When I moved to Seattle 24 years ago to start what became Grist, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was only through the support of generous mentors over the years — in the worlds of journalism, environmentalism, justice, nonprofit governance, and on and on — that Grist came into being and thrived.
Now, in my own little way, I’m doing my best to support and get behind up-and-comers, in the spirit of “each one, teach one,” as described by Moses Wamalwa of Action for the Climate Emergency.
This month, Fix published an entire series dedicated to this very subject. The Mentorship Issue explores the power of such guiding friendships in climate and justice work, and the way traditional, institutional models of mentor–mentee are changing, and must change, to upend exclusionary power structures.
“Climate and justice work is not a solo endeavor,” writes Jess Stahl, Fix’s editor of creative storytelling. “It’s our relationships that support us and build us up and inspire us. It’s role models and elders and friends who help us find our own paths, keep us on them when things are hard, and give us hope when things look dark.”
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Your new heroes
As part of Fix’s mentorship issue, six climate and justice leaders discussed the importance of inclusive mentorship in the climate space and what it looks like. Thoughts from three of those leaders, who are 2021 Grist 50 Fixers:
Atianna Cordova, founder and CEO of urban-design studio WATER BLOCK
“Historically, Black and brown communities in particular have not had a voice in how our built environment has been shaped, especially if we look at our cities. And design has played a large part in that conversation, simply because design decisions impact every aspect of our lives, including housing, food, health, transportation. Yet the field has been led by white men. We’ve slowly just been able to be a part of this field, in a formal sense anyway. So now we are trying to build up those numbers in this space where we have historically not been included.”
Chandra Farley, CEO and founder of ReSolve Consulting and founder of The Good Energy Project
“Inclusive mentorship is just an expanded idea of what we have traditionally always thought mentorship is: an open relationship between folks who are invested in each other’s growth. Sharing opportunities is key. That can be having one-on-one conversations, sharing opportunities for work, or inviting folks to meetings or spaces that you’re a part of. It’s really about trying to be a door-opener. I have had access to spaces that I would not have unless someone was looking out for me. Even today, I’m really surprised to show up in spaces and be the only Black person or the only Black woman in a room.”
Cristina Garcia, assistant director of the Building Electrification Institute and founder of Latinxs in Sustainability
“I think good, inclusive mentorship is having someone who has a profound understanding of your challenges, because they have either lived through it or have been professionally trained to understand those nuances — like growing up in a house where English isn’t their first language or being a first-generation college student. I think inclusive mentorship is also going to require, in an ideal world, organizations that promote partnerships with local colleges to seek out those mentees.”
1. Moss is boss. Scientific progress can be messy. A new Grist video series, Proof of Concept, has set out to explore the accidental discoveries, great ideas, and lucky work that move science forward. Episode 1 follows community scientists using moss, of all things, to take control of the air they breathe.
2. Star tech. Climate tech is on the rise, but investment in communities to harness such technologies is often underwhelming. Dawn Lippert, founder and CEO of climate investor Elemental Excelerator and a 2019 Grist 50 Fixer, tackles this topic in a recent TED talk. “Technology can only bring half the solution. The community brings the other half,” she says. “For any of these new solutions to work for climate, they have to have at least these two ingredients: the technology that scales and the relationships and empathy that we share.”
3. DOE, oh dear. President Biden this week signed executive orders to cut the federal government’s carbon emissions by 65 percent by 2030. Under the plan, the government would run on carbon-free electricity by 2030 and stop buying gas-powered vehicles by 2035, as well as halt climate pollution from hundreds of thousands of buildings. All that doesn’t hold a candle to this development, however: The Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy has been reborn as, wait for it, the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. (It’s the little things, y’all.)
4. Highway to well. Interstate 375 ripped the heart out of Black life in Detroit in the 1960s. Now Michigan wants to tear it down. But highway removal is the easy part — making reparations is where it gets complicated.
5. Literally everything is a monthly subscription these days. When public transit won’t work out, maybe you wish you could wave a wand and a sweet electric vehicle would simply show up for your personal use the next day. That’s the dream that startup Motor is aiming to make real. The company handles all the logistics for getting an electric car — acquisition, delivery, registration, insurance, charger installation, and maintenance — on a monthly subscription basis, so drivers can test out the lifestyle without committing to ownership. Motor is testing out the program in Indianapolis.
Your listening list
I luvved this. For the latest season of Temperature Check, Fix’s podcast on climate and justice, the team asked climate leaders to sit down with the people who inspire, motivate, and sustain them. The resulting conversations provide an insightful look into what it takes to find purpose, passion, and even happiness in the fight for a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck.
- In one episode, herpetologist Earyn McGee, a 2021 Fixer, and science writer Tien Nguyen, talk about their experiences as women of color in STEM and about finding their paths from academia to media.
- In another, activist and hip hop artist Xiuhtezcatl, a 2017 Fixer, and Josué Rivas, a photographer, visual storyteller, and 2019 Fixer, reminisce about the projects they’ve collaborated on to tell the stories of Indigenous communities through powerful lyrics and images, from their first photo shoot in Chicago to a crossover with Levi’s earlier this year.
- In a third, Pattie Gonia, a drag queen and environmentalist, and Spencer R. Scott, a science writer and the owner of a queer-run agricultural community space, reinforce their goal of bringing as many as people as possible into the climate movement through “collaboration, community, and joy.”
These conversations and the three others really moved and motivated me, and have caused me to reach out to both mentors and mentees of my own. So, hey, if you want to have a similar heart-to-heart with someone who inspires you, we’ve got just the thing to help get you started.
Your weekend plan
With the holidays upon us, you might be thinking you need to hustle to get gadgets and gizmos for all the people in your life. But lo! After the past two years of absolute world chaos, could it be time to radically reimagine gift-giving? In three words: yes, please, now.
Herewith, the Ask Umbra 2021 Holiday Makeover:
- In defense of leftovers.
- 6 habits of highly effective climate-conscious travelers.
- What the supply chain crisis can teach us about how we shop.
- How to save Christmas from consumerism.
- The climate-friendly gift guide for every level of motivation.