State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Sustain What Webcast Invites Student and Faculty Takeovers

screengrab of a webcast
A student-run Sustain What webcast explored “terror management theory” in the context of the pandemic, climate change and other sustainability challenges.

To elevate voices and ideas that might otherwise be missed, the Earth Institute’s Initiative on Communication and Sustainability is offering to host student- and/or faculty-run friendly takeovers” of the Sustain What webcast that we launched in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Update: Pitch a show using this form!]

The video webcast, run several times a week, has reached 400,000 viewers over 110 episodes so far, streaming live to the Earth Institute Facebook video feed, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitter (via Periscope). The overarching goal of the webcasts is to foster inclusive solution-focused discourse identifying paths to more sustainable and resilient human progress. 

We’ve examined everything from the “infodemic” around the pandemic and vaccine to the future of climate journalism. We hosted a “cli-fi” play looking at humanity’s efforts to improve on itself in our species’ final hours on an overheated planet. We’ve started a series on Difficult Conversations (around race, climate solutions and more to come). Every Sunday, we kick back a bit and focus on music, poetry and the other arts. Monday sessions are Thriving Online skill-building workshops. 

How to develop a ‘friendly takeover’

Below you can watch two examples that show what’s doable, and illustrate the impact. Students (in these instances a post-doc and Ph.D. candidates) shape the theme and invite experts (with assistance if needed). We set up the event (on StreamYard) and initiate the show. As host, I introduce the theme and then turn things over to the guest hosts and step back into the “green room.” The organizing team runs the discussion. I pop in on occasion and close things out. 

The impact? These webcasts are discoverable live, unlike Zoom events, with substantial potential viewership, especially on Twitter. They are immediately archived and shareable or embeddable after the event is over. 

They provide a great way for emerging scholars or established faculty to create an open discussion, worldwide where that makes sense, on tough issues. This can help shape research and scholarship and forge new collaborative networks.


Here are the two shows to watch to get the idea (both organized by members of the Economics for the Anthropocene Network):

A Post-Pandemic Economy that Values Makers & Caregivers

In this special Sustain What “friendly takeover,” ecological economics scholars Katie Kish, Katharine Zywert and Sophie Sanniti led a discussion exploring how revaluation of the care economy (teachers, parents, healthcare workers), coupled with a movement toward open-source and free knowledge, can create more resilient production chains and enhance long-term wellbeing — for both people and the planet.

Their guests were Michel Bauwens, the founder of the P2P Foundation (focused on the peer to peer, person to person economy); Susan Paulson, a professor at the University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies; and Bill Sutherland, founder of the Institute for Complexity and Connection Medicine.

Can “Terror Management Theory” Help Us Navigate the Pandemic?

Almost every aspect of human experience is shaped by “death anxiety,” a concept crystallized in recent decades by scholars and scientists exploring “Terror Management Theory” — none more so than Skidmore psychologist Sheldon Solomon.

Here emerging scholars Katie Kish and Norman Kearney looked at the pandemic experience in this context with Solomon, Anthropocene analyst Simon Dalby and the playwright Karen Malpede, whose recent works focus on personal and societal challenges facing extreme climatic and biological futures. Her latest play, “Other Than We,” was performed on a Sustain What webcastAlso on hand was Susanne Moser, who for decades has worked to build community and practitioner resilience in regions facing rapid climate change.

What comes next is up to you. Please contact us with ideas and questions via this survey.

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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