Master’s in Environmental Policy @University of Edinburgh | Planning Commission @March for Science | Transit Program Coordinator @Emory University
What’s keeps you up at night?
The thing that stresses me out the most is climate change.
What conversation do you want to have with more people?
Why there’s a perception that climate change isn’t serious.
One, two degrees doesn’t seem like a big deal because weather fluctuates daily. But I think a lot of people don’t know the history of our planet—that it only took two degrees for our planet to fall into an Ice Age, and only took four degrees to bring our planet out of that Ice Age. So, two degrees Ice Age; four degrees Life.
Every single degree is very significant, and we’re on track to warm the planet by four to five degrees by 2100. We’re already at 1; 2 is a goal.
What does that mean?
Inevitably, the coasts will flood, and areas that are really hot now are going to become uninhabitable. It’ll be too hot to grow food, which means we can’t produce enough food to feed all the people on the planet.
It’s also our water. Ocean acidification means our corals are dying. Close to 50% are totally bleached, and they’re the heart of our ocean. So many species live and survive with the corals, but we are literally destroying the habitats and ecosystems of our oceans, and a lot of people’s livelihoods depend on the ocean.
There has to be a balance, but we’ve moved away from having a planet that is able to sustain and produce resources that allow us to use them, to using more than we have—and much more aggressively. It’s getting harder for the planet to heal.
Most inspiring quote and why.
Jane Goodall: You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
People think they don’t matter, but it’s impossible to get through a day without having an impact, even if you do nothing.
I don’t know why people think they don’t matter, but at the heart of it, that might be the problem. If you don’t think what you do matters, you don’t do anything. If you start to think that you matter, you can actually start to do something good.
I think about that sometimes when I wake up.
What’s an easy thing we can all do to change the status quo?
Pay attention to local and municipal elections.
Local officials like county commissioners and city mayors have a lot of power. They regulate your utilities and determine if your county will pursue, say, solar energy projects. They’re the ones who can change policy.
The way we approach elections is backwards. We show up on Election Day looking at a bunch of names we don’t know. We wait for politicians to get elected and then spend so much time trying to get them to care. Better if people are invested before in who their politicians are and what they believe in.
If it is a democracy, it goes back to giving people options. But people aren’t running for seats—over 80% of seats were uncontested in GA—so we didn’t really vote for our representatives.
If you aren’t civically engaged, you are, in a way, giving up any say you have in how you want society to be. And I think that’s a dangerous way to live.
What media should people tune into?
This podcast series on the environment by The Guardian.
What prevents you from doing even more?
I'd like to find a data scientist and developer who care about this as much as I do.
My group is building out a map where you can see seats coming up in 2017 and 2018. It’s going to have layers of state, local, federal, with information you need to know before you run for office: Who’s the incumbent? How much did they win the seat by? Was it uncontested?
I’m networking to find good candidates, and hopefully people will nominate candidates so we can have more competition. I want to scale this out to every state, possibly partner with an organization like 314action.org or 350.org.
Who should I have my next conversation with?
Mike Ewall, my old boss who started Energy Justice Network. He founded it on the idea that people who are marginalized or poor take the brunt of environmental pollution. He spends a lot of time fighting incinerators.
When he says or posts something, I believe him. He’s unusual. You can’t be an environmentalist and not be a hypocrite. I’m a hypocrite. But he 100% walks the talk, not an ounce of hypocrisy. One time we walked to seven restaurants before we could find one that had washable plates so we could eat. I’ve never met anybody committed to the degree he is to what he believes in, and stick to principles like him.