Reverse Course: Individual action to combat climate change

Reverse Course takes a journey across the country for a closer look at projects designed to make an impact. (Illustration by Heather LaPierre and Bruce Crocker/WBUR)
Reverse Course takes a journey across the country for a closer look at projects designed to make an impact. (Illustration by Heather LaPierre and Bruce Crocker/WBUR)

People are taking steps big and small to move the dial on climate change. In our Reverse Course: A Here & Now Climate Series, senior editor Peter O’Dowd and producer Chris Bentley take listeners across the country for a closer look at projects designed to make an impact.

On the Navajo Nation and in the rural borderland colonias of Texas, people are using machines that pull moisture from the air to provide water. Researchers in northern Minnesota are planting trees that can thrive in warmer temperatures as one possible way to replenish one million acres of forest.

Workers in Louisiana are plugging orphaned oil and gas wells to prevent them from seeping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

In Puerto Rico, residents and communities are building a patchwork of solar-powered microgrids as an alternative to the polluting diesel generators that served as a backup during frequent power outages.

Episode breakdown

Episode 1. Forest migration in Minnesota: Wanted: A heat-tolerant tree to replenish Minnesota’s forests. Conservationists agree that Minnesota presents a unique opportunity to combat climate change. Up to a million acres in the northern part of the state could be reforested with trees to suck planet-warming carbon out of the atmosphere.

But there’s a hitch. Many of the trees in Minnesota’s boreal forest won’t survive as temperatures warm. Researchers in Minnesota are undertaking something called “assisted migration” to bring new kinds of trees to the state that are expected to do well as the climate evolves.

A visit to the Northwoods of Minnesota reveals what’s at stake. Airs June 26.

Episode 2. Capping oil and gas wells in Louisiana: Abandoned wells are belching planet-warming methane. Plugging them could be low-hanging fruit for climate action and environmental justice.

Millions of leaky wells are seeping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, creating a slow-motion climate disaster that should be relatively easy to fix. One problem? There are more than 120,000 of these abandoned oil and gas wells that have no known owner, and thus no one is responsible for cleanup.

The Biden Administration acknowledged the problem in the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022 and threw billions of dollars at it. Airs June 27. 

Episode 3. Tapestry of microgrids in Puerto Rico: Last year, Hurricane Fiona knocked out electricity across Puerto Rico and exposed how vulnerable Puerto Rico's electrical grid remains, nearly six years after the unprecedented damage of Hurricane Maria. Many Puerto Ricans want to break free from the cycle of destruction by building a decentralized grid powered largely by solar energy. They say the government is not doing enough to hasten that transition. One school, community and co-op at a time, residents are opting into renewable energy.

 Airs June 28.

Episode 4. Water vapor harvesting in Navajo Nation and Texas: In arid climates, people in need of drinking water are drawing water vapor from the air. Up to 30% of the homes on the Navajo Nation still go without running water. It’s a similar challenge in the rural borderland colonias of Texas, where thousands of people have struggled for generations to find the most basic ingredient for life.

But there’s new hope for many of these arid communities. They’re using solar-powered machines to pull moisture straight out of the air. Each one creates more than a gallon of fresh drinking water every day. The Navajo Nation has helped install more than 500 of these machines in homes on the reservation, and the technology is also now used in the Texas borderlands. Airs June 29.

How to listen

  • Radio: Tune in for a new episode on June 27, 28 and 29 on your local NPR station during Here & Now.
  • Podcast: Find a special episode of Here & Now Anytime on June 30, anywhere you get your podcasts.

This article was originally published on June 07, 2023.

Chris Bentley Producer, Here & Now
Chris Bentley is a producer for Here & Now, where he has produced daily news and features since 2015. Chris came to the show from Chicago.


Peter O'Dowd Senior Editor, Here & Now
Peter O’Dowd has a hand in most parts of Here & Now — producing and overseeing segments, reporting stories and occasionally filling in as host. He came to Boston from KJZZ in Phoenix.



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