Climate & Clean Energy
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Internal Activism

Published on
June 14, 2022
Show notes

If you give a shit, well, you’ve probably had at least a few moments where the enormity of what’s in front of us has challenged your mental health in some way.

I can’t imagine there are many folks listening to this show who’ve never felt the heaviness of our climate future, of our climate present.

There’s a lot of guilt, a lot of shame, a lot of shame about that shame, a lot of furious action – we’re here, aren’t we.

And running parallel alongside all of those emotions is the dread of what’s being done out there, about the lack of action, and for the people who are taking action on the frontlines of the future, giving it their all.

But, as Dr. Katharine Hayhoe says, we have to talk about it.

Not just what’s happening, but how we’re dealing with it.

How we can recognize it and move forward, for ourselves, together, for the planet, for the people who will come after us.

My guest today is Dr. Britt Wray.

Britt is the author of the fantastic new book “Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis”, an impassioned generational perspective on how to stay sane amid climate disruption.

Britt has a Ph.D. in Science Communication from the University of Copenhagen and is the author of "Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics and Risks of De-Extinction."

She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (sure, why not both?), where she researches the mental health impacts of climate change on young people.

Britt is also the author of Gen Dread, the first newsletter that shares wide-ranging ideas for supporting emotional health and psychological resilience in the climate and wider ecological crisis.

I have learned so much from Britt of late, and her book is a tremendous source of empathy and courage.

I think you will find us both baring a bit of our souls and our beliefs in this conversation, and hopefully, some ways we can all cope and build a radically more supportive world – for everyone.

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Transcript

Quinn:

Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett. This is science for people who give a shit. If you give a shit, well, you've probably had a few moments where the enormity of what's in front of us has challenged your mental health in some way. I can't imagine there's many folks listening to this show, who've never felt the heaviness of our climate future, of our climate present. I mean, I certainly have. I'm a privileged White man with a podcast who didn't grow up inundated with air pollution or threatened by the rising seas, by the rains, by the heat. I don't farm for my own food like billions of other people. The comfort gained by these privileges, the inverse of all of this means my footprint, if you will, is enormously more than the people who are already suffering the most, who will suffer the most.

Quinn:

I really wasn't aware of that for a very long time. Reconciling it all was, and continues to be, a process. There's a lot of guilt, a lot of shame, a lot of shame about that shame, a lot of furious action. I mean, we're here. Running parallel all those emotions is this dread of what's being done out there, about the lack of action and for the people who are taking action on the front lines of the future, giving it their all.

Quinn:

I'm lucky in this job to have made some incredible friends. Friends who are in the fight, who I can text whenever I want, whenever I need, about my dread, about some iceberg falling off. A lot of folks don't have those friends. Believe me, dumping your deepest climate worries on the wrong folks is one way to scare off any friends or partners you might already have. But as Dr. Katherine Hayhoe says, we have to talk about it, but not just what's happening and what to do about it, but how we're dealing with it, how angry we are, how shamed we are, how scared we are, despondent, how guilty we are, how fired up we are, how we can recognize that, if we're privileged enough to be able to make that space, how to deal with it, how to move forward for ourselves together for the planet, for the people who will come after us.

Quinn:

My guest in episode 136 is Dr. Britt Wray. Britt is the author of the fantastic new book, Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis. It's an impassioned, generational perspective on how to stay sane amid climate disruption. Britt has a PhD in science communication from the University of Copenhagen. She's the author of Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics and Risks of De-Extinction. She's hosted a bunch of podcasts, radio and TV programs with the BBC and CBC. She's a Ted resident. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, because sure, why not both, where she researches the mental health impacts of climate change on young people. Britt is also the author of Gen Dread, the first newsletter that shares wide ranging ideas for supporting emotional health and psychological resilience in the climate and wider ecological crisis.

Quinn:

I have learned so much from Britt of late. Her book is a tremendous source of empathy and courage. I think you will find both of us bearing more than a bit of our souls and our beliefs in this conversation and hopefully some ways we can all cope and build a radically more supportive world for everyone. You can listen to our conversation at the link below or just search 'Important, Not Important' anywhere you listen to podcasts. A reminder, you can send feedback or questions about this episode to me at questions@importantnotimportant.com. Links to anything we talk about or in the show notes. If you want to rep your shit giver status, you can find sustainable T-shirts, hoodies and a variety of coffee delivery vessels in our store at importantnotimportant.com/store. Here we go.

Quinn:

Britt Wray, welcome to the show.

Britt Wray:

Thank you, Quinn. Good to be here.

Quinn:

All right. Well, we'll see. We'll see how it goes here. Britt, I like to start with one question we ask everybody, it, I think reveals something deeper about all of us, also sets a tone for being a little ridiculous. Don't be afraid to laugh at it. Most people do. Instead of saying Britt, what's your entire life story I like to ask, why are you vital to the survival of the species?

Britt Wray:

Oh my goodness. Grandiose. We'll get going here.

Quinn:

That's right.

Britt Wray:

Well, these days, my work is focused on very existential questions about how people are going to be able to protect their sanity in a world on fire, which is increasingly traumatic to vulnerable populations in the line of climate disasters, and those who are simply aware of what's going on and the lack of moral clarity in our leadership to address the problem of the climate and wider ecological crisis, which creates chronic eco anxiety and loss of sense of security in the world, as we face this daunting future with many bullets in the gun; climate just being one of them. I'd say something vital about my work is that I'm looking at those scary developments and trying to get ahead of the ball to work with others in creating mental health protection strategies that are able to be widely shared and freely accessible.

Quinn:

That's amazing and is going to be increasingly needed. So thank you for pacifying me and answering that one. It's always funny. You never know. We get people who cackle at it and then reveal something so illuminating or they're just like, "I'm not." That's also awesome. You never know. Let me apropo of your amazing book and how thoughtful it is and how well researched and cited and empathetic it is, and what you just described as to how you feel you fit into all of this madness. Let me ask you this question; how are you?

Britt Wray:

I am feeling really grateful these days, in the last couple days, just because I'm enjoying my six month old baby so much and laughing with him all the time and having these moments with my partner and I look across the room and are just like, "Oh. Look at this creature." This is a whole new thing in my life, because it's the first time being a mom. Exploring these little births of what that means for your day-to-day existence and then reflecting on it in a deep way, has been how I've been reflecting on where I'm at, over the weekend. Now it's Monday. Of course, it's been extremely sad and just enraging to watch what's going on in Ukraine in recent weeks and listen to reportage from the ground of innocent people's lives that are being ripped apart in this humanitarian disaster that is sickeningly driven by fossil fueled capitalism and patriarchal menace. It's been tough. There's a tension there. I think that that's the tension that's been around for a long time now, pandemic, climate research, war. Yeah, there's a lot.

Quinn:

Let me have ask you this; this gratitude obviously ... Well maybe not obviously. I mean there's so much that can happen after a baby, obviously. There's all sorts of depressions and stress and we're tired and all these things. Is your gratitude something you have ... There's so much out there these days, I've subscribed to a lot of it, about really making an effort to practice gratitude in the sense of stopping, trying to recognize it, trying to, sit in it for a moment. Is that something you've always been good at? Is that something you've tried to work on or is it just been like, "Holy shit. This baby's incredible."

Britt Wray:

I'm really not good at that. I want to be better at it. I know that having a gratitude journal is a healthy practice, or ensuring that every night when you go to sleep, you reflect on three good things that happen in the day. When you wake up in the morning, you do it again. Those people are amazing. I am too forgetful. It's not even that I don't want to do it. I just forget that that's even an option to me when I'm living through my life and zooming to sleep and zooming awake, et cetera.

Quinn:

Yeah.

Britt Wray:

No. With our little dude, it's more about being struck by his awesomeness and then being very present. Someone described parenting as an aggressive form of meditation because every moment is forcing you to be present. Very present moment connected to the baby and its needs. I think it's just that impulse has an effect on me where he does something and then I'm grabbed in the moment and realizing that the feeling is gratitude. Yeah.

Quinn:

Sure. Wait until he starts walking and then it's an entirely different form of being present.

Britt Wray:

Right.

Quinn:

Because they try to kill themselves every 30 seconds. It's an adventure.

Britt Wray:

Oh my gosh. How do people do that?

Quinn:

I love that. I think you just lock them in. You build the baby gate things and then you ... Or the bouncers and you just leave. Our third kid. I mean, this is like total standard with third kid. We put them in the little ... I'm going to get arrested. We put them in the little bouncer and we got to go. I had three kids under three at one point. I got to go get two other kids out of cribs. We come back and we're like, "Oh my God. You've been in your bouncer for like an hour." He's like, "I get it. You got a lot going on." It's too much. I'm happy to just play with these things.

Britt Wray:

Oh, nice. Cool kid.

Quinn:

He's a pretty good sport. We're lucky. Really into fairness, which is interesting. I think it's just because he's like, "How come they get to do this and I don't?" Anyways, different conversation. That's wonderful. Yeah. I'm the same way. You read about the people with their morning routines. Wake up and take a one hour walk with just a little journal and a pen and this. I'm like, "That's so great for you." I'm sure it's a blissful existence. Truly, good on you. I hope it bears fruit and it betters society and yourself and you die happy. I'm just like, Listen guys, this is the Raisin Bran we have. I'm sorry it's not the one you wanted, but that's what we fucking got so eat up. Eat up." That's my blissful walk.

Quinn:

Hey, so speaking of young people, I guess , slightly more advanced young people, as I've been thinking about this conversation, again, reading your amazing book. I try to get, as I always say to folks, sort of a 201 or 301 in whatever a conversation's about before we do it so it can be more of a conversation than just an interview. I'm lucky to have a family just chalk-full of professional mental health folks in a variety of capacities, always on the mind and being challenged on these things. I was in on Uber the other day and there was a driver. He was a young to early middle aged Black man, probably around my age, thoughtful, concerned human, about 40 minutes. We had time to get into things. One of the things we're talking about, I'm in Virginia, and we were sort of back and forth in the process of legalizing marijuana.

Quinn:

It started with decriminalization and now it's legalization and they're working towards retail. One of these ideas he brought up was he was really concerned about young people and how it might be abused. We tried to, together, contextualize it around the limited research we have around side effects and health outcomes, but also in a broader sense around alcohol and obviously what opioids have done to so many folks, as they have sought to cope with everything or pain, physical or mental. We got into the mental health side. He brought it back to the youth. Again, I don't think he was much older than I was, or at least he looked a lot better than I do. One of his points was he really didn't understand, not in a way where he was criticizing, but how are the young people so anxious and so stressed and why?

Quinn:

Again, he clearly wasn't seeking to diminish this. He really seemed like he wanted to understand it. Again, we contextualized and we talked about all the trauma and the plight of what previous generations have gone through, in the early sixties with Cuba or 911 or the financial issues. You said in the book the world's been ending for a long time, in a lot of different ways for a lot of different folks. Often, if not mostly, disproportionately more so by the less wealthy. But we've also survived. Considering, again, that this is your field of focus and young people, I wonder how often you run into folks older than we are, who truly don't understand ... Maybe they have been through other things themselves, maybe they don't grasp truly the ramifications of what's happening and what's going to happen, but who do want to understand this again, overwhelming anxiety that we're seeing in so many young people. Is this something that's prevalent or no? Thank you for listening to my tale.

Britt Wray:

Thank you for the setup. It is something that I've encountered a lot. I was on a call with some mental health professionals last week. One asked, "Okay. What's going on? We've had the Holocaust. We've had nuclear crises. We've had genocides all over, in all of shapes and sizes. What's up with this generation? Are they coddled? Are they soft? I mean, why do we need to introduce trauma informed ways of doing climate education in the classroom? I don't get it."

Britt Wray:

It's a sentiment that I've heard from many people who are of older generations. I think there's a few things that we need to break down.

Quinn:

Please.

Britt Wray:

Firstly, stepping aside from the climate crisis. The statistics on youth mental health have been going off the charts in a bad way for the better part of the last decade in terms of anxiety, depression, suicidality. A lot of that research has hooked in with ideas around the i-generation. Technology, social media, these kinds of propensities that capitalism has bred throughout our culture in such a way that these devices and the tech on them crawl down our brain, hijack the brain stem, become addictive and really are deleterious to young people's mental health, as it relates to them feeling lonely and isolated and not good enough and constantly comparing to others. In this endless hall of mirrors, this simulacrum in the digital space of socializing. They're not getting together in real life as much. Kids aren't having as much sex, they aren't partying as much. They're on their phones, et cetera. All these think-pieces that we've seen about it.

Britt Wray:

In the United States there's a huge mental health crisis where a lot of parents, of teenagers who are having mental health crises, can't get beds for their kids when they're in a moment of high danger. It's saturated. The system is saturated. There's not enough mental health care professionals to be able to treat these kids and their desperate parents saying, "What can we do?" It's of course been in a pandemic, which has been its own mental health pandemic for young people who've born the brunt of a lot of those negative impacts.

Britt Wray:

I was brought in for a conference on parenting teens, at the last minute, because it was trying to address this, that we have young people and gen Z not doing well and we don't know how to help them. We're going to get all these great interdisciplinary voices together about healing and trauma and resilience and mental health supports for these young folks. At the end of their program, they realized, "Oh, we haven't even incorporated anything about the climate crisis yet." This is an afterthought, meaning there's a lot going on already, regardless of the climate, which is difficult for younger people today to navigate, as well as for their families to figure out the best ways to support them.

Britt Wray:

Then you add in the climate crisis, which to many young people does not feel like it's some kind of potential apocalypse in the future. It's something already here, unfolding. The best science in the world is telling us as António Guterres, UN Secretary General, paraphrased and summarized it as a code read for humanity. With all of that knowledge, the best measurements and models for decades, in terms of the delay we've had on this with respect to action and leadership, they are still seeing the people who are put in positions of power to protect them fail to take up their responsibility to do so, on a daily basis. They read the dire reports and news, and then they read an article that Biden is going to ship a bunch of natural gas to Europe and so on and so forth, or how many new drilling permissions were given under his presidency given that it's so called climate presidency. I mean, what's going on?

Britt Wray:

Those kinds of feelings tip into a space of moral injury. Feeling institutionally betrayed. It's much worse. It's not just that young people are feeling bad because the environment isn't doing well and they can see the effects of that, whether it's rolling in as a wildfire, flood, hurricane, drought, sea level rise, sea ice loss in their communities or heat waves. Of course, importantly, the way that this is intimately tied up with systemic racism and those who are dealing with the most air pollution from burning the fossil fuels in their neighborhoods and dealing with being in the least resilient neighborhoods, for being able to repair after some of these impacts, often poor communities of color. By no accident, it's by design of course, because of history of racist policies that have red-lined certain communities into certain places.

Britt Wray:

Furthermore, it's so much worse because it feels like the adults have left the building. It feels like those people who have the power in society to act on this are not taking the opportunities to do so and failing them further. It's this cannibalism of the future feeling that they're living with.

Quinn:

That's good.

Britt Wray:

That's a heck of a lot to bear as a young person, who's got their eyes open to the climate crisis and just furthermore, living in a society where people are happy to hop in their big trucks and go to Costco and buy all the shit wrapped in plastic and bring it home and never pay any mind about where this is going, because it's an invisibility aspect of the throwaway culture. Someone else will deal with it. Yet, they can feel that it's piling up. All those are the kinds of sentiments that young people tell me when I talk to them about it. It's a lot on top of other issues that are already, of course, causing them stress.

Quinn:

Right. You've got it love when you see the Twitter poll. First of all, any sentence that starts with that should just be shut down immediately. People are like, "Why are young people mad that they can't buy a house?" Yes, but also it's number 47 on the fucking list of issues. It's so many things. I was really struck and again, identified as someone with young very privileged white kids, but also tried to mentor where I can but also someone again with kids. I'm sure, as you are discovering more and more with your partner and your child, so much of trust and succeeding and flourishing through anything comes down to both communication, but also expectations.

Quinn:

Shit happens, of course, but it seems like, as humans, so much of our dread comes down to often uncertainty, even the smallest thing. That sort of anxiety can affect different people in so many different ways. That's why clear expectations are so helpful. Whether you've got a six months old or you've got a huge job you're running thousands of people or you're a policymaker, but ruined expectations ... No one has more expectations than people in the West., Because we have so far to fall. In the sense that we are wealthier than anyone has ever been. Folks in the West, especially White people just have this, like you said, this lifestyle where we go and buy all this stuff and we power these things with these fossil fuels. We've never truly like even calculated the true cost of these things. It's interesting, but also not surprising, that so many of the folks who are able to go to therapy are people who can afford to be there, because therapy is expensive. So many folks in the US don't have healthcare, much less one that covers it because they're hourly workers.

Quinn:

Again, those are the people who were sold this bill of goods or participate in this bill of goods and so their expectations have the farthest to fall. You use this word, betrayed. That is the other extension of it is, it goes from being misled by a climate administration to being betrayed. This idea, like you said that the world is more fragile than we thought, but that they're also ... You would think, upon discovering that, that we would do something about it and that's where they feel like they've been betrayed the most. You said you recognize the problem. You said you were going to do something about it and you're doing the opposite. I wonder how much you really encounter actual anger. How much of this grief comes from people who feel angry and betrayed at where we are, because we're past, "Is it real?"

Britt Wray:

Absolutely. Way past it. The anger is a predominant emotion out there with lots of generations, not just young people. It's rooted in a healthy sense of injustice. It means that one's conscience is intact and that they know what it feels like to be morally transgressed. Their radar for being wronged is turned on and so it's a healthy emotion to be acting from. It can be very motivating. There have been studies of eco emotions and arguments from that data to show that it's a more productive emotion to be angry rather than depressed, for example, anxious about the environmental crisis. Of course, it's not like we just have one emotion at a time. There's many in which we can find ourselves. I think that that's a perfectly fruitful and good place to be working from when you're pissed off about what's happening. Not only because there's such ... We're speaking in a highly American context through some of the examples we've given already.

Quinn:

Of course. \.

Britt Wray:

Of course this is global with lots of various forms of bodies who are meant to act on this, not doing so. That's why you've got young people rising up and suing their governments under the framework that it violates their human rights because governments are not protecting the future habitability of the planet. I mean, it doesn't get more existential than that. It's very core what these arguments are. It's perfectly logical. At the same time, the anxiety from the uncertainty is very understandable too. It's very taxing to have to try and sort through and coexist and just be calm while sitting with mass uncertainty about how much temperatures are going to rise, how governments are going to act, how humanity will band together and unite under this sense of shared humanity and partnership protection for each other, or not go the opposite and split and fragment and become more dominating in localized spaces as people clamor and clobber each other over dwindling resources, which obviously feels very likely as a direction.

Britt Wray:

All of that, for various evolutionary reasons, is really hard for our brains to deal with. We need to practice dealing with uncertainty and tolerating it for longer periods of time, which is not intuitive. We need to come together with others in order to figure out how we can show ourselves up to do that kind of work as the world spins in this more chaotic way, as we've been experiencing. I'm not sure if that answered your question, but we started on anger.

Quinn:

No, I think we did. It made me think about ... You wrote a little bit in the book, but also, your newsletter's also fantastic. Thank you for that.

Britt Wray:

Oh, thanks.

Quinn:

So helpful, personally, but also to the work I'm trying to do here and you wrote recently and apologies ... Time is a flat circle slash I'm a goldfish, whatever metaphor you need. I can't keep track of things at this point. Recently you wrote about this increasing effort and need to develop a real taxonomy around the feelings we're feeling and what's being done and happening to us you just mentioned. We started with anger, but you said, obviously, we are able and it's important to recognize that we can feel many different things at once. How important is this effort to develop a real taxonomy so that we can, hopefully, help people more and help ourselves more?

Quinn:

This is a slight pivot, but again, I try to think about ... Seeing as people that look like me have generally for a few thousand years been the people in charge and that hasn't worked out so great.Who gets to decide that taxonomy? When we talk to folks about AI ethics, there's this idea of the alignment problem, which is it's not the data and the algorithms, it's the people designing them and the people in the room, which tend to be the same people over and over. I'm curious about how important is this taxonomy and who really gets to have input and decide on how we move these things forward?

Britt Wray:

That was actually a project organized by Panu Pihkala, who's a Finish eco-anxiety researcher. What he did was, conduct a systematic review of the published literature that's been put out there, academically speaking, to date on environmental emotions, eco emotions, what are called psycho-tropic emotions. So emotions relating to felt and perceived states of the earth that are just out there in the literature. He said, "We need some kind of organizing principle around what people are learning from doing studies with communities about how this is affecting them, emotionally, the environmental crisis." Then he organized the findings into these categorized learnings, which I shared on my newsletter. Really it's not a call to action to create a new taxonomy, as much as it is showing what one researcher found when taking a non-biased approach to sorting through what scholars have figured out about how these emotions are showing up in people's lives and what impact they have. Then he put it into one article so at least we can get a lay of the land by reading through and seeing what people have found. In that sense, of course, there will be biases about who's doing that research.

Quinn:

Of course.

Britt Wray:

And who has the environmental education to even care about this, to then go conduct a study, to be in that form of profession working in some research institution and asking people about their anxiety, grief or jealousy or rage or joy and connection. All these different emotions he found and was writing about. That doesn't mean that the taxonomy's closed. Of course, there will be new ways of studying how these emotions are showing up in people's lives. It's helpful, because it creates some awareness and space for reflection. In many of our societies, we are not very emotionally intelligent. We prize rationality. We prize progress. We prize feeling great, happiness, getting out there and doing your thing in the world. Go, go, go.

Britt Wray:

There's been a huge amount of toxic positivity that has trickled down into all of our lives, because of that lack of depth and curiosity for looking at the full spectrum of human emotions, which include the challenging ones. Buddhists say joy and suffering are both equal, indivisible aspects of life, of being here. We like to tamper down the suffering part as much as possible and just focus on the emotions we can not feel shame around, not judge ourselves for and not feel judged by others for having. This leaves us really underserved, especially when it comes to increasingly challenging times, when these emotions are natural responses to caring about the world, feeling an attachment to things that really matter to us. Then our anxiety points out that something's in danger, for example. The depression can set in about something and the grief about something that's been lost. All of this is a totally normal, natural reaction to have, but we have very few tools and little socially supported equipment, meaning social norms, for processing this together.

Britt Wray:

A taxonomy is helpful because it gives permission, it validates, it legitimizes, it gives examples of other people who are reckoning with these emotions and finding ways to not only feel them and sit in them, and that's important. Even just that first step is really hard for people. We can do a lot to suppress them. Also, importantly, learn how to reframe the emotions and harness them for things that are meaningful, purposeful or helpful or good ... I'm trying to not use terms like good and bad here, because I want to get away from this positive-negative framing. You can harness climate anxiety, for example, for motivating really fantastic climate justice oriented work.

Quinn:

Sure. I loved that part of the book where you got into the ... Again, it could be different for different people on any given minute, hour, day. Again, I'm incredibly privileged, but I've felt that way. There are days where I'm just like ... My wife has literally, at times, found me hiding under a blanket at home. She's like, "Oh. That's not great." I'm as privileged as I could possibly get. This hasn't affected me in any way, health or family or financial wise, in any capacity. Yet, we feel these things, but then there are times where you use this grief, or this anger or, whatever the description might be that falls within this taxonomy. It seems like it makes so much sense.

Quinn:

Again, we can ask all these questions and we can interrogate who gets to do what, but it seems, like you said, at least intentionally, non-biased or less biased attempt at establishing a baseline shared, as much as it can be shared, language and almost walking away at that point to then find out how much universality there is within this by region, by people, by experience, whatever it is, pick your climate threat. That seems helpful. It seems like it's something, at the very least, we can build on. Without that, it's hard. Again, like you said, it comes down to expectations. There's a moment in the book, you share the quote from the young person who ... It was the section on having kids, which you were so thoughtful and brave to share your experience and your process and that. I know so many folks go through that and young people. There's a quote from the young person who basically was just like, "Look, I don't regret being born but did my parents fucking think about it twice, that this is what they're bringing me into." That is just profound.

Britt Wray:

It is.

Quinn:

There's this metaphor that's often thrown around of ... I'm not sure if you follow baseball or sports at all. They can be overused and oversimplify things. But this idea of coming up to bat with two strikes on you.

Britt Wray:

Right.

Quinn:

There's one thing about your expectations about being misled or having those ruined. It's another thing to come out and be like, "Oh. We're just fucked? That's the thing? That's what I've got to work with?" What that must do has got to just be incredibly traumatic and hopefully at times empowering. I don't think we can assume that it acts that way for everyone.

Britt Wray:

No, exactly. Yeah. It was a powerful quote. I think she said, verbatim, "It's not that I wish that I were dead, it's that did they have any fucking clue about what was going on when they decided to have me? Because I'm so stressed out about my future, I can hardly take it," is the general idea there. It's a common sentiment. This idea of having two strikes against you is profound about being born at this moment in time, because we are going through this phase shift in generations Where there had been generations improving upon what their parents had given them, time and time again, and the sense of an expansive future and more productivity and more wealth and more health and longer life times and all the stuff that Steven Pinker likes to talk about in terms of less war and more prosperity.

Britt Wray:

Rather quickly, we have a complete breakdown in those trends. It's not like the kids who are now reckoning with that, are being raised in social norms that are focused on supportively processing that twist and ushering through a new way of looking at the world and identifying questions of, what is enough and what am I here for? What's my purpose? How am I going to show up, at this moment in time? People are generally not reflecting on those questions, but moving through with the former presumptions about all these things we're supposed to expect. It's not happening. No one in my generation can get a pension or afford to buy a home and so on and forth, let alone these other bigger issues. In that sense, it leaves young people feeling a wash without anyone legitimizing these fears and stresses on them, except for their own peers, which is not helpful.

Britt Wray:

It leaves even more of a burden on them to figure this out when they've already inherited the climate crisis and the duty to clean it up. They're often made aware of this before they have an opportunity to figure out important aspects of their identity, grow up and have fun and experiment and find their unique path in the world. It's landing on their shoulders at really young ages now. Those who are still alive and the ones in power and holding office have been able who enjoy these expansive, prosperous ways of going about their own generational existence. There's just a disconnect there. It's rather quick and it's jarring, but it does leave also, especially those with privilege and protection who have been raised by those kinds of families saying, "That's not what we were promised. We were told that this is supposed to be ... " I mean, especially millennials, with our whole me generation, you can be anything you want to be, kind of parenting format.

Britt Wray:

It's a huge disconnect when, then this sense of whether it's a foreboding feeling about societal collapse due to climate catastrophe or other issues, sets in breaks through defenses. It's no longer just an intellectual problem of, "Oh. Yeah, this environmental crisis. We really ought to throw all of our muscle at it and get technologically innovative here and rework our policies." It's then an overwhelming stress that means that those psychological defenses are no longer helpful to you. You experience what the sociologist Anthony Giddens calls ontological insecurity, when you no longer feel safe in the world or secure. That creates all kinds of huge behavioral responses, a real fragmentation. It can feel like an internal shattering. It can be so intense that people really cannot bear it. I'm not saying this is all young people. I'm saying that some young people who are dealing with the eco distress experience in this way.

Britt Wray:

It tends to be harder for those who have privilege and protection, because this is what teaches them that the world is far more fragile than they thought it was and dangerous than they thought it was. That's an interesting thing that people are processing, but often on their own, and feeling really alienated and isolated and that they need support. They need to find others and talk it through and not feel so abject and their loneliness about that. Then, of course, we talk about communities who are not so privileged and protected and who have long known that the world is a dangerous place with-...

Quinn:

Were promised, not much.

Britt Wray:

Yeah. The two strikes against them feeling has been there a long time. And now this is foreboding climate crisis awareness on top of it. Talk about injustices upon injustices, upon injustices, and a real need to develop an ethics of care that is pointed at supporting those communities. That's why also this kind of eco distress can be such a transformative bridge, as a powerful form of solidarity creation. Because those with more privilege and protection who are waking up feeling like the "world is ending" so to speak. I don't actually mean that. We can talk about what we mean by saying the world has ended many times before. Can do that kind of inner reflection and think, "Oh man, if I'm feeling this shaken by the lack of action towards this problem and the increasing obviousness of its detrimental effects in communities all around me, how are these other people feeling?"

Quinn:

Sure. Sure.

Britt Wray:

Which can help people gain some perspective and not just be so navel-gazy about it.

Quinn:

That does seem to be part ... Folks like myself have to endeavor to do, which is deal with my own shit, not to undervalue it hiding under a blanket, but at the same time, really work to listen, to understand and empathize. Then as much as possible, be an ally to, again, peoples and groups who, like you said, it's been two strikes forever. Often, it's because of systems designed that way. We keep doing that. You mentioned this sort of almost innate default action of finding folks to relate with and talk with and how that can be hard. I've been very lucky over the past few years, getting into all of this, to have found a group of folks who frankly have been doing it much, much longer than I have and gone through the ups and downs, who I can call, frankly, or text and say, "Jesus, this is dark." They already know that. They're probably thinking that too. They've got someone they can call and text about it, usually. It doesn't necessarily mean they're okay, however we want to phrase that.

Quinn:

I have realized that I have to be very careful and strategic about who I really talk to about the true, the 'what could happen' things, the what's already baked in and what could happen things, the mathematical, real world stuff, but also how I'm feeling about it because you can really ruin someone's day who isn't aware or isn't prepared.

Britt Wray:

Oh, yeah.

Quinn:

Or isn't down with this. You have to be careful with your relationships. I mean, you shared that story of someone saying, "Hey, listen, your shit has gotten really dark. You need to be aware of that." I've gotten that talk, a hundred percent. It's made me go like, "Should I be doing this? Because I'm not sure if I'm capable of handling it in a way that I can balance my life and end the work." At the same time it seems like ... I had this wonderful call with the folks at Sesame Street.

Britt Wray:

Cool.

Quinn:

I mean, literally I was like, "I'll drop everything. I don't fucking care." I was like, "I owe you guys everything," but it was this question of how do we ... They shifted their formatting, I don't remember how long ago from, I think, it was four to five year olds to three to four year olds. That's a big change for the intended audience. It's like, how do you talk to three to four year olds about climate change? It's really hard. One of the things I've thought about a lot and, again, how I talk to my kids who are very privileged and can handle this and have access to the outside and water and air they can breathe. It's about relationships, really. It's about our relationships with nature, of which we are inextricably part of, relationships with each other, relationships ...

Quinn:

I've worked hard to make the show ... My guests, 60% identify as women and almost 50% are people of color, because the least I can do is at least listen to them and then try to be allies and build relationships. At the same time we have to be so careful of that. Again, the people we talk to, we're not putting a burden on them or even worse that we were being extractive. I wonder if you've gained any insight into a way to be methodical and empathetic and thoughtful about doing that. I think there's probably a lot of folks out there, again, who are listening to this, who are working hard either on climate or something else or COVID or public health who are like, "Yeah. I still don't have those people that I can talk to. I want to make sure I'm not making it worse."

Britt Wray:

Yes. Yeah. These are all really key questions. Oh, yeah. I've been in many uncomfortable situations where I'm being too frank and honest about my own fears and the rattling number of scientific papers in my brain whose findings are terrifying, that I need to talk about and it's not the right audience. It's typically because they haven't had their awakening and they are, let's be honest, keeping their head in the sand to protect their own psychic comfort, which is very understandable and very normal. Lots of people do it. I do it, consciously, from time-to-time to give myself a break, of course.

Britt Wray:

However, there is a whole world out there, of people who are gathering, specifically to provide a container, a safe space for people to come together and talk about these issues and how they're affecting them, so that they can get that relief and support and new, energizing ideas for how to respond to it emotionally and rationally.Some groups that I can mention, for example, are Climate Awakening. Climate Awakening is led by Margaret Klein Salamon who's a psychologist and activist. She has these virtual drop in sessions where you can show up and talk about anything under the sun, as it relates to the fact that sun is making you feel warmer. Really, it's a place for direct conversation with ... Just a one off kind of session.

Britt Wray:

There's also Climate Cafés, which are decentralized gatherings, run all over the world. You can Google Climate Café in your area and see if one's happening. The Climate Psychology Alliances of the UK and North America are hosting a bunch of them. Those can be a productive space for knowing, "Okay, here it's okay to share whatever's on your mind." There's nothing that you're going to be judged for. Everything's going to be validated and mirrored. Other people are going to share their feelings too and that's going to be strengthening.

Britt Wray:

What I think is even more powerful than a single drop in session, depending on where you're at, are these programs that actually move you through weeks and weeks of meeting together. Something like the Good Grief Network. It's modeled, actually, on Alcoholics Anonymous. They turned it into a 10 step program. It's for exploring all of these intense, challenging emotions that come with the uncertainty that the climate and eco crisis brings into our lives. Each week there's a step and they really go there talking about mortality and also sorts of things. At the end, you are led through a process of reinvesting the emotional energy that you've lost from being freaked out or angry or depressed whatever it might be about the crisis, into actions that are meaningful for you in authentic ways. No prescription about how to take action. Who are you? What are you good at? What brings you joy? What feels like it needs doing? How do you tap in? That kind of a thing, which is really regenerating.

Britt Wray:

There's also the Work That Reconnects which is a really powerful program that people can find, again, in their different locals by looking to see if they are run. There's just virtual format of the Work That Reconnects facilitators. It's all about going through grief about injustices in the world as it relates to the eco crisis and then coming at the other side, seeing the world with new eyes. There's All We Can Save circles off that bestselling feminist anthology, All We Can Save and those are propping up all over. There is, basically, a cottage industry of support groups for talking about this stuff because their need is very great and people are saying, "I need someone to talk to."

Britt Wray:

Then there's also Climate Aware Therapy, but that gets us into one-on-one meetings. Not everyone has the means to be able to pay for a therapist.If you do, they're an incredibly powerful support to, again, dwell in the emotions with someone who gets it and who can help you cope. There's a Climate Aware Therapy directory that people can look up through the Climate Psychology Alliance and Climate Psychiatry Alliance. By the way, just listen to those words. Those are real, professional alliances now. Climate Psychology, Climate Psychiatry, where mental health professionals are reorganizing their memberships to focusing on the trauma that comes from the climate crisis as the number one threat.

Britt Wray:

It's a ripe time for finding support, but really, all you need are the right friends who get it and who aren't going to say, "Don't be so dire, you're fine," or ,"Look outside the sky isn't falling," or, "You're just being dramatic." You need to have someone who truly will allow you to dwell in that space and will stand in the fire with you. And it's amazing how relieving that is just to find the right audience. You need to be aware about who you're talking to and how you might be existentially stressing them in ways that they're not ready for.

Quinn:

I appreciate that a lot. Again, everyone is very different and all of that is justified and you can change. I know it also, again, helped me to have someone, my wife, say, "If you're going to do this, you got to find a way to ... We're not talking shove things down, but you've got to be able to come home to three young kids and handle your shit. And around me too, because the relationship would be nice." Don't diminish it, but there's got to be things. It's wonderful and hard to hear that we've come so far that we've got this cottage industry. I wish it didn't have to exist.

Britt Wray:

Exactly. Quinn, in your life, as that shows up, is it related to climate distress specifically that you're talking about when your wife says you got to handle your shit before you come home to our three kids? Or is it because your work is looking at so many intersecting and synchronous crises, it's not just climate.

Quinn:

Yeah. I don't recommend it.

Britt Wray:

That's a challenge, of course, to be thinking about this stuff eight hours a day.

Quinn:

At the beginning of this and often with new folks in our community that go, "Oh, do you have a scientific background or engineering." I'm like "No, no. Liberal arts major." That's what I got. I can take a step back and ask annoying questions and hopefully try to pull the dots together. Like I said to you know, we've had 136 conversations that are published. There's probably 10 times more offline. I really try to level up. Bringing those pieces together has been helpful, whether it's just journals or its conversations or whatever it might be. One thing I've found for myself and, again, this is kind of how we've built this thing.

Quinn:

I'm very aware of the criticisms of this, on the whole, and if it's not executed well and certainly we don't do it perfectly, which is this sense of we're going to talk about climate or COVID or kids cancer, but I want to provide you with a really specific way you can do something about it at the end of it, because it can often be helpful. It is not a solve for everyone or often anyone, but for a lot of folks, it's something. We try to frame it as, this might just help you feel better today or this will probably, measurably drive some sort of systemic change, whether it's some voting or legislation or policy or whatever it might be. I find it helps folks who just come to us and say, "What can I do?" That has been helpful for me. It certainly doesn't solve everything. I think taking on all of these things is a lot, but again, if ...

Quinn:

I had this conversation with a friend who's a journalist at Bloomberg Green, Akshat Rathi, who's great. He's been on the show a couple of times. He chases, in particular, down things like the house of cards that is carbon offsets. We had this brief chat about looking how we both were and all these net zero plans, the ticking clock and when we need to decarbonize. You look at it and go like, "Oh. That's literally our lifetimes." You have to ask this question. I try to be, with three kids, manageable at how I use my time. It's that idea of how we measure our time is how we spend our days. If that's my lifetime and I want to be back up and go, how do I want to spend my days? I want to be a dad who's home for dinner every night and put my kids to bed. I feel very lucky to be able to do that, but what am I doing in between, because at some point they're going to be like, "Hey dad, things have gone south. What did you do? I'll say, "I had a podcast."

Quinn:

More so it's that question of what are you for? What can you do? And what can you provide value, if any? That's how I spend my time, is talking about it and trying to investigate and help people rethink and take some action on, if they want to these big issues that can make a cleaner, more equitable world for more folks, then that's great. It's just that sometimes I'm going to have a hard time with it. Finding people I can talk to, having a million therapists, a potpourri of them in my family, having friends, professional networks, being able to take time off, knowing that I have air to breathe and things like that is helpful.

Quinn:

I want to get into the reverse real quick. You're saying there's all these amazing cottage industries of folks who are trained and up-to-date on what's happening so that they can be supportive, especially psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers. I want to get into how they can actually get into those type of networks, those folks, and how they can improve themselves. First, just a quick more philosophical thing, because I loved this idea you had in the book. It rings into one of my favorite guests Bina Venkataraman, she's an author of a book called The Optimist's Telescope.

Britt Wray:

Oh, I know her stuff. Yeah. She's great.

Quinn:

She's fucking great. She was the editor for the Boston Globe opinion section until recently. She has this quote in her book that just totally reframed so much of my work and how I spend my time, which is this idea of, how can I be a better ancestor?

Britt Wray:

Yes. Yes.

Quinn:

You have this idea in the book of essentially, yes, you should help yourself and take care of yourself and those around you. We can deal with these problems. Also, how do we see ourselves as links in this chain, from the beginning to the end. Not to minimize ourselves, but as stewards of the timeline and time and this planet. We can't give up, we have to have resilience. I love both of those because I think all the time, again, how can we be better ancestors? I'm wondering, again, sort of pragmatically, constructively, what have you come upon that helps people see themselves in that way a little more, as opposed to like, "Everything is fucked right now."

Britt Wray:

Right. One thing that I think is just so core to why indigenous worldviews are typically very healthy, is that many indigenous communities think in terms of seven generations out. Acting with the knowledge that you are one aspect of a vessel that extends through seven generations of human beings, who are in kinship with the rivers and lakes and birds and ants and everything. There is an interconnectedness that is never outside of one's consciousness. Of course, that is not the way in which many non-indigenous folks have been raised to think about themselves. It's possible to practice modes of becoming aware of that truth, that there are so many generations beyond you and that there was a moment at which this culture took form that required a severance from acting with that connection in mind. It wasn't that we were always this way.

Britt Wray:

I tried to trace this a little bit in the book too, through thinkers who have tried to address how Western culture became so disenchanted. Of course, this links in with industrialization and domination and extraction. When you no longer see yourself as connected to the natural world, you are living a profoundly unenchanted life as the mythologist and psychologist, Sharon Blackie talks about. When you are no longer able to marvel at the beautiful bio design of a squirrel, then you are no longer able to live your full human potential as an enchanted person here. Those kinds of thought patterns, I think, are really key for not taking for granted this moment as the way it had to be, but it's really the product of specific histories, specific people at certain times making certain decisions because it benefited them while stomping on other aspects of existence that maybe we want to go back and think carefully about.

Britt Wray:

Again, this is in the book. I'm not doing a good job now of tracing this for you, but how can we think about what we might like to restore from the past and things that have been lost and things that used to be ours. Similarly, when we're looking in the past, we can also think about the future and understand that one of the main traumas, this social contract that's breaking down between adults and young people right now, is an act of failed ancestorship. When young people are feeling like the moral injury is on high, because people put in power to protect them are not doing so by not acting in responsible ways towards the climate crisis this is a glimpse into, of course, an extension of that trend line that we can think about into future generations, that would be horrible to uphold.

Britt Wray:

It takes conscious awareness. It takes thinking about the ways in which we are showing up or abandoning the moment. In terms of really key practices for being an ancestor, I think it's driven by moral clarity. I think it's driven by one's internal ethical compass. If you're awake to the moment and feeling distressed, you understand that this isn't just about right now, this is about what it's turning into. Strengthening yourself in ways internally and externally, to focus on that and not turn away when it's so much easier to look away, is a really key aspect of being a good ancestor right now. That means, and I think this is in line with what you're trying to do with your podcast, by pushing people towards action, which is so important. We need to be externally strengthened and able to throw all of our talents and schedules at these different intersecting crises to improve the outcome for our defendants, whether they're biologically ours or not.

Britt Wray:

Also, we need to understand that activism isn't just external activism, it is also internal, as the fabulous climate war therapist, Caroline Hickman talks about. We haven't really regarded our internal worlds as a place for activism. It's a whole space in which we must draw our attention to find ways of being, not only able to soothe ourselves and work with our nervous systems through various forms of mindfulness, meditation, self-care, whatever it might be, ways of living within our window of tolerance for uncertainty and regulating our nervous systems. Being able to do that, as you said, in relationship with others, co-regulating our nervous systems with our kids when things are getting tougher, that's a difficult task. It's a lifelong project. We need to do that so that we're not just reacting and lashing out by external circumstances that are challenging to us and then affecting the nervous systems of our kids and not leaving them in a good, resilient place, for example.

Britt Wray:

All of that is key, but then there's just the emotional quotient of being able to accept, and allow your feelings to be there so that they move through and you aren't exerting all this unconscious energy and suppressing them, then able to connect that internal world of activism with your external world and use your emotions as navigational tools to guide you towards where you can be most effective, in the external action and really honing in on things that are most important to you that you're worried about is a powerful way to cope at this time.

Britt Wray:

I think, we weren't recording yet, but you said that, there's lots of people who are feeling like, "Oh geez, the world's going to hell in a hand basket, but I've been spending the last 10, 15 years helping social media companies make better ads or whatever." They're feeling like it's not making them feel alive at this time. Paying attention to those emotions is key. Being able to get in touch with them and allow them to steer you to things that, as Sarah Wilson, the writer and podcaster says, "Your one wild and precious life," to really birth through these norms that have put you in a lane that you're dissatisfied with and find the new path forward that is going to make you feel most vital, alive, awake, connected, able to practice love, loving kindness in the way that you move through your work day and your relationships. All of that is connected to your internal activism. I think that those kinds of developments, as we move into more challenging times, people are realizing that stuff's not working.

Britt Wray:

It's guiding them towards these kinds of internal reckonings, which is fantastic.I think it's very hopeful. There's an amazing paper, in The Lancet by some eco anxiety researchers who say that, although uncomfortable, the rise in eco anxiety and eco grief may ultimately be a hopeful thing because it's the crucible through which humanity must pass to harness the energy for the lifesaving actions that are now required. It's the ultimate sieve or sieve. I never know how to pronounce that word.

Quinn:

Who can know?

Britt Wray:

Through which we move so that the bullshit gets brushed aside. There's no room for it. It doesn't fit through the holes. Then you come at the other side in this more distilled form with clarity about what you're going to do. That's all emotionally driven.

Quinn:

Well, thank you for sharing all that. That's extremely powerful. It does matter. I mean, no one's saying like, "Go and download Headspace and do it for 10 days. You'll be fine." That's a tool and it's not for everyone, but it's out there. Then these climate networks and variety of ways of pulling people together and helping you explore your inner activism, as you so eloquently put it, are out there. They're, again, for better worse, more available and probably more grounded in where we are and how we can help each other and help ourselves, than ever before. The pausing to have a moment of ... Which is so hard these days when our phones are programed to take us away, when we're intentionally not supposed to have a moment alone with our thoughts for a thousand different reasons. That pausing to have any sort of self-awareness of where you are and what you might be feeling and why just makes ... It can often be such a powerful, terrifying at times, heartbreaking, first step, but it can really take you so far.

Quinn:

Again, we're only going to get there if more and more people are able to do this. The more people that can have that moment, let themselves have that moment and then start to work on themselves and then start to work externally, the further we're going to get to making this, like you said, something that is livable, if not flourishing, if not better, for folks seven generations later.

Britt Wray:

This is, again, where we think about injustice and responsibility and who we are in this ongoing cataclysm and what duties are ours, compared to others. Because there's also a lot of people out there who can't afford to reflect and take the time and don't have the mobility, socially, to be able to then rearrange everything and go work on this crisis. For example, if they're just trying to get through three part-time jobs and feed their kids and whatever, it might be. Those with the most power and privilege also track with the most emissions, the most using of the resources.

Quinn:

Of course.

Britt Wray:

And have the most flexibility to reorient and reattach to, as the psychoanalyst Sally Weintrobe says, "The parts of themselves that care," to burst this bubble of the culture of uncare that we've been mired in for so long and take responsibility in life. Those with the ability to do so, ought to do so and it is our responsibility.

Quinn:

Not to say it won't be difficult, again, the highest expectations have the farthest to fall. At the same time, like you said, the greater responsibility, whether it's to the greater crowd that's alive now, or seven generations in the past and future. You asked, effectively, what is it like to sort of examine all of these make or break things all the time. What it does is gives me the ability, which is not unique or profound in any way. Obviously, there's people who've been fighting and illuminating and fighting for these things for eons, mostly marginalized people.

Quinn:

To look at something like a coronavirus, which we have a lot of experience with, this one happened to be novel. The N happened to be every person on planet earth. What makes actively this virus so dangerous and so deadly are the underlying societal things that we actively choose not to do every day, to support those people who don't have time to switch their jobs, because they think climate is cool now or to take time to reflect because we don't have paid sick leave because we don't have paid time off. We don't have time to vote.

Britt Wray:

Exactly.

Quinn:

You don't have to do a lot of math to see what air pollution does on the whole and especially in a couple years where we have a cardio respiratory virus or these preexisting cardiopulmonary conditions. Again, they're a choice that we have made, the folks in power, to continue doing. It makes it so much harder on a day-to-day basis, kind of like the sunny day flooding they talk about in places like Miami, but also when the storms come, when the viruses come for those people who already have two strikes on them and can't do anything about them, they are going to suffer. Like you said, that is our responsibility to go ...

Quinn:

We have to fix these underlying things as Ed Yong, the writer and The Atlantic put it. His version of the metaphor was this virus was a flood. It found every crack in the sidewalk that was ever there.

Britt Wray:

Yeah.

Quinn:

It's like a pop quiz and it's like, hey, here's all the choices you've made. Let's see how it goes. It's not great.

Britt Wray:

Right.

Quinn:

There are those of us who are much better positioned, even in our times of suffering or hardship, to actually do something about it once we're able to steal ourselves to do so. Again, I think that's part of the reason why I have tried to orient this towards not just context, but action. Not just to help you feel like you're doing something, but so we can fucking do something.

Britt Wray:

That's amazing. I love that. I love that.

Quinn:

What are some more systemic things folks can do to improve support and access for more people? Is it supporting those particular organizations you named before? Anything else you want to call out before we get you out of here?

Britt Wray:

Yeah. Those organizations are key for helping you on your own internal activism around the climate crisis. As we're talking about external actions, it's really amazing how many ways people can attach. Of course there's the big, important, typical ones. You can vote for the climate. You can make that a key issue in which you choose your candidates and vote. You can support any environmental justice group that is working in this space, of which there are tons and tons and tons. Choose your favorite whether you're looking at youth driven movements like Youth Versus Apocalypse or Sunrise Movement or This is Zero Hour or Fridays For Future or you're looking at intergenerational groups, 350.orgs and others. Actually, Bill McKibben has a really interesting new project.

Quinn:

The new one. Third Act. Yeah.

Britt Wray:

Third Act. Yeah. Which I love. About mobilizing people in the third act of their life to come alive around this topic. That's so great. Anyway, Google's going to do a great job there for you finding the groups that you want rather than me listing them in my sleep deprived brain right now.

Quinn:

I don't want to ask you to name every one.

Britt Wray:

No. I think what's more compelling than just talking about those ways in, which are really important, is doing this Venn diagram exercise that Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, who's a co-editor of All We Can Save, that feminist climate anthology, has created where there's these three circles that come together in a Venn diagram. One is basically what am I good at? You're a good communicator. You're good, obviously, at project managing and media and these sorts of things and maybe writing and maybe research. I'm guessing all these things probably resonate with you because you're doing this podcast.

Quinn:

Are you talking about me? Oh, boy.

Britt Wray:

Yeah.

Quinn:

Yeah. Oh, boy. Yeah.

Britt Wray:

That would be one way to fill out that circle. Then another would be what brings you joy? Maybe you're fascinated by the human condition and human psychology and talking to interesting characters and learning from people who know about niche things and so on and so forth. Whatever makes you get out of bed in the morning. Maybe it's your kids or maybe it's music or, I don't know, gardening. Then the third circle is what is the work that needs doing? Here, we can tap into the planetary health crisis, which is just teeming with work that needs doing whether we're talking about the rates of infectious disease changing in a warming world or water scarcity or soil desertification or the biodiversity crisis or environmental justice issues and air pollution in low income communities and so on and so forth. There's just way more than that too. Go to the Planetary Health Alliance, by the way, that website. You can learn all about different things to work on.

Britt Wray:

Then the sweet spot is where those three circles overlap. That creates a portal through which you can walk and find an authentic way of reorienting your efforts and time towards the thing that you're good at. It brings in what you're good at and what you're joyful about and addresses the work that needs doing. When you can figure out your own recipe like that, for making change, then it's much more likely to stick. I would imagine that you are interested in people, which is why you want to talk to them for a living and that you know that the work that needs doing involves helping people find their ways to tap in, at this time, and being a bridge builder towards people's emerging concern and meaningful ways that they can make a difference.

Britt Wray:

In that circle, comes this idea of a podcast whereby you are probing very key issues to our moment and allowing for resource sharing and advocacy that can help people make these decisions and changes for their own existence. Now, you have a podcast that is likely to stick because you're the author of it and it feels good. It's not someone telling you, be a climate activist that looks like this and that and has a sign at this and that protest that says X, Y, Z things. It's you figuring it out. Me, I've done those kinds of diagrams without knowing that I was doing it, which is what caused me to leave my former field of synthetic biology, just as I was finishing my PhD in a totally different space and then reorient towards focusing on climate and mental health, because of these key things that were making me get out of bed in the morning and felt like I could bring my skills to and knew that it was addressing a need that was out there and growing.

Britt Wray:

I really would encourage people to just look up Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, climate action diagram. Look for those three intersecting circles. Plug in your own variables and see if you can find a way of making some shifts that feel right for you, because there's endless places that need help right now. Therefore, there's also endless approaches to which we can come at it from. The climate and eco crisis touches everything. As you said, the pandemic was the pop quiz. All the issues that came up on that test also connect with the planetary health crisis, at large, of which the pandemic is one subset. We've got a lot of opportunity.

Quinn:

Yeah, that's what I feel like usually how my Uber rides are, sitting next to somebody on a plane or whatever it is. When they say, "What can I do?" I say, "What can you do?" What do you love and what can you do?" Often I will then tell them, "Listen, I can't tell you literally what you can do but, if you can answer those two questions, I can tell you 4,000 things that check those boxes." Kitchen sink. We need the whole shebang. It's wonderful. Whatever brings you joy that you're able to offer, whether that's volunteering or part-time or donating or full-time or whatever that might be.

Britt Wray:

Exactly.

Quinn:

I can't believe you also fully know synthetic biology. I barely get through my day.

Britt Wray:

Science communication focus on synthetic biology. I was not doing the lab work.

Quinn:

Easy. You just gave me like a full free therapy session. We don't need to take yourself down a notch here. It's impressive. It's impressive. This has all been so tremendous and wonderful and empathetic. I hope helpful to a lot of folks. I can't wait for people to get their hands on your book. Truly, truly, truly. I have few little questions, I ask everyone. Then we're getting you out of here because tick tock. We've got a lot to do. First one, Britt, who is someone in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months?

Britt Wray:

Oh, there's so many. Geez. Okay.

Quinn:

You've got to pick one.

Britt Wray:

I'm going to pick Caroline Hickman.

Quinn:

Okay.

Britt Wray:

Not only is she the climate-aware therapist who I talked about earlier as being fantastic and therefore, every time I meet with her she has endless nuggets of wisdom that she speaks. She was the lead author on a study that I co-published with her, and a bunch of our other colleagues, looking at climate anxiety in 10,000 young people's lives around the world. 10 countries, spanning low middle and high income nations. Our findings were, even for those of us who are mired in this stuff day in and day out, alarming to us as to how severe the disruption of functioning in young people's lives, their climate anxiety is, which has become this really useful paper.

Britt Wray:

There were more than a thousand media articles written about it, went around the world. The UN Secretary General brought it into the general assembly. Stephen Colbert did a bit on his show about it. Basically, just upped the ante of the conversation of how real this is. Therefore, I think she's been an incredible boon for the field. Therefore, for my work too and helping to address the importance of young people's wellbeing, given their climate distress.

Quinn:

Awesome. I love that. Because it is really hard to deal with all this sometimes and internal activism often includes self-care. What is your version to turn it all off and taking care of yourself?

Britt Wray:

Ooh. I've got a few. Certainly, conscious short term suppression. Meaning, not thinking and working on the crisis all hours of the day, everyday, bringing it home with me every night, thinking about it all weekend, because I've been there too.I've been doing that. It's just a recipe for burnout and misery. Instead, I now know how to shift gears and allow myself go into play mode and hang out and be with my best friends and have fun and be goof and all that stuff and be able to park it, rather than being that anxious activist, always talking about it and not seeing my needs met by other people who just didn't want to go there.

Quinn:

Sure.

Britt Wray:

That's been kind of important. Then meditation, yoga before I had a baby, when I used to have time for such things. I need to get it back in my life. Running and cooking as a relaxation. Reading novels, reading fiction. Interestingly, listening to podcasts or audio books about astrophysics and things that really explore the cosmos and therefore point out how infinitesimally small this moment is in the history of creation, existence, whatever you want to call it. That's very calming, strangely.

Quinn:

I like it. Awesome. I love those. I think people just love to hear about those because frankly, we all can do a better job. I think people are always like, "Oh, that works for her." Taking a walk in the forest or biking or whatever it is. Last one. You mentioned reading. What is a book that you have read this year that either opened your mind to something you hadn't considered before, could be astrophysics, or has actually changed your thinking in some way? We've got a bookshop list of all this stuff. Obviously, your book is going to go on that list as well.

Britt Wray:

That's so sweet of you. Thank you for sharing the book.

Quinn:

Oh my God, of course.

Britt Wray:

I'm loving reading the Greek Myths right now. I'm reading an anthology of the Greek myths. This is not something I visited since I was a child. It's very much helping me think about the power of story and narrative and enduring human qualities and even more so of the detrimental aspects of human nature. Thinking about ancestors, as we were talking about, people not actually changing that much throughout time, given these stories has been, I think a refreshing way of me thinking about my work going forward, interestingly. That's what I'm reading right now. Maybe that's a lazy answer just because it's what's at the top of my mind.

Quinn:

No, it's awesome. What is the anthology, do you recall?

Britt Wray:

Here. It's Gustav Schwab's, Greek Myths.

Quinn:

That's gorgeous.

Britt Wray:

A gorgeous Taschen book. It's filled with artwork, amidst all the stories, which is ... Yeah

Quinn:

That's gorgeous. I love it.

Britt Wray:

What I do with some of my short term suppression time from the climate crisis.

Quinn:

Short term suppression is fantastic and so necessary. Like you said, if you can learn to park it, truly it helps. This has been fantastic. Thank you so much. Britt. The book, again, we will put the link on bookshop. It's available everywhere. This episode will come out, this conversation, when your book comes out, which is fantastic. I'm sure nothing impactful will happen in the time between now and then, because everything is totally fine out there. Britt where can the people follow you on the internet besides when they get your book?

Britt Wray:

I have a newsletter; Free Newsletter at gendread.substack.com, where I share articles, interviews, Q and A's, advice columns with other ... Not advice from me, but climate experts out there. This is focused on the intersection of psychology and the eco crisis. The tagline is 'staying sane in the climate crisis'. You can sign up there; gendread.substack.com. Furthermore, I'm on Twitter, @BrittWray and Instagram @gen_dread.

Quinn:

Awesome.

Britt Wray:

Thank you so much for sharing my book and having me on, it was such a nice conversation.

Quinn:

Of course. You are truly doing an enormous service. Thank you for leaving synthetic biology in the back seat. We need you. Thank you, thank you.

Britt Wray:

Thank you.

Quinn:

Thank you for your time. Yeah.

Britt Wray:

Of course.

Quinn:

That's it. We'll talk soon.

Britt Wray:

Cool.

Quinn:

Once we fix the whole thing. It'll be great.

Britt Wray:

Okay. That sounds great.

Quinn:

Thanks for listening to the show. A reminder, you can send feedback or questions about this episode or some guest recommendations to me at questions at importantnotimportant.com. Links to anything we talked about today are in your show notes, in your podcast player. If you want to rep any or your shit giver status, you can find sustainable T-shirts, hoodies and a variety of coffee delivery vessels in our store at importantnotimportant.com/store. You can subscribe to our critically acclaimed weekly newsletter for free at newsletter.importantnotimportant.com. Our theme music was composed by Tim Blaine. The show was edited by Anthony Luciani. The whole episode was produced by Willow Beck. We'll see you next time.

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