There are ways of making climate change personal, of humanising it to remind people that climate change is tangible and impacting many people around the globe. As She Rises is a podcast that digs into human stories of how climate change has impacted people and their communities. It focuses mainly on indigenous communities in the US with an emphasis on indigenous women. From Louisiana Bayou to the tundras of Alaska to the Colorado River, the podcast spans the different consequences climate change has done on communities. Each episode takes the listener to a new community that is being impacted by climate change.
Speaking to Grace Lynch host of the first two seasons of As She Rises, explains the podcast’s main aim.
“A really big part of the show where we are trying to highlight voices that you don't typically hear talking about this. By that, I mean climate change or their community. Also, make it so that they are then being like personally we are deeply affected.
In the episodes and more broadly that we give to these who are predominantly in the show coming from communities of colour or indigenous communities really? The more we allow them to. Tell their story. But it's just not the stories we're typically hearing. But they hold these communities hold the knowledge of how it could potentially work and how it has worked in the past, and that feels pretty invaluable.”
The idea to start As She Rises came from a place of not engaging with science and numbers associated with climate change. Grace Lynch, host of As She Rises for two seasons has never connected with climate numbers through the use of numbers.
“I mean the idea for the project really came from a similar place of like not being a fan of math, not loving the like doomsday science numbers that came with. How do you always hear about climate change? It was always through the lens of numbers. And as someone who doesn't find that compelling, instead of engaging with climate change, which I knew I was supposed to do because I'm alive and aware, I just found myself really pushing back on it. So I was thinking about how one would make a climate change show anyway where people are engaged and can relate.”
The use of podcasts as a medium to tell stories about climate change has a more engaging element. It can explain the numbers and science around climate change making it less complicated. As well as bringing something artistic to reduce the doomsday aspect of the numbers. For Grace, the intimate aspect of podcasts helps make climate change easier to understand.
“I think that the beauty of podcasts as a medium is that they're really intimate and it's in your ear. It's a very special experience. The voice, music and sound design can transport the mind so quickly to different places or insinuate mood or feel.”
Several ideas for structuring the episode were planned out to figure out how to make the podcast more engaging. There was also a need to keep the intimate aspect to ensure the topic f climate change was easier to understand as well as feeling personal and not a surreal reality.
“I think that that was actually maybe the hardest thing for us to figure out when making the show because I originally wanted to design the show where like you would never hear my voice and then that ended up not really working from like it was just impossible to follow. OK, fine, we need some sort of a narrator. So then I made myself totally neutral. And my editor. It was like this doesn't work either, because this is a show that's about intimacy and you being neutral doesn't make any sense and I had to figure out how like as a privileged white lady I was going to like be present in these conversations, but also not make it about myself but also be the narrator for the listener, but also be the background, and that is a really delicate balance that I think we do succeed into various degrees throughout both seasons or all.”
Combining that with poetry can create an even more special experience. “And the artistic way that it’s verbal works with the poetry we use. Poetry helps to describe something in an economy of words and can make can it invoke a full image that perhaps numbers couldn’t. Well, I think that a combination of having people enter into these ideas of climate change or start to imagine them and experience them through poetry and something that's more evocative and more visceral is important,” says Grace. However, steering away from using numbers and statistics is not feasible for something like climate change. Rather a balance of how to portray that is needed as statistics are necessary to understand more about what climate change is. “But then I think the fact that when we do pivot to numbers, we try our best to keep those really tight and the focus of them really tight so that people can't just brush them aside because they're listening to someone. Ideally be like no, this is happening to me. I am the individual who is affected and you have to hear my voice tell you that.”
Statistics and numbers may feel impersonal or do not sometimes aid in helping one feel that climate change may directly impact them. Grace says, “If you're well insulated, particularly in the Western world, then you're probably extra eager to be like that doesn't affect me, and I don't need to think about that.” Adding a human element to stories around climate change becomes important to connect audiences to climate change or simply give them an understanding of how climate change is impacting people on personal levels. It is why As She Rises, doesn’t focus broadly on all of the climate change but rather on individuals or communities impacted by climate change.
“I think what’s perhaps even more important than numbers is that we try our best with every episode to keep it really small. You know, like this is the town or this is the community where this one thing is happening as opposed to all of you know this whole world. Or you know all of the sea levels are rising, which is just too big. When things are that big you don't care as much because it doesn't feel personal. It just feels like an abstract truth or an abstract concept that doesn't affect you any more than anyone else.”
The abstract nature of climate change, its impersonal feel and numbers are not the only thing that keeps people away from it. The doomsday feels to it and the dangers associated with climate change have led the way to climate anxiety in some people. Grace went into this show because of her climate anxiety and didn't know how to address the conversation at all in a way that felt productive. Yet making the episodes and speaking to women from different communities, have left her far more hopeful about climate change than when she started.
“ It's all because of these women that I've interviewed and had the absolute privilege of hearing their stories. These women I speak to are all still hopeful even though they are bearing the brunt of climate change. They're having the least attention paid to them, they often are operating with the fewest resources, and with the least amount of prestige. They're losing real, tangible parts of their communities and of their lives.
They're all hopeful. Every single one of them. I've never interviewed someone who's like this is all going to shit and it's never going to be ok. Every single one of them is like we could fix this or we can move forward. And we can you know better this situation. And so if they're hopeful, what business do I have been immobile, depressed and anxious?”