Last year, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, curator and host of the Science & Society series at Pioneer Works, moderated a conversation on the mounting climate crisis. The guests, Rhiana Gunn-Wright, a director at the Roosevelt Institute and policy lead for the Green New Deal, and Dr. Kate Marvel, climate research scientist at NASA and Columbia University, joined Ayana, Pioneer Works science scholar and founder of Ocean Collectiv, to grapple with the scientific realities of the cultural, governmental, and corporate shifts needed to mitigate our climate crisis. The Green New Deal had thrust the global climate emergency to the political forefront and these experts gathered to address some tough questions: How bad might things get? What does the latest science tell us? What are the most promising solutions? And what does the changing climate mean for New York City?
Ayana began the conversation by bluntly asking, “So, when and how did trying to prevent the apocalypse become your day job?” Rhiana laughed and then replied, “I’m black. Which apocalypse?” Ayana agreed, “This is, in fact, the question. …Some people do ask me, ‘why is equity a part of the green new deal?’ Okay, specifically—the climate apocalypse.” Kate added, “If you care about equity, you have to care about climate change.”
The conversation had deeply personal moments, as speakers shared the affects of climate change on their own plans for the future. Rhiana said that “It’s a fight that has to be fought. I cannot control whether or not we win it. I structure my life to be in those battles. ...I’m a black woman and I am from Englewood, Chicago. Nothing in my life was ever guaranteed. I didn’t expect to get this much power ever in my life. I’m already afraid when I drive across the country. I’m afraid for my husband navigating this country as a black man. This has never been my first existential crisis. I’ve lived with this uncertainty that my life and the people I love are threatened and that there are systems in place that could destroy us… I work for and hope my life will always be about caring, building a capacity and systems that care more about people and so I just keep doing that.”
Kate spoke about the open scientific questions and compelled the audience to understand that we are all involved. “Climate change is real, it's here, and it's serious. We understand exactly why it's happening. But it's not hopeless, and giving in to despair is just as ineffective as denying the problem.”
Watch the full talk, which was riveting to the packed audience, in the link above. Head over to the Pioneer Works YouTube channel and subscribe to stay up to date on all new video releases from the Science Studios.
Reading recommendations from the speakers:
Are you wanting to better understand the climate crisis and figure out ways to get involved? We are too.
Books we recommend:
All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, co-edited anthology by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine Wilkinson
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty, by Dorothy E. Roberts
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
Makers and Takers, by Rana Foroohar
The Aleph and Other Stories, by Jorge Luis Borges
Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, by David Wallace-Wells
Winning the Green New Deal and All We Can Save, by Varshini Prakash and Guido Girgenti (to which Rhiana Gunn-Wright helped on a chapter)
Articles we recommend:
"How Covid-19 made it easier to talk about climate change", by Rhianna Gunn-Wright
"How to Stop Freaking Out and Tackle Climate Change", by Emma Marris
"I Am a Mad Scientist", by Kate Marvel
"I’m a Black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet", by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
"Think this pandemic is bad? We have another crisis coming", by Rhiana Gunn-Wright
"We Can’t Solve the Climate Crisis Unless Black Lives Matter", an entire Time magazine issue on the climate crisis, with an article by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
"We Don’t Have to Halt Climate Action to Fight Racism", by Mary Annaise Heglar
For further engagement with the climate crisis, join us for these upcoming livestream programs with Cooper Union x Climate Week 2020: Global Green New Deals with Rhiana Gunn-Wright and Mary Robinson in conversation, moderated by Osita Nwanevu, and a second conversation, veroír / Seehear the Unseen, with Suzanne Dhaliwal and Cecilia Vecuña.
This project is supported by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. The Broadcast is supported in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.