RFB Host Profile: Par Neiburger and Climate Radio Atlas
RFB: Hello Par, and welcome to Radio Free Brooklyn! Tell us a little bit about the path(s) that led to you doing your show.
PN: I am a concert presenter by profession and came up with an idea to do a large-scale music festival for climate change in 2016, essentially a next-generation Live Aid but for climate change. I worked on it for four years and it would have taken place in 2020 … but the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the project in its tracks. Throughout this process, I got the idea of doing a radio show where I used the music of a particular country or region of the world as a gateway to discussing and understanding how climate change affects it. My specific background in presenting concerts of international musicians gives me a unique knowledge of music from all over the world. Doing a radio show became an opportunity to shed light on the microcosms of climate crisis seen through the lens of how it specifically affects a part of the world.
RFB: Why did you choose RFB?
PN: My old friend Jon Reid has a show on Radio Free Brooklyn called Race To The Bottom, and recommended me. We used to be neighbors when I lived in Asheville, North Carolina and he performed at a music festival I produced there. To give you an idea of how long we’ve known each other, I remember being at a gathering at his apartment to watch the election results when Obama won in 2008.
RFB: Educating people about the realities of climate change is paramount to our collective survival! Where did your interest in this area come from, and how do you research and put together each show?
PN: I’ve been an environmentalist throughout my life, and grew up with an activist background. My father was a radical at Kent State University in the 1960s, and a member of the Weathermen branch of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), members of which later broke off as the Weather Underground. (He stayed true to his non-violent school of protest, though, in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) And over the past two decades it became more and more clear to me that climate change was the most significant threat faced by our planet. To research each show, I pick a region of the world and reach out to activists and people there for their perspective so I can have a better understanding from someone who is actually living that reality day to day.
RFB: With a new administration now in Washington, D.C., what do you hope will be their priorities in this area? Do you have any hope for lasting change?
PN: The next decade is going to require extremely bold action if we are going to be successful in combating climate change. My top reason for voting for Biden was that between the two candidates he had by far the more serious approach. I am hopeful … I have to be.
RFB: The pandemic continues, but that hasn’t stopped you from debuting a show! Tell us the challenges and rewards of your process so far — and about your in-home studio setup.
PN: It’s been challenging because communication is not as easy now. People have very serious immediate priorities that might make it difficult to take time out of their day to be interviewed for a radio show. But at the same time, the people I interview care about this issue and find the time. As for my home setup, I used to be a professional DJ so it’s not much of a stretch to make the switch to a radio show format. I’m obsessive about music, and have about 6,000 records in my collection, plus cassettes of music from all over the world (because for some music that’s the only physical format it exists on). For equipment: I have mics, a MOTU audio interface, turntables, a cassette deck, a CD player and my computer, plus Cubase audio editing software.
RFB: What is the takeaway you hope people get from Climate Radio Atlas?
PN: That tangible results of climate change exist all over the world. It’s far beyond theory, it’s a global reality and you can see its effects in real life examples in every corner of the world. Climate change can seem to be a broad and overwhelming issue, but if you focus on specific examples — for example, the Amazon forest burning in Brazil, and how that not only affects that country but the entire world — I think it becomes easier for people to wrap their heads around it. And then it becomes a discussion of let’s address this specific problem, which leads to how we address the global crisis. It’s the old adage of “think globally, act locally.”
It’s one thing to imagine or read about what a climate activist is doing in Brazil; it’s much more powerful to hear it coming from them in their own words. Ultimately, I think the groundswell of social change on climate change is going to come from people who are working at the local level all over the world. And that will collectively push the needed action on what is, arguably, the most global issue there is.
Tune in to Climate Radio Atlas Wednesdays at 2:00 pm.
Photo of Par among his vinyl collection: Dennis Brewster Fuller.