The End of the World as We Know It? Dr. Dr. Johnson Elizabeth Johnson Rates our Climate Future

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham:  Hey y’all, it’s Brittany. So we took Baby M on his very first round-trip plane ride this week. I had to speak back home in St. Louis, so we just made a family trip out of it. We had no cry, no poop explosion, no adult explosions either. Please clap for us. No, like seriously stop what you’re doing and clap for us.

This is a major, major development. The trip was fun and there were grandparents and aunties and cousins everywhere. Masked and tested and outdoors of course. But despite what an already perfect traveler, my little guy is, the journey itself was not without some extreme expense and some airline annoyance.

Getting fresh and frozen breast milk to a destination 800 miles away for 10 days was a task. Hundreds of dollars and buying a cooler that would ship frozen milk to my mom’s overnight. And then there was being patted down in public with my baby strapped to my chest, all because my baby carrier had a small piece of metal on it that was plainly visible.

And then there were the airline attendants, bless their hearts, who don’t even know their own rules. And I know they work hard and parents lugging children, car seats, strollers, baby bags, bottles, and milk, we shouldn’t have to be better experts on your airlines policies than you are. And thank God for the parent blogs who prepped us, y’all are the real MVPs. 

In the end, of course, these are champagne problems, truly. But the whole trip was also a sad reminder of how much society just despises children. I thought I knew and then I had a child of my own, a Black one at that. And it is clear, y’all would much rather kids be seen and not heard like they aren’t people too.

And policies from private airlines to public governments are just not set up to consider their humanity. So for me, Baby M is reason 50 11 to keep on working, to design a world where we can all thrive. We are UNDISTRACTED.

On the show today, I’ll be talking to marine biologist Dr. Dr. Johnson Johnson about climate futurism and finding our place in the movement to save our planet. 

Dr. Dr. Johnson Elizabeth Johnson: I think a lot of inaction on climate comes from maybe a fear that the future doesn’t have a place for you. Right? Like if you can’t picture the future and you don’t see where a person with your job or your skills or the place that you live is being cared for and you still have a place to belong, then why would you want that future?

Brittany: That’s coming up, but first it’s the news.

First of all, have y’all been following this Herschel Walker mess? I think we have to talk about this for a second. It’s not actually untrending, but we need to discuss this. Here’s a quick refresher. Herschel Walker is the Republican senate nominee in Georgia, right now. He’s running against Reverend Raphael Warnock, who currently holds a seat, and if all goes according to GOP plans, Walker could tip the scales in the wrong direction on a now evenly divided Senate. 

Mr. Walker is a former football star and serious conservative who is among other things loudly, anti-choice even in cases of rape and incest. 

Herschel Walker: I’m Herschel Walker. Most of you know me as a football player, but I’m also a father, a man of faith, and a very good judge of character.I’ve known Donald Trump for 37 years. I’m talking about a deep personal friendship. 

Brittany: However, Mr. Walker is also full of bullshit. For starters, he said he worked in law enforcement. He did not. He said his company would donate a portion of its earnings to charity, and there’s little to no evidence of that actually being true.

And the real cherry on top, as we found out last week, is that his former girlfriend says that he adamantly encouraged her to seek more than one abortion. To be clear, we’re pro-choice and pro-abortion around these places, but it shouldn’t be forced on anyone, that’s the whole choice part of this thing. And it’s a choice Herschel Walker doesn’t actually want people to be able to make. 

Now, in the wake of all of this, a number of Republicans, including Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, are choosing to distance themselves from him. But here’s actually the point I wanna make. We can’t let them distance themselves from a party they helped build, because Herschel Walker is the GOP right now, he is not an exception or an error or some contradiction to the old school good Christian party this version of the GOP likes to think of itself as. 

Instead he embodies what has always been true about the Grand ole party. We’re talking about a party that has always been systemically and systematically oppressive in every way, and then pampantly lies about it in their quest for power. 

Folks like Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Herschel Walker, they are not deviations from the Republican norm. They are the Republican norm. And we can’t let anybody act like they don’t know what we’re dealing with anymore. We cannot afford that. Got it. Good. And by the way, Senator Warnock and would-be Senator Walker are debating tomorrow, Friday night and personally I can’t wait to hear that. 

Next, I wanna turn our attention to women’s sports. Last Monday, something called the Yates Report was released to the public. The Yates report was an investigation commissioned by the U.S. Soccer Federation. The report is over 300 pages long, and it documents rampant sexual abuse endured by players, as well as verbal and emotional assault on the part of coaches.

This is not localized to one city, one team, or even one coach. The report charges that similar incidents occurred in Chicago, Portland, and Dallas, just to name a few. At least half of the Women’s National Soccer League had to break ties with coaches on account of what the report called quote: Verbal and emotional abuse, sexually charged remarks, and coercive sexual conduct.

Here’s Becky Sauerbrunn, a player for the Portland Thorns. 

Becky Sauerbrunn: We are horrified and heartbroken. And frustrated and exhausted and really, really angry. 

Brittany: The Yates report also suggests that the league and many team staffers were not oblivious to the abuse. It says that players’ complaints have been minimized on an institutional level.

Now this is obviously awful and I wanna point out that the reason this mistreatment can flourish is because so few of us are paying regular attention to women’s sports in the first place, certainly not mass media. And when something isn’t given attention, the power structures surrounding it are often allowed to operate in the dark, which means they’re often not held accountable.

So in addition to spreading the words about the Yates report, one thing you can do is find and follow your local sports team. Shout out to the Washington Spirit, by the way, our local soccer team. Ahow up at matches once in a while and treat these amazing players like the superstars they are. That gives them more clout with their leagues, and it also means that we know them for their talents and not just what they’ve been through.

Let’s close by reminding each other that Monday, October 10th was Indigenous People’s Day. It’s not yet a federal holiday, though it should be, but it is a day to honor the culture, resilience, and history of our native siblings and friends, while also making sure that we take steps to correct the centuries of injustice the U.S. government has enforced.

And while we’re on the subject, I wanna call attention to an upcoming Supreme Court case that has massive implications for native children and their families. It all has to do with the Indigenous Child Welfare Act, which passed in 1978 as an effort to protect native children and keep them connected to their families and culture.

Before that, native children were disproportionately put through the child welfare system or pushed into one of those awful residential schools, and this law was an attempt to do better. But the Indigenous Child Welfare Act is now under threat on November 9th. First arguments will be heard in a case called Haaland vs Brackeen.

The plaintiffs are arguing that the law discriminates against non-native adoptive parents, particularly white parents. This logic completely neglects the entire reason the act was created in the first place, which was to keep native children in native households as they have been historically displaced from their cultures and born the brunt of our broken welfare systems.

Experts say that if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it is very likely that other matters pertaining to native rights and sovereignty will also be called into. We’ll be listening to those arguments in early November and following next spring when the ruling comes out. These cases don’t always get the attention that say, abortion rights or gun reform get, but they should.

So let’s be the ones who pay attention. Coming up, I’ll be talking to Dr. Dr. Johnson Elizabeth Johnson about everything from hurricanes to wildfires right after this strip break.

And we are back. Last month, Congressional Democrats released their findings in an investigation into fossil fuel companies. What they found in the words of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, is that big oil is gaslighting the public. A review of internal documents shows that oil companies use a variety of tactics to promote their so-called climate solutions while continuing to do business as usual and a whole lot of climate harm.

The week after the findings were released, Hurricane Ian swept over the Caribbean and the southeastern U.S. causing at least a hundred deaths and two and a half million evacuation. Now climate change and the destruction that hurricane left behind, those two are directly linked. The carbon that fossil fuel producers dig up out of the ground ends up in our atmosphere, which warms our oceans and gives hurricanes like Ian the edge they need to become even more lethal. 

So what can we do about all of this? And is there hope anywhere in this hurricane drenched mess? I knew exactly who I wanted to ask. Y’all know her, marine biologist Dr. Dr. Johnson Johnson. 

Dr. Johnson Johnson, friend, how are you? 

Dr. Johnson: I’m good. How’s it going over there? 

Brittany: It’s going great with me personally, but, I feel like with the planet it could be going better.

Dr. Johnson: That’s how I feel every day. Yes.

Brittany: We spoke to you about 18 months ago. I kind of wanna get a report card of how we’ve been doing on climate since then. If you had to give all of us, the world, the globe, a grade. If you had to give humans a grade as a species. Are we doing any better or worse on tackling climate after this year and a half? She says, anxiously. 

Dr. Johnson: Oof. Well, let’s see. I need to create some quick, you know, KPIs in my head here. Key performance indicators, we’re tackling climate crisis. Well, one of the big ones is for me, always policy, right? Cuz we put a lot of pressure on individuals, but it’s really governments and corporations that are often shaping what’s possible for us as individuals. 

So in the U.S. we just passed climate policy for the first time at the federal level. So the Inflation Reduction Act, oddly, is mostly climate policy. It’s full of incentives for individuals and corporations to reduce their emissions and to get tax credits, we’re talking like hundreds of billions of dollars.

So this is enormous news, but it was very much watered down from what was initially introduced as part of the Build Back Better Act. Yeah, and the saddest part for a lot of us who are not just focused on climate, but climate justice is that there are a lot of elements in there that continue to stomp on the same communities who always get screwed.

Like communities in the Gulf that are fighting oil and gas expansion. Communities in Alaska and this new sort of dirty side deal that Manchin’s been working out with Schumer that The Inflation Reduction Act pass is gonna push through the creation of a new pipeline and weaken National Environmental Protection Act standards for permitting and how communities get to lay into that process.

Right. So it’s like a huge victory that it’s hard to feel good about, but I’m trying to hold onto just like all the possibility that’s unleashed in that bill in terms of electrifying homes and changing transportation. It’s a huge deal, but not the wind. We should have had or could have had. 

Brittany: So, Okay. So if that’s like the AP government side of climate, I feel like we’re getting like a C, C minus.

Dr. Johnson: I guess a C.

Brittany: You’re passing barely . So we’re gonna go with the C on this particular KPI. If we drill down, sorry, that’s probably the wrong word. If we dive down. 

Dr. Johnson: Geothermal drilling. We like geothermal energy. 

Brittany: There we go. If we geothermal drill down to some other subjects and KPIs, how are we doing on accepting the science of climate change? 

Dr. Johnson: Polling from Yale Center for Climate Communication with, they’ve been doing with George Mason for over a decade. I think it’s only like 9 or 11% of Americans that are like strict, strict climate deniers.

But then there’s some who are like, I don’t know, maybe, you know, we could give like a B minus to Americans on accepting the signs of climate change. I would say I’m feeling generous this morning. 

Brittany: Yeah, yeah. Cuz it’s not great. And I mean, if we discuss the risks to our climate in future terms, a lot of people think this is far in the future and that there will be some moment where all of the climate change suddenly hits.

Right. Like a disaster movie. It feels like we’re in the movie now. Oh, we’re here, like the title sequence is done. We’ve met all of the main characters. The plot is thickening, right? I mean, and here’s the plot, right? Fifteen percent of Pakistan’s population was displaced by flooding in August. That’s like if everyone in Florida and Texas is suddenly without a home.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament just released a report saying that the drought Europe is experiencing, which is believed to be the worst in 500 years, will become an annual event by the year 2050. So we are in this right now. The future is happening. Is it not? 

Dr. Johnson: This is what scientists have been warning us about, right, that this is what would be the result of the actions of, you know, fossil fuel corporations and governments who are not passing policies that this was what would be the result.

Brittany: Let’s move on to our math score. Just like keeping a bug with me. How many years do we really have? 

Dr. Johnson: So I think this question, it’s a bit defeatist, I guess, because it implies that there’s like an end, right? And after that we just get to give up.

Brittany: That’s fair. 

Dr. Johnson: Whereas the reality is like things just get worse and worse and worse. Unless we start doing more and more to implement climate solutions, right? And we have the solutions we need, we can go to renewable energy, we can change our transportation system. We know how to do green buildings and solar panels and wind turbines and regenerative farming and restoring ecosystems that absorb all this carbon.

Like that’s, there’s no secrets. We just have to do it. And so the more we do, and the faster we do it, the better off we’ll be. And the opposite is also true, and there’s no point at which we get to just give up because it can always get worse and we can always make it a little better. So it’s on both sides of the equation.

It’s on the side where we need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and absorb more of them out of the atmosphere through things like photosynthesis. And on the other side, we need to think about how we’re adapting to the changes that are already underway. Right? How are we thinking? Moving coastal communities out of harm’s way.

How are we thinking about helping farmers adapt as weather patterns are changing? Right? How do we think about heat waves in cities and making sure people have a cool place to go so they’re safe? How are we painting rooftops white so buildings don’t get so hot in the summer, right? There’s like all these things we can do to adapt to the changes that we’re already seeing.

And we just have to do all of those things. 

Brittany: I mean, that’s a really helpful pushback, especially in this understanding that there’s not going to be a point at which we get to give up. But back to policy for a second. Right? We know that the Senate just voted to ratify the Kigali amendment. 

Dr. Johnson: That’s huge.

Brittany: Yeah. It means that the U.S. will join more than a hundred other countries in reducing production of hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs. I had to read that one because I don’t wanna get it wrong, but from what I understand it’s almost going to have an instantaneous effect on slowing down the actual warming of the globe.

How much does this put us back in the right direction? And if this is such a big thing, like why didn’t we do it earlier? 

Dr. Johnson: Oh Lord, the number of good, easy things we should have done earlier is a very large number. And so the thing with hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) is they’re used in cooling systems and that kind of thing, but there are alternative chemicals we can use to do that, that do not lead to warming the planet. 

And so by some estimates passing this, ratifying this amendment, would, it’s an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which banned CFCs. And we were all worried about, like our hair spray and stuff like that ruining the ozone layer. This is part of that same Montreal protocol that set that in motion, which was one of the the first big examples of countries all around the world coming together to do something to protect the atmosphere. 

And so this grows out of that effort. And now with the regulation of HFCs, we might be able to reduce additional warming by half a degree. So, you know, there’s not really a downside economically to doing this. 

The math is really easy on the cost benefit that it’s like kind of a no brainer. So that’s, I think, why we’re able to get it through Congress and it’s not as politicized. I guess. That one just kind of slipped through and people kept rational on that vote. 

Brittany: Okay, so we’re getting a C on government; a B, a very generous B minus in science. What’s our math score? 

Dr. Johnson: I mean, what are we adding up? 

Brittany: Not how many years we have left. We’re adding up how many years we’ve wasted. 

Dr. Johnson: Oh. 

Brittany: And how many years we’ve gained back?

Dr. Johnson: F. F.  We’ve wasted every year since like the seventies when Exxon’s own scientist told us this would happen.

But I think it’s really important to say that when we think about things at a global level or at a national level, right? We see these wins like the Aldi amendment, like the Inflation Reduction Act, but there are few and far between, but at the local level, we’re seeing really interesting stuff.

Everything from farmers sharing best practices for switching to regenerative organic farming where they’re healing the soil, so we can absorb more carbon and produce better food, right? We’re seeing cities like Chicago say that every new unit of housing built has to have a hookup to make everything electric, so that in the future we can have all heating and cooking electric. The price of electric is plummeting, the price of solar and wind is often less than oil and gas in a lot of places. And the new energy that was built in the last year, 85% of it was from clean sources. So there’s tons of good stuff happening. So I definitely don’t want people to leave this episode thinking like it’s just a matter of how horrible it is, and we’re getting all these bad grades. 

We’re getting all these bad grades because the work to do is so enormous. This is not like a pop quiz. This is like 8,000 PhD dissertations. 

Brittany: Right. So it sounds like collectively we’ve got that F, but maybe in community we’ve got a C plus.

Dr. Johnson: We’re moving in the right direction.

Brittany: Well, we’re in the good part of the curve. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, I, we actually bought an all-electric house. So we purchased a new home from a sustainable builder. And there was like a little bit of a learning curve for us, but it’s actually a very intuitive, smart home. And now we’re just trying to save up the money to get the solar panels, but we’re working on it.

Dr. Johnson: And as you work on that, there will now be more tax credits for you, so it will be cheaper for you now that we have the Inflation Reduction Act.

Brittany: Praise God for that because babies are wonderful and very expensive. Okay. I know that the static grades are hard, but I do think that they help crystallize for people what work is left to be done.

So I’m gonna ask you for one more grade. We’ve talked about science, we’ve talked about government, we’ve talked about math. The last subject is geography. Because we know that there’s literally no place on earth that won’t be affected by climate change that isn’t affected by climate change.

But which ecosystems and communities are most and least likely to feel these effects?

Dr. Johnson: I mean, the sad and unsurprising answers, the communities that always get screwed are the ones that are gonna get screwed. We’re thinking about things like sea level rise and hurricanes and just who has the resources to move or adapt.

The people who have, you know, their vacation beach houses can just go back to their regular home. But that’s not most people. And as we’ve seen over and over again, government isn’t really great at stepping in and making sure that those folks are okay in the recovery.

Brittany: Oh, so, okay, So I’m gonna give us an F on geography because inequality always gets an F as long as it exists.

Dr. Johnson: I can’t argue with that. 

Brittany: Okay. So the big takeaway from this report card is that we are strictly needs improvement. needs urgent improvement. 

Dr. Johnson: What is it called when you get like put on like an improvement plan? 

Brittany: Yeah, a performance improvement plan. We’re on a PIP.

Dr. Johnson: But I think it’s the scenario where like if today is the end of the semester, abysmal report card. But like it’s not necessarily the end of the semester today. This is like our midterm exams, let’s just say, and like we really gotta like pull it through in the home stretch.

Brittany: But you’re really the perfect person to talk about what the improvement looks like. Right? You’re in the process of writing a book called What If We Get It Right? Visions of Climate Futurism. What does that mean? Climate Futurism? 

Dr. Johnson: I just feel a lot of what we’ve been missing as a society is some sort of understanding of what the good versions of the future could look like because so much of our media is apocalyptic, right? This like uninhabitable Earth day after tomorrow, fire and brimstone like climate apocalypse.

And I feel like we all know what that looks like, but we don’t really know what it looks like if we charge ahead with all these solutions we have, right? If we have a hundred percent renewable energy, if we have protected and restored ecosystems that are helping to heal nature. If we have good food that’s taking care of farmers and communities. If we have public transit options that actually work for people, if we have eliminated cars that run on fossil fuels. 

If we have thought about how we are just charging ahead with all of these different solutions, then what do we get? What does that world look like and what is our place in it individually, right? 

I think a lot of inaction on climate comes from maybe a fear that the future doesn’t have a place for you in it, right? Like if you can’t picture the future and you don’t see where a person with your job or your skills, or the place that you live is being cared for and you still have a place to belong, then why would you want that future?

And so what this book is trying to show is that there’s a place for all of us in this future that we’re creating. And let me pull back the curtain a bit. Let me talk to some experts, interview them, have some artists help us to actually see what the future looks like if we get it right, if we actually implement climate solutions. I know implementation is like not sexy to everyone, but like it is to me.

Brittany: It’s what matters so much because to a point you made earlier, it is in the implementation that policy either succeeds or fails. 

Dr. Johnson: The future is not yet written. So if we’re gonna write that future, there’s a lot of different versions of what we could have, and I wanna make sure we have the best possible one.

I wanna do my part to make sure that we have a good future. And so that’s what the book is about. This what if we get it right.

Brittany: That action is going to require disruption, right? 

Dr. Johnson: A lot of things gotta change. 

Brittany: For folks out there trying to understand the possibilities of our climate future, what would some of those disruptions look like?

Like what are we saying goodbye to and what are we introducing? 

Dr. Johnson: We just say goodbye to fossil fuels. We need to say goodbye to the type of agriculture we’re doing that’s like producing food that’s not good for us, but also really hurting the planet with pesticides and fertilizer. There are like five major components to greenhouse gas emissions.

So one is electricity, one is transportation, one is buildings, another is agriculture, and then there’s like manufacturing and stuff like that, and we need to transform. All of those sectors need to completely electrify everything. We basically know how to do all of that, and so the things we need to say goodbye to are like how we get electricity, not whether we have electricity.

We can still heat and cool our homes. We just need to do it more efficiently and do it using renewable energy. And we can still eat delicious food, we just need to grow it in a way that makes more sense for the climate and for ecosystems. But one of the things we need to say goodbye to is some specific places where it just doesn’t make sense to keep rebuilding over and over again in a place that’s prone to wildfires or floods or hurricanes in that same way that every disaster tears apart communities.

It’s also a chance to think about how and where we wanna rebuild and to be really thoughtful about making sure we’re taking care of each other in that process. 

Brittany: Yeah, that is incredibly difficult when we talk about entire industries going away, things shifting so much because we’re also talking about people’s jobs, their livelihoods, their families, et cetera.

Dr. Johnson: Yeah. And in that way, for example, like offshore wind energy uses a lot of the same skills as offshore oil and gas, right? Those jobs can be transferable. There’s a lot of that stuff that can shift, right? Farmers can shift their practices. People in oil and gas sectors have specific skills that can be applied to new technologies.

So there’s some stuff that means people will have to switch jobs or get training to do new things, but a lot of it is like a bit of a reshuffle. And the big challenge of that is geography, right? How do we make sure there are enough good jobs in the same places so that people can have this or, and this is why Universal Healthcare was included in the Green New Deal proposal, people are gonna have to move around. 

And if their healthcare is tied to their job, that actually makes it hard for you to go to a new place and do a new thing or participate in a new green industry and all of that. And that was one of the weirdest things to me that was cut out of the bill before it was passed, as the Inflation Reduction Act is like they cut most of the money for job training and like wouldn’t every member of Congress want people in their communities to be able to get skills for all these new industries that are emerging? 

So just do not understand why you would vote against your constituents best interests. But you know, there we have it. 

Brittany: I really appreciate your framing of climate futurism because it puts us in a place of possibility, right? And radical hope. Let’s go there. You’re on the board of directors for the outdoor gear company, Patagonia, which just turned its entire future over to climate. What were those discussions like around the board room table?

Dr. Johnson: So Patagonia is a privately owned company. It’s a family business, right? The two parents and the two children owned all the shares, and so they could make the decision to give it all away. Not to sell the company, but to make sure that all the profits and perpetuity went to environment and climate. And so that’s what they did.

And so the simple way to describe that is now Earth is now the only shareholder, Patagonia. And that is a very radical act in this age when people are trying to just make more and more money and hoard it for themselves and do a little high profile philanthropy, maybe, you have this new model for running a business that is still being run, still making dope jackets and whatever, but all of those profits are being given away. And there’s been, you know, some discomfort on the part of people who do not wanna be held to a bar like that.

But mostly the public response has been overwhelmingly positive. People are like, finally, you know, someone doing the right thing. Like, we have removed a billionaire from the Forbes list this month because he just gave it all away, right? And so seeing the number of companies who have reached out to say, How did you do this?

Like technically your legal structure, tell us so we can like look at your model and see what we can do. The number of other wealthy people who are like, Can we collaborate? Like what’s your plan for what you’re gonna fund? Maybe we could co-fund something, is just the incoming of people who wanna be a part of this, who wanna follow this model has been incredibly inspiring.

Brittany: And I mean, it sets a  model of what’s possible, right?  I think that’s a really powerful, and to your point, radical example. Before I let you go, I have to ask you about what we can actually do, right? Because the reality of climate change can feel so overwhelming, right? We heard some of the static grades I was forcing you to give in the very beginning and they’re not necessarily encouraging and so much of what would help at the government level, at the industry wide level is not moving nearly as quickly as we wanted it to, right? 

I know the idea even of shrinking your carbon footprint was first promoted by the fossil fuel industry to kind of kick some of this irresponsibility back to the individual and take it off of themselves. 

Dr. Johnson: It was a PR campaign.

Brittany: Yeah. So they could keep drilling and yet I actually do wanna make sure that I, my family, that we are doing something. So give us our homework. What can we as individuals, the folks listening, the folks in our community actually. 

Dr. Johnson: A lot is the answer. There’s a lot you can do, and I think part of it is just choosing what you can do first, right? There’s the things that we do as a household and as individuals.

There’s things that we do in terms of politics. There’s things that we do in terms of our jobs, right? There’s all these different spheres of influence that we have, and then there’s how we’re participating in the cultural shift that’s needed. So, Brittany, it’s great that you are thinking about how to reduce the impact of your home, and it’s even better that you’re talking about that. 

And we’ll share with people how that’s going and how they can do it too, right? And then thinking about what we as individuals have to bring to the table. So the way I like to frame this is to think of a Venn diagram. With three circles.

And the first one is, what are you good at? So what are your skills, resources, networks, like what are your superpowers that you can bring to the table? And then the second circle is what is the work that needs doing? So which of the many climate solutions that exist do you wanna participate in?

Whether that’s thinking about our food system or changing like the stories we tell in Hollywood, or getting people elected or pushing for better transit options. What, there’s like an infinite list, right? So pick something or some first thing to work on, and then think about what brings your joy. Is it working community?

Is it the creative process? Is it like checklists? Like everyone has their thing, right? Is it being outside? Is it like, are there certain people you wanna be teaming up with? And where those three circles overlap, what are you good at? What is the work that needs doing? And what brings you joy? That being at the heart of that Venn diagram is where you wanna be.

So for me, that meant starting a nerdy ocean policy think tank that’s really obsessed with design because I really worried about the future of coastal cities as a marine biologist, As a Brooklyn native, I’m a policy nerd as well as a marine biologist, and I’m thinking about how I can be a part of solutions for coastal cities and for me, the answer was a policy think tank that I co-founded with two people I adore working with.

So obviously, that is a very unique Venn diagram, but they will be for everyone. For my mom, it was raising chickens and teaching people about regenerative agriculture and making pamphlets, you know, like whatever is your thing is your thing and, and that can be a part of implementing climate solutions. Implementation. So hot right now. 

Brittany: Implementation. There it is. Something that all of our hands can do. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, thank you as always for being your brilliant badass self and thanks for sharing some of that with us.

Dr. Johnson: My pleasure.

Brittany: Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist and a policy expert. She co-founded the Urban Ocean Lab, and as you heard, she was also the first recipient of the Rare National Geographic Solution Search contest in 2012 for a fish trap she invented. Through all of this, she has been a crucial advocate for intersectional feminism in STEM.

Her book, What if we Get It Right? Visions of Climate Futurism, will be out in 2023. I kept asking Ayana for a grade, I can’t help it. Once a teacher, always a teacher. And she was right to push back on such a narrow, binary form of analysis, but what she really helped make clear, we already know a lot of the answers to the questions on this test.

We know what to do about climate. We have a bunch of answers. We can ace this exam or at least improve our grades and our planet. And I don’t know about you all, but I’m very clear. This is a test we can absolutely not afford to fail. Our lives are on the line.

That’s it for today, but never for tomorrow.


UNDISTRACTED is a production of The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios. 

Our lead producer is Rachel Ward.

Our associate producer is Marialexa Kavenaugh.

Thanks also to Treasure Brooks, Hannis Brown, Raj Makhija, and Davy Sumner.

Our executive producers at The Meteor are Cindi Leive and myself, and our executive producers at Pineapple are Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky. 

You can follow me at @MsPackyetti on all social media, which also now includes TikTok where I’m @MsPackyetti, too. And you can follow our team @TheMeteor.

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Thanks for listening, thanks for being, thanks for doing.

I’m Brittany Packnett Cunningham. Let’s go get free.