Tonight we’re talking about Adapting and Thriving in a time of climate change and environmental degradation.

In the first segment of the show, will be on the phone with Melanie Lenart, who is a scientist at the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment and author of a new book called Life in the Hothouse: How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change. She’ll talk about some of the ways in which mother nature adjusts to changing conditions, some of the things that happen on the planet as temperatures rise and rainfall increases. She thinks the planet has its own set of adaptation mechanisms, but she also calls on the planets inhabitants to do their share in slowing down the destruction of the planet.

 Then we’ll talk with Andres Edwards who is a green building and sustainability consultant about some of the sustainability initiatives around the world.  His book is called Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society.

Both Melanie Lenart and Andres Edwards are realistic  optimists, telling us some of the ways we can take the current planetary crisis and make it the starting point for some needed and necessary changes in human behavior.

Our Conversation with Melanie Lenart

Melanie Lenart  is an environmental scientist and writer as well as an adjunct professor at the University of Arizona. She has a doctorate in Natural Resources and Global Change from the University of Arizona and works with UA’s Institute of the Environment.  She is interested in understanding how the planet responds to climate change, and that’s the topic of her new book: Life in the Hothouse: How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change

  • You open your book with a story of sitting in an Ohio café on a day with 100% humidity—and then it rains.  Perhaps you could retell that story as an illustration of what your book is about.
  • The book is centered in something called “Gaia theory.”  Who is this “Gaia,” and what is the theory? 
    • How does Gaia differ from more traditional mechanistic views of the planet?
    • But you also are a dedicated science and use observations of changes in ice cover, sea level, temperature, and precipitation to consider what this means for global vegetation, especially forests and wetlands. How do you merge the two?
    • Between the physics and Gaia theory, can we get accurate predictions about what the future  holds? 
  • Let’s touch on one or several of the phenomena you describe in the book to see what your research indicates may be taking place:
    • hurricanes
    • greenhouse gas increases
    • the ocean depths/polar icecaps
    • forests and wetlands
  • Let’s turn to we the people.  You write a cautiously optimistic but carefully qualified statement about human futures: “[W]e’re not necessarily holding a one-way ticket to hellish heat.”  (2)
    • Does Gaia “care” whether there are people on the planet or whether they are doing well or badly?
    • “How can we help, instead of hinder, efforts by our planet and its natural systems to control climate and support life?” (191)
  • We’d be interested in your response to a question we’ve asked a number of guests on this show: If there is to be change in human behavior, will it come about through:
    • mandates and laws?
    • incentives to cut down on excess?
    • free market economics?
    • humans’ natural desire to do the right thing?
    • last-gasp desperation?
  • In closing, please tell us anything else you’d like our listeners to know or think about.

 The book is Life in the Hothouse: How a Living Planet Survives Climate Change, and it’s published by the University of Arizona Press.  You can also read more about Melanie and her work at her website: .

Our Discussion with Andres Edwards

With us on the phone now is Andrés Edwards, author of a new book titled, Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society. He is an educator, entrepreneur, and author, and he is interested in helping communities develop vigorous and sustainable patterns of living.  

  • You are a person of many interests and talents.  Please start by telling us something of what you do.  And, perhaps, some background: How did you become interested in these topics and educated in them?
  • The central thesis of your book, suggested in the subtitle, is that it’s not enough for humans to become sustainable; we have the potential to thrive in a changed world.  Given our gloomy times, that is an incredibly ambitious goal.  What reasons do you have for optimism?
  • We were interested that you begin the book by looking to ancient and contemporary societies that have managed to thrive under extremely difficult conditions, e.g., Tibetan nomads, the Balinese, the Inuit people, the Kogi of Africa.  What can we learn from these people?
  • What is the SPIRALS framework? How does it work in practice?  (Initiatives that are scalable, place-making,. intergeneratiional, resilient,accessible, life affirming, and involving self care.)
  • Please describe one or several specific projects that you think illustrate the achievement and potential of the SPIRALS model. Here are two that are especially relevant to our listeners:
    • Transitions. We have a Transitions project here in Chico. Could you tell us a little about what is happening with Transitions on a national and global scale?
    • Climate Action Plans. We also have an active Sustainability Task Force in Chico that is preparing a climate action plan.  Please tell us about your observations on this movement worldwide.
    • [In the Foreword to your book, Bill McKibben expresses his unhappiness with the Copenhagen Climate Change conference, and we’ve done several shows on this topic.  Do you see any reason to feel optimistic about global governments as well as the US of A and their willingness to reduce emissions levels?]
    • Greening the economy.  A lot of people (and we’re among them) would like to believe that sustainable commerce can also be green, or that, to be crass, you can make an honest buck or a million by greening up the world.  Is this a sound premise?  (What about greenwashing?)
    • You do a lot of work in “regenerative design.”  Please tell us how that works and give us an example or two.
    • What are “tipping points.”  Where do they come from and what is their effect?  Do you think that humanity is smart enough or ethical enough to create a sustainability tipping point for itself, rather than, say being driven to the edge of the cliff?
    • What else would you like our listeners to know or think about?


The book is Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society.   It’s published by New Society Publishers, and includes a number of action lists for groups and individuals as well as an extensive bibliography of sustainability organizations. You can also learn more by visiting his web site:

1.  Nature's Way        2:40        Spirit       
2.  Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus        Death Of Mother Nature Suite (Album Version)        7:54        Kansas        Kansas       
3.  Seed        6:25        Afro Celt Sound System        Seed       
4.  Save the Water        3:36        Stan Breckenridge        Reflections       
5.  Weave Me the Sunshine        4:28        Peter, Paul And Mary        The Very Best of 
Peter, Paul and Mary       
6.  Garden Song        5:34        MaMuse        All The Way
7.  Trophic Cascade        4:12        Ronn Fryer       
8.  Endangered Animals (Environmental