How Not to Save a Planet: Cancel a podcast about climate solutions

A tribute to How to Save a Planet and its goal of spurring people to take action on climate.

A person wearing a large sad earth mask raises a defiant fist
(Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
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Canary Media’s Climate Meets Culture column explores the intersection of energy, climate and culture at large. Canary thanks Silverline Communications for its support of the column.

The world of climate podcasts darkened late last week when Spotify announced that it is canceling its popular Gimlet Media–produced podcast How to Save a Planet, alongside 10 other original shows. 

It reminded me of when another large public company acquired a venerable renewables-focused media outlet only to shutter its newsroom a few years later. Fortunately, that story had a happy ending, and I have no doubts the talented How to Save a Planet team will find similar successes. 

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Now where was I? Oh, right.

How to Save a Planet is regularly featured on lists highlighting the cream of the crop of climate-themed podcasts, including when we informally polled Canary readers on their favorites last year.

What made How to Save a Planet unique in the seemingly ever-growing sea of podcasts in this genre is the attention it gave to climate action. Host and Gimlet Media co-founder Alex Blumberg explained it on the show’s two-year anniversary episode which aired last month:

As we’ve been putting together all of these episodes, profiling all of these different people taking all these different kinds of actions…we’ve had a not-so-secret agenda: that you, our listeners, would take inspiration from these examples we’re presenting each week. You would see all the different solutions there are out there, and all the different ways that people are helping to implement them and find ways to take action yourselves.

And spoiler alert: Our not-so-secret agenda is working.

In fact, at the end of every episode, there is a call to action” segment that gives listeners concrete ways they can take climate action.

Last week, How to Save a Planet climate reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis tweeted, if you want to understand the show and what we were trying to do I recommend you listen to one episode — our birthday episode. In it we asked listeners what solutions they had been inspired to take on.”

In a subsequent tweet, she added, As an industry, [journalists] restrict information about the levers of change to a very small subset of insiders.’ When How to Save a Planet was at its best, I think we helped to democratize that information and break down the scale of the problem into digestible bits.”

She also highlights the listener actions featured in the birthday episode:

Since last week’s announcement that the show was ending, there has been an outpouring of listeners on Twitter chiming in with the climate action they’ve taken because of the show. Given that it is Power by the People week here at Canary, which is all about the tangible steps communities are taking to access clean energy, I wanted to highlight some of those grassroots and individual efforts.

Former co-host Ayana Elizabeth Johnson rounds up many of them in an excellent Twitter thread. Here are some of the highlights:

I want to give a special shout-out to this Venn diagram created by former co-host Johnson. It’s a handy way to think about how you as an individual can help address the climate crisis.

For more on the Venn diagram, be sure to watch Johnson’s TED Talk on the topic.

Canary Editor-at-Large David Roberts, who was recently a guest on the popular podcast My Climate Journey, had a message for listeners that was similar to those shared by Blumberg, Johnson, Pierre-Louis and the rest of the team at How to Save a Planet:

If you want to get engaged in climate, go do something, even if it is small. Like change the college you’re in, change the company you’re in. Talk to your neighborhood board about community solar. There are lots of things within your reach. Any tangible action you take is worth a thousand Twitter burns.

Silverline Communications, the supporter of this column, is a climatetech and sustainability communications firm with deep experience in all facets of the clean economy. Learn more about how Silverline connects clients with stakeholders on social channels and beyond.

Mike Munsell is director of growth at Canary Media.