This is a guest article written by Faith E. Briggs & Addie Thompson, hosts of the podcast The Trail Ahead, which digs into the intersection of race, environment, history, and culture. This article contains explicit language.
Happy Earth Day, Week, & Month ya’ll! For us, the hosts of The Trail Ahead Podcast, we believe in the power of an invitation. We see this curated listening experience as an invitation to learn by hearing from perspectives that we might not discover on our own and to listen to folks that we might not otherwise hear from in our daily lives. We believe that the earth can be one of our greatest teachers, if we will let her teach us.
The thought leaders speaking throughout this collection of podcasts are looking to nature for answers and using these same solutions to try to heal the damage we’ve done to our home planet – the only one we have. The problem of trying to save the planet from our own indiscriminate consumption and thus extend our time as joyful humans on this earth is a large one. And when a problem is large – it takes everyone to find solutions.
Our hope with this playlist is to bring in voices from every corner of the environmental sphere, with a specific focus on environmental justice. We hope that these podcasts can help us all learn more about who is fighting for environmental justice, why, what those fights are, and how to get involved. Amazingly, these folks aren’t driven by doom and gloom, instead they bring with them hope in action because of an immense love of both people and the planet. We hope these ideas move you as much as they have us.
“That shit don’t happen.” This is Rhiana Gunn-Wright speaking about people voluntarily giving up power. If you want a real-talk conversation about white supremacy and policy, this is the one for you. Rhiana Gunn-Wright is one of the architects and writers of The Green New Deal. Now, as The Roosevelt Institute’s Director of Climate Policy, she leads research at the intersection of climate policy, public investment, public power, and racial equity. Fun fact: Faith & Rhiana went to college together, and they’ve been overjoyed to find themselves on parallel paths over the years.
Leah Penniman is the co-founder and farm manager of Soul Fire Farm and the Author of Farming While Black. She has been a pivotal figure in a dynamic movement of farmers reclaiming agriculture through Afro and Indigenous practices. The largest area of Black Land Loss has been through racism in agriculture and the effect has been a disconnection between Black people and the land. Here she discusses how her work with repairing soil relates to the work of repairing the community. She questions what is broken, what is disposable and how nurturing soil and land is akin to nurturing community. She brings in historical context with stunning depth to help modern-day understandings of the importance of this work.
This is our very first episode of our podcast and we couldn’t have thought of a better way to start than with Danni Washington. Danni is a science communicator, TV and podcast host, and non-profit founder with a background in marine biology. She has dedicated her life to becoming the person she didn’t see growing up – a Black woman who is a scientist, ocean advocate, artist, and someone who brings joy and culture to her work. We talk to her about everything from ocean plastics, historical cultural relationships with water, the ocean as a climate solution, mermaids, and the importance of representation in science, tech, and mathematics.
The subject of a well-known documentary “The Accidental Environmentalist”, Catherine Flowers has been focusing on some of the “yuckiest” parts of pollution – inadequate sanitation, wastewater pollution, and solutions. She is the author of Waste and has been awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant for her work in Alabama.
This episode with Diné woman Kim Smith tells us about her journey to see how violence against the land is also violence against communities and individuals. She explains how many areas of the Navajo Nation are in areas officially known as “National Sacrifice Zones” areas that are permanently impaired by environmental damage or economic disinvestment, often because of extractive industries. These are places where environmental pollution is in the upper levels of the EPA’s determined “acceptable risk.” What does that mean for the people who live there? And if the government isn’t taking action, how do people and communities heal? Fun fact: Faith interviewed Adrienne Keene for her thesis in grad school, years later, she’s still in awe of her work and her approach to questions of equity through an indigenous lens.
Some people walk through the grocery store and find themselves frozen, staring at the shelves, trying to choose between which products to buy and how they might help climate change. The big question is: can individuals actually do anything to help the big issues we face about the planet? As individuals who care, does the effort even make a difference? Since we, Faith and Addie, are admittedly often these people, carefully debating each choice, we loved this episode.
Colette Pichon Battle was told by the head of FEMA, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, that “The disaster process in this country is designed for the middle class.” As a generational native of the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, she would now describe herself as an unlikely “climate activist.” While hurricanes in her childhood were a time of family gatherings, Katrona changed everything. Now she is the founder of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, which influences realms from equitable disaster recovery to global migration, from community economic development to climate justice and energy democracy. In this episode she talks about how climate work is really human work.