#Next20: Climate Justice

By: Donna M Rivera

Marine biologist and climate policy expert Dr. Ayana Johnson discusses meaningful, social impact for our most vulnerable communities.

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Climate change has an amplified impact on communities that are already systemically marginalized. The climate justice movement aims to create more equitable outcomes. It is an ethical and political issue — in addition to environmental — as those with lower incomes, people in BIPOC communities, those with disabilities, and the elderly often lack the power and resources to prepare for climate impacts.

Climate Justice protects human rights

#Next20 is our series of conversations about the top issues that will define the next 20 years. Each episode features emerging and established change-makers to explore the inspiration behind their ideas and activism. From this series, we hope to accelerate their calls for change and move the world forward for good.

In this episode, Yahoo Finance's Akiko Fujita moderates a thought-provoking conversation with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist, policy expert, writer, and co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for coastal cities.

Dr. Johnson is also the co-creator and co-host of the Spotify/Gimlet podcast “How to Save a Planet”. With Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, she co-edited the anthology All We Can Save, and co-authored the Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including the ocean in climate policy.

As we think about the great impact of weather events, such as hurricanes and wildfires, Dr. Johnson reminds us that “the people who are most at risk of extreme weather events are the people who are already the most disadvantaged, the people who have the fewest resources and flexibility and opportunities to think about what their life looks like post-disaster. Extreme weather events hit society as it exists and it exists in very unequal ways right now.”

There is a movement in society, particularly with our younger generation, to move toward greater climate justice. Young leaders like Greta Thunberg are going on strike to bring attention and education to the need for change while inspiring others to join the youth climate movement.

How do we make a change?

Dr. Johnson, who developed ocean policy at the EPA and NOAA, reminds us, “You can’t negotiate with the physics of climate change.”  We must focus on systematic change to our infrastructure, tools, technology, policies and how we provide resources to our communities. We can all get involved by thinking about what we are passionate about and what skills we have to bring to the table.  As a community, we can contribute our talents to impact change. “It doesn’t have to be your full-time job, it could be volunteer work, how you show up for your family, your town, your sports team, your church, your school. We are just stronger together and no one can do it alone.”

Companies should get involved as well. “Corporations that say to policymakers ‘go faster we’re ready’ are transformational,” she said.  Verizon is already committed to being a force for good through our Citizen Verizon responsible business plan.  Our goal is to move the world forward for everyone by expanding digital access, supporting small businesses, protecting the climate, and preparing people for the jobs of the future.

Why it Matters

The Verizon Forward for Good Accelerator is aimed at driving meaningful social change through leading-edge technologies such as 5G, MEC, AI and XR. Business startups accepted into the 16-week accelerator program will receive access to a wealth of resources provided by Verizon, including education, technology enablement, networking, and non-dilutive funding to scale their technology solutions. The first of two cohorts is expected to begin in June 2021 with a focus on climate justice, powering technology solutions to help communities build resilience and thrive as the climate changes, with a focus on advancing climate justice for populations who disproportionately bear the impacts of climate change.

Need to catch up on #Next20?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the latest episodes on our #Next20 News page.

About the author(s):

Donna is part of the Corporate Employee Communications team, focused on Corporate Social Responsibility and Finance Communications.

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