This week, Dahlia and Amy are talking about climate change. Climate science consistently shows we must curb our greenhouse gas emissions ASAP in order to stop the exponential damage to the environment, which will most likely create global climate devastation by 2050. Though we can live more conscientiously, it’s also up to governmental bodies to set policies and regulations that can create larger change. The fight against climate change can feel hopeless, but at least we’re in this together. June is Pride month and in Amy vs. Dahlia, they discuss the worst co-opting of the celebration: Is it the upcoming Straight Pride parade or how brands are unabashedly performing allyship to sell you shit? Text “pride” to 503-855-6485 share your feelings!
Ava Duvernay’s Netflix series, When They See Us, is a powerful dramatization of the infamous ’80s case and trial against five young men of color. A must-watch to see how the judicial system was never meant to be fair to folks from marginalized communities.
How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell asks a vital question: When every second of our time is bought and sold as a commodity, could doing nothing be an important form of political resistance?
Sunny War’s track, “Shell,” is pared down and beautiful. Her latest full-length album, Shell of a Girl, comes out in August.
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Welcome to Backtalk. This is the feminist response to pop culture podcast. I’m Dahlia Balcazar.
AMY: And I’m Amy Lam.
DAHLIA: And we start every episode by sharing a pop culture moment. Amy, what’s yours this week?
AMY: My favorite pop culture moment this week is the NBA finals!!! But I really wanna shout out this finals because it’s the quasi-underdogs, the Toronto Raptors. And like the entire country of Canada has one team, and it’s the Toronto Raptors. And they’re going against like the mega-overdogs—I don’t really know [laughing] what else to call them—the Golden State Warriors, kind of like the super team that money built. And it’s also based in the city where you have a lot of lifelong diehard fans, but you also have a bunch of tech bros who are super fans. And so, it’s kind of easy to hate them. But to see that the Raptors are having a shot at the championships has been so thrilling and so exciting to watch. And the games are actually super fun to watch ‘cause I think that one of the things about watching a very, very good team is that they’re just so good, it kind of makes it not fun to watch, especially after they’ve won three championships, not in a row, but within the last four years.
And the other great thing about Toronto is that it’s really highlighting the NBA’s like favorite introvert, Kawhi Leonard. He’s kind of [laughing] a weirdo and kind of like a basketball robot, but he gets the job done. And I think people are kind of really enamored by his introverted-ness. So, it’s just been a really fun series to watch. And a lot of my Asian friends are also saying like, wow, this is also a time where Jeremy Lin is in the NBA Finals. And if Toronto wins, this’ll be the time that Jeremy Lin wins an NBA championship. So, this is just an amazing series so far. And Toronto Raptors at this moment in time that we’re recording, they’re up in the series three-one. They need to win one more game to win the championship. And I’m just crossing my fingers for that to happen. So, that is my favorite pop culture moment.
DAHLIA: I didn’t know until maybe like three weeks ago that the Toronto Raptors were in the NBA.
DAHLIA: And I just have to say I don’t understand why there can be one Canadian team in the league. I don’t understand! [Chuckles.] I don’t understand, Amy. And I just, every time, I don’t know. I’m happy for you that the Raptors are doing well. But I do not understand. And no offense to Toronto and Drake etc., but I just don’t, it just doesn’t seem right to me that there is one Canada team in the otherwise American National Basketball Association.
AMY: [Laughs.] You know, I actually think it’s ‘cause of money. I think that—
DAHLIA: Oh, yeah. Well, that makes sense. [Laughs.]
AMY: Yeah. I think it’s really about increasing market share. They have a “international team.” And if China were closer and they could put a team there, they would have already.
DAHLIA: Aw, you’re right. Aw, man.
AMY: Yeah. So, I think that it was the closest place to do it, and good on Toronto. Good on Canada.
AMY: I think that’s the other really great thing about it is that like they have an entire country rallying after them.
DAHLIA: Oh, that’s true.
AMY: And at this point, the Golden State Warriors have won so much that I think there are a lot of people that are just like, oh my gosh. Get over it. Let somebody else win for a change! So, it’s been super exciting to watch.
DAHLIA: You’ve won me over. Now I want the Raptors to win.
AMY: [Laughing.] Yes! Go Raptors.
My pop culture moment this week is a recommendation that I wanted to squeeze in at the beginning. I’ve been listening to the new podcast Anthem: Homunculus
. And oh my god. So much, so many good things to say about it. It is created by John Cameron Mitchell, who is the writer and director and star of the amazing—one of my all-time favorite Hedwig and the Angry Inch
. And I just grew up obsessed with that movie, and I saw it on Broadway two times. And I’m just like I’ve loved Hedwig and the Angry Inch
my whole life. And Anthem: Homunculus
is a podcast musical. And so, I’m really interested in—I read this very long article about how podcasting is the medium of the future.
DAHLIA: And it’s really interesting to see what kind of fictional projects are coming out as podcasts. And so, I had read years ago that John Cameron Mitchell was writing a sequel to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and I was like, oh my god! I’m so excited! And it turns out that Anthem: Homunculus is sort of an adaptation of what that material was. And John Cameron Mitchell, he’s calling it sort of an alternative autobiography or autofiction. So, it’s sort of like what if a character just like me grew up in the same place as me and basically is me, but then experienced this other situation, which in Anthem: Homunculus’s character does like a nonstop like GoFundMe live telethon fundraiser to get rid of a tumor. And that’s what the musical Anthem: Homunculus is about. And I’m just like so interested one, of course, like the biggest fan girl about John Cameron Mitchell. But also just really curious about what kinds of new experimental and just new forms podcasting will take. So, I’m super excited by it. And it’s on the new podcast network called Luminary.
AMY: I’m so glad you mentioned that because I actually don’t know anything about John Cameron Mitchell except that he plays the weirdo fucked up boss on Shrill.
DAHLIA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
AMY: Yes. ‘Cause that’s the first time, that’s my first time being exposed to him, and I was just like, who is this guy? [Laughing.] He’s playing this boss so well!
AMY: He’s playing this fucked up boss so good. So, then I Googled him, and I was like, oh! He is Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He’s so good in the Shrill role. I bet he must be amazing doing this other type of work. So, shout out to him, and this podcast sounds amazing.
[cutesy bells ring]
AMY: I don’t want to do this, but I’m going to have to mom guilt our listeners right now. [Laughs.] I’m very saddened to have noticed that we did not get any new ratings, I mean any new reviews. We did get some new ratings on our iTunes, but we didn’t get any new reviews. So, I don’t have any new reviews to read. So, if you do have a minute and you love us and you wanna show your support to us, please head over to iTunes and rate and review us. It helps to boost the podcast.
But what we did get is that when we do our Amy vs. Dahlia segment, we give you a number to text in to vote. And you could also text into leave comments for us, and we read those religiously as well. And we got a really great comment about our last episode that when we were talking about the rights fight to ban abortion, and somebody, a listener, had texted us and wanted to let us know that they thanked us for using trans-inclusive language in the discussions surrounding abortion in the last podcasts. They said that, “I’m a ciswoman, and I’m learning to better check my biases in the vocabulary I use, especially around horrific and triggering topics like these abortion bans. Thank you.” I know that’s kind of very self-congratulatory for us. [Chuckles.] We’re really patting themselves on the back. But I think that comments like that help us to know that the language that we use and how we talk about specific topics has a specific type of impact that we wanted to have.
And so, thank you so much for sharing that and for noticing that even when we’re talking about a topic that I think we’ve historically linked to being a women’s reproductive rights issue, but we have to think more inclusively. And by doing that, we were talking about abortions and how it affects people with uteruses. And I think that was a very intentional thing that I think Dahlia and I did when we were discussing this, and we didn’t wanna call it out per se during the episode. But we’re so glad that a listener noticed because it’s a way that we can speak about our bodies and be inclusive of everybody. So, please keep letting us know what you think. And if you have questions or comments like that, we love hearing them, and we really value the support. So, thank you so much. And head over to iTunes and let us know in the ratings and review section!
[cutesy bells ring]
DAHLIA: In our last episode, Amy and I complained about how we were moving across the country. And I think we’re both now a little bit more settled but not fully settled. I’m recording Backtalk now from my new closet studio where my cat is swiping at my hands and feet from underneath my door.
DAHLIA: We were arguing about—It’s funny. You know, Amy and I, we’re both sort of glass half empty kind of people. But one of us had an uplifting look at moving, and one of us had a downlifting look.
DAHLIA: So, Amy and I were arguing about what is the worst part of moving. Obviously, it’s packing, so we couldn’t argue about that. But the second and third worst parts of moving, Amy thinks it’s sort of reckoning with the fact that you’re never gonna be in that place again, and you’re never gonna experience the feelings you felt in that place, and where do your memories go when you leave that place? Are they even real? And my take on the worst part of moving is reckoning with all of the horrible decisions that you have made, such as decorating and cleaning, in your old place and sort of having to look at it with your fresh new eyes, with your fresh new sad eyes as you’re moving.
And I can’t believe it, but I won! The worst part of moving, turns out, is realizing that you should’ve cleaned your fridge approximately 10 times instead of none times as you’re getting ready to move.
AMY: [Laughs.] Congrats! Very, very much congrats.
DAHLIA: Thank you.
AMY: Yes. And actually, I wanted to read some of these super hilarious comments that we got. And interestingly enough, when we were speaking about Canada and speaking about security deposits and cleaning up, a listener let us know that in Quebec, deposits are illegal. So, most often, people will leave the apartment really dirty, and when they moved into their—So, this is the issue, I think, with the texting though. It says, “So, when I moved into my current apartment, the shower was filled.” And then the texts cut off, so I don’t know what the shower was filled with, and I need to know. If that listener will [laughs] will like text us again, or they can leave a review and let us know [laughing] what the shower was filled with!
DAHLIA: No matter what, right? Just what an ominous sentence: the shower was filled with.
AMY: Yeah, I know! So, I would love to know what these non-security deposit apartments show you once you move in. That was an amazing comment. And we got another comment from somebody who talked about how they had to move into a tiny post-divorce studio apartment with their mini Schnauzer who has stress issues. And while they were there, the dog ripped a little hole [laughing] in the carpet. But before this person moved out, they were able to patch this hole. So, I wanted to give them a shout-out for their DIY ingenuity. Good job, and especially good job on getting you to your security deposit back.
AMY: And one of my favorite comments is somebody said, “Moving out of my apartment of two years and realizing I own three blenders and have never made a single frozen margarita here.” [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: I saw that too. That’s so funny. That’s me too. I’ve definitely owned two blenders before.
AMY: Yeah! [Laughs.] So, I was like, wow, this really speaks to Dahlia’s conundrum—
AMY: —of like, why did I buy this three times no less?
DAHLIA: Oh, man.
AMY: Thank you guys so much for leaving those comments, yeah.
DAHLIA: Thank you so much. It’s so funny.
Our next argument is topical. It’s June, and so it’s Pride month. And all over, there are really incredible celebrations of Pride, really cool events and community gatherings and parades and celebrations. But Amy and I are gonna argue about what is the worst kind of co-opting of Pride? And I’m gonna start. I’ve just moved to Boston, and I was not in Boston on the day of the Pride parade. But I came back a few days later, and I just saw rainbow flags everywhere. And I was like, oh, dang. Boston seems cool. This is cool. And then Amy let me know that Boston is not being very cool. [Laughs.]
So, there is a group called—oh my god. This is such, it’s just such trolling behavior—there’s a group called Super Happy Fun America. And they are in the process of getting permits to have a Straight Pride parade in the city of Boston. I know that they’re total trolls because the group has said the parade, “Advocate on behalf of the straight community.” And the group has just named Milo Yiannopoulos the parade’s grand marshal and mascot. And! Milo said like, “Can’t wait to be there. This is the event of the season.” So, it’s just like troll city in Boston, and it’s such a big deal that Boston’s mayor just tweeted about it and was like—I mean like in the nicest way he could, he was like, this is terrible, but we can’t deny them a permit.
So, I think one of the like, so many bad ways that pride can be co-opted, but I think that this is just like this kind of straight—and I would presume sort of white because of Milo Yiannopoulos—this straight white kind of I don’t know just like trolling, meanspirited, cruel-hearted co-opting for no reason other than to be jerks, right? This is just to be jerks. And it supposedly is gonna be happening later this month in Boston. I guess since I live here now, I’ll follow up and let you know what actually happens. But ugh. Like ugh! Just everything, every word about it, it’s like, ugh, the group Super Happy Fun America. Thinking about Milo Yiannopoulos being the grand marshal of a parade where I live now: it’s just all awful. And so, that’s my submission for what’s the worst co-opting of Pride this year. It’s the Straight Pride parade in Boston.
AMY: Wow. How offensive. [Laughs.] And also, I’m confused because Milo’s not even American.
DAHLIA: Well, nor is he straight but I guess he loves to troll, so.
AMY: [Laughs.] Well, but that just speaks to how they don’t even have their mission correct, you know what I mean.
DAHLIA: Right. They don’t even care. They just wanna fuck with people, right?
AMY: Yeah, exactly. While I do agree that the Straight Pride parade is complete and utter bullshit, my argument is that the worse co-optation of Pride is how corporations are just slapping rainbows on everything to sell things. So, essentially, the worst co-optation of Pride is capitalism.
And how you have all these corporations making rainbow things, but essentially profiting from a community but never contributing to it. Especially some corporations that have historically been outright hostile to the LGBTQ community. Like, an example I can think of is Victoria’s Secret
, who had once said that they would never have trans models do their very infamous or famous runway show. And now they’re like making tweets about like, ooh, we support our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ+ community. But yet you know, a tweet doesn’t cost anything. Why don’t you guys put your money where your mouth is and show us this fat check that you wrote to you know an organization that supports trans women of color or something? So, I think that that’s one of the most heinous things about Pride is that I understand that when corporations slap rainbows on shit, it’s sort of like showing a Pride allyship or to make it so that Pride is seen more readily and to maybe normalize it more.
But I mean I think it really highlights how Pride is limited to sort of this just one month. And this is a critique of I think a lot of different celebrations of months, like Black History Month or AAPI Month is that we get the one month. Whereas “normalized” like heteronormative culture is a year-round thing. And to think that corporations have realized that LGBTQ people also have money and they also love spending it and they also have rainbow shit. It’s just disingenuous. You know, they just slap these rainbow things on their products to make us buy them. But the profits that they make off of a lot of these things that they sell do not come back to the communities that that they’re purporting to support.
So, I think that these corporations need to step up and actually put their money where their mouths are. And then at the end of June, just show us those gigantic, humongous checks [laughs] to show that you can actually take to banks. Show us the organizations that you’re donating your profits to, and let us know that you’re really ride or die for these people who are marginalized and who still continue to need support because homophobia is not a thing of the past. Like they have Pride for this month, but it’s still I think that as a whole, culturally. Lots of folks still need to be educated about what it means to be supportive and be like a really true, good ally. And I’m just tired of seeing rainbow shit everywhere without the follow through and without the real support for folks in our community. So, that’s my argument that corporations slapping rainbow shit [laughs] everywhere is the worst part about the co-optation of Pride.
DAHLIA: You are doing such a good job making your case, Amy, that I was about to chime in with like, “Yes! And further…” and just like keep agreeing with you. But this is not the main segment. This is the one where we are against each other.
DAHLIA: So, I’m not gonna help you with more evidence. But I am so curious to hear what our audience thinks not just about these two co-optations of Pride, but if you’ve seen any others. And I’m sure they’re gonna be going on all month. So, if you would text the word “pride” to us. Our phone number is 503-855-6485. You’ll be prompted to vote and then also to share more of your thoughts. And we can’t wait to hear.
[cutesy bells ring]
It’s summer, and for lots of people, that means summer travel. But a recent New York Times
piece has been working to sort of put what travel means in context for climate change
. Something that climate scientists now know is that far travel, especially air travel, is a huge factor in climate change. And here’s a really, really chilling statistic: The New York Times
says that one passenger’s share of emissions on a 2,500-mile flight melts 32 square feet of Arctic summer ice cover. So, like one passenger, one flight: 32 square feet of ice. And that is such a shocking figure. I can’t…like…. Right? Baffling. And this New York Times
piece was really working really hard to sort of think about, to frame it as like, this is your impact. Your trip, your impact.
But I think something that’s really interesting about this particular article and also something that I have been thinking about a lot in conversations about climate change now, but also thinking about sort of like how recycling and environmental awareness and Earth Day and things like that have been framed for decades: which is there’s always this big emphasis on individual responsibility and the impact that one person can make if they turn off the water earlier when they’re brushing their teeth, and they take out their recycling. And of course, Amy and I think that individual responsibility, individual action is huge when you care about an issue, but something that I think is constantly obscured when we’re talking about not just climate change but environmental awareness and environmental action is the big difference between the effect that one individual can have versus a corporation and the damage that corporations do at intense levels without any large-scale accountability or especially sort of public accountability.
AMY: And I think that that’s [sighs]. I think that’s why the discussions around climate change and the rapid degradation of the environment feels so complicated. Because there’s a level of like how do we talk about our personal responsibility and how we’re contributing to greenhouse gas offsets or our carbon footprint and how we’re contributing to this massive crisis that’s happening, but we’re not treating it like a crisis? And then also thinking about how there are huge corporations who pollute exponentially more than we do on an individual basis, but how do we rein that in?
And I think a lot of it has to do with like yes, we can, as people on an individual basis, we can do things lessen our impact on the earth. And I think that every little bit does help. I don’t think it’s really helpful to be like, “Well, you know, we’re all gonna die in like 40 years. So, let me just drive my car everywhere for no reason and just go on long rides just to see the parts of the earth I’ll never see again,” without thinking twice about it. I think that we can lessen our impact on an individual basis by doing little things: by recycling, by eating more of a plant-based diet, or just being more conscientious of how our daily sort of routine impacts our lives in the future. But I also think that like of course, on a governmental level, there’s a responsibility that politicians and governments can make to force corporations to adhere to more strict guidelines about their greenhouse gas offsets.
And I think one of the most troubling things about the Trump administration, which is saying a lot because there’s hella troubling things about this administration, but one of them is that he has made it so that he’s rolled back on a lot of climate laws that prevent the further degradation of nature, essentially. He’s rolled a lot of the laws back so that corporations can continue to pollute or do things without regulation as much. And not only has he done that, but he’s also installed two men who used to be a former coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, who’s the new head of the EPA. There’s also a former oil lobbyist who’s the Secretary of Interior, David Bernhardt. And these are two men who don’t give a fuck about climate change!
Andrew Wheeler in particular, he’s given press conferences where he’s just like, well, the media needs to back off in being you know, over-sensationalizing how climate change is really impacting the earth. Like, you guys are overreacting, essentially, and he said that. He said so much as that. And I think that when our U.S. government is purposefully not putting in policies that will regulate industries so that they don’t put off exponential amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, that impact is not only being felt by us now. Like we are actually in the climate crisis at the moment, but I am really scared to see the impact of it in a couple more decades. And I think that when we often talk about our personal responsibility, we also talk about bigger responsibility of corporations. But I think that we need to also hold our politicians accountable to what kind of policies that they let slide or what kind of policies that they enact so that we can protect the environment so that we can live here for more than another like 60 years or something.
DAHLIA: I’ve been thinking a lot that there is this sort of double-pronged attack from the Trump administration. And it’s at the same time as you’re saying, Amy, all of these regulations are being thrown in the trash and we’re backing away from making progress on fighting climate change, at the same time, the Republican sort of ethos for decades has been like, oh, the government doesn’t know what it’s doing. Big government is the problem. Government is the problem. Government doesn’t solve problems; they make them. And that mindset, I think, I mean one, is like should not be the case. Government is here to serve us. And anyone who is like, oh—Beware someone in the government telling you that government is bad. Because they have ulterior motives. But it’s like at once they’re saying, oh, the government can’t fix anything. It’s the people that have to do it. Like who cares about the government? And at the same time, they’re using their own power to roll back all of these things that were put in place for a reason.
Trump loves to say stuff like, oh, we’re getting rid of all of these regulations. Isn’t it great we’re getting rid of regulations? And it’s just like…. It’s really hard to wrap my mind around it even right now as I’m talking about it, but it’s at once saying we, the government have so much power that we know, like we don’t need this regulation. We don’t need that regulation. Except what they mean is we could make more money if we got rid of this and we got rid of that. But then at the same time, sort of undermining the government’s own power by saying actually, the government sucks, and they never did anything good for you.
I think it puts further pressure on this confusion about individual versus corporate versus government responsibility because as long as the government keeps saying we don’t need this regulation, and government doesn’t do shit for you anyway, so why do you care, the more emphasis there’s going to be on individuals to solve climate change. Which is not possible. We need the cooperation of governments as well. And I think that just keeps putting roadblocks in the way of making progress on talking about—We can’t even talk about issues like climate change with this government that will ultimately just turn around and say, “What do you care? The government can’t fix anything anyway.”
AMY: And also this government, I mean this administration, kind of don’t…they publicly, outward-facingly [sic] don’t believe in climate change, in effect. There’s a recent quote from Donald Trump where he says, “I believe that there is a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways.” [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: Oh! Oh, right.
AMY: So, that’s how he interprets climate change. He’s like being obtuse his ignorance. I actually don’t believe that the conservative folks or Republicans don’t believe climate change is happening. I just think that they don’t care that it’s happening because they are trying to protect the profits of corporations that make money by damaging the environment. And the thing about Andrew Wheeler is that I think that when he talks about the environment, there is that thing where it’s just like oh, what can the government possibly do? And I think he’s taking a step back from what the government could possibly do, and he’s blaming the media for misrepresenting what’s going on with the environment. Like there’s a quote where he says, “The media does a disservice to the public by not informing the public of the progress this nation has made. The public needs to know how far we’ve come as a nation protecting the environment.” So, now he’s reframing it as like, you guys, it isn’t that the government isn’t doing its job. It’s actually that the media is not portraying it correctly.
DAHLIA: [Laughs.] Oof.
AMY: You know? I mean I think this administration is so masterful in the way a gaslights its audience i.e., us, like the American citizenry. And it’s breathtaking in this really fucked up way, not because we have no air to breathe, but [laughs] it’s so fucked up. Because the United States of America is a very powerful country, and we actually have a lot of good science about how bad things are going. But the administration is being purposefully obtuse about it because it just wants to protect profits of corporations and not do anything about it. And we can do our individual things to make ourselves feel better in a way and to alleviate the stress about what our futures could look like, but when the government who is in charge of policies— ‘Cause we actually need the government to put policies in place to make huge changes, like broad sweeping, general, gigantic changes in order to stop the degradation of what’s happening. But they’re not. Instead, they’re blaming the media for misrepresenting how much “progress we’ve made,” when in fact, the science about climate change has never sort of skewed at all.
It’s always been this: it’s always been, if we don’t do these things by this set amount time—and the time is now and time was like yesterday, the time was three years ago—these are the type of climate change catastrophes we will see in the future decades. The scientists continually and steadfastly said that without pause or without sort of any vague sidetracks. It’s always said that. But the current administration doesn’t want to talk about that. I think they really just wanna protect industries that profit off of how the earth is going to implode on itself. And it’s so disheartening because we can do most that we can do on our own, but we need bigger, huger sweeping legislation to force bigger corporations to do huge change in the way that they run their business models so that they’re not fucking up the earth and increasing climate change so drastically.
To that end, maybe in the past week or so you saw an article floating around, or just a shocking headline, about how probably the world will be ending in 2050
. And the story behind that is that the breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration in Australia issued a report in the last few weeks that said that earth’s climate could irreversibly pass a tipping point in 2050. And if we hit that climate point, that’s gonna bring about disease pandemics and lethal heatwaves. I wanna really recommend in if you want to learn more. But it’s such a horrible but good book!
I wanna really recommend the book The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells
. I think it’s really eye-opening about how it’s not just that the climate is going to be different. It’s like, oh, when this happens, when we reach this point, crops cannot grow. When we reach this point, we’re gonna have a heat wave of 100 days in this country, in this country, in this country. And it just really clearly and devastatingly shows that it’s a domino effect. That we’re not looking at climate change happens, and then we deal with it. It’s like it will be a series, a series of unfortunate events that are kicked off by the tipping point, by reaching levels that we cannot recover from.
But something that I was thinking about, Amy, while you were talking last is that there’s so much mind fuckery and gaslighting in this conversation because ultimately, I mean it just feels…maddening to be saying we’re actually talking about how we are going to save this earth, the planet, or not. And so many Republicans and conservative politicians don’t care about it. And I think, Amy, you’re totally right, your point being that it’s not that politicians don’t believe it. It’s that they don’t care. And I think so much of that is really wrapped up in conservative Christian ideology.
This is a bit of an old documentary, but there’s a movie called Jesus Camp that I think really opened my eyes to a lot of evangelical Christian ideology. And I just feel like when you have politicians whose ideology is that the world will end and that that is good, that it is good that the earth will end because we will all—or you know, those of us who are not sinners-will inherit the kingdom of Heaven, and who cares about planet earth, I mean if that’s actually your ideology, which it is, purportedly for many of these politicians, frankly, I’m not surprised that they’re like, yeah, let earth burn. Because that’s literally their ideology, is one day the earth will blow up, and that will be good because that is what was prophesized.
AMY: Wow. [Laughs.] I mean ‘cause then that’s a very defeatist attitude right?
AMY: So, yeah. And so, then how do you move forward with that? You don’t. You just let things do as they are, and then you let corporations continue to profit as they are, and you live as comfortably as you can now. Because like we were talking about in our last episode when it comes to access to abortions, if abortions were to be banned, it really does most heavily impact marginalized people who don’t have money to access them. ‘Cause the banning of abortions does not necessarily keep abortions from happening for people who can afford it and who can seek out access to it ‘cause they have money. And so, in this situation, it’s like the people who are profiting off of it can live comfortably for now. And when the climate catastrophes begin to happen in decades to come, they can be insulated by their money ‘cause I think their wealth can buy them some semblance of comfort for a moment before [laughing] we all implode. Which makes me really sad. I am laughing out of discomfort.
AMY: But I think that one of the hopeful things that we can look toward in a way is young people. And we do wanna highlight somebody who’s working to fight this, is this teenager. Her name is Greta Thunberg. She is from Sweden. And she started off a movement that she called Fridays for Future where she went on a school strike. So, every Friday, she would not go to school, and she would hang out, I’m not sure exactly where, but I think in front of some government building.
DAHLIA: Outside of Swedish parliament.
AMY: Yes. Outside of the Parliament with the sign saying that she was striking to help improve the environment. And so, she’s become like this sort of person to symbolize how in a way, it’s really up to the youth. And I saw this really moving thing that she keeps repeating about how she actually doesn’t want adults to feel hopeful about the future because of youth, like what I’m doing right now.
AMY: She actually wants adults to be fucking scared as fuck. She wants us to be immobilized by fear in a way, because without this fear, we won’t be driven to create serious and real change. And I actually think that that’s the correct way of thinking, for her, because people her age and younger are the ones who will have to really inherit this, will have to inherit this catastrophe. And I think people, young people like her are really thinking like ,what earth are you leaving for me for when I’m your age? And I think that’s a really hard question to grapple with if you truly understood the science or believed in the science and want to create change based on the science. And I think Greta is asking really hard questions and asking us to really think about like what is the legacy that we’re leaving for kids, these people who will have to grow up under these circumstances?
DAHLIA: And to your point earlier about those seeking abortion care, we already know that once climate— I mean climate change is already affecting people in devastating fashion. But as it continues to do so, it’s going to affect impoverished people and people of color. And it’s gonna create a huge refugee crisis problem that people who are wealthy are going to be able to insulate themselves from. And I think thinking a lot about Greta, and I mean her work has been so incredible. So far, over a million people from all over the world took part in her most recent Friday for the Future school strike.
So, it’s so, it is really inspiring and really exciting to see the movement that is starting with the young people, but also I think, thinking about what she said about how we should be fucking terrified, I think that, speaking of myself and maybe people around our age, I think that because, I feel like we grew up because people were talking about things like recycling, because people were talking about things like clean water, because environmental topics were in the discourse, I think I grew up assuming that the government was doing the right thing for us, you know. That if air travel causes pollutants, then they’re working to make that better. I just assumed that there were these regulations in place, that the government, that corporations were all on the same page about this is Mother Earth, and we should take care of it. And I think as I am getting older and also seeing actually there’s no reason to assume that the government is watching out for you at all, I think people like Greta are coming to that realization maybe much faster than people in our generation. And maybe that’s because the effects are so much more obvious now. But I think it’s really powerful and I mean exciting in a good way that so many young people are saying, you know, taking the blinders off and being like, no. Just because you’re talking about it doesn’t mean that we’re solving the problem and doesn’t mean that there’s gonna be a just world for us to inherit.
AMY: And isn’t it kind of shitty that we’re putting the onus [laughing] on younger people to feel energized to create this change? And I mean the thing is that I do remember being a child and thinking like, what the fuck is happening? Like we need to recycle. We need to bike more. We need to not be in cars as much, especially as somebody who grew up in Southern California in the L.A. area. And I remember it like you’re saying. I remember thinking that. I remember in school we used have smog days, where the air was so bad that we weren’t allowed to play outside for recess. And I don’t know if the L.A., like schools in Los Angeles still have smog days, but I don’t think they did because there were regulations about car emissions, and cars were required to limit the amount type of emissions that they can make. And so, I don’t think schools have smog days as much as we did when we were kids.
And like in that book that you had mentioned, Dahlia, The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells, I heard a talk that he did where he said that the majority of the greenhouse gas emissions that are in the air now that are contributing to climate change had actually occurred in the last 30 or so years. And it was during this time that we were growing up and being taught that we were to be good stewards, good citizens, and that we can help make the environment better. But in fact, we were living in a time where, because of technology and access and availability to vehicles or different types of things, we were actually contributing to more of the greenhouse gas emissions. Which is really disheartening ‘cause I think that we were young and being taught that we can help make the environment better, when in fact, we were also buying into the comforts of life and how I think those comforts had contributed to climate change.
And I think one of the things that I hear over and over again about what’s happening now with climate change is that we’re actually in the beginning of a climate change crisis. It’s actually happening now. And when we were talking about who gets to be comfortable during this crisis, I think that for many of us who are living in the developed world, those of us who are living in North America for instance, we are benefiting from, I think, the luxuries of being here. Because I think right now with climate change, it’s disproportionately affecting the global South. They’re having a lot of natural disasters that are just completely destroying people’s homes and livelihoods, but we’re just not seeing that much about it because we’re living in developed countries. And we oftentimes don’t want to face the impact that climate change and global warming is having on them, which is really disheartening. So, I think that we really have to confront, in a way, our privileges and what it means to live in a developed nation where we can stave off the effects of climate change that are actually happening right now. I mean but we are seeing it to an effect.
You know, there were the wildfires in California. The wild amounts of tornadoes are happening in the Midwest and in the South. Really, I was totally floored by the fluctuations in temperatures in the Midwest that you know, going to being totally comfortable t-shirt weather one day, and the next day there was like a foot of snowfall. I mean these things are happening in the U.S. now, but we’re able to stave it off. And then I think there’s also this amount of complacency of like, oh, this is just how it’s always been, or like this is just a little bit different than it was the year before. But I think that we’re not really coming to terms to the effect of climate change because we have comforts that we can insulate ourselves with.
So, [laughs] I guess this is all to say that we need to really confront this, and we also can’t leave the onus of changing the environment to younger people. We have to give them something worthy to inherit. We can’t give them this horrible crisis to inherit. We have to make it so that they have an actual home to inherit in a way that they can live their futures out without being climate refugees. Which is the most frightening thing I could possibly think of right now.
[cutesy bells ring]
DAHLIA: At the end of every episode, we rave about something we’re watching, reading, and listening to. Amy, what are you watching?
AMY: I am watching Ava DuVernay’s Netflix series When They See Us. It is about the Central Park Five, which is an infamous 1989 case where five teenagers—Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, and Korey Wise—all of whom were just kids; they were like 14 to 16 years old, and they were all wrongly convicted of rape, and for some of them, attempted murder of a white woman, Tricia Mellie, in Central Park. So, the case is infamous for many reasons, the least of which is that during the trial of this case for these kids, Donald fucking Trump spent like tens of thousands of dollars to buy out a full-page ad in New York Times to advocate for bringing back the death penalty for these fucking children.
I mean it…it boggles my mind how much of a piece of shit he’s been forever.
AMY: But essentially, these teenagers, they were coerced into giving false confessions. And according to the show, When They See Us, they were coerced mainly because of the city prosecutor at the time, Linda Fairstein, pushed for it. She’s being played by Felicity Huffman, who’s doing a really great job at portraying this awful white woman. But in the show, it really highlights how there were obvious racist undertones to how this case was being prosecuted because the woman who was attacked was white, and the teenagers were Black and Latino. And watching this show was actually really gut wrenching because you’re watching actual children being accused of something and then being coerced into confessing something that they had no part in. And it just really goes to highlight injustice and how fucked up it was. And it kind of connects to, even though it was many, many decades ago, how little has changed in the criminal justice system.
But one of the amazing things about the show and its impact is that because of the new light about Linda Fairstein, the prosecutor, and her career and what she did on this case, she has been forced to resign from some foundation boards that she was on. She was also dropped by her publisher
. Because she’s built a career on writing about crime, if you can believe it. So, if anybody ever talks to you about like well, what’s the impact of pop culture? What kind of impact could it possibly have? That’s an impact. We’re revisiting this case and revisiting how Fairstein did a really terrible job and unfairly prosecuted these kids and now finally, decades later, her life is being impacted by what a horrible person she was and maybe still is. So, I definitely suggest watching When They See Us
. It is on Netflix. It is really uncomfortable and kind of hard to watch sometimes because we’re seeing literal children being pushed to confess to crimes that they didn’t commit, but I think it’s worth watching because it’s a part of our history.
DAHLIA: Yeah, I’ve been really eager to watch that since it was announced years ago. So, I haven’t seen it. Yet I’m really excited to.
I have been reading the book How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
. I really feel like this is a perfect book for the Backtalk
audience. It’s a nonfiction book, and it asks the question, in this world where work protections are sort of being demolished and every moment of our time is being given to algorithms, or we have the pressure to make ourselves productive in some way, whether that’s through social media or through other kinds of work output, the book asks the question, what does it look like to do nothing? And in a world where our time is a product that we are sort of inadvertently buying and selling, if we in fact, do choose to do nothing in this extreme late-capitalist world, is that kind of political rebellion? Is it a political action to meaningfully find ways to resist the Attention Economy and do nothing? And I’m fascinated by this question. I think Jenny Odell’s sort of the larger thesis answer to that question is the way that we can lead more meaningful lives away from the attention economy is forming real relationships with real people and our real environments, outside of producing content for Twitter and Instagram. And oh man, this is just so much my jam. I think it’s really like sometimes you find a book that it’s like the right moment to read it. I really feel like this is the right moment for me. And yeah, I just feel like it’s full of, wildly full of potential about how to think about our time and our lives and all of the apps that we use. So, it’s called How To Do Nothing
by Jenny Odell.
AMY: I’ve also heard of this book, and I need to read it ‘cause I think I need to learn from it.
AMY: ‘Cause I am one of those people that’s just like, oh, I have a free half a second. Let me open my phone and open a random app. And I distinctly remember a time where my life was not like this, and I want to return to it ‘cause I remember feeling very good about my life then. [Laughs.]
DAHLIA: Yeah. Actually, I’ve been thinking about this anecdote reading this book—anyway, I’m gonna share it—which is that I remember when I got my first cell phone, and I remember that it happened when I turned 13. And my parents got it for me, and they were like, “Here, Dahlia. This is a cell phone. You have to answer it every time we call you so we can always know where you are.” And I was like, a device that makes my parents always know where I am? No thank you! I don’t need that one bit! And I’m starting to feel that way again about cell phones. [Laughs.]
AMY: Yes! Ugh! Okay. I need to learn lessons and rewire my brain, honestly. Oh my gosh. Okay. That was such a good recommendation. Thank you so much for that.
AMY: I have the listen pick, and it is Sunny War’s track called “Shell.” This is from her latest album, Shell of a Girl, that is coming out on Hen House Studios. It comes out in August, so be on the lookout for it in a couple months. But I really love this track. It is so simple. It is moving, and it’s gorgeous. It’s kind of like a song about what it means to sort of be a shell of yourself at one time. And it’s such a moving song about kind of a depressing topic, but I think Sunny War’s work is just so invigorating in a way. So, please check out this track. It’s called “Shell.”
Thanks for listening.
DAHLIA: Thanks for listening.
♪ “Before you break your girl to shreds/
Be sure you really want her dead….” ♪
DAHLIA: Thanks for listening to Backtalk. This show is produced by Cher Vincent. Bitch Media is a reader- and listener-supported feminist nonprofit. If you wanna support the show and our work, please head over to bitchmedia.org and donate.
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