In This Episode
This week, Joe Manchin spiked Biden’s climate bill, but the planet is no political football. This week’s episode of Hot Take takes a closer look at the true stakes of the climate crisis with a focus on the Global South. Mary is joined by Dharna Noor to talk through extreme heat and rising authoritarianism in India, floating cities in the Maldives, drought in the Horn of Africa, and a rotting oil tanker in Yemen—and so much more.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Hey, there it’s Mary. This week’s episode was taped on Tuesday of this week, which is the day before the president’s big speech on climate change in Massachusetts. So before we get into this episode, which is one of my favorite conversations we’ve had. I want to take a quick moment to remark on just that speech and connect it to the rest of this conversation. So first, in his speech, Biden pledged to bolster wind energy even in the Gulf Coast, which would be for the first time. He also pledged a 2.3 billion investment in protecting communities from extreme heat and other disasters like hurricanes and floods. And he pledged to lower cooling costs for low income households, which hopefully will bring some relief to people with really high air conditioning bills who don’t have a choice but to turn on their air conditioner in the sweltering heat. So it was good to see Biden taking some leadership on climate change, kind of taking the matter into his own hands. As I’ve written about before, the best time to start your climate action is always right now. And he also said that these actions are the beginning and not the end. And he told us all to keep our ears peeled to hear what else comes out of the White House in the coming weeks. He said that when it comes to the climate crisis, he won’t take no for an answer. And I think we have to hold him to that and fuck anybody who says that we’re being dramatic. I want to remind everybody that wanting a livable planet is not idealistic. It is actually the very basic human instinct to survive. So I did have a few issues with the president’s speech, as you might expect. So I think that we really need to get rid of this narrative that climate change is an opportunity, which the president said. He also said that, you know, when he thinks of climate change, he thinks of jobs. So sick of this narrative. I mean, because it really comes down to when I think of climate change, I think of capitalism and not in the right way. Capitalism is a cause of the climate crisis. It is not a solution to it. So it’s great if you can get people jobs, but that’s not the end all, be all. And that’s not the reason to do climate action, rather. Also, it’s pretty insensitive to anybody who lives in a climate danger zone, and it completely erases the entire global south. I need the politicians and the media to stop saying that they can’t act on climate because people don’t care enough about it. First of all, I don’t believe that that’s true. And for another thing, even if it were true, it’s probably a reflection of the way that we talk about it and the way that people in power talk about it and shape the narrative. There is no shame in fighting an existential threat because it’s an existential threat. You don’t have to dress it up as a job fair. Secondly, there was too much bragging about these historic investments and job creation and not nearly enough about the reality that we’re facing. Yes, he acknowledged some of the climate disasters happening today, but there wasn’t enough real talk about what climate change will look like in the next summer or how badly it’s hit us before the equator. And that’s where the real climate story is. So in this episode. DHARNA Noor and I take a look much more closely at the Climate News from the Global South. There’s a lot, and we don’t pretend to get to all of it. That would be impossible. But as you listen to this episode, I want you to think about all the lives that hang in the balance. And I want you to weigh them against the actions that are announced from the White House over the coming weeks. I want you to think about how immaterial political constraints are in the face of this crisis when you consider the outsized contribution of the United States to the climate crisis. It is absolutely criminal that the president of the United States could ever be considered an innocent bystander, especially when he’s held high office since the 1970s. I see. I hope that Joe Biden listens to his conscience and finds his courage. This crisis demands it. Hey, hot cakes. Welcome to Hot Take. I’m Mary Annaïse Heglar.
Dharna Noor: And I’m Amy WESTERVELT. Just kidding. No, no. I’m Dharna Noor.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Ugh. Nice try, but ya’ll don’t sound shit alike. That’s right. Amy will be back again next week. But this week we are joined by daughter Nora, Boston Globe environment reporter and family friend.
Dharna Noor: Oh, my gosh. I am a family friend of Hot Take. Last time I saw Mary, we were literally hanging out with my entire family. And also I did this whole podcast season with Amy on her other podcast, Drilled.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, you did. I really love that season about the fossil fuel industry and how it’s infiltrated even the educational system.
Dharna Noor: Oh, my gosh. Thank you.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Anybody who hasn’t listened to that should go do that right after they finish this episode. Especially if you feel bad for how much you don’t know or misunderstand about fossil fuels.
Dharna Noor: Oh, my gosh. Yeah, I. We uncovered just, like, so much wild. Am I allowed to say bad words? I can’t remember.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: We uncovered. You’re not allowed not to.
Dharna Noor: Okay, cool. We uncovered so much wild shit on that podcast, and I just. I was so amazed to see how the patterns that I see, like fossil fuel companies all the time now dated back to, like, you know, literally a hundred years ago. I highly recommend not to be like, listen to a thing that I made, but I highly recommend.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Now you should go listen to. I’m going to go ahead and underscore that. So Hot Take is definitely a pretty much a US focused podcast. But for this episode, we wanted to take a minute to look at the climate news around the world, especially in the Global South, which I know is really close to your heart.
Dharna Noor: Yeah, for sure. I mean, my family is from India and also, you know, frankly, even folks who have no connection to the global south should just kind of realize that like, yeah, yeah. A lot of the climate disasters we’re seeing here now are disasters that have been seen in the Global South forever. And like, you know, we should just pay attention to people who are most affected by anything bad.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. And also, yeah, you should just care about people because they’re people.
Dharna Noor: Correct.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: But first, we’re going to just take a little bit of a look at our own health here in the U.S., especially since you are working on stories here in Boston, which is doing some exciting things on the climate front. And then the latest from Washington, which, you know, our favorite thing and then we’ll expand out into the rest of the world.
Dharna Noor: Yeah, we’re like that. I think local act, global bumper sticker. Except we’re doing the opposite.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, right, we’re going to start local and then go global. So without any further ado, I think it’s time.
Dharna Noor: It’s time to talk about climate.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: All right. So this time we’re going to start in a different kind of place. We’re actually going to start with what please tell me is good news, Dharna, out of Boston.
Dharna Noor: Yeah. I mean I it’s really interesting. I started at the Boston Globe around the same time that the new mayor, Michelle Wu, started with this pretty ambitious Green New Deal program. You know, she came in out the gate championing free public transit. She’s put a ton of focus on climate justice, you know, especially on like the structural and acute inequities that people kind of face in infrastructure and planning, heat islands and things like this. You know, she’s building out like a whole Green New Deal team and there have been some sort of smaller incremental things along the way. I think that she’s still facing some challenges, like I reported on a composting program that she rolled out a few weeks ago, and some activists had a few concerns about that that they shared with me. But, you know, cool to see. And also like, you know, a very like, you know, kind of interesting like progressive young woman of color who is like a mayor who’s actually taking it seriously.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: So that’s awesome. And when did she get elected?
Dharna Noor: Yeah, she was elected last year.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: So we can’t say we can’t all stay in Boston forever and climate change is never going to be fixed with just the local solution. So let’s talk about the elephant in the room breaking all the china and all the closets. The latest with the Build Back Better situation so good. But the the latest like shot to the heart of all the climate folks out here is that Joe Manchin has fucked us yet again.
Dharna Noor: Yeah. Oh, my God. So just they depressing.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It is.
Dharna Noor: Yeah. So, I mean, I’m sure folks who are listening know, but Manchin basically was like, I’m not going to support any big, sweeping, ambitious bill that the Democrats want to pass, like a big spending bill if it includes too many climate measures or other good things, like, you know, taxing rich people.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And it’s because he doesn’t want to increase inflation, which I don’t get. I don’t get how those things are connected because, you know, you can’t have inflation or deflation if the planet’s fucking dead.
Dharna Noor: Yeah. Also, like how I just don’t understand why there’s so little interest. And like part of the reason that we have inflation in the first place is because of high gas prices. That seems like a pretty obvious climate issue, but whatever. Also like green jobs, there’s like such a huge focus of like Democrats, climate plans, whatever. And then like, come on, this is like such a good opportunity to, like, help people deal with inflation by having, like, good jobs available and whatever anyway. Exactly.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And this is how you know that economics isn’t real because this like he can just say, like, oh, I don’t want to vote for this because of inflation. And like, nobody understands how inflation works. Nobody knows how the economy works. So it’s not like you could be like, yeah, that doesn’t make sense. Like for sure that doesn’t make sense. Like people don’t understand how the economy works. You can just say anything.
Dharna Noor: Yeah. Also for whatever, this is like a whole other thing. But the idea that the solution to inflation should be that people have fewer jobs and get paid less and everything is also just infuriating. But whatever.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Exactly.
Dharna Noor: I will say though that like I have been a little bit frustrated to see a little bit of the coverage on this. I do think that it’s, you know, if mention doesn’t support this bill that’s really bad and like could be, you know, a huge, huge missed opportunity. But also there are just like demonstrably some things that Biden can do without, you know, congressional authority. A big one that we’ve been hearing a lot about is, you know, he’s facing a ton of pressure once again to declare a climate emergency, which would not do everything, but it could unlock all of these powers to, like, you know, put more funding into clean energy and take a bunch of other big sort of international actions on climate like, you know, mention is one like kind of huge roadblock. But he’s not stymieing every single possibility that Biden has to take climate action. So I just want to lift up like there’s possibilities here, too.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: There’s other tools and it’s like you’re kind of running out of time to use them.
Dharna Noor: Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And the the other thing that I’ve been finding really frustrating about this whole conversation is that there’s all these headlines about Manchin tanked the Democratic agenda instead of like Manchin thinks the.
Dharna Noor: World. Oh, my gosh. Yes, absolutely. Actually, you know, we found Nina Amy in the podcast series that we did together, found that this was like a huge tactic that the fossil fuel industry sort of uses, making climate activists seem like they’re just like some special interest group instead of like, you know, people who care about climate change are concerned about a thing that will affect the entire world and everybody on it. So, yeah, that’s been really, really frustrating for me.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It’s it’s less Manchin versus Biden. More Manchin versus like the world.
Dharna Noor: Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Literally.
Dharna Noor: Yeah. And it’s like every lawmaker who fails to take like any kind of urgent action that actually lowers emissions versus the world card.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. It’s like, okay, so if we can’t get environmental sanctions, can somebody sanction Manchin? Is that a thing? Or is that just my petty talking?
Dharna Noor: Oh, my God. Yeah. Ya’ll have to have a lawyer on the show or something.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Wait, you’re not a lawyer too? I thought you were a lawyer too.
Dharna Noor: I’m just going to say I’m a lawyer. I’m a doctor. I’m..no, no.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Also, like right around the same time, there was a study that came out about the economic cost of climate change, showing that the United States is responsible for 2 trillion in damage from its historical emissions.
Dharna Noor: Yes.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: That’s a lot of suffering. And the thing about that is that that’s just economic damage. That doesn’t include the loss of life, that doesn’t include the quality of life that has been lost in, you know, largely the global south and then, you know, other places like the global south in the global north, places like coastal Louisiana. But actually, that doesn’t the study doesn’t include any damage that happened in the United States. This is only the damage outside of the United States.
Dharna Noor: Totally. I’m really happy you said that also about like the fact that it doesn’t include lives lost and stuff. There was actually also this recent report from the IPCC, which is like this, a huge major kind of U.N. sanctioned body that studies ecosystems. And it just put out this other report that basically found that our focus on only like economic value and economic damages is really imperiling all life on earth, which is, you know, kind of something that we all know. But also, like pretty shocking to see a body that has U.N. authority say something like that. I think it’s, you know, reducing like human suffering and numbers that fit on a spreadsheet are just is just, like, kind of mind boggling to me.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. I mean, it’s also there was a study published back in February of this year that identifies that the world spends at least $1.8 trillion in, say, state subsidies that are financially encourage companies to extract more oil and convert wildlife habitats and the farmland and cut down our few remaining rainforests.
Dharna Noor: Oh, my gosh. Totally. And also, researchers have been like all kinds of researchers have been expecting exactly this kind of economic devastation for decades. In 2010, there was this unpublished U.N. report that basically found that no one was paying for the environmental damage that would cause air pollution and like industrial pollution, the loss of fisheries and soil health and all of these other impacts. And this is something that, you know, like, again, many researchers have been saying this for years and years, but it seems to kind of not be part of the conversation still. There was this other 2008 study from this one London based consultancy that put the combined annual damage caused by private corporations at $2.2 trillion a year. If that was an economy by itself, that would be the eighth largest economy in the world. So it’s like we kind of we know who’s causing all these problems, but like companies are not being asked to pay the price of their extraction and destructive business practices. So instead they’re making lots of money and other people are suffering.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. And back to the most recent report, though. The top five countries are the United States. China pretty close behind at 1.8 trillion, followed by Russia, then India and then Brazil. Just the United States and China together cause about one third of the world’s climate change, according to the study. But I got to say, what I think is really missing is Europe. None of those countries are big enough to, like, really be a country if we’re being honest. Like, I think Texas could take them. That whole earth continent is like tiny. So I don’t understand why they get so they get to obfuscate their contribution to climate change by the fact that they are small countries in and of themselves. But if you were to do a study of this by Empire, I think we’re looking at a very different story.
Dharna Noor: Yeah, we should treat Europe like the U.S. in some ways.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. Or honestly, the fossil fuel companies are an outgrowth of these empires.
Dharna Noor: Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I 100% went to places like India and Saudi Arabia and forced them to dig up their oil and then like, what is. Oh, then this also brings us back to that classic question in climate circles of what about India and China? Right, right. And so that drives me crazy. So I think that’s why it’s really important for us to have this bigger conversation about climate change around the globe and particularly around the Global South. And, you know, especially as everybody is clamoring for the Biden administration to fucking do anything. I personally am annoyed by how many pleas for action are are sort of supported by the heat wave in Europe and the heat wave in the United States, where climate change has been a very harsh reality in the global south for decades, and we didn’t care enough. So we’re going to talk about that today. We’re going to bring that missing part of the conversation in today. But first, how does the moon cut his hair?
Dharna Noor: How does the moon cut his hair? Yeah, I feel like these get weirder every week, Mary. Umm.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Wow. Wow. Dharna. I put a lot of thought and care into these things.
Dharna Noor: Hold on. I’m thinking. Um with ugh I don’t. I have no idea. With a comb that’s made of cheese? What? I don’t know.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Wow, I. I appreciate that effort, but “eclipse it.”.
Dharna Noor: Oh. Oh, of course. Of course he does.
Dharna Noor: Damn, I could have gotten that one. I should have tried a lil harder.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I know. You should have practiced.
Dharna Noor: I should have.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: [AD].
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Let’s talk about India.
Dharna Noor: So if you’re listening to this, it’s probably no surprise, right, that India is really on the frontlines of climate change in many, many ways. There are studies that show that, you know, since from from like March to May of this year, India and Pakistan and large parts of South Asia, you know, experienced heat that would have basically not been possible without climate change, or at least made it significantly more likely, 30 times more likely. And we had the second hottest pre-monsoon temperatures. So, you know, temperatures before a monsoon season since 2010, the summer of 2022 has been the second hottest since the summer of 2010, which was also just like a sort of record breaking year. And this year, it’s looking like a monsoon season is going to be super, super dangerous. And I think that, you know, heatwaves don’t really get a lot of attention sometimes. You know, we think of them as like things that are kind of annoying and things like this, but they’re actually one of the most deadly things, like one of the most deadly forms of extreme weather, one of the most deadly natural forces in the world. They’re actually the second most deadly natural causes in India. And, you know, because there’s like not a lot of focus on these impacts. A lot of the times, most heat deaths or heat related deaths are probably actually going unreported or unnoticed or misreported. So, you know, this is taking huge amounts of toll on like, you know, every sector of the economy, especially like a big one, is the agricultural sector. And this is, you know, really, really bad for many, many people across India. And like in the U.S., it kind of dovetails with this, like horrible oppressive culture.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. Yeah. So I think the last I was hearing about India was that the heat waves were so bad that birds were falling out of the sky. And that was about a month or two ago. Has a heat wave abated?
Dharna Noor: So temperatures are falling in India and, you know, surrounding sort of areas. But two things I guess I would say about that are like it’s like it’s not that temperatures falling is necessarily a good thing. You know, obviously a relief from heat is good. But first of all, slightly lower temperatures after you’ve had wildly high temperatures might still be really dangerous. I think this is something that kind of goes unnoticed with heat is like even temperatures that we think of as not so extreme can be really dangerous. But also in India, a lot of the time when the heat kind of is abated, it’s because of these huge rains and like we saw last month in June that people were killed by deadly floods after rains in India and Bangladesh. So definitely, you know, an ongoing issue.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. And it’s kind of leading to some ugly stuff politically, right. Or feeding into.
Dharna Noor: It? Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I think the like it’s been kind of shown again and again that violent conflict and all of this is so exacerbated when people are fighting over resources. I mean, like climate disasters and things like this. And it doesn’t help that the lovely well, the administration in India is not exactly, you know, trying to foster a spirit of togetherness. We have talked a bit about the BJP, which is the sort of right wing leading party in India, falling into this sort of principle called Hindutva, which is like a basically, you know, nationalist sort of conflation of what being Indian is with being a Hindu. And so, you know, that leads to a bunch of things are really bad for climate action, whether it’s like kind of promoting kind of spurious science stuff like BJP leaders have recommended drinking cow urine as a solution to COVID.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh word?
Dharna Noor: Yes, yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: That. Wow, that’s creative.
Dharna Noor: I know. It’s also like it’s not it’s so, like, wildly useful for them, right? Because they’re like, oh, whatever. Obviously, I’m not saying that like cows are not should not be sacred to people, but like if this whole thing is like, oh, Hinduism is like the is what it really means to be Indian. And in Hinduism, cows are sacred. Then of course, it’s like drink cow, urine and that’ll make everything. It’s just like it’s a complete conflation of like all sorts of things that could have been fine if we just, like, you know, cared more about, like, reality. Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And I feel like Modi has been able to, or at least until very recently, was able to style himself as a like a climate, you know, hero, totally. Internationally, it’s true. And like, it’s not until you get a bit closer that you realize he’s into some pretty oppressive and nasty stuff. And like every which also proves the point that like all climate action is not climate justice.
Dharna Noor: Very much so. I mean, also, like he’s framed himself as a climate leader by making all of these flashy pledges. And I don’t claim to be an expert on Indian climate policy, but like just some of the stuff that he’s you know what I. Like, okay, last year he announced that India was going to adopt this net zero emissions target by 2070. And I’m not saying that decarbonizing India is going to be easy because the country is still getting like half of its electricity from coal. And there’s it’s got tons of people. And obviously, you know, I truly believe that rich countries in the global north should lead the transition. But like 2070, like net zero by 2070 is just not at all in line with what the best available science says. Also, he didn’t even convene his Climate Change Council for years. And on the climate justice front, I’m sure many people remember that, like there was this huge protest movement last year that farmers in mostly Punjab, where my family’s from, were holding against these proposed farm laws, you know, that ended up actually getting rolled back. And the Modi administration just cracked down on these farmers so, so hard when it turns out that, like, part of what they’re actually protesting is totally exacerbated by climate, like the climate crisis. Like obviously, if it’s really hard to grow things and your profits are much, much lower because of that, you’re going to be totally squeezed. And if you if what you hear from the administration that’s running your country is like, you know what we should do? We should deregulate the sector and make it so that maybe you should actually have less money. Of course, you’re going to be angry about that. So why not put your efforts into helping people to weather those climate changes?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Instead of like building camps for refugees and India is having a lot more climate refugees 100% of like accepting them in not only is not doing that, it’s sort of like threatening to strip citizenship of, you know, of marginalized citizens in India. He also put Diksha Ravi in jail, the 20 something year old Indian climate activist.
Dharna Noor: Absolutely. Yeah. And when other climate activists, like came out in support of the farmers protests, he, you know, they went pretty hard against them, too. So, yeah, I would not I would not say that he is a climate, you know exactly.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: He’s not your climate bae?
Dharna Noor: He’s not not worthy of my climate bae.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I think that’s a pretty good a pretty good choice. I also want to talk about what’s happening in in Sri Lanka. Have you have you been hearing about the thousands of protesters storming the presidential palace?
Dharna Noor: Yeah, I think that as we’re recording this, they recently hit their hundredth day of this storm movement. You have storming their hundredth stormed. Wow. It’s pretty wild.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: That’s kind of crazy. But I mean, good for them because it’s not without reason, right?
Dharna Noor: Yeah. There’s just this, like, absurd economic crisis happening in Sri Lanka. You know, it’s like shutting down so much of the country. There’s like inflation and huge food shortages and all this crop failure, just like untold amounts of human suffering. It’s just like totally wild.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: So not too far away from Sri Lanka by global standards. There’s also the world’s first floating city is being built in the Maldives. That’s 5000 floating units. This, you know, basically like a city, homes, restaurants, schools are supposed to be open for business in 2024 and done by 2027. And it’s not meant to be this like flashy sort of thing necessarily is supposed to be a practical solution to climate change. And the hope is that if the city floats, it could rise with the seas. What do you think about that?
Dharna Noor: I think it’s really interesting. I mean, I think time will tell how well it works. But obviously, like, you know, the Maldives are perhaps the place that is the most on the frontlines of climate change. Just like whenever you hear about like, you know, whatever you see those maps that are like these are the places that will disappear because of the climate crisis. Like, yes, it is very true that Florida is deeply at risk and like, you know, our beloved state of Louisiana, but also like the Maldives is facing like such an imminent level of climate disaster. And, you know, anything that can possibly work to help them weather that storm, not storm, you know what I mean? Anything that can help them weather this, just like coming shit storm, I guess is maybe a better way of saying it is really good because it’s just like utter utterly devastating.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. And and for folks who don’t remember, the former Maldivian president, Mohamed Nasheed was a major climate hero at the turn of the decade. He was also the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, and he’s known for holding an underwater cabinet meeting in 2009. The Maldives was basically the moral leader of the UN climate conference held that year.
Dharna Noor: Totally, yeah. They are always among the most outspoken leaders at any UN climate conference and with good reason. You know, they’re totally on the front lines of of the crisis.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. Yeah. Unfortunately, less than a year into his presidency, he was forced out of the country at gunpoint, and he was replaced by an authoritarian government that basically. Ripped up the Constitution and arrested his opponents and he had to go out into exile spending part of that time actually in Sri Lanka. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens with this floating city.
Dharna Noor: I am very stoked to see how it goes.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: You know, they have some of those cities under consideration and other places around the world, too, like South Korea and Bhutan. So this this might be the new thing. And, I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised to see if it comes to the United States, because southeast Louisiana is definitely losing a lot of land to the ocean.
Dharna Noor: 100%. Yeah. God knows that we could use it in many parts of the U.S., too.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: So exactly what did the ocean say to the beach?
Dharna Noor: Sea you later?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Not bad. Not bad. But it said nothing, it just waved.
Dharna Noor: Oh. Oh, that’s so cute. I love that.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Okay, so I don’t know about you, but I’ve been kind of trying to escape some of the terrible headlines by watching some, like, trash TV always. Well, not trash TV, but TV. You know, some engrossing stuff where I feel like I’m in a different world. But believe it or not, climate change is following me there, too, which I actually think is a good thing. Definitely complain a lot about how climate change is not depicted in pop culture, and that’s kind of a problem. So I started watching Morning Show on Apple TV. I was not expecting there to be such a strong climate and fossil fuel narrative in there. But it starts off with a protest outside of a coal mine in West Virginia. And the anchor who’s basically like kind of like a neither right nor left type of person, or at least that’s her brand. And she is like against the coal mine.
Dharna Noor: How have I not seen?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: You can find it right now on Apple TV.
Dharna Noor: Sponsored?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, I was really surprised by that. And she, like, finds this pro-coal protestor and like, it’s like, tell me five things, you know, about about coal. And he can’t, like, all of them are talking points that he’s been like. He’s like, Oh, there’s clean coal and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And she’s like, Actually, no, that’s not true. None of those things are true are that coal is a job creator. She’s like, Actually, that’s not true. You’ve lost all of these jobs. And what’s interesting is that she seems to be against coal, not because of global warming, but because the coal mines are like this, you know, evil corporation that’s been fucking West Virginia.
Dharna Noor: The show sounds good. I want to check it out.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, it’s actually been really good. I haven’t finished. I haven’t caught up to like all the latest seasons, but so far I’m I’m liking what I’m seeing. The other show I’ve been watching is The Anarchist on HBO is it’s a documentary series. It’s only got two episodes out so far and is basically about these like white self-identified anarchist. I mean, there might be like one or two people of color in it, but this is. largely a group of white folks who move to Mexico and are like, we’re going to build this anarchist society. And how well do you think it goes?
Dharna Noor: You know what could go wrong? White anarchists go to Mexico. Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: They bring up the word murder in the first episode.
Dharna Noor: Fascinating.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Fascinating. Yeah. And there’s so much Bitcoin involved in this. And also, there’s kind of this undercurrent of wanting to run away while the world falls apart. When I first started getting into climate work, I would hear about these like anarchist societies that were like going off to build a different type of community off the grid to like prepare for climate change. And I read the first couple of times I heard about that like around 28, 29, I was like, I feel like, I don’t know, you got to really trust the people you’re building that with because that could go wrong in so many ways. And yeah, let me know how it works out for you.
Dharna Noor: Yeah, some of my favorite people are anarchists, but totally also, I mean, just any sort of focus on, you know, people should take care of themselves that is good. And like, it’s good to try to figure out how to take care of yourself. But like just any sort of focus on just how do I make sure that me and my people are good instead of like, what can I do for like the world or whatever? It’s just like kind of frustrating sometimes, but you know.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, one more detail about these folks, I add is that they are rich and they think that is good. So yeah, man.
Dharna Noor: I’m very intrigued. I have been trying to escape from my climate woes by listening to the music I used to. Like when I was like a teenager. I was listening to The Roots recently, and I found actually that the Roots are one of the headliners of this. This is so wild. Literally, the thing is called the big climate thing and it’s the second big climate themed festival happening in New York during Climate Week, which is, you know, if you’re not familiar, it’s this big like week full of big corporate pledges that oftentimes don’t super check out. But, you know, lots of good people are playing. Sheryl Crow is going to be their princess. Nokia is going to be there. Mickey Bongo is going to be there. So I don’t know.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Are you going?
Dharna Noor: I don’t know. I got some time to decide. It’s in September if you want to get tickets or whatever. I don’t know how to do that, but I’m sure you can Google it. I feel kind of torn because I’m like, I don’t know, Climate Week, you know, has a sort of rugby the wrong way in the past by sort of having corporate stakeholders at the table, quote unquote corporate stakeholders, but not really having that much room for democratic decision making or whatever. But also, like, why would I not want to see Mickey Bonkers? So I don’t know. I don’t I don’t know. I mean, it sounds like a good show. Whatever awareness raising seems to have not really done the job so far. But like I do love going to shows and drinking beer outside, so I don’t know, maybe. Do you want to come Mary?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I think you should do it. I mean, I do, but I don’t think it’s worth me flying to New to New York for that.
Dharna Noor: It’s not worth the carbon emissions of your flight to New York.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I don’t think so. But I am interested to see how climate is going to show up in in music more often.
Dharna Noor: Me too.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Because I think, you know, what’s interesting is I was watching the the This Is It documentary with Michael Jackson and it’s all about climate change, which completely went over my head in 2009 because I wasn’t ready. And Earth Song is one of the few songs about climate change that I can think about.
Dharna Noor: So corny.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And it’s so fucking corny, like, but I respect the effort, you know? So yeah, it’ll be interesting to see more and more of this come up in music. So if you go, I want you to report back.
Dharna Noor: All right. Will do. I will definitely do that.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: What has more letters than the alphabet?
Dharna Noor: The Post Office.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Whoa. Look at you.
Dharna Noor: I got it? Oh hell yea!
Mary Annaïse Heglar: You got it.
Dharna Noor: Oh, my God. I’m so excited.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It’s only looking up from here.
Dharna Noor: Do I get a prize?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: No.
Dharna Noor: Okay. Damn
Mary Annaïse Heglar: [AD].
Mary Annaïse Heglar: So one story I wanted to talk about is the FSO safer in Yemen is decaying 45 year old supertanker that’s anchored on the Yemeni coast. Maintenance on it stopped in 2015 when the Yemeni civil war started. Experts say it’s not a matter of if, but when the oil on that tanker leaks into the water.
Dharna Noor: That’s so scary.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It is. This tanker holds 1 million barrels of oil and that’s more than all the oil spilled in the Exxon Valdez spill. One of the worst spills in U.S. history. It has the potential to devastate marine life in the region, gut the fishing industry, wreak havoc on shipping lanes, including the Suez Canal. Remember when everybody was upset about that big boat in the Suez Canal?
Dharna Noor: Totally. This is the this is the story that you didn’t hear when you were reading about the Suez Canal.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. Yeah. It was the wrong boat.
Dharna Noor: Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I mean, yeah, they needed to move that boat, too, but that boat wasn’t carrying oil. The spill could be a really bad disaster for the Red Sea coral reefs, which are unique in the sense that they actually do well with warm waters, unlike the corals anywhere else in the world. So this has been a story for a while. I remember when the story broke in May 2020 in Gizmodo, when seawater had entered the ship’s engine compartment and the local news outlet detected this oil spot near the tanker. Since then, the UN has had to resort to crowdfunding to raise money for to offload the more than all the oil on the tanker. How fucking bleak is it that the UN had to resort to crowdfunding?
Dharna Noor: Yeah. It’s very, very bleak. Often this seems to happen so often with environmental disasters in the many countries in Africa. These calls from UNICEF or other UN bodies that are like, Hey, y’all actually need to help us because there’s actually not enough resources to do this here. It’s very depressing.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. Yeah. The UN was trying to establish diplomatic relations with the the the Houthi rebels to get start it in January 2021. But they couldn’t even like get those relationships started. And as far as today, UN had hoped to get started on cleaning up the oil this month, but they haven’t raised the funds and it says, goddamn, this is bleak.
Dharna Noor: Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And if you think that oil spill is going to stay contained to to Yemen like you are. Very well correct. Very, very, very wrong. Just like the war in Ukraine is affecting food prices everywhere. This is going to devastate the supply chain 100%. And also like the drinking water supply is going to an emissions. Like it’s bad.
Dharna Noor: It’s bad, it’s real bad.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And at the same time, there’s the drought in the Horn of Africa.
Dharna Noor: God. Yeah. I mean, speaking of things that the UN has been like, we don’t have enough resources. Please richer countries, help us do something here. The Horn of Africa drought has been just like completely devastating. I did some reporting when I was at Gizmodo, I think on this, and I think that recently maybe it was UNICEF, a UN body just again was like, Hey, please press countries, help us. They’re in the fourth straight season of failed rains right now, and it’s like causing one of the worst droughts in East Africa in a decade. Horn of Africa just saw, I think it’s fourth straight season, four straight seasons of failed rains. And this is one of the worst droughts that East Africa has seen in decades. You know, this past March through May, a season was the driest on record in the past 70 years, which is just astounding, especially, you know, this is like obviously a region that’s very dependent, like everywhere else on having drinking water, but also like agriculture and also being able to like, you know, use water in every other part of its economy. Water is very important.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It kind of is. Yeah.
Dharna Noor: It’s like it’s like actually maybe like a building block of like all human life or something, but whatever. It’s just, it’s like, just totally astounding. I feel weird even making, like, any sort of jokes about this. It’s just actually, like, truly horrifying between Ethiopia and Kenya and Somalia, the U.N. said that at least 19 million people have been affected by this. There’s you know, if you look at pictures of this, it’s wild. There’s like these areas that just a decade ago where these green pasture is filled with cows and sheep and goats and just like really lively sort of livestock farms. And now a lot of that reason looks like a complete desert. Over 7 million livestock have died since 2020. And that’s like the lifeblood of so many global economies. That’s like, you know, how people eat and also how they make money. And, you know, it’s like companies built by multiple generations of families and communities. It’s just totally devastating.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. And just to note, the Horn of Africa has about 140 million people in it.
Dharna Noor: Yes, absolutely. I think I mean, you were saying earlier that we like don’t think about countries at the scales that or we also don’t think about, like any of the countries or the entire continent of Africa at the scale that it is like. I mean, there are so many people who are affected by these innumerable climate disasters.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah.
Dharna Noor: And like, I mean, obviously this is compounding with other issues too. It’s not like climate disaster ever happens, never happens in a vacuum. So this is while food prices are also skyrocketing in the region, you know, the war in Ukraine has exacerbated that. Ukrainian farmers haven’t been able to harvest or like process or sell their crops either. So that also means that, you know, it’s even more difficult to get food in places that rely on on that supply chain. We read this quote from this Kenyan woman from northern Kenya. As she said, there’s not been any intervention in three years. We’re starting to believe starvation was meant for us. It’s become our companion, which just, like, makes me want to die.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s why you’re starting to see a lot of refugees from this part of the world showing up on our southern border. 100%. You know, a lot of folks think that all of the all the folks coming to the Mexico border are from Latin America or from Mexico. But no, they’re from all over. A lot of them are from India. A lot of them are from Ethiopia, the Congo. All over the world. Yeah. You know, choosing to close your borders, choosing to turn away refugees. That is a climate policy. And it’s a cruel one.
Dharna Noor: 100%, especially like we see. I mean, there’s headlines every day that are not getting enough attention that show that. I mean, just even I think today, like millions of people are facing severe hunger in the Horn of Africa. It’s the worst drought in more than 40 years. And you know that like the people are making, you know, sort of immigration policy or seeing these headlines, too. So.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, and like we were talking about earlier about, you know, the U.S. contribution to historical climate change and, you know, that $2 trillion worth of damage they’ve caused worldwide, the entire continent of Africa has contributed 4% of global carbon emissions.
Dharna Noor: 100%.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: 4%.
Dharna Noor: Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And that 4% was forced on them. And so it’s like so Africa, I think it makes sense to talk about Africa as a continent in this aspect, but it makes no sense to talk about Europe as a continent when like, you know, the British Empire was anything but just that little slab of land that is the U.K..
Dharna Noor: Totally. I think also, like so often, not that it’s not good to look at like, you know, the solutions that people are actually undertaking and undertaking in their own communities and everything. But, you know, there’s this kind of example of this like trap of thinking of everything in terms of resilience when residents of places that are very under-resourced are sort of champion for sharing what little they have, when like, you know, it turns out that once again, so many wealthier nations are not providing the kind of aid that countries like those in the Horn of Africa need that may that aid may never come. And, you know, obviously, millions of people are going to be affected by that, and many people will die because of that. And as always, the people most at risk are women and children and the elderly. And that’s true of, you know, many sort of like secondary climate impacts, like those are also people who are very affected by food shortages, but also like most vulnerable to climate change. Africa is the continent that is perhaps most vulnerable to climate change. So.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: You know, if you want to hear more about why resilience is a myth, a hack and a fraud, listen to last week’s episode with Ko Bragg and Amal Ahmed. Speaking of plugs, how do astronomers organize a party?
Dharna Noor: Uh. Oh, my God. I don’t know.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Um. They planet.
Dharna Noor: Wow. That was a beautiful one. So elegant, so concise.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: You know? I try. I try. You know, one of these days, I’m going to get all these together and go to a comedy club and claim my destiny.
Dharna Noor: I’ll be in the front row, Mary.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I’ll hold you of that.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: [AD].
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Okay. Now for the surprise section. Did you bring a surprise?
Dharna Noor: I have a surprise.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: What’s your surprise?
Dharna Noor: My surprise. Story of the Week is by Stephen Sumler in the Outrider. And it’s about a thing that I just love to, you know, talk about because it seems that so few people are. Which is that the budget request that Biden made had so much emphasis on military spending that it could basically undo the sort of meager wins for the climate that are in there. So the military section of the spending consumes more than half of this budget. It’s at 1.1. $6 trillion budget request. And less than 3% of the proposed funding is for kind of directly tackling climate stuff. So that’s great. We’re doing great.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: That’s a lot of money.
Dharna Noor: It’s so much money. And the Pentagon is the I feel like I’m always saying this, but the Pentagon is like the number one institutional driver of greenhouse gas emissions, the number one global consumer of fossil fuels in the world. You know, it’s like kind of astounding to me that it gets so little focus when we talk about the biggest contributors to the climate crisis. Like it’s not just the U.S. energy system. It’s also like what that energy system and transit and all of that is fueling. And what’s fueling is a war machine a lot of the time.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Can you say a little bit more about how it uses fossil fuels? Because I’m not sure folks understand that.
Dharna Noor: So, you know, there’s like tankers, jets, all of that. Also, all of the fuel that it requires to power military bases there. So that’s like the sort of greenhouse gas effect. But then there’s also, you know, kind of close to related is that is the military has just created like such havoc on so many countries that have been like a huge environmental justice disaster. I mean, look at like water systems, what what the Iraq war did to water systems or, you know, like many, many other nations. And Hawaii right now, we’re seeing kind of devastating pollution that, you know, the U.S. military forces were behind. So, yeah, tons of energy.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I feel like the Iraq war is not unrelated to the civil war in Yemen. And that tanker that we were just talking about a few minutes ago.
Dharna Noor: Yeah, big time. I mean, like, just and again, more proof that the climate crisis is such a huge driver of kind of whatever unrest feels like such an understatement of like violence. And it’s something that the US seems to think the way that we should deal with that is just by pouring more money into militarism and not like, you know, providing humanitarian aid and stuff like that. So.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, one of the things that Amy talks about, you know, she just moved to Costa Rica.
Dharna Noor: Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: They got rid of their military altogether.
Dharna Noor: Wait, what? How do I not know this?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And they celebrate the day that they got rid of the military.
Dharna Noor: Wait, how do I not know this? I want to know the whole story.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I don’t. I don’t know, Dharna.
Dharna Noor: Oh, my gosh.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I don’t know Dharna. I don’t know where ya been. I mean, I don’t know the whole story. That’s kind of all I know. So who am I to make you feel guilty for not knowing that? But, yeah, I mean, military is really just a big old group of cops. And so while we’re out here abolishing stuff, let’s get rid of these fools too you know? And the Border Patrol, all of them.
Dharna Noor: Also all sectors of the economy that tend to use tons and tons of fossil fuels. So.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm. Yep. And I know we we glossed over Latin America in this episode because Yesenia and Amy talked about it on their episode and kind of want to wait for Amy to get back, to dig into a lot of it. But my surprise story this week I had to go to Mexico
Dharna Noor: Mmhmmm.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Okay, so there’s this project I’ve been hearing about that is like kind of crazy is a pet project of the Mexican president. Is called the Mayan Train. It’s supposed to it’s a train and it’s supposed to connect people in the south of the country, a largely indigenous region that I don’t know how to pronounce and don’t want to butcher, but it’s supposed to connect folks there with the touristy region in Cancun and Tulum.
Dharna Noor: Wait, so it’s like a train to go across the Yucatan, is that?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well, it’s going to carry tourists, commuters and like freight cargo. And what’s most concerning is the tourists. So they’re going to basically turn this, you know, area that hasn’t had a lot of investment into yet another Cancun and Tulum. And it’s also an area that has been suffering from a lot of drought. So I don’t know what these people are going to drink because. Right? And like, how are they going to shower? Like, what are they going to shower like? That’s a lot of people bringing a lot of water demands. And how is that how is that going to work? And so the president says, like, oh, it’ll bring we’ll put in aqueducts, we’ll put an infrastructure with the money raised from the train. And it’s like, but who is that water going to go to? And that, you know, that never really works out very well. Also, the freight that the train or the cargo that the trains are supposed to carry, from what I’m hearing, will likely be a lot of gasoline. So that’s something to be concerned about.
Dharna Noor: That’s wild.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It’s also biggest issue probably is that it’s going to run underneath a rainforest with these really beautiful caves, with bats in them. And I know there’s bats in them because I’ve actually been in these caves.
Dharna Noor: Oh, God.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And I saw a few bats, and they winked at me. Dharna, they winked.
Dharna Noor: Of course they did. They knew. They knew that you loved them.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Exactly.
Dharna Noor: God, I feel like I read about this because there were, like, lawsuits, and I feel like it’s so it’s wild. Because I remember reading that this was supposed to be like some environmentally friendly train or something, but like the fact that these will be trains that are full of fossil fuels and they’re being called environmentally friendly is just a, you know, very, very interesting to me.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Exactly. And this is one of the most important rainforests in the Americas. I feel like I need to to emphasize that, like. That’s that’s really disturbing. So back in May, a judge issued an order that the work on the train line had to be suspended until there is an environmental impact statement, because there all the years in planning for this train, no environmental study have been conducted. So this month or no, it was last month the government did this real slapdash environmental study and less than two months to say that the environmental impacts are significant but remedial.
Dharna Noor: Oh, no.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Or no remedyable.
Dharna Noor: Oh.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Which is not a word I’m used to seeing.
Dharna Noor: How are they planning on remedying it? What?
Mary Annaïse Heglar: That’s unclear from what I see. So, yeah. So the president’s arguing it’s going to bring an environmentally friendly mode of transportation for locals and tourists, as well as boosting development and employment in an underdeveloped region. But people are like like, I don’t want to go all the way to Cancun to clean a toilet. Yeah. Or I like. I like what are what sorts of jobs are being brought here other than like these sorts of of jobs. And so but then there are people who are very much in favor of it because without it, there are no jobs. And then it’s like it’s like six in one hand, half a dozen in the other, except in one hand is the entire world and the balance of it. So that’s that’s my surprise three. I’m trying to watch it more closely. I do feel like it’s being undercovered and hopefully more attention will be paid to it because it is a really bad idea and it affects all of us.
Dharna Noor: Yeah, 100%. I mean, and like it seems to be like a story that really has every bad thing, like destruction of a really crucial and beautiful ecosystem, destruction of like ruins from the indigenous folks who have already, like, seen decades of disrespect. I don’t know. It’s just it seems to be a real classic story in that in that sense. And also it’s another example of like jobs and, you know, environmental protection being pitted against each other. When I think that we’ve seen that, that does not have to be the case. So.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It does not. And to be clear, there are folks within indigenous communities who are pro-train.
Dharna Noor: For sure.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Just like you can find indigenous communities in the U.S. who are pro fossil fuels because they want to make a livelihood.
Dharna Noor: Of course.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: And it’s like that is a shitty choice for people to have to make. And just like it’s a false dichotomy and like fuck anyone who like forces that on marginalized communities.
Dharna Noor: Yeah and like, I mean if you’re given to bad choices, I think you kind of can’t, like, blame an individual for making the choice that you will. I don’t know. It’s just. It’s like you’re stuck between two impossible places.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Exactly. So I don’t know. I mean, there’s so much going on around the world and, you know, there’s no way for us to cover it in this short period of time. But, you know, it’s important to look at what’s happening around around the globe to understand the stakes of the climate crisis.
Dharna Noor: Yeah.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: I feel like that gets so lost in the United States and it just sort of becomes this political ping pong game or like, you know, it’s talked about like what’s going to happen in the future. But like, we need to talk about what’s happened in the past. We need to talk about what’s happening now and who’s bearing the brunt of that. And that is the Global South. And like that gets lost when it’s like Manchin sticks it to Biden because it’s not about two old white men. It’s really not.
Dharna Noor: It’s really it’s I feel like the treating this I mean, any political issue, really, but especially an issue that affects everyone so deeply and especially like the people who are already the poorest, the most vulnerable, treating any of this as like a horse race is just so like. I don’t know, disgusting to me.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It is disgusting.
Dharna Noor: And as we kind of started the show by saying the US is the largest historical emitter in the world, like this is really important for the future of everyone across the United States. And also it’s really important for the future of, like many, many people across the rest of the world do.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Exactly. And what do we owe them?
Dharna Noor: Exactly.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: This is why we need to start talking about reparations. But, oh, look at the time.
Dharna Noor: Oh my God.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh, my gosh. Dharna, this has been a great conversation. I’m so glad you could join me for this and, yeah I just I really appreciate you and the work that you’re doing.
Dharna Noor: Thank you so much. And right back at you, it feels weird to say like, oh, this was fun because, you know, the shit that we were talking about is not very fun, but it was really a real pleasure to be here.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It was cathartic.
Dharna Noor: It was it was very cathartic.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: It’s cathartic and educational. And that’s what we strive for here at Hot Take. That’s the Hot Take guaranteed.
Dharna Noor: An educational.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Catharsis and education.
Dharna Noor: Wow, that’s the alternate name for the newsletter.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh, yeah. That’s what we’re going to start calling that the Cathartic Climate podcast.
Dharna Noor: Oh, God.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: There’s a joke there. Don’t worry. Hot take is a Crooked Media production.
Amy Westervelt: It’s produced by Ray Peng and mixed and edited by Juels Bradley. Our music is by Vasilis Fotopoulis. Thimali Kodakara is our consulting producer and our executive producers are Mary Annaïse Heglar, Michael Martinez and me, Amy WESTERVELT.
Mary Annaïse Heglar: Special thanks to Sandy Girard Ari Schwartz, Kyle Seglin and Charlotte Landes for production support and to Amelia Montooth for digital support.
Amy Westervelt: You can follow the show on Twitter at Real Hot Take. Sign up for our newsletter at Hot Take Pod dot com and subscribe to Crooked Media’s video channel at YouTube.com slash Crooked Media.