Years newsletter with Bill McKibben. McKibben has been a leading climate activist for more than 30 years. He wrote one of the earliest influential books on climate change, The End of Nature, in 1989, and he founded the group 350.org (and more recently, Third Act). He writes about avenues for effective climate politics and climate activism.
Volts newsletter + podcast with David Roberts. Roberts is an influential and wide-ranging climate journalist. He writes in-depth, wonky, extremely informative articles on the energy system and on politics and political psychology. (You’ll see this site refer to more articles by him than by any other author; that’s a measure of what we’ve learned from him.)
Bloomberg Green Daily newsletter. Each day of the week the newsletter is written by a different columnist focusing on climate change and the energy transition. Their climate journalists are among the best, and together they cover a huge range of important and interesting stories.
Here are two podcasts that are meant to be gentle but informative “ways in” to the topic for beginners:
- A Matter of Degrees podcast with Dr. Katherine K. Wilkinson and Dr. Leah Stokes.
- The Carbon Copy podcast with Stephen Lacey.
Here are five great resources for anyone interested in climate technology solutions:
- Canary Media daily newsletter. You can also look at their website, which provides strong coverage of climate technology and the energy transition.
- Catalyst podcast with Shayle Kann. This is more “advanced” (it presupposes some familiarity with the field). But it offers really smart, really illuminating analysis of trends in the energy transition, and where they’re pointing.
- Watt it Takes podcast with Emily Kirsch interviews founders of exciting climate technology startup companies. The interviews are fascinating, and together they provide insight into the landscape of exciting, potentially transformative climate technologies.
- My Climate Journey podcast with Jason Jacobs. Like Watt it Takes, this is focused especially (but not exclusively) on the exciting world of climate technology startups .
- Climate Tech VC newsletter. Provides really smart insight and analysis of the landscape of climate technology startups, of where the needs and opportunities are, and which technological approaches are likely to win out.
Here are three resources for folks interested in the intersection of agriculture, nature, biodiversity, and climate change:
- Eating the Earth is an excellent, regular column by Michael Grunwald at Canary Media. It’s not a newsletter you can subscribe to, but all the columns are collected at the page we’ve linked to.
- The Reversing Climate Change podcast with Nori is a very wide-ranging climate podcast, but it does an especially good job covering regenerative agriculture and related topics. Fascinating, often philosophical conversations.
- Cropped, from Carbon Brief is a weekly newsletter covering the intersection of climate, land use, food systems, and nature.
Finally, if you’re interested in the wonky details of US federal politics and climate policy, you might like:
- The Daily 202 newsletter from the Washington Post.