When Shaghayegh Tajvidi, Polly Leger and Canadian National Observer founder and editor-in-chief Linda Solomon Wood decided in early 2021 to create Observerfrom the first round of podcasts, they wanted to expand Observerfrom award-winning climate journalism to a new medium. The goal was to tell stories about the climate crisis that mattered and engage people with realities, solutions and calls to action. It took eight months to produce the six-episode series, which premiered on October 13.
Today National Observer is proud to share that RACC has been shortlisted for the 2022 Canadian Journalism Foundation Award for Reporting on Climate Solutions. The award “recognizes excellence in reporting on what is being done in Canada and beyond to address the impact and threat of climate change – the policies, practices and people who could potentially be part of solution to this global crisis.
The winner of the CJF Award for Reporting on Climate Solutions receives $10,000.
“The Race Against Climate Change brings a new and sometimes even optimistic approach to climate reporting by focusing on the solutions as well as the problems,” says Observer editor-in-chief Adrienne Tanner. “We are very proud of this nomination, which is indeed a great honour.”
Editor-in-Chief Karyn Pugliese adds, “I am thrilled to see the Race Against Climate Change podcast ranked among the best in journalism in Canada for this prestigious award. It recognizes the high quality work and critical role that our journalists at Canada’s National Observer play in bringing climate change and solutions into the public conversation. Congratulations to my colleagues who have done this significant work.
“I am so proud of Race Against Climate Change and the impact it has had across Canada,” says Solomon Wood.
When Tajvidi and Leger started working for RACC, they locked themselves in a house in Vancouver for two weeks to brainstorm and strategize. They used three walls as a drawing board, sticking papers and post-its all over the walls. “It really felt like a ‘true crime’ wall, like we were chasing a mystery,” says Tajvidi.
Some was production planning, some was story, some was purely for organizational purposes. But the parallel with the true genre of the crime and its walls covered in evidence was not merely aesthetic. It occurred to Tajvidi and Leger that they were investigating a crime of another kind.
“The climate crisis is a global criminal situation unfolding, the real crime against people on the planet,” Tajvidi says.
During the production of RACC, they witnessed firsthand the violence of these crimes. British Columbia’s 2021 weather disasters included a heat dome and flooding that killed, injured and displaced countless others. Their recorders broke down in the field. Léger slept outside because it had no air conditioning. All roads leading to Vancouver were blocked after flooding destroyed highways.
Léger and Tajvidi have been forced to care for each other, not just as journalists, but as human beings dealing with the climate crisis. “All of this was produced by a few producers in their thirties who were also struggling with their own despair over everything that was going on,” says Tajvidi. Sometimes they felt like they were “screaming into the void”.
When those feelings threatened to overwhelm, hearing about commitment and action from guests like organizer Julian Brave Noisecat and activist Jesse Firempong brought the couple back to ground. “Kids are really radical,” Tajvidi says. “Hearing their stories of being connected to the actual mobilization that was happening was the thing that lifted us out of our own fear when we ourselves were weighed down.”
While solutions to the climate crisis tend to rely heavily on the idea of ”hope”, Tajvidi and Léger made the conscious decision during production to replace “hope” with “agency”. . “It’s a guideline of the whole series: there are pieces that we can move here,” says Tajvidi.
RACC marks a promising first step for Canadian National Observer in new ways to produce impactful climate journalism. Tajvidi calls it a “pilot project” that sets the standard for Observerupcoming multimedia reporting projects from . The team aimed to produce something that people would want to come back to and ask for more. It happened: Tajvidi says listeners were asking for a second season and wondering what the next podcast would be like. “We want to do more podcasts,” Tajvidi says. “We need to make more podcasts.
Today’s CJF Nomination Confirms What Listeners Already Knew and Who They Shared With Canadian National Observer: Race Against Climate Change is an impactful and resonant podcast that engages and inspires listeners, even in a crowded podcast field and while tackling some of the toughest and most complex topics of our generation.
The winner of the CJF Award for Reporting on Climate Solutions will be announced on June 7. Stay tuned for the next podcast project from NOCThe Sharp Podcast Team.