How We Change
Nov 24, 2021
Season 1 | Episode 8

How We Change

Technology will help us avoid the worst of the climate crisis, and it’ll help us adapt to a warming planet. But tech alone can’t save us.

This season we traveled from rural Nevada to the scorching California desert to dig into the race for “white gold,” or lithium, a metal that’s crucial for getting the United States off fossil fuels. In our final episode of the season, we’re going past the tech to ask the bigger questions about what it’s really going to take to survive the climate crisis. 

The truth is technology alone can’t save us. Humans need to make profound changes along with the technology, from our politics, to the way we do business and how and what we consume. But change is hard and sometimes even impossible when people and their experiences aren’t validated.

“So much can happen in even, like, three minutes when someone feels truly heard and recognized for their experience,” said climate psychologist Renée Lertzman. Lertzman helps businesses and institutions implement environmental and sustainability policies. 

She says when people are asked to make a lot of change in a short amount of time, things can go haywire, even with the best intentions. So hearing people out, naming their fears and bringing them into the decision-making process is crucial if we expect change to happen (whether it’s getting people to take more public transportation, eat less meat or inspiring them to head to the polls). “If we feel that our own perception or point of view is actually validated, it’s kind of a magical thing,” Lertzman says. 

This week, we unpack change with Lertzman, travel to the House floor for a hilarious political stunt, and visit an encampment in the desert where people live off-grid and rely on their own ingenuity to generate electricity and survive extreme temperatures.

Thanks for listening to the first season of “How We Survive.” If you don’t already, be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app, and tell a friend if you’re enjoying the show.

How We Survive episode 8 “How We Change” Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Molly Wood: In our last couple episodes, we’ve talked about this idea that there are multiple possible futures for us. 

There’s a future where we get it together; we layer on all the possible solutions, we adapt to a changed climate but we avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic warming; we work the problem. 

And there’s the future where we don’t. 

Where society collapses and it’s every person for themself and it’s the Walking Dead in a couple of generations in parts of the world where the world is uninhabitable. 

And out in the southern California desert, past the moving geysers and the receding Salton Sea and the boiling hot geothermal plants, is a place that is a little bit close to that possible future. It’s called: Slab City. 

I visited this summer with producer Caitlin Esch. 

Molly Wood: This looks like the apocalypse already came. Right? Like this is where people fled the end of the world. 

Caitlin Esch: And they know how to stay alive. They know how to take care of themselves. 

Molly Wood: Yah. 

The Slabs, as it’s also known, is a squatters’ community built on the slab foundations of buildings from an abandoned military base. It’s made up of survivalists, artists and vagabonds who live entirely off the grid.

Molly Wood: I’m really trying to figure out if that person’s naked.

He’s doin’ a little car work. He’s definitely naked. 

Molly Wood: There’s no official electricity, no running water, no trash pickup, and no law enforcement out here. There’s a wooden sign off the side of the road that reads “The Last Free Place.”

Peter: Hi.

Ryan: Hello! 

Jesse: Hi.

Molly Wood: Peter, Ryan and Jesse have lived in the Slabs for 4 years. Or as they measure time out here, four summers. They’re in their 30s and early 40s. Ryan came out here alone. Jesse and Peter came together from North Carolina, and they hooked up and started building.

This 600 acre chunk of desert is one of the hottest places on earth, and it’s getting hotter. Here’s Jesse:

Jesse: Our area expects to be hitting like, 134 in the next five years, which is beyond the realm of what humans can survive. 

Molly Wood: When we first visited the Slabs in late June this summer, it was just over 100 degrees by 9am. Here’s Ryan:

Ryan: A thing actually I noticed about the heat out here is it’s not the heat that gets you, it’s the UV. You can feel the radiation kind of cooking you, and so I have to nap throughout the middle of the day. 

Molly Wood: Jesse says everything eventually breaks or melts or blisters or just disappears.

Jesse: The sun eats things. 

Molly Wood: Ryan, Jesse and Peter call their part of the slab “RabbitSide.” It’s tucked away at the far edge of town, next to a canal. Rabbitside has a water service that brings fresh water in once a week in the summer, but they use the canal to water plants and animals.

Ryan: We have to cart in every calorie or drop of water that this takes to survive. And then, including like the water isn’t even out here naturally. So without that canal, without our hands doing all this and transferring that water around, none of this would last three months. If we were to just walk away, all of this would just dry up.

Molly Wood: Was anything here when you got here?

Ryan: No. Just sand and seashells.

Ryan: We had some funds when we showed up and bought the core wood over top of the trailer cause that’s, you know, that’s going to be strong, you don’t want that to fall on your stuff. Um and since then we’ve been acquiring a lot of free things.

Molly Wood: They have two dogs, both chihuahua-Jack Russell Terrier crosses. The first time we met them, they’d just put down their oldest dog that Jesse had for 18 years. The rest of the animals at the camp, says Ryan,

Ryan: The chickens and the ducks were actually rescued. We didn’t initially plan on getting them or anything or purchased them, but there was other people out here that’ll try to have animals and then they want to free range their chickens. Um, but the problem is there are free range dogs.

Molly Wood: The Rabbitside camp is actually wonderful. A wooden structure built over and around an old RV. Wooden shelves full of little pieces of the desert, like an art museum. There are rugs scattered in the sand; a piano in one corner that Peter played for us; a steel stock tank full of water that they use as a soaking tub; hutches for animals and a little outdoor garden; even automatic water misters cued to sensors that come on when the outside hits a certain temperature. 

Jesse: We’ve made a paradise. We truly have. 

Molly Wood: But it’s a paradise that’s very close to the edge, and to survive in deadly heat with no infrastructure and no services takes an incredible amount of ingenuity and work.  

Ryan: So you can see we have eight solar panels. These things are just shy of 300 Watts each, so we have a 2000 watt system. And then that all comes down into a bunch of batteries, like golf cart batteries, and they’re all linked together. 

Molly Wood: Ryan says batteries charge controllers, and solar panels to make living out here possible, powering everything from box fans and swamp coolers to laptops, cell phones and video cameras. A little at a time, Peter earns the money that all three use to buy what they need. He’s a manager at a nearby Walmart. 

And Ryan is constantly at work thinking up ways to improve their system. He’s actually a total genius. He’s got ideas about energy efficiency and energy storage that we all could use. 

Ryan: The next thing for our solar panels is tilting them… It’s a La-Z-Boy recliner motor…. I have a few kinds of wacky inventions to try to eliminate batteries by storing energy different ways. You could take water and pump it up high… I want to see if I can make the sun pull sand up the tube… if it spun a flywheel, which kept a motor going…you could compress air. And then have that sand later fall down to spin a wheel, which is an hourglass…that’s how I know if it’s a good idea. I’m like, hey, is anybody else working on it? I’m like, well, like NASA, like, okay, cool, yeah, right on.

Molly Wood: Yeah, you thought you were ready for that survivalist lifestyle, right? Nope. 

Out here, the work of surviving is almost all you ever talk about.  

Molly Wood: How much time, as like, a relative percentage would you say you spend talking about powering your home?

Peter: I mean, it kinda feels like it comes up once a day.

Ryan: At least, yeah.

Peter: It’s often related to like, oh, do we need to turn off these items, or like, can we keep running this thing right now or does it need to be turned off because we have to conserve to last us overnight?

Ryan: You gotta do a lot of stuff. A lot of learning and it’s, it’s a constant battle, but it’s good to learn now before everybody has to learn real fast. 

Molly Wood: Before everybody has to learn real fast, because like I said when I got to Slab City, this is what the end of the world looks like, in some ways. In fact, Peter says, everyone in Slab City has already experienced some version of an apocalypse. He and Jesse are here because they had to escape an almost fatal domestic violence attack. Everyone has their reasons. 

Peter: This place, ultimately it’s just kind of like the last default option for a lot of people. So like some people, like they’re on the run from something, some people like they couldn’t take care of themselves in any other situation, so like they, they lost their housing or whatever. 

And while Rabbitside is a triumph of invention, ingenuity, art, it’s not a utopia. It’s a future that we should try hard to avoid. 

Out here, says this little group, you have to have dogs to warn you if someone’s coming or to protect you if they do. There’s a baseball bat by the makeshift door. If you hear screaming at night, you don’t go outside. This, Jesse says, is the worst kind of preparation for the worst case scenario. 

Jesse: Eventually it’s gonna end up being kind of every man for himself. That’s what it looks like. We don’t want to be in a bunker. Um, and you know, and just be eating rations and pretend like we’re already living in end times. But we do want to set ourselves up in case it does become every man for himself.

Molly Wood: I’m Molly Wood. Welcome to How We Survive, a podcast from Marketplace about how finding solutions to the climate crisis is a messy business.  

This is episode 8: How We Change. 

For our final episode, we’re going past the tech to ask the bigger questions about what it’s really going to take to survive. 

We’ve talked a lot about solutions, batteries, electrification, renewable energy – but the truth is no single thing is going to save us all by itself.  

We’ll need every solution and we’ll need to make profound changes in our own lives, our politics, the way we do business.

Pollute less, drive less, consume less, live and think and act differently with future generations in mind.

So we don’t end up in our own versions of Slab City. 

Today we’ll talk about what we can do as individuals, how we can get everyone on the same team to make changes, to dramatically reduce planet-warming carbon emission.

How politicians can make climate policy more relatable so our eyes don’t glaze over when we talk about it. And how we in the US might think we’re the center of the universe, but when it comes to the climate crisis, the effects and the impacts and even some of the solutions will come from have to come from everywhere. 

So that’s what we’re getting into this week, digging into what it really takes to survive. 

Let’s go back to Slab City for a minute, because maybe this seems like a really extreme example: a lawless, wild place filled with anarchists and dropouts and people who fled society in some way, who are technically living illegally on state-owned land. 

But at the same time – is it really? The truth is, plenty of people are living on or very close to the edge of survival, without institutional support and at the mercy of an increasingly extreme environment.

As Jesse from Rabbitside told me, a lot more people are already living like Slabbers than we realize.

Jesse: Other people live in this valley, they live in these extreme conditions. You guys drove past a whole bunch of people in Niland living essentially the same way. They’re just doing it legally. Like, it’s just slightly easier for them to get water than us. We’re not mining for it, you know?

Peter: It’s masked a lot more in a lot of other places, but all the same stuff is happening, you just don’t know about it.

Remember, Niland is one of the towns around the Salton Sea whose residents are hopeful that lithium extraction could bring much needed economic activity and beneficial environmental changes. Currently, this part of the Imperial Valley has the highest rates of asthma and unemployment in the country.

Not all Niland residents generate their own power or dream up new ways of storing it. But just like the Slabbers, most folks in Niland have been thrown onto the front lines of the climate crisis. In fact, the poorest communities in the US are also the places with the most pollution, the most at-risk for climate disaster, and the least equipped to survive it. 

But this crisis is coming for everyone, and getting humanity to make dramatic change that may also involve sacrifice might be the hardest challenge we’ve presented all season. Way harder than pulling lithium out of the ground.

The change is inevitable. It’s like the author Octavia Butler writes, “Change is basically God. It rules our lives whether we want it or not.” But she writes in Parable of the Sower that hard work and preparation can shape the impact of change on our lives, instead of us being victim to whatever happens next.  

So how do you convince people to do that hard work? Well, a good place to start is therapy.

Renée Lertzmann: What I hear the most, uh, is a variety of things. And I call this the three A’s anxieties, ambivalence and aspiration. 

Molly Wood: This is Doctor Renée Lertzman. She’s a climate psychologist; which yes, is a real job. She works with businesses and institutions to help them implement environmental strategies and policies. And a big part of this work is basically managing people’s panic.  

Renée Lertzman: And so I hear tremendous anxiety, uh, about, is there enough time I’m feeling overwhelmed. Um, what can I do? You know, how can I be a meaningful contributor? 

Molly Wood: Dr. Lertzman says if we’re anxious, this can lead to feeling so overwhelmed with the problem of how to mitigate climate change effects that we just kind of lose focus and divert our attention away from the big scary problem. Sounds familiar, right? I see you. It’s ok. 

Then there’s ambivalence.

Renée Lertzman: Like I am attached to my ways of being, or my identity or who would I be if I suddenly got rid of all my cars or, you know, who, who am I in this new world in this new narrative.

Molly Wood: But where we want to get, she says, is to aspiration.

Renee Lertzman: Which is I want to be, you know, have meaningful contribution. I want to be part of the solution. I want to be the change. 

Molly Wood: This, says Dr. Lertzman, is the psychology of change. You can’t just assume that people are going to jump right into change without naming all of these fears and feelings, validating them, empathizing with them to try to find a path forward.  

Let me give you a real-world example that we found out about in the course of this reporting:

Back in 2008, as part of a workplace sustainability initiative, Google tried implementing a new policy in the campus cafe: Meatless Monday. 

No meat would be served in the free, company-provided cafeteria on Mondays. 

It was to promote healthier eating and animal agriculture is a big part of our carbon emissions, and it seemed like a pretty simple move with lots of upside. Right? 

Oh no. Not at all.  

See, Googlers – the employees – weren’t consulted about the change. The company just went ahead and mandated it. And people freaked out. They did not want to be told what to do. In fact, a small group of employees within Google actually staged a protest by barbecuing in the parking lot.

And that was it. Meatless Mondays died on the grill, and never got implemented at Google. 

Google tried some other things – like moving the meat to the end of the buffet line so people would maybe fill up their plates before they got to the beef – and made an effort to get input from their employees before implementing more new things.  

But the real point is that change is really personal. It brings up lots of feelings, and even change that seems small can be hard to implement if people aren’t brought into the conversation, and if their perspective and feelings aren’t at least heard. 

Dr. Lertzman says there actually are tactics that can work here, and come from the world of politics. 

Renée Lertzmann: One of the precedents that comes to mind is what’s called deep canvassing.

Molly Wood: Deep canvassing is the name for a simple approach that was developed and perfected in 2008 by an LGBT activist named David Fleischer. The technique was used to build support for gay marriage. Before that, political canvassing had mostly been sort of like poll taking. 

Renée Lertzman: The deep canvas people are trained to have 10 minute conversations. Uh, you start by asking questions you’re trained to listen well, and you’re trained to talk about your own experience. This is how this issue touches me personally. This is what it means for me. What might this mean for you? And there’s, there’s quite a lot of research that, um, has shown that a 10 minute conversation like this can actually influence mindsets and behaviors.

Molly Wood: Right. 10 minutes. I just can’t get over that

Renée Lertzmann: You know what, like so much can happen in even like three minutes. When someone feels truly heard and recognized for their, you know, experience, uh, so much can change. It’s like our, our defenses can soften and we can become so much more open to hearing and learning about something new.

If we feel that our own, uh, perception or point of view is actually validated, it’s, it’s kind of, kind of a magical thing.

Molly Wood: Taking even a small amount of time to hear people is the difference between Meatless Mondays, which could have been in effect for over a decade by now, and cookout protests in the parking lot and who knows what other change.  

Renée Lertzmann: So the phrasing, going slow to go fast. Or the other phrase that I hear is, um, is, is change happens at the speed of trust. 

Molly Wood: Hmm, amazing.

Renée Lertzmann: So what happens is we let our own urgency high-jack the situation and kind of blind us to the relational nature of what this work really requires.

Molly Wood: So first, you have to be willing to meet people where they are, even if you are chomping at the bit to get to solutions. Which, hello, I am extremely guilty of this.  

And there are these strategies for doing that and including people, but what about persuading people to get on board with the slightly more, um, boring parts of the job? Like, you know… policy?  

What governments do is one of the biggest factors that will drive human change, but it is dense, confusing, sometimes intentionally opaque.

So kudos to the politicians out there willing to be profoundly cringey in order to make policy accessible to all. 

Casten video: I rise to continue our celebration of Hot FERC Summer. As climate activist Fergie would say: The FERCalicious definition is to make our planet cooler.

Molly Wood: This is Democratic Representative Sean Casten. He serves on the House Select Committee on the climate crisis, and before getting into politics, Rep. Casten spent his career in the clean energy industry finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, he’s trying to use policy to get us to a greener future.

This summer, he wrote a speech talking about the importance of FERC (that’s the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), advocating for them to get a fifth commissioner and to bring attention to new FERC related legislation. And that speech was set to the tune of “Fergalicious” by Fergie, and it was promptly remixed and attained meme status.

Casten remix: That’s FERCalicious. It’s hot hot. So listen up y’all because this is it. The Federal Energy Regulation Committee, better known as the F to the E to the R to the C, is one of the most important federal agencies to fight climate change, and if I’m doing this right that’s FERCalicious.

Sean Casten: I joked with somebody that asked how you came to this. And I said, you know, all I really know is that there was, you know, I remember my Homer and my Illiad that sometimes, you know, the muse lands on your shoulder and all of a sudden you can speak directly to the gods. *laughter*

Did not know that the gods were involved in viral content. The speech, “FERCalicious”, was the second speech in a series that Rep. Casten and his team put together this summer. They dubbed the series “Hot FERC Summer”, which is a Megan Thee Stallion reference.

Molly Wood: Tell us what FERC is for those who know and haven’t seen your very relatable speeches.

Sean Casten: Right. Is there anybody in the world who still doesn’t know?

Molly Wood: Hopefully not!

Sean Casten: Hard to believe. Um, so FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, used to be called the Federal Power Agency. They are the independent federal agency that is responsible for setting rates for wholesale power markets, setting rules, making sure that we have a robust and reliable energy system.

Molly Wood: Which basically means, FERC is responsible for keeping our lights on and making sure our energy is affordable and comes from a clean supply. And I guarantee that like me, every time you say FERC, you will now be bursting into song. 

Molly Wood: *laughter* You’ve really caused, really started a movement here.

Sean Casten: Well, just, you know, if you knew all the songs that we’ve kicked around that have, uh, that have gotten thrown out the rejection pile, we’ll keep you singing all afternoon.

Molly Wood: Oh my gosh. What’s on the rejection pile?

Sean Casten: Oh, you know, I personally liked and the comms team threw this one out, I liked, uh, Muddy Waters – “Get Your Mojo FERCin’”.

There was lots of singing a while ago of Rick James’ classic, “Super FERC”. You know that one?

Molly Wood: Yep. “Super FERC”. One of my faves. Oh, “FERC-house”.

Sean Casten: Yeah, no, we could do a lot of them. “Maybe FERC’s going to be the one that saves me”, the, uh, there’s a lot of ’em out there. 

Molly Wood: But I wondered: does it really matter if the energy regulatory commission captures people’s attention? 

Molly Wood: So why did you try, you know, why did you decide to do this? To invoke Megan Thee Stallion and Fergie to talk about FERC and the climate crisis? Who were you trying to reach and, and does it include people your kids’ age and my son’s age?

Sean Casten: The, the answer is, is that we’re talking about it right now. Right. I mean, I’ve, I’ve spent my whole life focused on climate change. I’ve spent, you know, most of the time focused on the nexus between energy policy and energy markets. You know, whether it’s as an entrepreneur now, the regulator and the stuff gets really nerdy really quickly. Um, it can get, it can get really frightening really quickly, you know, talking about the consequences of climate change to a point that makes people tune out. 

And, you know, I, I hope nobody heard what we did as being at all dismissive of the seriousness of their complexity of this. But it did get people talking about it. 

Um, I mean, I, you know, no Trevor Noah had us, you know, as their, their Moment of Zen on “The Daily Show.”

So now you get people thinking about this. We’ve got. Um, you know, we’re getting, you know, we’re having conversations with people in the white house who say, I understand that you really want us to get this fifth FERC commissioner appointed. We hear you loud and clear. Um, those people weren’t coming out because of some nerdy piece I wrote in a, in a wonky utility magazine right there they’re coming out. Cause we drew some attention to it and, and there’s, there’s probably some larger lesson in there about how to, on issues that are complicated and really important, you’ve got to speak the language of your listener.

Molly Wood: But I wonder too, talk to me about the value in having people find a fun and a lighthearted way into a topic that can really seem overwhelming either because it’s complicated or because sometimes it just feels unsolvable.

Sean Casten: Yeah, I mean, and I mean, isn’t that the lesson of, of every great comedian, right? Like humor is powerful stuff. Um, um, you know, but you got to have the depth to go with it. You don’t, you know, you don’t want to be overly light about it. Um, and If I knew how to do that really effectively, I would have done it a long time ago. Um, know, we’ll certainly continue to do it and learn from this moment, but the scope of what we have to do on climate, the scope of what we have to do on energy regulation is still an awful lot more.

Molly Wood: So you know, trying to have his own version of a 10-minute conversation. Get people comfortable, amused, cringing, curious and hopefully, on board the change train. 

Side note here: Representative Casten completed his Hot FERC Summer series with this little number, an ode to everyone’s favorite – Dolly Parton.

Sean Casten: You see, when you tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen. Pour yourself a cup of that ambition. Your alarm clock, the lights, the hot coffee, they’re in no small part thanks to the folks at FERC. We’re working to ensure that robust transmission system that we take for granted everyday. And when you’re jump in the shower, hot enough that your blood starts pumpin’ and drives the street before the traffic starts jumpin’, the charging networks for all those vehicles that stay cheap and reliable are also thanks to the folks FERCin’ 9 to 5. FERCIN’ 9 to 5, what a way to save the planet. 

Molly Wood: Meeting people where they’re at, right? 

This has been a moment where there’s a lot more attention on the climate crisis. A lot more anxiety, a lot more aspiration (I hope), and although it hasn’t led to quite as much political change as we might want…

We’ll talk after the break about where real action and hope might come from. 

So yes, it’s true that the US has spent decades as one of the world’s biggest emitters of carbon, not doing as much as we should to change that.

And it’s also true that most of the nations that joined the Paris Climate Accords back in 2015, pledging to cut emissions and keep earth’s temperature from rising, have definitely not held up their end of the deal. Our planet is getting hotter as we speak.

So what’s the latest on what governments are doing to address the climate crisis? 

Well, here in the US, Congress passed a trillion dollar infrastructure bill that actually does contain some action on climate.

$66 billion for electrifying public transit, another $7.5 billion for building out a nationwide network of EV charging stations. There’s even money for developing next-generation technologies like carbon capture and advanced nuclear reactors.

Although a much bigger bill, that would provide over half a trillion dollars for combating climate change and help make electrification economically possible for middle-class Americans, is still being debated – at least as we were writing this episode – its most aggressive actions might not make it out of the Capitol building at all. 

And then of course, world leaders and diplomats and business leaders just finished two weeks of meetings and negotiations in Glasgow at the big COP26 summit.

News anchor: Nearly 200 nations have finally reached a COP26 climate agreement in Glasgow, Scotland.

Molly Wood: This had been billed as a moment for real cooperation and bold action that could propel us into a future that doesn’t look anything like Slab City. 

And well, there were some wins:

Reporter 1: One of the first major deals to be brokered at the COP 26 climate summit is the promise by world leaders to end and reverse deforestation by 2030.

Reporter 2: In addition to the announcement on forests, another important development: a new initiative to cut methane levels by the year 2030.

Reporter 3: Over 100 nations and major businesses have signed the Glasgow Declaration on zero-emission cars and vans by 2035. That means the sale of combustion engines, while rolling out more affordable electric vehicles.

Molly Wood: But overall, the summit failed to meet the moment.  

Diplomats from nearly 200 countries did come up with a deal to do more to battle global warming by reducing emissions, but there aren’t any penalties for countries who fail to meet their targets. And actually, countries have until the end of next year to even have a plan to cut emissions in half by 2030.  

The final deal they hammered out during a summit literally referred to as the world’s last best hope will not, according to scientists, keep the planet from warming to levels that will be unsurvivable for billions of people by the end of this century, with many worse impacts to come before that. Just flat out isn’t enough. Even if all the pledges they made are actually followed, the last best hope meeting still left us on track for catastrophic warming. 

So that is about where the anxiety and the ambivalence may start to kick in, but hold on!

Danny Kennedy: I think that mindset is self-fulfilling. Like, you know, humans are the stories we tell ourselves, right? We, what I was reading about this psychological prospection, you become what you think you’re going to become. 

Molly Wood: This is Danny Kennedy, Chief Energy Officer for New Energy Nexus, a California based non profit that helps to fund and support clean energy entrepreneurs and startups around the world. 

I called him up because Danny has spent decades working on climate issues, facing some of the scariest climate related world problems, and he’s still an optimist.

Danny Kennedy: The good news is the rate of disruption is accelerating. 

Even if governments don’t step up to the task, Danny says plenty of significant changes are happening all over the world.

Danny Kennedy: The transition to electric motorbikes, for example, you know, I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but 75 million two wheelers were sold on earth last year. Like bigger than bikes, that sort of mopeds and scooters that people get around on in Asia and Africa, you know, just that four or 5 billion person population.

And last year, a third of them were electric. Probably five years ago, none of them were electric. 

Molly Wood: Danny told me electric bikes and scooters could dominate the market in these parts of the world as soon as 2025. A heck of a lot faster than getting rid of gas and diesel powered cars is happening, right?  

And while the US can seem like a laggard – and is – in many ways, here the transition to renewables and electrification is already happening because it’s cheaper than fossil fuels.

The real question is, what’s going to happen in Asia and Africa, where many people don’t have electricity at all? But countries like, say Indonesia, are adding more power every day.

Danny Kennedy: If they do that with coal and diesel, which is how they currently get it, we have a problem on planet earth, but the good news is Indonesia is finally realizing God, it’s so much cheaper to go solar and heck, we get a lot of sun here in Indonesia, and it’s so much better in our crowded cities on Java to have electric scooters rather than internal combustion engine based scooters. So, you know, yes, you’re right. There’s this huge other population that’s happening and those places and those technologies, the deployment of existing technologies will be the largest piece of the solution.

Molly Wood: And Danny says there’s more to be hopeful about than we might think. Change is inevitable because of market incentives and because, well, the generations that are going to feel this the most are already getting to work.

Danny Kennedy: Adversity is the mother of invention, right? And so you’re saying more resilient innovation. I would say stuff that is both adaptive and ingenious in its reduction of contribution to fossil fuels. 

And the other place where I see that, to be honest, Molly is with young people. You know, if they were a country, I think you’re sort of seeing this, this reportage these days about the dismay and despair that young people feel about the climate crisis, which of course is fair enough.

And so they should, they should be pretty annoyed, shall we say, with those of us that sort of did this, but they’re not stopping there. They’re getting on with it. They’re saying I’m angry and I’m going to fix this despite the lot. And it’s not like it’s the end of the world. It’s a world without end. The question we’re now facing is what condition that’s going to be in.

And these young people are gonna make sure it’s as good as it can be with innovation that they’re driving and not the old guard that did this to them.

Molly Wood: Yeah, I know, it’s kind of a cliche to say the children are our future. 

But it’s their future and it’s no surprise that some of the loudest voices in the climate movement right now are coming from college kids and the Sunrise Movement and young people on hunger strike in front of the White House.

And everybody else should probably, maybe, give them a little help. Because at the rate things are changing, scientists are actually losing the ability to even accurately predict what might happen as we pass more and more tipping points on the way to the, you know, potential collapse of human civilization.

Ok yes, I know, I promised way back in the trailer that this is not a podcast about the world ending. It’s not that. Or at least, it doesn’t have to be. 

Because really and truly, now is the time. There is always a time to get to work on your little corner of the universe…your house, your car or heck, your mass transit. Your gas stove, your block, your town, who you vote for, what you say at parties, what you do or do not buy.

There’s anxiety, I know. There’s ambivalence. I know. But despite it all, let’s see if we can’t land together at aspiration, am I right? And then just get to work. 

Because that is actually, really and truly, and I mean it…How We Survive. 

How We Survive was created and hosted by me, Molly Wood.

Hayley Hershman produced this episode, with help from Grace Rubin and Marque Greene.

Hayley, Grace and I wrote it.

Editing by Caitlin Esch.  

Scoring and sound design by Chris Julin 

Mixing by Brian Alison

Sitara Nieves is our Executive Producer 

Donna Tam is our director of on-demand

Our theme music is by Wonderly. 

Special thanks to everyone who helped make this season possible at Marketplace and APM.

We are so grateful for this opportunity. 

And thank you for listening! How We Survive will return. 


The team

Molly Wood Host
Caitlin Esch Senior Producer
Hayley Hershman Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer