Nelson Series: “What If We Get It Right?” Biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

November 2, 2022 Add to Calendar

5:45–7 p.m.


Shanahan Center, Auditorium
320 E. Foothill Blvd.
Claremont, CA 91711


Join us for a moderated discussion with Ayana Elizabeth Johnson as she shares her experiences as both a climate storyteller and a gatherer of climate stories. We will explore her professional arc from academic science to policy, advocacy and climate communication, and hear her thoughts on how racism derails our efforts at climate action. She will help us imagine what our climate future could look like if we get things right. There will be time at the end for questions from the audience.

Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, writer and Brooklyn native. She is co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for the future of coastal cities. She co-edited the bestselling climate anthology All We Can Save, co-founded The All We Can Save Project and co-created the Spotify/Gimlet climate solutions podcast How to Save a Planet. Recently, she co-authored the Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including the ocean in climate policy. Previously, she was executive director of the Waitt Institute, developed policy at the EPA and NOAA and taught as an adjunct professor at New York University.

Johnson earned a B.A. from Harvard University in environmental science and public policy, and a PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in marine biology. Her writing has been published widely, including in The New York Times, Washington Post and Scientific American. She serves on the advisory boards of Environmental Voter Project and Scientific American, and on the board of directors for GreenWave and Patagonia. Recent recognitions include the Schneider Award for climate communication and Time’s 100 Next List. Johnson’s forthcoming book on climate futurism has the working title What If We Get It Right?

Harvey Mudd professors have assigned pieces of Johnson's work in the new STEM & Social Impact course (which is focused on climate change) and in a climate science and human behavior course.

Johnson will make a live, virtual appearance (on-screen in the auditorium). Reception 5:15 p.m.; Talk 5:45 p.m.

Dr. Bruce J. Nelson ’74 Distinguished Speaker Series

The 2022–2023 Nelson series, “Climate Storytellers,” will explore the power of storytelling to promote conversations about climate change and to inspire climate action. We know that the impacts of climate change are already bringing great harm to the most vulnerable in our societies. We are all beginning to experience the effects of a warming planet in heat waves, fires, droughts, and extreme weather events. We know that the scientific consensus is clear: emissions from industrial activity are to blame. And yet political action to reduce emissions and to prepare for our future feels frustratingly slow. Publishing increasingly comprehensive scientific reports isn’t working. Neither is language and imagery designed to induce fear and panic.

The speakers in this series are doing something different. Drawing on a range of experiences and expertise in the sciences, arts and the humanities, each of our speakers will share how they use storytelling as a powerful tool of climate communication. We will learn how different kinds of stories can reach different audiences, with the goal of inspiring climate justice and climate action.