Greg Dalton, host and producer of the Climate One podcast, has been creating the podcast for nearly 15 years and is increasingly helping us connect our feelings with the climate crisis. He says he’s “dropping conversations from the head down into the heart.”
Climate One is truly a must-listen for everyone, especially now that climate change has become a central issue for society at all levels—local, national and global. It is an outstanding source of information on topics that most commercial media studiously avoid. I appreciate Greg’s approach, the breadth of topics and guests, and how he centers human emotions in our response to the climate crisis.
Greg advises people who are having feelings about the climate crisis and wanting to do something to focus on their own social circles. Don’t try to “save the planet.” Rather, look to what you can do in your immediate environment—your home, your community, your workplace. You have more influence there, you’ll have more impact, and you’ll just feel better about the progress you can make. He says if we all do this, it will create a virtuous cycle—a social contagion—and more of us will want to act, will act, and that will encourage others to take action as well.
Find Greg Dalton here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/greg-dalton-a6b24/
The Climate Mobilization: https://www.climateone.org/watch-and-listen/podcasts
#Leadership #Commitment #EmotionalIntelligence #EQ #climatechange
Matt Schlegel: How are you feeling about climate change, and how are those feelings influencing your actions? Thanks for joining me in conversations with leaders who are engaging with their feelings as a leadership tool for both inspiration and motivation. I’m very excited to be speaking with Greg Dalton, host of the Climate One podcast. Greg shares how the climate crisis moves him through many different emotional spaces, and how those feelings are motivating his work. Now for the conversation. Today I’m speaking with Greg Dalton, producer and host of the Climate One podcast.
He’s been creating this podcast for over 15 years now, and I’ve been learning from Greg and his guests for most of that time. His podcast is truly a must listen for everyone, especially now that climate change has become a central issue for society at all levels, local, national and global. Greg’s podcast is an outstanding source of information on topics that most commercial media studiously avoid. I appreciate Greg’s approach, the breadth of topics and the guests, and he too centers human emotions in our response to the climate crisis. Thank you for joining me today, Greg, and welcome.
Greg Dalton: Thank you, Matt. It’s great to be here with you.
Matt Schlegel: Great. Why don’t we just start off? I’d like to ask you how you are feeling now about the climate crisis.
Greg Dalton: Big question, right? As many of your guests say, it’s a roller coaster. I remember asking a scientist once how he feels about climate. He said, “I’m schizophrenic. I’m some days up and down.” This week, for example, I participated or watched a online session with Joanna Macy, where there was nearly 2,000 people and people crying and sharing their climate grief at what we’ve created and guilt about their complicity, and that was really heavy and really made me really sad, really down.
Then today I read about a new solar farm in Houston that’s coming online, Mayor Turner there, and they turned a former landfill into a solar farm. Wow, good things are happening. Depending on what I’m feeling, what I’m seeing, my latest conversations I have with people, it’s up and down. It’s a beautiful day here in San Francisco. I’m healthy. I got a good night’s sleep. Okay. I also try to manage my news intake. I try not to stay … I try to not spend too much time on climate Twitter, which can be a sinkhole and a depressing, and sometimes an uplifting place.
Matt Schlegel: Right. Right. Yeah. Couple things. One, Twitter is a really great resource for climate information. I find that, at least on the social media platforms, it’s one of the better ones and it has a lot of the climate scientists that are posting there. But you’re right, it can be quite heavy, and so you need to be careful how much you manage that. Then the other thing that you mentioned was that the situation you were in, where you actually experienced other people crying, and it almost feels like we’re going through a grieving cycle, where you’re moving through these different feelings and emotions as we’re coming to grips with the loss that we’re dealing with, and that is the grieving process. Is that how you reckon with it as well?
Greg Dalton: Well, I remember a few years ago, there was a psychologist or a psychiatrist, Lise Van Susteren, and I think she coined this term, pre-traumatic stress. There’s often time your people are stressed about trauma in the past in their life, and I think this first came around scientists having trauma about things that they predicted would happen, stress before the event happens rather than stress after the event happens.
I certainly have related to that because those of us working in climate are aware for a long time until 2017 or so, the first fires that they came into urban areas in Northern California. A lot of climate impacts, for me personally and other people in California, were in the future. But the wildfires in the American West have really brought it home and directly into our bodies, into our lives, and that’s when the stress has gone from the future to now. I’ve certainly gone along that path and felt anxiety about future trauma, and try not to get too far out there.
There’s this real dichotomy, right? The reason we’re in this predicament is we haven’t thought enough about the future. We’ve been very consumed today, and at the same time, trying to get centered and be present today and not get too caught up in what sometimes called future tripping, running away. Oh my gosh, way out there in the future. You can spend so much time ruminating about this terrible future that you’re not really here now. I’ve given myself permission. For example, we had a very pretty dry, sunny winter in the Bay Area, and sometimes I’d say like, “Oh, this is bad. Look, it should be raining. Oh, do I talk to people about that?” If someone says, “Oh, isn’t this weather great?” Do I say, “Well, it should be raining in February. It shouldn’t be sunny?”
Do I down, become a downer, or do I zip it and say, “Yes, I guess it is. It’s scary and it’s beautiful?” It can be both at the same time. Right? Beauty can be dangerous. Yes, it’s nice to be sunny in the winter, and it’s also scary because it should be raining and we don’t have enough water. How to hold those contradictions and acknowledge the beauty and the fear at the same time, that’s part of what I wrestle with, navigating this is where we are.
Matt Schlegel: Right. I think that’s so beautifully said, and I think that’s pretty much all of us now are going to have to hold both of those things at the same time, appreciating what we’re losing while still being present and enjoying what we still have. Yeah, I think you said that very well. Thank you.
Greg Dalton: There can be joy and beauty even in dangerous times. [inaudible 00:06:58] people, humanity [inaudible 00:06:59] I think of often of the Cajun Navy. Whenever there’s a flooding disaster in Louisiana or somewhere, there’s people who go out and help others, and you see tremendous acts of heroism. It gives me chills thinking about these people dragging elderly women out of their homes and putting them in their boat and taking them away, because there’s not enough people, first responders, to …
The Cajun Navy, I think of as, there can be great heroism and humanity in times of suffering. We want to reduce those times of suffering, we want to work on it, and good things can still happen. We have to be careful about not just being all down, it’s bad, duh, duh. There can be to find beauty, acknowledge it and perhaps even … and value it and hold it even more dearly.
Matt Schlegel: Right. Right. Yeah. Really humanity at its best and behaving at its best, right? That’s really what we hope to do, is as we’re going through these feelings, is respond in a constructive, positive way, channel those into constructive positive actions. That leads me to my next question for you. How are those feelings influencing your behaviors and your direction as a leader in the climate space?
Greg Dalton: Well, I clearly ask more personal questions, now, of people. I’ve pledged to ask people about power and privilege after George Floyd. Ask powerful guests, “How have you reflected on your power and privilege?” Also, a lot of climate conversation and professional people, it’s a very cerebral intellectual place that we have that conversation, and I’ve dropped it more from the head down into the heart to ask even personal questions of people that I don’t know and people who often don’t share personal things that much.
I go there, I think, respectfully and delicately, and give some space for them to say, “Yeah, it’s really tough.” How do you work on this all day? What kind of resilience do you build? What kind of practice do you have? What kind of self-care do you practice? Et cetera. Because I think we’ve learned, in talking about climate for decades, that facts are important. In fact, on this Joanna Macy convening the other day, they said, “We’re here to talk about feelings, not facts.”
Facts are important and they’re limited. They’re necessary and insufficient, and so we need to have a feeling level and emotional level, a human level conversation because that’s what advertisers try to do, is create love for shampoo or whatever, right? They want you to love your shampoo or people love certain companies. That’s what a lot of advertising is trying to reach people on an emotional aspirational level. Why should wouldn’t we do that when talking about climate? Why should it be just facts and energy and kilowatt-hours and parts per million and et cetera?
We have to have that human level conversation, I think that’s more meaningful, it’s more real, it’s powerful. It’s more memorable. The cognitive scientists will say, “You might forget a fact, you remember a feeling.” There’s lots of reasons why I think it’s needed and warranted and useful to get to that level with people, even if it’s a little uncomfortable for them.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah. Thank you for really starting to focus on the emotional side of it. Most of the information comes out of the scientific community, and scientists by nature often don’t prioritize emotions, and certainly the academic environment does not promote emotions. A lot of scientists, if they do display emotions, it’s somewhat discrediting for them. They have to keep a dispassionate tone just in order to maintain credibility in spite of the fact that they might be feeling like getting up on top of the rooftop and shouting as loud as they can, “This is an emergency.”
Greg Dalton: Yeah. Think about that. That’s reason and facts that prevail. Well, we’re not, well, as behavioral economists have shown. We’re not rational creatures that we were taught in college, the classical rational economic man optimizing personal utility. That’s not the way humans are, and behavioral economists have won Nobel Prizes pointing that out.
The idea that we should separate emotions from facts, et cetera, I think that’s part of what’s gotten us to this place actually, is that disassociation, that connection. Scientists, you’re right, they report the facts, not to be emotional. That’s dismissive, that’s feminine. They don’t want be that.
Matt Schlegel: Right. Exactly. Yeah. Well, what advice would you give to people who are now starting to have those feelings, and specifically, how would you suggest they act on those feelings? This is for people who want to act, want to take some kind of leadership role. They may be in a leadership role now, or they’re aspiring to be a leader. What advice would you give for them?
Greg Dalton: Yeah. I had a conversation with a couple of college students recently who looked at me and said, “What do we do?” I said, “Well, the first thing is get rid of this you have to save the world or save the planet.” I think that that layer of, and that phrase even, is damaging and is burdensome, and the idea that … Because if you measure that, any individual action is not going to save the world. Just let’s get over that right now.
I interview very powerful people who are running large corporations, running the US Navy, they all feel inadequate to this, right? How’s a regular person’s supposed to feel? First is get rid of that save the planet, does it matter in the grand scheme of things. Just put away with that. The hubris of that, think about it, and think about … I said to them, “Well, you can’t save the world or the planet, but you can shape your world. You can shape the world around you. Your relationships, your community, your employer, your club, your family.”
It’s the old think globally act locally thing, and think about what relationships you have and start there and make an impact. Because I think there, you’ll be able to see some tangible impacts that will keep you going, because if you try to decarbonize California or the United States, good luck with that. But we have to … We need everybody moving in directions.
I just come to this much more decentralized, look around where you are, your town council, your school board, your employer, inside your company, et cetera, and focus there because I think that’s going to be more sustainable, more measurable. You’ll get more feedback for your ability to celebrate your small wins that you achieve along the way. If we all focus on Congress, we’re all going to be depressed and not get it anywhere. Right?
I think there’s a lot of misplaced. Congress is important and a lot of time and effort has been spent over the last decades from Waxman-Markey, now to Build Back Better, it hasn’t delivered for us. A lot of local great things are happening. As I mentioned, the solar farm in Houston. Cities decarbonizing, et cetera. This global issue, I think it’s got us focused globally and I think we need to focus a little more closer to home with ourselves inward, the inward journey and what’s around us.
Matt Schlegel: Right, right. That is such great advice. We have so much more influence in our immediate circles than we do over the president of the United States, right? We can start to decarbonize our lifestyles and then help our friends and family decarbonize theirs, and then help our community decarbonize theirs, right?
Greg Dalton: Yeah. Right.
Matt Schlegel: It’s measurable and you get the feedback just like you said, and you can make an impact. If everybody started doing that, imagine what we could accomplish and-
Greg Dalton: There’s a social contagion, right?
Matt Schlegel: Right.
Greg Dalton: People see solar panels, they see electric cars. There’s a real spreading effect, and that leads to movements, and that does trickle up. Yeah.
Matt Schlegel: Yeah. Exactly. Because politicians aren’t leaders, really. They’re followers. They’re following their constituents, what their constituents want. If we all start decarbonizing our lives, the politicians will follow and say, “Hey, you know what? We should start to decarbonize everything.” Great. Yeah, that is such great advice. Thank you so much, Greg, and thank you for all of the work and contributions you’ve been making to this space.
I am so appreciative of everything you’re doing and your journey. I feel like just listening to you. I’ve been riding along with you on this journey. It’s just such a delight to speak with you, and thank you so much for everything and thanks for being on the show today.
Greg Dalton: That’s been a pleasure, and thanks for what you’re doing and it takes all of us. I really appreciate in this conversation, Matt. Thank you.
Matt Schlegel: Thank you. Thanks for watching. Having listened to Greg on the Climate One podcast over the years, I’ve noticed how his tone has changed. As he puts it, he’s dropped his conversations from the head down into the heart. I love how Greg is teaching us to connect our feelings with the climate crisis. Also, he says that people who are having feelings and wanting to do something, should focus on their own social circles. Don’t try to save the planet. Rather, look to what you can do in your immediate environment, your home, your community, your workplace.
You have more influence there, you’ll have more impact there, you’ll be able to see the progress that you’re making. He says, if we all do that, it creates a virtuous cycle, a social contagion, and as more of us want to act, we will act and that will cause and encourage others to do so as well. If you found this conversation helpful, please click on the thumbs up button and subscribe to the channel to get notifications of future episodes. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Thanks again.