Who Speaks For The Trees with Rick Friedman of the A Breath of Fresh Earth Podcast


Do you believe a single moment can bring about significant change?

In today’s episode with Rick Friedman, he shares how finding a simple book sparked a passion for bringing a voice to climate change and the issues facing our planet. 

Many CausePods are born from a single moment of inspiration where a few months in the rearview mirror, you can easily say that was a great 90-degree turn in a new direction, and it was a simple moment that started it.

The Breath of Fresh Earth podcast brings a creative format to his podcast to keep people engaged in the episode. 

Creating a podcast that takes full use of the production process to create something unique each time is a technique that is often overlooked. 

Like the book that influenced Rick, he hopes the episode sparks a listener to see climate change a little bit differently.        

Key Topics:
  • How did Rick settle on a particular format, and where did the idea for the show come from (1:30)
  • How does he use his podcast to highlight the work that has already been done for climate change (4:04)
  • Why does climate change get a bad wrap (8:36)
  • Where did he first get into the fight against climate change (10:51)
  • What lessons did Rick learn while launching the show (12:50)
  • What is the biggest lesson for Rick trying to grow his podcast during uncertain times (14:21)
  • What does the Climate Reality Project do (15:55)
  • What advice does Rick have for someone looking to start a Cause based Podcast (18:27)
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00:00:02.350 – Mathew Passy
Hi and welcome to CausePods, I’m your host, Matthew Passy here at CausePods, we have one simple mission to highlight the amazing folks who are using podcast as a way to raise awareness for good causes and make the world a better place, whether it’s in their own local community or they’re taking on global issues.

00:00:20.620 – Mathew Passy
Please visit us at CausePods thought we can learn about our guests, show their favorite charitable cause. Join our Facebook group of resources for cause based podcasters and find a link where you yourself could be a guest here on Cosmos. Again, that’s all that cause pods dog.

00:00:40.370 – Mathew Passy
All right, everybody, we are taking you out to Cleveland, Ohio, and we are being joined by Rick Freeman. He’s the host of a show, A Breath of Fresh Earth. And as you can imagine, his cause is our dear and lovely and at this point, still our only planet that we can live on. He is talking about the environment, our home, and you know what we can do to make this a better place, focusing on the science and all the things out there that are important for us to be able to live a happy life here on planet Earth.

00:01:09.020 – Mathew Passy
Rick, thank you so much for joining us here on call spots. Thanks for having me. You have an interesting concept for your show. You’re not just doing interviews, right? You’re not just going on and berating us. You are trying to bring a little bit of humor and entertainment and and mix that in with education. So tell us a little bit about your show, what the format is, and then take us to why you got started with it.

00:01:33.950 – Rick Friedman
Well, let me go in reverse order, I got started with it because I had written several climate fiction novels and climate fiction or classify as a relatively new genre, and I had had some limited success with those. And I wrote a collection of short stories that were all climate related and sales were OK. But I thought, well, boy, it wouldn’t it be great if I could get this message out all across the world, not just to a handful of people.

And I had never I’d listen to podcasts before, but I’d never thought about actually getting a microphone and finding a quiet spot. And what would I talk about? What would I possibly have to say? That would be interesting, because my background is in sales. It’s not in science. I can’t come out on a microphone and tell the whole world about the percentages of CO2 and how they’re rising and falling and the ocean and all the technical things that there are available podcasts for that by brilliant people.

I am not that person. So I thought, well, let’s try to find an avenue where I could present a little bit, maybe more of an education, a little bit of entertainment and maybe even squeeze in a little bit of humor. So when I’m doing the show, which is typically 19 to 25 minutes, I’ll throw in some sound effects that I download from various sites and just try to keep the attitude a little bit like there’s nothing funny about climate change and pollution, but we just can’t be all doom and gloom all the time.

So each episode has a climate hero where I’ll find somebody in the world who’s doing something amazing, whether they’re 15 like Rittenberg or whether they’re 65, like a couple in Australia, they’re taking plastic and making mats out of them and giving them to the homeless. I also point out a villain of the week, which is really hard, not to mention the president every week. And it’s somebody from the EPA or even in a previous episode, it was Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

I you wouldn’t normally think of them as climate villains, but they had the fledgling start of electric cars back in 1910, 1911, but they couldn’t agree on what type of battery to use and they ended up getting into a big argument. Ford had already dumped a ton of money into it. World War One started and they figured, well, there wasn’t going to be a great way to have a charging station in the middle of a battlefield in France. So the idea kind of collapsed and it faded away.

So because they were both so stubborn, they were both brilliant, but they were also very stubborn and they couldn’t agree.

And you were telling me also that also in each episode you like to highlight and celebrate the birthday of a famous scientist.

Yeah, because I’m not a science. I don’t have the science background. Every month I find every episode. I find somebody who’s celebrating a birthday within that time frame of the show and point out some of their major accomplishments for for some people who aren’t really into it as much as I am, as far as not only I mean, the planet will be here. We’re the ones that are there won’t be here, and nature will take a serious beating.

I’d like to point out some of the contributions of people who long before we talked about climate change and rising temperatures, there were people who were well aware that adding CO2 to the atmosphere was going to affect the temperature. But nobody was listening. Right, because we didn’t understand it and we couldn’t see what it meant. And the problem felt slow and distant and a future issue. And, you know, now we’re facing it, it seems, every day and, you know, every part, every corner of the planet.

So hopefully more people do start to take it seriously, although there are plenty of villains out there who are not helping us. And and I love what you point out, by the way, that the planet will be OK. I was always a big fan of George Carlin and he did a great bit on that, where he said the planet is fine. We’re the ones who are going to be in trouble.

Yeah, exactly. I’m glad you mentioned that, because that was way back when I started the show in February. I was thinking about about George Carlin. He got a little bit sour at the end of his career and a little angry. I liked him more when he was pointing out some of the silly things, but he was right about that. With long after we’re gone, there will be there will be either other species or nature will reclaim some of the natural habitat that we’ve destroyed.

But I’m just thinking about my daughter and my sons. After I wrote the series of books in 2000, prior to 2017, I had a chance to go to Pittsburgh and be Tandi at the Climate Reality Project, which is Al Gore’s baby. Or now there’s over 25000 people across the world have been trained as climate leaders. And that just means that you’ve been given the basic knowledge to talk to people, you know, with some knowledge without having to go to MIT.

So I went there and I thought my daughter, who was seven, 16 at the time, she says, Dad, why are you going? I said, to save your life. And if you can’t do it for yourself, then usually as a parent, you would say, well, what can I possibly do to help my children? So I want her to be able to enjoy some of the things. That I’ve enjoyed growing up, even fresh air shouldn’t be that much of an of an obligation.

We have a moral right to fresh water, to clean water and fresh air. And the people that seem to be denying the climate crisis and pollution are the ones who are profiting from the products that are being made by either with plastic or fossil fuels. No one can really deny that the temperature is changing or the planet’s filthy. I mean, every day now we see about all the plastic in the ocean and all these little plastic pellets that are falling off trucks and getting into our rivers and streams.

And what gives me hope is that the younger generation, there are entrepreneurs who are starting companies handle this and work with it. Yeah, it is nice to see how many people are not only, you know, taking up the cause, starting nonprofits, but to your point where there are people who are starting real businesses, you reference that older couple that’s taking plastic and recycling and turning it into products. And we’re seeing that in all sorts of forms across the globe of people who are taking this product that won’t break down, that’s just flooding landfills and getting it to the oceans and getting into our food, food and everything like that.

But, you know, there are people out there who are doing it not just for the planet, which is great, but also to make some money. And that’s especially encouraging. And, you know, to your point, even if you don’t have the sympathetic feelings about the planet, climate change hasn’t impacted you. You don’t live in a tropical area that is experiencing droughts. You don’t live on the West Coast experiencing fires. You don’t live along the coast where flooding and hurricanes has become a problem.

You’ve got to know that this is going to be a financial hit to you at some point. Right. How many times do we have to bail people out? How many times do we have to rebuild our infrastructure? How many times do you have to put up higher and higher flood walls and all these things? It’s still a monetary problem. And I just wish politics of it was, you know, we should be having arguments about how to solve it, not whether or not it exists.


We can’t like the covid has destroyed lives all across the world. Two of my three children had covid and recovered, but.

There’s no vaccine for climate change because you can’t just you can’t just do something in 10 minutes, like you could take a shot for the. I got my flu shot. I got a single shot. I’ll get my vaccine shot at some point. But you can’t you can’t put a needle into the ocean and make it cooler.

You can’t take a hurricane shot and not have your house blown away. If you live in Houston or New Orleans for a long time, people thought, well, climate change was something we could worry about later.

We have so many other issues and we do have a lot of important things to deal with. Climate change is kind of like when the hurricane is coming from the west coast of Africa towards America. And you turn on your news and they say Hurricane Irene is headed this way, but you don’t think about it the next day when you when you go outside and it’s beautiful when the hurricane hits, you’re like, oh, my God, why didn’t someone tell me I was going to be this bad?

So as bad as coronaviruses been and it has been terrible, it will end at some point either with a vaccine. Well, with the vaccine. But climate change isn’t going to change by just wishing it away. It’s not going to go away when it gets warmer and it’s not going to go away like a miracle. We’re going to have to spend a lot of money, but we’re either going to spend a lot of money now or more later. So it’s not a question of I think what happens is politicians tend to try to keep everything uplifting and positive so they can say, well, we’re going to spend the money on this type of project.

But it’s very difficult for someone in charge to say, let’s spend a whole lot of money that we don’t even know where we’re going to get for something that you don’t really see quite so obvious right now as many things are. It’s definitely a messaging issue and definitely a will issue. I didn’t even know about the books before we started chatting. I guess I want to go back a little bit, even deeper and just ask you real quickly, I understand the passion for wanting to provide clean water, safe air.

Right. Leave the world a better place for your children as a father, I totally understand that. But it seems like your your passion for this runs deep. Where did you, you know, first get involved with the the climate fight? How did that sort of, you know, get started for you? That’s a great question.

So I was many years ago, actually, when my son, my boys are almost twenty eight. I have twins. Right after they were born, I had this idea that. There would be a place that was fighting pollution and the animals were now attacking man for destroying the planet, and then my children were born. And when you’re starting to run a business and have twins, you don’t have a lot of spare time for writing. So I put it aside, when they were old enough to not be tucked in and help with their homework and all that, I went back to that and I was kind of debating because it’s a lonely existence to write and you have to really make a commitment.

So I was at the the local library and I was looking at magazines and stacks of newspapers and I flipped one over at the bottom. Was Dr. Seuss a story? The Lorax, which was always a favorite story of mine. And it was kind of like, who speaks for the trees? So when you you know, you take one part of the of the forest away and then some creature that needs that part can’t feed anymore. And it’s just kind of a cycle that builds on itself and then there’s nothing left.

So I thought this is the inspiration. I need to go down in the basement, get my little 15, 10 by 15 spot, turn off the world and write. So it was really I owe it to Dr. Seuss for the inspiration and I owe it to Rod Serling of the Twilight Zone fame to try to put a twist on all my stories, you know, just kind of an ode to him. If I could do it at two percent of his level, I’d be a happy camper.

I laughed a little bit in the beginning, and folks who listen to the show before will know I have twins as well and started my business right around the time that our twins were born. So I can empathize and very much sympathize with everything you just talked about.

So when you decided to write, you were doing the book and you decided this might be fun to do with audio. What made you think podcasting? What were some of the hurdles where I like to talk about actually launching the show and some of the things that you dealt with or lessons you learned?

Well, it was mostly kind of fear of failure, success also, because when you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t want to come on the broadcast around the world. If anyone’s listening, you don’t want to sound like an idiot. That’s the biggest fear of doing a lot of omes and one word and repeating yourself. So I had to kind of come up with an idea of these different segments. And I use a software company called Aletta or out of England, and they’re great because you can upload your your segments to them and then you can add in other features.

In my case, some of these sound effects that I mentioned and you just kind of build the show, you just take a file and then you say, OK, put the next one here and put the next one here, clean up all the audio sound presentable so that they level out the tones. Because, again, as I mentioned, I’m not a scientist. I’m not I’m not great with audio either. So it was kind of the fear of of sounding like an idiot and putting together a show that was pretty schlocky.

And I wanted to at least make it professional sounding enough so that if somebody listened to it, you might say, well, I don’t like his voice or I don’t like what he says. But at least it would be of a quality that somebody would say it’s a podcast, it’s not a joke.

And so what have you learned since you’ve been doing? I mean, you’ve been doing this you said since February, so much of it during a global pandemic. So I’m sure the experience has been a little bit different than it would have been if you launched in the earlier time. But what’s been the biggest lesson? What’s been the biggest takeaway about producing a podcast and then trying to grow it, especially during these times? Biggest challenges was to fill up all the time by myself, I’d listen to many podcasts over the last few years and often there was two people or three people doing the podcast so they can play off each other.

If you’re watching a sporting event, there’s usually two announcers or if you’re listening to the news, there’s usually two people. So to tackle this by myself, I knew that it was going to be a little bit more of a challenge. And my show comes out every two weeks. So one week is pretty much scouring the Internet newsletters, trying to contact people to find something of interest and then trying to phrase it so that it would be interesting for people to listen to.

The thing that surprised me the most was finding listeners. Now I’ve have listeners from 46 different countries when I’ve got somebody from every continent except Antarctica. So if you’re down in McMurdo Station where there’s a scientific lab, somebody please tune in and listen once so I can get it on my list of listen everywhere. That’s the fun part is now to try to branch out. There’s a lot of more countries that haven’t listened to me yet and then I’ll usually try to find something of interest in.

It’s not just the United States centric show. I try to mention people from across the globe. Your charity that you want to talk about, I mean, seems like a very obvious choice. Here is the climate reality project. Obviously, given the topic that you talk about in your passion in life, makes a lot of sense. But quickly, tell us, what do they do and why, in particular this charity of all the other ones that are working on climate crisis?

Well, Al Gore is the founder of it.

He has been working on this for over 20 years. And it started he got a group of people together in his barn in Tennessee and they decided they needed to teach people how to teach other people. So in twenty seventeen, I went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for a three day training session. I was among twelve hundred people there and they had a number of scientific scholars. Mr Gore was there. We all sat together for about eight or nine hours a day, gathering information, learning how to get more information.

That was kind of the finishing touch to make me say, OK, I can’t just sit and listen to it. I have to do something. I can’t just talk about it with friends. I have to get involved. I have to go the extra step. And I thought that now the climate reality project has training sessions all over the world. They do a lot of education across the globe to teach people about mostly climate change. They don’t deal with pollution as much as I do on my show.

When I went to that training, I came back and I just couldn’t just say, OK, well, what’s on the news? What time is when’s the basketball game on? What do you honey, do you want to go to a movie? I had to make a concerted effort to kind of take it to the next level. And there is a downside to that, because when you make a commitment to do above and beyond what you might normally do, it takes time away from something else.

So instead of maybe watching a show on Netflix with my wife, I’m down here researching in the basement, going on the Internet, trying to schedule interviews, just trying to make an interesting show we had a chance to listen to a little bit before the show.

And it is very interesting. It is very well done. We would highly encourage everybody listening, those of you who are passionate about this topic, but also those of you who are on the cusp and wondering how serious do I need to take this? This is probably a great entry into the space. It’s a great way to learn without feeling lectured or talked down to or being yelled at or anything like that. So, of course, we’ll have a link to the show.

A Breath of Fresh Earth, a captivating film link in the show, notes link on the website, as well as how to find Rick’s show on Apple, Google and Spotify. And of course, upon listening, if you want to help out and do your part, you can also support Climate Reality Project. We’ll put a link to Climate Reality Project, Dawg. Rick, before we let you go, any lessons or advice for someone else who is, you know, fighting the good fight and thinking about using podcast as the medium to get their message out to amplify what they’re doing?

Anything you’ve learned along the way that you would want to share with the next person? Sure.

Just like everything in life, you’re not as good at it on day one as you are six months in. So when I did my first show, the hesitation in my voice is probably at some point a little bit obvious. But you gather more confidence whether it’s riding a bike or your fifth week on the job compared to your first day on the job when you you don’t even know where they keep the pens and pencils and and which light turns on the bathroom, you learn and you get more comfortable.

I think one of the hardest things that I’ve talked to other people who podcast is overcoming, oh, my God, my voice sounds horrible. And you just have to get rid of that thought. You can’t think about it. You can’t change your voice. You can’t be Casey Kasem. So you just be yourself. And some people, if they don’t like it, they’ll find something else. But just be confident and try. There’s nothing. You would not want to have an idea for your own show and listen to some guy do it and say, God, I wish I could do that.

That wouldn’t be that hard. I mean, how difficult it is to buy a buy a microphone and get some software that you can get free on your computer. I use audacity and find a place that’s either free or ten or twenty dollars a month to host your podcast. Just try it like I was. I always encourage my kids to try things and find something that they’re passionate about. And clearly I’ve found something I’m passionate about.

You certainly have. Once again, it’s Rick Friedman. It is fantastic advice. Don’t be afraid. Just go out there. And the truth is, you’re not going to like the sound of your own voice. It is just science people.

And we can talk about that in another episode. But if you believe in what you’re doing and you think this is the right medium to do it, like Rick said, just get started. You can’t learn until you make the mistake. Rick Friedman, a breath of fresh earth. Again, links to the show in the show notes, links to Apple, Google, Spotify on the Schnitz and on our website calls Bodrog. And again, a link to the climate reality project where you can learn more and donate and support their cause.

Rick, it has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for joining us here on Call Sports today.

Thank you very much for having me.

Thanks for listening to this episode. Of course, pods, if you’ve been inspired by the work of our guest, please check out the show notes of this episode in your podcasting app or at Cause podcast dot org. There you will find links to their show, their website, their podcast, links on Apple, Google, Spotify, as well as a link to support the charity that they highlighted here in this episode. You will also find out cause Pott’s dot org, but where to subscribe to this show on your favourite podcasting app, how to sign up to be a guest on this show and a link to our Facebook group, which is going to have special resources just for the folks who are podcasting for a good cause.

And I can tell you right now, we’ve got one great deal from our friends, a pod page. But you’re only going to learn about it and get that special deal if you are a member of the Facebook group for cause bots. And before I go, I should say thank you in particular. The show is edited and produced by Ben Kilroy of the Military Veteran Dad’s podcast. And what a great job he has done. And all this is made possible because of the great support that I received from Shannon Rojas here at the podcast, consulted Dotcom once again.

If you want to learn more, go to College Sports Dog. Thank you so much. And we will see you next time on Cosmos.

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