By Degrees is a multi-year reporting project from NHPR that will tell stories about climate change in New Hampshire - its challenges, solutions and connections to other forces shaping our lives today.
The project begins today. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with lead reporter Annie Ropeik, who covers energy, the environment and the Seacoast for NHPR, to learn more about the project's goals, what to expect this week and how listeners can contribute.
We want to know your questions and the kinds of stories you'd like to hear about climate change. You can share those ideas by filling out our quick survey.
Rick Ganley: On the website for the project, you describe it as beginning in kind of a historic moment. What do you mean by that?
Annie Ropeik: Well, I mean that we are in the middle of many more than one crisis right now. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, a generational reckoning on racial justice. It's a presidential election year, which can be hard to remember sometimes. And, you know, we're also in the middle of a historic economic downturn. So climate change is no longer the only crisis on the block. But it's also connected to all of these things, and that's sort of the story that we really have decided to focus on telling. You know, originally this was just a climate change project and now it's a lot more than that. And I think that's going to make it better and more compelling. At least we hope so.
Rick Ganley: What's something that you've learned about climate change in just, you know, the past few weeks as you've really gotten this project off the ground?
Annie Ropeik: Well, we've been trying to look at some of these new angles. So like the connections to environmental justice, racial justice, to economic issues, health, that kind of thing, that was always one of our goals. But the current situation has really pushed us to focus on those aspects of climate change a lot more.
So you're going to hear a story later this week about New Hampshire's high asthma rates and how that's connected to climate change pollution, how it relates to COVID-19 and marginalized communities. I've learned that indoor air quality and sort of the quality of our housing stock is actually a big driver of the kind of air people are breathing and how that affects their health. I sort of thought of this as an outdoor issue, maybe a heat wave kind of issue, but it turns out that our very old housing stock in this state also has something to do with that, which was new to me. So you can stay tuned for that story as part of our roll out this week.
Rick Ganley: What other kinds of stories are we going to hear?
Annie Ropeik: Well, we're going to get some about broad overviews of what climate change looks like in New Hampshire. As you said, that one's already up today. We're going to talk about climate change, and composting and waste. And we're going to talk about heat waves and sort of how COVID-19 is affecting people's access to cooling even as our cities get hotter.
Rick Ganley: You're asking for audience involvement on this, as we said at the top. What kinds of things are you hoping to hear from the audience?
Annie Ropeik: I'm hoping that people will bring us their questions. Like I want to know what people have always wanted to know about climate change in this state. I want to know what people wish we were talking about more as we report on climate change. And just in the responses to the survey we've gotten so far, I can tell that people really want to hear more about the connections to things like the economy and to racism.
And I think that people want to know about how climate change is affecting their own lives in maybe unexpected ways. Like we've heard about people's gardens or they want to know about invasive species. You know, they don't want to just hear the same stories that we've been telling, which are important ones about sea level rise and skiing. But they want to hear sort of the the less obvious effects, maybe the effects that are more unique to New Hampshire.
And they want to know what they can do, which is such a tricky question. And that's one we've been wanting to answer this whole time, is what can you do? What does it mean to take various actions? Like how do you tell what has an impact on climate change and what New Hampshire is doing and what our policymakers are doing, and how people can really advocate for change in new ways?
Rick Ganley: Yeah, we hear about this kind of, you know, overall academic look at it, this kind of global look at it. But I think people are really as you said, they really want to know what's happening in their own backyard and what you can actually do about it.
Annie Ropeik: That's right. Yeah. And I mean, we want to make sure that we don't over- or under-emphasize the value of individual action. You know, we know this is a global problem. It's not something any individual can solve by themselves. But I think we want to help people understand what that means and why they should not feel hopeless, but instead, really, at this moment, more than anything, should feel galvanized to take this challenge on.
Stay tuned for more stories from the project, and click here to tell us what you'd like to see from the project going forward.