Episode for October 24, 2023
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What with climate change accelerating and US politics falling apart, it’s pretty grim out there. Yet alongside these doom loops, somewhat anomalously, something good is happening: the transition away from fossil fuels to clean, carbon-free energy is underway, and it is accelerating every day.
That transition has become an enormous, sprawling meta-story. It spans the entire economy, from heavy industry to tech to retail. It’s unfolding on every level of government, from local zoning boards to the federal government to international treaties. It involves technology, politics, policy, psychology, even philosophy. It’s a lot to track.
At Volts, I track it. I follow the news, read the trade publications and research reports, talk to the engineers and policy staffers, and think hard about the larger political and social context. Rather than the broad-and-shallow view offered by most publications, I sift through the flotsam for what matters and then go deep on it. The goal is not quantity of information but quality of understanding.
I have been reading, writing, and thinking pretty intensely about this subject matter for over 15 years now. Most recently, from 2015 to 2020, I was with Vox, a news and culture publication for which I still occasionally write. Before that, I was with Grist, a publication focused on environmental news, where I was hired in 2004.
Over those 15+ years I’ve written for other publications (like Outside) and appeared on a variety of TV shows, radio programs, and podcasts, like All In with Chris Hayes and On the Media and Pod Save America and Why Is This Happening? I’ve been quoted or cited by all kinds of fancy-pants people, from Al Gore to several US senators to pundits like Michelle Goldberg and Paul Krugman and Jon Favreau and Tom Friedman to media analysts like Margaret Sullivan and Jay Rosen to climate writers like Elizabeth Kolbert and Bill McKibben and David Wallace-Wells.
As for my pre-professional life, here it is in one paragraph: I grew up in a small town in Tennessee, went to a small liberal arts college in another small town in Tennessee, and then, when I graduated, lit out west. I spent a while in Montana getting an MA in Philosophy (with a minor in snowboarding), then went to work on a PhD at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton (three hours north of Calgary, which is three hours north of the border). Edmonton was too cold and academic philosophy was too bleak, so in 1999 I bailed and lit out to Seattle. After a period of professional drift but personal joy (including a wife and a child), I stumbled into the Grist job by sheer luck in 2004. (I happened to see it the first time I ever visited Craigslist.) Been writing ever since.
Now I live in Seattle with my wife, two teens, two dogs, and two cats.