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Steve Bentley - Climate Reality Leader

Advocacy Story

· Climate Reality Canada Team


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His engagement: The thing that motivates him is his hometown of Calgary, Alberta. He does not want to see the community get left behind by the transition just because of a lack of foresight, vision or the courage to recognize that a change is coming to an otherwise pretty comfy level of existence. According to him, although it's a roller coaster economy that is married very tightly to oil and gas in Alberta, there are also enormous opportunities specifically in this province as far as becoming a clean tech super hub.  

About yourself: My name is Steve Bentley. I was born in Calgary, Alberta, but I kind of lived all over Canada. Spent some time in Ottawa for the high school era and went to University of British Columbia after that and finally settled back into Calgary. Climate is the thing that drives me and motivates me, and that is that, I feel like I was passed kind of a rotten deal from the generation before me and the onus is on me to pass on a less rotten deal to the young ones in my life that I care about. That motivates me, keeps me going.

How did you start this initiative and what made you want to create "the Climate Lens"? 

First of all I've had the enormous good fortune to be hired on by the Calgary Climate Hub to do various different climate projects and work. The first one was called the Community Climate Conversations and that involved going into communities across Calgary and bringing a host of experts along with me - like a solar expert or an electric car person or a permaculture team. This was 2017, 2018, 2019 and at that point in time people were not used to being able to even really talk about climate in this city without feeling like they're gonna be sort of persecuted for it. But to see so many people from their own communities that are interested in climate, was very uplifting for quite a lot of them.  

So I was paid to take on that work which enabled me to work on what I think is the most important thing I could possibly be working on. As we headed into Covid, I was approached by the Calgary Climate Hub co-chair at the time, Dr. Joe Vipond, who asked me whether I wanted to host a Zoom cast interview show and we came up with the name A Climate of Change. We chose that name because we felt like maybe this Covid era is a climate of change in which more people are going to be starting to notice how we're doing things in the world and make some of the connections that need to be made on climate. From there we did a number of shows that I've been a part of on behalf of the Calgary Climate Hub.  

I think the critical thing that happened in the formation of the podcast was I was asked by current hub co-chair Joan Lawrence to host a daily zoom show covering Cop 26 that was happening in Glasgow, Scotland in November of 2021. So last year during Cop 26, I went live every day talking about the issues that people would be addressing that day at that conference, but also connecting with folks that were actually on the ground in Scotland. So, I got into the habit of doing this daily show. What really sort of kicked off the podcast was I felt like we needed more content like that. I spoke with Calgary Climate Hub co-chair Joan Lawrence about this and we started talking about creating a show and trying to get funding for it. And I think the Climate Lens podcast is just a part of what we're trying to do. We want to be a full multimedia platform that can respond to world climate events as they happen.

What advice can you give to someone who would want to create a podcast?  

I would say for Climate Hubs nationwide the best thing you can possibly do is look at your volunteer base and see if anybody has skill sets that are gonna help you with this. I was willing to try to learn it all on my own, but if you've got somebody who knows something specifically, you're gonna be way better off than teaching yourself something that's already well established how to do. So once we had a few things figured out, we had all the approvals we needed from the board and other things that go on within an organization that's trying to be as professional as we can, then we were able to reach out to our volunteer base and we acquired a person who's able to do some producing for us.  

Our producer is named Nina Staum. She has a lot of knowledge on putting shows together and this particular volunteer wants to be able to do some more climate work than maybe the professional world is offering her. She has been helping us on some of our previous A Climate of Change work and has really stepped up and taken on the role of helping produce these podcasts. In addition to that, one of our members, a guy by the name of Simon Sauvinel who has a lot of knowledge - he has been involved in creating a podcast before. Where you've got some volunteers who have that knowledge base, you're able to lean on them and give them a bit of ownership of the project and with a little bit of luck that's where a team starts to form.

Can you tell us more about Calgary, energy transition and how it affects the choice of your guests and your contents? 

I guess that really is the meat of our show because climate and the climate transition, without a doubt, is the biggest story of our time. We have the next 50 years of all of our lives involved with this story. Our economies will be built or destroyed based on how we take on this challenge and given that Calgary is an oil and gas town and does have to face this transition, that to me, I feel like that makes for an interesting story. Not only that, a lot of things going here in Alberta and here in Calgary that actually gives us a leg up. Our biggest problem is people that are unable to see beyond how we've always done things. But if you wipe away the politics and you wipe away all of the just uncertainty due to people just not having the answer laid out for them, there's just so much about Calgary and Alberta that is perfect to not only make this transition, but really show leadership.  

Moreover, I feel like if a city that is as fiercely loyal to oil and gas can do this transition and not only do it to survive but do it to prosper, then I think we have a real opportunity. I tell city councilors whenever I can, we have an opportunity to really show the world how an oil and gas town can transition to the next energy and to being profitable and leaders in that new type of energy. It's an enormous challenge, but we don't have a choice. The best news is that when the Calgary Climate Hub commissioned some polling prior the municipal elections last year, it turns out that - as much as we think of ourselves as just an oil and gas town - a strong majority not only understand that a transition is upon us and that we should prosper from it, but a strong majority thinks we can be leaders on it. You know, the largest solar installation in all of Canada is going in just south of Calgary at the Traverse Solar Project. Things are changing. Is anything changing fast enough? No, but they are changing.

Have you noticed that the podcast has already created an impact in your community?  

It's early days, we only have two episodes out so far. But what I can tell you is right now, when I check the dashboard for our podcast, that tells us how many people are listening, it seems like we pick up 5 new listeners a day. And I'm encouraged by that. The other thing I would say is that when we did a crowdfunder for the Climate Lens podcast the deal was if we were able to raise a certain amount ourselves then we got a certain amount of matching funds from the Alberta Provincial government. Our target was to raise $5,000, which would cover my work on the project until around January of 2023, and we were able to raise 5,800. So we raised more money than we were shooting for from around 70 people. That's sort of a real grassroots win that happened around this podcast.  

The prime feedback that I've gotten so far are from people that I respect in the climate field here in Calgary and Alberta. Specifically, Bob Morrison, who runs the Mobilized node, which helps folks identify when things are going on at city Hall and that we need to act. Bob is a guy that I look up to enormously and whose work is very important. He tells me he really likes what's going on with the podcast. So, it's not that I can say we're impacting the community yet but it is another place where people can get the real deal on what's happening in this city. And we're only gonna grow from here.

Steve received the 2022 Bhayana Family Foundation Award, which honors those who have dedicated themselves to improving communities in Alberta.

To discover "the Climate Lens", it's here: