The giant wave is coming, folks—but not on the big screen. In this all-climate art panel episode of Art for the End Times, Lyta sits down with journalists and podcasters Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt, as well as climate fiction writer Sim Kern, to discuss the climate change allegory blockbuster Don’t Look Up, the relative lack of compelling climate stories in movies and books today, and what we’d like to see art become in an era of impending planetary collapse. We also ask the blunt question: Is “climate fiction” a meaningful artistic category, or is it just brutal realism at this point?
Mary Annaïse Heglar is an accomplished climate justice essayist whose work has been integral to getting the climate movement to understand climate change as a justice issue that intersects with every other justice issue. She is the co-host and co-creator of the Hot Take newsletter and podcast, and her work has been featured in a range of outlets, including Rolling Stone, The New Republic, and The Boston Globe. Amy Westervelt is an award-winning investigative journalist who has contributed to The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and many other outlets. She is the co-host and co-creator of the Hot Take newsletter and podcast, the founder of the Critical Frequency podcast network (named AdWeek’s 2019 Podcast Network of the Year), and author of the book Forget ‘Having It All’: How America Messed Up Motherhood, and How to Fix It. Sim Kern is an environmental journalist and speculative fiction writer, exploring intersections of climate change, queerness, and social justice. Their quiet horror novella DEPART, DEPART! debuted from Stelliform Press in 2020, and their writing has been featured in a range of outlets, including Salon, The Independent, and Out Magazine.
Pre-Production/Studio/Post Production: Dwayne Gladden
Lyta Gold: Hello and welcome to Art for the End Times. As always, I’m your host Lyta Gold. We have a really exciting episode today. We’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics. It’s also a really important and appropriate topic for this podcast. We’re going to talk about climate fiction. Climate fiction, it’s stories that are about or that take into account climate change, that thing that’s happening all around us all the time. When you think about it, it’s actually really weird that climate fiction isn’t the dominant aesthetic preoccupation in books and movies and other things.
We do have Don’t Look Up which just came out and you may have seen it, but it’s really an anomaly in mainstream pop culture. We don’t have too many movies like that. We are going to talk a little bit about Don’t Look Up but not too much because I’m sure you’ve heard it dissected to death on other podcasts. I’m not going to do that here. Here I want to use it more of a jumping off point to talk about climate fiction in general. Why is there still so little climate fiction? What are the barriers to making it? What do we expect climate fiction to do? Because some people expect it to serve a political purpose. Also, what kinds of climate fiction would we like to see in the future? Joining me today I have three very, very special guests. First up we have Mary Annaïse Heglar.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Hi.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, hi Mary. So excited you’re here. Mary is a podcaster and a journalist, also a terrific Twitter follow. If you are not following her, you absolutely should. Just the co-host and co-writer of the Hot Take podcast and newsletter. Mary, I’m just so glad you’re here.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Lyta Gold: Next up we have Amy Westervelt. Amy is the other co-host and co-writer of the Hot Take podcast and newsletter, as well as being the producer and generally involved with a ton of other climate podcasts and projects. Amy, I am so glad you could make it here.
Amy Westervelt: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Lyta Gold: Last but not least, we have Sim Kern. Sim is a writer of climate fiction and a journalist too. Their debut novella is called Depart, Depart! It is wonderful. I read it today like all in one gasp. It’s so great. Sim, thanks for being here.
Sim Kern: Yeah, it’s great to be here.
Lyta Gold: Hey. Yeah, I did want to start off talking about Don’t Look Up, even though everybody’s a little tired about talking about Don’t Look Up. I have strong feelings about it. I’m sure other people have strong feelings about it too. It is one of the only pieces of mainstream climate fiction that we have. It’s apparently done really well on Netflix, they’re saying something like 321 million hours streamed. That’s Netflix’s own numbers and you should never, ever trust Netflix’s own numbers, but it’s got a lot of big celebs and a lot of whatevers. People probably did see it. It’s meant to be an allegory for climate change though it’s technically about a comet. But yeah, I just want to start by going around and asking what did we think of it as a piece of climate fiction, if we can call it that?
Amy Westervelt: Mary, I know you have thoughts.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I do. I do, and I’m actually not tired of talking about it. I refuse to talk about it much on Twitter because Twitter is where nuance goes to die and my feelings about the film are quite nuanced. I didn’t love or hate it. My overall feeling about it, if I have just one, is I appreciate the fact that it was made. I see it as something that needs to be built on. Of course, I think a lot of the criticisms of the film are actually criticisms of Hollywood as an industry. We wanted the film to do all of the things because it’s the only film trying to do any of the things. That is an indictment of Hollywood. That’s not an indictment of the film.
What also it says is that, something I kind of already knew, which is that the climate movement doesn’t know how to deal with art. Art isn’t perfect and it’s messy. It’s never going to do all of everything that you want it to do because, honey, that’s called propaganda. I think we need to make room for art to make mistakes. Also, I don’t think that film was made for people in the climate movement. I don’t think that movie was made for me. A lot of those jokes were crazy stale to me because I’ve been living and breathing this work for a while, but to someone who’s totally new to it then maybe it works.
Those are some of my more complicated feelings about it. Some of the clearer feelings to me, I love that it tried to use humor. I think that that was a major step forward because human beings don’t engage with things that they can’t be humorous about. We make jokes about racism. We need to be able to laugh with our pain. I thought that, even if I didn’t find all the jokes funny, I appreciated that it tried. I appreciated that in the ending the bad thing was allowed to happen. In so many disaster movies there’s always they find that back door and they avert catastrophe at the very last minute and it lulls people back into this false sense of security. Those were two things I actually did really like about the film. Two things I did not like. I did not like that the rest of the world was just missing in action.
Lyta Gold: Where were they? There was like one reference.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: You mean to tell me that Russia ain’t going to be ringing the phone off the hook, that Europe ain’t going to be calling, Japan? Israel’s got a whole missile deflection situation going on, you mean to tell me they’re not going to be trying to talk about this? That drove me crazy. I also did not super like the fact that it relied on the allegory convention, because that’s what we always get when it comes to climate. You could just talk about climate change. You don’t need an allegory. That was probably way more than you were expecting. But that’s just to start.
Lyta Gold: No, that’s great. Yeah, allegory is interesting because it’s a form that isn’t used very much. It’s pretty rare to see. It’s like a very medieval form. It is weird. Why not? The meteor is different qualitatively. If it had been a meteor made out of space junk I think it might’ve worked. Space junk we’d fired out. But that was not the case.
Sim Kern: The fact that it’s a comet and not climate change leads me into the thematic issues that I had with it. I think like Mary-Anais, there was a lot that I loved in it. There were moments where I felt validated on screen in a way I’ve been waiting my whole life. The scene where Jennifer Lawrence’s character – Did I say the right celebrity name? I’m terrible at –
Lyta Gold: [crosstalk] every celebrity, so that’s very hard.
Sim Kern: Her character, when she shouts on the talk show, maybe the end of the world should be terrifying and we should be spending every single night crying ourselves to sleep, I’ve felt that way since eighth grade. Then the rest of the world responding to her in this completely gas lighting way of, you’re crazy, that was very validating. I’m sorry for the police sirens. I hope that doesn’t screw up the audio.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh, I thought that was here.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, I thought that was here too. I’m used to it.
Sim Kern: So yeah, I really liked feeling validated. The gaslighting especially of the activists like when the president says, you’re with the grownups now Randall, even though all of the grownups supposedly are just these really rich, selfish people, loved all that. But the fact that it’s a comet and not climate change leads it to the ending. Is it okay if I spoil the ending here? Are we assuming…
Lyta Gold: Oh yeah.
Sim Kern: There’s an end. There’s one chance. Then they get to the point where there’s no more chances and they’ve run out of options and so give up. Eat your salmon dinner. I think that is a very comfortable place for privileged, comfortable, liberal people to get to, and they get there really fast. They have a freak out about climate change, they read a couple articles, and really quickly they find their way to this climate nihilism and this, well, politics is screwed. There’s not going to be good solutions out of this. Eat the wild caught salmon and enjoy your dinner because there’s no point in fighting.
That’s really frustrating for me, and I’m sure a lot of climate activists, as people who keep showing up to the fight and knowing that every day is a chance. Every tree is worth fighting for. This isn’t a point where we ever get to a place where there’s nothing left to fight for and it’s time to just give up and enjoy your dinner. That was really frustrating for me. I loved it as a movie, but as a piece of climate fiction it didn’t quite have the radical politics behind it that I really find exciting, a lot of climate fiction that’s coming out now.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah, yeah. I had that same feeling about the dinner. I was like, this reminds me of everything a rich white person has said to me about climate in the last 10 years. I enjoyed it just as a piece of entertainment. I felt very connected to the Jennifer Lawrence character. I agree with Mary that I’m glad that they let the bad thing happen in the end because I do think that tying it up neatly in a bow would also be annoying. I also am really glad that it got made and that it’s been successful, because of course the only way any other climate thing is ever going to get made is if there’s a big blockbuster movie. This did that. It’s been successful.
It’s definitely being seen by more than just climate people to have the kinds of numbers that it’s posting. It had a celebrity cast and it’s gotten just an endless amount of press. Everyone’s still talking about it. All of that is just, I think, so helpful for any kind of climate action, climate art, all of it. That’s all great. I shared Sim’s exact concern with the precise ending that they went with, which was this sort of kumbaya, let’s have salmon and forget the world’s ending thing.
Then my other issue was that what I think Adam McKay in particular has done really well in all of his other films is include so many random details about this very particular community of people that you can tell there’s major insider knowledge there, and I felt like that was missing here. Everyone felt really two dimensional to me. Yeah, I don’t know. I feel like they kind of phoned it in on character development a little bit. Like all the time was spent on coming up with the allegory and how they were going to make sure everyone knew it was about climate without saying it was about climate. I feel like, I don’t know, there are so many little tiny details that I think could have made it feel actually funnier. That’s the thing that I feel gets the comedy going in a lot of his other films.
I will end on another positive, which is that I am so glad that they skewed the media in this, because somehow the media constantly gets off the hook for its role in delaying action and being a major, major part of the political will problem. I’m glad that they took full aim at the media. I also think it was smart in terms of their attempt to appeal to a broader audience because the pool of people who like to hate on media is much larger than the pool of climate people.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well actually, I think that’s a really interesting thing about the film and an interesting thing about the use of an allegory of a comet. The comet is imperfect. There’s a lot of ways in which it breaks down as a metaphor for climate change. It’s not an industry-made wound. It’s just this random thing that comes out of nowhere. But by not having it be this industry-made thing, they didn’t have to create an analogy for the fossil fuel industry. That allowed them to villainize politicians and the media in a way that I’ve never really seen done in the scant bits of climate fiction or climate movies, rather.
Climate fiction does all sorts of stuff, but climate movies generally don’t do that, and especially one that’s aiming to reach the type of broad audience that this film was aiming to reach. It allowed them to lay the blame at the feet of the media and the politicians in a way that I really think more people need to understand. I also think that that scene at the end where they’re having that dinner and they introduce the importance of community and spirituality, which I think there is something to that. A lot of people do point to that as a solution for dealing with your climate grief. It doesn’t work perfectly because it’s a comet, and like that’s just a wrap for your planet right there. That’s kind of it. That’s why we need more climate films.
Amy Westervelt: Totally, yes.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: We’re in desperate need of them, and I’m not going to get mad at this film for not being all things.
Amy Westervelt: That’s right. That’s right. Agreed.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: We can talk about it. We can critique it. But I just can’t fix my mouth to say I hated it. Yeah, no. I don’t think anyone here is saying that. No, I don’t think anybody here does, but on the social media where most of us are having all of our conversations outside of our household these days because of the pandemic, every opinion gets flattened. People are really enjoying skewering this film. I know we’re saying that we’ve talked about the film to death, I don’t know that we have in any real sort of way. I don’t think we’ve had nuanced, messy conversations about this film. I think we’ve had a lot of virtue signaling, holier than thou, sanctimonious conversations about it, again, on social media, but I don’t think we’ve had the types of conversations we need to have about this film.
Amy Westervelt: Then unfortunately the most visible makers of this film have been extremely defensive about any sort of criticism, whether it is nuanced or not. I don’t think that has helped because it’s like, well, why can’t we have –
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Shouldn’t be making art.
Amy Westervelt: Why can’t we have a messy conversation about this? It should be, you know… I don’t know. Yeah, exactly. You can’t make creative stuff and then be extra sensitive about any kind of feedback. That doesn’t work.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, I wanted to get into that, because I think my viewing of the movie was colored by the reaction that Adam McKay and David Sirota were having on Twitter where they were getting very upset at any… Because on Rotten Tomatoes it’s something 50 some percent approval from critics and the audience is more like 70%. They were getting very, very upset and talking about how the critics don’t get it. I think one of the things that’s happening here, which is kind of an interesting problem maybe in climate fiction in general, is that if it’s a piece of art, you can criticize art and people have opinions about it, whatever. But if it’s a piece of politics and it’s meant to serve a political end then it’s a huge problem to dislike it and to disagree with it, because then you’re not getting the point of the ideas. You don’t respect the ideas. You don’t care about the climate. [crosstalk]
Amy Westervelt: [crosstalk] social impact thing, then it’s like, oh, well.
Lyta Gold: Exactly.
Sim Kern: See for me though, that’s what I’m saying. I liked it as a piece of art and I really don’t have much criticism of it as a piece of art. I do criticize its politics because I think they’re very neoliberal. The reason there are no solutions at the end is because I think – Perhaps it’s Adam McKay – But the driving vision behind the movie is the kind of person that was counting on COP26 to solve climate change and then was surprised when it didn’t, that sort of thing.
Amy Westervelt: Zing.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Even though it was the 26th try.
Sim Kern: Yeah. If you’re that kind of person, then yeah, you look at climate change coming like a meteor that we don’t have a chance of stopping. The moment I felt most betrayed by, I think, in the entire movie was when Jennifer Lawrence gets on a table at a bar and she tells everyone the story and then the people just riot. There’s a riot. Then it’s like, oh, that was a bad thing that happened, and it gets shut down and the plot moves on. I’m like, wait, but rioting is kind of good. Rioting and people power.
Then there’s another brief clip of there’s some, they’re doing some protesty thing. There’s some kind of people power thing going on and organizing, but it’s just a clip of the three main scientists phone banking or something. Being in the climate movement where I am, that’s actually the only way any change happens is through people-powered movements, and this movie just didn’t engage with that at all. That was a let down for me. There are climate fiction writers like Aya De Leon, for example, who are writing really amazing books engaging with the grassroots climate movements and stuff.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. I think there’s a lot to be built on. There was a lot in the film that it could have been made into a whole series in so many different ways. What I hope is that there are so many other creatives in Hollywood looking at the film and going, hmm, I would’ve explored that storyline, and then they go explore it. Then we get this whole Renaissance of people being like, okay, it’s safe to talk about this in public, but what I also thought was really interesting about that scene that you just mentioned where Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Kate is her name in the film, which I love, because of Kate [inaudible], a friend of ours and also a scientist.
So she gets up and she tells people how bad it is and they freak out. I can’t even tell if they were being nihilists at the moment, but they riot. For so long in climate spaces, ever since I can remember, we were told that if you told people how bad it was they would give up or they would panic. Therefore we didn’t tell them how bad it was. Instead, we just let shit get worse to where they can see with their own eyes how bad it was. I was thinking about that when I saw that scene of like, we’ve been told since the ’90s that you can’t tell people how bad it was.
I really, really, really wish people had told people how bad it was in the ’90s and let them go through that process of freaking out about it. Which brings me to the other thing that people have been talking about about this film is like how is it going to make audiences feel? There’s this fear that this film is going to make audiences give up and just decide that there’s no point, there’s no hope, and just completely give up. I think that to a degree that might be true, because that’s the first cycle of climate grief. It’s called the depression. We have all been through it. I think we need to let go and let people grieve, and let people come out on the other side.
Sim Kern: Yeah, let people cycle through it. I’ve felt like that 100 times.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. I go in and out all the time. Amy and I joke about this. Our climate grief cycles are synced. All of a sudden, one of us will text the other.
Amy Westervelt: [crosstalk].
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. One of us will text the other and be like, I don’t feel like doing shit right now. What’s wrong with me? Dude, me too. It’s like, oh, it’s our climate grief cycle. There we go. I say all of that to say we can’t control how people feel about this big, terrifying thing that could very well, and is, changing the world as we know it. Then tell them, but you can’t freak out. You can’t get sad about it. You have to get to work. I’m sorry, we’re humans.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah. Yeah. Agreed.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. The presumption that what needs to be done is that people need to keep going to work but protest in some peaceful ways. There’s the whole scene in the movie with the Ariana Grande song talking about this… Which is a funny song. It’s funny because it’s very contradicted in the movie. She said in the song, listen to the god damned scientists, is one of the lyrics. Then earlier in the movie we saw how the scientists, the other scientists, have been co-opted, these other highly credentialed scientists have been co-opted by the tech industry. It’s like, oh, okay. It didn’t even seem to, at times, even be coherent with itself.
Sim Kern: I don’t like billionaires. That’s how I got a big Twitter following, was ranting about Elon Musk. I really loved that they connected the dots. The character of the one billionaire was so good.
Amy Westervelt: Yes, so good. That whole, I’m for the jobs the comet will create thing. I was like, that is actually really, really well done.
Sim Kern: Yeah, but they connected why the space race is a problem to climate change through the allegory. I think it’s enough that people can connect the dots to why the space race is also a problem to real climate change, not just the comet situation.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. I thought the tech part of it, that was the sharpest critique that I thought landed the best. I wish it’d been more of the movie and earlier. I thought they could afford to be a 90 minute movie, like I was saying.
Sim Kern: Even a little editing.
Lyta Gold: Editing doesn’t hurt. Got to say, I’m a big fan.
Sim Kern: I started watching with my teenager and my husband. They both went to bed. Then I was left at the end like, oh my God, I’m always alone with my climate grief. At the end of the movie, I’m just alone at the end of the movie. Y’all didn’t stick it out.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well, they could have done without that whole narrative about the scientist sleeping with the female journalist. No one needed that. It plays into those harmful tropes about female journalists sleeping with their sources. Yeah.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah, that’s true.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. [crosstalk]
Lyta Gold: That was weird. That whole storyline was really weird, it’s true. Now that I think about it I’m like…
Sim Kern: That was his arc. It served to make the ending more emotional.
Lyta Gold: Right, because he comes back home to his family.
Sim Kern: He comes back home to his wife. But that’s sort of a cis male redemption arc that I’m not super… My 15 year old, that was the reason she gave first. She was like, alright, I might have kept watching but this affair is weirding me out. I think she really liked the scientist character, and then… Yeah, anyways.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. I did kind of like though that he was this narcissist and he was super into the attention. Then he kept accidentally taking credit for the female scientist’s work or just not correcting people when they gave him credit for it or whatever. There were definitely some little things in there where I was like, oh, I’m pretty sure I know who this character is modeled after.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, because there’s a lot of guys like that in the climate world. There isn’t this beautiful harmony where if you believe in climate action you’re immediately a good person. I kind of like that he sucked.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah, yeah. I’m sure you wanted to talk about other things.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Are you tired of talking about this movie? Because I’m not, Amy.
Lyta Gold: Again, this is why my podcast always runs so long. There’s enough to talk about in all these topics, but we can use Leo here, because that’s Leonard DiCaprio’s character, use him as kind of a jumping off point, because he’s a big climate action guy. He’s partying on yachts with Jeff Bezos which is a whole thing, but he and a lot of the actors involved in this movie, they care very much about climate and they really want to do stuff. They think of themselves as being activists. Yet, this is one of the only climate movies. When we talk about Hollywood’s resistance to making climate movies, it’s interesting. Because again, I’m sure there’s producers and such who think of themselves as climate people and climate activists, yet there is this resistance. It seems to be a material resistance to making fun of [crosstalk].
Sim Kern: It’s not just in Hollywood, too. It’s in publishing. I was on sub this past year with my young adult novel which ended up selling to a small press. If you look at who’s publishing climate fiction, it’s almost all small press, but we did get into an acquisitions meeting with an editor at a much larger publishing house. He really loved the book. His acquisitions, the sales team told him, we won’t buy YA with climate themes. This is a major publishing house. Just straight up that was the only reason. Nothing about the book. We won’t buy YA with climate themes. This was in 2021.
Amy Westervelt: Wow.
Lyta Gold: Did they say why? YA is so huge. You’d think that that would –
Sim Kern: That’s the email that I got from him. He liked the book so much he even sent me editorial notes. Just, I hope you get this out there. He believed in it. The people that control the media, the Hollywood executives, the sales teams of publishing companies, they still don’t want to touch climate. When you look at big publishing houses that do put out climate fiction, it’s from Barbara Kingsolver and Overstory, Richard Powers, these people who are already best sellers are allowed to write about climate themes, but you don’t see debut, young adult, cli-fi books coming out from the top five publishers.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that climate does not allow for neat endings, at least not about climate change. The few times I’ve tried to promote these types of stories people are like, well, how do we reverse it in the end? How do we end it? It’s like, you don’t. You don’t reverse it. You learn how to live in a new world. I think one of the best films to ever do that was Beast of the Southern Wild, which came out in 2010, and is just such a powerful, powerful climate movie, if you’ve never seen it. And it is very, very directly about climate change.
I did not clock that in 2010 because I thought climate change was still theoretical at that point. But anyway, it doesn’t create this neat ending where the big thing gets reversed. Those are the types of stories that publishing and Hollywood like to see because as much as these are supposed to be places for creativity, they don’t like to do things that haven’t been done before, which I don’t know how that allows for creativity. They like to have a model for it. Unfortunately, there was this tweet heard around the world that created this notion that climate stories are not sellable. I will let Amy pick that up because she knows all about that.
Amy Westervelt: I was just going to say, I think at an even more basic level, they could even agree with the creative direction of a story but they just fundamentally have this belief that it won’t sell. That it won’t sell books. It won’t bring eyeballs. And then yeah, Chris Hayes, I can’t remember if it was a tweet or he said it on his show. Maybe it was a tweet.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It was a reply to a tweet.
Amy Westervelt: Okay, yeah, because people were complaining, why doesn’t MSNBC do more climate coverage, or something like that. He was like, it’s a ratings killer. Every time we do climate week it’s a ratings killer. But my contention with that is, well, if you relegate it to climate week and you promote it with a bunch of fucking videos of melting glaciers…
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And polar bears.
Amy Westervelt: …And extreme weather events and whatever else then yeah, of course people might tune out. I don’t know. Actually, that’s an interesting thing to think about, because I think Don’t Look Up very much never never mentions climate, didn’t market itself as a climate movie. Then in all the interviews that they were doing were kind of like, yes, it’s an allegory for climate, or whatever. I have found that smuggling climate into stuff is a helpful way to do it. But I also am frustrated by that, because seriously, it’s 2022 and we can’t just directly talk about this? It’s ridiculous.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, yeah. Also that tweet reply from Chris Hayes, people have held that up in interviews to be like, that’s why I don’t talk about climate, Chris Hayes said it was a ratings killer on Twitter that one time.
Amy Westervelt: I think he said that three or four years ago at this point, too.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh no, it was like five years ago. It was long before the pandemic. I think a lot of people don’t want to talk about it and they’ll say that they don’t want to scare their audience, but the truth is they don’t want to scare themselves. They’re scared. When you talk to them about it directly, about how does it affect their lives, they talk about being debilitatingly depressed about it, but that’s real. That in of itself is a story that you could tell.
Sim Kern: There’s room for so many different types of stories in climate fiction. I just want people to know more about what’s out there. I do hope this movie sparks new kinds of climate stories. This is our first climate comedy, mainstream climate comedy. That is a huge deal. We need stories that help people grieve climate. That’s a lot of what has been published in some of those more mainstream things like Richard Powers. I really like Richard Powers and Barbara Kingsolvers, but a lot of it’s just elegies to a natural world that’s passing away.
But on the other hand you also have really optimistic climate fiction coming out, a lot of times called solar punk or African futurism, or afrofuturism, Indigenous futurism. Where people are trying to tell stories that aren’t just imagining worlds where climate change has been largely resolved, but also imagining the decolonized, anti-capitalist, anarchist organizing that would allow those societies to happen. It’s a very new and exciting genre. It’s kind of defying the overarching cynicism of our times. It’s very energizing for me to read that stuff and just imagine these other options. I do hope that this movie will be a launching point to all kinds of different climate fiction that is out there.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right. I want us to do away with the term climate fiction at some point because if you’re writing fiction that’s supposed to be analogous to this world and it doesn’t include climate change, you’re not writing about this world. That’s just not reality. I see it every time I watch some of my favorite shows. I loved Insecure, but I feel like they would’ve had to deal with a wildfire or two.
Amy Westervelt: Like come on, I know, I know.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: At least come up in conversation.
Amy Westervelt: Yes, yes. How is no one ever evacuated for a fire in that whole show?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right. Y’all didn’t have to worry about no droughts. Or even Queen Sugar based here in Louisiana. The only hurricane they know by name is Katrina? Word? That doesn’t make sense. I don’t know what New Orleans you’re talking about, but…
Sim Kern: The same denialism too is being applied to COVID in fiction. Increasingly, fiction that’s serious fiction is only fiction that takes place in this reality that doesn’t exist anymore. A pre-COVID, pre-climate change reality where there aren’t wildfires, where the days follow along predictably and you’re not dealing with rolling catastrophes and everyone isn’t wearing masks. The guiding advice right now in publishing from agents and publishing professionals is still, don’t talk about pandemic. Don’t put the pandemic in your stories. We’re three years now into a pandemic that has completely altered the world but our writers and our artists aren’t being allowed to grapple with that.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I actually think that’s super fucking dangerous because they didn’t deal with the 1918 flu in their art. The next thing you knew it had the Holocaust, because they didn’t process it. Art helps us to process how we feel about these things. If we don’t do that I am terrified of where we’re heading. I’m already terrified of where we’re headed. It doesn’t look good. We got people storming the Capitol.
Sim Kern: Not a lot of bright signs right now.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Exactly.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. It’s something that’s actually very interesting, this sort of division that we’ve historically had with realism and genre fiction. Whenever you bring that up, people are like, oh no, there’s no more division whatsoever. You tell that to publishing houses, that market, and think of these books totally differently. But there’s an idea in realism of the eternal present, and this is sort of the standard novel. The serious novel is one with the eternal present. It takes place at a time where nothing really changes. It doesn’t feel right anymore. It doesn’t feel real. I agree with you completely, Mary. All fiction should be climate fiction. It should be realism. It should have its own term, yeah. [inaudible]
Mary Annaïse Heglar: You know where’s an interesting place where you do start to see climate butting into the narrative on the screen is reality TV. I have a thing for Mob Wives. Actually well, I had a thing for it. I don’t know if it still comes on anymore. I stopped watching reality TV when Donald Trump got elected because I was like, I am the problem. But on Mob Wives, they had to deal with hurricane Sandy on Staten Island. It was just interesting to see it just butt its way in and had to have them talk about climate change and how it was affecting their lives in a way that they couldn’t deny. But when you see Sex and the City reboots set in New York City, not a single mention of how absurdly hot it is compared to when they were in their 30s or anything like that.
Lyta Gold: It’s funny, because it doesn’t have to be that every story is now a disaster story where people are running from a catastrophic event. But I was reading the new Sally Rooney novel and her characters in it are sending each other long emails, and they talk about climate change.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Because of course.
Lyta Gold: Because of course, it’s very realistic and very viable. Of course they’re talking. It would be weird if they don’t. It has to come up in some way.
Amy Westervelt: Right, sitcoms and stuff too. I’m like, how are there people grappling with whether or not to have children, say in this time, and not one mention of climate change? Like, come on, that’s fantasy.
Sim Kern: What I want people to know is you’re going to feel better. You feel better when you go through the grief. It seems so scary to look at it head on and engage with it, but I have been doing this a long time. When you’re pushing it away and you’re trying to ignore it, it creeps up on you. The despair you feel at the back of your mind is really worse than if you could just stare it in the face and grieve and get your cries out and then find some way to feel you’re being useful, perhaps.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. I think a big part of the reason TV is afraid to depict environmentalists, so to speak, or have their characters talk about climate, is because they don’t know how to do it without seeming corny. A big part of the reason that that’s such a threat, and Amy can talk about this way better than I can, is the way that the fossil fuel industry has created this image of environmentalists as these hippie-dippie, super corny, super sanctimonious type of people that everybody hates, like Lisa Simpson, basically.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah, that’s true. The idea that environmentalists care more about trees than anything else and we just want to take everything away from everybody and all of that stuff. The other thing, I’m going to say the most on-brand thing in this entire conversation, which is that there’s a shit load of oil money in Hollywood. Hollywood was built on the oil industry. Los Angeles wouldn’t exist without oil. There’s a very clear connection there, too, that is very long-standing. Again, people always get really weird about that.
Like in print media too people are like, I’ve never had anyone from an oil company tell me to change my story. I’m like, yeah dude. It’s not as fucking obvious as that. I don’t think there’s some villain in a top hat turning up at Hollywood studios twirling his mustache telling you to kill a movie, but this shit be [inaudible]. I know for a fact that several development funds in Hollywood are funded by Saudi wealth funds, or Abu Dhabi is another one. There are several, several pots of money that are used to develop new films and TV series that are 100% funded by oil money. I’m sorry, I just don’t believe that has nothing to do with it.
Sim Kern: Oh, for sure. And, in a very direct sort of almost villain in a top hat kind of way, the CIA – I always end up talking about this story, but I always want everyone to know about it in case there was one person in the world who hasn’t heard about how the CIA infiltrated creative writing programs. [Inaudible] the country and helped found the Iowa Writers Conference and instills in us an aesthetic. And this is all public record. This is not some wild conspiracy theory.
They purposefully created an aesthetic in American literature that considered political writing to be gauche and not literary and not serious. You and I, Lyta and I went through the same creative writing program at Oberlin where your writing was supposed to be just completely personal and navel gazing and not engaging with these political, broader ideas because the CIA was afraid of communism spreading through the art because communism does great at spreading through art.
Lyta Gold: Sim, how long did it take you to get over the trauma of Oberlin creative writing classes? Because it took me years.
Sim Kern: Oh, it took about 11 years, yeah. [crosstalk].
Mary Annaïse Heglar: This is why I stayed in the English Department. I did not take creative writing classes.
Sim Kern: I was an English teacher for 11 years before I started writing again. It took a long time.
Lyta Gold: They made it very clear that anything genre was not allowed, that literally anything that was outside of naval gazing, sort of baby auto-fiction kind of style was not allowed. It wasn’t done out of any particular malice. It wasn’t anybody taking money. The CIA wasn’t hiding in a bush. I would’ve had more respect for them I think if they were getting bribes directly, but that’s another story.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: They might have been in a bush.
Lyta Gold: In a bush. I didn’t see.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: There were a lot of bushes.
Sim Kern: I don’t think the CIA was still involved in the 2000s, but they were super involved when the Iowa Writers Conference was founded, and all those professors that became the professors that became the professors that founded all these programs, they went through this training.
Lyta Gold: The CIA also funded a number of journals. They did a lot of work overseas too, especially in Latin America.
Sim Kern: The Paris Review. Yeah, the Paris Review.
Amy Westervelt: Right.
Lyta Gold: Yeah, the Paris Review. And then in Latin America they pushed some great writers too, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and people like that, but they pushed sort of leftish writers at the expense of really leftist writers. They founded these magazines that published them. They really shaped a lot of culture in Latin America. That was a big deal for them. People dispute a lot over how much influence they actually had and how much of –
Amy Westervelt: Well yeah, but the thing is at the same time that that was all happening the PR industry was working extremely hard to shape ideas about how the economy should work and how politics should work and what society should look and what you should want. It was like the CIA. You have the Powell Memo coming out around this time. You have all of these industrialists and their propagandists all freaking out about this all at the same time. Pretty much as World War II comes to a close all of the top executives in the US are going, oh shit. People got used to the government being functional. Also, people were okay with the government putting price controls on things and messing with the “free market.” Guess what? Actually their lives got better. We need to do something. It’s like, well yeah, you have all of that shit happening from the ’50s into the ’60s and ’70s. Anyway, I actually didn’t know that about the Iowa Writers Workshop. That makes so much sense.
Sim Kern: Yeah, it was 1967. I dropped a link in the chat. There’s an Eric Bennett article, “How Iowa Flattened Literature.” It was this guy called Engle who was the director of the Iowa Writers Program. He was working directly with the CIA to talk about what types of writing would be considered good American writing.
Amy Westervelt: Wow.
Lyta Gold: This actually leads into the question of art versus propaganda as separate qualities. Then the way climate fiction, how we want it to function because we have an aversion because we’ve been taught to have an aversion to things that are political, because if something can carry on the dominant politics of society, like all the copaganda shows that are on TV, and unless you name them as copaganda people don’t really see them as that. There’s this interesting question of, well when you’re writing climate fiction or when you’re trying to create climate fiction, how do you walk that line between you have a political point of view and you’re trying to express it, but radical politics are seen as propagandistic rather than artistic?
Sim Kern: I write climate fiction, you know, and I’ve stopped caring. I’ve accepted that I am a very political writer and my fiction is going to be very political. At the same time, I am aware that storytelling conventions are a certain way that people are comfortable with. I want to engage with a wide audience. I want my work to be really readable. It can’t just be a diatribe. There needs to be tension and plot. You have to have intimate character internal feelings and relationship drama going on. It needs to be funny, ideally, in places.
You can use humor. You can use science fiction. My young adult trilogy, the first book of it, Seeds for the Swarm, is coming out in the fall. It’s set in 2075 so climate change has advanced quite a bit. But there’s a lot of cool sci-fi, future-tech elements involved in the storytelling and all those are things you can get to hook people’s attention as you’re trying to very deliberately, if you’re me, impart a radical politick and also communicate some climate science at the same time.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I think the devil is in the character development. Novels have worldviews, right? Art has a worldview. That doesn’t necessarily make it a piece of propaganda. It can become that when it becomes really bad art. I’m thinking of the work by Toni Morrison, for example. She definitely has a worldview. She has a message, well maybe not necessarily a message, but she has her own political mindset, as did James Baldwin, as did all of these other writers. They were staunchly anti-racist writers. That comes through in their work. But it’s still art because they have fully formed characters. They have fully formed human beings telling these stories who are imperfect and messy and all of these other things.
I think you get into propaganda when you start going down the route of… Richard Wright fell into a lot of this. I’ve got a deep affection for him as a Black Mississippian, but a lot of his stories were just like there’s no character development here, homie. You just phoned that shit in and went with the talking points on this one. I think that’s very possible on climate in the same way that it is when the main devil you’re dealing with is racism or sexism or any of these other things.
If we start thinking about climate change as a systemic thing like the same way that we talk about racism or sexism or homophobia or any of these other big bads then I think the path to creating good art about it becomes a lot clearer. Because you just talk about it the way that you talk about it in any of these other ways or any of the ways that it shows up in your life. I am interested to see what this new world of climate fiction – Or hopefully, as it will soon be called, fiction – Because we don’t have to create a whole other world to show you climate change. You used to have to do that. You used to have to create what the world will look like in 2050. I can talk about climate change in 2010 now. I can write about the past.
Amy Westervelt: You actually have to create a whole nother world to not talk about it. That’s the weird thing. That is so much more speculative than talking about it.
Sim Kern: I think what leans into feeling like propaganda for me, too, is climate fiction that offers up very easy, tropey answers and does not deal with complexity and stuff. Like the story that ends with, and then all the kids got together and cleaned up the park. That’s how most children’s fiction is. I understand the impulse to talk to children about, you can change it. It’s not a giant terrifying unsolvable comet, just recycle. But then that becomes insidious when you know that the plastics companies created the push for recycling. Oil and gas companies created the concept of the carbon footprint. The fact that the motivation behind it, you can solve it. Just change what you’re doing. That’s the main message that children are getting in any kind of kid lit that deals with environmental stuff. It’s really insidious. It’s not fair to them.
Amy Westervelt: It’s something that I hear from editors all the time where they’re like, it’s really disempowering if you don’t give someone an action that they can take. I’m like, oh my God, I hate you.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. That’s crystallizing to me. What marks propaganda is when you really try too hard to control how your reader reacts to what you write. You try too hard to control how they feel and what they do. If we can write fiction about climate change or write about climate change in such a way that treats our readers like adults and doesn’t try to control how they feel, doesn’t give them a 10-point platform for what to do after this book, because you’re grown. Figure it out. I don’t know what you’re good at. Go do something.
Amy Westervelt: That’s super interesting. I feel like that about non-fiction too. I constantly get asked what I want people to do after they listen to Drilled, for example.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Kick rocks. I don’t give a shit.
Amy Westervelt: Yeah. I mean, I do care. Of course. I have my own opinions on how I wish people would be acting about the climate crisis in general, but in terms of making stuff with the purpose of trying to drive someone’s ideas or actions or whatever, like no, I just feel people should all have the same information and then what they decide to do with that information I can’t really do anything about.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It comes back to me the quote I love from Toni Cade Bambara which is “the role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.” It’s not to tell you what to do once you’re in it. It’s just supposed to make you want to join it. It’s not supposed to tell you to join it. It’s just supposed to make it look the sexiest place on earth.
Amy Westervelt: That totally reminds me of that essay that you sent from Amitav Ghosh, actually.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Big fan, big fan.
Lyta Gold: Oh yeah, if you haven’t read this essay, Amitav Ghosh wrote it in 2016 and then he later wrote a book based on the ideas in it, but the essay itself is just in the Guardian’s free to read. It is so good if you just Google… We’ll put in the show notes too, but it’s Amitav Ghosh’s name and then climate fiction Guardian. You’ll find it. He talks about the apparent difficulty of writing climate fiction. What he really gets into is that it really requires thinking about literature in a really different way than people have been doing. Part of it is this CIA inflicted thing. It does go back a little earlier. He points out the origins of the bourgeoisie novel, but regardless you really have to conceptualize it differently.
It’s only when you conceptualize it differently, because he says, for example, the realist novel was really designed to conceal what is real. Events that are unusual or remarkable, those are things that you have to bury under tedious details because otherwise people will be surprised. You don’t want people to suspend disbelief too much, essentially is the idea. You have to keep things boring so they don’t suspend disbelief too much. But when you’re dealing with climate then suddenly remarkable things are happening. Surprising things are happening. You can have things like revolution. You can have things like riots. You can have things like tornadoes in the middle of the street.
He has an interesting point which I don’t totally agree with where he talks about how in magical realism or surrealism that happens, the remarkable happens all the time. But he’s a little bit against the idea of using that as a metaphor for climate because there’s nothing magical or remarkable about climate. That being said, and this is something that, Sim, you did so well in your novella, sometimes bringing in those magical or not-quite-real elements, it makes it make more sense. It’s like an older form of storytelling and it brings it back to, again, whether it’s not strictly logical, it’s not strictly logical, but it’s a heart place and you really feel it. But anyways, a long way of going about everybody should read this essay because it’s really, really good. Everybody should read Sim’s novella also because it is extremely, really good.
Sim Kern: Oh, thanks. I want to plug, talking about the Ghosh article when he is talking about we need new kinds of art, that’s where I do get so excited about solar punk because it’s like we’re watching the birth of a new genre in real time. Speculative fiction is figuring out how do we write a better world. You had Ursula K. Le Guin trying to write some anarchist science fiction decades ago, but utopian writing has been so suppressed. Utopian writing is perhaps the least popular and acceptable kind of speculative fiction. Now there’s this huge surge of people who are like, we’re sick of COVID. We’re sick of despair. It’s not even whether or not it’s realistic. No, I don’t think we’re going to get to the solar punk future necessarily in 20 years.
It’s not about that. It’s about just the act of imagining the world has come to feel like such a rebellion. There’s a couple different journals and solar punk magazines if you go searching. Solarpunk Magazine is one they just launched, Multispecies Cities, Sunvault. But last year Grist, which is a really great climate reporting site, they ran a short fiction contest trying to get people to send in, this was called Fix 2200, it’s all short stories set 200 years from now imagining optimistic futures, and just trying to get people to create a vision of something better.
For their first year of the contest, some of the stories were really great, but Jacobin wrote a pretty scathing critique saying, y’all weren’t anti-capitalist enough. You didn’t decolonize enough. You need to keep going. I’m really excited. I’m actually going to be a reader for them this year for the same contest. Hopefully they’re going to continue pushing further into that space. But when I was reading that article you sent us that just made me really excited. I wanted to encourage people to read more solar punk and check out what’s in that space if you’re interested in a not-bleak and very new kind of climate genre that’s emerging.
Lyta Gold: Awesome.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: For anyone listening who has never heard of solar punk, who may or may not be me, what’s solar punk?
Sim Kern: Sorry. I thought I had defined it earlier. Solar punk, it’s a utopian, it’s optimistic stories. Solar coming from writing sci-fi where there’s solar panels. Generally, it’s like they’re often very queer stories. It’s giving yourself also permission to write some utopian science fiction, basically. There’s a lot of decolonizing, anti-capitalist, queer liberation, clean energy. Some people’s ideas of their solar punk future is a very agrarian, anarchist life out on the goat farm commune. But I really like this book, Multi-Species Cities, because it was really exploring neo-urbanist type, how could we have cities that are also green and lush and not with all this bad stuff?
Amy Westervelt: It’s world building. It’s the world building thing, right?
Sim Kern: And just short stories. There aren’t too many novels out. I haven’t found a solar punk full length novel that I really love yet. There are a few. But I’m really enjoying seeing the short stories happening and seeing how much the genre is evolving just year by year.
Lyta Gold: One thing I wanted to close out with was recommendations. Part of the trouble with recommending climate fiction is it’s still such a burgeoning genre. There’s still relatively little of it. We’re seeing it in short stories. Do people have things that they would recommend that you think is worth reading and getting into?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I would recommend The Politician, which is a Netflix show. The entire second season is about climate change. I think they do a really interesting job with telling the story of climate change and how it shows up in local politics. It is hysterical. You are supposed to hate all of the characters, which is an important thing to remember when watching it, but it does show all of these different ways that many, many different people get involved in climate change.
Yes, there are perspectives missing because it’s one show, but it’s a really interesting attempt to tackle it. I’d also recommend, of course, Octavia Butler’s Parable series for anyone who wants to get into it. It will creep you out because I believe she wrote those in the 90s and it feels like something that is happening right now. It feels like reading the news. I’ve already mentioned Beast of the Southern Wild. It’s my favorite climate movie of all time.
Amy Westervelt: I have two small children and like 10 jobs. I don’t actually get to consume a lot of art of any kind. But I will recommend this one movie that always pulls me out of climate grief, which is called Woman at War. Have you seen this? It’s like an Icelandic movie. It’s very quirky and strange. I don’t know, it just makes you feel like, yeah. We’re going to beat these guys. Yeah, caveats of this is like one very small story. It’s not the end all be all of every climate film, yada yada, but yeah, I quite enjoyed it. I watched it one night when I couldn’t sleep because of climate anxiety and it made me feel better. Now I’ve done that more than once. I think it’s on Hulu for free, or at least it was. Yes.
Sim Kern: I already obviously plugged Solarpunk. I’ll plug myself. My contemporary novella, Depart, Depart! is set in the very near future, any day now type of thing. Where I live in Houston, Texas, there’s a massive hurricane based a lot on my trauma and experiences from Hurricane Harvey that wipes out the city. A trans man, Noah Missioner is evacuated to Dallas. He’s being literally haunted by one of his ancestors and grappling with his Jewish identity and his trans identity in the context of this basketball arena-turned shelter surrounded by all of his Texan neighbors, which is always super fun.
Love those guys. That’s Depart, Depart! I think about climate books in lots of mini genres. Climate fiction is being written in a very contemporary way, and grappling with very contemporary movements. Aya De Leon has a book called A Spy in the Struggle, which is really cool about a Black CIA or FBI. Which one does US stuff?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: FBI.
Sim Kern: FBI, and she infiltrates a Black, radical climate movement to try to spy on the FBI, but she ends up getting involved. That one’s very cool. If AWP happens we’re going to be on a panel with Julie Carrick Dalton who wrote Waiting for the Night Song, also about contemporary activism. There are books that just help you grieve. I already mentioned Richard Powers. I think that Imbolo Mbue’s How Beautiful We Were is about a fictional African village that’s being targeted by a fictional oil company, Exxon, and going through generations of pollution and effects from that and their struggles.
That one’s really heavy but definitely a good book for helping you grieve. Then there’s also, like I said, these optimistic solar punk stories coming out. I would encourage people to check out the Fix 2200 contest. All the stories are free to read online if you’re interested in solar punk. All of the winners from last year’s contest are free to read online. That’s a cool way to check out that genre as well.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: That reminds me, just to plug Amitav Ghosh’s book The Great Derangement. It was really good. I was drawn to that book just by the title alone. I had no idea it was about climate change. I was like, this is what I’ve been waiting for. I also read his first novel, really bringing climate to fore, Gun Island, which I thought was really good and really interesting. He just wrote another book called The Nutmeg’s Curse. I own it. Haven’t read it. Very excited for it though.
Sim Kern: I should also mention, I have a climate fiction book club on YouTube and Instagram. It’s me and two other… We’re all non-binary white people. We’re all thems. We read a different climate book each month. We just pick them, and that’s been good. It’s been keeping me regularly keeping up with what’s happening in the genre.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: What are some of the books you have coming up?
Sim Kern: Right now we’re reading Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats, I think it’s called.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: That’s for January?
Sim Kern: Yeah. That’s for January. We’re excited about that because we haven’t really talked about food and climate, which is going to be interesting. Then we’re reading… I forget the name of the next one. I’ll have to look it up for February, but I think it’s a young adult one that Sage picked. Then I haven’t picked my pick for March yet. I’m thinking I might do a solar punk anthology though.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Okay. Watch this space.
Sim Kern: Yeah.
Amy Westervelt: That’s awesome.
Lyta Gold: Couple of recommendations I would do. I think people should absolutely read Sim Kern’s, Depart, Depart! So good. Sometimes climate stuff hides in plain sight, like Mad Max: Fury Road. Great climate movie. All the Mad Max movies are, arguably. Fury Road is so wonderful.
Sim Kern: All the Studio Ghibli movies too.
Lyta Gold: Yes. Oh, that’s a really good point, yeah. Yeah, a lot of them. [inaudible] Nausicaa, yeah. Another one I’d recommend, there’s kind of a weird book, J. G. Ballard’s The Drowned World. It’s from 1962, but it’s about a future where everything is very hot and very wet. I don’t even know if it’s a good book. It’s kind of dated. It’s written by a white guy in the ’60s, but it’s vibes, as the kids would say. It’s very atmospheric. Has a feeling of the oppressiveness of it. I think it’s interesting. But yes, climate fiction doesn’t always have to be fun. Solar punk’s great. We can tell all kinds of different stories.
Sim Kern: I just thought of one more thing I wanted to plug, which is my publisher, Stelliform Press. They’re a Canadian publisher. They only publish speculative fiction about climate change. I’ve read everything they put out so far, and it’s all good. They’ve only been around for two years, but they’re doing great stuff.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Maybe it’ll just take one breakout story, one that’s just really fun, and maybe something that gets turned into a movie or TV show, and everything’s getting adapted all of the time. Maybe it’s just going to take that one and really kind of open the dam for all of the other climate stories and really prove that they can sell, I think is what we’re all really hoping for. All right. Well, thanks everybody for joining me. This has been so much fun.
Sim Kern: [crosstalk] thanks for having me.
Lyta Gold: Yeah. Let’s see. If you’re listening to this, you are maybe subscribed to the Real News Network. If not, you absolutely should be. We have lots of other wonderful shows that are about really, really important things. You should also, of course, subscribe to the Hot Take podcast, which is currently on hiatus but will be coming back. Anything else you guys want to plug before we head out?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Hot Take has a newsletter.
Amy Westervelt: We do have a newsletter.
Lyta Gold: Hot Take newsletter. It’s a newsletter and a podcast so however you want to consume your hot takes, they’ve got the form for you.
Sim Kern: When’s it coming back?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Probably the spring. That’s the current plan. But yeah, watch out on Twitter. We’ll announce it when we’re sure. Because Amy’s not going to do it, folks should also follow the Drilled podcast. It is one of the things that made me really open my eyes to the roots of the climate crisis. It’s really masterful. Start at season one and just keep going. Then Amy is launching a new podcast. Amy, is it Damages?
Amy Westervelt: It’s called Damages, yeah. I describe it as law and order meets the climate crisis. It’s sort of a narrative podcast following all of the many, many legal cases that are being brought in an effort to address climate change. I feel like there’s good stories, actually, behind most lawsuits, and they don’t really have a place anywhere in the media. A news story might drop when something gets filed and then when there’s a ruling, and then kind of that’s it. So yeah, it’s digging into the drama of litigation.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: When does it launch, Amy?
Amy Westervelt: Feb. 17, thank you very much.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Soon, real soon.
Amy Westervelt: Yes.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Okay. I’m excited.
Amy Westervelt: Yes, yes.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Okay.
Amy Westervelt: I should also plug the most recent season of Seen on Radio. It’s called “The Repair.” It’s about the historical roots of the climate crisis and it starts with Aristotle, and goes all the way to now. It’s a deep dive, but it’s good. It’s good. I co-hosted that season with John Biewen who’s a total documentary podcast genius. Yes, that’s it. Okay, I’m done for reals.
Lyta Gold: All right. Thanks everybody again for joining us, and we’ll catch you next time.