Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson Talks about Being a Climate Change Activist

     For the past years, climate change has triggered numerous discussions and raised people’s concerns about the future of our planet. As a subject closely related to human’s lives, the promotion of protecting marine life, which severely suffered from climate change, attracted much attention. On February 25, 2021, the Hun School Community welcomed Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson virtually and heard about her opinions on climate change activism, as well as the role of female leaders in this movement.

     As “the most influential marine biologist of our time,” remarked by Outside Magazine, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is also a policy expert, writer, and the co-host of the Spotify/Gimlet podcast How to Save a Planet. Dr. Johnson also founded Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank that aims to cultivate policies for coastal cities, and provided great support for the female climate activists by co-founding the All We Can Save Project

     Marine science is a subject that covers phylogeny, biodiversity, ecology, and conservation of aquatic systems. Covering over 70 percent of the surface of the Earth, the ocean indeed  impacts human and other organisms in all aspects of living, including but not limited to food, transportation, and medication. Therefore, compared to many traditional sciences that mainly focus on research in the laboratory, the study of marine science tends to associate issues that happen in more practical settings.

     As a professional in this field, Dr. Johnson passionately devoted herself into the promotion of policies and other practical applications of marine science, making constructive improvement for the crisis closely relating to people’s lives. “I liked that she did not necessarily want to be in the laboratory designing and executing experiments but to make change in the real world,” commented Anna Marie Heiser ’21, vice president of the student government, “and I was really surprised by the parallels between public policy, environmentalism, and activism.”

     As a woman, Dr. Johnson also accentuated the importance of supporting female activists, especially women of color, in the climate change movement. While climate change is certainly an urgent crisis to solve, women, who are vital voices and advocates of improvements, are often excluded from the list and have less opportunities of receiving sufficient support, either financially or socially, for realizing their wonderful visions. As an impactful female figure, Dr. Johnson’s efforts and success inspire and encourage many potentially female leaders.

     “It’s really inspiring to see a woman like her, who is making monumental change in the climate movement around the world,” said Bella Gomez ‘22, student leader of Hun’s Environmental Committee, “We’re really good at educating people about the crisis, but then we also need to take the extra step and give people actionable steps moving forward.”

     In the end of speech, Dr. Johnson reminded the Hun community that protection of our environment is not a distant and impossible mission: everyone is powerful and is able to have big positive impacts just with seemingly small efforts and changes in habits.

     “She really brought into the picture that we don’t need some magical new idea to solve these environmental issues, it is more about execution and uniting people together to combat this serious issue,” commented Anna Marie.

     As residents of the Earth, it is essential for all members of the Hun community to engage in protection of the environment on a daily basis. “A single person working for themselves doesn’t make a huge difference; however, engaging with others and using your voice, you can make changes,” said Anna Marie.