City Climate Corner

Year in Review

Episode Summary

We review our first year of podcasts, including what we've learned, emerging themes, and our biggest takeaways.

Episode Notes

We review our first year of podcasts, including what we've learned, emerging themes, and our biggest takeaways.

See out our episode map for a geographic view of our episodes. 

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Episode Transcription

Abby Finis  00:02

Cities produce more than sixty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Big cities get a lot of attention, but most household emissions in the US actually come from communities outside urban cores, making them critical players in climate mitigation and climate justice. City Climate Corner explores how these small- and mid-sized cities are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. I'm Abby Finis.

Larry Kraft  00:23

And, I'm Larry Kraft. We're co-hosts for City Climate Corner. Hey, Abby. 

Abby Finis  00:30

Hey, Larry. 

Larry Kraft  00:32

So what are we doing today? Something different.

Abby Finis  00:36

We're going to take a look back on our first year of City Climate Corner and discuss some of our highlights. 

Larry Kraft  00:42

Sounds good!

Abby Finis  00:43

Yeah. How's it gone for you so far?

Larry Kraft  00:46

I think, Well, I tell ya, I've learned a lot about how to edit a podcast.

Abby Finis  00:51

I bet. I've learned that it's okay to listen to my voice, sometimes.

Larry Kraft  00:57

I've learned that it's okay to listen to your voice a lot while editing too. But, it's been very rewarding. I have gained something from every episode that has appeared in my work in St. Louis Park. I hope others are doing the same.

Abby Finis  01:12

Yeah, you have been running around Minnesota, preaching the good work of everybody else from the podcast. 

Larry Kraft  01:21

That's right. 

Abby Finis  01:22

I also have really appreciated people's willingness to share their stories with us. So why don't we start with some of the things that we've learned through the course of I guess it hasn't been a full year of episodes, but it's pretty close to it. What did you learn?

Larry Kraft  01:40

A number of things! In Laramie and Goshen, that strong climate action can be happening even in places that are more conservative, and the ecodistricts episode with Etna, as became apparent during the episode, when I say, I've never heard of ecodistricts, and you pointed out, we actually had some in the area.

Abby Finis  02:02

That's a cool model for the cities to dig in and focus on some particular aspects of their community to follow the framework of ecodistricts and improve their communities.

Larry Kraft  02:16

And I liked how, even though they became the first certified ecodistrict in the country, they actually learned about ecodistricts and how to get involved from a neighboring community and so they had this kind of interesting, eco district collaboration happening.

Abby Finis  02:31

Yeah, it's one of those things where you can borrow best practices from and you don't necessarily have to participate for the purpose of certification. Looking for those different actions and driving those forward in your community is something that cities can certainly do from a variety of sources and steal from one another, really. 

Larry Kraft  02:48


Abby Finis  02:48

Anything you've taken back to St. Louis Park? 

Larry Kraft  02:51

Yeah. Tacoma, the climate emergency declaration, it's inspired me to really think about what we can do here. And, we're planning a climate emergency declaration campaign here, maybe even throughout Minnesota, but more to come on that. What did you learn?

Abby Finis  03:08

I really like that I get to explore more deeply a lot of these different topics with cities, and be able to bring that back to my work and approach things a little bit differently. And so to me, it was really interesting talking with cities like Albany, Lexington, and more recently, Santa Barbara, and going through some of those city processes to develop a financing mechanism. In the case of Albany and coming up with a fund to pay for their climate action, building energy codes in Lexington, and then in Santa Barbara going through that ordinance process to essentially ban natural gas in new development. Getting into the weeds of how different cities advance some of these issues that have political and procedural barriers to them digging and more deeply into those I enjoyed. 

Larry Kraft  03:58

Yeah. Albany inspired me to look for ways of raising funding in St. Louis Park, and we've since created an ongoing funding mechanism within our budget. I learned from Asheville, a food policy action plan hadn't seen that level of detail of something like that before. And one other thing that popped out to me were the tree equity tools that we got exposed to from Eugene, that I think are fascinating.

Abby Finis  04:24

That's the major benefit of this podcast is to share those different practices broadly with cities. If you hear something you like in Eugene or and Duck Hill or in Etna, reach out to folks and ask them how you can replicate it in your community.

Larry Kraft  04:43

Absolutely. What about Fayetteville, Abby? You had an interesting experience with Fayetteville.

Abby Finis  04:49

Yeah, Fayetteville has brought me nothing but joy. We are able to go down and experience the biking infrastructure there firsthand and it's really great and it's a pretty cool part of the state in Arkansas where there's a fair amount of biking infrastructure. The other thing about Fayetteville is that was our introduction to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard from Amelia.

Larry Kraft  05:14

Oh, let's listen to that clip now, because after it, I was able to reach out to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, and they gave us the approval to use their music in our podcast.

Amelia Southern  05:29

We also had some bands that wanted to play songs about climate activism, or covers like there's No More Planet B by King Gizzard and the Wizards.

Abby Finis  05:39

Just name dropping, just band name dropping. 

Larry Kraft  05:43

I don't know that band.

Amelia Southern  05:47

Yeah, you guys should listen to them they're really good.

Larry Kraft  06:05

Now Amelia was in one of our bonus youth episodes that we did for the first half dozen episodes, and continually being reminded that the power young people have in this space. And, even when we weren't doing bonus youth episodes, we saw it in Duck Hill and Laramie, and others. What about something that's really stuck with you?

Abby Finis  06:25

There have been a number of things that have really stuck with me since interviewing several of our guests, beginning with our first city episode in Anchorage, and listening to Ruth in particular speak about the extractive economy and the toll that it's been having on Alaskans. And, thinking more broadly about the environmental and social costs that this oil based capitalist society has on people, and Jackie Patterson underscoring that, when she was with NAACP, on thinking about basic human and civil rights. That's what it boils down to is, how are we treating each other? How are we treating the planet? And what are some of the outcomes of that? From that episode to Robert in Savannah, really sharing his passion for the work and how much he enjoys his work with the tree nursery program there, I really have a strong appreciation for how much of this kind of work, I think feeds people's souls and gives them purpose. I like hearing those stories and hearing the passion come through.

Larry Kraft  07:40

That is such an incredible program, that has really stuck with me, too. When you think about that, it's doing so many things at the same time, creating more green space, doing mitigation against flooding, developing a local workforce, increasing appreciation in the community for folks there. And, you hear Robert and how it's really changed the course of what he wants to do in life. And, it's just fantastic.

Abby Finis  08:10

Yeah, I think that those are all really important pieces. I hope that they're able to build upon the program and keep pushing forward with it. I think that the flip side of that is the lack of investment in communities. If there isn't that investment, then there's not necessarily reason to care about your community. But once you start looking into what your community could be, it has so many benefits. And, we saw that with Savannah, with Duck Hill with Etna, and how these efforts that are hyperlocal can really impact those neighborhoods and broader communities.

Larry Kraft  08:46

One other thing that really stuck with me was in our Duck Hill episode, when I think you asked Mercy about one of her biggest takeaways from the program. And, she said something like, "Well, these Creek Rangers, we became a family and now I don't know what I do without those crazy people." They did some remarkable stuff in that small community of about 1000 people in Mississippi to mitigate flooding when the government was failing them and not doing it, but yet creating just a really uplifting story in a sense of community at the same time.

Abby Finis  09:24

Yeah. And that's just that, when the government fails us, we are all we have left to fall back on and that's what resilience is, right? And that's what social cohesion can do for resilience and preparing communities to help each other out. I'm going to go a little bit off from the questions but the tornadoes in Kentucky over this past weekend, and Illinois and Missouri, were just incredibly devastating. I can only imagine, you know what people are going through there. Unfortunately, sometimes it's that kind of event that really brings people together. The more you're together from the get go, then the stronger you are and getting through those kinds of things.

Larry Kraft  10:07

Someone that said that pretty clearly was when we did the Boulder episode with David Takahashi, and their work on creating neighborhood climate action plans. Part of the reason is to certainly get people involved in climate work and carbon reduction. But, a key part of it is also is to build that community to when something does happen, you've got that to fall back on.

Abby Finis  10:32

It's a crazy time and the climate, the weather, just continues to ramp up. We're under a tornado watch. I don't know if you saw that. 

Larry Kraft  10:42

We are right now?

Abby Finis  10:43

Tomorrow, parts of Minnesota are yeah. 

Larry Kraft  10:46

Oh, gosh.

Abby Finis  10:47

December 15th will be the date tomorrow.

Larry Kraft  10:49

That's pretty rare.

Abby Finis  10:52

Uh huh. The next thing is, what's your big takeaway? What are the elements of some of the things that we've talked about that you see as being really replicable, or would like to see other cities take on?

Larry Kraft  11:05

One of my big takeaways, and I actually, I got something from every episode that I infused into my work in St. Louis Park. There were a couple things couple episodes Ann Arbor and Ithaca, I thought that were both really working at the scale of the problem. They both have very aggressive goals. And, we're thinking about it in a very broad way, and coming up with solutions that no one had come up with before. With Luis Aguirre-Torres in Ithaca creating 100-150 million dollar private funding source. And, Missy Stults in Ann Arbor, just doing all kinds of things. And, now you hear that they're creating their own utility. Really not accepting obstacles and thinking very differently to really address the core issue. I'd take that away. So those kinds of things aren't replicable themselves everywhere. But, the thinking is, the thinking that they bring into it is really important.

Abby Finis  12:11

I actually think that the Ithaca model is potentially replicable. That's my big takeaway is this focus on program design, and the intentionality behind decarbonizing buildings and how they're approaching it in Ithaca that I'm really curious to see. There's programs all over that have energy efficiency financing and home energy audits, and all of those kinds of things. But, they have such low participation rates just to do the energy audit, and then it's even lower for those conversion rates to actually go in and do the work to improve your home or business or whatever the building is. 

Abby Finis  12:54

With Ithaca, they're really, really trying to package it in a way that you cannot say no, you know, you'd be a fool to say no to it. And, then going out and having this incredible goal of trying to decarbonize 1000 homes in 1000 days and 600 businesses and electrify vehicles in the community. I think that that kind of program design that they've partnered with black power on, I hope that that's something that can be made turnkey. I'm already hearing chatter of cities, you know, hearing from their constituents, "Hey, how can we be more like block power? How can we bring this to our community and make it happen here?" And, that's kind of my big takeaway is these program designs. What if we paired Ithaca type program design with a Boulder type neighborhood program? Just kind of matching those things up and taking decarbonizing our cities block by block by block.

Larry Kraft  13:53

I love it. I think that's what we're about here with the podcast, right? Shining the light on some of these stories and hoping to help others duplicate, replicate, and merge create unique ideas of their own through things that they hear. This all has reaffirmed the premise from our first episode with Dave Ribeiro of ACEEE and really the premise of the podcast that there are powerful climate change mitigation, adaptation, and climate justice actions happening in smaller cities. And then our National League of Cities episodes with Cooper Martin also reaffirmed another key premise of the podcast that things happening in one city can be shared and that by sharing, we can accelerate learning and effectiveness.

Abby Finis  14:39

I'm just really, really impressed by everybody that we spoke with over the past year and all the work that's going on and we don't always hear about those things that are happening. I hope that people appreciate what everybody's doing in other cities and can take something and apply it to your city and and we can keep pushing forward, because we can't keep waiting for the federal government or whoever to come in corporations and decarbonize for us. Keep it up cities.

Larry Kraft  15:14

Okay, Abby, so what's coming up for us now as we head into our second year?

Abby Finis  15:22

We are exploring some different ideas and looking into maybe doing some themes. We're looking at doing a few episodes around solar and different approaches that communities are taking there.

Larry Kraft  15:40

I think we've also want to hit some of the states we haven't hit yet.

Abby Finis  15:44

Yep. I'm going to hit some of the states, tribal nations that we haven't hit yet and we'd love to hear your stories. We do a lot of the research, browsing through articles or looking for keywords. But, if you have a story you want to share, just send us an email. 

Larry Kraft  16:02

We'd love suggestions. 

Abby Finis  16:03

Yeah! I think we also want to talk about federal funding. So we'll see if we can talk to some folks at Department of Energy about what cities can expect from the federal government to help push their climate goals. And then you've been working on a cool project.

Larry Kraft  16:23

Yes, Cool Solutions is a radio show slash podcast that appears on community radio stations around the country. And, we'll be providing one episode a month to them. So watch for us there. The other thing we should say is, if you're listening to this and get some value out of it, please do consider becoming a monthly supporter, which you can get from our website, There's a Support Us link. The other possibility is if you want to get some great merch, go to our store, which is also available from our website at the store link. As this does cost money, and if you want it to continue, please, please help us produce it.

Abby Finis  17:09

And if you're able to review, go ahead and leave five stars. If that's what you'd like to do. And leave us a review. We'd love to hear from you.

Larry Kraft  17:20

Well, we're excited to have a special guest, Maggie Morin, our Production Assistant. Maggie, why don't you say hello, introduce yourself.

Maggie Morin  17:29

Hi, my name is Maggie. I'm the production assistant for city climate corner. And, I have been working with Larry and Abby since about June 2021. My role is mainly editing all the transcripts, and putting together emails to communicate with our guests on the podcast, and then also writing and putting out social media posts on both Instagram and Twitter.

Larry Kraft  17:58

You also research some episodes, too. I also did that as well. You're in college right now, right?

Maggie Morin  18:04

I am a senior and I'm studying environmental studies, political science, and biology.

Larry Kraft  18:12

What's it been like working on the podcast? What are your takeaways?

Maggie Morin  18:15

I don't sit in on all of the episode interviews. But the ones that I have have been, they've been really interesting to hear live everything that's going on, especially behind the scenes with everything else that's edited out. I've only been on live for Ann Arbor and Duck Hill. That was a whole mess because we kept cutting in and out.

Larry Kraft  18:38

That was just kind of funny. It was an editing challenge.

Maggie Morin  18:41

Yeah, that was an editing challenge. But a great story. It was a really great story. And I felt really accomplished with that one because I was able to reach out to Romona and I found her and able to follow through that process and see it to the end. But, I also really enjoy listening to all the stories about collaboration and community building, because that's something that's really important to me is creating and forming relationships to bond over one goal and seeing it through to the end. For instance, like Etna, and Duck Hill, and Savannah. Those were all episodes that I really found inspiring just because you could really see all the community building at its core and the different participation from all the different groups and individuals coming together and accomplishing these really daunting tasks. That's really inspiring to me, especially amongst climate chaos.

Larry Kraft  19:36

It's really interesting to me, the raise that how often when you get some leadership at a local level, how many people will follow like will come and work together. One of the messages I would want people to take away is if you see something you want to do, do it and then ask for help look for partners and you'll find them

Maggie Morin  19:54

That's kind of what I want to do when I want to crow up. Community engagement and outreach. So just listening in on how all these different people and different levels of government and different grassroots organizations are coming together and accomplishing all of those goals. 

Larry Kraft  20:15

Well, thank you so much, Maggie. We're thrilled to have you and onward. 

Maggie Morin  20:20

Thank you. 

Larry Kraft  20:23

We'll be taking a short break over the holidays, but we'll be back with more episodes in mid January. Bye all. 

Abby Finis  20:31

We hope you enjoyed this episode of City Climate Corner. If you like what you're hearing, make sure to subscribe and give us a review. If you're able, become a monthly supporter through Patreon. As always, you can find more information on this topic and resources from each episode's guests on our webpage If you have an idea for the show, send us an email at or find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Larry Kraft  20:55

City Climate Corner is produced by Abby Finis and me, Larry Kraft. Edited by me. Our Production Assistant is Maggie Morin. Music by …

Abby Finis  21:03

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Larry Kraft  21:06

Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time.