July 12, 2021

117. Keep ‘em Accountable

117. Keep ‘em Accountable

In Episode 117, Quinn discusses: how accountability works – and doesn’t – in the climate movement, how you can get involved, and how the best in the world are doing it.

Our guests are Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt. The duo makes up Hot Take, a podcast and newsletter that gives an honest look at the climate crisis while providing some of the most empathetic voices in the climate justice movement.

We’ve heard it again and again: the biggest barrier to climate action is political will, but how do you build that (besides putting polluters in jail)? Well, partly through discourse: by helping people understand why they should be fired up. Nobody’s penned more influential, moving climate essays than Mary.

On the other hand, there’s still so much f*cking money and power wrapped up in the fossil fuel industry – and, consequently, the policy surrounding it. And nobody’s done more to uncover their bullshit than Amy, through her investigative podcast series, Drilled.

With their powers combined, we lay the groundwork for change. How do we ensure that the monsters responsible get held accountable for their actions? Listen in!

Have feedback or questions? Tweet us, or send a message to questions@importantnotimportant.com

Important, Not Important Book Club:

Links:


Connect with us:


Important, Not Important is produced by Crate Media

Transcript

Quinn:

Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett, and this is science for people who give a shit. We give you the tools you need to fight for a better future for everyone, the context straight from the smartest folks on earth and the action steps you can take to support them. Our guests are journalists, scientists, doctors, nurses, engineers, policymakers, activists, founders, astronauts. We even had a reverend once.

Quinn:

A few friendly reminders. You can send questions, thoughts, and feedback to us on Twitter at importantnotimp, or you can email us at questions@importantnotimportant.com. If you're among the millions looking for impactful, meaningful work right now, you can head over to importantjobs.com where we curate open roles on the front lines of the future, as we call it. You could join a team working in clean energy production, journalism, pediatric cancer research, sustainable food, and more.

Quinn:

If you represent a company, you can also post your open roles at importantjobs.com and get them in front of the rest of our amazing community. Finally, you can join tens of thousands of other smart people and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter at importantnotimportant.com, curated science news, analysis and action steps to help you feel better, but also move the needle on progress, and all of that in 10 minutes or less.

Quinn:

Folks, this week's episode will help you understand how accountability works and doesn't work in the climate movement, how you can get involved, and how the very best in the world are doing it. I'm so pleased to have two of those with us today. Our guests are Mary Annaise Heglar and Amy Westervelt. Together they form Hot Take, the podcast and newsletter, and somewhat apart, occasionally, they are some of the most thoughtful, empathetic voices in the climate justice movement.

Quinn:

Amy is among our most ground-breaking investigative journalists, both in print and with her podcast empire, most notably, Drilled, which I can't recommend enough. We'll talk about that today. I am so thankful to each of these women, to both of them together, for what they do and for sharing their time, and energy, and lessons with me today. I learned a lot and I know you will too. Thanks so much.

Quinn:

My guests today are Mary Annaise Heglar and Amy Westervelt. Together, we're going to talk about the empire that they have built together and what you can do to support them. We're also going to talk a little bit today about keeping the world and institutions and each other accountable. Mary and Amy, welcome.

Amy Westervelt:

Thank you. Yeah, thank you.

Mary Heglar:

Thank you. Thank you for having us.

Quinn:

Absolutely. If you could, if you don't mind, tell me real quick who you are and what you folks do.

Mary Heglar:

One thing you'll learn about me and Amy is we're terrible at talking about ourselves. So I think we should do this a different way. I'll tell you about Amy and Amy can tell you about me.

Quinn:

Yeah. I mean, to be clear, you're in charge at this point. No. Not that the rest of it matters.

Mary Heglar:

Amy Westervelt is a brilliant podcaster. She's built the most successful climate podcast there is in Drilled. Also a longtime investigative journalist and constant exposer of the fossil fuel industry, and a deep believer in exposing the root causes of a problem before you start talking about solutions. I guess, Amy, you can tell him who I am.

Amy Westervelt:

Yes. Okay. Mary Heglar basically invented climate essays. No, I'm just kidding. But seriously, I think Mary Annaise Heglar is-

Quinn:

Not far off.

Amy Westervelt:

... a climate justice SES. Honestly, as someone who has written about climate for a long time, is probably the person that got more people publishing climate justice stuff, period, in the last few years. If you haven't read her stuff, you should correct that. Just Google her. Yeah, she is the person I know I always turn to for good insight into the ways that climate and race intersect and that climate provides this lens on every other justice issue and acts as a threat multiplier on all of it.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. And-

Quinn:

Sorry. I'm sorry. Did you mean climate's a threat multiplier or Mary is a threat multiplier.

Mary Heglar:

Both. Both.

Amy Westervelt:

Definitely, both.

Quinn:

Check. Check.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. We together are the co-creators and co-hosts of the Hot Take newsletter and podcast. The podcast came first. Amy and I started talking about doing a podcast together shortly after we met. Amy was like, "What if we did a news podcast together?" And I was like, "What if it was news criticism?" Honestly, our thinking behind it is that you always hear that the biggest barrier to climate action is political will. How do you build political will if you build [inaudible 00:05:10] the discourse? You can't get people riled up about something they don't understand, and you can't get people to understand something if you can't talk about it.

Mary Heglar:

So part of what we wanted to do was normalize the conversation around climate change. We wanted to do it in a way that was fun, where we were having fun, because we were both already really busy by the time we took on Hot Take, and we're like, "If this isn't fun, I'm not going to do it. I'm already exhausted. It needs to be some kind of an outlet.

Mary Heglar:

And so, we made it the outgrowth of what we were texting about anyway, which was basically, how is climate being covered in the news media, because that was just something that we would bitch about all the time with each other, and we're like, "Oh, we could talk about this forever [inaudible 00:05:52]... Then the newsletter was also Amy's idea. I'll let her about that part of it.

Amy Westervelt:

Well, I mean, we had decided to take a pause on the podcast, but we didn't want to just not be talking about climate coverage. We wanted to see if we could raise money to pay for podcast production, because it's fricking expensive, as you know, Quinn. As you know. There were all these great climate newsletters out there, but there wasn't anything that was doing the one thing that Mary and I were looking for, which was curating all of the great climate stories from the week.

Amy Westervelt:

You'd see newsletters from one particular publication that combined all of their stories from the week, or you'd see newsletters from one person writing about stuff, but nothing that was like, "Okay, here's everything you should read this week." So that was the idea that we had for the Hot Take newsletter. Then we quickly found that it could be someplace that we could write literally our hot takes on what was happening in the climate space that week too. So that's been great, I think. Right?

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. Yeah.

Amy Westervelt:

Mary, for us. We're like, "Oh, I want to talk about this and I want to talk about that." Yeah. So anyway. Yeah.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. We don't have time to do a podcast for every single little thing that we want to say. We just realized we had so much to say about this. Another thing is, going back to why we started this whole endeavor to begin with, is people would criticize scientists for not communicating well enough about climate change. One of the biggest questions I got all the time whenever I did panels was, what do the sciences need to do to convince people that this is a problem or convince people to take action on it? It was like, "It's not the scientist job. It's the media's job to educate the public, actually." And who's watchdogging the media? Nobody was doing that. And so, we were like, "You know what? We'll do it."

Amy Westervelt:

Yes. Yes.

Quinn:

Rock and roll. I love it. I love the newsletter. I love everything in your empire and all Mary's essays and all of it. So I'm thankful for it and I'm glad to expose our community to it a little more today.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah, we're excited to be talking to your audience.

Quinn:

Give it time. Give it time. Folks, we like to start with one important question. The answer usually begins with the guest cackling at me, but then we actually end up getting something thoughtful. Understand that it's somewhat tongue in cheek, but it is fun, because I do encourage you to be bold and honest. Either of you can start, but nothing extensive. Why are you vital to the survival of the species?

Mary Heglar:

Amy, you laughed first, so you have to answer first.

Amy Westervelt:

I mean, I don't know. I struggle with this because I am very much opposed to the idea that any one person is vital. I think that I am a useful part of a whole, but I would like to think that if I wasn't here, someone else would be doing this work too. I don't just say that to be modest or whatever. It's more just that I actually think it puts so much pressure on each individual to be like, "Only you can do this thing," versus we're all members of a choir and sometimes we have solos. Sometimes we need to just like fade into the background for a minute and that's okay too.

Quinn:

Sure.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. I mean, I do feel like I have a somewhat unique set of skills when it comes to digging up dirt on oil executives. So that's fun.

Quinn:

For sure. We'll take it.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. I love tapping into Amy's skills for that, just say something... I'll have a suspicion and be like, "Amy, I suspect that fossil fuel companies have been funding the police," and then she'll go dig it up and like, "Oh, it was right."

Quinn:

Awesome.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. I agree with Amy's answer. I don't think I am vital to the survival of the human species. I don't think any one person is. That would be really problematic if any one person were.

Quinn:

For sure.

Mary Heglar:

I mean, I don't know. I've tried to do something with the gifts of emotional intelligence and the gifts of... I will say that what I think I bring to the climate movement is, one, a perspective as a person of color and one who is going to be vocal whether people like it or not. I think that's something that's really been, for way too long absent, is voices of people of color in the climate movement, and also voices of artists.

Mary Heglar:

I think a lot of people think I'm a journalist. Some people think I'm a scientist. They are very wrong. But I think the point of artists is that they have a lot of intuition and can see or feel things coming. And I think that's what I bring to this conversation.

Quinn:

I love it. See, we usually get somewhere. It's a preposterous question, but now I've asked it from like 120 people. So it's interesting to hear. If people are really on it, they're like, "Oh fuck you, I'm vital," then I've got serious questions. So it's definitely better when people start with like, "That's not me."

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. Why are you vital, Quinn?

Quinn:

My job in life is to get my wife's heart beating by bringing her coffee in the morning and then she can accomplish all the things, the amazing things that she does every single day. So if that's the thing that I do, it's very good. I want to talk about accountability, whether it's by way of art or journalism, and also because accountability is not something the US does a lot of really, whether it's reparations, or cigarettes, or prisons, or housing, or COVID, or fossil fuels. We don't do a lot of that.

Quinn:

But that doesn't mean there isn't a yearning for it, in a lot of ways, and opportunities to exact it. Journalism has traditionally led the way. But media, as we know, has also been a clusterfuck at times, if not equally egregious, especially when it comes to things like fossil fuels. I mean, the Washington Post probably today ran a feature sponsored by fucking Exxon. So we know that journalism is not here to specifically offer hope and that just having knowledge doesn't get the job done or manifest itself in systemic action. Community organizing does that.

Quinn:

But having the information helps. With regard to things like climate accountability, nobody's really done more than Drilled and led the way on that stuff. You've spent years and five seasons now?

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. We're just about to put the sixth season out in a couple of weeks, actually.

Quinn:

Oh yeah. Awesome. I mean, no one has done more to document the greedy bastards in institutions and systems behind climate denial and obstructionism. I mean, we unearthed what happened this week with Exxon wasn't really journalism. It was more activism probably because it broke a lot of the rules.

Amy Westervelt:

Actually though, you know what, I made that comment on Twitter and the guys who did it were like, "Actually, we're journalists and we're allowed to do this kind of thing in the UK." And I was like, "My bad, I'm sorry."

Quinn:

Oh shit. [crosstalk 00:13:45] fucking great.

Amy Westervelt:

If I did that, I would be sued to hell and back and I would lose because the US, all of our talk about free speech does not allow undercover journalism.

Quinn:

That's fascinating.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. Yeah. But yeah, it's amazing. It is amazing. Yeah.

Quinn:

In this case, the means got it done. But look, I mean, clearly, literally verbatim what this guy said, and everything you have covered, it comes back to money and greed and shifting these power structures. Now we've got these new... We just ran an episode with the guys from Clean Creatives-

Mary Heglar:

Oh, awesome.

Quinn:

And you've got-

Mary Heglar:

I know them.

Quinn:

Oh yeah. With JaRel and Jamie. They're fucking great. You've got activism groups. You've got Science Moms, Dr. Hayhoe's out there, and all these other folks. We don't have to convince people it's real anymore. We know that it's real. We know a bunch of people lied to protect power and profits. You've got season six coming out, but what's next for you knowing that... I mean, looking around this week, we're in a different era of doing this thing, because there's just people who aren't going to be convinced anymore, and that's fine.

Quinn:

Frankly, we don't have the time to deal with those folks. So it is shifting the power structures and we don't need to... I mean, we should always expose these people, but what is the next logical step for you in your empire that you've built, doing what you do?

Amy Westervelt:

Well, I can tell you what our practical next steps are, which are, I'm working on two new shows. One is around disinformation and how it came about, and how to spot it, tO hopefully disempower it a bit. I'm dragging Mary into that project a bit too. Then the other one is kind of a Drilled spinoff that's following all of the climate litigation because-

Quinn:

Oh, nice.

Amy Westervelt:

... there's actually almost 300 climate cases active all over the world right now. They're having varying degrees of success. Some of them have been quite successful recently. What I've been noticing is that the way that media is set up to cover court cases doesn't really lend itself to covering these stories. It's like usually a case gets covered when it's filed and when it's resolved and you don't get any of the backstory of why it was filed. Or what the legal strategy was and what worked and what didn't and whatever.

Amy Westervelt:

And so, yeah, we're hoping that this not only shows people the current impact and what is driving these cases, but also gives people a sense of like, "Oh, this is something maybe I could do. Maybe I could pull together a case about this and take these guys to court." Also, even for the attorneys working on these cases, a lot of them don't know what other attorneys are working on. So being able to help connect all of them to each other's work I think feels helpful now too.

Amy Westervelt:

The sixth season of Drilled is really looking at the natural gas industry, or excuse me, the fossil gas industry. But then after that, I want to do something that Mary and I have been talking about a bunch, which is looking at what I think is the most critical decade on climate, which is '95 to 2005, and sort of understanding really well what happened there, because we're at the same moment again.

Amy Westervelt:

We have almost the exact same number of people who think we need to act on climate change, feel very strongly that we need to do something. We have politicians willing to do something. We have media coverage. We have companies saying that they want to do something, all of that in almost exactly the same numbers that we had going into Kyoto in '97. And we still have a very poor understanding of what the hell happened there, that the US had signed on to a binding international treaty requiring emissions reductions in 1997, and what the fuck happened? How did we lose 30 years?

Amy Westervelt:

We don't have the luxury of those 30 years anymore. We don't have the luxury of even three years anymore. So we really need to understand how that happened and how to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

Quinn:

I love that. I had three quick takeaways. One is that apparently 1997 is almost 30 years ago, which I'm just going to go jump out a fucking window.

Mary Heglar:

I know. I feel old.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah.

Quinn:

Holy shit. I was like, "What is she talking about?" And then I did the math and now I'm very sad.

Amy Westervelt:

Yep.

Quinn:

Too, it's like, man, I mean, you're right. I mean, that is some serious sliding door shit. Right?

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah.

Quinn:

What could have been. And all you ever hear is like, "Well, we didn't do it, and Kyoto was imperfect anyways. And it's like, "That can't be the whole story," right?

Amy Westervelt:

Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. So you have a ramp up of climate denial. Kyoto happens, then it gets tanked. George Bush gets elected, and then we go to war with Iraq. There's this very crazy timeline that's like, "Jesus." There's still, yeah, just a lot of dots that haven't been connected. So that's the next big project.

Quinn:

I love that. I'm here for it. You guys are, especially Mary, you're meme professionals. I saw one from someone today that... And I'll put it in the show notes. You know the one with the dominoes? There's the guy setting up the little domino and then there's the big domino at the end. The little domino was a poorly designed chad in Florida in 1999, and the big domino was three severe weather alerts in New York City yesterday. And you're just like, "Oh man, that's fucked." Okay.

Amy Westervelt:

Oh, man.

Quinn:

Yeah. It's brutal

Mary Heglar:

I'll say, I don't really do most of the memes. I do some of them, but when it gets into Photoshop, that's Amy. She's more technologically savvy Amy. Yeah.

Quinn:

Yeah. That's a lot of work. I still haven't figured out, like, "How do I do it?" It's a whole thing. I'd rather just yell at people.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. Yeah.

Mary Heglar:

Much easier. Much more my style.

Quinn:

Well, that all sounds incredible and I'm here for it. The more we can hold these people's feet to the flames, we should do that. Mary, I feel like you shortchange yourself by saying you don't do the memes at least, because your essays do mean a lot to so many folks. I want to talk about how you focus so much somehow probably just being a good human being. But the ability to focus that and come constantly from this place of love and empathy.

Quinn:

You've written about and talked about carving a specific place for yourself and specifically for, among others I believe it was your nephew. So you can show him this world that we're dealing with and that we're all fighting for. It reminded me of, and I talk about this all the time, so I think my listeners are probably sick of it. But I just don't care. Former podcasts and Boston Globe opinions editor, Bina Venkataraman, wrote a book, Optimist Telescope-

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. She's a friend of ours.

Mary Heglar:

[crosstalk 00:21:11] Bina and that book. Yeah.

Quinn:

She's the greatest.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah.

Quinn:

There is one quote from it where she talks about being a better ancestor. That has stuck with me ever since because it is one of those things that just... Everything else falls away and can really help you focus. You can apply it in any number of ways, depending on who you are, right?

Amy Westervelt:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Quinn:

For me, a cis white guy with enormous privilege born in 20th century America, with the world's most supportive wife, as discussed. I've got clean air and water and food. The least I can do is be a better ancestor than my fucking previous ones. The least I can do is host a fucking podcast, to be an activist and try to tear down these systems that I have benefited from. But as a mom, it's even harder because, Amy, like you wrote about you, "I have to make this choice every day. Do I hang out with my kids or do I do journalism work that benefits other kids?"

Amy Westervelt:

Right.

Quinn:

But a lot of folks don't have kids by choice or necessity, or they're focused on other kids like a nephew or kids in India or Latin America, where it's hot and dry all the fucking time. And so, those folks are using that quote to make decisions for the long term on a global scale. Obviously, indigenous populations have used this kind of thinking forever. It focuses you, having a child, or a creed, or a talisman. How does that still focus your day-to-day work and help you produce these essays that, again, move people?

Mary Heglar:

I really struggle or I tense up when I hear this idea that a child focuses you, because I think that horrible people have kids everyday. Rex Tillerson has kids, Donald Rumsfeld had kids. Donald Trump has kids. That doesn't necessarily follow from me. I think that this is a piece of rhetoric that comes up a lot in climate. It's like, "I do this for my kids. It's for my kids. It's for my kids." Other people think they're building wealth for their kids. That's not... Also, some people are just terrible parents.

Quinn:

True.

Mary Heglar:

So I-

Amy Westervelt:

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Mary Heglar:

Amy, you've got to get your shit together, Amy. All right? We talked about this before. No, Amy's a great mother. But I've definitely seen raggedy bitches have kids every day. So-

Quinn:

Sure.

Amy Westervelt:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Mary Heglar:

So I guess maybe I'm getting caught up in that. Yeah, I do want to be a good aunt. I do want to be a good ancestor, but I also think I had good ancestors. When I think of my ancestors, I'm thinking of Fannie Lou Hamer, and Martin Luther King, and James Baldwin, and they were good ancestors. So I'm trying to basically prove myself worthy of the legacy in the world that they tried to give to me. That's who I'm holding myself more accountable to, is the people who fought for me. It's more like I'm fighting to be deserving of what they gave me.

Mary Heglar:

And so, that's more of what I'm thinking about and how it guides my writing and how I show up in climate. It's like I don't have a choice but to show up. I don't have a choice but to do this.

Quinn:

I love that. I think you're right. I mean, we see it all the time any time a young woman goes through some sort of abuse or whatever it might be, or we're talking about abortion or healthcare in Congress. It's always the White men lawyers, who are the politicians, are going like, "I'm doing this for my daughters." And it's like, "Well, you should just fucking do it. Forget doing it for your daughters. That's it." So I totally get why the archetype is abused and why you would cringe at that for sure.

Quinn:

I guess, for me, it's just like, how is that personalized for you? I think that makes a lot of sense where you're like, "Well, I'm also looking in the other direction," which is like, "I have to own up to this and I have to do this because the people before me did, and I can't be the one who stops the fight, essentially."

Mary Heglar:

Right. Right. I think I also think back to when you were a kid, you were constantly wondering, what am I going to be like when I grow up? Who am I going to be when I grow up?" That's how I was thinking of life. Maybe that just goes to show I read a lot of novels and you're always like, "How's this going to end? Where is this going?" Now it's like I am the person I wondered about when I was 12. I want that little girl to be proud of me.

Quinn:

Yeah. That's awesome.

Amy Westervelt:

I love that.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. She's still struggling, but yeah.

Quinn:

Got it. I'm with you. I'm with you. Amy, what about you? I mean, you talked about the pure logistics of... And I was rereading both of your essays and All We Can Save, my favorite book. You've always been so honest about, quite literally, the logistics of like... Society and myself thinks I should be hanging out with my kids right now, but also I have a fucking job to do, which pays for my kids, but also helps other kids. Are you able to, not channel it, but I guess in how does that actually practically apply itself in your work when you're going after, again, the mechanics behind what happened from 1995 to 2005? Does that influence you in some way? Because that's looking back, in a way, too.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah, it does. It does. Actually, I love what you said, Mary, because I was like, "Oh, that's interesting." Because I think it's good to think about the fact that ancestor doesn't just mean from here forward, but also what came before us and all of that stuff. But I do. Honestly, I feel like the thing that drives me most is just a deep sense of unfairness in general, across the board. If I see things that are rigged or unfair, it pisses me off, and it makes me want to fight to right that wrong.

Amy Westervelt:

I do have this sense, just in terms of thinking about longevity or whatever, I feel like I have this sense that even if it doesn't happen in my lifetime, I feel compelled to lay the groundwork for things to change because it's the right thing to do. I do look at my kids and I feel... I mean, I feel terrible when they talk about doing stuff that I've done, that I'm not sure they'll be able to do. It's very depressing. Then I think that that just fuels the righteous indignation and anger that much more.

Mary Heglar:

Right. It's also, for Amy and I, we're both very petty.

Amy Westervelt:

Yes. Absolutely. Yes. I'm like, "I want revenge on these guys."

Mary Heglar:

Certainly petty.

Quinn:

That shit is important.

Amy Westervelt:

Yes.

Mary Heglar:

It really is. These guys is like, you're not going to push me into an early grave and then walk off without so much as a black eye.

Amy Westervelt:

That's right. That's right.

Quinn:

Sure, sure, sure, sure.

Mary Heglar:

That's just not going to happen. I'm kicking you in the nuts. It's happening.

Amy Westervelt:

That's right.

Quinn:

Yeah. I have a friend who, he will admit, through no effort of his own has come into a lot of family money and he's trying to figure out how does he do good in the world with this thing.

Mary Heglar:

Can he give it to me?

Quinn:

I know. Well, literally, the thing I told him is I was like, "I will be your vigilante. I will do whatever the thing is to just burn it down." I'm happy to use that money in a very practical, very dark way, if necessary. Whatever gets this shit done at this point, right?

Mary Heglar:

Yes. Yeah.

Quinn:

But you're right. I mean, look, you joke about the petty thing, but it works. I love the idea of looking backwards. I just gave my kid, and I hesitate to romanticize this stuff, but I was going through some childhood stuff and I found a book about the airplane that my grandfather flew in World War II. I gave it to my kid and I was like, "Look, this is the thing. This is what they did," because you go back to the memes of Buzz Aldrin and the guy saying, "We don't land on the moon," or whatever.

Quinn:

The lesson is you always punch a Nazi. Would our generation do that? It's like my version might be hosting a podcast from Colonial Williamsburg. But it's like, "If he's going to get in that fucking plane over the Pacific, which was a nightmare, what am I up to doing here?" I appreciate you guys sticking with me on that one. It's the extended version of, why do you do what you do every day?

Quinn:

The big question I get all the time, and I'm sure you guys get a lot is, what can I do? And when I respond to them, like, "What can you do? What are your fucking skills? What were you into in seventh grade science, or what has recently affected you or your family or whatever?" It's not just practically like, "Oh, I'm a graphic designer. I can make memes or signs or whatever." It's also like, "Why do you give a shit?" Besides, this thing is scary. Who in your life makes you want to do these things? And that can be different for a lot of people.

Amy Westervelt:

I was just going to say, I think it also shifts around a lot. Some weeks it's like I'm thinking about my kids. Some weeks I'm thinking about the past. Some weeks I'm fueled by spite and just want to dunk on oil execs. Some weeks I'm really sad or whatever. Actually, I'm writing about this for this weekend's newsletter. I feel like a part of climate adaptation that we don't talk about is the need for people to adapt to the total constant rollercoaster that is living through this time period, and being okay with that.

Amy Westervelt:

You're not going to have a consistent feeling about it. And sometimes you're going to feel like the stuff that you're doing doesn't fucking matter. You should take a break then, you know?

Quinn:

Yeah. Yeah.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. I was just going to say, I think that there are vested interests in us being confused about what we can do and what we can bring to [crosstalk 00:31:28]-

Quinn:

Of course.

Mary Heglar:

For very long time, the baseline understanding was like, "If you're not an economist, if you're not a scientist, if you're not someone with an advanced degree, you can't engage on this and you're just at the mercy of these experts or whatever. And if they can't get the story across, then, sorry, kid, you're going to roast." And so, I think understanding that your confusion about why, about what you can do, and what is actually going on is by design. And then, that helps you, first of all, feel less stupid.

Amy Westervelt:

Right?

Mary Heglar:

I think a lot of people just don't want to get engaged with it because they feel powerless. They feel meaningless. They also feel just kinda dumb because they don't understand what's happening.

Quinn:

Sure.

Mary Heglar:

But there is decades of propaganda that has gone into making sure you don't understand what's going on and making sure that you feel powerless. It's not your fault that you feel that way.

Quinn:

Sure.

Mary Heglar:

Right. So I think first understanding that, and also the reason I do this is because I believe in throwing rocks at bullies. I was bullied as a kid and they don't go away until you fight them. There's no talking around them. There's no finding the right words. There's no avoiding them and waiting it out and hoping somebody else is going to come save you. You have to fight them. And so, that's what I like in climate action too. It's like, "what is the other choice?" Letting somebody beat you up every day?

Quinn:

Right.

Amy Westervelt:

That's right. That's right.

Quinn:

Sure.

Mary Heglar:

So I think a lot of people don't want to get involved because it's like, "Well, I don't know if we're going to win and it looks pointless." So the fuck what? I don't care if it's pointless. I'm getting my licks in no matter what.

Amy Westervelt:

That's right. Yeah.

Quinn:

One of the themes there is this is hard no matter what your specific application of your rage, and your pettiness, and your desire for revenge or justification, whatever it might be. Or you're working on the front lines or you're Kate Marvel and you're the first one to see the science and you're just sitting there going, "Oh, fuck." It's hard. I wanted to just talk briefly about... Because it seems like you two have such an awesome work and life relationship, and we can talk about it offline, if that's not the case. I'm happy to host the session.

Amy Westervelt:

No, no.

Mary Heglar:

Oh, I fucking hate Amy. No. Yes, we love each other.

Quinn:

Listen, I thought about this because, I mean, I'm, again, not sure how much you guys are familiar. We don't just do climate because there's a lot of other clusterfucks out there. But there's also some other good stuff. We did a lot of COVID work this year and I've been thinking about... I was a religious studies major. I'm liberal arts major, but I'm an atheist.

Quinn:

But I took this class called death and the afterlife. It's learning about how folks, for themselves, if they know that it's coming, how they handle death, or just in aging, but also, on the other side, for everyone who's "left behind", how we handle mourning and the practicalities of the end of life. There's variety of ways. I thought about that because, I mean, COVID is obviously, and climate change, are not going to end for a long time.

Quinn:

But specific to COVID, we just haven't mourned publicly as a nation, as a globe, as a people en masse, for these collective losses. But also, with this urgent need for the economy to snap back, no one has really been afforded the time and the grace to handle personal losses in the ways that we're usually accustomed to. And so, losses continue for a huge variety of reasons. But it's become this blur.

Quinn:

Again, I was looking at your guys' All We Can Save essays. Mary, you had this line where you said, "We've entered into an age where these tragedies fade and blend into a continuum that we struggle to recognize as normal." And that's this fucking week, if nothing else.

Mary Heglar:

I wrote that?

Quinn:

You did write that. Yeah.

Mary Heglar:

Oh shit, [inaudible 00:35:31].

Amy Westervelt:

That's beautiful, Mary.

Quinn:

No, it's heavy, but it's true because we keep calling these things like, "Here comes this disaster," or, "Now it's this disaster." But they're just hitting in there all the time. And like you said, there are threat multipliers, and this is normal. But it's going to keep changing and it's uncomfortable. Even if you're in it, almost sometimes... Especially if you are in it everyday like you guys or some of these folks who've been doing it forever. There's just an enormous amount of internal and sometimes if you're comfortable with it, external sharing.

Quinn:

I keep thinking, if this is the way it's going to keep going, we have to find better ways to take care of each other and to be accountable to one another. I wonder, after what you guys have built over the past few years, if you have any lessons to folks who are trying to get in this thing, but are like, "Fuck, this is just scary. I don't know if I can handle it." What should they seek out?

Amy Westervelt:

Friends.

Quinn:

What should I work on? What should they look for?

Amy Westervelt:

You absolutely need friends that you can talk about this stuff with.

Mary Heglar:

Amen.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. You totally need people that you can be like, "Oh my God. I'm so depressed this week," that get that, because I also feel like, otherwise, I don't know. There has been this encouragement over the last few years for people to work their shit out in public, and I'm not sure how helpful that is with climate stuff sometimes. Sometimes it's better to have that conversation with a friend who understands what you're going through and that, I don't know, where you can just really be honest about your feelings, good and bad.

Amy Westervelt:

You can share stuff without coming across as like, "And this is how you should feel about climate." Because I feel like, like I said, like your feelings shift around and yeah. I mean, yeah. I think, to me, that's the most important thing mental health-wise, is just people who also understand the problem and are also grappling with it, that you can talk to.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. I definitely think community is a very big part of it. Honestly, that's where me and Amy's relationship grew out of. I fangirled out on her on Twitter and then we met in person, and then we became friends. We support each other through this, and I think our working relationship has come such that our depression cycles are linked.

Amy Westervelt:

It's true. It's true.

Mary Heglar:

We both start to run out of steam at the same time. You'll notice we tend to take Twitter breaks at the same time.

Amy Westervelt:

It's true.

Mary Heglar:

It's very synced up like that. And so, I encourage people to find not just a buddy, but friends and build a community and be able to talk about this without having to apologize for how you feel about it or any of that sort of thing. You need to get it out because when you feel alone like, that grief is meant to be shared. It's not meant to be suffered in isolation. So there's that.

Mary Heglar:

I would also say we need a lot more art. We need a lot more artists. I think that has helped people grieve and process through things. I'm really concerned about us going through COVID and then trying to just go back to life as normal before that, because they tried that with the Spanish flu and then the next thing you know, you got global fascism and the great depression and genocide. It wasn't good. Let's not do that.

Mary Heglar:

Honestly, when I looked back to art around that time, you don't see the Spanish flu reflect it. I feel like that is how we process things. That's how we find catharsis, is through art and through talking about things and feeling them. I'm worried that we're not going to do that with COVID. At the same time, I'm not ready to see my favorite shows with masks on.

Quinn:

No, no.

Amy Westervelt:

Right. Right.

Mary Heglar:

A little soon. Now, I feel like COVID is a good time to represent that in art with metaphors. Climate change, we don't need metaphors anymore. We should be able to just hit this head on. But I also think that that's why we've seen this explosion in climate podcasts over the past few years, because people are normalizing the conversations. Before people did not know how to talk about it. But if you listen to a podcast about it, you're literally listening in on a conversation about it. You learn how to talk about it.

Quinn:

Sure.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. And there's so much more variety now. So it's like you can plug in wherever makes sense for you.

Quinn:

Sure. It's interesting. I mean, you're right. For folks who are really new to this, for whatever... If you're listening to this because of Amy and Mary or because you found our show, whatever it is, I will say, it can be hard to find people who, even if they might tangentially be into this thing, that can stomach it all the time. Finding those boundaries in those friends are important. But it can be difficult.

Quinn:

I mean, I have this wonderful therapist I talk to every two weeks, and I feel like once a month, his FaceTime pops up and I'm like, "Oh, you're in for it today, buddy. Here, let me tell you about these 10 fucking things that are going on." But that's also helpful if you can afford that and you can find something like that. It's hugely helpful to get through these things and to do the work. You talked about how there's so many more podcasts and ways in, and that's because it's happening. This thing is live.

Quinn:

If you guys were getting into this today, is there anything you would do differently if you were just getting started? For instance, if you still had energy and life and passion, that you would talk to younger folks about, whether they're getting into journalism or they want to start getting into essays, besides just like, "Open a blog and get going"? What have you learned along the way that could help some of these younger folks that are trying to find their way in, the actual practical mechanics of it?

Amy Westervelt:

Personally, I think talk to people that are already doing the thing that you want to be doing. That can be very helpful. And do it in a respectful way. I'm pretty open to talking to any young person that's like, "Hey, I just want to learn the ropes," or whatever. But it drives me nuts when they're disrespectful of my time. So ask nicely and a lot of people will actually talk to you about that stuff.

Amy Westervelt:

I mean, in the same way as we were talking about finding your personal pathway into the climate movement, same goes for journalism. I spent actually a period of time in my career where I was really focused on getting published in certain places and finding ideas that those places would buy. I realized that that was just ass backwards, that really I had to figure out what I wanted to write about and was most interested in and then pursue that. Of course, then you write better shit and more people want to publish you.

Quinn:

Sure.

Amy Westervelt:

So yeah. I would say too, honestly, if you're looking to get into journalism and you don't find a staff job right off the bat, get a stable income job that allows you the time and head space to do some writing on the side. So you can start building out your portfolio and figuring out what you like to do, what you're good at, and all that kind of stuff.

Quinn:

That is one of the cheat codes to finding your sideways way into creative work, is to get a job that pays the bills, that doesn't require your brain, so that you still have it left for writing at 5:00 in the morning or at 10 o'clock at night.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Especially if you're able to do that, if you have the schedule and lifestyle that you're able to do that, then, I mean, I do still think that that's a way in. And then, I mean, some people have been able to just launch a newsletter right out the gate or create a podcast. I don't know. I feel like the podcast space is so crowded now, it's getting harder to break in.

Amy Westervelt:

But like when I did Drilled, I was fairly new to audio and I had this idea and everybody told me there was no audience for climate podcasts. And I was really, really convinced that it was a good idea, and I just made it myself. So I do think if you feel really strongly that your creative idea will work and you are able to just grind it out and do it, I do still think there's value in doing that.

Amy Westervelt:

But I also have to realize that I think there's a little bit of a generational difference there too, where I think Gen X-ers are more willing to work for free and I don't actually think that's good. Right?

Quinn:

Sure. Yeah.

Amy Westervelt:

So yeah. I'm not sure if that's just my age talking or if it's really a good way to go. Yeah.

Mary Heglar:

I guess, for me, and I'm speaking to just any kind of artist, this is going to sound cocky, but I wouldn't have done anything different, because I'm just not about the business of criticizing myself for getting involved in trying to solve a crime. I'm not going to flog myself for mistakes on climate action up against some of the most powerful companies in the world.

Quinn:

For sure.

Mary Heglar:

So there's that. Artists don't create to be noticed. They don't create for money. They create because it's who they are.

Quinn:

Sure.

Mary Heglar:

And so, just worry about being honest and telling your truth, and there's always only one truth and it's always yours. In that sense, you're creating for yourself and you are your first audience. So just make sure that you are telling the full story in a way that resonates with you, and don't worry about your audience. Worry about you and worry about healing yourself and finding the catharsis and just telling the truth.

Mary Heglar:

I think that there is so much focus in climate communications about finding the right message or the right words or the right emotion to evoke in people. There's no right. There's no wrong. There's just the truth, and that's what you should focus on.

Quinn:

We're very big on gatekeepers in this movement and it can be pretty self-

Mary Heglar:

Yes, [crosstalk 00:46:19]-

Quinn:

It can be pretty self-defeating unfortunately.

Amy Westervelt:

Yep.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah, for sure.

Amy Westervelt:

Yes.

Quinn:

I understand that there's people who have been doing it for like 25 years, who feel pretty scarred by a lack of an action and a lack of community on it. And so, I can empathize with that a little bit, like some of the folks who are like, "These are the six things we have to do, and we can't do anything else." Because they've been fighting for those six things and we haven't done any of them forever. Now, for the first time, we have a little money for them, they're like, "We've got to do these right now." And it's like, "Yes, of course."

Quinn:

But also, solar is now cheaper than ever, and there's all these other things we could possibly do along the way, because the answer is like kitchen sink. We've got to do the whole thing, but it's the same thing to our tent of people, which is, it can't just be these specific people getting things done. We need everyone. If your brand of art is essays, or poems, or sculpture, or design, or speeches, or songs, whatever it might be, then we need it.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. I would also say, don't be afraid to do something different or think completely differently, or to do something that hasn't been done because all of the people who told Amy that there was no audience for a climate podcast, hadn't tried to do the podcast that she did.

Quinn:

Sure.

Mary Heglar:

Also, if they had the answers, if they knew how to fix this problem, it wouldn't still be a problem.

Amy Westervelt:

Same with like-

Mary Heglar:

So maybe they don't know what they're talking about.

Amy Westervelt:

... when you started doing essays, right, Mary? It wasn't-

Mary Heglar:

Yeah.

Amy Westervelt:

Mary wrote her first essays on Medium. And then, all of a sudden, all these editors realized, "Oh, yeah. We should have signed stuff like this." So it's like sometimes you do have to show people that what you're talking about will work.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah.

Mary Heglar:

When I first started writing about climate and emotion, a friend of mine was like, "I would say stop being so lazy."

Quinn:

That's what they said to you?

Mary Heglar:

Yeah.

Amy Westervelt:

Wow.

Mary Heglar:

They told me that writing about climate through the lens of emotion was lazy.

Amy Westervelt:

Wow.

Quinn:

There's so many ways to unpack that.

Amy Westervelt:

Wow.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah.

Amy Westervelt:

Wow.

Mary Heglar:

They wanted me to write about the hard-hitting science. And I was like, "I feel like that's actually already out there."

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. There's plenty of that. Oh my God. Wow.

Mary Heglar:

Right.

Quinn:

What's that person's address and social security number? I could just...

Mary Heglar:

No. It's just like, well, I guess we'll see who's right.

Quinn:

Wow.

Amy Westervelt:

Wow.

Quinn:

Find helpful friends out there, folks, supportive friends who don't really care what your art is, but just want to support you and your values. That'll go a long way.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. But the thing is I did it because I had to. I had to write about climate and emotions because I needed to do that for myself. So I did it anyway.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah.

Quinn:

Sure.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. I think that helps too, for me. I think Mary and I have talked about this too, having a genuine... It's not that other people's opinions don't influence me or that I can't take in new information and rethink my stance on things or anything like that. But I do feel like I have this core feeling of like, "Well, if something feels really important to me, I really don't give a shit what other people think." A core of giving no fucks thing that is helpful.

Mary Heglar:

Hard headed.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. Yeah.

Mary Heglar:

Stubborn.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. Yeah. It's true.

Quinn:

Unfortunately, my five-year-old is in that phase right now and his worldview isn't quite as developed to justify that positioning. So if you could just help out a little bit with that, it'd be great. I know Mary's got to go rescue her cat, so I don't want to take you guys too long. I really appreciate all of your time and everything you guys do. I've a couple of little quick last questions that we ask everybody before we get out of here. When was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful? First moment when you realized you had that power.

Mary Heglar:

I think I'm still waiting on that moment, to tell you the truth.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah, I was going to say that too. I was going to say the same.

Mary Heglar:

I don't know that I believe that.

Amy Westervelt:

Not sure I do. I know. I mean, I feel like a broken record, but I actually think that I can tell you the moment when I let go of searching for that feeling and embraced collectivism instead. That is actually talking to a 22-year old Sunrise person, who was explaining to me how their organization works at the local level, in their local groups, and how flattened the hierarchy is. I felt this huge sense of relief in myself where I was like, "Oh yeah, you're right." Just being a contributor to a broader thing is so much more achievable and also such a relief that I don't have to be an individual change maker. Yeah.

Quinn:

And it's so much more gratifying, right?

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. Yeah.

Quinn:

I mean, to be a part of something, whether it's, again, something like Sunrise on the national level or at the local level, you don't have to go sit in Nancy Pelosi's office to be part of something like that, because there are incredible... Again, like the Science Moms groups or the Moms Clean Air movement. There is just these incredible groups out there that you can be part of. And, God, it feels good, not just to identify people who you don't have to explain yourself to, but also it's just it's the threat multiplier, but for the good guys.

Amy Westervelt:

Mary knows this because I complain to her about it a lot. I occasionally get annoyed when people parrot my work and don't credit me.

Quinn:

Sure.

Amy Westervelt:

But the flip side of that is it's fucking awesome that that happens. That's great. I want that to happen.

Mary Heglar:

No, please stop doing that. Please, stop stealing Amy's work.

Amy Westervelt:

I want there to be tons of people calling out the oil companies and tons of people pointing out what they were doing in the '70s versus now, or whatever. Mary's talked about that with the green trolling stuff too. It's like she doesn't want to be the only person trolling Chevron on Twitter. She wants other people to take up that-

Mary Heglar:

No, because then I couldn't take a break.

Amy Westervelt:

Right, like take up that mantle and carry it forward. So yeah. I guess, in that way, we have done some things to inspire change or get other people to go in this direction too. Yeah.

Quinn:

Sure.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. I guess so. Yeah.

Quinn:

Perfect. This is probably going to be the most ridiculous version of this question because it's you two. Who is someone in your life that's positively impacted your work in the past six months?

Amy Westervelt:

Oh, I mean, yeah, Mary.

Mary Heglar:

Amy.

Quinn:

Great. This has been so fun.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. Easy,

Amy Westervelt:

Easy. Easy. Yes.

Quinn:

Awesome. What is your self care? I get a lot of folks who are just burnt out.

Amy Westervelt:

Oh yeah.

Quinn:

A lot of them have found their walk in the woods, or Netflix, or ice cream, or kids, or working out, whatever it might be. And a lot of them are still really struggling. Not that someone should parrot your self care, but any ideas. We'll take them all.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah. I mean, I've been taking a break from producing as much stuff and being on social media for a while, to focus on self-care for a little while, because I'm just feeling constantly overwhelmed and just like I've depleted.

Quinn:

Yeah. Yeah.

Mary Heglar:

And so, for me, physical exercise is a big part of that. I've been dealing with a riding injury that I'm trying to recover from and it is not easy. So that's really frustrating. And I just don't feel like myself right now. So, for me, self-care looks like a lot of just being patient, which is hard. I am not naturally a patient person. I was struggling through a yoga class recently, which is frustrating because yoga used to be like my sanctuary. I used to really enjoy it. It was fun. I looked forward to it.

Mary Heglar:

But now I'm in a position where poses that felt really good to me now feel really, really hard to me. I had this talk with myself of like, "This is going to be hard for a while." Once you accept that something is going to be hard, you don't get as frustrated with the fact that it's hard, if that makes sense.

Quinn:

Sure.

Mary Heglar:

I think that applies to climate change too. This is going to suck. This is supposed to suck. You are not supposed to feel good about this. Once you start accepting that you're not supposed to feel good about it, you can actually get to a place where you can start finding pockets of joy, and humor, and feeling okay about it a little bit, because you're not supposed to feel great about it. It's like finding out that you have an illness or something. You're not supposed to be crank about it then. But you're supposed to deal with it and learn how to cope.

Mary Heglar:

And so, that's my biggest trip to self care, and I'm not always good at it. It's just understanding that you're not always going to feel good.

Quinn:

Expectation setting just changes everything. Did you guys read... Amy, just, if you could, one second. Did you guys read Eric Holthaus's book? Came out last year or the year before, something like that?

Amy Westervelt:

I haven't yet. I started to read it. Honestly, I have like a pile of 20 books on my nightstand-

Quinn:

Oh, I hear you.

Amy Westervelt:

... that I'm just going to one day.

Quinn:

I'm the cliche of ordering new books and while the other ones suffer in the corner. Anyways, Eric has this great... It's basically about like, look, if we do everything we can, this is what the next 30 to 40 years really looks like by decades sort of. What's interesting about it is it's a lesson in expectation setting about the practical realities about what are going to happen if we do everything and why we need to do everything, but also how difficult that's going to feel and be.

Quinn:

Also, here's how you can find some joy in that because, along the way, we're actually going to build something that's better. We're not just going to get to zero, and that's going to be really amazing. We've got to identify those wins along the way, and you've got to find ways to celebrate these things and to come together along the way.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. I loved the idea of that book too, because I do feel like there's a huge need for more imagining of a future that is neither utopia or dystopia, that is just a new reality. We don't have a lot of that, so it's hard for people to not go to immediate dystopia because they don't know what reality looks like. They just know what the worst case scenario looks like. So yeah. Anyway, I like that about his take or just his approach in that book.

Quinn:

For sure. Very thoughtful. So your self-care, Amy. Go for it.

Amy Westervelt:

It's so funny because I was going to say something really similar to what Mary said, which is letting yourself off the hook of being super productive all the time or being this climate warrior all the time. It's okay for you to take a day off. It's okay for you to take even like a month away from climate stuff, if you feel like you need that break. We need people to be whole when they're working on this issue. And sometimes you just need a break.

Amy Westervelt:

I do also, on a very, very practical level, regular social media detoxes. Fucking great. Very highly recommended. I was off Twitter for a couple of weeks and just went back on, and was texting Mary today that I feel like I need to take another total cleanse because I got sucked back in and it's just very negative. It can be very overwhelming and I don't miss it. After like a day of being off of all platforms, I did not find myself thinking about it at all or wanting to go on there or anything. I do feel like my brain is clear, I'm less depressed, I'm more productive, all of those things. So yeah.

Quinn:

It's hard, right? It's hard when you've, not defined yourself by this thing, but you've worked so hard on something that is so big and for better or worse, you can use the word existential or all-encompassing, whatever it might be, to... At least, I wrestle with sometimes justifying taking step back, especially when I have... I mean, I was born into such a preposterous position of privilege and I live it every single day, to say like, "Who am I to take my foot off the pedal when everybody else doesn't have most of these things?"

Quinn:

The least I can do is everything I can do all the time. And then, I get talks from my best friend. We were sitting around a little fire pit one night a couple months ago. He was like, "So where do your friends fit into your life these days?" And it's like, "Oh, okay. Got it."

Mary Heglar:

But think about it this way. You used the analogy of foot on the pedal. Imagine driving when you're dead sleep.

Amy Westervelt:

That's right.

Mary Heglar:

You're not going to take us anywhere good. So you should take that step back.

Quinn:

Sure. Sure, sure, sure. Yeah. You end up actually being more impactful when you're rested and you're clear-headed and you've had exercise and stuff like that. It's balance, I guess. Well, thank you guys for sharing that. Last one. A book you've read this year, as much as we're all behind on books, that's opened your mind to a topic you hadn't considered before or an angle you hadn't considered before, or has actually changed your thinking in some way. And we've got a whole list on bookshop for all our guests. Good stuff.

Mary Heglar:

I have bought a lot of books that I believe will do that. But one book that I am in the process of reading right now is Antonia Juhasz's... She wrote a book on the BP oil spill and they're like... It's a great name. I think it's called Black Tide.

Quinn:

Oh, that's good.

Mary Heglar:

Yeah, it's called Black Tide. She was on Hot Take recently. There's a lot about the BP oil spill that I didn't know, that I've learned from this book. But my favorite thing is that she has a whole chapter on the misinformation and also how Gulf Coast residents fought back against it with... They just trolled the living shit out of BP and I love it. They came up with all sorts of phony Twitter handles impersonating them.

Amy Westervelt:

So good.

Mary Heglar:

I did not create green trolling.

Amy Westervelt:

Sure.

Mary Heglar:

I just brought it back.

Quinn:

Sure. Right back.

Mary Heglar:

Billboards all over the city, tattoo artists got in on it, on graffiti. It was beautiful, and I loved reading those stories.

Amy Westervelt:

That's so good.

Quinn:

I love that. But that's such a specific example of this thing, of your people, your community can come from something devastating, but God damn it can feel so good to be part of something like that.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah.

Quinn:

Right?

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah.

Mary Heglar:

Right.

Amy Westervelt:

Yeah. My answer to this question is completely weird and unique to me because the only books that I get time to read are ones that are related to my work. And they often tend to be the crazy rantings of some like PR guy. The one that I read most recently that shifted my... Or just gave me new perspective onto it was written by the VP of Public Affairs for Mobil Oil back in the '80s. His name was Herb Schmertz and it was called Goodbye to the Low Profile. It is a guide to PR for industry, not just fossil fuel industry, but corporations in general.

Amy Westervelt:

It is such an incredible window into how they think about the media, how they think about the public, and this very, very cynical way that corporate PR in general tries to shift the information that we all get, to really shape information in a way that leads to policies that are favorable to them. It was quite good.

Quinn:

That's wild. That's so specific, but I'm-

Amy Westervelt:

Yes.

Quinn:

... 100% into it.

Amy Westervelt:

It has this really cheesy photo of him on the cover too. And it includes this vignette that he tells to be like, "Oh, aren't journalists so awful?" I was like, oh my God, why aren't more people doing that today?" Because he talks about this meeting that he had with the Wall Street Journal, where he was going in there to really give them hell for not presenting Mobil's point of view enough in their coverage and for being too biased against the industry and whatever else.

Amy Westervelt:

The guy who was the executive editor of the Wall Street Journal at the time, a guy named Fred Taylor, told... Herb Schmertz is like, "I only got to my first bullet point and then Frederick Taylor said, 'Everything you're saying is bullshit' and stormed out of the room." I was like, "Fuck, yeah. That guy. Yes." So yeah. I don't know. I was like, "This is great. Reminds me of all the reasons that journalists should absolutely never ever agree to the both-sidesing of issues because that is 100% being driven by corporate agendas. Yeah. So there you go.

Quinn:

That's amazing.

Amy Westervelt:

Full window into my life.

Quinn:

I didn't hear anything after Herb Schmertz, frankly. That's amazing.

Amy Westervelt:

Such a good name. Such a good name.

Quinn:

I love that. That's fantastic. We'll throw those guys in the show notes and on bookshop. You guys got to get out of here. I can't thank you enough for putting up with my rambling and my questions, and most importantly-

Amy Westervelt:

Oh no, this was great.

Quinn:

... all of the work that you-

Amy Westervelt:

Thank you for having us.

Quinn:

No, of course. I'm so inspired and motivated by both sides of what you folks do, but also what you do together. It's so powerful. I think that the movement, if we can call it that, this conglomeration of very varied interests, and requirements, and needs, and people who have been marginalized and affected by this thing, can find a lot of value in what you guys do. So-

Amy Westervelt:

Thank you.

Quinn:

Thank you. We really appreciate it.

Mary Heglar:

Thank you.

Amy Westervelt:

Thank you.

Quinn:

Thanks to our incredible guests today, and thanks to all of you tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute, or awesome workout, or dish washing, or fucking dog walking late at night, that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

Brian:

You can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter at importantnotimp.

Quinn:

It's so weird.

Brian:

Also on Facebook and Instagram at importantnotimportant. Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. So check us out, follow us, share us, like us, you know the deal. Please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. If you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcasts. Keep the lights on. Thanks.

Quinn:

Please.

Brian:

You can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, importantnotimportant.com.

Quinn:

Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening, and finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.

Brian:

Thanks guys.