Episode #32: Are You Ready for Some Radical Environmental Justice? (transcript)
Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn-
Brian: That's how it's starting? I'm Brian Colbert Kennedy.
Quinn: Yeah, so excited to be here.
Brian: Oh my.
Quinn: This is episode 32. Brian, today's topic, it's time, Brian, for radical environmental justice action.
Brian: It's been time.
Quinn: It's been time. A lot of people have been like, "Yeah, we've been here the whole time. You're welcome." But it's time for us and our listeners to get the hell on board. Our guest today, pretty awesome, like her a lot.
Brian: She was fantastic, and she's in charge of a lot of people.
Quinn: She put up with a lot today. All the people. Her name is Shantha Ready Alonso, and she's the Executive Director of the Creation Justice Ministries, where, from what I understand, she's just, I think, in charge of all the religious people, right?
Brian: Yeah. If you count yourself as a religious person-
Quinn: In any way.
Brian: -she's your boss.
Quinn: She's now your boss. You have to do what she says. Again, whatever she says, that seems to be the case.
Brian: Thankfully, she's wonderful and seems like she wants to help the planet and all the people on it, so that's good.
Quinn: Right. She's a Notre Dame alum, check, Fighting Irish, and Creation Justice Ministries, and this is important to why she's here today. Their mission's to educate, equip, and mobilize Christian communions and denominations to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation, and here's where it's important because they focus on the vulnerable and marginalized, and those folks are our concern today. We got into some Chicago stuff.
Brian: Yes, of course, because there are quite a few people in Chicago who could use some extra attention and love and support, just like there are all over the country.
Quinn: Yeah. Some examples of the things she brought up that they work on and they fight against and they fight for, it's just fucking ridiculous.
Brian: Yeah. She had mentioned ... obviously, listen. She mentioned it needing to be a much bigger conversation in the world, this topic we're talking about today, but I really liked it when she said that part of her job is going into communities and pointing out or highlighting what locally needs to be done. I feel like that is sort of the way to do it. Do that everywhere.
Quinn: Or listening to what those people are saying needs to be done, and they can help educate them or assist them.
Brian: Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you're just a regular dude, and you know shit's fucked up, but you're just watching CNN or whatever, it's too broad. I think you need to see what's going on with your eyes.
Quinn: Yeah, we have to stop climate change. Cool.
Brian: Yeah, right.
Quinn: My sidewalk's been flooding for like 10 years. What the fuck do I do about that?
Brian: Yeah, there are things.
Quinn: Well, this is how you can educate yourself on why and how you talk to your local representatives about it and get them fired up.
Brian: Yeah. Her organization seems pretty important.
Quinn: Well, that's where people are going to give a shit the most and also where they can have the most impact, right?
Brian: Yeah, right where they live.
Quinn: And for some of these folks, again, these communities of color and the minorities, lower-income folks, they've been dealing with this stuff for forever, pre-climate change effects of the past 20 years. Right?
Brian: Yeah, forever.
Quinn: It's like, "Hey, you've got a laundry list of shit that's making your kids sick. Guess what? Now everything's on fire. You're welcome." God, we fucked this up. So, Brian.
Quinn: We've been torching this place for about 100-plus years, right?
Quinn: Everyone's like, "Hey, you know what'd be a great idea? Factories."
Brian: Yeah, go ahead.
Quinn: No, please.
Brian: I have a real quick thing. My buddy posted ... I think it was our friend actually, friend of the podcast, Mike Rylander, posted this little newspaper clipping from, I think it was 1906.
Brian: I can't remember if it was a city that was saying it. I can't remember what newspaper it was or who was writing it, but they had said, "We've recently discovered that all the coal that we're burning out of our stoves in our houses, it's changing the air a little bit. That might have a profound effect in the next century."
Quinn: 1906? Good work, everybody.
Brian: We've known. We've fucking known for a while, and nobody's done anything.
Quinn: Right. I want to talk a little bit about perspective. We get so mad because we find all these papers who waxed on in the '60s, like, "Oh, it's going to be real bad."
Quinn: And then they covered it up. We're like, "But you shouldn't have put it on paper because now we know."
Quinn: At this point, all the lawsuits getting tossed out. Still, they knew. You've got a newspaper article from 1906, and you're like, "Hey, maybe not great. Maybe not great."
Brian: Looky here.
Quinn: A hundred-ish years, right?
Quinn: Humans have been around-ish 200, 300 ... this version of humans, homo sapiens, 200, 300,000 years. Right? Okay?
Quinn: Prancing around.
Quinn: Sounds like actually there were a couple different groups, the way they left Africa and went different directions.
Brian: Oh, yeah.
Quinn: We recently found some really early fossils in China, a couple different ways they spread across America, just wasn't one group, one little family that went for a trip. Some went north, some went south, came back together a few times. Kind of crazy.
Quinn: 200, 300,000 years. Let's talk about dinosaurs for a sec. Everybody's like, "Dinosaurs are cute," right?
Brian: They're so great.
Quinn: They're so great. Sauropods, which are basically the biggest ones.
Quinn: They were, sauropods specifically, on the planet for 140 million years.
Brian: Man, that's insane.
Quinn: So, 200, 300,000 years, and I tried to do the math on this, not a math guy, but this is what the calculator told me on my Mac.
Brian: Oh my God, it's such a great shortcut.
Quinn: It's like one-tenth of 1% of how long those specific dinosaurs were on the earth.
Brian: That's crazy.
Quinn: We're like, "Oh, dinosaurs were here, then the asteroid." No, no, no.
Quinn: We are not even like a blink of the fucking eye, and that's how quick we fucked it up.
Brian: Right, right. That's impressive.
Quinn: Everyone's like, "Oh, it's so important. We learned to cook and eat meat, and that's what made our brains bigger." Also, it made us fuck it up.
Quinn: It's the ultimate "this is why we can't have nice things."
Brian: That's sad.
Quinn: And we always joke about how much we like that t-shirt of dinosaurs didn't have science, and this is what happened to them.
Brian: Oh, yeah.
Quinn: And yet, they didn't do anything wrong either.
Brian: No, they were just hanging out.
Quinn: They were just hanging out. Fucking asteroid just comes along, you got nuclear winter everywhere. Everything's on fire and big waves. They didn't bring that on. They didn't do anything to stop it, which they could've worked a little harder at.
Brian: Come on, dinosaurs.
Quinn: Right? We've seen that. We can imagine, if they banded together, they could've built some sort of spaceship. But the point is, boy, we really deserve this shit we're getting.
Brian: Yeah, that is not a lot of time to impact everything that we have impacted.
Quinn: Right. Anyways, conversations most vital to the survival of the species, my last segue of this intro. This is a topic we've come back to, back and forth, and I finally tied it to the survival of the species.
Brian: Oh, okay.
Quinn: Are you ready for this?
Quinn: Headline: Science has resolved the question of boxers versus briefs.
Brian: Oh my God.
Quinn: So, you got me on board with this. They're very comfortable. I told you I got this company. They're on Amazon or on their website, Saxx, S-A-X-X.
Brian: Oh, yeah.
Quinn: The prints are preposterous. They're ridiculous.
Quinn: But they're so comfortable.
Brian: Big fan.
Quinn: I went with the trunks and the briefs.
Quinn: Okay? Here's the problem.
Brian: What are trunks? Boxers?
Quinn: Like small boxer briefs.
Quinn: They're in between.
Brian: Okay, okay. And then briefs, okay.
Quinn: Hold on, where's the line I wanted to talk about?
Brian: Oh, no. Is this going to be something bad?
Quinn: It's not great. A lot of our listeners haven't had kids yet for one reason or another. Studies found that men who mostly wore boxers, which is old me.
Brian: Old Quinn.
Quinn: Thanks, Brian. Had 17% more sperm and a 25% higher concentration of sperm than men who preferred tight underwear.
Brian: What studies?
Quinn: So many studies. I'll tell you about them. For the latest study, which appeared in Human Reproduction, researchers drew on data collected from more than 650 men who sought treatment for infertility at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2000 and 2017. Men who ranged in age from 18 to 56 provided samples that were analyzed for sperm count, concentration, motility, and well-being. 17% less sperm and 25% less of a concentration of sperm, if you're wearing tight undies.
Brian: This is why this sounds insane to me. Briefs aren't tight.
Quinn: No, but here's the thing.
Brian: You're not uncomfortable. It's just less fabric.
Quinn: But there's no other thing they're comparing it to. No, no, no. It's not. They're holding ... So, here's the thing. Ready? Here it is, the two things. It's super annoying how low our balls hang.
Brian: Right, super annoying.
Quinn: But it's got to be that way for a reason. We decided, you know what would be comfy is warm, tight undies. Turns out they're probably hanging down for a reason, so less sperm. Here's the deal. My wife has instructed me that we're done having children.
Quinn: So, this news is fine. Doesn't matter to me.
Brian: This is great. You're done.
Quinn: I would suggest-
Brian: Very bad for me.
Quinn: Not great for you. This was the first thing I thought is you'd really love a baby. You don't have one yet.
Brian: I'm going to have babies.
Quinn: One of these days.
Brian: With my girlfriend.
Quinn: Or are you because you love the tight undies? Anyways-
Brian: I don't even remember when I've ever worn boxers.
Quinn: Why this comes to survival of the species, if everybody starts wearing tight underwear-
Brian: No, of course, there'll be no people.
Quinn: -everybody is 25% smaller concentration of sperm, I think that's ballgame. Literally, right?
Brian: Well ... nice.
Quinn: You're welcome. Anyways, they've had enough. Let's go talk to Shantha Ready Alonso.
Brian: I'm a little pissed. I told you days ago that I had something to talk about in our intro, and now the intro's too damn long, and I got to wait for next week.
Quinn: No, it's not too long. No, no, no. Tell me. Because I thought it was the newspaper article. That's why I thought I could start talking. What's your thing?
Brian: It's way too long.
Quinn: No. What's your thing?
Brian: I'm serious. We're just going to do it next week, I mean it.
Quinn: Nope. Do it now.
Brian: I mean it.
Quinn: Do it now.
Brian: It's a whole thing.
Quinn: Do it now.
Brian: Can't do it.
Quinn: Will you stay for a whole workday next week, so we can do it? Or are you just going to have to skip out because you got to bench press?
Brian: Well, it depends on how much bench-pressing I do and if people want to put me in commercials, Quinn, okay?
Quinn: You look good.
Brian: Aw, fuck you.
Quinn: Let's go talk to Shantha.
Quinn: Our guest today is Shantha Ready Alonso, and together we're going to talk about digging into radical environmental justice and the steps you can take to get on board because it's time. Shantha, welcome.
Shantha Alonso: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Quinn: For sure.
Brian: We're so happy for you to be here. Okay, so let's just start with who you are and what you do.
Shantha Alonso: Sure. I lead an organization called Creation Justice Ministries. We bring together 38 Christian denominations, communions, and fellowships from five church families. That includes Orthodox Christians, like the Greek Orthodox, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Armenian Orthodox. It includes many Baptist traditions, including the Alliance of Baptists, American Baptists, Progressive National Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention USA, National Baptist Convention of America, so many Baptists.
Shantha Alonso: The Mainline Protestants, including the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America-
Quinn: I feel like she's just showing off at this point.
Shantha Alonso: -Presbyterian Church of the USA.
Brian: I'm impressed.
Shantha Alonso: Peace traditions, including Mennonites, Quakers, and Brethren, and historically black church traditions, including African Methodist Episcopal, Christian Methodist Episcopal-
Shantha Alonso: -and African Methodist Episcopal Zion.
Quinn: You're like the person on LinkedIn where you're like, "Oh, all of the contacts." You're like Barack Obama. She's connected to everyone.
Brian: Right. Is there somebody that you-
Shantha Alonso: Well, this organization was built through networks of the National Council of Churches USA, and it's actually about as old as I am. It was born in 1983.
Shantha Alonso: It started because of three things going on in the '80s. One was the rise of consumer culture. There was profound concern in religious communities about how consumerism was spiritually impacting our communities. We saw that the rising consumer culture was really something that was promoted intentionally through government and commercial sources, and that there needed to be a loud voice about simple living and keeping focused on God and community and the things that matter.
Quinn: I'm looking around my office at all of the action figures I have from the '80s, and I'm like, "Oh, that's me."
Brian: Well, they did a really good job.
Quinn: She's talking about me.
Brian: They did a really good job convincing us we needed everything.
Shantha Alonso: The second thing that was going on at the time was the acid rain crisis. Religious leaders felt that there needs to be an organized, faith-based presence speaking out against all of the precipitating factors that could lead to acid rain.
Brian: We're talking about actual acid rain? Real acid rain?
Shantha Alonso: And the third thing that was going on at that time was actually the rise of the secular environmental moment, and some astute voices in it that talked about how we are in the mess we're in because Christians had misread something called the Dominion Mandate in the book of Genesis, which is a line in the book of Genesis that is in the creation story. God says that all humans should have dominion over the earth, and that has been misread by many as domination. There's a lot of history to that. We can get into that later if you like.
Quinn: Yeah, this has been a topic of frequent ... We're both ... I'm not going to say pagans here, atheist-ish and different backgrounds.
Brian: Right, right.
Quinn: But we've talked to a couple reverends and such and talked about the complications with that one specific little section.
Shantha Alonso: It's a very problematic section.
Brian: Yeah, yeah.
Shantha Alonso: They felt that there needed to be a much stronger and clearer Christian teaching available about what our faith says about our relationship to creation. From that point, a working group of faith leaders from the National Council of Churches got together and formed a working group. Since then, we have done things like put together the Green Bible, which highlights all of the text in the bible in green that relates to caring for creation, just to make sure nobody misses it.
Quinn: Oh, I like that.
Brian: Yeah, that's amazing.
Shantha Alonso: We also started the tradition of honoring Earth Day Sunday, so congregations can take the Sunday closest to Earth Day and celebrate. Then we've done quite a bit of advocacy over the years, educating religious communities about current issues and showing how they can plug in and make a difference. We've worked on climate, energy, environmental health and toxics, clean water, clear air, to name a few, endangered species, public lands. We really run the gamut.
Brian: Are you showing off again?
Quinn: Right. Yeah, she does everything.
Shantha Alonso: Well, faith communities are up to a lot and more than I can individually keep track of, but I try to serve everybody and connect them as best I can. Creation Justice Ministries was born as the environmental partner to the National Council of Churches in 2013. Now, the National Council of Churches sends all environmental issues our way, and we retain basically the same membership as the National Council of Churches.
Brian: That's incredible. So, you've done a lot. You do a lot.
Brian: That's amazing. So, Shantha, let's get into our conversation for today. We love asking questions. It's like our thing. But not just any questions. We want to ask action-oriented questions because our listeners are screwing around with their phones all day when they should be focusing on the road, which is actually a real pain in the ass for me because I ride a motorcycle. Or they're jogging or they're on their subway, half-asleep or cranking out some Candy Crush or whatever.
Quinn: The point is they're not sitting here doing research while we're talking, so we want to give them as much context as possible before we get nerdy about all this.
Shantha Alonso: Great.
Brian: That sound pretty good?
Shantha Alonso: That sounds good.
Quinn: So, Shantha, we start with one important question to really get the heart of why you're here with us today. Instead of saying, "Tell us your life story," we like to ask, Shantha, why are you vital to the survival of the species? And that is usually the first reaction from people. It's like, "What?"
Brian: Yeah, I like when it's a laugh first.
Quinn: But listen, you're here for a reason, both on the planet and on our podcast with all of our technical difficulties. Give it to us. Be bold. Tell us what are you here for?
Shantha Alonso: Sure. Well, I believe that the role of Creation Justice Ministries, which I'm currently leading, is really important in survival of the species-
Shantha Alonso: -because most people in the United States do identify with a faith community. Through our members, we serve about 100,000 churches and 40 million people. That's a lot of people that need to be involved in our all-hands-on-deck effort to protect the creation from climate devastation. How's that?
Quinn: That is perfect pretty much.
Brian: Pretty wonderful.
Quinn: I think we can wrap it up, right?
Brian: It's been great.
Quinn: It's been really great. Thanks for coming.
Brian: No, that really is wonderful. That's a lot of people. That's a lot of people that are listening.
Quinn: It is a lot of people. I think what she's saying is that she's in charge of all of those people.
Brian: All of the people.
Shantha Alonso: I wish. I wish they would all pay attention to climate change. We're working on it. One by one.
Quinn: Well, by the end of this.
Brian: Thank you.
Quinn: All right. We're going to set up some context for today's question, and I do have to say this is one that fires me up a lot. I'm from southeastern Virginia. My high school's 50% black, and many of the kids, 70, 80% are on free lunch. There's an enormous amount of environmental injustice going on, and I appreciate so much people like yourself and organizations like yours that are cranking on this thing.
Quinn: We're tinkering with our format a bit. I'm going to dig in to some context. Brian usually gives a little silly book report as context, but he's going to-
Brian: I don't know about silly.
Quinn: Well, ish. He's going to take a little step back and try to come at this a little more clean like our listeners again, who can't just do research all the time. He's kind of like a newborn child. The whole world is going to be open to him today, so the questions will mostly be coming from him as he tries to stand in for our listeners a little bit.
Quinn: There's no question, black and Hispanic communities in America are overall poorer than the general population. We can get into all the ways that they're affected by the decisions we've made, specifically in this case for the past 100 years, industrial era, the war on drugs, housing discrimination, etc., etc. But today and always for us, we're focused on these relatively larger implications, and that's the environmental and health impacts of the past 100 years and going forward.
Quinn: Our poorest communities are typically forced to live in areas where the rent is much cheaper. Why is it cheaper? Shantha, by the way, jump in here at any time and tell me I'm wrong, add something.
Brian: Can I tell you you're wrong?
Quinn: That's why your mic doesn't work.
Brian: Got it.
Quinn: A lot of the time, it's because of their proximity to things like toxic waste, even if they don't know it. What kind of waste are we talking about? Lead, of course, ask Flint about that one. Pesticides, industrial chemicals, agricultural runoff in the water, coal waste, fracking gases, nuke waste, arsenic, septic waste. These communities, that's what they're swimming in, often literally, but they can't even stand up for themselves because they don't really have a lot of political power.
Quinn: And why not? It's for a number of reasons. We can start with the fact that the system isn't broken. It was designed this way. From the very beginning, from 1610 when we brought the first slaves over, racism is institutionalized, and it covers a number of factors, and it's being no doubt reinforced by our current administration.
Shantha Alonso: And I would argue before then.
Quinn: Yeah. Oh, I mean, 1,000%.
Shantha Alonso: It started with colonization.
Quinn: Yeah, it absolutely did. Again, like I said, I'm from southeastern Virginia. I live next to Jamestown.
Brian: Right, right.
Quinn: That's where it got started, and it has continued since. We started poisoning the planet 100, 110 years ago. These people are feeling it the worst. And, again, they can't stand up for themselves because we made it so they can't. If you read ... there's a fantastic book by Professor Michelle Alexander called "The New Jim Crow." We talk about how we take that power away from them because of two things. One, many of the black males, young black males are in jail. And two, we put most of our new prisons and many of the existing ones are in predominantly white areas.
Quinn: So, why does that math matter? That's because of a rule, and I think it's called Usual Residency, which counts the incarcerated as residents of the district where they're being held, not where they're from.
Quinn: Right. The white districts with prisons get more voting power, as they seem larger than they are. They have more people. And the poorer black districts get less voting power because it seems like their population is decreased.
Brian: Oh my God.
Quinn: And it has because, of course, we unjustly focus most of our law enforcement on young black males, so they're just not there anymore. If that sounds to you a hell of a lot like the Three-Fifths Clause, again read "Jim Crow." I promise I'm getting somewhere here.
Shantha Alonso: That's a powerful read. I recommend it as well.
Quinn: Even if you are inundated in this stuff, or if you're from one of these areas and understand it, it is so well-researched and so comprehensive. If this doesn't get you in the streets, I don't know what to tell you. Brian, as someone from Chicago, you have to read and understand this stuff to understand that Chicago is designed this way.
Brian: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I love that city so much, but holy cow are there some issues.
Quinn: Yeah. They've got less political power, certainly less buying power. These populations can't fend off the chemical plants, the bottling plants, the waste dumps, landfills, often mines, new power plants that we're still putting in, from coming in the neighborhood. The government certainly doesn't give a shit what they say about cleaning up any of these existing issues. African-American mothers are 100% more likely to live near a Superfund cleanup site, and there's a 2011 paper that said that proximity to a Superfund site before cleanup is associated with a 20-to-25% increase in the risk of congenital anomalies.
Brian: What are you saying? Superfund?
Quinn: Superfund cleanup sites, so that's the bad places basically.
Brian: Got it.
Quinn: Things have gone bad, we've got to clean them up. We just put some new jackass in new charge. It's not going to happen basically.
Quinn: So, we're giving these babies brain damage. Good start. What does that effect have? They've got lower test scores, ADD, higher crime rates, medical bills. There's a study I think in 2012, it said that heavy metals, pesticides, etc. have cut 41 million IQ points off the American total. You have to understand that's not distribute equally.
Brian: Right, right.
Quinn: It's not just the South. It's not just Michigan and Flint. We can talk about California's clean energy goals, where Brian and I are, but we like to gloss over our raging inequality, which checks every box from the stuff I just talked about.
Quinn: The EPA put a map in 2015 pinpointing 200,000 at-risk communities for particular pollution, basically a lot of which is coming off tires, off roads, trains. Southern California's black and Latino communities not surprisingly face the worst of it, of course. There's no difference for them from Appalachia or Missouri or Mississippi. All this has reduced mobility. If you want to argue with these health factors, I point you to all the research that details how Americans' brains have literally changed since we started to cut out lead.
Quinn: To me, and we don't have to get into this part of it today, Shantha, but we hear a lot from some of these very rigid religious groups about pro-life and how every life matters from conception, but we don't talk about the brain damage we're giving black babies and the trains full of coal that Norfolk Southern runs through their communities, my old community, throwing off particles so small that the mothers don't know their babies' lungs are damaged, except their babies are always sick. They're always sick.
Quinn: We talk here about the conversations most vital to our survival of the species. It's a little ridiculous-sounding, but we're facing the greatest threat our species has ever encountered, largely of our own making. To no one's surprise, the poorest communities, often the communities of color, are taking the brunt of it. We built the country on their backs, and we continue to punish them. To me, this couldn't be a more relevant and vital conversation to be having because what's happening to them and has been happening to them is going to happen to the rest of us unless we clean up our act. We've got a lot of work to do, so we appreciate what people like you are doing.
Quinn: Okay. That's enough babbling. Jesus, I'm sorry.
Brian: No, thank you very much for that.
Quinn: Yeah. Well, forgive me. I apologize.
Brian: Very informative and very fucking sad.
Quinn: Yeah, but we can do it. And people like Shantha and her community of it sounds like millions of people that she's in charge of again are changing everything. Let's talk about getting on board with environmental justice, radical. A lot of folks have been fighting this fight for a long time. It's time to get our shit together.
Quinn: Shantha, your group, Creation Justice Ministries, and I'm just stealing this right off your webpage, says, "Based on the priorities of its members with a particular concern for the vulnerable and marginalized, Creation Justice Ministries provides collaborative opportunities to build ecumenical community, guides people of faith and faith communities towards eco-justice transformations, and raises a collective witness in the public arena, echoing Christ's call for just relationships among all of creation."
Shantha Alonso: You read that so inspiringly. I feel fired up and ready to change the world now.
Quinn: That's the idea, man. Let's do this thing. How did you guys get on that path? Again, we're not doing life story stuff, but what made you point in that direction, working to raise a collective witness for those most affected? What does your work look like on a day-to-day basis? Tell me about you.
Shantha Alonso: Sure. Well, I can give you a few examples of projects we're working on right now.
Shantha Alonso: Two weeks from now, Creation Justice Ministries, the NAACP, Interfaith Power and Light of Iowa, and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action are getting together to do a series of workshops on energy equity. We're doing them in Sioux City, Des Moines, and Waterloo, and we're bringing together faith leaders from those communities to talk about who's getting hurt first and worst because of our fossil fuel economy? Who is paying the highest amounts for their energy bills, disproportionate to their income? The answer is communities of color.
Shantha Alonso: We're going to raise awareness about this from an inequity perspective and bring people on board with the idea of renewables as a solution going forward, not just for our climate, but also for our equity.
Brian: Is this happening only in Iowa? Or is it just like one in a series?
Shantha Alonso: It's a pilot project.
Brian: Oh, okay.
Shantha Alonso: It's starting in Iowa, and we're hoping to move it to more states soon.
Quinn: Why did you start with Iowa?
Shantha Alonso: We found partners who were willing to work together in Iowa.
Brian: Very important.
Shantha Alonso: But Iowa is also a leader in wind power, which is really exciting.
Shantha Alonso: So, it's a cool place to talk about renewables.
Quinn: Yeah, absolutely. What does your work, besides something like that, look like on a day-to-day basis? Is it constantly pursuing projects like that, finding partners to host this sort of thing? Is it lobbying? Talk to me how it works.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah. We do a lot of event-based work, such as the workshops in Iowa. We also have done a few trainings in the Carolinas, building a climate leadership bench of faith leaders from every Congressional district in North and South Carolina who are ready to speak powerfully at rallies or to their members of Congress or through the written word about the moral imperative to act.
Shantha Alonso: We also have an annual Appalachia conference, where we talk about just transition away from the fossil fuel economy and other extractives and towards a more sustainable future. Those are a few examples of the event-based things that we do.
Shantha Alonso: Then we also do a lot of advocacy, educating people about things like the weakening of our fuel economy standards or the weakening of our water rules or the pulling out of the Paris Accords. You name it is this administration, we have been working on raising moral outcry about all of the rollback.
Quinn: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Quinn: That's crazy. Again, just thank you. I'm going to keep saying that over and over again.
Brian: We should keep it on end, just peppering it in.
Quinn: Right, just thank you. It looks like one of your focuses includes reforming the coal industry, and by that I mean supporting those affected by this energy transition, which is underway whether the administration likes it or not. I feel like, and I think it's very true, that these folks in that industry in those areas you talked about, Appalachia, are consistently left behind, often by stupid bullheaded progressives like me or Brian, who want a clean break from our dirty past. Coal was their livelihood and their grandparents' and their parents', and we've talked to some of those people.
Quinn: But now those people are sick. They have black lung. They're now out of a job, and they're trashed in the media as being, for some terrible reason, the cause of our issues, which is ridiculous. And we wonder why they're voting for the bad guys. Talk to me about your work there specifically and what we can all learn from that.
Shantha Alonso: Sure. We've been partnering with councils of churches and nonprofits in the Appalachia region to build up a leadership group of people who will approach the transition away from extractive economy from a spiritual perspective. The folks that we're gathering intimately see this as connected to the life of the church really. As the communities that they are serving are finding that jobs have gone away, that natural gas has taken over, and the coal mining communities are left high and dry, so are churches. Churches are shrinking, and they're looking for ways to sustain more and more people who are looking for a livelihood, looking for ways forward.
Shantha Alonso: We see the whole process of revitalizing the church in that region as being intimately connected to economic and ecological well-being of the region. What does that look like? We've been partnering on legislative advocacy, such as the Reclaim Act, to put people to work reclaiming old mines in that region. Actually, it's national. It would be all over the country. But it would especially help Appalachia.
Shantha Alonso: There was viable Reclaim Act legislation this year, but unfortunately it didn't go through. We also have supported power grants facilitated through the Appalachian Regional Commission, which would empower certain areas in Appalachia to do economic revitalization projects to help them find the new economic sustenance in their communities.
Brian: Are you guys helping, or would you be helping people find new jobs, like out-of-work coal miners and stuff like that?
Shantha Alonso: If the Reclaim Act had passed, it would've created thousands of jobs, put lots of people to work reclaiming mines, which is the first step towards the next sustainable economy is to heal the land.
Quinn: Can you just define for us exactly what reclaiming mines is and does?
Shantha Alonso: Yeah. Basically, after mining activities have finished, the land is not very usable for other purposes.
Shantha Alonso: It's been made toxic. Mining companies are responsible for paying into an abandoned mine land fund that is held by the federal government, so money is already collected to reclaim these abandoned mines.
Quinn: Did Scott Pruitt spend it on a conference table?
Shantha Alonso: No, not that pot of money.
Brian: Good, thank God.
Shantha Alonso: This pot of money is just sitting there, and the Congress has to release it. All they have to do is release it.
Quinn: That's all they have to do?
Shantha Alonso: That's all they have to do.
Quinn: I don't know why you pretend like this is some sort of difficult thing, as if they're not doing anything. What are you doing to make them release it?
Shantha Alonso: We had encouraged people of faith to be connecting their members of Congress, having meetings about the moral imperative to heal creation and also heal our communities with new sustainable jobs. What we really liked about the Reclaim Act legislation that Representative Hal Rogers put forward was that it included community development provisions along with the mine reclamation activities. We had people talk about what they would do with their community if they were able to have some economic empowerment investment there. We also encouraged some religious leaders to get opinion pieces published in the media, and we did a call-in day to Congress. But all of those efforts did not get Congress to pass the Reclaim Act.
Brian: Is there any work being done on a new one, a modified new one that you would try to pass again?
Shantha Alonso: We might see one in the next Congress. We hope so.
Brian: Oh, okay.
Quinn: Well, I mean, we might see a lot in the next Congress.
Brian: Yeah, yeah.
Quinn: Or it's basically all over. I think that's kind of it. It's a big day.
Brian: Are all these conversations that you're having with people, all this encouraging and everything that you're talking about, is it happening in church ever, like while people are at mass?
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, it depends on where, but certainly a lot of people are bringing these conversations to church. One of the things that Creation Justice Ministries is doing to help facilitate that is encouraging certain times of year when you can have these conversations with people in the congregation. A lot of our work does happen in conferences, where people self-select, and they're the people who are interested in these issues. But it's also important to bring these issues to the "pews" among people who might or might not think about these things every day. Good opportunities for that include Earth Day Sunday, and every year we release a curriculum to equip religious leaders and congregational creation justice teams or green teams to lead conversations in their community.
Shantha Alonso: And then, coming up very soon from September 1 through October 4, is the Season of Creation, which is a set of weeks that are devoted for churches to celebrate God's creation one way or another. It begins on September 1 with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which is observed by the World Council of Churches. It was started in the Orthodox Church. Pope Francis got on board with it two years ago.
Quinn: This guy.
Brian: Big fan.
Shantha Alonso: Yes, and now the Roman Catholic Church also celebrates it. It's gotten a lot of momentum in recent years. And then the other end of the Season of Creation is October 4, which is St. Francis Day, and St. Francis is known to many as the patron saint of ecology, St. Francis of Assisi.
Quinn: Just to pivot a little bit, Appalachia and some of these areas are obviously much more ... there's a greater awareness of what's happening there obviously because so much has transformed in those issues, and they are being so left behind. A lot of my concern is about these low-income communities where they are being poisoned, and oftentimes they don't know it. You hear about ...
Quinn: Again, I come back to the train company, Norfolk Southern, which runs through the South. There are these stories of how it blows through these communities in Virginia and how the rules and regulations basically say that ... I think it's like the only limit on how much coal dust they can emit is that it can't exceed the amount of coal that's passed through the terminal. You have these entire communities where everybody has asthma.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah.
Quinn: These residents often don't realize it, or they try to bring ... again, going back to what we talked about earlier, try to bring these companies to the table, and they just don't do it. Again, you want to talk about everything being connected and why our medical system is broken, these people are constantly going to the emergency room with asthma attacks. An entire community and babies. It came to the point where I want to know what groups like yourself can do to help those communities, whether it's specific going into black churches, whether it's activism dropping leaflets, whether it's working with law firms, whatever it might be.
Quinn: And these people, they have a lower life expectancy because of these train cars going through their towns. It's just completely insane to me, and it feels like we talk about raising a collective witness, that, to me, has to be such a focus. Anyways, I'm just curious what your efforts are in areas like that or if there are specific groups working towards those things. I'm sure they have been. I'm sure they've been fighting for years. It's just white people like us that are just getting on board, which is infuriating for a number of reasons. But what can we do and how can we support those things?
Shantha Alonso: Well, there is a robust and under-resourced environmental justice movement that we partner with quite a bit that works at the local level. A lot of local community organizations are trying to tackle issues in their local communities. One in particular that we're working actively with in Florence, South Carolina, is Kingdom Living Temple.
Quinn: Kingdom Living Temple, okay.
Shantha Alonso: Yes, which is pastored by Leo Woodberry.
Shantha Alonso: Their community is bringing people together to raise awareness about climate change's impact on their community. They have experienced flooding in their area. They have experienced crazy rise in temperature, heat waves that put people in danger of heat stroke. They have been working on particularly organizing their area of South Carolina for environmental justice issues, these frontline communities.
Shantha Alonso: Another group that we have visited and gotten to know a bit is the LVEJO organization in Chicago. They have been doing a lot of really great work on getting truck depots out of their neighborhood because those trucks just idle there in the middle of this residential area and give everybody exposure to air pollution and put them at risk for asthma.
Quinn: That's insane.
Brian: How is that okay?
Quinn: Brian, you had a question about that probably?
Brian: What was the name of that one?
Quinn: Shantha, what was the name of that organization?
Shantha Alonso: It's called LVEJO. It's Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.
Quinn: Is that Native American or is that Latin?
Shantha Alonso: Most of the leaders that are active in it are Latino.
Quinn: Got you. Interesting. What part of Chicago is that?
Shantha Alonso: I knew you were going to ask me that. I don't know Chicago that well.
Quinn: Come on. Well, if you say something, Brian might have some sort of an idea.
Brian: I may recognize it if it's correct.
Brian: Or we can look it up also. That's very interesting.
Brian: It's strange to know that there's just semis idling next to homes.
Quinn: That's infuriating. So, let's talk about ... I guess you guys are constantly trying to get anywhere from hyper-local to district to state to federal government help in some way. We've got this new Director of the EPA, who's also a monster, but he said he's vowed to improve communication with low-income and communities of color, again disproportionately.
Brian: That feels like such an understatement.
Quinn: Challenged by environmental issues. But I obviously don't believe it for a second. He said we fell down on our responsibilities to Flint. Can you talk a little bit about if you have any sort of relationship with the EPA in the past or what it's like now or what would be the most effective conversation with them going forward?
Shantha Alonso: Yeah. Our organization has always maintained a commitment to building relationships with the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency and any agencies that deal with the issues that our communities care about. We have met with every EPA administrator since I can remember, since the organization started, to understand their priorities and how to go about working with them.
Shantha Alonso: I will say that there are parts of the Environmental Protection Agency that are still doing their job and are still able to partner with our communities.
Quinn: That's good to hear.
Shantha Alonso: It's important to maximize the partnership that we can find with anybody who's willing to do their job because people can't wait. People can't wait for the next administration to pass.
Quinn: No, and it's really easy for a lot of folks to say that, to say like, "Oh, well, just you wait, after November 6." But what about these folks with the sick kids who got the ... I'm trying so hard not to curse because I know that's probably not your ballgame. I usually drop a lot of f-bombs in these things. But again, semis idling in communities. We talk about climate change a lot, but this conversation, it's like, "You guys, you all got asthma, but also now it's flooding. You're welcome."
Brian: Yeah, what?
Quinn: You're welcome. And it feels like ... I am glad there are so many people doing those jobs. I have a friend in the Office of Budget Management or Management and Budget, and they are ... the head of that place is literally the enabler of all of these draconian issues. But he had to make a choice. Do I stay there and fight? Or do I leave and fight? And it's a damn hard choice that he wrestles with every day.
Brian: He's still there now?
Quinn: He's still there. I mean, he hasn't called while we've been recording.
Brian: Right, right, right.
Shantha Alonso: And every major regulation that we care about, that relates to protecting creation, we have made sure we book a meeting with Office of Management and Budget to let them know our opposition to it being rolled back. If your folks are in the D.C. area or able to travel to D.C., and you can set up a meeting, that is an agency that is often really overlooked, and they are the ultimate deciders.
Quinn: People have no idea how powerful they are. No idea how powerful they are.
Brian: I didn't.
Shantha Alonso: I mean, their name is so boring.
Shantha Alonso: People don't know what they do.
Quinn: Right, which is-
Brian: And they run the damn show apparently.
Quinn: Right, and that is what's super dangerous-
Quinn: -is most people don't know what they do. We might have to figure that out. We might have to get him on like FBI-style with a muffled voice box. Put him in a silhouette. I would screw that up somehow and just have like a spotlight on him. Here's his name and his Social Security number. Sorry.
Quinn: Yeah, I'm glad there's people fighting, and I'm so glad you guys are able to find those folks and partner with them. And obviously, if they're out there listening, thank you for still doing your jobs and fighting until we can hopefully turn this thing around.
Quinn: But, like you said, there's some people that can't wait. That brings me to talking a little bit about this incredible woman, Rashida Tlaib, who was just super strangely elected, technically ... well, theoretically I guess, not technically yet, elected to Congress in Michigan. She doesn't have a Republican challenger in the election, but she's going to represent Detroit. Our first, I believe, I might mangle this ... she's definitely our first Muslim woman in Congress or will be, and I think also first Palestinian. But she's going to represent Detroit.
Quinn: Obviously, not just Detroit, Michigan's having environmental justice issues all over the place. Flint is obviously a huge issue. We're going to start Space Force, but we can't get them fresh water. Kalamazoo has all kinds of shit in their water, sometimes literally. Detroit, they have water shut-offs a few times a year, which is crazy.
Brian: I can't imagine living in a city where that's happening.
Shantha Alonso: For tens of thousands of people.
Quinn: Right, this city is fighting to get back off the ground and, in some ways, has succeeded. But there's a new law that lets literally representatives of polluting companies, Brian, sit on panels with the power to override policy and pollution permitting decisions made by the state. They have seats on that board, and that's just business as usual, so she's got her work cut out for her.
Brian: Why is that okay? How is that possible? how?
Quinn: Right. Well, those are the people in charge, and they capitulate to the money that's involved. But I want to, again ... it is what it is. How do we support people like her?
Quinn: How do we get more folks like her into office in these areas where even the smallest dent could make such a difference?
Shantha Alonso: Well, Creation Justice Ministries is not in the business of campaigning.
Quinn: Sure, no, of course.
Shantha Alonso: But we do educate candidates, and I hope that Rashida Tlaib and any other incoming members of Congress really pay attention to the climate and also to water issues and how they're connected. In Rashida Tlaib's case, she has plenty of stories to share from Detroit about the water shut-offs and how they have affected public health in the community. She's in a great position to advocate for water as a human right, which is something that Creation Justice Ministries really supports. There is plenty of clean water and safe water advocacy to do, and I hope that she champions that when she comes in.
Quinn: It seems like she's making that a big, big focus obviously. I think if you went into ... coming from that situation and that area-
Brian: Yeah, you better.
Quinn: -and you went into Congress with anything else but that, it would be a little weird. But she seems pretty hellbent on that, so again talking about what will happen on November 6, getting people like her in there and more folks like her who ... and it's great that you guys don't handle campaigning because we need you to do other things, and the education part is just as important.
Quinn: If not more important at times because some of our first conversations were with folks who work on the Hill and do do lobbying a lot of times. They'll tell us how some of these representatives vote one way because they're just not educated on the specific topic, which ... that's a failure along the chain of command. As terrible as lobbying can be, we have to educate these people, so they can understand what's happening. They can't ... it's kind of a terrible way to put it, but it's great they're seeing fucking wildfires on their TV now because it's like, well, this is what we got. You don't have an education? Everything is on fire.
Brian: Yeah, you can see this, right?
Quinn: Yeah. Right, can't miss that. Anyways-
Shantha Alonso: One thing that we do a lot of is we educate members of Congress about what their own religious traditions say about caring for creation.
Quinn: Talk to me about that.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, so we work with a variety of denominations. I listed them all off for your earlier. And then we also partner closely with Catholic groups, with Jewish.
Brian: Let's get back into it. I want to hear them again.
Quinn: I believe it was just all of them, correct? I believe that was it.
Brian: We should start by listing the ones you don't work with.
Shantha Alonso: There are so many. We have a lot of religious diversity in the United States. I do think that bringing different religious and moral perspectives to the table when understanding how the great traditions have talked about the earth and our relationship to creation and our responsibility to one another is a really important starting place for understanding what our collective values are. Those values conversations need to reflect the diversity of our country, so I think it's exciting that we finally would have a Muslim woman in Congress.
Quinn: Where do you see ... in bringing all those people together, it sounds wonderful and harmonious.
Brian: Sure does.
Quinn: I imagine at times it's not, or it's difficult at least. Where do you see most of your obstacles and complications on that front?
Shantha Alonso: Interestingly, on environmental issues, there's very little barrier to working together. The issues that come up are often logistical, like let's make sure we don't schedule things on anyone else's holiday.
Brian: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Quinn: Jesus, literally, if that's your biggest issue, then that's great. It sounds like-
Shantha Alonso: There is such broad and strong agreement about moral imperative to care for creation across religious traditions. It's pretty outstanding. There are some issues that religious communities have a difficult time working together on, but environment is not one of them.
Quinn: Well, we try to reach out to folks that we probably disagree with on ... what would you say, Brian? 99 out of 100 things?
Brian: Everything, yeah.
Quinn: Good news is this one, it seems like a lot of folks are on board. We've come back to this a million times. We think it's an important theme for us to remember and also our listeners. Often, the messenger is more important the message, and why someone like you or Reverend Hescox are better suited to talk to their communities than stupid Green Peace or NPR shouting at them all the time. That's not going to be really effective.
Shantha Alonso: Well, meeting people where they're at is a huge part of the way that we do our work, for sure.
Quinn: Well, we could all learn something from that.
Quinn: I have one more sort of wonky question before we get into some specific stuff. A lot of folks, and when we talk to people who work with folks who are already in Congress, who have either demonstrated that they want to take action or have told people behind the scenes that they'd be willing to under certain conditions, yadda, yadda. It starts to feel like there's a lot of momentum-ish for a carbon tax or a revenue-neutral carbon fee is the way to get our shit together on climate and clean energy action. The issue, I guess, is getting it past might require doing away with a number, if not most of the current regulations that are barely keeping our head above water as it is when it comes to clean water and clean air and such.
Quinn: Most of these communities already don't have a voice in how these big sweeping decisions are made. And feel free to just say, "I have no idea" or "I don't speak for them." But what do you think they would say if we actually did give a shit about what they said?
Shantha Alonso: I'm sorry, who is they?
Quinn: They is, again, these poor communities or Appalachia or the Latin communities or the folks in Chicago. Any idea on that front? Because I'm just coming ... we try to get people to work most specifically with their voice and their vote and their dollar, and that means talking to their local and state representatives and starting to build momentum for something like this, some big, big change. If it's going to be some sort of carbon neutral revenue fee, I'm curious to hear what these communities have to say about that and what their fears might be about the fact that a lot of these regulations, the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Plan, might go away in place of a fee like this.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, I think it's incredibly important to listen to a variety of communities about how any kind of carbon pricing scheme could impact them. We have been getting feedback, and one of the key concerns is the regulatory rollback that might accompany any viable carbon pricing legislation that we could see because the regulatory rollbacks would be the last best safeguards for environmental justice communities that they need to protect their basic clean air and clean water.
Shantha Alonso: We see regulatory rollback as a non-starter in terms of any carbon pricing scheme. We would like to see also that all communities that are low-income will be benefiting from a carbon pricing legislation as well. That means that, if it's a revenue neutral carbon pricing package, that there is a special effort to return a larger amount to lower-income communities, either through a check to them individually-
Shantha Alonso: -or through remediation for pollution that has been in their communities for years.
Shantha Alonso: Or climate change adaptation or mitigation.
Quinn: The bad word people throw about is reparations, but it's insane to me that that's not part of the discussion.
Shantha Alonso: Well, we need to make it part of the discussion.
Quinn: Right, right, absolutely. And it sounds like Washington State failed to pass carbon tax with a Democratic House, Democratic Senate, Democratic governor, so it makes me go, "Oh, God, if we can't do it there, where's it going to happen?" But part of the sticking point was where does the money go, and I think that's a big question for a lot of folks. But part of that discussion has to be ... can't be everybody in America gets $100.
Quinn: Because some of these folks are doing fine, and some of them are definitely not in the past and right now and in the future. That's why I want to make sure we're ... as this conversation is developing and building momentum towards November 6 and afterwards, that those voices are coming out as much as possible because it's not black or white. It's not like, "Hey, there's a carbon fee, and all the regulations are gone." It's going to be somewhere in the middle. But these people are barely being protected as it is, so we want to make sure those voices are being heard.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, definitely. The conversation needs to be happening at a much bigger scale than it is now. I think this is ... questions about carbon pricing are just the beginning of conversations that our communities are not ready to have at scale. There needs to be massive education about the climate solutions that we are going to have on the table in the next few years.
Shantha Alonso: Geoengineering is such a new topic, it's mind-blowing for most people when they first hear about it. It was for me.
Shantha Alonso: I can tell you that conversation is not going on in the churches at any scale that I have seen.
Brian: Let's do that.
Shantha Alonso: We have a lot of education to do to make sure that we share what decisions are going to be on the table and what people really think about them and how they'll impact local communities.
Quinn: You can empathize with them a little bit because it seems so out of the realm of someone's day-to-day life to be talking about the practical implications and economies surrounding geoengineering. It sounds like, "What are you talking about?" It's also like, I don't know, did you see "Snowpiercer"? It didn't go great.
Brian: Not a good end to that movie.
Quinn: But, at the same time, like you said, there needs to be a coordinated effort for education before we can have a conversation for anything. And that's part of why we try to give context for these things before we get into this nitty-gritty is so people understand what people are facing, what the implications would be because, when we say "across the board," it's different across the board for everybody.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, and really what it comes down to is investing at scale in education and listening processes, which is something that we have not seen. We have these conversations rushing ahead in the policy realm, while most people rarely even think about them, and that is not okay. That's not how we're going to get the solution we need.
Quinn: All right. Well, we've obviously been talking about it this whole time, but what we need, what we always want from these conversations is action steps. We have a lot of listeners, and we need them to use their voice and their vote and their money to help make a difference here. Let's go over that. What can we and our listeners actually do with our money, with our voice?
Shantha Alonso: Sure. Among faith communities, I would definitely recommend encouraging people to look at honoring Earth Day Sunday or the Season of Creation from September 1 through October 4. You can find information about those at EarthDaySunday.org or SeasonofCreation.org.
Brian: Okay, awesome. We'll put all that in the show notes.
Shantha Alonso: Great. I think that that's a great opportunity to meet people where they're at and encourage these conversations to move forward among folks that don't necessarily think about them every day.
Quinn: Right, so what about the people who, when you walk into a church, the holy water boils? What about those people?
Shantha Alonso: Like when I personally walk into a church, the holy water boils?
Quinn: I was going to put you much higher on a pedestal than either Brian or I.
Brian: He was thinking more like us.
Quinn: But what about the people not involved in church communities of any sort?
Brian: What do I do?
Shantha Alonso: Sure.
Quinn: So, Brian. What does Brian do? Tell him what to do.
Brian: Tell me what to do.
Shantha Alonso: Sure. I think that the listening that we were talking about earlier is incredibly important, listening to people who think differently than you, putting yourself in different environments than the one that you're usually in. The bubble effect is really hurting our communities and our ability to tackle collective problems. To the degree that you can visit another community, listen to them, I think that's really important. I think this podcast is a great vehicle for that.
Quinn: Well, easy, easy. Thank you. Yeah, listening, meeting people where they are really seems to be a pretty recurring theme.
Brian: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Quinn: We need to do a lot of it if everyone is going to be involved on this front going forward.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, and then I also would say that people who are very concerned about the climate, we tend to all hang out with each other, and we tend to have certain narratives that we share with each other about what's going on. I think just pausing and thinking about how does this connect to public health or how does this connect with animal lovers or how does this connect with people who are concerned about disaster relief issues or the refugee crisis, any way that you can make climate issues intersectional, we have found that's been a great entry point for conversations with people who think differently.
Quinn: And it seems like it's another version of meeting people where they are.
Brian: Right, exactly.
Quinn: "Oh, hey, this is what you give a shit about. Did you know that this affects that?"
Brian: Yeah, it affects everything. That wouldn't even be a challenge. Find the thing that matters to them. There's definitely something that ... it's all connected.
Quinn: Right. "Do you breathe air?"
Brian: Right. "Well, you'll never believe this."
Quinn: Yeah. Funny story.
Shantha Alonso: And then my last action step is probably one that everybody says, but please pay attention to what your decision-makers are doing and saying.
Shantha Alonso: Especially the boring ones. Places like the Office of Management and Budget make really important decisions.
Brian: It's my new favorite office.
Quinn: Yeah, we're going to dig into that. He's never going to come on the podcast unless he's like "I'm out." Maybe on like the last day.
Brian: That's wild.
Quinn: Maybe we can figure that out because it is important, and I'm so glad, Shantha, that you are brutally aware of how important that is and devastating that they have been in the past year.
Brian: All right. We're getting close to time here. Thank you so much, Shantha, for being here with us today.
Quinn: Thank you.
Brian: And having this conversation with us.
Shantha Alonso: Thanks for having me.
Brian: Who else should we talk to? Is there anybody you can think of? If not now, you can hit us up later, but anybody else doing-
Quinn: Game-changers. Doesn't have to be climate, doesn't have to be energy.
Brian: Right, right.
Quinn: People that are ... could be some dorky scientist you follow on Instagram.
Brian: We love dorky scientists.
Quinn: We are not dorky scientists. We do appreciate them and like them and stalk them from not a distance often, but ... anyways, anything like that, people who are doing incredibly things that's affecting a lot of folks.
Shantha Alonso: Another person who I think does great work on meeting people where they're at is Katherine Hayhoe, and if you haven't talked with her yet, she's-
Quinn: Shantha, guess how many of our guests have recommended her. I mean, I would say Shantha's the 32nd guest, something like that.
Brian: At least.
Quinn: I would say 25 people-
Brian: 25 out of 32.
Quinn: -have recommended Katherine Hayhoe. And we've been ...
Brian: We're in the process.
Quinn: We're in the process.
Brian: We've chatted with her people.
Shantha Alonso: She's in demand.
Quinn: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But she just seems incredible.
Quinn: Wow, okay.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, so another person I would recommend is the Director of the U.S. Climate Action Network, Keya Chatterjee.
Shantha Alonso: She has really moved the way the U.S. Climate Action Network works together to become more collaborative, more democratic. She really has embraced this need for the climate movement to be a much bigger tent, and she would be an interesting conversation partner for building a bigger tent.
Brian: Do you guys work with them?
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, we're active members of U.S. Climate Action Network.
Brian: Oh, awesome, awesome.
Quinn: Of course, you are.
Brian: Stupid question, I'm sorry.
Quinn: Awesome. That's really helpful. We always appreciate recommendations from people.
Shantha Alonso: And then I do have a bee in my bonnet about the funding systems of the climate movement.
Quinn: Yeah, do it.
Shantha Alonso: I think Kayhoe could comment about that articulately, and anybody like ... any environmental justice movement who works on funding. Oh, yeah, Jalonne Newsome-White might be a really interesting conversation partner.
Quinn: Okay. Who's that human being?
Shantha Alonso: She is with the Ford Foundation, and she's newer to philanthropy. She came from an environmental justice organization called WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
Shantha Alonso: And I think she went into philanthropy because she saw some of the structural problems with the way our movement is resourced.
Brian: Oh, wow.
Quinn: Interesting. That sounds like you just thought of another entire hour that we could talk about, which I'm curious.
Shantha Alonso: It's a really important topic. When you look about the organizations and the spokespeople that are best resourced, they're not necessarily the people who are the best messengers.
Quinn: That's a shocker. All right, Brian, let's hit it with the lightning round. Let's get her out of here.
Brian: Sounds great. First one-
Quinn: Not a lightning round question.
Brian: Not a lightning round question.
Quinn: Shantha, when was the first time in your life when you realized that you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful?
Shantha Alonso: Wow.
Shantha Alonso: It was probably in college. I visited [Immaculee 01:04:55], Florida, which is-
Quinn: Where'd you go to college?
Shantha Alonso: I went to the University of Notre Dame.
Brian: Notre Dame. I knew that already. Did a little bit of research.
Shantha Alonso: In Indiana.
Quinn: Oh, nice.
Shantha Alonso: And we visited [Immaculee 01:05:04], Florida, where some tomato pickers had organized themselves into the Coalition of [Immaculee 01:05:09] Workers to push back against pesticide use that was harming their health, as well as their slave wages.
Shantha Alonso: And they wanted us to bring the campaign back to our campuses, so I helped get involved in expanding that campaign on the Notre Dame campus. That was really my first foray into advocacy.
Quinn: That's awesome. Who is someone in your life that's positively impacted your work in the past six months? You cannot say Brian.
Brian: Don't laugh too much. Just kidding, you can laugh a lot.
Shantha Alonso: Okay, so I'm expecting a baby.
Shantha Alonso: Thank you. And I would have to say that this baby has positively impacted my advocacy work.
Quinn: No pressure, baby.
Shantha Alonso: I heard that would happen.
Brian: Such a good answer.
Shantha Alonso: A lot of parents say this, and I thought, "Oh, that's so cliché." But it's really true. A lot of these climate projections go through 2100, and my baby will be-
Quinn: Yeah, your baby will be alive.
Shantha Alonso: -82 in 2100.
Quinn: Yeah, yeah.
Shantha Alonso: God willing.
Shantha Alonso: And the projections are scary. I don't want my baby to live in that world. I want my baby to live in a much better world than that.
Quinn: It definitely lights a fire.
Brian: Yeah, you've got kids.
Quinn: I've got a brood of them. It definitely, just on my own conscious, and also they're starting to be old enough to ask questions, specific environmental questions and day-to-day life questions based on just what we talk about but also watching things like "Blue Planet" or seeing smoke in the sky-
Shantha Alonso: Yeah.
Quinn: -that makes them go, "What the hell's going on there?" You have to answer them and answer honestly. That definitely lights a fire under me every day.
Shantha Alonso: Oh my gosh.
Quinn: I can totally-
Shantha Alonso: If I feel agitated by an heirloom tomato size fetus, I can't wait to hear what questions my child has for me.
Quinn: Well, there's a lot of hormones going on, and some of those go away later. Some of them change. I'm not a doctor. I've just had a lot of experience with it. But it is. When you look at them, and you see what's out there, and you look at those projections, and then again when they get to the point that they can start to comment or think or ask questions, boy, there's times where you're just like, "Yeah, sorry, we screwed this place up. I'm going to bust my ass to try and fix it."
Brian: And I need you to bust your ass too.
Quinn: But to do something about it and also you're going to need to participate.
Quinn: Because that's where we are. It really does drive you, and if it doesn't, that's weird. So, Shantha, what do you do when you get overwhelmed by all this?
Shantha Alonso: I spend time outdoors. Yeah.
Brian: Such a good answer.
Quinn: What specifically? What do you do?
Shantha Alonso: I have this great walking trail like two blocks from my house, [Slygo 01:08:03] Creek Park walking trail, and I like to go there with my dog and just enjoy the beautiful creek and the trees. It's our little patch of nature near our neighborhood.
Quinn: That's awesome.
Shantha Alonso: Just ground myself.
Brian: Awesome. Shantha, how do you consume the news?
Shantha Alonso: Much more carefully than I did before 2016.
Quinn: Yeah, no shit.
Shantha Alonso: I think I'm very careful about making sure that the news sources I'm consuming are balanced. I am an NPR head. I listen to that every morning, and then I get digests of environmental news, and then I carefully consume the rest of the news because one can only take so much bad news every day.
Quinn: You gotta dole it out. You gotta be in the right head space for it.
Brian: I read all my news on Facebook only.
Quinn: Good, Brian.
Brian: Yeah, yeah, so I think everything's going great.
Quinn: That's not the problem at all.
Brian: No, no, no, not at all.
Quinn: Way to go, champ.
Brian: Shantha, if you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what would it be?
Shantha Alonso: Hmm.
Quinn: And for context, we have an Amazon gift list where our listeners can go and buy all these books our guests recommend, and they get literally shipped to the White House.
Shantha Alonso: Well, assuming he would read the book-
Quinn: That's always a problem.
Brian: A very popular assumption.
Shantha Alonso: -I would send him the Good Book in the form of the Green Bible.
Quinn: Okay, awesome. Is that the one that's highlighted? Wait, where do we get one of these?
Brian: Yeah, I want that.
Quinn: Is it on Amazon?
Shantha Alonso: It is on Amazon. Scott Pruitt got one. Donald Trump should get one too.
Brian: Hey, all right.
Quinn: Yeah, at least one.
Brian: That's such a great idea.
Quinn: It's such a great idea.
Brian: God, that's smart. Ah, it's so smart.
Quinn: That's awesome. I love that. We're going to have to check that out, for sure. I was a religion studies major in college, despite the fact that I'm not participating, so I appreciate anything like that. That's awesome.
Brian: Shantha, where can our listeners follow you online?
Shantha Alonso: You can find Creation Justice Ministries on Twitter and on Instagram @CreationJustice. You can find us on Facebook on Facebook.com/CreationJustice. You can find me on Twitter, although I'm not a great tweeter @ShanthaRAlonso.
Quinn: Come on, I'm sure you're great. Probably better than Brian. It's a low bar.
Brian: Come on.
Shantha Alonso: I can't remember the last time I tweeted.
Quinn: That's okay.
Shantha Alonso: I tweet at events.
Brian: Oh, okay.
Shantha Alonso: I tweet when other people ask me to promote stuff.
Quinn: Sure, sure.
Brian: Sometimes people just retweet, but that's good. We love retweets.
Quinn: Sure. Yeah. All right. Well, listen, Shantha, we've taken enough of your time. Your dog's got to go out again here.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, she just did.
Quinn: Listen, we can't thank you enough for coming on and for all that you do every day, in charge of all those people.
Brian: So many people.
Quinn: So many people.
Shantha Alonso: Yeah, not in charge of them.
Quinn: Nope, I think that's what it is now.
Shantha Alonso: I mean, maybe in a parallel universe, I could dictate to them, "Everyone, reorient yourself to fix the creation of all the woes that plague it."
Brian: Wouldn't that be wonderful?
Quinn: Small requests. That's how it gets started.
Shantha Alonso: One thing at a time.
Quinn: Well, listen, keep kicking ass. We appreciate you. We thank you.
Brian: Thank you very much.
Quinn: And hopefully we hear from you again.
Shantha Alonso: Thanks for all the awareness you're raising with this podcast too.
Quinn: We're trying. We're trying. In between the f-bombs. Thanks, Shantha. We will talk to you soon.
Shantha Alonso: All right, thanks, bye.
Quinn: Thanks, bye.
Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guest today and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish-washing or fucking dog-walking late at night, that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at ImportantNotImportant.com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.
Brian: And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @ImportantNotImp. It's so weird. Also on Facebook and Instagram @ImportantNotImportant, Pinterest and Tumblr the same thing. Check us out. Follow us. Share us. Like us. You know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcasts. Keep the lights on. Thanks.
Brian: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, ImportantNotImportant.com.
Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening, and finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.
Brian: Thanks, guys.