NPR Profiles ‘Preacher’ Who Rants About Climate Change on the Subway

• September 30, 2019 4:50 pm


Yelling at people on the subway is not, in most cases, the best way to get a national media profile. It worked for Richard McLachlan, though, because he frequently ruins the commutes of hardworking Americans by "preaching" about climate change.

NPR introduced McLachlan, a 68-year-old New Zealand native, to listeners in a piece titled "The Gospel Of Climate Change: One Man's Mission To Take The Message To Commuters." The taxpayer-funded outlet documented the elderly crank's routine on the New York Subway system. The "meticulously shaven" weirdo steps onto the train wearing "fine leather shoes." He "clears his throat and starts shouting" at passengers with "heartfelt urgency." He gets results:

McLachlan is part of Extinction Rebellion, the climate group best known for shutting down main arteries in London last April. Here in New York City, steeped in the subway din, McLachlan delivers a crushing litany of food shortages, forest fires, more and bigger storms. He wants to scare his listeners, wake them up. Mostly, he says, he wants them to connect with one another.

"Talk to your family and friends, your lovers, your workmates. Talk to complete strangers in the subway car," he urges.

The riders stare at the floor or at their phones. It's almost as if they're waiting, making sure McLachlan will hold up his end of the bargain and not ask them for money or anything else. Then—at least by New York City subway standards—something astonishing occurs: A dozen riders break into applause. Others nod in affirmation. "Thank you!" a woman shouts.

Not exactly an "astonishing" turn of events, given that this was a Brooklyn-bound train presumably packed with the sort of Vox-reading nerds who print out climate factsheets for distribution at Thanksgiving dinners and other family gatherings — the sort of people who might attend one of McLachlan's workshops in Bushwick, cultural epicenter of the trust-fund hipster derelicte.

At these workshops, described as "part writing craft, part encouragement, and part reflection from a man who has a genuine knack for preaching the apocalypse," McLachlan reveals the secret to success.

"At some point I thought, ‘There's no Richard. There's just an old white guy standing up in the subway car yelling,'" McLachlan says. "And I sort of have this technique. I sit there and I dispense with Richard. And then I stand up and start talking."

Really makes you think.

Published under: Climate Change, NPR