Episode 26: With Karsten (Life on Earth, Environmental Justice, Clean Energy and Sustaining Activism)


Neil Cowley’s piano



Karsten started improvising in high school, with a jazz band. That helped him learn to find pleasure in the piano again.

“Piano is something I do entirely for myself these days. For me there’s nothing better than an hour at the piano at the end of a long day. Only every couple of weeks these days. It works. It’s a consistent way to make myself feel better and reorder my neurons.”



Karsten’s boys are 4 and 2. As a dad, Karsten is realizing how important it is to have patience and realizing how easily he can become irritated in certain situations. I can definitely relate.


Family — Moving from DC Suburbs to the Central Valley

Karsten always had the sense that his family was different. Master’s degrees. Politically liberal. After his first seven years in the wealthy and educated DC suburbs, there was a bit of culture shock initially when they moved to Porterville.


Identity and Conformity


Identity: Individualism and Adolescence




Where You Live


Not The Way to Learn Geography.

Maps and the Visualizing the Earth


Karsten’s Work: Energy

Reducing Carbon Emissions — Biden’s Statement on 2030

California, Massachusetts and Texas are all deregulated electricity markets. Where Texas went wrong — -they went further with deregulation and didn’t take weather-proofing precautions and other areas.

Q. How do we talk about the environment with urgency without overwhelming the common person who feels like the problem is impossible and the climate crisis and the impending issues we face are inevitable?

Karsten appreciates the way the Biden administration is framing the argument as a genuine crisis that we can deal with in terms of jobs, infrastructure and equity.

Urgency and Commitment


Sustaining Justice Movements: Optimism Plus Realism Plus Rejuvenation

I was teaching an article that explained the results of the Chauvin trial the other night. We read the article and I was trying to get them to understand that this was not exactly a victory, but it was a necessary result and it shows some measure of justice and police accountability. That relief is necessary and that celebration of justice is necessary. And yet…police reform has never been more urgent. This is a tiny victory in a sea of problems.

The same is true of climate. Whether it’s Standing Rock and protesting a pipeline, or whether it’s about our 2030 emissions goals, we have to focus as much on 2022 as 2030.”

Karsten: “I became a Geography major instead of an Environmental Science major because, to me, the Environmental Science picture always kept the people out, or weren’t focused enough on social solutions. Whereas where we are pointed now, we’re more focused on creating durable policy frameworks and durable energy systems that can be sustained over time to protect the natural world and the future of our own livability.


Karsten loves searching for tadpoles in the meadow with his young boys. They go on adventures!

Having a four year-old means that patience tests abound. Being inside so often over the last year has added layers of frustration and Karsten sometimes recognizes his own lack of patience at times when he sees his little boy get frustrated.

Having a second child: everything is more familiar. Watching them and the bond that they’ve formed is miraculous. Potty training is easier. Sometimes, Karsten has to remind himself to spend more time with his younger son.



Organizations to Support Justice

Donate to the Sunrise Movement www.sunrisemovement.org

Donate to Fair Fight www.fairfight.com

Donate to the Equal Justice Initiative https://eji.org

Jonah Hall makes Jonah Asks, a podcast about being human. Conversation-interviews with friends and friends of friends about how to live on Earth in 2020.