We Stand To Win Big Time

A chat with the good folks at Radio Catskill about the climate year in review — and what I'm hopeful about in the year to come.

We Stand To Win Big Time

I love local radio real bad, you guys.

The Catskills is an unforgiving place for radio technology, for a very simple reason: The mountains get in the way. A station might broadcast across a county in one direction, and struggle to get more than a few miles in another. You may start out on a nice drive through the rural Catskills with your car radio tuned to something interesting, but odds are you’ll be scrabbling at that FM dial before you get there.

The bright side is that this region is full of wonderful little radio stations, each with its own quirky, vibrant, locally-flavored community of program hosts. WIOX in Roxbury. Radio Kingston. WGXC in Catskill. WJFF in Liberty. The dynamic duo of Joe and Jay at WRIP in Windham, who do a live broadcast every Fourth of July from my fire department’s annual carnival.

I’ll be honest: I used to be terrified of broadcast media. But in the past few years, I’ve become a frequent guest on a bunch of local radio programs, and I’ve grown to really love doing live, unscripted public radio. It was especially delightful to chat about local climate and environment news with Jason Dole, who’s the program director at WJFF/Radio Catskill, and an old pal of mine. Back when Julia Reischel and I were still running the Watershed Post, Jason used to freelance for us about various goings-on in Sullivan County. I’m glad he’s still in the local news game — and so am I.

Jason was kind enough to let me ramble on for a solid 40 minutes here. We talked about New York State’s new climate plan. We talked about the Inflation Reduction Act, and how it will soon begin changing the math on clean energy for rural homeowners and rural electric co-ops. We talked about the Environmental Bond Act, passed by a large majority by New York State voters at the polls this November.

I told Jason: I think it’s really interesting that voters spoke with such a clear voice on environmental problems this year. The 2022 election was a wild ride, with a nailbiter of a race for governor, and a lot of lost territory for New York Democrats at the national level. But the $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, which will fund a lot of climate resilience projects, sailed through with almost 60 percent of the vote.

That vote is a loud, clear message, to anyone willing to hear it. People — ordinary, regular, non-scientist type people — want to fix this mess. They might not entirely understand how. They might disagree vehemently on who ought to lead the way. But like I said to Jason, climate change is not the same issue it was just five or ten years ago. The damages of climate change and accelerating disaster are more plain to see. Most people tend to agree: it’s happening, it’s bad, and it’s on us. Maybe we should fix it. Maybe we can.

For now, there are still pretty stark differences between elected Republicans and Democrats in terms of willingness to engage at all with climate problems and solutions. But there are also plenty of elected Democrats who side with fossil-fuel interests, at the local level or on a broader stage. And as the clean energy industry grows in power, aided by federal climate policy and the increasingly climate-aware world of international finance, we may see some interesting shifts on both sides of the aisle. I suspect it’s only a matter of time.

And that’s when things really get interesting. Because once you’ve gotten past the big hurdle of accepting that climate change is a problem, and that we should try to fix it — that’s when you begin to get a sense of what a wild, wild West lies ahead in the world of solutions. The challenge. The opportunity. The chance to get it right — or very, very wrong. The way the sheer ambition of climate policy, its sweep and its scale, gives us a rare window to fix other problems that have been festering for generations. The new power centers that will arise, and the old ones that will fight tooth and nail against falling into irrelevance.

“We stand to win big time,” I told Jason, “because climate problems are energy problems, and energy touches everything.”

I believe that, and I’m hopeful about the year to come, in spite of how grim it all is.

Radio Catskill shared the audio file with me, and I’m sharing it with you — I haven’t tested out Substack’s podcast tools yet, but let’s give it a go. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy New Year to you all. And if you can spare a year-end donation to Radio Catskill, they’re doing good work over there.