Category Archives: Blog

POTUS and Climate Change: Four Steps Forward, One Step Back, but Still Missing a KEY Step

Barack Obama is about to leave on a historic journey that could affect Americans for generations to come – he’ll become the first sitting American President to visit the Arctic to observe Alaska’s rapidly melting glaciers. This trip, coming on the heels of Obama’s historic clean energy plan is groundbreaking. Also poignant as it will coincide with the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which signaled the arrival of climate change on U.S. shores— whether Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants the president to talk about it in New Orleans or not.

On August 13th, our Commander-in-Chief took time out from his vacation to announce the Arctic trip, declaring, “What’s happening in Alaska isn’t just a preview of what will happen to the rest of us if we don’t take action. It’s our wake-up call — the alarm bells are ringing. And as long as I’m President, America will lead the world to meet this threat before it’s too late.”

The Obama administration’s Council on Environmental Quality even hosted a panel discussion on August 20th about what’s being done on college campuses to educate youth about the climate crisis. This is a step in a very positive direction. However the president can’t get an “A” in my book until his administration does something to address the eco-education gap among adults.

This week President Obama addressed the Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. He sounded like a true advocate in declaring, “Solar isn’t just for the green crowd anymore—it’s for the green eyeshade crowd, too!” in praising recent cost reductions for renewable energy.

However, Obama’s decision, announced last week, to grant Shell Oil the rights to drill in the Arctic seemed to fly in the face of his earlier news and left climate activists scratching their heads. Is the Obama administration trying to pull a fast one —a Shell game— or what? That’s not yet clear, and the timing is particularly puzzling since his drilling decision so closely precedes the fact-finding, glacier-gazing trip to Alaska.

Given the latest data showing Greenland’s glaciers melting at a dizzying rate of three feet per hour, this journey comes none too soon. Not to mention that July was the hottest month EVER recorded and 2015 is set to melt records.

Yet the green light given to Shell, especially after the oil giant botched its first attempts to drill in the pristine region, seems oddly timed. What is clear is it’s too soon to uncork the champagne in celebration. Better keep it on ice until after Obama sees the melting icebergs, drills down, and connects some more green dots.

I put some bubbly in the fridge to chill after the President’s August 3rd Clean Power Plan announcement. Comments like “…no challenge poses a greater threat to our future and future generations than a changing climate,” “There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change,” and “We only get one home, one planet,” and “There’s no plan B” showed that Obama understands the importance of this crisis, and also its immediacy.

What rocked my world most about Obama’s announcement was that CNN carried it live. Millions around the country and world got the full impact in real time – similar to the Pope’s pivotal encyclical on climate change. Getting the mainstream news to report on growing threats from a changing climate and other eco-existential challenges is paramount. It’s been a commitment of mine for more than a decade to bring this to fruition.

As a former CBS Radio reporter and anchor who left breaking news to cover our breaking planet and emerging eco-evolution as an independent radio host/producer, I can attest to the fact that there is zero programming on any commercial broadcast network – radio OR television – that covers these critical environmental changes.

I call this astonishing media void the “glaring green gap” and have been trying to fill it for more than a decade. After producing and hosting more than 2,500 shows on the former Air America network (left of center) between 2004-2007 and later independently on the internet, archived at and, I have experienced first hand how much there is to learn and report on, both in terms of challenges…and solutions.

There are at least “50 Shades of Green” both in range of topics (from garbage to GMO’s to global warming) and “E”-list guests. Eco-leaders like Al Gore, Robert Kennedy Jr., Van Jones, climate scientists including Dr. Jim Hansen and Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, writers Francis Moore Lappe and Elizabeth Kolbert, and Senators John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Bernie Sanders have all been interviewed on my programs, but they represent just a tip of the melting iceberg when it comes to credible and compelling voices for our embattled environment. Passionate experts on these topics must be heard by the masses in order to broaden our understanding, widen the conversation and prompt restorative action.

It’s worth noting that not one of the questioners or candidates in the August 6 Fox News Channel “prime-time” GOP presidential debate mentioned the climate crisis, energy or the environment, other than Jeb Bush taking a jab at opponents to the Keystone pipeline. And just ahead of the President’s visit to New Orleans Thursday Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal warned against linking Katrina to climate change.

Keep in mind that Jeb Bush’s low-lying State of Florida is predicted to be the first U.S. casualty of rising sea levels. No one who watched the debate heard any discussion about the need to scale back our carbon emissions to 350 parts per million.

Just imagine how many millions would get a critical education and quick wake-up call on our shared eco-reality if the TLC network replaced its cancelled hit reality show “19 Kids and Counting” with a program called “400 Parts Per Million and Rising.” Now that might get America to wake up and smell the carbon!

After all the Accolades Some Inconvenient, Inexplicable and Inexcusable Truths Still Remain

Al Gore’s pivotal film, An Inconvenient Truth (AIT), put climate change on the world map, and got many Americans thinking, and talking, about this worsening existential threat. There has been real progress with much of it coming in late 2015, including President Obama’s executive actions, Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si and the pivotal Paris Agreement. Last week’s tributes to Gore and the film’s producers were welcome and deserved. Some of us who had been concerned, and communicating about global warming for years prior, thought AIT would change everything. It didn’t.
A decade later there remain glaring gaps that are key to wider public acceptance and much needed mass action. What’s still missing comprises a long list, but at the top I put a lack of credible information and inspiration, programming aimed at the general public coming from mainstream news outlets, both broadcast and cable, and on the television and radio networks. There’s a sustainability revolution underway but you’d never know it if you just get your news from the networks only. It’s far bigger than the information or tech revolution for this one will determine our collective fate.
While world leaders, government agencies, insurance companies and corporate America have begun to take the threat(s) seriously, national news outlets are still (with a few exceptions) ignoring the biggest story of our time—what’s happening to nature, our life support system—at our own hands. Inexplicably, none of the news networks are offering any programming to educate the public, nor providing a national forum for discussing solutions about what citizens and communities can do to have a positive impact. News executives do not see this as their responsibility and assume few care enough to tune in. They also don’t know what they don’t know.
I believe they are wrong on both counts but trying to convince program executives of that, let alone get a meeting, has been a frustrating focus of mine, going back even before Gore’s film came out. In fact his was among the networks we pitched when he and Joel Hyatt owned Current TV! Gore was on my radio show when An Inconvenient Truth debuted and I’ve been trained by him, as part of his Climate Reality Project, so he knows that I’m qualified. Gore turning down a ready-to-go show on climate change while lambasting mainstream media for ignoring the issue was a little more than inconvenient – I have filed that one under “Inexplicable”.
In an anniversary interview last month Gore repeated his still apt line about how weather reports are starting to sound like The Book of Revelations. And it’s only getting worse. Last week southeastern Texas experienced its second “1 in 500 year flood” with nine lives lost. At last report fires were still burning in Canada’s tar sands territory and India melted a new high temperature record of 124 degrees Fahrenheit. Parts of Sri Lanka were under 8 feet of water and nearly 25-million Americans were in the path of severe storms carrying Wizard of Oz-like “monster tornados” touching down in Kansas and Nebraska. Weather conditions in Minneapolis were so severe that crowds at Beyonce’s concert had to evacuate the stadium. As Dorothy might say if she dropped in today, “Tornados, fires, and floods, Oh My”!
News anchors, reporters and weather people are, for the most part neglecting to connect the dots, even if only tentatively. So the public remains indifferent and the beat goes on. As well as the heat. As I write this hundreds of residents in the north of L.A. community of Calabasas are being evacuated as a 200 acre fire spreads in near 100 degree weather
Also missing in action is any meaningful discussion about the climate crisis during yet another presidential cycle. In the primary debate season moderators failed to ask substantive questions about the candidates’ plans to tackle climate change. When they did throw in a fleeting mention, there was no grilling of dismissive Republicans who dare still call it “a hoax,” including the apparent nominee, Donald Trump, who is by his own accounts “not a great believer.” That, while Trump petitions to build a seawall to protect his latest acquisition, a golf course in Ireland. Thanks to Bernie Sanders—who has long been a climate champion in the Senate—the topic has at least been raised, prompting Hillary Clinton to mention her clean energy plans more often on the campaign trail and to come out against the Keystone XL project. Continuing the climate silence giving short shrift to a phenomenon that is already altering life on earth, as we’ve known it, for yet another election cycle, is truly inexcusable.
As another climate champion in the Senate, Sheldon Whitehouse, said in a recent Time to Wake Up Senate speech, “We are sleepwalking through history as carbon piles up in the atmosphere…sitting on our hands acting helpless.” I would add that we are acting like clueless zombies and our culture is complicit in making that okay.
The persistent sad fact is that there is no government or media entity offering citizens and communities advice on how to reduce emissions and help reverse other troubling eco-trends. Of course there is plenty of information on the worldwide web and available through membership in environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and NRDC. But that requires becoming a member or actively seeking out material, which primarily is done by the already eco-aware. Why not make the best thinking on the part of experts more widely available and easily accessible? Given the scope and urgency of these multiple and overlapping crises, it is inexplicable that we are not seeing more mainstream programming focused on exploring the issues, discussing options for what’s needed to scale up.
What are we waiting for, all of Greenland to melt? Until it IS too late to stop runaway climate destruction? Or until—perish the thought—we have a climate “disbeliever” in the White House, someone who likely has the heaviest per capita eco-footprint in the world with all of his buildings, boats, golf courses and planes? Not to mention hot air.

Happy Earth Day America – Time to Get Off Our Gasses!


As I write this on the eve of the 46th anniversary of the first Earth Day, held on April 22nd, 1970, a “500 year flood” in Houston has already destroyed 1,000 homes and taken at least eight lives. In the television video of people wading through waist deep water appearing in the same moment to be both grateful to be alive and stunned by the devastation surrounding them, I’m reminded of scenes from a film I saw last night about the effects of climate change around the world, including victims from Hurricane Sandy. And yet here it is again, playing out like some slow motion disaster movie. Once again, it appears the homes destroyed were primarily those inhabited by the less fortunate, perhaps in structures built long ago or lacking adequate maintenance.

Even as I’m flying home to San Francisco from a week in New York, watching CNN, the coverage of election news and Texas flooding has been bumped, due to the sudden death of Prince. Of course “breaking news” always “trumps” everything else, and perhaps as it should be. But already into hour four of Prince coverage and the human toll in Texas has been sidelined. And tomorrow is Earth Day. Yet if past years are any indication there will be little, if token, coverage on this one day of the year when Americans are supposed to pay attention to our environment, at least in theory.

Being among the climate obsessed, the plight of our imperiled planet is never far from my mind. In fact I saw two excellent shows on the topic of global warming, now called by most, more accurately, climate change, this past week.

First the Rap Guide to Climate Chaos with the brilliant BaBa Brinkman. The fast talking rapper was on stage for 90 rousing, riffing minutes on the biggest existential challenge of our time. Like Al Gore ten years prior, Brinkman uses slides showing devastation and scary scientific graphs to back up his words with urgency and frightening poignancy.

But Brinkman, who happens to be Canadian, does not leave his audience depressed, at least not anymore so then what’s appropriate. He devotes at least the last third of his emotional roller coaster of a show to the solutions side, the what can we do about it part, though he even has some fun poking fun at himself jetting around the world to perform his one man show about what our gasses are doing to the climate.

And I myself am on a spanking new Virgin Airways jet spewing emissions as people movers always do, so we’re all clearly part of this system whether we like it or not.

Never mind that I was in New York pitching a few news networks, including CNN, on the concept of a dedicated program focused on our environmental challenges and solutions, with a heavy focus on the urgent climate crisis. Maybe a little “guilt offset” if not a carbon offset for my cross-country travels.

But back to Brinkman, who devoted 15 minutes to audience Q and A with an expert called onstage to answer inquiries, on that evening it was a science professor from nearby Columbia University. If you’re in the NYC area this Earth Day weekend I urge you to see it!

Then last night, exactly ten years after attending a screening of An Inconvenient Truth with Al Gore doing Q and A after that pivotal film, I watched an equally well- done movie about the impacts of climate change, this time with Josh Fox. The director of Gasland and Gasland 2, which famously depicted water catching fire as it came out of faucet in fracking country, where Josh grew up. He, along with actor “fractivist” Mark Ruffalo, have helped put the controversial gas extraction process on the map.

After the screening Fox, flanked by his production team on stage, took questions from the audience. In his responses he explained that the Gasland films inevitably pointed to the need to take on the larger climate crisis and so his intrepid crew and camera set out on a voyage to “hot spots” around the world.

He doesn’t just share the devastation; from strip mining to oil spills in the Amazon rainforest, to gas mask wearing children in smog choked Beijing whose residents monitor daily pollution levels and plan their daily activity around it, like we check the weather.

In fact there’s a parallel theme reflected in the film’s title – How To Let Go of the World and Love What Climate Can’t Change – of how a warming world is also a potential unifying force, a common enemy community builder unlike any other. He takes us to villages where there is no electricity and shows what the introduction of solar lamps can do for students who can further their education by being able to study in evening hours. He takes us to Zambia where villagers have neither running water nor electricity. And to the sinking island of Vanuatu whose inhabitants feel “rich” because the 100,000-plus acres they live on provides everything they need to stay alive. But they also show how the natives need each other to survive and how — whether step dancing in unison or sharing tribal stories with wisdom passed down through generations – they have a deep sense of place, tradition and belonging, coincidentally the same qualities lacking in many modern cultures, like ours, where–despite all of our stuff– many Americans feel empty, alienated and lacking purpose.

To his credit Fox does not glorify a more austere past or more primitive cultures, but rather juxtaposes the atmospheric fallout from “developed nations” with the cultures who have “developed their spiritual sides,” but still often the very same people most adversely affected by destructive storms and rising seas.

The movie uses music as a thread throughout, opening with Fox dancing in his living room over a fracking victory and concluding with a gorgeous original song with poignant visuals of two young girls doing ballet on the beach where their Long Island community was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The girls, who became close friends after their families met by helping each other in the chaotic aftermath of the killer storm, were present at the screening, adding an extra note of poignancy.

In the beginning of the film climate activist and author Bill McKibben is among the experts interviewed by Fox. They are having a conversation in a Capitol Hill food court with more lights blazing than a Vegas casino. Before finishing they’re asked to leave by a security guard who declares the eating area closed (so why are there enough lights burning overhead to heat the room?) McKibben looks into the camera and dramatically utters words I’ve heard him say before but bare repeating; “we are living on a changed planet,” an Earth so different that McKibben named his 2010 book Eaarth, deliberately misspelled to reflect a new home with an unknown future.

An hour into my flight we learned, via sky TV and CNN, that Prince had died suddenly this morning. When we landed in San Francisco the coverage was still wall to wall Prince and likely will be tonight and throughout much of tomorrow, Earth Day. No slight against Prince, who clearly was a gifted musical genius, and it’s always shocking when someone dies “young,” but in the end how many people does that development, sad as it may be, truly impact? Five hours into the non-stop coverage Prince is still dead and more than 1,000 lives have been forever changed in Houston. And the rain continues to fall in Texas (but no it’s not Purple).

And the planet formerly known as Earth continues to die a little more each day whether or not CNN– and the other big news outlets– cover it, connect the dots, or even consider offering dedicated coverage on what we’re going to do about this crisis.

So I ask where I began this essay, isn’t it time that we begin to get off our gasses?

Or at least start a national conversation on a major news network about how we’re going to do that? There will always be “breaking news” that bumps a breaking climate we need dedicated programming, “appointment TV” as they call it in the biz, where you can tune in at a certain time, preferably daily, and get all your questions and concerns about our planetary pickle(s) addressed by experts in their field who are not only knowledgeable, but passionate and gifted communicators.

And if you don’t have any questions or concerns about our changing environment, how it’s affecting humans, animals and nature–and what we can do about it–then you haven’t been paying attention. And if, as a society, we continue to focus on the sensational rather than the scientific, well then perhaps we deserve what’s coming. Because we have a choice and the television news networks have a choice. To be responsible adults and face our challenges or turn away and “face the music.”

Of course we will miss Prince’s unique brand of music, and activism, but his legacy will live on with his songs and wide influence. Friday is Earth Day and we should spend at least a few minutes pondering the ecological legacy we are leaving our children. And consider letting your favorite TV networks know you’d like them to include news about our breaking planet in the daily mix, including ideas for a fix.

The Climate March Will Break Records But Will It Encourage More Environmental Media Coverage?

As someone who has spent too many years trying to break through what I call “The Green Ceiling” in mainstream media — a steadfast wall of refusal on the part of programming executives to dedicate regular airtime to the then-emerging (and now fully arrived) environmental crises, I am committed to putting that question to a final test next week in New York.

It’s time to disrupt the media status quo on climate silence, connect the green weather dots and invite the rest of America to join the conversation about what we’re going to do to save this embattled habitat of ours, our life support system that makes life — and a life worth living — possible. 

There’s a green buzz in the air, literally, all around me. I’m writing this on a flight from San Francisco to New York City a few days ahead of the People’s Climate March, and already I’ve recognized several familiar faces from home and overheard two conversations by attendees. I’m sure there are other marchers on board as well. Tens of thousands of climate activists are streaming into the Big Apple to make their presence felt and pre-rally activities are already under way. It occurs to me that on this flight, perhaps for the first time, I may not be the only passenger to keep her Styrofoam coffee cup for reuse later. Oh joy!

Sunday’s weather forecast is calling for an unseasonably warm 82 degrees, and that may even be a high for a September 21st. Appropriate given the cause — Mother Nature may be on our side after all! Recall the sweltering late-June day in D.C. last year when President Obama gave his strongest speech yet on the climate crisis. As he repeatedly mopped his dripping brow, the prospect of a globally warmed world did not seem far off at all.

It will be exhilarating to march for climate action with fellow advocates in the city I more commonly associate with Broadway shows and a glut of great gluten-heavy restaurants —including our old family favorite, Carnegie Deli. But that was in the good ‘ole days when we gleefully ate pastrami, and (rye) bread. Now we can enjoy the New York pickles and spicy mustard but hold everything else! Even the world’s best bagels, which we still can’t get in California, are verboten now. Oy vey.

But I digress…it won’t be food or fashion on my mind for this visit to the suddenly Greener Apple. Instead, it’ll be fuel, and what the burning of fossil fuels is doing to our atmosphere. With CO2 levels now topping 400 ppm, we are careening toward a new climate era that has already given us some scary sneak previews.

The People’s Climate March and the UN Climate Summit come two years after Superstorm Sandy brought mayhem to Manhattan and environs. Between that landscape-altering storm and today, record-breaking tornados, wildfires, flash flooding and the California drought have brought about what scientists say is “a new normal.” But while everyone is talking about the extreme weather, what are we doing about it?

That of course is what this rally is all about. Timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate meeting, and to make our presence, and impatience — felt, concerned citizens from across the country are convening to pressure U.N. conveners to take strong and decisive actions, the glaring lack of which turned Hopenhagen into Nopenhagen in Denmark two years ago.

There are an estimated 1,400 environmental, social and economic justice groups of all green shades and stripes, each providing a square of the patchwork quilt that, stitched together, will help us to sew…or see…our way out of this critical mess.

Before, during and after Sunday’s rally, green gurus, groups and groupies will be buzzing around town painting signs, participating in meetings, attending lectures and hopefully raising a ruckus to be seen and heard from Wall Street to Washington Heights. My highest hope is that we’ll also be recognized in Manhattan’s Midtown area, where the nation’s broadcast and cable networks are based.

We’re past the point where major TV and radio stations would dare to overlook the hard-to-miss mass of humanity in their midst. Even with the most conservative attendance estimates, this historic event will be difficult to ignore. I hope I’m wrong, but if past coverage is any indication, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, and to a lesser degree, MSNBC, will do VO (voice-over) and B-roll (videotape) on the mega-rally, not in-depth interviews. However this time could be different, simply due to the sheer volume — both in numbers and decibel levels — of this movement-making march.

The big networks may well feel obligated to do more, which I predict will be an interview with the King of Climate Change, Al Gore, the newest eco-celebrity and “fractivist” Mark Ruffalo, (I mean that in a GOOD way—Ruffalo “rocks”!) and the movement’s most thoughtful and understated rabble rouser, Bill McKibben.

CNN also employs the dashing Philippe Cousteau for occasional ocean and climate segments, so I expect he’ll offer insightful commentary. In fact, the Cousteau clan seems to be filled with intelligent, camera-ready commentators, complete with the kind of name recognition that programmers believe is appealing to mainstream audiences (nothing wrong with that approach, but I know for a fact there are MANY more of that articulate green ilk, having interviewed hundreds of passionate environmental experts, activists and eco-innovators over the past decade).

What I am advocating for — and I welcome more eco-collaborators! — is at least one of the major television and/or radio networks to launch a green-themed talk show that highlights the avalanche of environmental changes afoot both in terms of challenges and solutions — already underway.

Given the current media landscape — with hundreds of networks if you include cable TV and satellite radio, and thousands of programs available (many of questionable, if not laughable, merit) — the continuing fact that there is NO dedicated programming on our “eco-evolution” anywhere on commercial outlets is appalling, and should not be allowed to continue. (Shout out here to Living On Earth, NPR’s long-running stalwart show on sustainability.

I love it, and listen every week, but the Americans who most need to have their eco-literacy levels raised are not the ones tuning in). But what it will take, and what I’ll be knocking on big lettered doors (CNN, CNN Headline News, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC) hoping to pitch, is a lively, empowering informative and inspirational interview format program that addresses the mountain of interconnected eco-crises and what leaders across the green front lines are saying and doing to turn the Mother ship around.

Because if not now, when? Programmers, and to a large extent the public, don’t know what they don’t know. If we can engage a critical mass of citizens outside the choir — before the compounding damage to climate, oceans, forests, species and everything else under our power generating sun, is beyond the point of no return — than we’ll really have something to celebrate next Earth Day, the 45th anniversary of the moment Americans first tuned into their environment en masse.

So wish me luck and stay tuned. If we can get more Americans to join the conversation about a brighter green future, then we will ALL benefit, especially our children and theirs. When you stop to think about it, how can we afford NOT to make this happen? As Bill McKibben said on my program a decade ago, in the end it’s a question we each have to answer ourselves: “How DO we love our kids, country and planet?” Now stop reading, put down your laptop, and come march with us into the next chapter of America’s energy future.

What You Can Do to Honor Robin Williams’ Life and Legacy

The death of Robin Williams one month ago hit close to home. I can see his bayside neighborhood from my back deck in Marin, the county where America’s most beloved funnyman grew up, showed up, lived, loved and died. He is still being mourned, the power lines brought down by the giant media trucks are still being repaired, and his shuttered house a sad reminder of what happened inside. But happier memories are still being shared now that the shock is subsiding, somewhat.

Like many local residents, I had my own encounters with the man I first experienced as Mork on our family’s TV set in the ‘70s.

I first met Robin Williams on the set of a film my newborn daughter was in as a baby extra. While Nine Months (1995) was not one of William’s major acting roles, it was a big deal when my girlfriend — also a new mother — and I bumped into him in the elevator during a filming break. I still have the photo of him dressed in doctor’s scrubs holding my Jenna as if she were his own. Years later, when we met again at a fundraiser, I jokingly showed him the picture and asked why he had never written or called. My infant daughter is smiling brightly, “almost a laugh” as she peers up at Robin adoringly.

Living in the same area as Williams and serendipitously having my only child in one of his movies before she was a month old is not really why his suicide touched a familiar nerve or two. Three members of my own family died by suicide, and my father died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease, which the world now knows Williams had also been battling, along with depression.

Twenty years ago, in a house less than a mile from Williams’ residence, my first husband took his life. Forty years ago my mother — beautiful, beloved and with a genius level IQ — took her life. And 20 years prior, the grandmother I am named after but never got to meet, took her life in a hospital room in New York City.

What they all had in common was each suffered from at least one illness that was chronic but not necessarily terminal, combined with biochemical depression. The combination can be deadly.
In my late husband’s case, he had been suffering from the ravaging effects of Multiple Myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, that disfigures by eating away at the marrow and creating brittle bones. Mark was 49 years young.

Jane, the woman who gave me life, had battled Colitis and Ileitis for years before the physical pain associated with simply eating food combined with inherited depression made the suffering unbearable. While she had many happy years raising three kids and being the life of the party, her dark days eventually grew more frequent and debilitating. She was unfortunate enough to have hit her low point just a few years before Prozac was invented, and was given Valium which didn’t help. Jane was only 40 when we lost her which left a gaping hole in my heart, family and life, a traumatic loss that continues to have ripple effects even to this day.

Bertha, my maternal grandmother and namesake, had suffered from Rheumatic Fever which caused heart damage, eventually requiring surgery. But back in the mid-‘50s they reportedly didn’t know about post-operative depression, especially with cardiac cases. She hung herself with hospital bed sheets leaving behind a heartbroken husband and two teenagers.

In March, 2001 my handsome and hilarious father, Jerry, died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease. His was not a suicide, but the circumstances were equally tragic, as he had undergone a fetal tissue transplant to ward off the early symptoms of Parkinson’s. A brain hemorrhage within 24 hours of the experimental surgery left him unable to walk, talk, eat or ever make us laugh again. While Jerry was no Robin Williams, he WAS the funniest guy in our family and his social circles. His dry sense of humor and perfect timing made for showstopping toasts at both my weddings. One of his lines was so clever he made it into the San Francisco Chronicle‘s infamous Herb Caen column.

Six months after we lost our dear Dad, on September 11th we as Americans lost our complacency and sense of safety, along with some 3,000 souls, to terrorism. And my family narrowly missed having another loss that day. If it hadn’t been for an impromptu call and invite from a former girlfriend the night before, my stepson Jon could have died on that beautiful Manhattan morning. He was scheduled to attend a conference at Windows on the World in the North Tower but drank too much the night before and slept through his alarm. Instead Jon was awakened by the sound of a plane crashing into the building from his apartment on nearby Hudson St. Life can be tenuous, death can be random and miracles can happen.

One of my miracles was second husband Alan appearing in my life soon after I became a widow at age 37. And just in time to have the daughter I’d yearned for in part to recreate the bond with my own mother. The baby girl who made her “stage debut” in Nine Months is now a sophomore at NYU.

After becoming a mother I grew weary of my career in radio news covering breaking stories and was increasingly frustrated with what got covered and what didn’t merit attention. I wanted to use my voice and skills to reach the public with content that was more relevant, and less fleeting, than the news du jour. So I “recycled” my career, transitioning from reporter and anchor for CBS Radio to radio-activist, using my broadcast platform and microphone to raise eco-awareness.

Beginning on Earth Day 1997, with “Trash Talk” minutes on KCBS offering tips on how to reduce, reuse and recycle, my waste prevention focus eventually widened from garbage — and all that’s going into our landfills — to global warming and what’s coming out of our tailpipes. My green features went from local radio to a national, hour-long show on the short-lived liberal network, Air America. Heard in more than 40 progressive radio markets, EcoTalk became the first green-themed program to air nationwide on a daily basis. After Air America went bankrupt I moved my show to the internet, continuing to interview sustainability leaders and eco-innovators across the green front lines.

What does all this have to do with Robin Williams? Despite all the publicity around his stunning death — and especially here in Marin County, where so many stories about encounters with this sweet and generous man persist — I’ve yet to hear of one that mentions his concern for our environment.

Many locals know Robin and his wife were big supporters of the arts, education and numerous children’s causes, but little has been said publicly about his interest in climate change. I was at two environmental fundraisers where Robin Williams either performed or emceed. Friends of the Earth was one of the venues. One year he showed up at their annual fundraiser in San Francisco with his buddy, Chevy Chase. Attendees got more than their money’s worth from this national treasure.

And treasuring what we have before it — or they — are gone is my point. Not only for this piece but in our lives. We’ve all heard, said, or perhaps sung the expression, “we don’t know what we’ve got till its gone,” from Joni Mitchell’s 1970 song Big Yellow Taxi. So true and yet so difficult to remember in the day to day grind.

But why DO we too often forget until it’s too late? How many of us wouldn’t give five years of our lives to spend five more minutes with a departed loved one? I know I would, and I’m at an age where five years goes by far too quickly and as my husband likes to say “there are no throwaway days — each one counts.”

As we take a moment to contemplate what we’ve already lost — whether it’s the precious innocence and innocence lost on September 11, 2001 or the rare genius of a life lost August 11, 2014 — shouldn’t the takeaway message be to cherish what we DO have in our lives that adds real joy, meaning, makes life worth living and should make the prospect of losing nature’s gifts — our life support system — unacceptable?

If so, that means we all have to DO something, or many things differently, to prevent it. And there is much to do at the citizen, community and country levels.

If you loved Robin Williams — or at least appreciated his amazing talents — perhaps you’ll consider expressing that respect and gratitude for the gifts he shared by doing something positive for the physical environment currently under siege, from the U.S. We are leading the world with unchecked growth and over consumption, even in the face of evidence that our extractive, acquisitive and wasteful ways are stealing comforts and abundance—not to mention national security — from our children and future generations. And we are not any happier with all this stuff. Au contraire. Research shows many Americans yearning for community and connection…being world class shoppers just doesn’t satisfy for long.

Think about it for just a moment. If we are going to destroy the livability on our one and only planet, in part by burning fossil fuels that pollute, degrade our climate and add to the national debt at dizzying rates, might we come to regret this reckless runway to ruin?

Might we wish for a chance to turn back the clocks and beg for a re-do? Might we not have an adequate response when our kids and grand kids ask what were we thinking—and so damn busy doing— that we couldn’t be bothered to change habits, policies and leaders, so as to better protect that which makes life…and everything in it…possible…and pleasant enough to enjoy??

If you think suicide is depressing, just imagine what eco-cide would look and feel like. Once a stable climate, healthy oceans, bio-diversity, endangered species and the entire web of life — this sweet spot of an earthly ecosystem — are irreversibly compromised, isn’t that a form of collective suicide or eco-cide? And any future survivors of that will surely be sorry, sad and appropriately mad that those of us who could have done more failed to heed the warning signs of impending doom. If we willfully ignore the many signals — and Mother Nature is screaming at us now — then who are we as a culture and a country?


But if your answer is yes then consider showing your BIG love for kids, community, country or even a favorite fallen comedian, by marching in the upcoming rally for climate action on September 21st. If you can’t join us in New York City for the march in conjunction with UN Climate Summit People’s Climate March on September 21st, then find or plan an event in your own town. Consider inviting friends over to discuss your environmental concerns, hopes and what you can do to be part of the solution.

IN SUMMARY, this is what I know for sure after a life filled with much love but too much loss. The things we all share…our love of life and fear of losing what we hold most dear…should mobilize us. We ALL co-exist on one small planet that we are squeezing the life out of. Our climate is hanging in the balance. As I write this the California drought is shriveling crops, raising food prices, and record flooding in Pakistan and in Phoenix, Arizona topped the nightly news this week, though typically, leaving out a mention of what’s fueling it, global weirding.

But while loss and death are unavoidable, extreme weather events are not a fait accompli. Or at least some of it is preventable, but only if we wake up now and smell the carbon. The ultimate tragedies are ones we could have avoided but instead chose to ignore while we could still take action.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. If you like the message please share so it can go “enviral”. Then go do something positive for your planet and fellow citizens in memory of those we have loved and lost. Whether or not we care about what’s happening with our weather will determine what happens next. But don’t do it for me. Do it for everyone and everything you hold dear. And if you’re thinking of him today, or any day, do it for Robin Williams. When you do, just imagine those expressive blue eyes of his crinkling and twinkling from on high.

And then go out and have a good laugh, something we should all do as often as possible.
It’s more satisfying than shopping and gentler on your wallet, not to mention our ailing planet.


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