Welcome to The Phoenix

We are in a climate emergency.

I’ve said these words over and over and over and over again for years now, my mantra as a climate scientist whose patience has run out.

Now, I’m ready to take the next step.

The long-predicted fires and floods have quickly given way to the hardening of borders and an ever-slipping grasp on our ability to imagine life as we know it going on for very much longer. Here in late 2020, if you squint, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the revolution on the horizon.

After centuries of systemic racism and colonialism and extractive capitalism, our world is at a turning point. We have not done this to ourselves, we have been driven here by the actions of the greediest men who have ever lived, dropped here with a burning planet and a warped psyche longing for a world that no longer exists. What we need isn’t more stories about apocalypse; what we need is justice.

The old world isn’t coming back, and if we’re going to build a better world that works for everyone, WE are the ones who are going to have to do that work, together. We were born at exactly the right time to change everything.

This newsletter is about radical change

Today, I’m launching The Phoenix, a new publication devoted to revolutionary change in the climate emergency.

Here at The Phoenix, I’m focused most closely on humanizing this planetary emergency: being transparent about the challenges we’re facing and the complex emotions we’re all feeling, and being honest about what we need to do to radically transform our society.

But let me be clear about one thing: I’m not here just to talk. I’m here to create change.

I chose the name The Phoenix because the world is on fire, and we’ve got to build a new one from the ashes.

I created The Phoenix because I was tired of being told I was too much of an activist to be a “good” journalist or a “good” scientist. I was tired of being met with skepticism for wanting to live out the recommendations of the IPCC to create “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” I was tired of tweeting so damn much because I didn’t know how else to tell urgent stories that needed to be told.

I finally realized the best way I was going to publish the work that needs to be done in the time we have left was to do it myself. With Substack’s help, The Phoenix is now a reality. (Thanks, Substack!)

This is the place where I'll share with you stories from frontline communities and voices from the most affected people and places enduring the climate emergency.

This is the place where I’ll report on the science of our rapidly changing planet, translating it into knowledge we can use to build power for revolutionary change.

This is the place where we’ll create space for each other to process the shared trauma and grief and joy and elation that comes along with doing this world-building work.

This is the place where we’ll help teach each other about what’s happening in this transformative moment, and how we can be a part of it.

Because we need to see what we’re fighting for, not just what we’re fighting against.

The Phoenix has been in the works for long time.

In fact, this is the publication I’ve been waiting for my whole life for. I hope you have too.

As a scientist-turned-journalist-turned-revolutionary, The Phoenix wouldn’t have been possible without the winding path I took to get here.

I learned how to write about the weather when I was at the Wall Street Journal, covering Hurricane Sandy. I learned how to write takes when I was at Slate. I learned how to prioritize justice when I was at Grist. I learned how to think transnationally when I was at The Correspondent. In my book The Future Earth I practiced telling stories about what’s possible once we change everything. At The Phoenix, I’ll be doing all of this and more.

At The Phoenix, I’ll focus on quality and getting the story right, not on keeping up with the news cycle. I’ll focus on telling the stories that are being missed by the big news organizations still being funded with ad money from the fossil fuel industry. I’ll give a platform to people who are building the world that needs to exist. Together, we’ll be showing each other that a better world is possible, not just saying it.

My goals at The Phoenix are simple:

  • Capture the narrative of the climate movement and shift climate storytelling away from inevitable apocalypse towards the possibility of a better world; towards catastrophic success not catastrophic failure.

  • Build and share visions of irresistible justice that put people at the center and advocate for anti-racism, anti-capitalism, anti-fascism – and uphold the truth that we are all integral parts of the same living planet.

  • Share resources and contacts and strategies and dreams with like-minded people working for revolutionary change.

I’ll be writing about two or three times a week, and publishing a mix of short-form and long-form stories. I’ll be covering weather and climate disasters all over the world before other journalists get to the story and long after they leave. I’ll write deeply engaging profiles. I’ll be obsessed with telling stories about transformational change in all aspects of society. My question to folks I interview will be: What kind of world are you working for?

The Phoenix will be free for everyone for the first three months, and at least one story per week will always be free. If you’re doing OK right now, I invite you to become a Founding Member or give a gift subscription – the extra money will be used to support free memberships for others and help grow our community more quickly.

I am convinced that the next few years will be among the most important in all of human history – transcendent, even – because they simply must be.

I’ll use this space to ask you for help. I’ll share my reflections and reporting in a deeply personal and imperfect way. We’ll cry together. It’ll be great.

I’m not perfect; no one is. I’m a millennial white guy, an American, a settler on Anishinaabe land, a single dad of two boys. I’m a scientist, a writer, a really bad gardener. There’s a lot I have to learn. I’ve got a lot of work to do. Perfect is not what we’re going for here.

What we need is for you, for everyone, to show up to this critical moment in human history with everything we’ve got. The world needs you, but even more importantly, we need each other.

I can’t wait to see what we can do together.