Illustration by Jesse Zhang

Temperature Check is a podcast at the intersection of climate and justice. Season Two features climate leaders and their mentors in a series of intimate, insightful conversations about what it takes to find purpose, passion, and even enjoyment in the fight for a better planet. Listen to all the episodes now, right here (or wherever you get your podcasts).

Jess Stahl: Welcome to Temperature Check, a podcast about climate, justice, and the people making a difference. I’m Jess Stahl, editor for creative storytelling at Fix. And this season of Temperature Check, we’re turning over the reins to climate and justice leaders to talk about mentorship. For each episode, we asked one changemaker to tell us who inspires them, who supports them, and then we brought them together.

Valencia Gunder: People already know that climate is impacting them. They just don’t understand their power to make a change around it.

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Teresa Baker: You never know the amazing mind that you may influence.

Tien Nguyen: The satisfaction that you get from seeing someone else grow and see them just go in places that you could have never even expected.

Leah Thomas: Yeah, when we do this together, we can get things done.

Jess Stahl: This conversation is with Earyn McGee and Tien Nguyen. Earyn is a herpetologist, science communicator, and graduate student in conservation biology at the University of Arizona. She’s also one of our 2021 Grist 50 Fixers. Earyn chose to speak with her friend and mentor Tien Nguyen. Tien is a science journalist, and the two hit it off at a speed dating-esque event that matched up mentors and mentees. They’ve been cheering each other on ever since. Today, Earyn and Tien talk about the ripple effects of showing up in environmental work, the perils of grad school and what it takes to make good lizard content. And now, I’ll hand it over to them.

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Earyn McGee: Hi, my name is Earyn McGee, and I am a recent PhD. I am a herpetologist and science communicator.

Tien Nguyen: My name is Tien Nguyen, and I am a science journalist and video producer.

Earyn McGee: You are my mentor and a super amazing person and also a really great friend, and I am very happy to know you and to have you with me on my journey through life. So, thank you for that.

Tien Nguyen: Oh my gosh, that’s so sweet. I’m so happy we met. It’s been amazing to see your journey and see you grow, and I’m so excited to see where your career is going to go.

Earyn McGee: I remember us meeting at one of the mixers for the Mass Media Fellowship towards the end or something like that. So then, at the blind-dating to figure out who our mentors would be, I already knew in my mind from that previous meeting that it would be you, because I’m just like, “Nobody else is really meshing with me on the stuff that I want to do.” I always knew that I was like the oddball out or whatever, but, like, this person, she gets it.

Tien Nguyen: That’s so funny. I remember they told me that you only put down one name, and I was like, “What a boss move.”

Earyn McGee: Because like, throughout my whole PhD career, it’s been me trying to, like, figure stuff out for myself. And it’s been so difficult. I wanted a real mentor. So that’s why I was like, “Well, if I can’t have her for my mentor, then I’m just not going to do this.”

Tien Nguyen: So what would you say our relationship is like?

Earyn McGee: The first thing that pops into my mind is the big sister I never had. I’m the oldest of five, so, like, I’ve always had to be the person that puts everybody else before myself and so, like, our relationship is nice, because I get to come to you about, you know, stuff that I might be struggling with and, like, talk about my goals and stuff like that and so, like, you’re super supportive of me.

Tien Nguyen: Oh my gosh. So nice to hear you say. Because I’m actually, I’m one of five too. I’m the third, though — I’m not the oldest.

Earyn McGee: Yeah.

Tien Nguyen: But that’s like my oldest sister. She always feels that pressure to take care of us all.

Earyn McGee: Right. And then also, like, you don’t let me just talk out the side of my neck, you definitely, like, reel me in and just help me, like, get focused. You hold me accountable. It’s a mentor-slash-friend relationship where I respect where you are and your expertise, while at the same time you respect where I am at and my journey of just finishing my PhD, trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my life, and it’s a really good relationship that we got going on right now.

Tien Nguyen: I love that so much.

Earyn McGee: And so how would you describe our relationship?

Tien Nguyen: It’s in line with what you said. So the first time we met, you were finishing up your PhD and, like, I have a PhD in organic chemistry. That last year was insane for me because, you know, it’s so hard to switch over to science communication from academia, and it’s also just really emotional. You’re finishing up this long journey. You’re so tired. You’re just exhausted. It’s like you could do anything. It’s really overwhelming, so it brings me right back to that time of not knowing what to do. And I’ve had two really great mentors. I’m just stealing from, like, whatever they did, because what I really liked about my relationships with them is that they were super supportive, but they also gave really practical advice.

Earyn McGee: Exactly.

Tien Nguyen: I think that’s what a mentor really does. It’s these questions that you can’t really ask a group. It’s like, “I have this offer. They’re offering me this much money. If I ask for this, would it be crazy?” Like that kind of actual advice from someone who knows you and someone who knows your strengths. Because I think sometimes advice, it doesn’t really fit to the person if you don’t know what their strengths are and what their actual goals are. It might sound like a great opportunity, but if that’s not aligned with the actual person, like, that advice makes no sense for them.

Earyn McGee: You kind of, like, reminded me of that one job application I was going to put into that you were like, “Why are you doing this?” Whereas everybody else was like, “Yeah, you should apply,” and I’m just like —

Tien Nguyen: No.

Earyn McGee: Yeah.

Tien Nguyen: I think about, like, what you’ve told me, and does this make sense for where you want to go.

Earyn McGee: Yeah.

Tien Nguyen: And I know sometimes too, like, sometimes you just want to rant, and I used to do that with my mentors. Every month, I’d be like “I’m lost. I’m sure.” Like, she’d probably be tired of hearing that from me like, every month, wanting to be something else, but she kind of just says, “Mm-hm, mm-hm,’” and she’d, like, well, bring back, “Well, you know you did say this.”

Earyn McGee: And sometimes, yeah, I, like, totally feel like I’m just, like, floating in space aimlessly. Kinda like grabbing me back. I’m like, “Thank you.”

Tien Nguyen: Any time. 

I didn’t know that science communication was a career, and in my third year of grad school, I was feeling like everything’s falling apart: I don’t know if I want to stay in research, like, I need to find something else to do. And I met a science reporter. Her name is Carmen Drahl and she was covering my work at a conference. She offered to have lunch with me, and at this lunch, she sort of told me what she did, and I was like, “Oh my God, this is the way.” Because she had a PhD in organic chemistry, just like me, and she had come out of that degree and then gotten this job at Chemical & Engineering News, which, funny enough, years later, I would have the same job as her. And then, by the time I finished my PhD, that’s when I had done the Open Notebook fellowship and then a science writing job at Princeton.

Earyn McGee: That’s amazing.

Tien Nguyen: So what got you into science communication, Earyn?

Earyn McGee: I really didn’t know what science communication was. I just kind of started doing it because my grad advisor, Michael Bogan, whenever we would go to conferences and stuff, people would be like, “Oh, Michael is your advisor? I know him off of Twitter and I really want to meet him. Can you introduce us?” And then I was like, “Well, I’m just a first-year grad student and I want people to think about me like that.”

Tien Nguyen: Yeah.

Earyn McGee: Because in five years, I’m going to need a job. So let me just go ahead and start posting about all the stuff that I do. I made, like, a Twitter, and I started talking about my research. I started talking about what it was like to be a Black woman in academia and, like, herpetology specifically. Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians. For me specifically, I study lizards. After about two years, I had finished my master’s, and I was like, “You know what, I really want to host a natural history TV show.” That’s something I’ve always thought was super cool, and I talked to my undergraduate advisor about it and, like, once he gave me the OK, like he was not judging me, I was like, “Well, can’t nobody else judge me if George doesn’t judge me.” And so then I started to actively look for different opportunities, so science journalism wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, because I wasn’t trying to be objective. I wanted to be like, “Black people in science are cool, and you guys are going to think it’s cool now too.” I wasn’t on a, “Well, this is, you know, what’s happen—.” No. I’m telling you what you’re going to like. Like, that was my mindset. And so, like, the whole journalism thing wasn’t quite working for me. And so then I also took courses in the education department about environmental education and stuff like that, and I started applying for, like, different programs like the Mass Media Fellowship, and through that fellowship is how I was able to be in a mentor-mentee program with you, and so that’s kind of how I got into it myself.

Tien Nguyen: So when did you decide that herpetology would be your way into studying climate change?

Earyn McGee: So climate change was really a byproduct of me wanting to work with my grad advisor. So I was already doing herpetology research for the entire time that I was an undergrad. So my undergraduate advisor, George, knew my graduate advisor, Michael, because they had both done research in the same place together. And so when Michael had just started at the University of Arizona, he reached out to George and he was like, “Hey, do you know of any undergraduate students who are looking to go to grad school?” And George was like, “I have just the one.” And so then me and Michael connected, and then he was like, “OK, so you seem really awesome. But here’s the catch. I’m an aquatic entomologist and I have no understanding about lizards, so you need to figure out how you’re going to marry lizards with aquatic insects. So that way you can come and work with me.” And so then we came up with this study about climate change, which I thought was really interesting, because I had always been interested in how animals and humans interact with one another, and so climate change just seemed like a really great way to marry all of my interests. So I got to work with my grad advisor and work with lizards, and then also study climate change that way.

Tien Nguyen: That’s awesome.

Earyn McGee: Yeah.

Tien Nguyen: So I’ve always felt, like, a connection to the environment and wanting to be involved in some way. Back in high school, I was the vice president of the Sierra Student Coalition.

Tien Nguyen: We were going to go to Staples and, like, demand that they use recycled paper. 

 Earyn McGee: That’s amazing.

Tien Nguyen: Once I got into science journalism, I knew I wanted to go into the environment, and energy is what I was really interested in. And I basically follow stories that I’m fascinated and terrified by. So I’ve done some reporting on solar geoengineering, which — I just cannot get enough of that topic. It’s so interesting. It’s like basically a way to cool the Earth by shooting chemicals into the sky, and that combines so much. It combines this aspect of scientific research like, “What does that mean? What would those chemicals do? How do they break down in the atmosphere?” But then it also brings in aspects of societal impact. So what does it mean for a country or even a scientist to decide to do this? Who is going to allow them to do it? And what are the unknowns? And the really interesting question about that is, for years scientists never even talked about it because it was considered taboo. How can we tell people to stop putting CO₂ in the air if we’re going to give them this get-out-of-jail-free card, where, “Oh, we can just shoot chemicals in the sky and it’s, like, going to be fine.”

Earyn McGee: Right.

Tien Nguyen: So it’s fascinating to see how people navigate that field of science, because it was kind of a debate. There are some scientists saying, like, “Let’s not study this at all. Let’s not talk about this. It’s a moral hazard.” And other scientists were saying, “We need to just know how this method would work. We don’t want to get into the situation where, right now we’re doing pretty poorly, in general, everybody, when it comes to climate change. So we should just know what’s up with this method, just in case we ever need to use it.” That’s what’s fascinating to me about reporting on the environment. I mean, it can also be really depressing.

Earyn McGee: Yeah.

Tien Nguyen: But I think that it’s something that we need to study and we need to be talking about and that we need to know more about.

Earyn McGee: Well, now I have like a bunch of questions that we’re going to have to talk about in our next session about this. I was just like, “Shooting chemicals into the sky, where do they go?” 

So as a science journalist, I know most people probably think that you’re sitting next to your computer typing away all day, but I know that you make videos. So can you talk about how your videos are used to spread messaging about the environment?

Tien Nguyen: Yeah. Actually, one of my favorite videos ever is about the environment, and it’s about the environmental costs of death. How does it impact the environment when you cremate a body or when you bury someone? I was just fascinated about that question. I wanted to do a video because, actually, it’s really hard to distill that into a hard number. What the video is actually about is life-cycle cost. When you have a burial, so much goes into it, right? It’s not just putting embalming fluid in the ground, you’re actually making a gravestone, and it takes energy to carve into that headstone. It takes fuel to transport the gravestone to the site. So all of these things are what you have to take into consideration when you’re looking at any single process. And so with the video, it really allowed me to tell a story. I also, because it’s death and people get very like, “It’s kind of a bummer,” the outlet was really cool, and they let me tell this story through stop-motion gingerbread cookies. So we had a little gingerbread woman, like, tucked away underneath a blanket that my producer had actually sewed and we made a coffin out of graham crackers, and we had Fruit Roll-Up flames engulf her. So I think it was, like, a really creative way to tell the story that I wanted to tell, which was basically every aspect of our lives — how we eat, how we travel — impacts the environment and even how we die and how, you know, we take care of our remains. I loved that I was able to get that message out through, like, this adorable cookie video, and it really challenged me to think of ways to give people this information in a way that would also entertain them and not, like, turn them off.

Earyn McGee: So did doing the research for this project impact the way that you think that you would want to be treated after you die?

Tien Nguyen: Yeah. And I realize this too, what I’m asking of people, like, your own death, it’s so personal. If you were burying your loved ones, that comes with so much, like, emotion and tradition. But if I were to plan ahead, I think I’d go with, like, a natural shroud in the woods somewhere.

Earyn McGee: That’s awesome.

Earyn McGee: You mentioned something about, like, traditions, and that’s what got me really interested in, like, human-wildlife conflict and how people interact with the environment, and just respecting that people come from different cultures and traditions. That was the basis that got me really interested in doing more environmental work. A lot of my outreach in general is aimed at helping more BIPOC — Black, Indigenous people of color — get outside and enjoy the outdoors because, like, there’s the saying that “Black people don’t go outside. Black people don’t camp.” Things of that nature that really isn’t true and, like, is a stereotype that some Black people have kind of, like, bought into. I think one of the coolest things is, like, reading and seeing, like, what some you know, traditions were, and, like, how Black people have been culturally connected to land and watching documentaries and stuff like that, like my own personal education. But it’s something that I really hope to be able to look into for the future. Just looking at how different people interact with the land.

Tien Nguyen: So how do you see having more diverse voices in science change the field?

Earyn McGee: So in my opinion, having more diverse science means that we’re going to be doing better science.

Tien Nguyen: Yeah.

Earyn McGee: One of the first things that pops into my head within, like, the birding community and like ornithologists, where they’re realizing that female songbirds are actually, like, interesting. Whereas before you only had white men who were allowed to be scientists and stuff, and so they were just like, their own biases were like, “Human females aren’t interesting, so female songbirds aren’t going to be interesting. So we are only going to study the male songbirds.” But now that more diversity is coming into these fields, more and more people are doing research on female songbirds and they’re like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. That past thinking right there was incorrect. We have all this new information about female songbirds, and they’re just as interesting as the males.” And so that’s kind of like the most in-your-face explanation for how it changes, like, the actual science itself, but also it can change the culture within how we produce science and produce new scientists, where different people from different backgrounds all bring something new to the table. And a lot of times when people are doing, like, graduate programs, they’ll tell you that they don’t have the greatest experiences. So having that representation means changing how we do science, why we do science, and who does science, and changing it in a positive direction.

Tien Nguyen: Yeah, I totally agree. I hope that it is changing, I mean, as scientists, we’re taught to question things, and it’s wild to me that, like, we’ve been educating people the same way for so long, like, you would think that we would question the process of training scientists and it’s past due. This doesn’t need to be, like, such a torturous experience for everybody.

Earyn McGee: And it’s really interesting because, like, one of the most beneficial classes that I took as a graduate student wasn’t really even a science class. It was, like, about innovation. Part of what we did in that class is we really got to the meat of what organizations and, like, institutional cultures and how those things operate. Because every university has its own culture and, like, people have a hard time with change, especially when they don’t know what that change is going to look like.

Tien Nguyen: Yeah.

Earyn McGee: And that really helped me, especially because I was one of those grad students doing a lot of diversity, equity, and inclusion work. I’m just, like, “Why am I having such a hard time doing this?” And, like, we’ll have, like, meetings, and people will be like, “Yeah, we know so-and-so is the problem.” I’ll be like, “Well, why can’t we fire them?” And they’ll be like, “Well, because of tenure.” And I was like, “Well, maybe we should look at tenure.” And then they were like, “Well, tenure protects professors,” and I’m like, “Which professors?” The Black professors that we don’t have? The many, like, Hispanic, Latino, Asian professors that we don’t have? Like, we have one male Mexican professor and one female Mexican professor. Who are we protecting here? But you know, people are just really resistant to change.

Tien Nguyen: Totally.

Earyn McGee: So has our relationship as mentor-mentee shaped your work in climate in any way or, like, changed the way that you kind of, like, think about how you go forward?

Tien Nguyen: Yeah, I mean, I’d say I’m really inspired by the work that you’re doing and your Twitter presence. I mean, I’m not very good on social media, like, I really hardly post. I see the reach that you have and just the impact that you have, like every time you tweet, just that, such genuine responses that you get too, I think you’ve really cultivated a following where it’s, like, these are really sincere people and they’re all rooting for you too. And it’s really inspiring to see that you can have that direct impact. I’m just kind of looking at you and what you’re doing, and hopefully finding ways that we can get you that show, so working on that.

Earyn McGee: I’m trying to make my way out to L.A. One of these days, I’m going to get a full-time position, and I’m going to be able to survive the rent in L.A. I’m trying to figure out if I can kick my little brother out of the house. I’m like, “Yeah, you want to go live on campus, you want to go live in the dorm.” So that way I can take his room.

Tien Nguyen: We’re ready for you in L.A. Whenever you’re ready.

Earyn McGee: March, April. That’s my goal.

Tien Nguyen: Yeah. Oh my gosh. You know, I went to a thing last night. It was a group for aspiring screenwriters and people in TV and film, and it was a group for just people of color.

Earyn McGee: That’s awesome.

Tien Nguyen: Yeah. It was really inspiring and openly, you know, we were just ranting to each other about the challenges that you can face as a person of color, basically in every industry. And the person said, “We need your stories.” This industry needs our stories. And I think it’s good to remind each other how much value we bring. Especially when you’re just starting out, you kind of wonder, like, “Oh, I don’t know enough. I don’t have enough experience.” But, like, literally, if you look at the field, no one has our backgrounds. You know, there is just, like, not many of us around. We’re both very unique and being people of color like that only enhances what we have to bring. I was about to, like, dunk on some white dudes, but I’m like, “Let me not.”

Earyn McGee: We’ve all been there.

Tien Nguyen: How do you think about using social media to amplify your work?

Earyn McGee: So I kind of already explained how I started off on Twitter, and for the last five or so years, that’s been my main platform, and I’ve also started to use Instagram and TikTok. But the TikTok is very, very new. We’re working on that. But I created, three years ago, the game “#FindThatLizard,” where I post a lizard, a picture of a lizard, camouflaged in its natural environment, and people have to actually find it in the photo that I post. And so I’ve been able to use that to teach people about lizards, to talk about different conservation issues. I’ve also been able to, like, relate it to different, like, social justice issues. By posting, and being consistent, you know, you can’t just, like, post and leave — you actually have to stay there and engage people and reply to their comments and retweet and stuff like that, and I feel like I’ve really been able to get to know different people. There was somebody who commented, he was like, “Yeah, it was a great time when we used to be, like, finding, like, lizards — even you didn’t know where in the photo.” And I was like, “Yeah. I have nightmares about those couple of months when all of y’all were like, ‘Oh, is this the second lizard?’” And that person was, like, the one who spearheaded the campaign. And I was like, “Yo, please chill.” But, like, you build these relationships. I’ve also been able to talk about more stuff than just lizards, like I recently started to do, like, weightlifting, and so I post about that and then there are people who are interested in that stuff too, and so my whole thing has been that I’m always going to show people that I am a whole entire person and not just a scientist. I want for people to be able to, like, relate to me. When younger people are seeing my posts and stuff, I want them to be like, “Oh, she’s a scientist, but she’s also a whole person and she’s kind of like me. And maybe I want to go into science because she’s doing it, I’m doing it.” Keeping it real with people and I think that that’s why, like you said, that I’ve been able to, like, cultivate a genuine audience, is because, like, I try my best to be genuine with my audience.

Tien Nguyen: Yeah, I think that takes a lot of bravery. It’s great that you put yourself out there but, like, even I worry for you sometimes, you know, just because, like, being a presence on social media, it can be a lot. You’re basically, like, sharing yourself for them, for, like, you know, these younger women who are looking up to you.

Earyn McGee: You know, it took me until I got my master’s essentially to be able to say to somebody out loud that I want to host a natural history TV show because, like, I was really scared about it. I was afraid that I was going to be judged and I’ve also had to sit in rooms where people have been like, “Yeah, I know I’m an unqualified white guy, but you know, it’s still affirmative action that the Black guy got the job over me.” And I’m just like, “Are you serious?” Like when somebody got up to do a keynote speech and they were just like, “Yeah, you know, we really want to diversify, like, our applicant pool and stuff like that, but we’re not getting like the Black and brown folks right now, but at least we got white women, right?” And I’m like, “No, let me tell you why that’s wrong.” And having, like, mentees sit in with me on stuff like that and just having to be like, “OK, no,” where I’m not even going to let you take their minds like that. Let’s go set the record straight here. I don’t want people to have to go through the same B.S. that I went through, and that’s a part of the problem. People of color have to take on all this extra work because it’s like, “Yeah, we don’t want other people to have to, like, suffer in the ways that we suffer,” but at the same time it’s just kind of like, “Well, if I don’t do it, who will?” and that’s also one of the cool things about social media, is being able to find community and see that there are a whole lot of other people out there who are trying to achieve, like, the same goal and who are wanting to be, like, Black women at the conference, and they’re just like, “Hey, I’m saying the same things as you, girl, but we all working through this together.” So that’s been one of the nice things about social media is not having that feeling of isolation.

Tien Nguyen: Yeah.

Tien Nguyen: How has our relationship impacted your work?

Earyn McGee: I feel like I think about my work a lot more critically. I think more about how to better craft stories, and I feel like I’m a bit more intentional, because before I just,  post, post, post, and so, like, there were definitely some times when I was, like, a lot more intentional than, like, just throwing stuff out there. But now it’s one of those things where it’s like, “OK, that was for fun. And now I actually want to do this as a career.” And so just being able to, like, talk to you and learn about your experiences has been able to help me to kind of orient my thinking, and I don’t want to say, like, that is already, like, fully oriented, I’m still figuring it out for myself, but definitely it’s helped me think a bit more critically about how to take this as an actual career path.

Tien Nguyen: Yeah, and I can totally see that, I can see the growth. I remember when we first started talking, you have so many ideas, like really great ideas, even seeing you, like, crafting show pitch or video ideas, thinking about the structure, and how to put them out. I mean, it’s cool to see you take all these ideas and, like, rein them in into things that can exist.

Earyn McGee: What has our relationship meant to you?

Tien Nguyen: Oh, it’s been so meaningful. I mean, I feel like this last year, getting to know you and being able to help in any way that I can, it’s so much more rewarding, honestly, than like doing my own work. When you succeed, it’s like pure happiness. If something good happens to me, I’m like, I can always criticize it. I think that’s why people do mentorship. I understand now, it’s like, you can only really get so much satisfaction from your own work. But like, the satisfaction that you get from seeing someone else grow. This knowledge you already had that you weren’t doing anything with, you get to like, share it with someone else and see them just go in places that you could have never even expected. I understand now like, how as getting further into my career, that’s really where the reward is at. Getting to a certain place where I can create opportunities for other people and like, help them however I can, that’s so much more rewarding than just a goal that includes only me. So thank you for being a mentee.

Earyn McGee: I’m tearing up over here.

Tien Nguyen: So what has our mentorship relationship meant to you?

Earyn McGee: You know, honestly, it wasn’t until I got to grad school where I was really starting to see people who I could, like, look up to. I knew I wanted to work with animals for a long time. I thought I was going to be a vet because my parents were like, “Yeah, you want to work with animals? That’s fine, you weirdo, but at 18, you’re leaving our house and not coming back. So you can’t be a zookeeper because they don’t make money and the only other thing that we know of is being a vet, and they do make money.” And so like, I didn’t know any vets, I didn’t have anybody who I could talk to about being a better anything. And then like, I got to college and I realized I didn’t really want to be a vet and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at that point and I was lucky as an undergraduate student, I got to go to conferences every year, but I still wasn’t seeing anybody who I could really look up to, anybody who I could be like, “That person is doing the things that I want to be doing.” And so it wasn’t really until I got to, like, graduate school where I really did start to see people who I was like, “Yeah, they’re doing some awesome stuff.” You know, I talked about being the oldest child, I’m scared to ask for help and so like, knowing that I could go to you without being scared, feeling like, stupid or whatever, that is invaluable to me.

Tien Nguyen: What’s your vision for our future together?

Earyn McGee: So, I really hope that at one point or sometime soon that we actually get to like, work on a project together. I hope that we continue to just build off of this foundation that we’ve established, you know, this last year or so, and I hope that, you know, one day I’m winning awards, you winning awards, we have an awards party together. That would be awesome. Environmentalism slash natural resources, slash, etc., etc., is just, you know, the other side of the coin with environmental justice and, moving forward, if we do want to see changes, we can’t keep separating the two issues that impact Black people and other people of color have to come to the forefront, we cannot keep sweeping them aside, saying, “You know, we’re talking about the environment, not talking about people.” Well, what’s the point of talking about the environment if we aren’t going to make the world better for everybody who lives here?

Tien Nguyen: Beautiful. I’d encourage people to support local journalism. I mean, telling these stories takes money. I mean, I know a lot of people just get their news on the internet, but if you want in-depth reporting and people to actually be able to make a living and have a life while doing it, we really need people’s support. Otherwise, it kind of falls on a really specific subset of people who can kind of afford to be a journalist and I think that’s a really narrow subset and we lose a lot of voices that way. So if you can, wherever you get your environmental news, support them. And just like you said, I really want to work together. I mean, I think that would be amazing. I see the vision for your show, like, I cannot wait to see you basically killing it, and I would love to be involved and I just, you know, I just want to be there and watch you grow, really. I feel like there’s so many things you could do.

Earyn McGee: Me too.

Tien Nguyen: And you know, any way that I can help, like, I’m here.

Earyn McGee: Well, thank you so much, Tien. I know this is kind of out of the blue, so I really appreciate you coming to have a chat with me.

Tien Nguyen: Yes. Thank you, Earyn, for inviting me. I loved doing this. This was so sweet. Thank you.

Jess Stahl: Thank you so much for listening, and thanks to Earyn McGee and Tien Nguyen for sharing your time with us. This episode is one of six conversations we’ll be sharing this month as part of our mentorship issue. You can read more about mentorship at, where we’re exploring the power of mentorship in climate work and how mentorship must change to make the space more inclusive and accessible. That’s at 

Temperature Check is a podcast from Fix, Grist’s Solutions Lab, produced in association with Reasonable Volume. I’m Jess Stahl, Fix’s editor for creative storytelling. Fix’s Claire Thompson, Camille Williams, and Josh Kimelman all contributed to this podcast with additional contributions from Fix Managing Editor Jaime Buerger and Designer Mia Torres. This podcast is produced by Audrey Ngo with Associate Producer Dominique French and edited by Elise Hu and Rachel Swaby. Sound engineering is by Mark Bush. 

If you’d like to support what we do, you can rate, review, and tell all your friends to follow Temperature Check. You can also listen to all of our other conversations on mentorship right now, in this podcast feed. See you there.

Illustration by Jesse Zhang