Episode 43 – Carbon Footprints and Treehuggers – Climate Language

Listen on Spotify / Apple / Anchor / scroll down for our podcast player!

Did the fossil fuel industry really invent the carbon footprint? Did you know that the first “treehugger” came waaaay before the 1960s hippie, and took a much greater risk?

This week we’re talking about the language of climate change, specifically the carbon footprint and the term “treehugger.”

Olivia digs into the real story behind the corporate world’s favorite unit of measurement, and whether it has any value in conversations today. Then Elise tells the story of the Bishnoi people and how the “treehugger” legacy echoes the stories of climate justice activists today.

Story #1: British Petroleum and the Carbon Footprint (Olivia)

The carbon footprint sham, Mashable
The History of Carbon Dioxide Emissions, World Resources Institute, May 21 2014
What is a carbon footprint?, The Guardian, June 2010
Big oil’s ‘wokewashing’ is the new climate science denialism, Amy Westervelt for The Guardian, September 9 2021
Big oil coined ‘carbon footprints’ to blame us for their greed. Keep them on the hook, Rebecca Solnit, August 23 2021
The Messy Truth About Carbon Footprints, Sami Grover for Mother Jones, September 11 2021
Taking BP Beyond Petroleum, Paul Holmes for PRovoke Media, April 2001
Ecological Footprint defined by WWF
Footprint Fantasy, Grist, August 26 2020
The origin of the term carbon footprint, Capture Club (only used the unhoused analogy)

Some examples from Ogilvy & BP’s early 2000s campaigns:

2003 BP Ad: Carbon Footprint

BP 2019 Carbon Footprint tweet:

Chart of disclosed low-carbon investments:

Total is highest at 4.3%. Sources in image, as cited by Mashable

Further reading:
Discourses of climate delay
How the World Passed a Carbon Threshold and Why It Matters, Yale Environment 360, January 2017
Ogilvy’s BP Experience is a Bit Awkward, O’Dwyer’s, June 2010
Twitter thread by Michal Czepkiewicz

Story #2: Treehuggers (Elise)

Where Did the Phrase “Tree-Hugger” Come From?, Earth Island Journal, Jan 2012
Bishnoi villagers sacrifice lives to save trees, 1730, Global Nonviolent Action Database
Indians embrace trees (Chipko) to stop logging activity, 1971-1974, Global Nonviolent Action Database
The history of tree-hugging, and the future of name-calling, Grist, Oct 2006
Remember the Original Tree Huggers, Patagonia
The Original Tree Huggers: Let Us Not Forget Their Sacrifice, Women’s Earth Alliance, April 2013
The Tree Huggers Who Saved Indian Forests, JSTOR Daily, March 2019
Thar Desert, Wikipedia
Bishnoi, Wikipedia
Khejarli massacre, Wikipedia

This Sweatpants podcast episode made a great companion to this week’s episode because of their discussion of climate communication and language!

Also here’s the terrible insult generator for “right-wing non-friends of the environment.”

Via Grist — should we make an updated one??
The Dump

Vegan Gin Fizz made with aquafaba – so simple and tasty! Olivia used Lemon and Elderflower soda from Trader Joe’s and 2x lemon juice instead of lime, but we’ll be trying some variations in the future. Cheers!

The World Is Burning bookshop is live! Help us come up with book list titles and bulk up our reading list.

Our World is Burning themed playlist is on Spotify.

You can keep up with us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you enjoyed this episode, considering reviewing us on Apple Podcasts and downloading/subscribing/following wherever you like to do those things. It helps us immensely.

Thanks for listening!

Ep. 74 – Burning Questions Part II World Is Burning

Can you believe we've gone 2 1/2 years without creating our very own game show about us? Neither can we! Test your climate knowledge alongside us as we ask ourselves the burning questions: Where are tumbleweeds from? What are our favorite climate activists' favorite insects? and How do you do fractions again? Subscribe/follow/press the button to keep up with new episodes every Wednesday! You can also follow us @worldisburnin on Instagram and Twitter or @worldisburning on TikTok, and check out our website worldisburning.com for extended show notes including sources and photos. World Is Burning is hosted by Olivia Hamilton and Elise Nye. Our theme music is by Kaycie Satterfield, and our logo was made by Sonja Katanic. — Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/worldisburning/message
  1. Ep. 74 – Burning Questions Part II
  2. Ep 73 – Burning Questions
  3. Ep. 72 – It’s A Joke Until It’s Not – the Overton Window and AI
  4. Ep. 71 – Oil Spills – Deepwater Horizon and Dawn Dish Soap
  5. Ep. 70 – Deep Sea Explorers – Jacques Cousteau & Dr. Sylvia Earle