Episode 5: Steven Beschloss

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Steven is a professor and award-winning journalist who has developed a unique and enriching perspective of nature. 

His family moved from Chicago to the Midwest while he was very young and he grew up in the middle of the woods. From early childhood, he reports having a fascination with nature due to witnessing the extreme weather events taking place around him.  He describes seeing tornadoes ripping up 15-20 surrounding trees, some of which almost fell on his house. He also relates spending time with his mother indoors watching the majesty of a lightning storm and “the intense visions they would create”.

As he was growing up, Steven began to notice that extreme weather events were occurring more frequently and that they were also of increasing intensity. Yet Steven describes himself as “more excited than scared” by their occurrence. As a demonstration of this, he talks about going outside during a hurricane. He went to stand near the water in the midst of 130-140 mph winds because he “wanted to know what it would feel like”.

As Steven grew up and began his career in journalism, he found himself travelling to places such as New York, London, Helsinki and LA, and he ended up paying less attention to the natural world. But, as the Climate Change issue was becoming more apparent, he felt that it was important to turn his journalistic skills to addressing this phenomenon, something he felt the major publications at the time were not doing.

As a result, in 2020, Steven started the “Voices from the Future” project, which was designed to give a voice to those who had experienced extreme weather events: “I reached out to people who had survived extreme weather events on 5 different continents… events such as hurricanes, floods, droughts and wildfires”. Steven was searching for stories of resilience which would highlight the power of nature and the way it impacted us as human beings. One example of this came in the form of Ronnie Scott, who tragically lost his wife and his house due to extreme floods. He now has to find some way of living with the horror of the experience. Another example was Greg who had to abandon his house due to wildfires. He and his family learnt that their house had burnt down from a news report not long after having evacuated. 

Despite the trauma such experiences must naturally bring, Steven was heartened to learn of the way in which the local community had reached out to people such as Ronnie and Greg to offer help and assistance where they could. Steven believes that, as extreme weather events become ever more frequent, they will encourage us to interact more collaboratively and empathetically with each other. As Steven sees it, we will need to do more to take care of each other and we will also need to pay more attention to the planet. In Steven’s words: “paying attention to our planet and each other will create a healthier, habitable future”.

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