So Hot Right Now podcast looks to David Attenborough and Ellie Goulding in bid to make climate crisis more real for millions and push it up the media agenda
2 September 2020
Hosts Lucy Siegle and Tom Mustill talk to influential guests on climate
So Hot Right Now
12 episodes, all podcast providers
THE way that we communicate the climate crisis needs a rethink, from the language used in daily conversations to the frequency it makes front page headlines.
The So Hot Right Now podcast goes to the heart of the issue. Far from detailing climate science, species extinctions or innovative technical fixes, the show questions the status quo and shares refreshing insight from experts, campaigners and front-line presenters.
“We tend to focus on gaps in our climate science knowledge and there’s so much to learn, but what people are less alert to is this massive gap in coverage and that’s hampering our chances of mainstreaming these topics. We need more airtime, more screen time for climate and nature,” says co-host, journalist Lucy Siegle. “We’re pushing the agenda, uncovering the barriers and exploring why the gatekeepers are not opening the gates, but also speaking to some of our heroes and asking them ‘what should we do?’.”
Siegle and wildlife film-maker Tom Mustill interview A-list guests such as Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, UN climate negotiator Christiana Figueres and singer Ellie Goulding, who believes activism jeopardises her job. “I lose followers (on social media) every time I post about climate change. I lose at least a thousand followers,” says Goulding during a podcast. She continues to speak up regardless.
In the first episode, David Attenborough says he has no idea why Blue Planet II sparked such an extreme public reaction to plastic pollution when he had been “plugging away” at the issue for years. “Suddenly, there was an unprecedented response, possibly down to the scheduling or the mood of the nation. Audiences are very hard to predict,” he says.
Successful communication hinges on finding new avenues of storytelling that connect us to the natural world. As BBC Springwatch presenter Gillian Burke concludes in a later episode: “I’m really starting to play with the language, storytelling, identity and labels. If we’re looking at the climate crisis through the lens of an Aboriginal person in Australia, how will that story be different? Language for me is a gateway to revealing more about the way we see the world.”
Nuance exists in every word we use, suggests Siegle: “If language is too comfortable, it can minimise threat and the need for action, it can sometimes be downright dismissive or it can be too technical, forgetting that we respond to emotion, or it can be too emotional and not precise enough.” Or, as Mustill adds, “it can be really boring. Part of the aim of communication is surely to entertain. No one wants to be a climate bore.”
With a curious yet informal tone, some episodes last more than an hour and might work better as shorter, more finely tuned pieces. But there are no set rules and So Hot Right Now embraces the freedom to be experimental.
At times, the hosts seem starstruck (David Attenborough is thanked repeatedly for all he has done to inspire generations) but, generally, Siegle and Mustill enthusiastically arm listeners with a toolkit of useful strategies to articulate big ideas about climate and trigger more discussions.
Whether you are addressing world leaders about the environment, connecting with social media followers about the issue or arguing with relatives about it, So Hot Right Now is well worth a listen.
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