Claire Caulfield spent a lot of time outdoors growing up in Idaho, but it wasn’t until after she graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in Arizona that she discovered a love of environmental reporting.

In 2017, she spent eight months compiling data on toxic Superfund sites and traveling to rural communities across the U.S. for a documentary on how drinking water contamination impacts low-income Americans and communities of color.

“I realized how environmental coverage touches every single other part of our life,” Claire says. “It affects interpersonal relationships. It’s a social justice issue. It’s a political issue.”

Claire, who joined Civil Beat in July, is combining her passion for community engagement and environmental reporting in a new podcast that launched Friday.

Claire visits the Hamakua Marsh wildlife sanctuary in Kailua for the first episode of “Are We Doomed?”

Claire Caulfield/Civil Beat

Every two weeks, Claire will select a reader question about the environment and hunt down the answer for “Are We Doomed? And Other Burning Environmental Questions.”

“I see journalism as a type of public service and so this really makes me feel like I’m achieving that goal,” Claire says. “I’m turning to people and saying, ‘What are you curious about? What are you worried about? What do you want to know?’”

The first episode features a question from Faith Tanikawa, a 66-year-old resident of Ala Moana, who wanted to know how to help combat climate change on a local level.

“It’s been interesting to see this issue through her eyes and through the eyes of a really worried grandmother,” Claire says.

For an upcoming episode of the podcast about reef-safe sunscreen, Claire gathered up all the sunscreen in her house and asked a coral expert to rate how environmentally friendly her choices were.

“I was basically roasted,” Claire says. “There were some really really bad ones in there, and he let me know exactly how bad it was.”

But Claire says, that kind of learning experience is part of what she’s looking forward to the most on this reporting project.

“This is great for me too because I get to see what people are worried about, what’s not working, and then find some solutions that I can even apply to my own life,” Claire says.

Claire interviews The Surfrider Foundation’s Stuart Coleman for an upcoming episode of “Are We Doomed?”

So far, Claire has gathered more than 60 reader questions for the podcast, but she’s eager to hear more.

Before moving to Hawaii, Claire was a producer for Morning Edition at KJZZ 91.5, an NPR-affiliate station in Phoenix, Arizona. She says she was drawn to radio and podcasting because of how intimate and immersive audio storytelling can be.

“It just really feels like you’re friends with the person who’s telling the story,” Claire says. “I love how you can hear people’s accents and the quirky way that people talk and interact with the world.”

Claire will also be contributing to “Hawaii 2040,” Civil Beat’s yearlong look at climate change in the islands. In particular, she’s focusing on environmental solutions that can be scaled to a local level.

Send Claire story tips or environmental questions to ccaulfield@civilbeat.org or on Twitter @CaulfieldCM or share your questions in the form below.

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