'How to Save a Planet' Might Become Your New Favorite Podcast

It offers a positive, practical approach to climate action.

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If you're looking for a new podcast to educate and inspire, here's a new one to add to your list. "How to Save a Planet" kicked off in July 2020, and it's hosted by award-winning radio journalist Alex Blumberg of Gimlet Media and Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist and founder of Urban Ocean Lab. She also co-edited a lovely anthology called "All We Can Save" that was recently reviewed on Treehugger.

The podcast's goal, as described in the introductory episode, is to ask, "What do we need to do to address the climate crisis and how do we make those things happen?" Its weekly episodes are meant to address to real-life questions and dilemmas, some of which are submitted by listeners, by bringing in experts, analyzing problems from various angles, and listing practical takeaways at the end.

What sets "How to Save a Planet" apart immediately from both other environmentally-minded podcasts and climate change reporting in general is its positive, upbeat attitude. The hosts are playful and jovial and Blumberg and Johnson share back-and-forth repartees that do not, in fact, make the subject matter seem less serious, but rather more approachable. This is very much the hosts' goal, as explained in an interview with the Guardian earlier this year:

"Most reporting, Johnson adds, concludes that the planet is 'totally screwed ... The ice is melting, the world’s on fire, and scientists continue to show us this in new ways, with new levels of rigor and specificity. And this is important, because it’s critical for us to know what is at stake. But that leaves us with "OK, now what?" kind of feelings. There’s been a lot of great reporting on climate, especially in the last few years, but it’s been kind of hard to connect with. It’s either like doom and gloom, or it’s so fluffy that it’s not going to get us where we need to go. So we were trying to find that sweet spot in the middle.'"

They're not out to convince the remaining 10% of the U.S. population that climate change is real, but to tap into the large body of "believers" who are already terrified, don't want another scary article, but are wondering what they can do that's not just "recycle more." (That doesn't work, anyway.)

How to Save a Planet podcast

via Spotify

The episode topics are impressively diverse. They range from nuclear power and talking about climate change with unconvinced family members, to the link between racial justice and fighting for the climate, and "How Much Does the President Matter for the Climate?" This diversity in topics is meant to appeal to a broad audience and, hopefully, inspire individuals to take action in the specific areas in which they have interests or skills. As Johnson told the Guardian,

"One of the failings of the climate movement to date is that we have been asking everyone to do the same thing. We say: ‘Right, everyone, march! Everyone, donate! Everyone, lower your carbon footprint!’ As opposed to saying: ‘What are you good at? And how can you bring that to this wide array of solutions that are available to us? By showcasing different climate solutions every week, we’re really hoping that people will see something here that they connect with."

This is a refreshing approach that's sure to resonate with many. Any form of reporting that makes environmental issues more approachable and digestible is a step in the right direction. The combination of complicated science with profound existential dread and fear is hardly conducive to a can-do attitude, but it's precisely what we need at this point in time. Johnson and Blumberg do a good job of conveying it to listeners. 

Definitely give it a listen if you haven't yet. You can find it on Spotify and elsewhere.