These in-their-own-words pieces are told to Patricia Lane and co-edited with input from the interviewee for the purpose of brevity.
Paul Shore found happiness and won his teenage daughter’s praise when he left a successful career in high-tech to write climate action books for kids.
I chatted with him at his home in Whistler, B.C., as he worked on his book and supervised his pre-teen son who was at home from school with a cold.
Tell us about your book.
The first book in our Steve & Eve Save the Planet series is titled I Can Hear Your Heart Beep, a graphic novel that introduces 6- to 10-year-olds to the adventures of Steve, a polar bear, and Eve, an electric car, who team up to use superpowers like kindness and hope to contend with the villain Booger the Burger — who, like the oil industry he represents, seems oblivious to the harm he is doing.
We hope the story and the humour keep it light, and as children learn about the crisis, they also learn about hope, agency and the need for family solidarity. My co-author Deborah Katz Henriquez and our illustrator Prashant Miranda and I see this as a first in a series.
What people are reading
We are also writing for parents who are already concerned about climate change but don’t want to worry their children. Finding the right balance between telling enough of the truth to have integrity and not so much that it overwhelms can be tough. How do we have meaningful conversations with our kids about their futures? We use humour to inspire optimism and hope, not only for our young readers, but for their parents as well.
It will come out in February. You can sign up to get pre-ordering info at Planet Hero Kids.
What were you doing before? And why did you leave?
I trained as an electrical engineer and had a successful career in high-tech product development and marketing. I was good at my job, paid very well, travelled business class and was part of a team I liked. But I wanted to be an involved dad and didn’t see any way to combine that desire with that world.
How did you come to this project?
The prevailing story about climate change then for those who were paying any kind of attention was that it was not a solvable problem. My mind prefers to notice solutions, so I tended to ignore the issue. I tried a few other things first. I helped lead the 2010 Olympic Games legacy developments in Whistler and loved ensuring that communities benefited from that event.
Then one day, I took my daughter with me when I test-drove an electric vehicle. I was interested in the technology because I had helped build a solar electric car prototype at university but I saw only the technical puzzle. But after my then-eight-year-old daughter hugged the car in intuitive appreciation for its contribution to making her world better, my worldview shifted.
I have an engineer's conviction that humans can solve anything we put our minds to. I started wondering how I could convey that not just to her, but to other children and their parents.
What do you miss?
I was fortunate to be raised with a concept of enough and had salted quite a bit away from my work. I knew I could make the jump to zero income with a few changes. I might miss the status, but my daughter’s teacher told me recently that she talks about how excited she is about this book in school and my son often wants to see the next iteration. Having my children proud of me is priceless.
What makes it hard?
Writing with integrity about human interaction with the natural world necessarily means spending time in the soup of despair and gloom and doom. But part of my Jewish heritage is the concept of Tikkun Olam, which teaches we are obligated to do our best to contribute toward healing the world even though we may never see that task completed in our lifetimes. It is a source of comfort to me that I am claiming my place in that heritage.
What gives you hope?
Participating in the climate change conversation has allowed me to make many wonderful friends. This community is a superpower for itself and for me.
What do you see if we get this right?
Every human endeavour is assessed with two metrics: “Will it reduce emissions?” and “Is it fair?” If we can get to that, we will have solved the climate crisis and a lot of other crises, too.
Do you have any advice for other people who may be considering a shift toward working on climate change?
Of course, it may feel a bit scary. But we only get one shot. Life is not a dress rehearsal. If you have a chance to make a difference and you can figure out when enough is enough, you are ready to shift.
"the villain Booger the
"the villain Booger the Burger — who, like the oil industry he represents, seems oblivious to the harm he is doing"
Careful, with talk like that, Jason Kenney's War Room will come after you.
"UCP's 'war room' takes on Netflix, claims anti-oil Bigfoot is 'brainwashing' kids"
"The Canadian Energy Centre is criticizing Netflix Canada for airing a cartoon which it says demonizes Alberta's petroleum sector" (Calgary Herald, 2021)
"Eve, an electric car, who team up to use superpowers like kindness and hope"
Sadly, Eve, the electric car, represents false hope. Eve and the urban sprawl she enables are hopelessly unsustainable. Inimical to efficient public transit. Ignores the marginalized and those who choose not to drive. No solution to the climate crisis is more shallow.
EVs are the yuppie response to climate change. (Not for nothing that most of the first EV models were luxury cars beyond the reach of most citizens.) Wealthy progressives want EV subsidies so they can salve their guilty conscience over their outsize footprint without having to make any real change in their unsustainable lifestyles.
Peddling false solutions does kids no favor.
"Shifting to EVs is not enough. The deeper problem is our car dependence" (CBC, 2022)
Check out podcast interviews featuring these Canadian authors:
James Wilt: Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? Public Transit in the Age of Google, Uber, and Elon Musk (2020)
Paris Marx: Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong about the Future of Transportation (2022)
Paul Shore: "I have an
Paul Shore: "I have an engineer's conviction that humans can solve anything we put our minds to."
Can we invent/buy our way out of environmental disaster?
If the climate crisis and our larger ecological catastrophe were merely a technological and design problem that better technology (green techno-fixes) could solve, that might be enough.
If that analysis is superficial, over-simplistic, and Pollyannish, then the problem goes deeper than we think. Consider our profound disconnection from nature and our biological being. Over-population. Over-consumption. Domination and subjugation of our fellow creatures (speciesism, wildlife "management", super-predator). Anthropocentrism. Greed, selfishness, status, accumulation of wealth, self-entitlement, inequity and injustice, (environmental) racism, tribalism, cruelty and violence, capitalism, market failure, voodoo economics…
Consider the human and environmental disasters going on today in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq… What drives that? Why is Putin demolishing the country next door and terrorizing his neighbours? Why do the oilsands industry and complicit governments ignore the health of the indigenous communities on its doorstep?
Better tech barely begins to solve our problems.
Founded and feeding on human folly and vice, our environmental problems will require profound changes in outlook, philosophy, understanding, psychology, habits, and lifestyle. A radical revolution in human consciousness. Are we up to it?
"Techno-Optimism: Why Money and Technology Won’t Save Us" (Earth org)
"The Church of Techno-Optimism" (NY Times, 2019)