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Transcript: Podship Earth Episode 030: Rallied

JARED BLUMENFELD: Welcome to Podship Earth. This is your host, Jared Blumenfeld.


JERRY BROWN: I believe California has the most far reaching plan. The deal was admissions as well as oil consumption and production. Our goal is a 45 percent production in oil production as well as consumption and we have the actual method of getting there and that's what I think is very important. If there are other ways we can even make it better, we will, but make no doubt about it, there is no place in the world that has a more integrated comprehensive, effective plan to reduce carbon emissions from all sources.


JARED BLUMENFELD: That was California governor Jerry Brown letting the world know that we don't need to wait for Washington or any central government before taking bold climate action. This week, Jerry Brown convened mayors, businesses, environmental groups for a global summit with serious commitments with the requirement for entry. This was accompanied by a lot of suits and speechifying, which for me are best avoided. Instead, I focused on the fringe, where you could learn about everything from making climate friendly beer to meditating with the Brahma Kumaris. There are a ton of cool art projects from a 20-foot bear made out of car hoods to Taiwanese artists from bamboo curtain focusing on plastic pollution. Art helps us focus on more than science and number crunching. Most of the messages around climate are, in the words of activist artist Favianna Rodriguez, “hell a boring” and tone deaf to the realities of normal people. As a way of finding out how to change the conversation around climate, I spent five days hanging out with filmmakers, explorers, religious leaders, chefs, and everyday people marching for change. I start the week outside Coal + Ice, a photo exhibit with massive 50- foot video projections of images of melting ice and people up to their necks in flood waters. I meet up with Swiss adventurer, Bertrand Piccard, who is the first person to go around the world in a solar-powered plane.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Bertrand, why did you come all the way to California for Jerry Brown's Climate Summit?


BERTRAND PICCARD: Because it's very important to show that there are solutions to the problems. Very often, in all these big gatherings, people repeat all the problems or the consequences of climate change and these depresses everybody. So, we have also to speak about the solutions and California is an example of that. You know, when Governor Brown is signing a bill to have California have 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, the rest of the world has to know it. Because the rest of the world is hardly daring to put 2045 as a target to get rid of diesel cars in the cities. So everything depends on the power and the ambition and the minds of this pioneering spirit of some individuals and we have to push the others also to become pioneers. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: What's the big goal that you wish California was adopting or other states? 


BERTRAND PICCARD: The strategy to reach it is not only to produce renewable energy, it's also to consume less energy by being more energy efficient. And actually, what is the most profitable today is the energy efficiency.


JARED BLUMENFELD: You built the most energy efficient plane that probably will ever be built. 


BERTRAND PICCARD: Yeah, that's true. That's true. And I'm happy you understand it because very often people only things solar impulse is about solar energy, but it is about energy efficiency. That's absolutely for sure. Otherwise, the energy of the sun would never have been enough.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Talking about energy from the sun, just around the corner from Bertrand, is Mayor Mohamend Sefiani from Chefchaouen in Morocco. How did you decide to come all the way from northern Morocco to San Francisco for this summit?


MOHAMEND SEFIANI: Climate is very important for us in Morocco, in Africa, Mediterranean area.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Tell us how you're doing renewable energy in your town.

MOHAMEND SEFIANI: We, the leadership of His Majesty, the King of Morocco, two years ago we had the biggest plant of energy solar in the world. So in Morocco, we have a commitment to implant renewable energy and efficiency energy in cities like Chefchaouen and other cities, we are committed to implement at the local level the Paris agreement and the youth using sustainable energy. And working together with people with the civil society to implement to the Paris agreements at local level.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Next step, I joined more than 30,000 marchers walking down Market Street in San Francisco. As a student, I was there for every march and rally. I remember when the entire University of London marched against Margaret Thatcher's proposal to require students pay for college. The police went through the crowd on horseback picking up students by the hair and dragging them off to jail. Today the event is a polar opposite. The sun is out, there are tons of families, and there's a sense of hope in the air.


MARCHER EMILY WILLIAMS: My name is Emily Williams and I am here because it's time that we actually put our money in our actions where our mouth is. Jerry Brown is very excited to have this climate legacy and he's promoting renewable energy. But at the same time, California remains in the top three or four states when it comes to oil extraction. So, at the same time that we are promoting renewable energy, we're also drilling and fracking for this heavy, dense crude oil that's fueling the climate crisis. So, for us to really going to tackle this crisis, we need to think about what it means to actually stop drilling for oil, keeping fossil fuels in the ground.


MARCHER OFSPRAY AGULAY: Well, I think one of the most important untold stories of climate change is that women are impacted first and worst by climate change, but they're central to solutions. Study after study shows that you actually can't get to sustainability unless you have women's leadership. You really need to have women in their leadership roles. Patriarchy has been around a long time and it has really set up these roles that are not healthy for humanity and women are the ones that have the social capital to bring people together to do the recycling, to do the work in the communities that needs to be done. And we're seeing this all over the world. We live in a time in which these systems of oppression link us. The systems of patriarchy, sexism, racism, colonization, and capitalism are all linked to the fact of a dominator worldview. Dominator dominating over women, dominating over people of color, dominating over the land, dominating over the poor.  So, we really need to unite our struggles together because they're all based upon these ideas of rule by the few and oppression to the many. And we're really needing to turn that upside down. So that's true with the “Black Lives Matter” movement. The “Me Too” movement. We're all fighting these systems of violent violence and oppression against women, people of color, indigenous people, and the land. And that system has to change. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: California is a leader or lagger? 


MARCHER OFSPRAY ORGULAY: I think a mixture of both. Governor Jerry Brown has absolutely got to do a better job. On his watch, there's been 20,000 new oil and gas drillings in California. That is not good enough. People are dying on the front lines in communities of color, particularly in marginalized communities in California, and that is not a climate leader. Scientists are telling us 80 percent of all fossil fuel reserves have to stay in the ground.  If you're drilling, you're not doing your job. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: What does climate justice look like? 


MARCHER JENNIFER: Stop drilling our oceans, taking away our land. That's what climate justice looks like. Stop drilling now. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: So, people around the world are coming to see Jerry Brown and they think California is the greenest place on the planet.


MARCHER JENNIFER:  We try. We set the example. That's why we're out here today for the world to see. Save our planet for our kids, our grandkids. Still fucking fracking going on in California. We're trying to stop it. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: Thank you.  Ma’am, where are you from?


MARCHER SHAWN: I'm from New Orleans. This is like a party.



JARED BLUMENFELD: It really is.  It’s like a street party. Climate change has been so miserable for so long.


MARCHER SHAWN: Who wants to engage with grim people? Like let's do it. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: This is what people want to join. 


MARCHER SHAWN: Absolutely, they want to dance, they want to have fun because we can have some joy in the battle. Just so you know, so a second line in New Orleans, when someone dies and the band plays, everybody in the neighborhood just joins in and follows the band and marches with the band. Right? And so, in a way, this is kind of the second line, right? You play, people jump in and they march with you. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: Are you having fun Shawn? 


MARCHER SHAWN: Now I am now.


JARED BLUMENFELD: How green really is California? A lot of people in the parade are complaining about Jerry Brown not really being that green.


MARCHER SHAWN: Well, it's relative, isn't it? So I think that we're greener than a lot of places. We just passed a legislation calling for 100 percent renewable energy. It doesn't all happen today, but I think we're really on the right path, and I think we are leaders and of course we have problems, right? There's never going to be a perfect solution to anything. We have problems with gentrification and racism and all those other things, but yeah, I think that our hearts are in the right place and I think we're moving.

KIMBERLY BENSON: We represent Parachutes for the Planet and we have the parachutes that are up in front of you. And this one represents communities from around the world that have made a parachute to save the planet earth. We have them coming from Madagascar, Cameroon, India, all over the world. This was the parachute that inspired it all. It was carried last year and the People's Climate March in Washington DC. It was made by my daughter there. And it says, “kids are the future, you owe us a livable planet.” And she took it around to schools in the area and got 1600 students to sign it. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: I'm going to go and talk to. 


KIMBERLY BENSON: Her name is Callan. My name is Kimberly Benson. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: So how old are you? 




JARED BLUMENFELD: And what prompted you to come up with this parachute idea? 


KALLAN BENSON: Well, I went to the first People's Climate March when I was nine in 2014, which was really a special experience. I was really moved. So, when they announced the second People's Climate March, I really wanted to do something big. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: So why the parachute?


KALLAN BENSON: It's practical. So, it's pretty easy to hold and march and then, it's the idea of a safe landing on climate change. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: Do you worry that we won't have a safe landing? 


KALLAN BENSON: Yes. All the time. Definitely. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: And what does that make you feel? 


KALLAN BENSON: Oh, it makes me feel scared. It makes me feel sad and it makes me. I know there's going to be another generation after me and they're going to have it even worse. And with a lot of kids, it's so easy to feel isolated, like you're the only kid out there who's doing this. So you really have to, you have to find those other kids who are working on this. And you have to be, you have to be a movement. You can't just be one person. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: Well, you're doing an awesome job. Do you think the current generation of political leaders are doing enough to combat climate change? 


KALLAN BENSON: No. No, they're not. We have to get further. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: So, the Reverend Sally Bingham, why are you marching today? 


REVEREND SALLY BINGHAM: Well, we all know that climate change is destroying life as we know it and affecting all aspects of life, and the faith community knows this as a really important moral issue. If you care about your brothers and sisters on the planet and you care about the creation that God gave us to enjoy and live with, we have a responsibility. I think people of faith are more responsible because we're the ones that sit in the pews and say, we love God and love creation. We say and are commanded to love our brothers and sisters. If you love your neighbor, your brothers and sisters, you don't pollute their air, and so as a person of faith, I see this as the top priority for our religion, not just ours, mine being Christian, but for all religions, all people of faith who profess love of God.


JARED BLUMENFELD: I was inspired by what Sally said, so the next day I went to Grace Cathedral for a multi-denominational climate blessing.




JARED BLUMENFELD: Along with those beautiful Muslim and Hindu prayer songs we hear from Augustin Rancherero, a Toltec leader from Mexico.


AUGUSTIN RANCHERERO: This reunification that is calling us to come together. Not just as people, but as all beings. This is the call. This is the prophecy of the eagle and the condor. This is a prophecy of the phoenix and the dragon. We commit ourselves as well to share our wisdom, to create not just peace on earth, but peace with earth. We commit ourselves as well to share her wisdom as native peoples of the world, continuing caring for life, continuing to care for each other.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Where to go next? Literally hundreds of ego events to choose from. Yet it seemed appropriate that climate friendly cuisine was my next port of call. I asked Adam Stern why in a city of foodies, so many chefs are now focusing on climate?


CHEF ADAM STERN: When you look at the carbon footprint of people in this area and lots of the country on a consumption basis, food is approaching 20 percent of the carbon footprint, so this is a real opportunity. By setting ambitious goals and even doing something personal like saying you're going to reduce your meat intake by not eating meat one day a week, that's 15 percent of your carbon footprint related to food. And collectively that can add up to a huge impact in terms of reducing emissions. In fact, I've seen one statistic that if everyone in this country were to take food meat out of their diet one day a week, it's the equivalent of removing 11 million cars off the road.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Which would probably nearly be enough to meet the Paris commitments.


CHEF ADAM STERN: That would certainly help.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Still at the climate friendly cuisine gathering, the food was amazing, so I couldn't leave, I talk with Pacifia Chang who founded the Loving Heart Vegan restaurant chain.


PACIFIA CHANG: So, this is a very unusual to have a one-day session on this topic so we can know and support a wonderful initiative.


JARED BLUMENFELD: So, Vegan restaurants seem to be doing really well?


PACIFIA CHANG: In US, roughly, we have six percent vegan. Maybe it's growing. That was a ’00 statistic and a from that, if you calculate by the San Francisco's population, we are really supposed to have 200 or 300 vegan restaurants. In this area, there’s actually there are not as many, so they are doing very well.

JARED BLUMENFELD: This week has been about many things, but one of them is bringing local government leaders to the fore, which meant that I was lucky enough to sit down with Patricia de Lille, Mayor of Cape Town. You may remember that in March of this year, Cape Town was only a few weeks away from completely running out of water. They called it Day Zero. I star by asking Mayor de Lille, what it’s like being mayor of Cape Town. 


MAYOR PATRICIA DE LILLE: I started in the struggle against the apartheid in the city of Cape Town and today I'm serving the people of Cape Town. So, I've come full circle. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: I remember standing on a Table Top mountain and looking down and there's beautiful greenery, but there's also quite a bit industry.


MAYOR PATRICIA DE LILLE: Yes, quite a bit of industry, a lot of urbanization as the second fastest growing city in South Africa. People are coming to the cities looking for opportunities. And because of the fast growth, we've grown about 30 percent in the past 10 years. A lot of informal settlement sprang up across the city with people living in informal settlements looking for opportunity. So, yes, it’s a beautiful city, but like all other cities around the world, we had the challenges of climate change.


JARED BLUMENFELD: When did you first get an advisor that came in and said, this is mayor, we've got an issue here? We might run out of water.


MAYOR PATRICIA DE LILLE: So, in 2016 we were using 1.1 billion liters of water per day and we had to reduce that two years later to about 500 million liters of water per day, but it really took a lot of effort to say to people, you can only save water while you have water. You have to change your relationship with water. We moved up the tariffs, so the more you used, the more you paid. And some of the high-end users who didn't want to listen to us because they could afford to pay, I simply went to all of those big multi-story houses in Cape Town and connected a water meter that restricted their water usage to 350 liters of water per day. They didn't like it, but everybody got the message. So it was a very sharp learning curve. I always said I can never allow a well-run city to run out of water. If we had to run out of water, we were going to become the first city in the world to do so. So all the effort and the mobilization with the private sector, with civil society, with our communities, our school children, they became good ambassadors because they were now policing the parents at home to save water.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Climate change became real because in California we've had six years of drought. But if someone said, there’s going to be a day where you run out of water… I mean, how did it make you feel? Did you wake up like nervous each day that you really would run out of water? 



MAYOR PATRICIA DE LILLE: It was a really the worst drought in 100 years. So, there was no record of anybody having to doubt it was the worst drought in 100 years. So we had to come with a very strong message. Day Zero was going to come when our dam levels reach 10 percent. Then we were going to switch off some of the taps. But in the end, it was pulling together all of us, to avoid day zero because then also realized that we can no longer rely only on rain water to fill up our dams. So we started desalination. We currently have got three desalination plants going, pumping about one point 6 million liters of water per day. We started looking at aquifers. We started using underground water.  We started using treated wastewater and all of a sudden, you know, people realize that water as a resource is life.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Was it the most difficult political test of your administration?


MAYOR PATRICIA DE LILLE: Oh, most definitely. I tell you, I had sleepless nights. I met with the administration every morning from nine until twelve. A lot of opportunity also came out of the crisis because the one way of saving water was to minimize the leaks. So, we employed more than 1000, what we call, community plumbers. We trained them, and they went door to door. They fixed little washers, they fixed some pipes, and we also use the same people to knock on every door to talk to people about water. But it was not easy. So one thing I could not do was to rely on our national government. In fact, it was not in the interest of our national government to save the city of Cape Town. They were going to assist us to build a big desalination plant, but they wanted to build it under the conditions they are contractors because it's their money and we said, look, for now desalination is an option, but it's very expensive. Somebody has to pay for that water, but they didn't give us that choice. And so, I said, Mayor Patricia de Lille, you are on your own. It is your reputation that is at stake here if your city runs out of water. And so, every morning when I woke up, I said to myself, I will not allow this to happen to my city.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Congratulations. I mean, it's amazing. And it kind of sets the lesson for the rest of the world in resiliency. And you're still smiling.


MAYOR PATRICIA DE LILLE: Oh yes. But I must tell you it was really two years of hell.


JARED BLUMENFELD: We had a correspondent in South Africa called Dana Smirin and she went to farmers and they were very nervous about their water supply, their crops.


MAYOR PATRICIA DE LILLE: At least some of the farmers were naughty. They were actually stealing water from the rivers and blocking the rivers, so all the water could not run into the dams. But the impact on farmers was also massive in terms of job losses because they were not going to get their full vineyard of crops and other crops that they lost, about 29 percent of the exports of fruit from the Western Cape. But in the end, it was for survival of all of us.


JARED BLUMENFELD: You've come all the way, probably one of the furthest mayors to come to Jerry Brown's conference. What do you hope to bring back?


MAYOR PATRICIA DE LILLE: I've come here because I'm always inspired by meeting with mayors from around the world and just the network because as cities we are the drivers of change. It is in cities where the rubber hits the road where people expect us to protect them and to mitigate climate change.


JARED BLUMENFELD: So, this week Jerry Brown announced that he wants to get to a 100 percent carbon free energy by 2045. Is that something within the reach of Cape Town? Does that give you ammunition to go back and say we can do the same?


MAYOR PATRICIA DE LILLE: Oh yes, most definitely. Our major problem for carbon emissions is transport. 64 percent of our, so we have just acquired our first eleven electric buses. But long term to deal with carbon emissions is that we need to change the spatial planning of cities. People are living too far out of the cities. Cities have been designed for cars with all of these highways. We now need to bring people closer to work opportunities, commercial opportunities, so they don't have to travel that long of spaces. But in terms of the Paris agreement and governor Brown is correct, although the national government signed all of the agreements there, but the people responsible for reducing and meeting the Paris agreement targets it is with the states and cities.

JARED BLUMENFELD: One of the fabulous changes I saw this week was that women like Mayor De Lille help shift the focus of the conference by broadening the discussion from just looking at greenhouse gas emission numbers, to taking action on sustainable agriculture, water and land use on the street. Outside the meeting, I asked Sonja Trauss why it's important to have women's voices at the table when we talk about climate change.


SONJA TRAUSS: High density housing is one of the paths to ending climate change. It is also a women's issue. You know, when housing is close to daycare, close to school, close to work, when daycare is close to work, the more that we can keep people from having to make trips, actually the more productive time women have because the reality is women are the ones that wind up carting the kids around. So the suburban form is a form that's designed for men to leave their nuclear families, travel far to where they work, you know, and leave the women and kids altogether. But that's not how we work anymore. That's not how we function anymore. The like surprising side effect of Trump winning is that women were like, well, if he can do it, I guess I can too.


JARED BLUMENFELD: Thanks to the thousands of people that marched for climate justice to explorer Bertrand Piccard, Emily William, Shawn Rosenmusk, Kimberly and Kallan Benson, the Reverend Sally Bingham, Augustin Rancherero, Adam Stern, Pacifica Chang, Mayor Patricia de Lille and Sonja Trauss. The summit will probably be remembered for the commitments that were made to tackle climate change or for the fact that the rest of the world can now see that Washington, DC, does not represent the nation. For me, this week was about recharging my batteries even though I'm totally exhausted. It's a good feeling. Artists were given the same weight as scientists. Indigenous voices could be heard above the din of old men in suits and women are now sitting in the driver's seat. Prioritizing the voices of those are ready, most impacted by climate change is the key to developing effective solutions. It's great to see the focus shifting from anger around what national governments have failed to do into a positive agenda for action. Next week we'll review the latest environmental movies and talk to directors, producers, and of course the stars of the movies. Please like Podship Earth on Facebook and Instagram. Thank you so much for being part of the Podship Earth journey. From the entire Podship Earth crew, sound engineer Rob Spate, producer Nancy Ferranti, executive producer David Kahn, and me, Jared Blumenfeld, have a fabulous week.

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