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A National Geographic photographer captures the emotional impacts of climate change

Pete Muller’s job is to face one of the most crucial challenges of today: how to effectively communicate about climate change. Having become obsessed with the loneliness and longing born from the impacts of a changing planet, he began exploring how to use his camera to make the invisible become visible– and to tell the story of climate change from a human perspective.

Pete speaks eloquently, not just about the fascinating people and places he’s encountered. but about the “truth” of photojournalism, the power of ideas, and the value of having our ideas challenged so we can grow.

Show episode notes

Correction for our listeners: we inadvertently identified Glenn & Jill Albrecht as driving 20 miles out of their way to avoid viewing strip mines. This is incorrect; it is John & Denise Lamb who make this drive.

03:35 – Pete talks about the origins of his Nat Geo feature that would make conversations about climate change more, more humanistic and more relatable.

05:11 – The concept of “solastalgia”: the feeling of loss and longing the comes from the world you knew as it disappears. It’s feeling homesickness while you’re still at home, illustrated by a husband and wife living amidst strip mines in Australia.

13:32 – More about “solastalgia”, this time viewed through the eyes of people who lived through the Camp fire of 2018 in northern California.

16:55 – Pete talks about how the trauma of the Camp fires made the local population in Paradise, California more resilient to the impacts of the COVID pandemic.

20:45 – Pete talks about how even successful Nat Geo photographers experience fears of failure!

22:27 – Pete discusses whether the situations he observes has taken a toll on him, and the empathy he has for his subjects.

25:40 – The importance of trying to “make the invisible visible”: “we can’t fix what we can’t see.”

27:00 – On the strengths and weaknesses of photojournalism’s capabilities of conveying the “truth”.

30:53 – Yesh asks “what makes great photography?”

32:37 – Pete’s advice for aspiring artists and communicators who want to advance conversations about climate change (spoiler alert: it’s all about ideas).

34:53 – On the power of being an open and active listener and observer.

37:17 – Pete talks about the profound importance of storytelling in fighting climate change.


To learn more about Pete and see more of his beautiful work:

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