Get to know the SpaceshipOne team as they share their passions, experiences with environmentalism, and goals for 2023.
The following is a transcript of the conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the full episode here.
[Anna:] So this is our first episode of 2023. Happy New Year, everyone. I’m really excited for the new year and this new season; we’re going to be covering topics like climate restoration, climate jobs, oceans, and how they relate to climate. This first episode is really just about introducing our team.
[Paloma:] It’s not just me and Anna who are on this team. We have fabulous interns: Michelle, Barnabas and Sydney. And we’re going to learn a bit more about them, get to know what our team’s passions are, their interests, and also what they’re looking forward to in 2023.
[Michelle:] Hi everyone, my name is Michelle and I’m currently based in Stockton, California, and my interests lie in environmental health with a particular focus on indoor air quality, and working with underserved communities through outreach and education. I develop and produce content for SpaceshipOne’s Instagram account, and this year, I’ll be writing book reviews.
[Barnabas:] Hi everyone, my name is Barnabas, and I’m currently based in Lagos, Nigeria. My interest lies in fostering community consciousness towards environmental issues and solutions, which is why SpaceshipOne is such a natural fit. I write blogs, engage with our Twitter audience, and help develop content for our Instagram account. I consider myself an educator, and environmental advocate.
[Sydney:] Hi everyone, it’s Sydney. I love botany, geography, and really gravitate towards the ocean, and I live in San Diego and do some coastal resilience research here. I’ve done research on tropical ecosystems like mangroves and coral reefs. I’ve also been a third grade teacher and volunteer park ranger, but my most sustained and recent work is in environmental education, communication and advocacy, which involves my work with SpaceshipOne. So I write tweets, book reviews, and will likely contribute to our blog as well this year.
[Paloma:] Do any of you have a New Year’s resolution focused on climate action?
[Barnabas:] Yes. This year, I want to take my passion for environmental advocacy a step further by pulling together like-minded people to engage with the broader community about environmental issues. I hope to host forums and town halls where we educate and empower people, as well as come up with goals and potential solutions to environmental challenges.
[Michelle:] For me, I want to buy and consume less this year, keep my areas well-ventilated, and use my indoor air filter more frequently.
[Sydney:] I hope to start a community garden in my neighborhood. Something like this works to bring our community together, and think better about where food is from and how we get our food, and is kind of a baby step to thinking more broadly about food systems and imagining a world where we are more connected to the food we eat.
[Anna:] How did you guys get involved in this type of work, in the environmental field?
[Barnabas:] I kind of stumbled into it to be honest, I used to want to be a doctor, but I quickly realized I didn’t enjoy taking that path. I always loved geography and ecology. Someone suggested environmental studies to me. It all became very real to me though, when I visited the old town where I was born to see my grandparents and some extended family. And I witnessed the impacts of environmental degradation that ruined what was once like paradise for me. Since then I’ve had a fire in my belly for environmental issues that has only increased the more that I learn about the environment.
[Michelle:] Like Barnabas, I stumbled into it as well, but it happened in college for me. I was particularly interested in public health, and it took one class in environmental health that I realised I aligned more with working with others and since then I’ve made it my mission to only learn more how I can get involved in advocating for the environment as well as for people.
[Sydney:] For me, it really started growing up going to the beach and just always feeling at ease in nature. But I started doing this type of work doing environmental volunteering, things like beach cleanups and tree plantings, which sort of snowballed into my professional work and studies in college. The experience has been incredibly rewarding, sometimes frustrating– the sort of ups and downs you expect when you work in a field that you’re so passionate about.
[Paloma:] We’ve started our year with snow storms and floodings, and there is this real bias of climate doomerism, the belief that our actions are done in vain. And it causes a lot of climate anxieties, especially in our generation. Have you experienced that type of feeling yourself?
[Barnabas:] I have. I remember how deeply hurt I felt when I observed those impacts of climate change and environmental degradation in my hometown in Benue State, Nigeria. For me, I never got rid of the sadness, per se, but it has instead turned into a kind of determination to be part of the solutions. Educating myself and doing this kind of work has been a resistance to that anxiety. But most of all, what helps is savoring the connections with the people. I realized what I felt was hurt for what we lose, but we can be a comfort to each other. So I’d say, make the most of your relationships with family and friends, and with everyone else.
[Michelle:] Along with what Barnabas said about relationships, I truly believe relationships can also provide hope. As someone who has personally seen many of the effects of climate change where I live, I can attest that it took collaborating with others to help me get over these fears and anxieties. My work with nonprofits and communities on the ground also fuels my optimism.
[Sydney:] I have also experienced these anxieties in the past, but I think doing things that I feel make a tangible difference in my community makes me feel empowered: volunteer work, cleanups, removing invasive species from river beds… I think it all adds up, especially with the relationships we form. It’s also really nice to connect with people who are also in these spaces, who are all working towards the same thing, which includes working on this team, but also working out in the community. You can just see with our eyes and do with our hands, things that are clearly not done at all in vain.
[Anna:] Is there a project either with us at SpaceshipOne, or in another context, where you’ve really felt like you’re part of the solution?
[Sydney:] Yeah, probably my work in urban forestry I feel like is the most tangible way (which I also brought to SpaceshipOne a little bit with our collaboration with Tree San Diego). But definitely physically planting trees in the ground, and using GIS and botanical knowledge to ensure its success for years to come, really felt like I was making a difference. The trees were part of a grant I worked on that improved tree canopy, which encouraged active lifestyles in the community and helped reduce the heat in the summer, [improve] air quality, and things like that. So I think [it was] one of the projects that I was really able to see through from start to finish, and I can still check on it every once in a while.
[Barnabas:] So I worked to advance a composting program in a couple of cities in Alberta, Canada. And that was very meaningful to me because it gave me the joy of seeing communities come together to make more environmentally conscious decisions about their day-to-day lives. It was very empowering. I also feel part of the solution whenever I get to communicate environmental issues and solutions to people. I’ve had the privilege of doing that as a professor, and I also do that here at SpaceshipOne through blogs and social media content. And, for the future, in keeping with my eco resolution for this year, I hope to do that through the forums and the town hall events I hope to host.
[Michelle:] I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with charities like Little Manila because of my work with SpaceshipOne. And this has allowed me to connect with others in my community and inform them about how to become involved, while also helping them gain resources such as free trees for their neighborhood, free air purifiers, as well as air sensors.
[Anna:] So Paloma, now that we’re in a new year, do you have any resolutions?
[Paloma:] As it relates to climate change, I think a really big one is actually being out there and volunteering and doing a lot more direct action. It was difficult, I think, starting in a new city, but getting to know the community through that has also been really helpful and I just want to ramp up my efforts in it.
[Anna:] I’m really excited for you to get more directly involved. That’s awesome. Something that I’m really interested in is permaculture– how do we uplift the Indigenous knowledge and practices that this thing called permaculture is based on? [It’s] creating human settlements that work with the natural systems in that area, and it’s very place based, and looking at the whole system, and that includes humans and human relationships, social relationships, etc. My goal is to dive into taking a class, you know, doing a workshop, and maybe even going back to school for it.
[Paloma:] That’s super exciting. Learning is a lifelong process, right? When you’re sort of stuck on the daily grind it’s so easy to forget that, and a big thing about SpaceshipOne is that we really try to promote climate education in all shapes and forms, but one of our favorites is books. So if your New Year’s resolution is to read more books about the environment, check out the SpaceshipOne website. And, we’d also like to talk a bit about our upcoming episode.
[Anna:] Yeah, the next episode we’re already looking forward to. Dr. Erica Dodds is the Chief Operating Officer at the Foundation for Climate Restoration, and I actually met her a few years ago. It’s been amazing to see how much climate restoration has really taken off in the past few years, and it’ll be great to hear from her how that’s been going and what their goals are for 2023 and beyond.
[Paloma:] I can’t wait.