Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Ayana co-leading the March for Science Author: Kisha Bari
2021

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Marine Biologist

climate crusader

meet ayana

Dr. Johnson is a policy expert and Brooklyn native, co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab, co-founder of the All We Can Save Project, and co-creator and co-host of the podcast How to Save a Planet. She has been Executive Director of the Waitt Institute, developed policy at the EPA and NOAA, a leader of the March for Science, and taught at New York University. She earned a BA from Harvard University in Environmental Science and Public Policy and a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

climate crusader
Nominated by: Nancy Nenow MN'04
Class of 2021 Location New York, USA
Ocean zoning in Barbuda with the Blue Halo Initiative
Ocean zoning in Barbuda with the Blue Halo Initiative Author: Will McClintock

A significant impact of my work has been reframing the conversation around climate change to include the ocean and to focus on solutions. I persistently advocate to include the ocean in climate policy. More broadly are my commitments to science communication and welcoming more people into the climate movement. My approach emerges from a deep understanding that even though the problem is enormous, we still have a wide range of possible futures. Though I’m not really one for “hope,” we certainly have endless opportunities to improve the outcome. I have effectively focused on emphasizing the solutions we already have, making it clearer to people how climate issues intersect with what they already deeply care about.

“My approach emerges from a deep understanding that even though the [climate change] problem is enormous, we still have a wide range of possible futures.”

- Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

An aspect of building community around solutions is showing people all of the different ways there are to be a part of climate work. There are parallels between the unsustainability of the fashion industry and fossil fuels in the ways that both industries need to change what they’re doing. This is key because it won’t just be one thing. It’s not just solar panels and electric cars – it’s everything.

“We need to transform our electricity sector, transportation, buildings, manufacturing, agriculture and our land use. This transformation will require all of us, which is why it’s so important to build an inclusive community around climate work. Polling has shown that 49 percent of white people are concerned about climate change, compared to 57 percent of Black people and 70 percent of Latino people. Failing to prioritize the engagement of all people is a losing strategy; we must reach people who already care, who are already environmentalists.

never stop exploring

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CLASS OF 2021

Get the EC50 print publication