With degrees in environmental science and public policy from Harvard University, and a PhD from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in marine biology, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson hasn’t just observed the rising tides of climate change in her work; she created an interdisciplinary career, deciphering their complexities.
From decoding data on coral reefs for her dissertation to presenting a TED Talk on finding joy in climate action, Johnson transcends the boundaries of climate discourse.
A scientist who’s transitioned into a policy expert, writer, and scientific communicator, Dr. Johnson has brought sparks of joy and entrepreneurship to combating the climate crisis. With a varied work history that encapsulated by her Ikigai-inspired Climate Action Venn Diagram, Johnson is the co-founder of think tank Urban Ocean Lab, whose research on the future of coastal cities has been featured in the Fifth National Climate Assessment, the Ocean Justice Forum, as in literature on ocean climate funding strategies and regenerative ocean farming.
Johnson’s inexhaustible efforts to craft climate coalitions have also propelled her to co-edit the bestselling climate anthology, All We Can Save, which features the words of women climate experts through essays, poems, and thought pieces.
“It’s too late to save all our stuff, but we can still save one another and a great many other species too. Let’s put out the flames and build something different in its place. Something a little less ornate, but with room for all those who need shelter and care.” - Dr. Ayana, All We Can Save
She also curated The Best American Science and Nature Writing anthology of 2022—a selection of the most thought-provoking science and nature essays selected from a diverse group of notable climate journalists and science writers, including Naomi Klein, Katherine Hayhoe, and Amy Westervelt.
A dedicated advocate for environmental causes, Johnson serves on the board of directors for Patagonia and GreenWave, as well as the Environmental Voter Project and Scientific American, demonstrating her commitment to fostering sustainability in corporate and grassroots settings.
Not confined to advisory roles, Dr. Johnson has also made her mark in governmental circles. Her service on the Secretary of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board highlights her involvement at the highest echelons of environmental decision-making. Drawing on her background in research and policy, she played a key role in developing U.S. federal ocean policy during her tenure at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Additionally, she contributes her insights and expertise to shaping national discourse on environmental issues as a member of the steering committee for the Ocean Justice Forum, and is known for co-authoring a comprehensive set of suggested policy guidelines known as the Blue New Deal.
“The longer we wait to enact strong ocean and climate policies, the more vulnerable people of color and low-income people in coastal communities will become. Our solutions must be grounded in environmental justice and create good jobs in the Blue Economy.” - Ayana Elizabeth Johnson on the Blue New Deal, Washington Post
Despite her busy schedule, Dr. Johnson has found the time to create another compilation of climate stories. What If We Get It Right? Visions of Climate Futures invites readers into a realm of possibility and optimism in the face of our climate crisis. Through poignant essays and dynamic conversations infused with poetry, data, and art, Johnson weaves an interdisciplinary map of climate optimism at the intersection of science, policy, culture, and justice.
Featuring the diverse voices of scientists, farmers, financiers, architects, journalists, advocates, and entrepreneurs, for those grappling with the challenge of picturing a transformed world or discovering their role in shaping it, Johnson's book stands as a beacon of hope. With composure, humor, and a call to collective humanity, she poses the ultimate question: What if we get it right? As we navigate the complexities of climate change, her latest book serves to be a roadmap and a rallying cry, emphasizing that every individual contribution is a vital part of the journey toward a sustainable tomorrow.
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson's multidimensional climate journey is a testament to the power of combining passion and expertise with optimism and joy. Her far-reaching words, countless initiatives, engaging scientific research, and joyful activism beckon the climate-conscious towards the future—in which we just might get it right.
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