On December 7, 2011, Mark Hertsgaard participated in The National Climate Seminar, a series of webinars sponsored by Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy. The online seminars provide a forum for leading scientists, writers, and other experts to talk about critical issues regarding climate change. The series also opens a public conversation, inviting participants to ask questions and contribute their own thoughts.
Hertsgaard has spthe last two decades reporting on climate change for media outlets including The New Yorker, NPR, Time, Vanity Fair, and The Nation, where he is the environmcorrespondent. His lecture focused on political movements and how environmental advocates can provoke change in public attitudes and on Capitol Hill. Hertsgaard sees 2011’s Occupy movemas a sign of real hope and discussed what climate activists can learn from Occupy’s tactics.
This E-ssential is an edited version of Hertsgaard’s talk and the subseququestion and answer session. While some material has been cut and some language modified for clarity, the intention was to retain the substance of the original discussion.
A new father, Hertsgaard (Earth Odyssey) was growing increasingly anxious and despondent about climate change and the world his child would inherit. His new book is his investigation into the techniques that could allow his daughter and her generation "to survive the challenges ahead." This readable, passionate book is surprisingly optimistic: Seattle, Chicago, and New York are making long-term, comprehensive plans for flooding and drought. Impoverished farmers in the already drought-stricken African Sahel have discovered how to substantially improve yields and decrease malnutrition by growing trees among their crops, and the technique has spread across the region; Bangladeshis, some of the poorest and most flood-vulnerable yet resilient people on earth, are developing imaginative innovations such as weaving floating gardens from water hyacinth that lift with rising water. Contrasting the Netherland's 200-year flood plans to the New Orleans Katrina disaster, Hertsgaard points out that social structures, even more than technology, will determine success, and persuasively argues that human survival depends on bottom-up, citizen-driven government action.