I spent the middle of September in San Francisco, where California Governor Jerry Brown was hosting the “Global Climate Action Summit”
It was huge. Alec Baldwin was there, and Al Gore, and Harrison Ford, and walking trees, too… people on stilts, draped in leaves… they were tall and willowy, towering over us… they were beautiful.
That was the public face, but tedious workshops took up most of the time, where experts focused on new ways of, say, helping indigenous people conserve their forests, or of farming sustainably, or of monitoring supply chains — the kind of important but sometimes wonky stuff that I try to break down for you guys here.
So, we had these high-profile but kind of fluffy events designed to get the word out, and then we had these experts, who were talking about the same things they always talk about — real, viable solutions that could get us out of this mess, but that no one outside these halls was paying attention to. And then this happened:
Durley Not Another Conference
His name was Reverend Dr Gerald L Durley, and he lit up this wonky policy event like nothing I’d ever seen…
You are the warriors
What does the Civil Rights movement have to do with climate change, and who is this guy to preach about it to a room full of scientists and policy wonks?
To answer the first question: climate change and civil rights are inexorably intertwined — not just because the destruction of our living ecosystems robs us of our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but because they both require the same kind of coordinated .
To answer the second question, I’ll reference Reverend Durley’s 2014 autobiography, “I Am Amazed! Reflections on an Awe-Inspired Life”, which I picked up after meeting him on this day.
Born in Kansas and raised in California, he finished high-school in Oregon and then marched with Martin Luther King Jr while earning his first of may academic degrees — this one in psychology at Tennessee State. While there, Bobby Kennedy noticed him and persuaded Durley to join the Peace Corp, which he did. That brought him to Nigeria, then to Switzerland before coming home to the United States and becoming a central figure in Atlanta’s Civil Rights scene.
Take a risk
I knew nothing of Reverend Durley before he was asked to open a panel discussion on indigenous rights, but I knew that he electrified a room full of policy wonks, which is hard to do, and he did so because he wasn’t just reiterating something we all knew, but reminding us all of something we forgot.
Specifically, he reminded us that climate change isn’t just about science or economics — the issues I usually try to address on this show — but about something deeper, more human.
Earth! We broke it; We own it; and nothing is as it was — not the trees, not the seas, not the forests, farms, or fields — and not the global economy that depends on all of these. But we can restore it, make it better, greener, more resilient, more sustainable — but how? Technology? Geoengineering?
Are we doomed to live on a bionic planet or is nature itself the answer?
That’s the question we address in every episode of bionic planet, a podcast of the Anthropocene, the new epoch defined by man’s impact on earth, and today we speak with the Reverend Dr Gerald Durly about how we can tap the same forces that galvanized the Civil Rights movement to fix the climate mess. Today’s show is a bit different from most, in that we’re not diving specifically into land-use issues like forestry and sustainable farming, although Reverend Durley does touch on that. Instead, we’re examining the ways that we can engage people emotionally, to get us all working together on this, the greatest threat our civilization has ever faced…
I have to confess, I’m not a particularly religious person anymore, but I found this guy really inspiring, and if Reverend Durley inspires you as much as he inspires me, I encourage you to pick up his book, “I Am Amazed”, which reads like he talks — fast and fun and full of wisdom that catches you looking the other way. If you decide to buy it through Amazon.com, can I encourage you to access the site through my web site, bionic-planet.com? If you do that, I’ll get a few pennies, too.
Unfortunately, there’s no audiobook for I Am Amazed, but if listen to audiobooks, you can support Bionic Planet by visiting audibletrial.com/BionicPlanet for a free 30-day trial at Audible.com. The address again is audibletrial.com/bionicplanet. And that’s Bionic Planet with NO dots, dashes, or spaces… as opposed to my web site, which is bionic-planet.com.
Finally, if you really like what you hear, you can support the show by becoming a patron at bionic-planet.com. You can help keep me afloat for as little as one dollar per episode, either via bionic-planet.com or vial patreon.com/bionicplanet. Finally, be sure to give me a good, five-star review on whichever app you subscribe through, because the more reviews I get, the more ears I get, and the more ears I get, the more minds I can reach — and only by reaching hundreds of millions of minds will we fix this mess. We can do it, if we all work together.
That’s the Reverend Dr Gerald Durley closing out this episode of Bionic Planet, and if you stick around through the closing theme, you’ll get a bonus — the full, unedited audio of the speech he gave in San Francisco that got me hooked on this guy.
If you like what you hear on Bionic Planet, be sure share the love by giving me a good rating on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or wherever you access the show. You can also support me financially for as little as $1 per month by becoming a patron at bionic-planet.com. If enough of you do that, I can deliver more episodes — and maybe better produced episodes to boot — with a second set of ears and better editing and pacing.
And, finally, if you listen to audiobooks, you can support by visiting audibletrial.com/BionicPlanet for a free 30-day trial at Audible.com. The address again is audibletrial.com/bionicplanet. And that’s Bionic Planet with NO dots, dashes, or spaces… as opposed to my web site, which is bionic-planet.com.
That’s all for today. Until next time, I’m Steve Zwick in Chicago. Thanks for listening.
Still there? Good! Here’s your bonus content.