In this episode, I interview Pamela Templer, ecologist and biology professor at Boston University. It was fascinating to talk to Pamela, as her and her students are literally on the front lines in the woods, getting a first-hand look at how climate change is impacting our forests. She also helped shed light for me on how research labs at universities get funded, and what steps she is taking to make sure that the work they do isn’t just academic, but ends up having impact in the world.
In this episode, I interview Pamela Templer, ecologist and biology professor at Boston University. Pamela is broadly interested in ecosystem ecology and the influence that plant-microbial interactions have on nutrient cycling and carbon exchange, and is particularly interested in the effects that human activities such as climate change, urbanization, and air pollution have on forest ecosystems. Her lab currently examines a variety of nutrient sources, including rain, fog, and atmospheric deposition, and how plant-microbial interactions influence nitrogen and carbon retention and loss within natural and managed ecosystems.
It was fascinating to talk to Pamela, as her and her students are literally on the front lines in the woods, getting a first-hand look at how climate change is impacting our forests. She also helped shed light for me on how research labs at universities get funded, and what steps she is taking to make sure that the work they do isn’t just academic, but ends up having impact in the world.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did!
You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 and email at email@example.com, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and provide suggestions for future guests or topics you'd like to see covered on the show.
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Jason Jacobs: Hello, everyone. This is Jason Jacobs, and welcome to My Climate Journey. This show follows my journey, to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change, and try to figure out how people like you and I can help.
Jason Jacobs: Hey, everyone. Welcome. Today's guest is Pamela Templer, an ecosystem ecologist and biology professor who leads the Templer Lab at Boston university. This was a great conversation and I learned a ton. In our chat, Pamela explains what forest ecology is and how it fits into the climate change efforts, as well as the importance of governments and the public working together to preserve forest and to deal with urban sprawl. What I found particularly fascinating is that Pamela not only has for your students focused on the science and the academics, but also looking at the big picture of how those efforts fit in to the broader efforts, and what else needs to come together for her students' work to have the greatest impact. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did.
Jason Jacobs: Pamela, welcome to the show.
Pam Templer: Thank you for having me.
Jason Jacobs: I'm excited because we, so it was probably a couple months ago that I was in your office as a lowly newcomer to the space. What you do is a really important part, but it's also a part that I probably understand the least. Given that this podcast is called My Climate Journey and it's about trying to get up the learning curve for me and for anyone else that feels similarly about climate change, I thought it'd be great just to bring you on and to talk more about what you do.
Pam Templer: Happy to be here. This is wonderful. I'm happy to share my climate journey with you as well.
Jason Jacobs: So, forest ecology. I know it plays a big role in the ecosystem and in our changing climate, but maybe just explain for me and for the listeners, what is forest ecology and what do you and your staff do in the lab?
Pam Templer: Really good questions. Forest ecosystems, as many people know, are dominated by trees, large statured plants, and forest ecology is the study of all the organisms that live in those ecosystems. People study the plants, the soil microorganisms, the microbes that live in the canopy, along the bark of the tree, as well as micro organisms in the soil, and all the animals that come in and out of that forest. And so, students and I in my lab, we study all facets of forests, whether its impacts of climate change on how they function, or land use change and how they're being destroyed, or altered, or regrowing, as well as air pollution effects on forests.
Pam Templer: Forests are really important. They make up about a third of land cover on the planet. They're being altered by human activities, yet we know they perform really important services for humans. They filter our air, they filter our water, they take dioxide out of the atmosphere. Anything we do to alter how they work and how healthy they are has a really huge impact on the earth we live on.
Jason Jacobs: I've read that reforestation can be a major lever for helping with mitigation. Is that true?
Pam Templer: Absolutely. Regenerating forests, whether it's on land that never had trees, which is aforestation, or reforestation, which is planting trees or having trees grow back naturally in areas they never lived is absolutely important. Because we know that when plants are young, they're growing the fastest, which means they're taking up the highest rates or highest amounts of carbon dioxide over time. Really important to consider regenerating forests.
Jason Jacobs: When I think about forest, I mean, it's like the big globe and there's different pockets of trees all over the world. But then when I look at videos of you and your team and the work that you do, it's like going out with test tubes in the woods in New Hampshire, right?
Pam Templer: Yeah.
Jason Jacobs: How do those dots connect and how do you prioritize what research projects you take on?
Pam Templer: Think of it like a cell biologist might study cells in the lab. If we want to study forests, we need to go study where they are, where they live, where they are in the world. What our group does is we try to ask really what we think are important, timely questions that are going to make a difference for humanity. For example, you mentioned New Hampshire. We've had a few experiments up in the white mountains of New Hampshire. The reason we work there is that the forests of the Northeast United States are really important. We know from past studies that the forest in our region can offset about 30% of fossil fuel carbon dioxide that you and I put in the air from driving our cars, from heating our buildings, electrical use, things like that. So, we know these forests are important and we know that they're changing.
Pam Templer: For example, back in the 1600s when the Europeans first got here, most of our landscape was covered in forests and trees. Then when they got here they needed to make a living, they needed to feed their families, so they cleared most of the forest. The landscape went from like mostly covered by trees by mostly empty and covered by pasture land and agriculture.
Pam Templer: You mentioned regeneration. Most of those folks in the 1800s moved out West to look for more jobs. They abandoned their fields and those forest grew back, which is pretty exciting because the trees did really, really well. The problem is we know many of these forests in New England are starting to disappear again because of urbanization, so development pressures. We go out to the forest and we study the trees and we try to understand how they might change in the future.
Jason Jacobs: I hear a lot about these reforestation efforts. What is the state of these efforts today and what are some of the initiatives that are helping them along the most effectively?
Pam Templer: I can speak most to the forests around here in New England. Around here, unlike out West in the Western United States where most forest land is on public land and most, not all, but most is protected from cutting, here in the Northeastern United States, most of our forest is on private land. And so if we don't do something to work with local communities to try to either conserve or preserve our current forest or help incentivize people planting new trees or incentivize not cutting trees on their property, we're going to lose our forest here. Many parts of the world where you have private land, you really need these public private partnerships, and that's what's happening here in New England.
Pam Templer: Lots of people are trying to incentivize things like putting easements on private lands so that when people sell their land, the trees won't get cut in the future. China incentivized people to plant trees to think about the carbon offsets they're getting, the pollution, they erosion control, things like that.
Jason Jacobs: So a lot of it is persuading the public who owns this land?
Pam Templer: Yeah, around here, for sure. If you ignore that, then you're not going to be preserving the forest in New England. There's so much development pressure as the population rises around the globe, especially in the Northeastern corridor, is the most populated part of our country. If we don't think forward to what those development pressures are on the landscape, we're going to lose our forests. If you just look at Boston alone and you look at kind of the perimeter of the growth area of the city, the greater Boston area, I'm not talking about the city limits, that's what people are calling the wave of sprawl. It just keeps growing past the major highways that surround Boston, and so we know we need to incentivize people to preserve the forest that we have surrounding the city, and then throughout the whole region.
Jason Jacobs: Do you think is the wave of urbanization where there's more people flocking from the suburbs and from the rural areas into the cities, is that good for the climate and for forests?
Pam Templer: I would say absolutely. I think if we could get even more people to move into cities, it puts less pressure on development out in the suburbs. The hardest part right now that we're seeing is this intersection of a housing crisis in America with this intersection of people not being able to afford to live in cities and moving out to the suburbs. And so, I think we really need to tackle them simultaneously to help people afford to live in cities, so we have more development in the city that's affordable and less people moving outside of the cities.
Jason Jacobs: I feel like that's one of the reasons why they call climate change a wicked problem, because there's so many things that are wrapped up in it. If you take reforestation, for example, it's easier to reforest if more people move into the cities. But as you said, people can't afford to live in the cities or there's talk of here in Massachusetts, looking at congestion pricing to tax people for driving during rush hour, for example. But who are the people with the longest drives is the people that get priced out of the cities. Right? And those are also the people that can least afford a congestion tax. I mean, you want to decouple these things to solve any one of them, but it's very hard to decouple them because they're so interrelated.
Pam Templer: I agree with you completely. I think when I first started in this field of forest ecology, most of my colleagues and my mentors were working in the wilds. You know, you went to the Amazon, you went to pristine forests, and you got away from where the people are to really study forests as a holistic entity into itself. I think when I'm seeing in one of my lab is a part of that's to me really exciting is we're putting people at the center of this. If you don't understand both the benefits that humans get from forests, and how we can help forests and how we get coexist with them and all the benefits they provide, we're not going to do well. So, I agree with you completely that we need to work in this in tandem and together and not put them in isolation.
Jason Jacobs: It's a weird analogy, but it's kind of like the business school curriculums at universities that don't have co-op programs, and the ones that have programs that do, where it's a semester of teaching and then a semester of actually practicing in the trenches doing the things that you're learning about. I mean, what you're saying is that because these problems are so wrapped up with people, that to just look at it as trees on an island without factoring in the trees and humans need to coexist, then we're not really going to fully unpack the problem. Is that right?
Pam Templer: Absolutely. No, I agree with you completely. It's all one big challenge, but I also think it opens up a lot of solutions, too. I think like you mentioned business school, there's lots of programs including our own work. We see that students increasingly want to learn solution-based science, not just science for science sake. And so if you can train students to think about not just science in a bubble, whatever the topic is, but how do you actually achieve goals and help people at the same time, I think they learn a lot more, and then we get benefits as a society as well.
Jason Jacobs: And so, the work that your students are taking on, is it about improving measurement? Or is it about how the different chemicals work together? Or I guess, what kinds of things are you getting at when you do the work and when you take the teams out into the field?
Pam Templer: We look at it as multiple approaches. What I'm hoping is that when students get out of our program, they are getting both a fundamental understanding of how forest biogeochemical cycles work. So whether they're studying how trees suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, how much water they take up and cool the local climate, how weathering rates affect calcium uptake by trees, I want them to understand the basics because they need to be experts in their field.
Pam Templer: But at the same time, we want them to understand how those changes in the environment might impact human health. How to intersect with, say, policymakers, and cities, or nongovernmental organizations, or the private sector, and to say, "What data do you actually need?" I'd say at the one hand, we're absolutely trying to improve measurements, because you need that in science. Everything in science is based on robust measurements. But we want to make sure that we keep in mind how those robust measurements are actually going to inform somebody making a decision somewhere. Whether that's a policymaker, a CEO of a company, a person walking on the street, what choices they make. We're working in both tracks, I'd say.
Jason Jacobs: If I'm hearing right, you want the students to be experts in the forests, but with the understanding of how that work, and that expertise intersects and collaborates with the other key stakeholders to get things done?
Pam Templer: Absolutely, and I can give you some examples.
Jason Jacobs: That would be great.
Pam Templer: Wonderful. Okay. So for example, in our current program, students are learning, again, fundamentals of science. It's not just forests. They're studying aquatic nutrient cycles, and atmosphere chemistry, and all sorts of things. But they all also are taking workshops and courses in city governance, and how the mayor's office works, and how in some cities the mayor has a lot of power and can change things in another cities they can't, it depends on the structure of the governments. They're learning that, at the same time they're learning how to do community engagement, they're learning science and communication with journalists. The idea is they have to not just learn how to do it, but they're doing it. For example, in classes, our practicum course, they get in small groups and their client are different cities.
Pam Templer: So for example, this spring the students have been working with the town of Arlington as well as the city of Boston. In both places, it happens to be that they are working on their climate action plans. Many cities across the country are trying to reduce their carbon footprint, they just don't know how. So, our graduate students have been working with both-
Jason Jacobs: Many people too, not just cities.
Pam Templer: Absolutely. Right. Exactly.
Jason Jacobs: And companies. Everyone.
Pam Templer: Everyone. Everyone is looking to improve this, for sure.
Jason Jacobs: And no one knows how.
Pam Templer: Exactly. Well, that's where we can come in. I'll give you an example. The students created a heat map for the city of Boston and looked at their tree inventory, and they're really trying to help the city make decisions. Because as you know, no city has an unlimited budget. You can easily say, "Just plant more trees," but those trees die, right? We know that the mortality rate of newly planted trees is astronomically high within two years cause we don't water them, and that's expensive.
Pam Templer: That's the students actually created a map of where to plant trees. There's a lot of intersections here, and so the product is giving the city a new map to say, "This is where you can plant trees and effectively keep them growing and actually doing things like mitigating CO2, and heat island effects, and things like that." We're teaching the students the skills, but most importantly we're looking at it, we call it an internship or a partnership, which is we ultimately want these students to learn statistical big data set skills, but also learn how to work with a partner, and a city, or a company, and say, "Oh, this is what you actually need? Let me provide you that product."
Jason Jacobs: Are these PhD students, grad students, undergrad?
Pam Templer: These are all PhD students.
Jason Jacobs: Is what you're describing a common model in PhD programs or is this an exception rather than the rule?
Pam Templer: I think what we're seeing is an early wave of this. I'd say not too long ago it was considered if you're getting a PhD, you know, most PhD programs have their own silos. You were in biology, atmospheric chemistry, you were in city planning, you are in own silo. Then I think there was this big crop of programs that were interdisciplinary, which is wonderful. But then some of those programs lost the depth, I think, that was needed for those students to go out and be experts in their field. And so, now what we're seeing is I think a new wave of interest in not just being experts and not just being interdisciplinary, but how do you do both and how do you give students the skills they want so that they can make a difference?
Pam Templer: I think that's the difference is that students want to get out of their program, whether it's an undergraduate degree, a master's degree, a PhD, they don't want to just publish in journals and stick them on a shelf, they want to make a difference. I wouldn't say it's across the country, but our program was funded by the National Science Foundation. One thing I love about it is that the program officers, they made a point of saying, "We don't want you to just be a one off, here's money, go make a difference at your own university." They want us to become a model for different training programs across the country.
Pam Templer: I'm really excited. We're only one year into this program, but we're already thinking of ways to share our models so people don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. I'd say it's early, but I think there's a growing interest in this.
Jason Jacobs: How does that work in terms of not just this NSF funding, but funding in general for programs like this at the PhD level? Was that something that you need to go out on an annual basis and regroup. You said you're a year in, so I assume it's multi-year. I mean, how does that process work? How time consuming is it?
Pam Templer: Absolutely. This happens to be a five year grant, but I should say ours happens to be PhD. At our university, Boston University, there's a separate, but now we're working together Master's program where the whole master's in statistics program is based on the students not just learning in a class, but they all have to take on a client, whether it's a city, a company, and do a statistical analysis for them. It's smaller than a PhD, but it's certainly I think just as wonderful and that's why we're working together.
Pam Templer: I think across the country, in some ways we need to change the incentive structure, because the tenure track system for faculty across the country is all about being an expert in this very specific thing. I think we need to just show across the country the benefits of doing something like this.
Pam Templer: So how much money it would take? That's an excellent question. In this case, they think it incentivizes Boston university to see that this is valued by our federal government granting agencies like the National Science Foundation, the top science funding agency in the country. For them to see them go, "Oh, this is actually legit. This is something that people respect and is valued," I think the more we see that, whether it's coming from the National Science Foundation, the private sector, I think the better.
Jason Jacobs: For a five year grant, how many years in do you need to start thinking about your six and beyond?
Pam Templer: We're already doing that. We, from the start, said to ourselves, "We don't want this to be a five year wonderful experience that just ends." We're already thinking, "Okay, what do we need to prove at the end that this was a successful model, or what lessons did we learn?" Because we don't expect it to be perfect along the way. For us, what's really been helpful is the funding structure for the students to free them.
Pam Templer: Let me back up. In graduate programs across the country, there's many different ways students get funded, because generally they're not paying tuition for getting a PhD. Typically, they're teaching or they're on a research assistantship. In this case, what the grant is paying for is freeing those students to have a little bit more flexibility so that they can take on these partnership programs, so they could take their classes, do their dissertation research, but then they can also have the flexibility to, again, to do these internship partnerships and work with cities and private entities and things like that.
Jason Jacobs: It's paying their salaries so that they don't need to go out and get other jobs.
Pam Templer: Exactly. They don't have to teach an undergraduate class. Which has its benefits, not saying that's bad, but you don't want a student to do that for five years throughout their PhD, so it's freeing them up so that they can actually do this and do it really, really well.
Jason Jacobs: Is it assumed if you get a grant like that, that the grantor will then follow on?
Pam Templer: No. In this case, NSF has said, "Nope, you guys get five years. We're not doing renewals." That's an important thing. That's why from the start we said, "We don't want to be a one off five year program. We want to keep this going."
Jason Jacobs: So then, I mean, you're essentially out, almost like an entrepreneur, trying to capitalize your business for life beyond this initial incubation period.
Pam Templer: Exactly. Absolutely, yes. I think about us as a startup often. I didn't realize going into science how much parallels there are between academia and startup companies, because you're constantly raising money, you're constantly trying to prove that you can make a difference in some way or the other, and you have to constantly be thinking about the next grant, the next program, the next way to fund your students. Absolutely.
Jason Jacobs: What percentage of your time is spent on that?
Pam Templer: Good question. I don't know about that percentage, but it's a lot. You know, we say that if you're at a research university like I am, we're spending a lot of time. You're either writing grant proposals, writing papers, or teaching students, mentoring students, so it's a good chunk of our time is spent writing grant proposals. That's important.
Jason Jacobs: Now I would imagine, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that writing a grant proposal is a very different skillset than being out in the forest of New Hampshire running experiments. How would one learn how to do that coming from the place that you have come from?
Pam Templer: Yeah. I think it's just experience and having good mentors, good collaborators. It is different skills, but I think they feed off each other. So just like probably the startup world where you have to pitch your ideas to investors, I think the good thing about writing grant proposals is you've got to be able to articulate what are you doing, what is your ultimate goal, and how are you going to achieve it? If you were just handed a pot of money, who knows how successful you're going to be, so however you're going to articulate that in a written grant proposal, a meeting one on one, I think it's very similar to a startup company.
Pam Templer: With our students, one of my favorite parts of my job is working with students on their writing. We trade drafts. We have a paper going in this afternoon. I think we're on like version 18. You know, we just go back and forth, and back and forth. I talk to my students lot about how every step, they're learning something new about the writing process, whether it's a paper, a proposal, a presentation, whatever they have to do.
Jason Jacobs: Are there actually classes on grant writing?
Pam Templer: There are. In our program in biology at Boston University, offers to our PhD students take a grant writing class. The idea is they need to learn early on how to put together a proposal. Whether they need the money or not, they need to learn how to do that because that's a skillset they're going to learn forever. I teach a class actually right now called forest ecology.
Jason Jacobs: Shocker.
Pam Templer: I know. Shocker, right? I have my students write a proposal. It's awesome. Some students are coming from journalism, urban design, ecology, all sorts of things. The business school, I had someone from there and in all cases they have to write a proposal, and what I always tell them is, "Whether you're going to go into science or not, I want this to be a lifelong skill, because you're just articulating what your ideas are and how important they are, and I think that's important no matter what you end up doing in life."
Jason Jacobs: This genre of focus for your program where it's not interdisciplinary, right, because that sounded like it was kind of equal parts across disciplines, which maybe didn't work so well. Yours sounds like it's more concentrated in one area as an expert, but then threading in these others. Does that have a name, that genre of program?
Pam Templer: Yeah. It is. It's great. As I was putting together the proposal with our team for this graduate training program, there's this wonderful model called the T model, and the T model is think of it like the tree or the center spoke of the T is your depth, and then the top part is your breadth. I don't want to come across as saying I think interdisciplinary is bad, it's not, I think we really need interdisciplinary people, but I think people also need to be experts at the same time. I think we need to be able to speak with knowledge to what we're doing, but we also need to be able to communicate outside our own discipline.
Jason Jacobs: And that is called the T model?
Pam Templer: Yeah, the T model. I didn't coin that. That's in the pedagogy field.
Jason Jacobs: How much work are you doing, if any, to evangelize the T model beyond the work that's happening in your specific domain?
Pam Templer: That's what we're working on. Again, we're only one year into our program, but we already have blogs planned, articles planned and outlined right now. We want to get this message out. Part of our program is we have funding in our budget to make short films, and the whole idea is put these online, share them with programs across the country to say, again, "This is what we did, this is what we think we did right. This is what we learned. Learn from us. Don't repeat it." To put it out there as this model that you can teach people to be both experts and have breadth across fields, as well.
Pam Templer: So yes, I'm evangelizing this as much as I can, but trying to learn first before, kind of like your climate journey. I'm on this journey, as well. I come from a very, I wouldn't say disciplinary, but a more basic science background, biogeoscience, and moving more and more towards trying to apply these lessons to solve some problems. And so, I want to make sure that we don't evangelize too early. I want to do it with knowledge and lessons learned. We're really ramping this up cause we're almost a year in, and our first cohort has finished a lot of products this spring, and I think we're ready to share them.
Jason Jacobs: I think what I'm hearing from you then is that you want to do amazing work, figure out the model, prove out the model, and then in evangelizing, it's less self-promotional in nature, but it's more evangelizing how great the model is and how it can be applied in other places, and if you do that effectively, not only do all boats rise in this model, which should be applied a lot more than it is, but then your lab is positioned as a thought leader and pioneer, which then achieved the aims that a more self promotional message would achieve, but in a way that's probably even more effective at that, and better for the world?
Pam Templer: Absolutely. That's a great way to put it. Absolutely.
Jason Jacobs: Right?
Pam Templer: I guess there's a few ways to look at this. If we want to benefit humanity, we can't just look out for ourselves. What does it do to become that one person who's just expert, but not making any difference? My hope is that yes, we can train. I really look at it as training the next generation of people who, yes, want to be thought leaders, but really want to make a difference in the world. So the more we can share what we're learning and improve training everywhere, improve science, improve the lessons learned, I think the better.
Jason Jacobs: This is really a breath of fresh air. I mean, one of the knocks that I've heard about just the climate change, I don't want to say industry, but the collection of people working on this problem is that there's so much research that's done that, as you said, ends up sitting on the shelf. It's really inspiring to hear not only the vision that you have to start to build bridges and change that, but actually the success that you're having, as well. It makes me wish I could do a mulligan and, and do my schooling again in this year where the learning that you're getting is a lot more practical and applied.
Pam Templer: Well, I would say to you, it's not too late. I'm not saying go back to school. You don't need to do that, but your climate journey is a perfect example. I think if we all share what we've learned, whether it's through formal classes, our own programs, our own science, everybody can be on this journey together.
Jason Jacobs: For anyone that's listening out there that's inspired by what they're hearing, how can they help?
Pam Templer: I would say do what you're doing. It's reach out to people. There are so many different ways people can help. For example in their local towns, more and more towns across the country are putting together what they're calling climate action plans. Like I said before, climate action plans, our plans with really robust efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and make green space more rigorous, and improve the health of the people who live there. But many cities and towns don't know how to achieve that. So, there's a lot of ways that people can help through working with local scientists, working with local policy makers, volunteering their time or finding a job. There's more and more jobs. There's funding becoming available in this space, and you don't need a formal degree necessarily to make a difference.
Pam Templer: I would say if people want to help, reach out to people like me, I'm always happy to help connect people to others. You're welcome to join our team. We love working in the forest. We do what we consider really fun work out there. I'd say if you want to make a difference is just reach out to me, to others in the field. I think many people are receptive to working together these days.
Jason Jacobs: I think it's very clear that you're pouring your heart and soul into these efforts and that it's coming from such a mission-driven place. I have to ask you, if you just step outside of the work that you're doing or that I'm doing, are you an optimist that as a species, we're going to figure this out?
Pam Templer: I am an optimist by nature. I think that's what helps me keep going. I do look around, and I think that we're at a turning point right now. For me, what's crazy is I started doing work in forests and doing climate manipulation experiments over a decade ago. We do things like warm up a forest and see how are our forest going to work in the next hundred years, so we increase the temperature as to what they're projected to be in a hundred years and see how the trees, and the microbes, and the soils respond.
Jason Jacobs: I don't want to know.
Pam Templer: Yeah. We shovel snow, and we do all sorts of crazy experiments. But when I started not that long ago, this was like a theoretical thing, that in the future the temperatures are going to warm, the snow pack is going to shrink, all these changes are going to happen. And within, I don't know, two, three years of working, suddenly we hit this tipping point where the changes were happening. We've been working with folks in the Northeast who might traditionally be skeptical that climate change is happening, and now you talk to them, and they say, "Oh, no. I run a ski resort. We now have to make more snow every year, and it's expensive. We're no longer called a ski resort. We're a family resort, because you can't depend on winter income alone."
Pam Templer: We're hearing stories like that all the time. You hear about the hurricanes that are getting more intense. The flooding is happening more and more. In some ways that sounds very negative, which I think it is. People are really, truly being hurt by this. But at the same time, I'm an optimist, because I think the awareness is finally settling in. I think the anti-science rhetoric at the national scale right now has also woken people. I think many people thought, "Oh, our government will take care of us, and the problem's not that bad." And I think there's been this convergence of, "Oh, man. This problem is here and it's only going to get worse, and the people at the top are not doing anything about it. We better get into gear."
Jason Jacobs: It switches is the accountability around, right? Because then it's like instead of expecting that someone else will do it and it's not, "We don't have to worry about it even if it is a problem," it's like, "Oh, someone else isn't going to do it, so if not us, then who?" That's why I'm here, by the way.
Pam Templer: I know, and it's wonderful that you're trying to make a difference, and that's what keeps me an optimist, people like you really wanting to make a difference, educate yourself about it. I'm seeing that at the local scale across our country. City mayors are at the forefront right now. They can't ignore fish on people's lawns in Miami. They can't ignore that the seafront here in Boston is going to be flooded not too far from now. And so, that's what gives me optimism. It's that cities and towns across America are trying to do something about it.
Jason Jacobs: Any cities or towns come to mind that are role models that other cities and towns might look to, to see? You know, who's doing the city the way that you're doing the PhD program with the T model?
Pam Templer: Well, yeah, exactly. Great question. Yeah. I'd say Miami's doing a great job. Boston is doing an excellent job. I'll give you an example. Boston poured their heart and soul into doing a research project, like literally research into the potential to put up a seawall in the harbor to help with sea level rise and storm surges that are going to likely flood many parts of the city of Boston. They did this project, everyone thought the momentum was going forward and then they realized, "You know what? This is not going to work. If we have one failure and by the time we build this wall, if there's a failure, or we build this wall and the sea level keeps rising, like what a waste of billions and billions of dollars."
Pam Templer: Instead, they stepped back and they said, "Okay, what can we do holistically as a city?" And now there are many plans on the table to extend green space into the harbor right now. Instead of pushing people out and saying, "We're going to take your land," instead they're saying, "Stay where you want to live, because that's where you live, your home is, your family is." But there's actually plans right now to extend the land into the ocean. Boston's built on fill anyway, so it's not this new concept, to actually extend the green space that has so many benefits that will then help the people who live their day to day, and then during these big storm events will help them from being flooded.
Jason Jacobs: I've heard nothing about this.
Pam Templer: You've got to meet with the city of Boston. They're doing wonderful things.
Jason Jacobs: I'm going to this conference in Oslo in, I think it's the third week in May, that's on sustainable cities. I think there's some local Boston officials that are going because they wanted to take these learnings from other cities back to our city, which in itself is great. It's great that we're doing stuff, but even if we weren't doing stuff, the fact that even we're awakened and we want to learn more about how to do stuff is to me a really positive signal.
Pam Templer: Yeah, and there's many networks now, parallel networks going on. Have you heard of the [Sea 40 00:31:23]?
Jason Jacobs: I have not.
Pam Templer: Mayor Bloomberg started this and now it's just growing, growing, growing cities around the world, working together, lessons learned. It's quite collaborative. I was at a meeting just last year. The conference of mayors across the US got together and said, "What are we going to do productively together?" Like you said before, it's not competition. I want to be mayor of the year, it's, "I want to work together with people so we can solve this collaboratively." You asked me am I a optimists, it seemed that that gives me optimism.
Jason Jacobs: Well, this has been amazing. I feel like we probably shouldn't make this the last that we hear from Pam. It'd be interesting to check in a year or two and get a T model update and get a level of optimism update as well on the overall problem.
Jason Jacobs: Before I let you go, any parting words? Anything I didn't ask that I should have or that you think our listeners should know about?
Pam Templer: Well first, thanks for having me. This has been wonderful. Great conversation. I'd say we should hear from our young folks. I say get some students on here and talk to them, and really get different perspectives, because they're our future. I think if you want optimism to hear about, I think that's what gives me optimism, I should say, more than anything in the universe, is seeing that this generation of students, like you said before, they don't want to wait. They want to do something. I'd love to leave on a positive note just to think about them, that young people coming up right now really want to make a difference.
Jason Jacobs: Awesome. Well, if you know any professors at local universities who are tapped into the student communities, just kidding. That's you. No, I'm just kidding. But it would be cool to talk about if there's some students locally that you think would be great to talk to and that I think that's a great idea to have him on the show.
Pam Templer: Great.
Jason Jacobs: Okay, Pam. Thanks again and best of luck with the T model, and forest ecology, and fighting climate change.
Pam Templer: Thank you so much, Jason. Thanks for having me.
Jason Jacobs: Hey, everyone. Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on My Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at myclimatejourney.co. Note. That is .co, not .com. Someday we'll get the .com, but right now, .co. You can also find me on Twitter at @JJacobs22, where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear.
Jason Jacobs: And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that. Thank you.