In Episode 83, Quinn & Brian discuss: Blue carbon, the patriarchy, and how one of those two things has ruined the other (we’ll give you three guesses).
Our guests are Dr. Sarah Myhre and Priya Shukla. Dr. Myhre is a leading voice in the fields of climate science, science communication, and public advocacy, as well as a Fellow with Project Drawdown and the Executive Director of the Rowan Institute.
Priya is a PhD Student (AKA an almost-doctor) at UC Davis studying how climate change affects shellfish aquaculture operations within the coastal ocean, as well as a board member at The Rowan Institute and a Forbes contributor writing about ocean science.
Blue Carbon is not an upcoming sequel to the highly-underrated Deep Blue Sea or a spinoff of the Netflix show Altered Carbon. Rather, it’s our best chance of sucking carbon right out of the air, if the man doesn’t keep trying to keep it down. These two more or less cut us out of the conversation — as it should be when we’re talking to two people who actually know what they’re talking about — debating the merits of different solutions to healing our oceans and addressing the climate crisis. But(!) we do make a few jokes. So, you know, we’re doing our part too.
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Quinn: Welcome to Too Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.
Brian: And I'm Brian Colbert Kennedy.
Quinn: And this is the podcast where we try to bend the motherfucking of arc of history towards a more livable planet for you and me and everyone else.
Brian: We're going to dive into a specific question affecting everyone on the planet right now.
Quinn: And if it can kill us or make the future a hell of a lot cooler for everyone. We are in.
Brian: Our guests have included scientists, doctors, engineers, politicians, astronauts and even a reverend and we [crosstalk 00:00:41].
Quinn: Fishermen now too.
Brian: Oh yeah. They were fishermen.
Brian: And we work together toward action steps that our listeners can take with their voice and their vote and their dollar.
Quinn: Yup and this is your friendly reminder that you can send questions, thoughts, hand drawings, menus of cocktails or dessert, any of those things to us on Twitter at ImportantNotImp or you can just email us like the kids do at email@example.com.
Brian: You can also join tens of thousands of other smart people and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter at importantnotimportant.com.
Quinn: That's right. This week's episode, Brian, we're talking about blue carbon and the patriarchy and how one has ruined the other.
Quinn: And I'm going to let you go ahead and guess which way that goes.
Brian: God help these people guess it right. Our guests are Dr. Sarah Myhre and so very close to being a doctor, Priya Shukla.
Quinn: We believe in her.
Brian: And I think it's fair to say that they were not each other's biggest fans.
Quinn: Oh God, they were the greatest things ever.
Brian: They're so amazing and they just loved each other.
Quinn: They loved each other and more or less cut us out of the conversation, which is just the way it should be.
Brian: We don't need to be here.
Quinn: That was the whole goal. The whole idea.
Brian: Was awesome.
Quinn: Anyways, we had a great time. I think you guys, this one's a little bit longer, but stick around to the very end.
Brian: So worth listening to.
Quinn: It is fantastic and informative and profound and moving and funny. We got jokes.
Brian: There's joke in there.
Quinn: Yeah, I think you guys are going to love it, so let's go talk to Dr. Myhre and Priya. Let's do it. Our guests today are Dr. Sarah Myhre and almost doctor, Priya Shukla and together we're going to talk about blue carbon, which is unfortunately not like an impending sequel to the highly underrated Deep Blue Sea but in fact might be our best chance to suck carbon right on out of the air. Dr. Myhre, Priya, welcome.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Thank you so much for having us. I'm thrilled to be with you.
Priya Shukla: Yeah, same here. It's such a pleasure to be able to talk about solutions for a change.
Quinn: Yeah, absolutely. Thrilled is not the word you'll probably use at the end, but we'll take it and we'll put it on our, what is it like our dream board up there [crosstalk 00:03:07].
Brian: Yeah, dream board.
Quinn: Yeah, we'll keep that going.
Brian: Let's get started by having you two if you don't mind, just tell us who you are and what you do. Back to my Myhre if you want to start.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah. Totes. You can call me Sarah too. I am a climate and ocean scientist. I am the kind of scientist that has been thinking about how the ocean and the climate are related both in the present and also in the past. I have a PhD from UC Davis and I'm recently... I've been finishing up a fellowship with Project Drawdown.
Brian: Oh yeah.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...and I'm also the executive director of Rowan Institute, which is a think tank for climate leadership in a hot and dangerous world, so that's a little bit about me.
Quinn: Do you feel like that's enough job or should we-
Brian: So you do nothing.
Quinn: Or there are more than we should find.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: My kid is turning six in like a week, so I'm also-
Priya Shukla: Oh my gosh.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I know, and I feel.
Quinn: How you feeling?
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Every birthday that comes along is really tender and really sweet and I kind of remember the day and the week that he came into the world and it's really like this kind of liminal space that I get to cross with him. I feel like my body is doing it too, so I feel good. I feel really good.
Quinn: Are you, I do my best to live in the moment for these things, but also have a pretty difficult time not going, this is all going way too fucking fast.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Super-duper. Yeah. I can't believe how huge his body is and I can't believe the things that are coming out of his mind and like his sense of humor is ridiculous right now. Like he's been trying to do these magic tricks where he just can't quite get the sequence of stuff, but he is so delighted by his own trickery of the people in the room. It's a really amazing ride that I'm like in the middle of right now.
Quinn: Nothing makes me happier than them thinking that it's the first time anyone has ever heard, for instance, a butt joke or something like that, because they're like, this is amazing and I am amazing and like, yeah, no. I mean it's great. It's great, but welcome.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: PS, it's a genre kid.
Quinn: Welcome to the world now. Yeah, exactly. Go deeper. Work harder.
Brian: Yeah. It is a hell of a ride to be on. The other day I was riding in the car and my... I have a six year old from the back seat. He said, "Do you know what I think about a lot?" And I was like, Oh, gee this could be anything, and he says "I mean, what happened before the big bang?" And I was like, Jesus, wow. Okay. Okay. I mean, what did you think happened before the big bang anyways? Yeah, it's crazy. I like that he thinks about that a lot.
Quinn: Well, I mean, all right. Priya your turn. Match that.
Priya Shukla: Yeah.
Quinn: Who are you.
Priya Shukla: I will try. I am currently a PhD student at UC Davis, but this is basically my fifth or sixth stop in my very early career. I basically thought about the ocean and the climate for almost a decade now and in between finishing my bachelor's at UC Davis and now starting my PhD, I went and got my master's thinking about this stuff and then also bounced around teaching high school and working at a couple of policy and public education nonprofits and currently in addition to working towards understanding how climate change is affecting the seafood that we grow here in California.
I also run an ocean and climate science column on Forbes's website, and I'm actually a board member at the Rowan Institute that Sarah is executive director of. I am privy to thinking about some of these really intricate ways that we can demonstrate leadership and thinking about the kinds of voices that really should be having these discussions on larger stages and really appreciate the venue that you have created for us here today.
Quinn: Well, that's very kind of you though all of the other places you named are illustrious and impressive. Once again, it sounds like a lot of free time on you.
Brian: A lot of free time.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Can I jump in to say that Priya and I actually have like, almost more like... we have a more than a decade of relationship-
Priya Shukla: It's true.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...minus two, because when I started my PhD at UC Davis, I was your TA.
Priya Shukla: It's true.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: In biological oceanography.
Quinn: That's so wild.
Priya Shukla: Yeah.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...and we both have come so far from that point, but I really remember like... I remember that time really clearly and how amazing you were Priya and what a freaking shining star you are just in the world in general, like the way that you are in the world.
Priya Shukla: Oh my gosh.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Her field is really small in many ways, like we just... we know each other in ways that kind of transcend some sort of professional boxes.
Priya Shukla: Yeah, I totally agree with that and I really appreciate how we've been able to sort of cross paths in multiple ways over the course of this past decade. It's wild.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I know. I appreciate you so much.
Priya Shukla: Yeah and I'm so glad that we get to have this conversation because I actually don't think we've been able to share a platform and share our overlapping but also disparate expertises in this way.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Totes.
Brian: We had a couple of guests on at a time before but only a couple of times and they are truly the best because of what just happened, like the respect that you have for each other and the admiration and the love is just fantastic.
Quinn: It's the best and my palms are definitely sweating because I'm just feeling immense pressure to measure up for this conversation at this point. It seems like.
Brian: We should take from their example and be after each other.
Quinn: ...there's a ten year relationship that's been building to this point and now I'm like, I've made an enormous mistake. Anyways, no, we're here for it. Could not be more excited. This is the greatest. Listen, Dr. Myhre and almost Dr. Priya, we like to start with one important question. I'd ask each of you to answer this individually.
Brian: I encourage you to be bold. To be honest.
Quinn: You're here for a reason and I don't mean on this podcast today on Skype with a dial up connection. I mean extensionally, so I'd like to ask you, why are you vital to the survival of the species?
Priya Shukla: I can go first if you're okay with that, Sarah.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Totally.
Priya Shukla: Yeah. I mentioned the two things that I did before about me being a PhD student, but also being a writer because I think those two positions that I occupy really go hand in hand. I think being a PhD student means that I'm learning constantly and where we are right now, where it basically we are in dire straights and we need to figure out a way to solve or live in this world that is really rapidly degrading and changing around us requires being able to accumulate and analyze and absorb and create new knowledge constantly, and so being in an academic environment while it certainly has its pitfalls also really allows me to do that and think about what am I going to do with the tools that I'm accumulating now?
Maybe one morning I'm devoting to learning some really niche statistical model or something or technique, but what does this mean for understanding the survival of our species but also other species in the world that are critical to our global ecosystem functioning, and then the other part of that is my role as a writer where I get to disseminate information to people that I would probably never get to interact with otherwise, and so being able to use my expertise in that way to really think about what does it mean to be an ocean climate scientist and then to share that knowledge with other people is something that I'm really always grappling with and trying to figure out what is the best way for me to do.
While I don't know if it's critical to the survival of our species, I like to hope that I'm contributing to everybody's constant education about what we can do and how our world works and then also trying to interrogate how we can do all of this even better.
Quinn: Well then, alright. I guess I should stop being proud of myself for getting out of the house every morning.
Priya Shukla: Putting pants on.
Quinn: Yeah [crosstalk 00:11:57] be honest. It's like an 80% success rate doing this.
Brian: Oh my God.
Quinn: All right. Well, Dr. Myhre, any thoughts?
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I just love you so much, Priya and for anyone who's being... those of you who are listening to the podcast, I just want to plug Priya's column on Forbes. It's awesome. She's really covering such a broad swath of content ideas from peer reviewed literature, to political rhetoric and climate decision making. Like it's really good, so go to Priya for one of the trusted sources on science conversations.
Brian: And we'll share... what can we can share [crosstalk 00:12:42].
Dr. Sarah Myhre: She's amazing.
Quinn: Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I think my role like... before we talked about like whiteness, how whiteness works when we like we're introing the podcast and I'm a white lady... I identify with white men a lot in a lot of spaces. I've had a lot of privilege, I've had a lot of doors open for me, and I think I see my role as coming to terms and using that privilege, spending that privilege in ways that help to change the systems around us because the systems of harm that we individuals are either complicit or benefiting from like those systems scale up to a planetary level, right?
We're like nesting dolls of pain from like individuals all the way up to the entirety of the world and connecting that story in public... that is not a story that's separate from the ocean and from earth history and from our atmosphere. Like there's this narrative that people are on one side of the equation and like the environment is on the other side and that's a false narrative. There's no separation between us and the world. We are the world, we are creating the world and I kind of... I see my role in this heartfelt work trying to knit us back into a place where we are seeing each other and seeing our role in the world more clearly.
It's a really phenomenally weird time to be alive with the state of the knowledge and the precipice of change that's in front of us and I want to be of use. I want to just do work that is helpful and get myself out of the way so that it's not really about me being in the center but me creating spaces where the center can include so many people and so many world views.
Quinn: That's what I'm up to.
Brian: Yeah. I love that. The more we can help folks understand that, I mean, at the very, very least, we are part of this thing and all of these things are connected at the very least and more so that we've caused all the good and the bad and that we are the ones who have to fix this. I mean, what's the old Obama refrain, like we are the ones we were waiting for, the better and then hopefully people understand what impact really means in their context.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Totally and I think being in the scientific field the tradition of knowledge building that Priya and I come from is one where we know that there are tools and that there are answers and there are solutions like it's not all about the unraveling of the world. It's also about learning how the world works and through that is a conduit to sustaining choices that protect and uphold life on this planet. We're all connected in this fabric I think and trying to change these stories is... it's really hard, but it's really important work.
Quinn: I know you mentioned... I believe you said you'd done some work with Drawdown.
Brian: Project Drawdown.
Quinn: We had on the marvelous Dr. Katharine Wilkinson at one point to talk about how important it is, their... I believe it's number six and seven, Brian.
Brian: Wow. Is it that really?
Quinn: No, not.
Brian: Oh, that's right.
Quinn: Not episode number... number six and seven on the Drawdown list.
Brian: On Drawdown, yeah.
Quinn: Which is elevating girls and a women's health care, and she had this great post on Instagram this week, last week that said, it is a magnificent thing to be alive in a moment that matters so much and I thought that's such a great way of framing it when everything can quite literally feel like it's on fire all the time, you know.
Priya Shukla: Yeah. I want to add that I think with... coming from this tradition of being a scientist, I use that as my coping mechanism a lot where basically I will separate myself from a lot of the devastation that we're describing right now and Sarah does this really courageous thing where she's always present with that. She's present with how scary all of it is and what it means to be a climate scientist, but then also to be a woman and to be a human being and to be in a position of power, but then also feeling inherent weakness and her ability to feel and express all those things and articulate them so well while I hide behind my microscope is something that I admire a lot and highly recommended reading anything she's written. I will send you some stuff point afterwards if you want.
Priya Shukla: ...to put the show notes. I have a couple of pieces that I really appreciate that she's written, but I think...like this conversation for me it took some mental preparation coming into it because I knew I'd also have to bring my personality into it and that can be really hard for me. It's why writing for me is a little bit easier actually because I don't feel as present with it sometimes, if that makes sense.
Quinn: It seems like you indicated you try to separate yourself from that in your work.
Priya Shukla: It's merely like a tool for coping with the fact that sometimes-
Priya Shukla: ...are grappling with this stuff is really, really hard and so I can be like, let me go and figure out how to analyze this statistically because that seems a lot easier than actually visualizing what it would mean to lose a species.
Brian: Sure. It's a little, just put your head down do the work. We had a hell of a conversation... and again, I mean from the perspective of a privileged white man living in one of the few people that can afford to live in Los Angeles. We had a conversation with Nikki Silvestri who I'm not sure if you're familiar with, she's just fantastic and I'll send you guys the link to it, which was really getting into... basically I had reached out to her after finding some things and then we had a couple of really great discussions and decided to record.
Because again, from my perspective, I had gotten, this job as elective. Like I'm not a scientist. I never could be, but I've chosen to do this thing and yet, so I could theoretically turn it off whenever I want. It's my business. I don't work for someone else but dealing with part of... for the newsletter, for instance I go through journals and mainstream sources and everything...a hundreds of them every week to curate down to the most important things people read and I'm choosing to intake some very bad, some very rough news that's not going to change anytime soon and had been a lot to deal with and we had this really interesting conversation because she went from being someone who directly worked on the science to someone who... she basically turned her practice into therapy and we called it... it's a little bit of an ode to watchmen, which is like who's saving the people who are saving the planet.
Because she was finding so many of her colleagues and friends just effectively bowing out because they couldn't do it anymore and so I understand that need to separate yourself and protect yourself a little bit and just be a scientist for a few hours.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Compartmentalization is effective. It separates ourselves so that we can be able to focus and to make the decisions and execute, right, but then when you're also in totality, you look at that compartmentalization that you can be facilitating some real internal damage and you're also missing pieces because your emotional life is full of information for you about who you are and what you care about and what you want to do in this world and by turning that faucet off, you are disconnecting from yourself, which does a lot of harm.
I think we are all grappling with the scale and nature of a problem. We were not grappling with these problems when we were kids, right? We were told a narrative about the world that the world was bigger than us. It was unlimited. For me, like the mountains of my backyard, that was the world. They went on forever and as you grow, there's a feeling of almost betrayal, of realizing, oh no, no, this is not an infinite world. It is a decidedly finite world and it has been treated.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...in a way that has externalized so much harm and also that that harm has been happening for a long time and we are not the first community of people to look at what feels like an extermination event and so there's a lot of-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: There is a lot of wisdom in being human that we can like put on the ground right now and execute on and you combine that with scientific expertise and it's dynamo. Like that is amazing combination and that's why individual scientists that are in the public with heart and with head tied together, those are some of the most powerful public brokers for this information right now and often but not always, those are women because women are socialized often but not always to work collectively, to build community, to sit with each other and to be emotionally vulnerable. We can come to the table with really helpful skills in this space.
Quinn: That's what we need. Why can't everyone be like you guys?
Priya Shukla: Dammit.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: It's called patriarchy.
Priya Shukla: [crosstalk 00:22:48] the better.
Brian: Yeah, I know. God I know.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: And white supremacy.
Quinn: It all goes together.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: It really does.
Quinn: [inaudible 00:22:56].
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Oh, yeah, so many things.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Colonialism, [inaudible 00:23:00].
Quinn: No. Yeah, that's.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: These are again, like systemic systems of harm that work together. Like the system is functioning exactly as it was built to do, so that [crosstalk 00:23:11].
Quinn: Well, exactly. That's it. It's when people go around, everything's broken, everything's broken. It's like, no, no, no. No, no. This is how it was made and that's what... if you read like again, we can go down any of these tangents, which is like welcome to our podcast but having read a couple of years ago the New Jim Crow, which is just such a powerful, incredible book, you're just like, oh boy. I mean, it's designed down to an inch of its life this way. It's unreal, so I get it. All right. Listen, we're going to do the world's quickest context for the conversation today, just so everyone understands kind of where we are.
Sometimes this is very technical sometimes it's more ethical. This is where... we're going to do brief because we've done the ocean from a couple of different angles and we want to get to you guys here. Just for blue carbon here, to be super-duper clear and Priya and Sarah please just jump in or hang up, whatever you need to do to make this go better. I'm going to throw out some numbers, I know that very, but I try to get close, but to be very clear, the ocean is already saving our asses.
It has absorbed as far as I can tell, the estimates are 30 to 35% of all the shit we've pumped into the atmosphere, so you're welcome humanity but from what I understand of the remaining amount, 25% ish has been absorbed by plants and so that means that only about 50% has actually gone into the atmosphere. It's that bad out there and we're only getting penalized at 50%, except that we aren't because the ocean is also absorbing 90% of the heat, and it is reached a hell of a breaking point and when I mention that I think about what you were just saying, Sarah, about like we were kind of told this lie about what the world is and how it is finite and we are finding out so much more how everything is connected from coral reefs. Our incredible conversation with Dr. Kim Cobb who won an award today.
Quinn: ...to the great ocean conveyor belt and they're changing and it's not for the better or at least not for the better for us and so many other species. The question is, what can we small humans do? Can we still count on the ocean? Can we in the words of one of our original guests and my favorite humans and I thought about her when you were just talking about scientists who combine their mind and their heart, the great Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, can we use the ocean without using it up? And that's what I want to get to the heart of today and of course, as always, we will get to the bottom of how our listeners can help.
With that, I want to focus on our question this week, which is how can blue carbon help save the day and how can we not mess it up so the ocean doesn't break? Little more context, hopefully you guys can help, blue carbon. It sounds like a Derek Zoolander fragrance or like an iPod nano color, right? It's not but it is that cool.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Ice.
Quinn: Yeah. If you could just, one last step back for us. When did we really realize how much work the ocean was doing for us? And two, when did we then realize how far gone so many of the ecosystems were from warming to oxygen dead zones, to the corals and conveyor cycles. If you could help paint that picture for us, I think it would be helpful for folks.
Priya Shukla: Sarah, since you're the paleoclimate expert between the two of us, I feel like you can probably provide a lot of the really important context and then I might just jump in with a couple of things here or there, if that's okay with you.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah, totally. I mean what... let's just go back and forth and have our feminist oceanographic argument among the podcast.
Quinn: Oh, my god I'm so excited. Let's go.
Brian: Yes, please.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Okay. I think the context here is like welcome to your carbon oxygen and nitrogen rich planet that has had a carbon cycle in the four to six billion years of the planet's history that has determined the history of life on this planet, the evolutionary trajectory of all of the lives of the life that we record, the climatic history of the planet, the oceanographic history. The carbon cycle is pretty fascinating part of this planet and what is a little perplexing is in many ways this planet should have been called ocean and not earth. If you are going to take the balance of like where is the center of the power of modulating the ecosystem, the environment and the climate of the planet. It's in the ocean.
What does that mean? The deep ocean is the largest reservoir of carbon on the planet, so there's about between 500 and 600 gigatons of carbon in global vegetation, so like plants globally on land. There's about 1500 to 2,400 gigatons of carbon in soils. There's 37,000 gigatons of carbon in the deep sea, so should take your breath away and this has been one of these kind of perplexing aspects of some of the conversations that arise around climate change because as an earth scientist I want to insert back into the conversation like, hey yo, this is the way the system has been working. This is really fascinating and necessary for us to grapple with. Where is the carbon moving around on this planet? Where are the reservoirs that matter and how do we impact those reservoirs?
If you're curious about solutions like from a very practical standpoint, the global community has been trying to assess where do we sequester carbon in the world? And people have definitely flagged like, hey, yo carbon is being sequestered in vegetation. CO2 in the atmosphere, inorganic CO2... inorganic carbon is being consumed by plants and turned into carbon rich organic compounds and molecules and all of that is locking carbon. Trees and forest stay around for hundreds to thousands of years, so then that carbon in those organic molecules in the trees and forests and maybe in the herbivores and then in the carnivores that are eating that carbon, all of that carbon ends up going somewhere, it goes into the soil, so the soil is another place to sequester carbon to retain it and keep it.
People have identified these really important climate solutions around preserving and restoring soils and forests, but what's interesting is that between the ocean and the land, about the same amount of carbon is being fixed into organic carbon rich molecules through photosynthesis annually but there's not a lot of standing stock of carbon in the ocean because we don't have kelp forests that live a thousand years in the ocean. The longest lived kelp is about five years. Just a handful of species, so a lot of carbon in the ocean is being fixed and then is dying off annually sometimes shorter than that and then sometimes multi-year timescales.
That shows you there's some thing to be curious about here. A lot of carbon... sort of equal amounts of carbon being fixed on land and that carbon in the ocean, it's kind of poof, it's disappearing. Where is it going? It's going... a great deal of it is moving into the deep sea where it can store and take up residence for hundreds to thousands of years and that is the story of the thermohaline circulation, the longterm movement and storage of carbon and nutrients in the deep sea. I'll pause here and maybe Priya you can disagree with me or...
Priya Shukla: No, that was... I knew you would do such a great job of painting this beautiful global millennia long picture for us, which is why I'm so glad that you've kicked us off. I'll add two things that are sort of related but still not necessarily totally overlapping thoughts. One is that everything that Sarah just described about the carbon moving through the ocean, that is 80% basically of our global carbon cycle that goes and moves through the ocean.
Priya Shukla: It's really... it's what Sarah started this all out with by talking about how really this planet should have been called ocean, it's so true because I really struggled with imagining what climate change would look like right now if the ocean didn't absorb basically four fifths of the carbon, or at least traffic for physical carbon that we have on this planet, so that is a lot for me to personally sit with.
The other thing that I wanted to add is that the way that I've thought about blue carbon as somebody who's basically worked on kelp and then mostly just coastal systems is in fact just that, coastal ecosystems. What Sarah said is totally right, that you have these massive kelp forests that basically are very large charismatic algae and they don't have very long lifespans. Some of them that are... can live up to 20 years, but that's not that long when you think about the millennia that Sarah just described, and then you get to these other ecosystems, things like sea grasses and mangroves and salt marshes and that's where... when I think about blue carbon, that's the picture that emerges in my mind and it's these systems that have these really intense roots, things that kelp actually don't have. They don't have these really intense root systems, and those root systems are what keep the soil in place and what allows the soil to retain all that carbon.
What's also really tragic is that because these coastal ecosystems exist in this beautiful space with high real estate value, we're seeing them disappear really rapidly, and so when you see this degradation of these systems, all of that CO2 and carbon that they've been keeping locked down for us, it's basically pushed back out into the atmosphere. Definitely the CO2 that we're producing from just industry, but there's this whole other part of the CO2 release picture that we don't really think about, which is us basically deforesting if you will, these coastal ecosystems that have been helping actually store all this carbon for many, many years.
Quinn: We just had these two fishermen on actually, and we talked about kelp and how important it is and how we all need to be eating more of it.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: It's delicious.
Quinn: It was very, very good conversation.
Brian: Yeah, we'll get to that. That's interesting segue.
Quinn: Oh, go ahead because-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I want to like... let's just go even a little bit deeper with the blue carbon stuff because-
Quinn: I mean, all day.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Priya is-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah, all day long. Priya as exactly right. Like the way the blue carbon has been assessed by the community is the carbon locked or "sequestered" in these coastal ecosystems, wetlands, mangroves, salt marshes, eelgrass. In a very parallel way the carbon has been assessed by the standing stock of biomass and then the stock of carbon in the soil but there's an additional component of this story that's really interesting, which is that these coastal areas, and to be clear, these wetlands can either be a sink for carbon or they can be a source of carbon because when they are degraded, they release, they emit CO2 into the atmosphere. They can go either way in this strange math.
These ecosystems, the thing about photosynthesis, which is just freaking amazing, is that it's kind of a leaky process and so these photosynthesizers, whether they're angiosperms, boom, those are flowering plants on coastlines or whether they're algae.
Quinn: Gone, check.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: They are there taking in inorganic carbon to fix into organic tissues but they're also leaking a lot of carbon into seawater, and so a lot of carbon that's moving through this net photosynthetic budget is not ending up in the roots. It's not ending up in the leaves or the soil. It's actually being just shed into seawater. It's like carbon mucus essentially, and there's dissolved carbon and particulate carbon. These are really significant parts of the budget and this connects the coastal carbon with the deep sea carbon, because that carbon mucus, that particulate and dissolved carbon that's being shed from the coastal waters, a significant fraction of it is actually moving down into the deep sea into longterm storage as well, so that blue carbon in the coastlines, you have to think about not only the resident carbon in those places, but then the constant flux of carbon out of those spaces into the deep sea through residents as well.
The deep seat is definitely not disconnected from what is happening to coastal ecosystems and coastal carbon.
Brian: This is insane.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah. Photosynthesis is rad and super messy and what's amazing about it is that we are still working to grapple with how it works in many places and the problem with the ocean is that it's just a real difficult place to measure. It's expensive and it's dangerous and it's inaccessible.
Quinn: There're sharks.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: There's critters, like there is-
Quinn: Dolphin, sharks.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: You have to wear special outfits, like it's a whole situation and so like that's kind of the sort of amazing bleeding edge of the field is that there's a lot of knowledge being gained right now that is kind of knitting the concept of blue carbon back into this earth system framework where we're really trying to account for like in totality where is this carbon moving around?
Priya Shukla: Yeah and what makes this picture more complicated, Sarah just basically made a really important delineation between the way that these flowering plants, the angiosperms work versus kelp. You can't assume that the mangroves and the salt marshes and the eelgrass and the kelp are all post in the sites in the same way or putting away carbon the same way and that can change seasonally. It can change daily, it can change hourly based on ocean conditions. It's really, really hard to get a sense of what is happening in real time versus what has been happening over millennia and what might've caused those changes in the past and how our current actions might change their capacity to keep doing these things for us in the future. It's really, really complicated but also really important for us to have these conversations and figure out how to do the math.
Quinn: Two things. Two.
Male: I've got several things.
Quinn: One, seems like a small job. Two, it seems like you've got it all wrapped up.
Brian: Yeah. I've-
Quinn: I was under the impression it was a lot worse than that.
Brian: I feel like I just jammed that thing under the back of my head in The Matrix, like I'm Neo.
Quinn: Neo, right where he says I know kung fu.
Brian: Yeah, but I just learned everything about everything on earth.
Brian: Wow. We talked about kelp a little bit and you talked about mangroves and salt marshes and the grasses and stuff. What are the current tools most helpful as we plan for an intentional blue carbon strategy and what's the state of all those plants right now?
Priya Shukla: That's a really big question.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah.
Quinn: Feel free to just change it to whatever you want. Honestly [crosstalk 00:39:44] it doesn't matter.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: The ecosystem services that the global ocean is providing us, we should not be taking this for granted and the role that the biological pumps, so this pump that is moving CO2. CO2 is dissolving into seawater, that CO2 is then being taken up by photosynthesizers and fixed into organic carbon. That carbon is then raining out into the deep sea and moving CO2 essentially out of the atmosphere and into longterm storage in the deep sea. That's facilitated by interactions between species and physical movements of water and predation. There's a lot of complexity, but that biological pump, man, that is some good stuff.
There was recently a paper out like last week that said that whales themselves, healthy whale populations are some of the most efficient and effective carbon sequestration "tools" because-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...when whales, you know, they are this high trophic member. They are moving tons and tons of carbon through the environment, consuming these organisms and they're pooping a lot, so they're producing waste.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...that is falling into the deep sea then they themselves are reserved in the deep sea. That kind of approach can tell you a little bit like, oh yeah, really robust healthy ecosystems that are maintaining these naturally occurring biological biogeochemical processes, aha, that is the ticket. It's not very sexy, but it is incredibly important that we have moving forward really, really ambitious conservation targets for huge swathes of the high seas and the coastal ocean.
Quinn: I saw the whales thing and my first thought, I mean it kind of goes back to... is it Star Trek IV. I think is four.
Brian: Don't ask any of us.
Quinn: I was like, I feel like I should go to Congress and just, I don't know, write some sort of, I don't know if it's like... maybe you would call it a ransom note. I would probably say, how do we make 100 million whales? Like there should just be more whales, like it just seems to make sense.
Brian: More whales less humans.
Priya Shukla: Yeah. I feel like a whale generator would be very popular.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah. I think they-
Quinn: Oh, my god. This is so cool.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...probably worked on that in the Star Trek spaces, like we need those narratives like definitely... but here's the thing, just to play a little devil's advocate. It was like we... our lens on this is broken if we're only using dollar signs and ecosystem services are often just converted to a dollar sign and that is a bankrupt way of looking at the world. Instead, we have this very large problem and instead of continuing to monetize and capitalize and paint this whole moment that we're in as some sort of capitalistic opportunity for more people to make money, like we need to reimagine our relationship with the natural world, and to hold account those people who are the most responsible for preventing restoration and protection or capitalizing on destruction itself. There are clear places where we can target action where responsibility lies.
Quinn: I'm curious here. As we gently move towards action stuff. The wonderful drawdown.org has coastal wetlands listed as number 52 on the list of ways to save the lovable world for us and everybody else saying coastal wetlands can store five times as much carbon as tropical forests over longterm, which is something you illustrated for us earlier with those incredible numbers. They've got marine permaculture listed as a coming attraction, I believe under evaluation like Jurassic Park, right. I hope they won't eat you, and Brian mentioned we had that incredible conversation with Tom Ford of the Bay Foundation out here and Bren Smith from GreenWave about their 3D ocean farming and it was mostly food focused. Again, kelp is delicious, clams and mussels and oysters. They clean the water, also delicious, but we also talked about how Bren's been doing work with Dr. Ayana Johnson about getting more ocean detail into future legislation such as the Green New Deal, which is great as it is barely mentioned the ocean, which seems crazy again, because like you said, we shouldn't call it earth. We should call it ocean.
Brian: Unless you're calling it ocean.
Quinn: I think that sounds great and all people do. You're a white guy. You just say it and the people do the thing.
Brian: Oh right.
Quinn: That's the way it works.
Brian: [crosstalk 00:44:28] it works.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: That's how it works.
Quinn: Anyways, my point is, what work is being done on the federal and state levels, I guess starting here to support blue carbon. What are the major moves currently being made to protect these resources even dare I say, enhance them because you talked about how incredible this pump is. What are we actually doing so far?
Priya Shukla: Yeah. Oops.
Quinn: And the answer I hope is something.
Priya Shukla: Yeah. No, that's a great question and so, Sarah obviously feel free to jump in if I miss anything or that you try to add anything but I'll start by saying that you mentioned California and in fact a couple of years back, California did pass a bill, like a statewide bill to basically invest resources in studying and restoring seagrass beds here in California and that was pushed through our state agency, the ocean protection council.
I would also add that we're having this conversation at a really timely moment. Basically a month ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which is basically a committee if you will, that is operated by the United Nations, that's a huge over simplification, but that is essentially what they do. They released a special report on the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate, and so that really began to discuss in a more formal way using peer reviewed literature, the potential for these blue carbon ecosystems to serve as a tool for mitigating the effects of climate change specifically on the ocean, and then what I think is actually most progressive is that, here in the US obviously we're currently going through the throes of an election cycle and while there's a lot of stuff being discussed, something that I think hasn't gotten sort of it's due discussion is the fact that so many of these political candidates are actually putting out climate plans.
I can only speak to this one because I just reported on it earlier this week, but [Tom Sires 00:46:37] plan in specific has a whole section devoted to the ocean and in the conversation I had with him, he specifically expressed interest in figuring out how we expand our blue carbon reserves and I think that the fact that that's even getting any sort of airtime is amazing. Obviously as somebody who studies the ocean, I think we could be having much more in depth discussions about these things but I think the fact that there are actually... is a conversation that is happening by these really... these people who are in the spotlight right now is really empowering and energizing for me.
Brian: It's about damn time.
Priya Shukla: Yeah. Seriously.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah. I totally agree with what you said Priya, in terms of like what are the moving pieces on the table, and it comes down to some moral courage and political bravery, the political capital to make very robust and ambitious conservation targets for lands that need to... we need to preserve and value the carbon that's already in these spaces but then just to flip the conversations on the head, because again, the real work ahead of us is not just conservation and the maintenance of these blue carbon and building places to eat molluscs and eat kelp and have multi trophic fishing operations and to promote small businesses in coastal communities, it's to stop fossil fuel subsidization of the fishing industry because 54% of high seas fishing, fishing that's happening outside of nation state waters, 54% of those fishing operations would be unprofitable without fossil fuels subsidization, and those fishing operations are the most fossil fuel intensive of all fishing operations globally.
Those are the boats that are the biggest, going the farthest, catching the deepest, trolling the longest. Those are really expensive and carbon intensive industries that are only surviving because we subsidize fossil fuels and that is again... that's about moral courage and political capital right there, is to say that is enough, and then the second part of this, just because food and carbon and decision making is all connected, we have a global society that treats fish like a fun international commodity and we ship fish around the world on airplanes on a daily basis.
The carbon intensity of a fish that is shipped across the world to your grocery store is much... it's orders of magnitude higher than if you're going to eat a fish that was caught or farmed close to you. We have to stop considering fish as this sort of elite consumer desirable consumer object and that's about culture and that's about changing the way that we value things inherently inside of culture.
Quinn: Yeah. I mean we've talked about some of those numbers before and they're really just... I mean it's incredible.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: It's staggering.
Quinn: I mean that we... yeah. We catch seafood here. I think... I'm going to get this number wrong, but we export something like-
Brian: It was something of shame.
Quinn: Pure export like 70% of our seafood and then the stuff we eat here, we catch here, we ship to China for processing and packaging-
Brian: And that comes back.
Quinn: ...and then we ship it back.
Brian: It's just insane.
Quinn: ...and you're just like, this can't be right.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: It's not, and we've normalized it, right? It's business as usual but this is an-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...emperor has no clothes situation. Like we really got to see that we don't have pants on in this situation and see how our behavior and the normalization of this kind of profiteering is extremely harmful and unhealthy and unsustainable and unjust. Putting those pieces... like trying to start to tell those stories because we want to lift up the businesses and the producers and the aquaculturists that really need to be at the center of the conversation and start vilifying these conglomerate huge corporate fishing global fleets that are profiteering and extracting resources in a completely unsustainable way.
It's really... it's complex and I think that... I wanted to bring that into the blue carbon conversation because-
Quinn: For sure.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...these activities that are happening in the ocean, they are all connected with each other.
Quinn: It's really interesting to read Bren's book. He was born in Newfoundland, and then was a commercial fishermen on the Northeast and in Alaska and him talking about spending a couple of decades doing that and then watching the conglomerates come in and the boats and the tools and the machines and then everyone being out of work because there were no fish left and how complicated this and how that made him change to being an ocean farmer and how it took a lot of adjustment but just realizing like, oh my God, like the quite literal firsthand experience using his hands to pull fish and then later kelp out of the ocean to realize that we cannot do this. There's nothing left and that's just to start with, and then the things, of course that are left, we ship all over the place, so anything... yeah, anyways.
Priya Shukla: Yeah. No I think.
Brian: It's enough.
Quinn: It's enough.
Priya Shukla: I think what you just described like Bren's perspective is, it's funny to watch, especially being assigned to just watching this new era of this idea of ecosystem based management where you can't necessarily just manage one thing. You have to think about everything holistically.
Priya Shukla: ...is really just a repackaging and rebirthing of this idea that so many native communities I've had for years. For good reason there is a lot of skepticism around farming fish in the US because we historically haven't necessarily done a very good job of that and yet you can go up to Puget Sound and see some of the tribes up there that have a really thoughtful way. Their approach to basically farming fish and making sure that they think about basically what is best for just the next several generations and it's a very-
Priya Shukla: ...contained perspective and they see themselves as one with the ecosystem but I think something that I've learned about recently as somebody who's still learning a lot of aquaculture and studying it here in California, is that there are native Hawaiian communities that basically have built these Hawaiian fish ponds that are totally dependent on the natural system and where the water moves and how the tides work and this idea that somehow this is like so par for the course, but of course we have developed this whole new idea called ecosystem based management but really we've just retold this concept.
Quinn: Yeah, of course. Congratulations.
Priya Shukla: Exactly. Yeah, and-
Quinn: Right. Meanwhile, like they're the ecosystems that are getting punished the hardest by sea level rise and climate change and things like that. It's these communities who've contributed quite literally nothing to climate change and are just... is it Jakarta has to move their capital?
Priya Shukla: Yeah, that's right.
Quinn: I mean it's just like, what do you even do... can you imagine if white people had to deal with that here? Yeah. It's just... it is a fucking travesty but there's so much to learn.
Brian: What a wild idea to think about how what you're doing is going to affect the generations after you.
Quinn: Well that's what Bina said, right? We had a... I think Bina Venkataraman talking about her new book, The Optimist's Telescope, and she was... what was her great quote. Something about... oh God, why is my mind a black hole? Something about basically try to be a better ancestor.
Quinn: And that speaks so well to just thinking outside your tiny little view hole.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I love Bina so much and I'm really thankful for her-
Quinn: She's awesome.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...scholarship in the world. Yeah.
Quinn: Yeah. She is just so impressive.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Part of what-
Quinn: Yeah, and that perspective is [inaudible 00:54:47].
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Part of what Priya just demonstrated is exactly that with the... ideas can be trafficked in a way where like, the joke is, no one discovers anything until a white scientist puts it in paper, right, and yet there's generations upon generations of knowledge in other places that have never... that don't gain the prominence and centricity of certain people and so part of this brokering of knowledge is to not co-opt the knowledge and erase those knowledge producers through that process and so there's a surfacing and a revealing often in science that's happening where we are coming to terms with the way that our lineage of knowledge brokers has been through this colonial lens erasing the ownership and the origination of scholarship by other people.
The work here is to unveil and to not traffic in those kinds of behaviors because that behavior... the world is composed of ideas and even if you are a charismatic and smart person, if you are negotiating the world as if your ideas are only your own and not actually built on many generations of knowledge builders and careful thinkers and community members, you are trafficking in some fairly poor behavior.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: That's like the... I think as knowledge workers in this space, I was not trained to do that effectively. I was trained to use a certain lens where it's like get yourself in the center and prop yourself up and be ready for criticism and-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...I don't think that that's what leadership looks like in this space and that is actually why in the climate solution spaces, we all need to be really thoughtful and careful about who we are listening to and what those voices look like and what those people look like because the same eraser is happening at the highest levels of climate solutions in these spaces and that's not what I think excellent scholarship looks like.
Quinn: 1000%, and I do want to backtrack and apologize if I did a poor job of making it clear why I am interested in Bren's story, not because he is another white guy and it's easy and he discovered how to ocean farm and it's not that. It was more, he makes very clear and his honest about being part of the problem and being part of that commercial industry and his patriarchy and realizing like I fucked up and not only is this untenable longterm because we've destroyed communities and ecosystems, I cannot be part of this anymore and what can I possibly do? I guess it's pulling kelp out of the water because it turns out people have been doing it for a long time.
Kelp has been doing it for even longer and it's fucking easy. It requires no input. You know, that's what's incredible so was... I want to make clear and yeah, I apologize for that. I don't mean to intend that he's the first to discover-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: No.
Quinn: ...that by any stretch. It's more just like we need more people who are part of the problem coming out of it and saying like, yeah, no, I can't do this. We can't do this.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I found his book in his narrative to be really vulnerable and exactly like you just said, like someone who's kind of coming to terms with complicity and in that way, like those stories are really beautiful and important. Those are pivot stories that allow the onboard people in and a lot of his story is really... I mean, I read some of it maybe between the lines around like negotiating masculinity, negotiating-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...traditional roles for men in community spaces and how the center has dropped out for many men and how do they in these spaces reinvent a livelihood that's meaningful and what does masculinity-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...look like through those kinds of transformations? What amazing story to tell so-
Quinn: Yeah, and it is helpful. I mean, I think one of our very first conversations was with a gentleman named Jerry Taylor and he was a climate denialist for a long time and basically another white guy. Hi Jerry, and he went on to another talk show, to [our go back 00:59:11] climate and props himself up as this very intelligent guy he is and basically in the green room afterwards, his counterpart was like, hey by the way, you can keep arguing this if you want, but you're smarter than this and I think you know that you're wrong and I challenge you to actually do the research.
And he did it and he was like, fuck I'm actually wrong and I look like an asshole and now I have to make my story not just like climate change is real, but I was wrong, and this is why I was wrong and this is why I think I'm a good messenger for all those other people who are standing on emotion and falsely... not to say falsely held values, but a very brittle house of cards that we are being fed in a thousand other places and sometimes that's really helpful. Like when we talk to a reverend and we get to the action steps and say, what can you do? And he says, get the hell out of the way and let me do my job basically.
Brian: I was just going to bring that up, right.
Quinn: Because we aren't the right messengers for that, he is because of his place in that community and I think it's really interesting when reformed white guys like Bren and Jerry take it upon themselves, like you said, to kind of confront that on a number of different levels and not perfect specimens by any stretch, but hopefully we can use them to our advantage.
Male: Some of us are okay.
Quinn: I mean, fine.
Brian: You know what I mean.
Quinn: It's not great.
Brian: A small, small percentage is gone. I want to know what some of the biggest obstacles that you both run into in your work aside from the patriarchy, be it scientific or organizational or logistically. What are the most pressing annoying frustrations or challenges?
Priya Shukla: I think I'll start from a... just think like this is a scientist and from really technical perspective is that the environment is really variable. Trying to figure out average estimates for a given ecosystem can be really hard and one example of this is so... In Australia there's something called the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation and it's idea that a lot of native people's lands could be harboring a lot of these high... have high carbon sequestration potential including certain blue carbon areas, including mangroves in the Northern Territory and despite trying to bring some academics into this, in 2012, they still haven't really had a chance to fully figure out what is the carbon that they have on their lands and what is the best way for them to manage it.
Thinking about this is just like... it's like a measurement thing. Depends it's like how much blue carbon is there. We have taken a lot of measurements and have a general understanding of these things, but trying to do this really specifically and then leveraging that information so that we can then begin restoring or conserving some of these systems is really, really challenging. Yeah. I don't know, Sarah, if you were going to take that in a different direction.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Well, now that the patriarchy is off the table, like jeez.
Quinn: Let's say it's off the table. It's more like it's an assumed variable. That would be great if it went away.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: It is definitely a known known, yeah, in these spaces. I love your response Priya around the true difficulty of measuring and understanding the world. It's not a small lift. It's a substantial lift and getting it right matters and I think in my spaces, one of the things that just gets under my skin is the narration of climate solutions as business opportunities. I think-
Quinn: But capitalism works.
Brian: What do you mean?
Dr. Sarah Myhre: For who? I think that the stories are really important. In this space, we are acting out some very fundamental stories about who we think we are in the world and what we think the world really is and yet I don't really know if we have answered the question, like what kind of species are we to get ourselves to this phenomenally vulnerable precipice and yet have a society that is just burgeoning and straining towards restorative justice and towards a world that is turning towards the wounding and healing the wounding.
One of the tenets that I use is the feminist ethic of care. There's often an idea about the world, like there's a right thing and a wrong thing to do, and you can kind of partition things into right and wrong whereas the feminist ethic of care tells us that true right action in this space is around caring and stewarding our relationships with each other, ourselves and the world and so things get a lot more gray in that space but the ethic of care is paramount. It's one of the things, the necessities of being human is caring for each other and the feminist ethic of care is not accepted as a tenant inside of the halls of science.
It is maybe brushed off as or disregarded as an irrelevant or hyper emotional or over feminized narrative about what it means to be human. We got to turn this ship around because the only reason why scientific institutions exist in my mind is to steward life on this planet and to learn about life on this planet and maybe life on other planets as well. We have to like knit our own humanity back into our search for knowledge on this finite world. We are kind of in our own ways in many way and that takes a lot of like moral and social courage, a lot of political courage to do that.
I think for Priya and myself, like we... I can't speak for you Priya, but I do know what it means to be inside of an institution and how vulnerable you can feel going through that institutional process and we all as researchers have different positionalities of vulnerability and some of us can't speak publicly and freely, and so those that can I think really need to and those that have power, they need to spend that power in the most confrontational way possible right now because it's a hands on deck kind of moment in the culture.
Brian: All hands on deck.
Quinn: All hands on deck.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: And clippers [crosstalk 01:06:15].
Brian: I [crosstalk 01:06:15].
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...pause everybody.
Brian: Yeah, so right about using the... if you got the power, use it and obviously there are hundreds and thousands if not millions of Americans that have been marching and protesting and facing much tougher circumstances for so long but I think Jane Fonda's been arrested six times this week and I'm here for it.
Quinn: At least.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I love her so much.
Priya Shukla: I know. I so appreciate that.
Quinn: Every time I get on mine I'm like, another outfit, another picture in hand cuffs. She just doesn't give a shit.
Brian: I love it.
Quinn: I'm thankful for it but of course building on the shoulders of so many people who didn't have the choice of whether to get arrested on Tuesday, they just did. Speaking of that-
Brian: Yeah, this is perfect. Let's get into some action steps that our listeners can take-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Oh yes.
Brian: ...to support you and all of us that are trying not to die, so we do what we'd like to say that we can support with our voice and our dollar. Let's start with voice. What are the big actionable questions that we should all be asking of our representatives?
Priya Shukla: Wow. Yeah. I think there is so many different participants... I think Sarah sort of said this or at least alluded to it earlier, maybe I just forget.
Quinn: Let's get specific.
Priya Shukla: Which is that... it's to make sure that they're listening to the right voices.
Brian: All right.
Priya Shukla: If we're talking about blue carbon or sequestering carbon, it's who is living in communities that are probably on the front lines of being affected by sea level rise and what would it mean to actually take some action to words, basically drawing down some of these greenhouse gases because there is some amount of, climate change is already going to happen. What we're now thinking about is what can we do 2050, 100 years out?
If these are frontline communities now, who are the people who will be on the front lines further on and whose communities are disappearing and what are the steps that we can take to preserve the services that the ocean provides that are going to sort of help with this, and I think something that didn't come up in this conversation that I'm kind of glad it didn't, but I just want to put it out there, is that, is geoengineering solutions which are seen as like the human machinist brain, opposable thumb combination way of fixing this problem when really it's about harnessing some of the resources that we've degraded and bring them back up.
Some of those threads can be really hard to draw, but I feel like those who are already feeling some of these effects have been able to do that pretty intrinsically and so making sure that they are listening to those voices and maybe if we're in positions of privilege, then connecting our representatives with those voices.
Quinn: I love that. Dr. Myhre.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Climate justice, climate justice, climate justice. All action on climate needs to have a justice lens applied to it. Every single choice, every single decision, every single voice, every single story. It will be wholly inefficient and ineffective without that frame. It will only repeat the same systems of harm and the same people who have been winning and telling the stories and rewriting history, they will get to rewrite the history of this moment with impunity essentially. Who tells this story really matters and let's get our feet like really squarely on the ground. We need a Green New Deal and we need it now, and we need that Green New Deal to include the ocean systems and ocean carbon sinks.
We need the Green New Deal to include a basic framework for human rights and climate refugees and climate migrants so that our neighbors along all of our borders and the refugees that are coming into this country are treated with the dignity and respect that international law affords them. We have to integrate human rights into our frameworks to address this problem, otherwise the scale of harm that is coming to people is unfathomable and then like... let's get down to like your daily... your life as an individual. Eat some shellfish, eat some shellfish from the coastal waters around your home, like eat the local seafood. Stop buying seafood.
Quinn: It's so good.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: It's so dang good. Like, teach your kids how to eat oysters, teach your kids how to shuck molluscs. Put your feet on the ground in the world and think about where are the producers for the foods that you want to eat and you want to support and if you have their money, put your money towards those businesses and those people to promote and uphold the kind of communities that they are trying to build. I think being as immeshed in the communities that are our envisioning future solutions, like that's where you want to be putting your energy and your money and your mouth basically.
Quinn: I love that. I thought of three little things and chances are I'm going to remember maybe one or two or three of these as I chat here. One is, yeah, it feels like with the migration stuff, we are seeing like the tip of the tip of the iceberg.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Good Lord.
Quinn: ...for the next 10, 20, 50 years and to be clear across the board, yeah, Europe and the US it has been handled poorly. If we can't handle that, then it's just like, guys, you've no idea what's coming and then I thought about when you're saying climate justice, climate justice, climate justice and what voices are we listening to. I thought back to our amazing conversation with [Real Negan 01:12:14], right, who is doing so much of the work on the Green New Deal and she has been shockingly pressed by old white men in Congress about do we have to include jobs, do we have to include the right to work and things like that. Can't we save that till later? And she's like, I just hate you people.
She had this incredible unique perspective which is like she is the person to be doing this work because she goes home to Detroit and says, I look at my relatives who will not be included in this if I don't write it myself because... and they won't get access to those jobs. They deserve to be part of this because we've designed them out of it for hundreds of years, the least we can do is, like I can give it my best shot from my perspective because those white guys don't have it and they had their shot and they didn't do that and now I need to be the one to do that as best I can.
Priya Shukla: Yeah, something that I think about a lot. This is sort of going off of this idea of going into your backyard that Sarah just shared, like don't do backyard and eat, well this is metaphoric backyard and go and eat the local shellfish and whatever local catch is there, and I'm born and raised in California. To me the ocean has always been a part of my backyard and so now I also try to plant myself in the Midwest and think about why does the ocean matter to you if you are in the Midwest? Just thinking about that even though the... because of what Sarah started us off with that the ocean is this immense modulator of the climate that we experience.
Basically that is one of the biggest solutions to our problem, is to envision that if there wasn't this invisible sponge because if you don't see the ocean on a daily basis that it might feel like that if there wasn't this invisible sponge, what would you do? And I implore folks who do not have the ocean in their backyard to please go to their representative as well and ask them to preserve those services, because if the ocean is... in addition to taking up the greenhouse gases that you mentioned, Quinn and Brian, it's also taking up 90% of the heat, the excess heat.
The ocean is at a precipice too right now. We are in dire straits and so really thinking about what it will mean, what will our lives look like, what do jobs look like in a world where the ocean is not taking up heat anymore? What do our livelihoods look like? Like that is something that I can't imagine, and sorry, this is a bit of a non sequitur. I thought it was related and I guess it really wasn't. I was just [crosstalk 01:14:49]-
Quinn: That's my entire life, but please.
Priya Shukla: ...on everything that we've been talking about, I guess. I think that blue carbon seems like something that is really only for people who live along the coast and it is so much more than that and I just quite frankly don't know how to say that enough or say that any better than I can right now.
Quinn: Sure. Yeah. I mean, look. I think Middle America has gotten some of that message if they haven't put the dots together yet with the incredible floods that have been happening for the past two years and things like that. It is like, again, it's not earth. Our planet is our ocean and it affects everything in ways we're only starting to comprehend and that includes all of those things. That includes hurricanes that basically settle over an island and don't move anymore and what that can do and we've seen two of those so far, and more is coming in that and that means flooding and that means drought and all of those things, so do it now. You know, we are all part of that.
Priya Shukla: I think, when we think about climate refugees, we do think about sea level rise but I think what you just brought up Quinn about basically Middle America dealing with floods and all sorts of other sort of catastrophic, natural disasters. We're going to have multiple kinds of climate refugees, not just folks running away from inundating waters from the ocean.
Priya Shukla: So, yeah.
Quinn: Oh God, look at India. I mean the suicide rates have tripled in Northern India because it's too hot to plant and the monsoons are more unpredictable than ever before and what does that do? It's incredible.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: In this space where we are like juggling with the wounding of the world and how do we live on a living planet? When I have these conversations with people, I always... I'm trying in these conversations to remind all of us that this was a mortal bargain to begin with. There was no guarantee that life was going to be easy anyway and that this is a time where we can very clearly find a meaningful way to live in the world and that is a door that can open and can bring great freedom and insight to people, especially people that are juggling with the internal grief and violation.
I do think, you know, you talk about people taking their own lives because of the grief and the violation that they feel. This is a real thing, and kids are hearing these messages, right. Every time... I really want to get out in front of this message because when kids hear this message, what they hear is that their very presence on this world is violating the world and what often kids will then decide is that, well, I shouldn't be here on this world and what harm we are doing, what compounding harm we are doing.
I would suggest that in this space, the story is really that we are gifts to this world at this moment, and we are very powerful actors for good and how are we going to spend our finite time. Because again, we only had a limited time to begin with here. Just as Bina said in her book, stewarding our role as ancestors and getting really clear about what we want to leave behind us, that is a very meaningful path right now. That's a door that I welcome folks to walk through with me. It's hard, but I think it's a way to find really meaningful connection and community as well.
Quinn: It is, and man, if even a third to half of your day to day or weekly or monthly or yearly or longterm decisions come under that guideline, then you're doing all right and you are effectively making change more than most folks and it feels great to be led in that direction by something that benefits you and everyone else as well as opposed to just returns to shareholders.
All right, so listen guys. We are just so far over the time we asked of you today. I couldn't appreciate it more. It is 90, speaking climate change. 96 in Studio City, California today. We forgot to turn on our air conditioning before we-
Brian: Everything's fine.
Quinn: ...recorded, so I'm just soaking wet.
Brian: Yeah [inaudible 01:19:36].
Priya Shukla: Are you all affected by the Palisades fire at all. I meant to ask the beginning. I'm sorry I didn't.
Quinn: Oh God, no screenwriting is not going that well. No, no, no. No. Look, everybody... I've lived up in these hills for forever and everyone's like, oh, it's a fire nightmare if it comes like you're just not getting out, which is true. I think we've realized with what happened last year a little bit on the West side and then in the Palisades, which is quite literally on the ocean. It can happen anywhere. This is the new reality out here and it's going to change a lot of things. I mean, that is in the [inaudible 01:20:17] of what, third or fourth most expensive real estate in the country. It's crazy.
Anyways, we can't thank you guys enough. We've got last few questions here. Brian, contractually will not let me call the lightning round because it is not a lightning [crosstalk 01:20:30].
Brian: It should never been called that, is all I'm saying.
Quinn: Look, I didn't have another word for it.
Brian: Okay, all right.
Quinn: We're at 83 and I still haven't figured it out. I'm busy. Anyways. Dr. Myhre, when was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful?
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Oh God. I'm grappling with that on a day to day basis. I think I felt really fucking powerful giving birth, honestly, like bringing my child into the world and like the wisdom of my body, like the things that my body did in that space, like wow, I was very powerful and hell yeah.
Brian: Hell yeah. That's a good one
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I'm still trying to figure out how to use that Dr. title to be as effective as possible in public because I have some power, I have a perch and I want to use it in the best way possible.
Quinn: I love that. Almost Dr. Priya.
Priya Shukla: I think I would say that I realized this when Sarah gave a guest lecture in a class that I was taking about coral reefs and how they were degrading and I always knew I liked science, but I didn't realize that science could actually be used to save an ecosystem and now in this day and age to save the world really quite truly and so I've... but I think that as I have developed my expertise and realize that there is room to have really compassionate but also really difficult discussions about living in a burning world, I have tried to insert myself wherever I feel like I fit in and sometimes even in places where I don't. Maybe that wasn't the answer you were looking for, but basically since the onset of my scientific career.
Quinn: I love it. That's awesome.
Brian: I love that included... Sarah we've to meet.
Quinn: Speaking of that, both the segue of segues and also this feels like the most layup question of all, considering how you guys spent the first half of this conversation. To both of you, who is someone in your life that's positively impacted your work in the past six months?
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Oh my gosh. I think... I mean this is just like the... the personal is political from a feminist lens and my partner is a chef here in Seattle and running a restaurant is like pretty amazing difficult work. We are just like solid middle class people essentially but watching someone make really beautiful, delightful things that are lovingly crafted as a practice, as a daily practice is, wow, that's so amazing because it's kind of shown me like, how do I bring that daily practice, that love, like that sort of excellence in just chopping vegetables, that excellence in like having a relationship with my grocer and with my fishmonger and like the people that I'm connected to, how do I create a web around me of loving and excellent interactions and work. I've been learning a lot. I like to take credit for his talent.
Quinn: Yeah. No, you should. Going back to the beginning the only reason I do wear pants everyday is because my wife says enough.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Ta-da.
Quinn: So, there you go. That's it. Stop it.
Brian: Ladies, what do you do when you feel-
Quinn: Wait, Priya didn't get to answer, Brian.
Brian: Oh my God, I'm sorry.
Brian: My apologies.
Priya Shukla: No, it's okay. I would have answered anyway because I'm-
Quinn: It's not.
Priya Shukla: ...really excited to share my answer but I would say that it's my friend and colleague [Lynon Kachi 01:24:18] and I met at a climate engagement program that was run by a colleague of mine and Sarah's named [Christie Croker 01:24:26] who's also incredible.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah, Christie.
Priya Shukla: Yeah, and Lynon and I basically have had these overlapping circles and we keep meeting at the science policy and communication interfaces. We both independently found our way to writing at Forbes science and we both also lost a dear friend over the summer and her partnership and her friendship and just her intelligence and integrity is really inspiring and she's somebody who I think needs to have a higher platform. If you want to talk about fungi and climate change, please bring her on your podcast.
Quinn: Oh, yeah.
Brian: We should definitely do that.
Priya Shukla: She is incredible and articulate, and she also runs [Coran 01:25:12]. I think she's actually hand it off to someone else now, but Coran project called reclaiming STEM and it was about bringing unheard voices back into the science and technology sphere and so just being able to watch her from afar but then also call her a friend is a real privilege.
Quinn: Awesome. We will definitely have to get her on the line. That sounds super cool.
Brian: That was a great answer. I apologize for moving on [crosstalk 01:25:38].
Priya Shukla: No, it's all good.
Quinn: Look, we need to call him on it.
Brian: That's right.
Quinn: We've got you here.
Brian: Absolutely. Maybe you could answer the next question first as-
Priya Shukla: Sure.
Brian: As an apology. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? What's your self care?
Priya Shukla: That's a very timely question. I think I'm just emerging out of some very intense burnout that is related to the loss of the friend that I just mentioned and to be honest, I did a whole lot of nothing and it was incredibly therapeutic. I downloaded a game that I will not buzz market because I can't remember what it's called, but on my phone for three days straight, I built houses for dragons and I did not know that you could do that, but it was-
Brian: It's amazing.
Priya Shukla: ...at the end of that 72 hour period. I was a radically different person and I showered for like the first time in eight days. I think that is the most honest answer I can give, and I think now I would say that what I do is I actually go out and I look at nature. Now, when I feel like I might be receding back into some of that, I will go and just try to close my eyes and feel the wind and smell whatever plants are around me and try to remember that for everything that is going wrong. There is so much in my local space that is absolutely right and I'm lucky enough to live right next to a hill that I can climb up in the span of like five or six minutes and I can actually see the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. Having that immense privilege in my backyard, in my very, very expensive backyard is something else that I hold on to.
Quinn: That's super cool and we're very sorry to hear about your loss. It is always a tough thing. Okay. Brian, your favorite question.
Priya Shukla: Wait, Sarah didn't answer now.
Brian: Doesn't Sarah get to answer that?
Quinn: Quinn, it's my turn.
Brian: Quinn it's [crosstalk 01:27:40] turn.
Quinn: Forget it.
Male: Forget it.
Brian: God, I think it feels so much better.
Quinn: This it. This has been a great 83 up. Sorry about us.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: This is going really well. I could tell you my negotiation around anxiety and depression and the tool kit that I have built that ranges from marijuana to Zumba to sex, to friendships. I got a whole situation but I think-
Quinn: Smart woman.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: ...one of the things that's been really helping me these days is just like trying to write really bad jokes. I, really find... I find laughing and humor to be like the thing that takes all the stress actually down to the ground, and so my kid and I have been writing some terrible jokes. We've been reading the series Captain Underpants, so yeah, I got a joke for you guys. Okay, Priya, ready.
Quinn: Let's do it.
Brian: God, [crosstalk 01:28:43] I was going to ask, I'm so happy.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Knock knock.
Priya Shukla: Who's their?
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Climate change?
Priya Shukla: Climate change who?
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Climate change pooped on your head, that's it.
Priya Shukla: Oh my God, your kid must love this so much.
Quinn: That's it.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: It works every time.
Quinn: By the way. It does feel like it pooped on your head a little bit every day.
Brian: Oh my goodness, I'm so happy.
Quinn: That's by the way, that is the title of our episode.
Brian: Oh, for sure.
Quinn: We'll just send that-
Priya Shukla: Climate change.
Quinn: ...right off to the producers. Knock knock.
Quinn: I'm so excited.
Priya Shukla: That's so precious. I really thought, but this was close though, but I really thought, Sarah, you were finding a way to integrate climate change and your kids love of butt jokes and it seems like you have actually achieved-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: No, actually it is. Yeah.
Quinn: It's totally special.
Brian: I'm looking very forward to the climate change knock knock stupid jokes but-
Quinn: It's awesome. Ladies, if you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what book would it be?
Dr. Sarah Myhre: It's called [Fuck 01:29:44] You Very Much. Get out of office.
Brian: Okay. Cool.
Quinn: I love that book. My favorite book.
Priya Shukla: Did you write that book, Sarah?
Quinn: Is that a second printing. Is that a-
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah.
Quinn: Perfect, sounds great.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: You can find on Amazon.
Brian: We have an Amazon book list for him, so that's perfect.
Quinn: Yeah. One, two, three, four, north go fuck yourself.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah.
Quinn: Perfect. Perfect. Priya, did you have something similar?
Priya Shukla: I think I've heard other people on your podcast say this, which it's not clear that our current president has the time or wherewithal.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: He can't read.
Priya Shukla: To be quite frank to read. Yes, exactly.
Quinn: Yeah, no, no, no.
Priya Shukla: If it was a book, I would recommend Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez and it's about how basically the world was designed by, and for men and it's amazing and in fact, one of my colleagues in a Forbes science just published a review of the book today, so you can go check that out and she goes by girl scientist. You can check out that review if you want but I was going to say since he actually spends most of his time on Twitter, he should really check out some of Sarah's Twitter threads. I actually think that is more accessible for him.
Priya Shukla: Although I think he'd be very upset and just block Sarah if he hasn't already, so there you go.
Quinn: I like that idea. That's pretty good.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: That's a better answer than mine.
Priya Shukla: We liked your-
Quinn: We loved your answer. There's no judging here.
Brian: Yeah, there's a limit to my diplomacy.
Priya Shukla: [crosstalk 01:31:12] not judging Sarah, we're judging somebody else clearly in this question.
Quinn: Yeah. 100%. Well, boy. How does one say thank you for such a wonderful experience. Thank you guys so much for your time and all that you're doing and your perspective and your efforts now and in the past and in the future. We are lucky to have you and as [Greta 01:31:40] says, don't just thank us, get off your asses and help us. If there's anything we can ever do, please tell us how else we can help or just get out of the way. Where can our listeners follow you on the Internet, speaking of Sarah's Twitter feed.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah, I'm on Twitter. I have lots of cat photos.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: I'm definitely winning Twitter with the cat photos and I'm at sarahemarie, so that's S-A-R-A-H-E-M-Y-H-R-E on Twitter.
Priya Shukla: Yeah. I'm also on Twitter at P-R-I-Y-O-L-O-G-Y or at priyology, which is a Twitter handle I came up with when I was 22 and had a blog also that was called [Priyology 01:32:26], a self study.
Quinn: That's so good.
Priya Shukla: Which is so douchey.
Priya Shukla: And so millennial.
Quinn: Feels like we could have a whole like after dark type podcast to just about digging into that.
Priya Shukla: But I have a different blog that you can now follow, which is my Forbes column and so you can find that at blogs.forbes.com/priyashukla.
Quinn: Perfect. We will throw all of that into the show notes as well as the climate change knock knock joke. That's perfect.
Priya Shukla: Sure.
Quinn: Once again thank you so much for your time and everything.
Brian: This was wonderful.
Quinn: We really appreciate it guys.
Priya Shukla: Yeah, thank you so much for having us. This was absolutely fabulous. I had so much fun.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Super fun and love you Priya.
Quinn: I'm usually-
Priya Shukla: Yeah, love you too. Excited to connect at some other time on a different podcast hopefully.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Yeah, I know. Just [inaudible 01:33:20] podcast.
Priya Shukla: Yeah. Seriously.
Brian: You should.
Quinn: I'm going to put on a fake mustache and start another podcast just to have you guys.
Brian: Yeah, yeah.
Quinn: Alright guys, get out of here. Thank you so much. Have a great rest of your week. Really appreciate it.
Priya Shukla: All right.
Brian: Thanks ladies.
Priya Shukla: You too.
Dr. Sarah Myhre: Thank you.
Priya Shukla: Bye.
Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guest today and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish washing or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news, most vital to our survival as a species.
Brian: And you can follow us all over the Internet. You can find us on Twitter at ImportantNotImp. Just so weird. Also on Facebook and Instagram at ImportantNotImportant. Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. Check us out, follow us, share us, like us, you know the deal and please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this and if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple podcast. Keep the lights on. Thanks.
Brian: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, importantnotimportant.com.
Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music to all of you for listening and finally most importantly to our moms for making us. Have a great day.
Brian: Thanks guys.