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Compassion, Climate Lesson Plans & Critical Thinking with the Carbon Almanac Educators Team
Episode 57th April 2022 • The Carbon Almanac Collective • Carbon Almanac Network
00:00:00 00:35:20

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Featuring Carbon Almanac Contributors Alexis Costello, Ryan Flahive & Annie Parnell.

From British Columbia, Canada (via Costa Rica), and from Colorado in The United States, these collaborators have backgrounds in education, instructional design, publishing and as parents.

Having contributed to many areas of the Carbon Almanac, the three came together to develop lesson plans and activities that educators can use to help all kinds of learners understand climate change. We wanted to bring forward an attitude of compassion rather than anxiety about a topic that can generate a lot of emotions and reactions.

In this episode, we talk about the joys and challenges of collaborating with a fast-moving global team of volunteer writers, thinkers, researchers and designers; our hope and confidence in young people; what climate action each of us will take forward from this collaboration into our own lives – and what it’s like to pivot when Seth Godin tells you to start from square one. (Spoiler: It all works out even better in the end.) 

For more information on the project, and to pre-order your copy visit

This podcast is a part of the Carbon Almanac Podcast Network.

Production Team: Jennifer Myers Chua, Sam Schuffenecker, Leekei Tang, Tania Marien, Barbara Orsi

Cover Art: Ray Ong

Copyright © 2022 The Carbon Almanac Network

About the Carbon Almanac Collective: What happens when regular people work together to create massive, meaningful change on a global scale? Welcome to the carbon Almanac collective. A podcast where the volunteers who created the Carbon Almanac share the insights and aha moments they had while collaborating on this landmark project to help fight the climate crisis.

Hosted by Jennifer Myers Chua, and featuring the voices of Carbon Almanac Contributors. Reminding you that it's not too late to join in on the conversation.



[00:00:55] Ryan: My name is Ryan Flahive. I'm in Boulder, Colorado, and I wrote a number of sections in the impact, part of the Almanac as well as the solution section, and then joined the education team, which has been super fun. It was a great collaborative experience and, uh, made some new friends and I really value the whole opportunity.


[00:01:53] Jennifer: Is there a climate change action that you want to challenge yourself to take this year? Maybe reducing flights or eating less meat or something like that. Is there an action that you plan to take after finishing your work on this project?


For me, the one that actually is going to impact like the, the change that we're making is with travel. Because with my work for a few years, I was flying a lot and. And it's wonderful and I love to travel and I really have missed that the last couple of years, but we've also been really aware of the fact that in this last two years of, COVID and travel restrictions and that sort of thing, it's changed how much even driving we're doing.

And we've realized that we've made it a huge impact. Kind of accidentally, by not flying to Europe, by not flying back to Canada all the time, and we're already in discussion as a family of how we're going to. Keep that right now that we've things are opening up, travel opportunities are coming back, but being much more discriminatory about how we use that and not being frivolous with it as maybe we had been in the past. And so that's the one that we're really talking about as a group.


[00:03:31] Ryan: Yeah. Uh, Throughout my journey, as a climate activist, I've had an opportunity to learn a lot about various aspects of, of the fight against climate change. And the one that I find most interesting right now that I'm getting most involved in is regenerative agriculture and regenerative ranching. It's kind of amazing to think that we could be feeding ourselves healthy food while also trapping as much carbon as possible in the soil.

So not just as a consumer, but as an investor and as an advocate for the industry, I'm really trying to get the message out there about climate friendly beef, about climate friendly agriculture, because it's not that easy to find right now. And I think if we could get it onto regular shelves for normal people, we could really have an impact and trap a ton of carbon in the soil.


[00:04:27] Ryan: Sure. Well, I don't know that I've actually changed any ranchers minds yet. But I have interviewed a number of ranchers on my podcast and I get my beef directly from Blue Nest Beef, which was founded by a soil scientist from shell who spent most of his career taking carbon out of the soil and put it in our cars.

And now is focused on you know, using, cattle to get carbon back in the soil. And not just that they're Audubon certified. So they also a rebuilding bird habitats, but using, using cattle, which is counterintuitive cause right. Cows are the worst enemy. And they are, they're really, they're really horrible for 99% of the industry. But when you look at 70 plus percent of the world's land, mass is grasslands. If you're not, if animals aren't eating that grass, then all that carbon is not being sequestered. It's actually being released from the soil. So it's, it's kind of part of just rebuilding our ecosystem.


[00:05:31] Ryan: I mean in a word, Seth. He's just an amazing man. I think that I can speak for most of the people in this project that. We would all jump at the opportunity to work with him on pretty much anything but such an important topic. And knowing that he's going to have this multiplier effect, that's beyond anything we could do individually.

And we're seeing it. The three of us started early on when there were under 300 people and now there's thousands of people involved. And now there's big companies involved and we're signed with penguin random house. I'm a publishing nerd. Most of my career has been in publishing that's that's the premier publishing house for a project like this.


[00:06:30] Alexis: At the same thing, you know, I'm a mom and the last few years I've had this very much like walk the talk kind of mentality. We talk a lot about the things that we do in order to be self-sustainable or something like that, but this was an opportunity to walk the talk. And also, I don't know about the rest of you. I also didn't necessarily think I was going to get in,



[00:07:03] Alexis: I didn't think I was going to get in. I don't usually have imposter syndrome issues. I'm at the top of my field in my work, but I walked into this group. And I looked around at the people in this group and I went, oh my goodness, how am I in this group of people? Like, how did this happen? I have no clue, what loophole I fell through in order to be allowed to be here.

And then as I got to know everyone, I just got more and more amazed and more and more inspired. Some of the people in this community are so inspiring and have done such amazing things. So I'm very, very grateful for whatever fluke of algorithm allowed me to slide in there.


I'd like to move on to you working in the project. Can you tell us about your most memorable moment while working on project?


[00:08:40] Jennifer: Yeah.


[00:08:41] Annie: sorry.


[00:09:02] Jennifer: Annie have you had any emotional moments while working on this project?


[00:10:25] Jennifer: Alexis, any emotional moments for you?


And, and the two of us formed a group and people started joining us. And I think we had an idea of what that looked like. And then as more people joined in and as we started moving forward and as then Seth came in and looked at it, it was like, oh, that's actually not what we're doing. Very much like how Ryan says you know, Seth looked at his thing and said, there's two good sentences here.

Seth kind of came in on a meeting and went well. We're going to go this way. And it required a pivot. And, in the end, that was a good thing, but I know that there was this moment at this meeting where I feel like probably half of us in the group were holding our breath for a second and trying to figure out. What are we doing from here? And I had to kind of rearrange some things in my head and after that it was great. And I mean, that's one of the things about working with a collaborative project like this is that it's not about, it's not about me, right? It's not about what I want to put out into the world.

It's about what is working for us as a unit. And so, that was, that was one. And then also just putting together the lessons. I ended up writing, I think five of the lessons that are actually in the educators document, and I really had fun with them. And they were things that, as I was writing them, I was like bouncing them off of my kids.

And they were offering ideas because my kids have all been homeschooled. And so it was fun to see them thinking about how they would actually run with this or play with it or something like that. So there's highs and lows of emotion as we go through. And it's, it's been a very educational experience. I think.


[00:12:46] Alexis: Maybe the only comfort zone thing is in the speed. Everything's moving so fast. And part of working with this group of people is that everyone's moving quickly. Number one, and you know, 90% of those people that are moving quickly are doing so in a different time zone than you. So sometimes by the time you've caught up, there were days when I would put something out in the morning and then, you know I have to go to work.

And at the end of the day, I look at my messages and it's like, oh, there have been 40 messages about this topic. And I've now missed that boat. That ship has now sailed and someone in Europe has done it already. You have to be comfortable with that speed of processing, which, I think I might've been slightly more comfortable with that than some people because of like altMBA training and just that idea of you ship you ship, you ship, you ship, but. It was a little bit disconcerting sometimes to see how quickly something could change before you could even get back into it. And so it's a blessing and a curse to have things move quite that fast, especially this last month. At the beginning, things were moving a little bit more slowly, but as we were hitting deadlines, things started to move at warp speed, which is amazing too. But tricky.


And so I was asked to write about coastline issues and water salinity issues that I really don't know much about. So I had to do a lot of research and really come to understand these topics well enough to put them in 200 words without plagiarizing. And so those were really tough.

Those took a number of days, each one of them. And the good news is that they all got copy check, fact checked. And so they, they, they came out really nice and I just needed to get the raw ideas out there for the team, but it was intimidating to write about topics that I didn't know a whole lot about.


[00:14:50] Annie: Yes. And to piggyback on something that Alexis brought up about that moment when Seth showed up was yeah, I won't lie. It felt like I was punched in the heart. And it was having to come back from that was tough. And I have to give a lot of credit to Manon on that, that, she's been a real partner, in that way.

And the other thing is there's a passage. I don't know if it's in The Practice or in This is Marketing where Seth talks about. Basically, I'm going to paraphrase here, but just going for it and it may be around the time he talks about imposter syndrome, once I had that moment of what Alexis called a pivot, that it was, the worst has happened. You know, after that it was okay, I'm going to throw it out there. If I get slammed for it, I've survived. It was getting to the other side of, of that and finding out that I could not only survive, but then move back into thriving and make a contribution. So was my moment.


[00:16:06] Annie: One of the things I know, from my background that using words like emergency and things like that immediately puts people on edge. And that's one of the beauties of, sorry, Alexis. I just love what you do. And that it puts, it puts the tools of helping the teachers navigate a difficult subject with the students into their hands.

So they're not dealing always in a crisis and with the kids anxiety. The learners, anxiety about it. And once they move out of that state, they can be an amazing creative space to find solutions. So I tend to steer away from words like emergency crisis. I don't use those kinds of terms.


But to elaborate slightly on what Annie was saying, just for some context, I work with specialized kinesiology. And so there's, um, an educational component to that. Some people have heard of brain gym or educate or something like that. And a lot of that is about making sure that there's brain integration. And being able to make sure that the right and left parts of the brain are working together on things.

And there's just little things that people can do to help deal with stress and to make sure that they're assimilating information in the best possible way. And this works really well for like kids with learning difficulties and that sort of thing, but it also works anytime people are experiencing overwhelm.

And so one of the lessons that I had been working on, was, um to do with the section on climate anxiety, that's in the Almanac because for a lot of young people, this is a huge thing. And I think that maybe some educators might step back from the topic because they don't want to create stress. And they don't want to create conflict.

And so if we can offer a tool that is helping to be able to have those conversations without throwing everybody into tilt, I think that that's a really powerful thing. So, yeah, just to kind of explain what, what she was talking about a little bit there and why we're working with those things.

And when we were first looking at the educator section, we were definitely looking at incorporating more of those kinds of techniques into the lesson plans for the instructors. And instead, this has become more like, um, a resource that an educator can go to as a secondary thing in order to help alleviate that anxiety.

I guess it's all about clear communication. And then also making sure that we can communicate, you know, heart to heart and with the emotions and with those emotions being balanced for everyone rather than being kind of crazy.


But our goal is really to model the initial behavior on how to actually bring the Almanac into their curriculum.


I'm not sure if, if modern toilets work this way. Uh, but I remember some of those lessons from even then when I was young, when don't know if we called it climate change at that point or anything. Being mindful of the earth was important. And all three of you are really interested in this now, and it's almost like a values thing.

And I'm just wondering if any of you can remember a moment back when you were that young and maybe being influenced by an educator that like stands out in your mind?


[00:21:40] Annie: I remember getting into fights with my father. He grew up in New York city and he was a son of immigrants. And so his push was to do what was expeditious to make a living for his family. And having a global or an environmental consciousness wasn't anything that was his, and he and I often clashed about throughout his life because he's gone.

And I think the teacher issue that you were talking about to point, they were sustaining, I can think of my biology teacher and in sixth grade, looking at animals especially when we got into dissection and seeing the impact of their environment on them. Even though the formaldehyde had decimated a lot of things, but looking at life in that way and that with a microscope and seeing the impact of what was going on. Those teachers sustained me when in my home environment, it was kind of hostile to the development of those kinds of ideas. For me, teachers are heroes and very important. And as a parent, when my children were born in California, they were, we were always in field tripping, someplace down to university of Santa Cruz to the dolphin tank or going up to the east bay and you couldn't even breathe at the dump.

The methane was so obnoxious. I mean, I thought, why did I agree to sign this permission slip to, you know, where my kids would be, you know, it was just, so it's been. Evolving, but it's just gotten deeper and deeper in the teachers who were there. That's why I joined this to give them the tools that they could take it even farther and faster, because I do think the kids, especially the younger, they have a sense of wonder and they believe that they can do anything.

They haven't reached that point where people tell them that's crazy or stupid or whatever. So that's why for me, whatever tool I can build for the educators to breach the children and help support them. And it's really important.


[00:23:59] Ryan: Sure little Ryan, what was actually raised with, with an environmental ethic and, you know, in Colorado spending a lot of time in the outdoors. And, um, my, my parents taught me a lot about empathy and caring about others at the time they were just discovering the greenhouse effects that wasn't the issue.

Ozone hole was the issue then. And I actually organized my school's first earth day event and had the support of my school and was able to bring in speakers. And I know for me it felt like the first time that. Could have impacts in, in was introducing topics to my peers that they'd never heard about because it just wasn't the issue then the environment so much in their families, at least. That was a big turning point in my climate or then environmental, this evolved into a climate trajectory.


[00:24:52] Alexis: Honestly, one that came up for me, one of the culture, things about this, like people like us do things like this, right? So you land in a group of these kinds of people that are all doing this passionately. And then you come out of this group of people for a moment and you start talking about the thing that you're doing with somebody else, and you realize that not everybody has this same consciousness and awareness. And not only does not everybody have the same consciousness and awareness, but some people are actively opposed to the consciousness and awareness that you are in. I remember one day I was very excited, you know, I had had a meeting that morning. We were meeting weekly for awhile as an educators group, and I was all fired up about something and I was writing lessons and I was doing things and we met some friends and I was talking about what I was doing and was informed that climate change is just a myth designed in order to distract everyone.

And it's just the next crisis so that our government can control our travel and our food consumption. And, it was a big, it was a big thing for me because I, you take a step back and you take a breath and you kind of go, but wait, I've been reading all of this and this is data that we absolutely have. You have to sometimes take a step back and realize that not everybody has the same information. And that might take us back to that principle of Sonder. The idea that, you know, if you had the same information, if you knew to be true at other people know to be true, you would do the same thing that they do.

And so there's, there are reasons why people have those feelings. And then we have to be able to be cognizant of that, but at the same time, still move forward in a way that, that makes sense. Right? So it's, it's sort of funny. My biggest ahas around this were not necessarily about Climate change or the things that we were doing as a group, because most of those were already in alignment with where I was at in my life.

It was in taking those ideas to someone else and realizing that there is in fact, still a juxtaposition there that needs to be delt with.


[00:27:09] Annie: Um, I'd say the moment was when Seth goes, there are climate deniers and we don't have to deal with them. You know, that's not you. I was like, yes. That really, I didn't have to adjust my thinking or be wooing them to I wasn't marketing the idea. I was just, oh, I can talk to people.

And it wasn't that they didn't exist, but they weren't, to use the analogy, if you've ever been in the water and you have drag, you know, and being pulled forward, it was all of a sudden there wasn't that drag and which it flipped over into what Alexis was talking about. I was able to get a lot more things done faster because they'll either come or they won't, but where we need in such a, a time of needing change.

I can spend my time continuing to woo X, Y, and Z over here, but a, B and C already are on board. And so that's where my efforts going.


And that's why I find this project so interesting. You know, Because with my podcast, I can reach an audience, but with this book and with, you know, Seth's name on it and with penguin, random house behind it, and the marketing push, there's going to be politicians reading it. There's going to be people who can make institutional change happen.

And I think we can only do that through collective action. And that's what this, this book really is for me.


[00:29:13] Annie: I'm hopeful. I love the people I've worked with on this project. Just being around them and spending time working on this has made me very hopeful and yeah, it lights me up. I enjoy the interactions with the people who are, especially the people I've become closest to where the people on our EDW team, other people in the akimbo world that I know, like, um, Anna, I, because we were in the podcasting workshop together. just really grateful.


And I'm like, are my kids going to be able to enjoy the sport as much as I do, but on the other side of it, because I do have kids and my daughters are the reason that I, I am a climate activist. I have to be hopeful. And I have to hope that between projects like this, cause there's other projects like this going on simultaneously that we haven't heard about that collectively they can lead to something that along with hopefully some new technologies and some changes, broad changes in lifestyle. In legislation, we can do this, but it's, we don't have much time.


[00:30:41] Ryan: Exactly.


[00:30:44] Alexis: I, I think I'm in the same boat as Ryan and I needed a moment to articulate it because. When I look at the people involved in this project, I'm hopeful, right? There are amazing people doing amazing things. And when I look at my kids, you know, one of the, I have twins that'll be 20 in May, as well as the um, little dramatic one that you saw in here a moment ago. We had a conversation with the educators group one day, where we were talking about the fact that is the ones that are in middle school and in high school now are the ones that are going to be the policymakers in a few years here. So when I look at them, I feel hopeful, but the other side of it. And I th I feel like actually, this became more real for me. Maybe in this last few months of working with this project is I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. And it's impossible to look at what happened in Colorado. Had a fire, British Columbia, which I mean is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I'd been all over the place. British Columbia is stunningly gorgeous in nature, and it has been a hot mess this year. And that is from a combination of fires and floods. And like, this is climate change in action and it utterly destroyed, you know, my, my home, uh, my home turf this last year.

And so it's difficult to kind of see how that's going to get a little bit worse before people really are willing to make the big changes. Because we're talking about big changes in the Almanac here. We're not calling for people to recycle their pop cans anymore. The time for that has passed, like we're calling for bigger change. It'll be interesting at any rate to see how things play out, because I think people still think that they have a lot of time and we don't. And that's, if people get one idea from reading the Almanac, I hope that's it. The time is not five years in the future, 10 years in the future, the time is absolutely right now.

I've just been grateful to be in this space with them for this last few months. And you know, it, it's funny, Ryan and I realized at one point in the middle that we actually have like some common friends and common space and it it's a small world. And I think that it's one of those moments where you kind of go, oh right, no, forget seven degrees.

We're all connected by like two and three degrees these days. And so each of us has a big reach. And when we make these connections, I think it strengthens our reach. So yeah, I'm just very happy to be connected with these people that are doing these things and, uh, and to have gotten to know them better over the course of the last few months.


[00:33:35] Ryan: Buy the book, definitely buy the book. Everybody it's cheap. It's good. It's really well designed. It's not meant to necessarily be read, cover to cover. It's a lifetime resource. So buy the book.


And I just about wept when I saw the actual like final, mark-up of the whole thing, right. With all of the illustrations and how it was all going to look together in a finished copy, because I thought. how amazing that you can just take a group of people and without a boss, without a financial incentive, without any of that, just have them put something together like this in such a short period of time. I hope everyone who looks at the book realizes that that's what that is. It's just a complete labor of love and a gift for everyone.



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