“These headphones….” muses Mary Robinson (yes, that Mary Robinson). “Do I need to wear them all the time?” “I think you do need the headphones. I’m sorry,” says Maeve Higgins. “But you look like Bob Geldof…” There’s a short pause as Mary considers this and Maeve rethinks fast. “You know, like, in the studio… with the headphones on. Yeah! You look like a rock star!”

This is the unlikely introduction to an unlikely pair of co-hosts for the climate justice podcast Mothers of Invention. For the first few episodes even they don’t seem sure whether it’s working, but as the show beds in – or in other words, as Mary learns what a podcast is and Maeve learns about climate justice – the magic begins to happen. In fact, it’s the disparity between these hosts that makes this such an informative and interesting podcast. That, and the incredible, amazing and inspiring ‘mothers’ themselves… but more on them later.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, has been working on climate justice for over 15 years: with the UN and through her own Mary Robinson Foundation. In early 2018 she had just finished writing her book on this theme (see The Climate Justice Now Generation, Issue 315) and wanted to get the message out to a wider audience. This podcast is the result. She therefore brings the expertise and invites most of the ‘mothers’ (also known as guests) onto the podcast.

Maeve Higgins, on the other hand, is an Irish comedian and writer now living in New York. She describes herself, tongue-in-cheek, as “Mary’s cultural attaché to podcasting”. In effect, she’s the ‘everywoman’ learning about climate justice, which she does with great humour and, later in the series, with passion. I particularly enjoyed the short ‘minisodes’, where Maeve phones her bank to ask them about divesting from fossil fuels, or finds out whether her dog could be a vegan. Each one is a five- to ten-minute object lesson in how every single choice we make can have an impact on the planet.

If you are new to this podcast, I suggest you go to the Mothers of Invention website and choose a topic that interests you, rather than listening in order from the first episode. A good place to start might be Series 1, Episode 3: Taking Over. This episode features plastic waste, and the frankly astonishing story of how Judi Wakhungu and Alice Kaudia banned the plastic bag in Kenya in 2017. Their determination swept aside industry complaints and court cases, and imposed a penalty of up to US$38,000 for being caught in possession of a plastic bag.

Another great listen is Series 2, Episode 2: Ghosting the Planet. This is co-hosted by Rhiana Gunn-Wright, one of the lead policy writers of the US Green New Deal. She is upbeat about the changing opinion towards the climate crisis in the US, and how this could lead to a systemic change that benefits everyone. It’s a joyous episode, as Gunn-Wright is not only ridiculously young and intelligent, but also extremely witty. On being thanked by fellow guest Anna Jane Joyner for her work on the Green New Deal, she drawls, “I’ll die in a ball of fire too, so it’s not like there’s no self-interest involved...”

After two series it looks as though the podcast has come to an end. However, the episodes remain available online, and the website has extensive information about every mother of invention featured on the show, with links to find out more about them and how to support their work. But the show's great achievement is that it shows the positive impact that any determined person can make in response to the climate crisis. That, and that Mary Robinson learns how to respond to being teased.

Listen to the Podcast here: www.mothersofinvention.online

Rachel Marsh is designer for Resurgence & Ecologist and is a podcast addict.