Behind the Podcast ‘How We Got Here’

Behind the Podcast ‘How We Got Here’

Elise Gout
|April 21, 2022

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, Columbia Climate School has quite a lot of nice occasions and tales lined up for you. Learn extra on our Earth Day web site.

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When requested what he does for work, award-winning environmental poet Craig Santos Perez will normally say that he “teaches reading and writing.” What introduced him to this work, nevertheless, is just not practically as easy a solution. At age 15, Perez relocated along with his household from Guam to California. Poetry grew to become an area the place he may navigate his homesickness, cultural id as an indigenous Chamoru, and burgeoning local weather anxieties. Flash ahead over 20 years and he’s now an American Book Award recipient and professor at the University of Hawaii Manoa.

Perez’s profession path is only one of the many explored by way of the podcast, “How We Got Here,” co-hosted by local weather scientists Stephanie Spera and Rachel Lupien. The podcast, which completed its first season in March, was created to showcase the breadth of jobs inside the local weather motion and the nonlinear choice making that so typically guides the individuals who work in them. The result’s a hopeful collection that highlights the some ways an individual can contribute towards fixing local weather change, with the purpose of inspiring and empowering others to become involved.

Before it was a podcast, although, “How We Got Here” was an concept borne from desperation.

From classroom to podcast

In spring 2021, Spera was educating an introductory course inside the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Richmond. It was held, as many introductory school programs are, at 9 o’clock in the morning. And in the pandemic period of distant studying, she may really feel it beginning to drag.

Rachel Lupien and Stephanie Spera

Climate scientists Rachel Lupien and Stephanie Spera are the co-hosts of the “How We Got Here” podcast. Lupien is a postdoctoral analysis scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“I just kept thinking, ‘How do I make this not a living hell for my students?’” she stated. “How can I keep them engaged, so it’s not just me talking into the ether of black boxes on Zoom?”

Spera determined to succeed in out to her skilled community — “cool friends who do cool things” — and ask them to speak to her college students about what they (truly) do at their jobs and what it (truly) took for them to get there. She figured, if nothing else, it will carry new faces to the display screen. By the finish of the semester, that open invitation had changed into an advert hoc weekly speaker collection — one which her college students overwhelmingly raved about of their end-of-course surveys.

“My students are so passionate about the climate crisis,” stated Spera, “and I realized no one had really given them that time or space to think about how they could help address it.” With the hopes of serving a wider viewers, Spera reached out to Lupien (one in every of the aforementioned “cool friends”) about co-hosting a podcast, and shortly after, “How We Got Here” was launched.

From grad college students to co-hosts

Spera and Lupien first met as graduate college students at Brown University, the place they grew to become shut buddies by way of their shared pursuits in local weather science and unequalled enthusiasm for the biannual Grad Prom. When Spera was contemplating what it will seem like to wade into the “grossly oversaturated” podcasting area, she stated Lupien was the most blatant alternative for a associate.

“We were both inebriated when I pitched her the idea,” stated Spera, “and she immediately gave it the time and support that it needed. She’s just one of the smartest, most delightful people I know.”

For the previous three years, Lupien has labored as a paleoclimatologist at the Columbia Climate School’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, researching how variations in the local weather some 25 million years in the past may have impacted early human evolution throughout Africa. It’s the sort of job that most individuals haven’t heard of earlier than — not not like a lot of the jobs featured on the podcast.

“It can be really hard to deviate from the more ‘classic careers’ that are depicted in the media or familiar within our families,” stated Lupien. “One of our goals is to show that it’s okay to break away from that — to not know exactly what you’re doing — as long as you’re enjoying and checking in with yourself as you go.”

In some ways, Spera and Lupien have embodied this recommendation by way of the very manufacturing of the podcast. Neither of them had any podcasting expertise at the outset of “How We Got Here.” They iterated as they went — tightening episode introductions, refining interview questions, and, after realizing the significance of fine sound high quality, hiring an audio intern.

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Spera and Lupien interview Angie Patterson, the ‘Shotgun Scientist‘ and local weather communicator.

Having each spent their careers in academia, Spera and Lupien are (like their listeners) newcomers to the working worlds of their company. Their checklist of who to ask on the present began with figuring out the fields they needed to study extra about, and has since expanded right into a grasp spreadsheet, systematized in the method you would possibly count on from two individuals with doctorates in science. Over the course of season one, additionally they turn into more and more candid about their very own skilled hardships, together with Lupien’s then-realtime job search and Spera’s curiosity in pivoting in direction of one thing completely completely different from her present function.

“I’m realizing that there are so many possibilities out there,” stated Spera, “and, maybe similar to the person listening to our podcast, I’m trying to figure out what I want to do next.”

From podcast to motion constructing 

With its overwhelming scale and complexity, local weather change is a matter that nobody job or profession path can resolve, and a part of what Spera and Lupien hope to perform by persevering with to provide “How We Got Here” is a democratizing of what it means to contribute.

“We all have unique talents, skill sets, and voices that we can use in very specific ways to make a difference,” stated Lupien.

Season one in every of the podcast is a testomony to this, with episodes that includes the work of all kinds of local weather professionals: a forest ecologist, coverage director, and clear vitality skilled decarbonizing the cryptocurrency trade, amongst others.

That is to not say there aren’t through-lines of their profession paths, although. The significance of creating sturdy communication abilities is called a number of occasions over, as is the distinction {that a} supportive mentor could make — one thing Lupien has since considered typically in her personal capability as a supervisor of graduate college students. Guests additionally share a steadfast dedication to local weather motion.

“Even though we see them make different decisions based on their life histories, their motivation is the same,” stated Spera.

screenshot of video call

Lupien’s cat, Tina, sometimes makes a visitor look on the present.

Spera and Lupien are already brainstorming who they will invite on the podcast for season two, which is slated to come back out this fall. Prospective company embody a enterprise capitalist, musician, local weather justice activist, and mechanical engineer. Regardless of the lineup, although, Spera trusts she is going to study simply as a lot — if no more — as she did the first time round.

“When I feel like the world is a Dumpster fire, I get to talk to somebody about why it is worth fighting for,” she stated. “My own passion gets reignited knowing that all these people are applying their skills to make the world a better place.”

“How We Got Here” might be discovered on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, in addition to the “How We Got Here” web site.

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