When radio journalists Julie Grant, Reid Frazier and Kara Holsopple started the Pittsburgh-based podcast Trump on Earth last January, they only expected the program to cover the first 100 days of the new president’s term and its impact on environmental policy. But after 100 truly eventful days — which saw pro-industry advocate Scott Pruitt become the head of the EPA and multiple regulatory rollbacks — the three hosts, along with their executive producer, Kathy Knauer, realized they were in it for the long haul.
“One hundred days would not even begin to cover what the implications of these changes might be,” says Knauer.
Nearly 10 months later, the podcast has 23 episodes that tackle a wide variety of topics, from the potential ecological devastation caused by Trump’s border wall to the fate of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. While Trump on Earth is produced by The Allegheny Front, a public radio program that covers environmental issues in Western Pennsylvania, Grant says the podcast gives them a chance to go national.
“[Allegheny Front] is focused largely on Pittsburgh and how what’s happening in Washington is affecting us here,” says Grant, who has spent over two decades covering environmental issues for public radio programs in Pennsylvania, Michigan and New York. “The podcast blends nicely with our radio show in showing different levels of what’s happening in environmental policy and in the environment itself.”
She adds that it also allows listeners to fully consider developments that have otherwise become lost in the din of the chaotic, quickly changing news cycle. As an example, she cites how Trump’s press conference about an order meant to loosen building standards in flood-prone areas was derailed by his failure to condemn the deadly violence caused by white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia just days before.
“Everybody picks up on what happened in Charlottesville, but it wasn’t until the hurricanes started hitting that everybody started looking back and saying, ‘Wait a minute,’” says Grant.
Knauer describes the podcast as being created for a general audience as opposed to “people who are already in the weeds on these issues.” To achieve this, the episodes usually clock in at a digestible 30-40 minutes and take a nonpartisan approach with guests who are more interested in educating, rather than appealing to listeners.
“We try to find journalists who are covering these issues or experts who can delve into them on a more neutral basis,” she says. “This is not advocacy driven or coming from the left.”
The debut episode featured Jody Freeman, founding director of the Harvard Law School Environmental Law and Policy Program, followed three days later by Christine Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey who served as administrator of the EPA under President George W. Bush.
The most recent episode had Mike Lavender, senior Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food and Environment program, trying to make sense of Trump choosing Sam Clovis as Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Clovis, as the episode’s description points out, is not and has never been a scientist.)
The podcast has even started preparing the next generation of eco-conscious reporters by working with students through a partnership with Point Park University’s Environmental Journalism program.
As for the future of Trump on Earth, Knauer says they plan on expanding its reach by continuing to do cross-promotion with other podcasts, similar to what they’ve done with the California-based podcast, Generation Anthropocene.
“The audience is building and we feel that it’s a worthwhile endeavor to continue,” she says.
Trump on Earth episodes are available for free on the show’s website and through various platforms and apps.