“Her work is deeply powerful and is resonating with so many folks who have been left out of the climate and environmental education movements.”
“He is a trendsetter in a vital industry.”
“Where politicians fail to put pressure on these companies to clean up their act, she works twice as hard to keep local communities informed and empowered to fight for their land and a cleaner future.”
“She is a wholly unique voice in the hydropower world and I hope the industry follows her lead.”
— From the nominators of this year’s Grist 50 list
Hey there, friend. As a faithful reader of this newsletter, you know that we do our best to offer you glimpses of a better future, based on the real work being done today by all kinds of awesome people. Well, no single piece of content encapsulates that idea better than the Grist 50.
This week, our team published the seventh edition of the Grist 50, our annual list celebrating emerging leaders in climate, equity, and sustainability — as nominated by you, our readers. (If you haven’t already given it a look, we highly recommend it.)
Although we call them “Fixers” and “changemakers” and “climate heroes,” the people featured on Grist 50 are also human — ordinary people who are achieving extraordinary things. They saw injustices in their hometowns, and resolved to do something about it. They wanted more climate-friendly products, so they started making them. They saw a lack of climate stories in mainstream media, so they set out to tell them. These folks found out how to bring their strengths to the movement, just like all of us can.
And although the list is packed with personal stories of perseverance, revelations, and successes, we also recognize that no individual goes it alone. Every leader is propped up by teammates, partners, friends, and followers, and that includes the many thoughtful and supportive folks who see fit to nominate their heroes to the Grist 50 every year.
So, in this newsletter, we’re sharing some of the glowing words from the nominators who made this year’s list possible. Here’s what they had to say about the 2022 Fixers.
Cofounder & CEO, Natel Energy
Hydropower is clean, but can harm rivers. She built a better turbine.
“Gia sees what can be, rather than focusing on what must not change. For example, Gia believes that a turbine that isn’t safe for fish isn’t worth designing, so she directed her team to design a turbine that would be able to pass fish safely downstream while also being efficient. She succeeded. She is fully committed to addressing climate change, believing that climate change is water change and water change is climate change. She is a wholly unique voice in the hydropower world and I hope the industry follows her lead.”
— Shannon Ames
Gulf Coast Campaigner, Sierra Club; Member, Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative
In coastal Texas, she stands up to Big Gas — and the world’s biggest rockets
“In the past year, Bekah has been fighting hard against the pipeline set to run through the Rio Grande Valley and fill the area with even more pollution, as well as Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, which has bought local leaders and politicians with false promises and harmful practices disguised as innovation. Where politicians fail to put pressure on these companies to clean up their act, Bekah works twice as hard to keep local communities informed and empowered to fight for their land and a cleaner future. In one of the most vulnerable areas in the country, Bekah has created some much needed mobility.”
— Myrka Moreno
Research and Development Director, Material Return
His recycling business keeps an old industry thriving — and tons of fabric out of the landfill
“Bob comes from the community (rural North Carolina), and has worked in an industry that has been devastated by jobs moving overseas for decades. As a cofounder of Material Return, he is part of a larger effort to re-industrialize the Southeast using innovative, regenerative strategies. He is a trendsetter in a vital industry with deep implications to the regional economy, and he has a clear strategy to upcycle textile waste.”
— Diane Ives
Nina Misuraca Ignaczak
Founder & Editor, Planet Detroit
This reporter’s got the scoop on environmental justice in Detroit
“Nina started Planet Detroit, the only publication dedicated solely to covering environmental issues in Detroit, a city that ranks high as an environmental injustice hotspot for a number of factors. She started a publication from scratch, funding it herself through her other job for several years because of her commitment to informing and empowering Detroit residents around their environment and health. For more than two years, Planet Detroit has produced local, award-winning public-service environmental and public health journalism for the metro Detroit area. They’re focused on what climate change means locally — for the city and state. They cultivate local journalists, especially journalists of color, to connect the dots between climate change and public health in Detroit.”
— Jena Brooker
Director of Youth Engagement and Policy, Maine Environmental Education Association
She gets youth outside — and mobilized on climate and justice
“Amara is only 20 years old, but has been working with the Maine Environmental Education Association since she was a sophomore in high school as part of our Environmental Changemakers Network. Now she leads the network as our Director of Youth Engagement, balancing college and working almost full time with us. Amara is advancing climate justice and equitable access to climate education through policy work, coordinating our state’s first climate education summit this year, and leading our youth network, which has over 400 young Mainers engaged. I have also heard Amara speak really powerfully to the importance of representation and how her identity deeply impacts the way she organizes and sees the world. Her work is deeply powerful and is resonating with so many folks who have been left out of the climate and environmental education movements in Maine and beyond.”
— Olivia Griset
Founder & Executive Chairman, Navajo Power
His solar plant will put power — and profits — in the hands of the Navajo Nation
“Brett was born and raised on the Navajo Nation. A member of the Navajo People (Diné), Brett grew up in a culturally rich part of the world with scenic landscapes and vibrant history. This shaped Brett’s view on creating opportunity while carrying messages of reverence for culture, conservation, and preservation of our ecosystem. This led Brett to a career in renewable energy, economic development, and entrepreneurship. This route eventually led to the creation and purpose of Navajo Power. Based on tribal lands and led by Indigenous leaders, Navajo Power is a company to know and learn from, as they lead Navajo Nation’s transition from coal dependence to clean energy superpower, as well as create jobs and build resilient infrastructure for the Navajo Nation and for the greater western region. Navajo Power is working to maximize the economic benefits of clean energy for tribal communities.”
— Cat Huynh
See for yourself
If these leaders give you hope for a clean, green, just future, help us get their stories out there! We’d love it if you’d share the person who inspired you most (or go ahead and share the full list) on social media. Feel free to use any of the graphics or the sample social copy in our media toolkit.
Do you know someone (or five someones) who belongs on this list? You can nominate your climate hero to the Grist 50 right here. We accept nominations year-round, and we look carefully at every single name that comes through the Google waves. Tell us who you’d like to see on next year’s list!
A parting shot
Cherry blossom season has officially arrived! (Or, as the National Mall Twitter account enthusiastically put it, “PEAK BLOOM! PEAK BLOOM! PEAK BLOOM!”) Sure, its early arrival might be a harbinger of doom — but while we’ve got ’em, let the blossoms, softening weather, and other signs of spring rejuvenate your spirit.