Diverse communities must work together against climate change


Calling it a “transformative moment”, Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson encouraged people, businesses and policy makers to work together more, even in smaller community circles, to increase the momentum needed to affect the climate crisis.

“I think most people know what’s going on. It’s just a matter of how do we transform our economy, our society, our culture, our manufacturing, our transportation, our buildings,” said Johnson, who co-founded the All We Can Save project. . “It’s a transformative moment, which is really intimidating.”

Related: Expo East 2022 Keynote: Natural and Organic CPG Market Remains Resilient

In a Friday, Sept. 30 speech at the Natural Products Expo East in Philadelphia, Johnson said most Americans recognize that the climate is changing.

“Things are really out of whack,” Johnson said. “Whether people call it climate change or whatever terminology they use, if we ask farmers in the Midwest, they’re like, ‘The weather is weird. People know something is wrong.” Therefore, she doesn’t spend her time focusing on climate deniers. Citing a poll from Yale and George Mason universities, Johnson said only about 9% of Americans are “full-fledged” climate deniers, plus 12% who are “in some way dismissive”.

Related: Sustainability perspective: Discussing climate commitments with brands

“The vast majority of Americans are fully aware that we are currently dealing with the impacts of climate change,” said Johnson, a marine biologist and policy expert who co-founded the nonprofit think tank Urban Ocean Lab and was appointed to the TIME100. Next list in 2021. “And most of them are already thinking about how this is going to affect their lives.”

That’s why most politicians will admit “behind closed doors” that climate change is happening, Johnson said. “They just can’t say it publicly because of the weird political scenarios that now exist in this country,” said Johnson, co-author of Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including the ocean in climate policy.

Much of the resistance to climate change is not because people don’t believe in it, but rather because they are unwilling to embrace change or face an unknown future. This uncertainty, Johnson said, leaves people with many questions about their jobs, families, communities and industries, making them unsure of their place in society. Instead, everyone needs to push forward climate solutions that make everyone feel like they belong.

To create an easier transition, Johnson said people need to be better trained for new jobs. However, when Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a slimmed down version of the Build Back Better Bill, job training was not included.

“One of the things that was cut was job training,” Johnson said. “Why is this the thing that gets taken out at the end of negotiations? Making sure people have the skills they need for those jobs of the future is critical across the country.”

It also illustrates a bigger problem: how to overcome the political polarization of climate change.

“We started learning about climate change in the 1970s, with Exxon’s own scientists thinking, ‘If we keep burning this stuff, it’s going to warm the planet,'” Johnson said. of the United States held hearings on climate change in the 1970s, which resulted in the National Climate Program Act of 1978, the public debated and argued the issue.

“All of the voices leading this discussion were white males in the United States,” Johnson said. “And quite simply, one demographic will never have all the answers.” Instead, policymakers, environmental groups, businesses and communities need to be more inclusive.

“It’s not about excluding any group,” said Johnson, who wrote the national bestseller, “All we can salvage”, an anthology of essays by women and the climate movement. “It’s about including everyone because we have to solve this together.”

Building a more diverse coalition starts with listening to and asking people about their concerns and priorities. Instead of pitching ideas to women, people of color, and other marginalized people, use a collaborative approach to plan a project or create a possible solution. Organizations and businesses looking for ideas can contact the Climate Justice Alliance, a collective of more than 70 rural and urban community organizations focused on sustainability in underrepresented communities.

Yoli Ouiya, founder of Yoli’s Green Living, talks with marine biologist and climate activist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson at Natural Products Expo East September 30 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The change is starting to happen

The economics of climate change solutions have evolved rapidly over the past decade. “And we see the market doing a lot more work than we thought,” Johnson said.

Driven by private industry, Texas and Iowa lead the nation in wind power generation, according to the US Energy Information Administration. “They’re going ahead because it’s really good jobs and it’s a very profitable industry,” Johnson said. This is important because individual consumers need more choice. “There’s not much you can do when you’re dependent on the options available.”

For society to address the climate crisis, residents must have convenient and affordable options such as the curbside compost pickup that takes place in Brooklyn, New York, where she lives. But making the leap to tangible and impactful action requires advocating, on a personal level, with a more community-based approach. Instead of just focusing on your individual carbon footprint, Johnson suggests promoting an important goal such as bike lanes, a community composting program or a utility board cost-benefit analysis.

If 10 people show up for every city council meeting because there’s no composting program, that can make a difference, she said. “There’s something to showing up, educating yourself, informing your community and your elected officials, beating the drums, and over time developing more detailed policy recommendations.”

On a larger scale, corporations and universities should focus not only on divestment from fossil fuels, but also on redirecting their investments to “the right things” that better align with a more sustainable mission and vision.

“We continue to subsidize fossil fuels, destructive agriculture, plastics. All these people who claim to believe in a free market should be able to support that as well,” Johnson said. His other advice for the business community: Share the milestones along the way, not just the final achievement.

“A lot of big companies that actually have good climate and sustainability goals are afraid to talk about it because they only want to talk about the job when it’s done and they can claim victory on the internet. , instead of doing more of the vulnerable job of saying, “Here’s our plan.”

Anyone registered for Natural Products Expo East can access the Natural Products Expo virtual platform and watch the recording of Friday’s keynote address: Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.

This story originally appeared on New Hope Network, a sister website to Natural Products Insider.


About Author

Comments are closed.