Talking Trash: A Conversation about Climate Change

Think Global, Act Local with Billie Eilish

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Billie Eilish discuss climate change and how to think globally and act locally. Learn what you can do to make your voice heard.

Last updated: April 21, 2021

What We All Can Do To Save The Planet

By Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

When I sat down with Billie Eilish, we discussed our shared commitment to being part of climate solutions. From renewable energy to electrifying transportation, to regenerative agriculture and restoring ecosystems – there are so many solutions we have at our fingertips. From our expansive conversation, a few major themes emerged:

  1. Each person has specific and powerful ways they can contribute. Scientists, artists, activists, teachers, students, executives, farmers, lawyers, trendsetters, web developers, etc., all have a role to play.
  2. We need a cultural shift, and young people are leading the way. Raise your voice, live and vote your environmental values, and change the status quo for climate justice, sustainable fashion, and climate policy.
  3. Being informed is key, but that’s not enough – we need action!

What Can You Do?

This is the question I get asked most often. Love that so many people are asking!

For years I just said, “I don’t know, what are you good at?” Because so often the climate movement asks everyone to do the same things (march, vote, donate, spread the word — and YES, do those things!), but fails to ask us to each bring our superpowers, our magic.

And then I added, “It’s not about what you can do, it’s about what we can do.” Find your crew, your climate squad. You can’t do this alone. Join a group, volunteer with an organization, team up.

And now, after many conversations with students who were really grappling with how they can be most useful, this is my current answer, a Venn diagram. Find the overlap of:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What is the work that needs doing?
  3. What brings you joy?

Find the epicenter of your Venn diagram and spend as many minutes there as possible. While this is the work of our lifetimes, there is really no reason it needs to be miserable – don’t leave out joy!

Get Informed and Take Action

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

Take Individual Action

Learn more about and track sustainable behaviors you can practice in your own life with the UN’s ActNow Campaign for Individual Action

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

Follow Youth Climate Leaders

- Xiye Bastida: @xiyebeara (Instagram)
- Melati Wijsen: @melatiwijsen (Instagram)
- Jerome Foster II: @jeromefosterii (Instagram)

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

Fact Sheets

Urban Ocean Lab's resources on ocean and climate – from sea level rise, to offshore wind energy, to coastal ecosystems

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

Podcast: How to Save a Planet

Podcast about climate solutions, co-hosted by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Alex Blumberg

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

Book: All We Can Save

An anthology of illuminating writings by women leading on climate, edited by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson

Talking Trash: A Conversation about Climate Change

Singer-songwriter Billie Eilish and marine biologist & climate expert, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson tune in from LA and Brooklyn to discuss how to think globally and act locally by deciding what to care about and how to channel their energy.

“You don't have to be called an activist to talk about what's right."

Billie Eilish

Knowing that every action counts, Billie is using her platform at home and while on tour to raise awareness for what we can do to fight climate change, from her music to her partnerships and arena tours. At home she makes sure all photo and video shoots are catered with local plant-based food, no plastic, no single-use cups, and ensures everything possible is recycled and composted. On tour, her team hosts an eco-village during shows where fans can learn how to get involved. She also offers plant-based catering to her crew and even asks audience members to bring their own water containers which can be refilled at the eco-villages. She asks all venues she performs in to not allow plastic straws, and ensures bins are available for recyclables. She also has made an effort to have all her merchandise made with 100% organic cotton, locally, and sustainably made–yet she’s always eager to learn more. In the case of Ayana, not only does she have a long career in science and policy, she is also co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for the future of coastal cities, co-founder of The All We Can Save Project, to support women leading on climate, and co-creator of How to Save a Planet, a podcast on climate solutions.

“Climate justice is making sure that everyone has an equal opportunity for a healthy and safe life.”

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

The two chatted about speaking up and staying optimistic. Ultimately, they both agreed that every action counts, and the most important thing is to keep trying.

Tips: 10 Tips for Being a Climate Justice Advocate

By Xiye Bastida

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

Here are ten things you can do to be a climate justice advocate. Remember, the world doesn’t change when 1,000 people do climate-justice advocacy perfectly; it changes when billions of people do it the best they can

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

1. Don’t start from scratch, there are hundreds of existing initiatives that you can join

2. Maintain good communication with your peers and the adult organizations that you partner with

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

3. Take good care of yourself and others

4. Make your activism intersectional, include all stakeholders in your decision making, and don’t tokenize

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

5. Just for the sake of efficiency, don’t do things the patriarchal way, the racist way, the exhausting way, or any way that excludes marginalized voices

6. At events that you hold, invite indigenous peoples to do land acknowledgements, and remember that indigenous knowledge is the foundation for addressing the climate crisis

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

7. Always convey that individual and structural change are both indisputably necessary

8. Meet people where they’re at —> not everyone knows the climate crisis back and forth. Explain it and present solutions

Talking Trash with Billie Eilish

9. Use accessible language. Not everyone knows about PPM (parts per million), or the IPCC (intergovernmental panel on climate change)

10. Talk about greenwashing, environmental racism, green gentrification (or how I call it, greentrification), and what an equitable transition means

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