My Climate Journey

Ep 95: Jacqueline Patterson, Senior Director of Environmental & Climate Justice Program at the NAACP

Episode Summary

Today's guest is Jacqueline Patterson, Senior Director of Environmental and Climate Justice Program at the NAACP. The mission of the NAACP is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and wellbeing of all people. Environmental injustice has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low-income communities in the U.S. and around the world. The NAACP environmental and climate justice program was created to support community leadership in addressing this human and civil rights issue. Having led the program for over a decade, Jacqueline works to address the many practices that are harming communities of color nationwide. She works in both the public and commercial realms to support policies that foster sustainable, cooperative and regenerative communities. Environmental justice is an important topic that I’ve been seeking to educate myself on, so it was great to speak with Jacqueline and hear her experience and perspective. I hope you enjoy our discussion. Enjoy the show! You can find me on twitter @jjacobs22 or @mcjpod and email at info@myclimatejourney.co, where I encourage you to share your feedback on episodes and suggestions for future topics or guests.

Episode Notes

In today’s episode, we cover:

Links to topics discussed in this episode:

Episode Transcription

Jason Jacobs: Hello everyone. This is Jason Jacobs, and welcome to My Climate Journey . This show follows my journey to interview a wide range of guests to better understand and make sense of the formidable problem of climate change and try to figure out how people like you and I can help. .

Today's guest is Jacqueline Patterson, the Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. The mission of the NAACP is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race based discrimination and ensure the health and wellbeing of all people. Environmental injustice, including the proliferation of climate change, has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color and low income communities in the U.S. and around the world. The NAACP environmental and climate justice program was created to support community leadership in addressing this human and civil rights issue. This program works at addressing the many practices that are harming communities nationwide and worldwide, and the policies needed to rectify these impacts and advance a society that foster sustainable, cooperative, regenerative communities that uphold all rights for all people in harmony with the earth. I thought this was a great one and learned a lot, and I hope you do as well. Jackie Patterson, welcome to the show.

Jacqueline Patterson: It's a pleasure to be on. Thank you.

Jason Jacobs: So, I know this is a remote one and you're in a hotel, so where am I catching you today?

Jacqueline Patterson: I'm actually in Washington, D.C. So nearby. I work in live in Baltimore, but I get to come to D.C. for an early morning meeting of the congressional black caucus and they had an emergency summit today.

Jason Jacobs: Emergency summit is everything. Okay?

Jacqueline Patterson: It was billed as an emergency summit, but the idea was just that there's so many issues plaguing African American community and it was kind of a, we need to really pull together and be strategic about addressing these issues.

Jason Jacobs: Well, it's such an honor to have you on the show.

As I was explaining a little bit before we started recording, I've been on this learning journey, learning about climate change publicly for the last, well, learning about it for over a year and publicly, probably eight or nine months, but I've been hitting it from all these different angles, but a lot of it's been startups.

It's been big companies, it's been policy, it's been NGOs, but climate justice, environmental justice, you know, these are areas I've known are important and I haven't had the opportunity to really delve into that perspective yet, as much as I'd like both for listeners, but also candidly for me, I have a lot to learn about it.

And you are a very well placed person to teach me and to and to teach us. So it's just such a privilege to be having this discussion today.

Jacqueline Patterson: Thank you. I appreciate your interest to both build deeper and to shine a spotlight for others to also understand these issues of in level. So thank you.

Jason Jacobs: So maybe for starters, and I started the same way every time, so it's not like this is new.

If you've heard any other episodes, but let's just take it from the top. Tell me about NAACP.

Jacqueline Patterson: NAACP in general? Okay.

Jason Jacobs: So let's start with the organization and then we'll kind of get into your purview within the organization, if that's okay.

Jacqueline Patterson: Sure. That's great. Yeah. The NAACP, as many know, is the nation's oldest largest civil rights organization founded in 1909 and started traditionally talking, addressing issues around violence.

Um, anti-black violence and education access issues has evolved to talking about those issues still as well as voting rights and health justice, economic justice, and most recently adding criminal justice as well. And most recently adding environmental and climate justice to the agenda. This 2200 branches of chapters throughout the country.

There are, there's NAACP in every state and also in multiple military bases throughout the world. And it, uh, continues to do grassroots organizing. So everything from door to door canvassing and door knocking to being in the halls of Congress, the, uh, state houses and the mayoral offices as well as the United Nations.

Anywhere where power is seated is where we are pushing for change and for justice.

Jason Jacobs: And so just tactically, how much of that is, who are the stakeholders that you're after? Is it the policy makers themselves? Is it voters? Is it the press? Is it all the above and are some that I'm not mentioning. How do you think about kind of the target audience for your work.

Jacqueline Patterson: So, I mean, I guess there's audience, but then there's ultimately what we're, what we're doing is advancing civil rights and human rights and pushing for the systemic change that's going to result in justice, equity, fairness, and. For all basically. And so that means that part of our work is helping to do political education, organizing, working with communities to facilitate their visioning of what they want.

What is that vision of equity and justice from their perspective? And then secondly is working with those same communities to develop. Once they know that what their vision is, to help them to develop power building strategy to achieve that vision. So it could be that a community, what stands in the way of fairness and equity and justice for that community is a corporation that's holding them down in some way, whether it's a corporation that's polluting their community or in some other way harming them.

So the strategy might be focused on changing that the policies and practices of that corporation, or it could be the strategy is changing the policy, the regulatory policies to control what's happening with that corporation, for example. So it really is about doing that visioning and then developing the strategy based on a power analysis of what's going to actually result in whatever that vision is if the community holds for itself.

Jason Jacobs: And when you say community. Equal parts of local community versus state community versus federal community versus global community or, uh, how do you define community as it relates to the stakeholders that you're serving with the NAACP?

Jacqueline Patterson: Yeah. I mean, that was an example, but as I said before, our ultimate aim is equity, fairness, justice.

For all, and so I was just giving a couple of examples of like how it might go. So at the local level that it might be working with the community around some specific issue. So taking a death penalty, for example, that's something that we're, we're trying to eliminate nationally. So that would mean going state by state and dragging death penalty out the books of the state level to make it such the norm that then federal policy becomes.

That we are eliminating the death penalty. So there's that level of policy, or it could be down to changing a zoning law so that a polluting facility isn't right on top of a home and a community, or it might be pushing to, to reinforce existing laws or develop laws where they don't happen. So. That's what I mean.

It's a, it's a half a million person organization with a huge mandate. So we work at all levels with all types of stakeholders and all types of changes that were, that we're supporting.

Jason Jacobs: And you, you mentioned that climate and environmental justice were recent additions to the focus areas. How did that come about for the NAACP and also what was your path into serving in this function at the NAACP?

Jacqueline Patterson: Yeah, so the environmental and climate justice program started in 2009 out of a realization that originally started as a climate gap initiative, and it was really with the focus at that point that. On the fact that climate change was disproportionately impacting communities of color and low income communities.

So it certainly was at that point, declared to be a civil rights issue. And so then 2009 a resolution was passed a national convention talking about climate change and impact in communities of color. And it also taught the resolution also talked about the need for us to protect and defend the Clean Air Act, because, um, not only is that regulated and give us the greenhouse gas emissions and advanced climate change, but it's also regulating against the pollution practices and disproportionately harm who is of color in particular African American communities. So that's how the program started and its sense of evolved from, and at that time, I guess about six months into the NAACP getting a grant to advance that agenda, after they passed that resolution, then I came along and I was actually, I had gotten a grant, um, as part of this group, I was working with the school by a founded called Women of Color United, and I've gotten a grant to go around the country doing what I called The Women of Color for Climate Justice Road Tour, where I was interviewing women of color who were impacted by and, or working on climate change in some way.

And I reached out to the NAACP because I wanted to interview folks for that, and I was thinking they would have some people to recommend, and one thing led to another and they asked me if I was interested in the climate gap initiative director position. And I said, Oh, um, I wasn't sure if I wanted to do climate change everyday all day as my focus, but I said, all right, I'll do it for a year.

And the rest of the history, 10 years later, I am still doing it. It still continues to be. Very stimulating, dynamic, and gratifying work.

Jason Jacobs: So when you came in, did the program already exist or was it totally green field?

Jacqueline Patterson: It was totally green. Like they had this grant that they had gotten and they hadn't found a new one in the six months that they had the grant.

And then I came along. And was the founding director.

Jason Jacobs: And so what was that like stepping into the organization? How did you figure out the right charter and then what were the first steps to get this new important initiative off the ground?

Jacqueline Patterson: Yeah, so, so additionally, the first funder, when they supported the program, there was this notion that we would have engaged on what was then this comprehensive climate legislation bills, the Waxman Marky Bill, and they were looking for a base building organization of, of African Americans in particular to engage on that policy.

But by the time I was hired, the uh, bill had already didn't pass in Congress. And so I had a clean slate. And so for the first year or so. I really was kind of on a fact-finding mission. Like I was just out there meeting with communities that were impacted very a couple of months into my position, the BP oil drilling disaster happened.

So I was there working on the, working with the communities that were impacted by that. I also was just going around the different communities cause we are doing our cold blooded report. So I was visiting with communities that were hosted, coal fire power plants interfering in those communities. And so for those first year or two even, I was having a lot of conversations and understanding what was happening in communities and where they were as it relates to their understanding of climate change. They're interested in engaging on climate change. They're connecting what's happening in their communities with this notion of climate change. And so the program began to crystallize with each conversation that I had in terms of what people's real interests are, what kind of framing of the work for our communities.

And what kind of organizing. So meanwhile I'm, I'm learning all of that, but then I'm also learning the culture of the organization and our communities. So those first years were formative for me. And so many ways and even understanding how to work within an organization of this size and magnitude. By this first couple of years, I finally felt like I had my legs under me in terms of having a, an understanding of what communities visions are.

I had an understanding of how to work with the community's understanding of how to work within the NAACP and an understanding of the NAACP is relationships with the broader social justice community so that I can understand how to navigate all of those different aspects of the work, if that makes sense.

Jason Jacobs: And when you went in and you did that initial tour out in the field, talking to people most effected on the front lines, what were the biggest surprises coming out of those initial discussions?

Jacqueline Patterson: I would say the biggest surprises were probably. It just that I had known this world, like I wasn't in environmental justice.

I didn't have background in this. The one of the biggest surprises was just the number of communities that were being, uh, assailed by such deep pollution issues. And so. The communities that, you know, the cancer alleys, and just knowing that that's even allowed to exist, that, that it's so clear that the reason these communities are experiencing the chronic illnesses, the high mortality and so forth is directly tied to where they're living and these polluting, polluting entities that are in those communities.

The fact that in this day and age, if that was allowed to persist. So just the inhumanity of it, of how people's people, and by then we were talking about Black Lives Matter, um, in that term, but just this feeling that according to how people were being, communities were being disregarded and underprotected just the starkness of the devaluing of certain lives was, was probably my, was definitely my biggest surprise.

Jason Jacobs: And I want to ask this next question two different ways, and actually they're both beasts of a question. So maybe it's, it's two distinct questions and we should separate them, but, but one is just putting aside climate justice and environmental justice and just looking at the problem of climate change.

I'd love to know. How you thought about the problem going in and how you think about it today and what, how your views have changed or evolved on the overall problem of climate change. But then I'd love to ask you the same question about climate justice, environmental justice.

Jacqueline Patterson: Okay. So...

Jason Jacobs: In two minutes or less, no, I'm just joking. Those are like, those are big both beasts of a question. So, um, but, but you understand what I'm getting at, right? Is that you came in and you started this tour and you were in learning mode. And so when you came out of there, it's like, you know, one, what do you think about the overall problem of climate change and carbon and budgets, and like what, what did that problem mean to you?

And then where did climate and environmental justice fit in. What were your views on, on that piece of the equation at the time, and then fast forward to today where you've got so much experience under your belt and scar tissue, if you will, and then like what are the biggest ways that your thinking has evolved on these issues, if at all?

Jacqueline Patterson: Yeah. Okay. I guess in some ways the, some of the big revelations and ways of my thinking has evolved was. Really, I've always been, I mean, even when I started, it was clear to me just how intersectional the issues that impact communities are just generally, and as I was starting to work on climate change, and particularly looking at it from a, from both sides of the continuum, from the drivers of climate change to the impact of climate change and just so looking at that whole, it just, the more and more I did this work, there were just so many ways the intersections in terms of impacts on communities were inextricably linked, as well as the depth of the systemic underpinnings of climate change and how that also stuff is also. So, taking as  an example, one of the early, early intersections that I began to articulate was around kids who were in communities that had coal fire power plants, which at that time were the number one contributor to climate change because they were the number one, uh, emitters of carbon dioxide. And so the kids in those, the communities that I worked with were being exposed to sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and other types of pollutants from those coal fire power plants.

Kids are often the ones who had the highest level of asthma rates in those communities. And then often, and then we also know that lead is one of the things that comes out of those same smoke stacks as well. And led is tied to attention deficit disorder and other attention issues. And. And so seeing those types of things as well as the other coal pollutants of those same community face.

One illustration I talk about with folks in terms of the intersectionality is how if a kid is having a hard time paying attention in school because of exposure to lead. It's coming from the smokestacks. They're not in school as much as other kids because of the asthma, you know, poor air quality days, which is fairly consistent.

And communities that have these pollutants in them that their ability to operate on the same grade level as other kids is compromised. And that studies show that if you are not operating on the third grade level by the third grade, you're more likely to enter into the school to prison pipeline. So I talk about, and then also the other factor is that that if you're living next to a toxic facility, then your property values on average are 15% lower.

And property values also fund school. And so all of those things, not being in school and not being able to pay attention in school, lower property values, which means lower quality, um, schooling school system, that all of those things are counting against kids. Not to mention the other issues that often assail those very same communities like food insecurity and what they call food deserts on the, a lot of communities don't like the term food deserts because it implies something happens naturally.

And we know the factors that lead to the separation for those critical resources. And so all of those things combining to hold kids back and make paved the way for this school to prison pipeline on top of issues like privatization of prisons, which are, are trying to drive more people into the prison system.

So, you know, just recognizing those inextricable interconnections or something that has happened over my time of doing this work. So I'll give that as an example and then I'll go on.

Jason Jacobs: Oh, I was just going to ask, so if you, if you fast forward to today, what are the key areas of focus as it relates to climate and environmental justice at the NAACP?

So what are the issues under that umbrella that you deem highest priority and what kinds of initiatives do you have in place to try to address them?

Jacqueline Patterson: Yeah, we have three strategic objectives. One is to basically eliminate pollution. So first is called reducing harmful emissions, particularly greenhouse gases.

And so we do everything from protecting and defending the clean air act to working on the various rule makings of the clean air act, working on the clean water act as well. So just working on the whole regulatory landscape, but then also working with doing corporate social responsibility and otherwise.

To get corporations to stop burning coal or oil and gas and so forth. So both working the policy route as well as directly pressuring corporations to stop the harmful practices. Then secondly is to advance the alternatives. So basically the advanced energy efficiency and clean energy policies and practices.

And with that, we are not only pushing for policies like renewable portfolio standards, energy efficiency, resource standards, community solar project policies, but we're also, um, helping to start projects and projects that are also intersectional. So we have our power of employment project, which trains formerly incarcerated person on energy efficiency, weatherization, and retrofits, as well as solar installations. So we're advancing advancing clean energy while also making it an economic justice issue, a criminal justice issue, a social justice issue. And then finally is strengthening community resilience in the context of climate adaptation.

So recognizing that climate change is already happening and it's already impacting communities. We are, we're working on everything from food security to water security to disaster equity, and also just democracy. Recognizing that we, without a democracy, we're not going to be, you know, without taking money out of politics and making sure that every vote counts, that, um, we're not going to have the types of policies that we need to support fairness, equity and justice for all. So we have a pretty comprehensive agenda under the environmental climate justice program. Out of that same recognition, I just talked about the intersectionality of all of these issues.

Jason Jacobs: One thing that you know that I've been thinking about is, and I'd love to get your input on, I mean, we essentially need to decarbonize our entire global economy, and that's a, a big beast of an effort. And so I've heard one argument that, or there's many different shades, so I don't want to oversimplify, but there's an argument that you can't do that effectively without also taking into account address transition and, and jobs and social policies and fixing capitalism it, you know, and so I think the green new deal, right?

On the one hand, it's a big bold kind of thing people can rally around, right? And that's kind of a pro, but I think the worry was something like a green new deal is that any one of these problems is hard enough. And if you, and you should focus. And try to, you know, put a dedicated effort to get a problem solved.

And if you try to lump everything in as one problem, then it blurries the issue and makes it harder to execute on, on any one of them. And so how do you think about that tension and, and where do you come out on that spectrum?

Jacqueline Patterson: I mean, I think you can imagine just given the comments about the intersectionality in the inextricable mess of these connections that I definitely come out on, that we need to do. Because we can't just take a laser focus and just, you know, remove carbon out of the atmosphere.

Because the way we remove carbon, you know, out of the atmosphere is where all of these other issues come into play. And then also the fact that, you know, decarbonization is only, I mean, methane also has just there. So the greenhouse gas suite of things. And then also the, if we, even if we move carbon. Then if we go towards, let's say, natural gas as an alternative because they don't consider it to be as carbon intensive than natural gas is much more methane intensive, and methane is actually a it's less, there's less methane now, but it's actually more potent than carbon as it relates to advancing climate change. And so, so this is why we can just one illustration on why we can't just like have this laser focus too, to how we address the challenge, but that's literally just one small example.

The other example, I mean that the broader analysis is around, if we're in this kind of, you know, a capitalist context where it's all about doing things as cheaply as possible and having the greatest profit for the, for the few. Then we continue to have a situation where commoditization of natural resources, commoditization of people without regard to to human rights, civil rights and environmental wellbeing and sustainability.

So there's so much that we have to do in order to really successfully address not just climate change, but the myriad and other social injustices that had the same underpinnings as climate change.

Jason Jacobs: Yeah, and by the way, I don't disagree at all. I think the struggle for me is I get that all these things are interrelated.

I believe that I really do, but if you look at how interrelated they are, it becomes paralyzing. And how do you move forward and get anything done if everything has all these ripple effects that affects everything else. For example, if you try to lump things together with a big bold initiative, which by the way, I think if we could get it over the line.

I'm all for it. The problem is that our democracy is so fractured and polarized that if you want to get anything over the line, you need to decouple it and incrementally put one foot in front of the other. And I guess I'm saying that as a statement, but really it's a question because it's something I'm struggling with is how do you get the ambitious level of change that we need.

But don't wait for it and be flat footed while you're trying to push some moonshot and keep putting one foot in front of the other along the way each and every day. So I guess, yeah, maybe we're just react to that, like, what's your method? Or how do you like to see us operate so that we keep our eye on the North Star, but also don't withhold making the incremental progress in the meantime, that'll push us closer to that.

Jacqueline Patterson: Yeah. I mean, for us, when we talk about like, I think on one hand certain people might feel overwhelmed or paralyzed by the magnitude and the way we talk about it and the way we organize around it, people actually feel excited and energized by it. Like so for example, if we're just telling people. To stop eating meat, for example, or just telling people to whatever, whatever it is, whatever conservation type of things that well, without actually contextualizing all of like all of the gains that we can have in our society if we make these transition.

And so it becomes. Just taking the example of going solar. Like right now we are the programs that we are advancing. It's not just about like, you know, not turning on the lights as much or whatever. It's about how come we are going to be creating jobs and we're going to be helping communities to build wealth and housing and security and all of these different things are part of it.

So that actually energizes people. So it's like we're doing all of these good things, not, not attacking, not, not just kind of talking about it from a deficit model. Like we're dealing with all of these problems. We're creating all these opportunities. When we had a conversation recently with the, um, the United Mine Workers of America and others who are being impacted by job loss, we were really focused on like, this is definitely happening this transition. And so that's not what we're really here to debate. It's about like how are we going to make sure that not only are people surviving this, but people are thriving in the new energy economy and that people get energized around that. The notion of, of not just being a worker in the end of the line, but like thinking about how do we create a new economy.

Where they have an ownership stake in this new economy. People get energized around that. And so, so that's, that's really the ways that we've been able to advance change is really talk about the opportunities and the transition that we need to make. Not like kind of grimly we have this whole list of transition, you know, things that we need to do.

It's like all these opportunities for, for, for doing better.

Jason Jacobs: And it sounds like some of the initiatives that you guys take on are, are very tactical. Like there is a coal plant that is near this school and, and we need to get it out of there, for example. And then others of them, I heard you talk about the renewable portfolio standard, for example.

It's more kind of a, an overarching policy type of change. Um, if you could wave a magic wand and put. One thing in place or make one change or, or maybe it's a handful if you've got more than one, are there certain things that you think could have an outsized impact on helping both accelerate this transition but doing so properly?

Or is it really more like death by a thousand cuts or life by a thousand cuts where it's just about, you know, doing anything and everything in big things and small things and everything in between. But it's more just about, you know, plugging holes in the boat and keeping moving?

Jacqueline Patterson: Well. Yeah, so I will say that I don't think that there's like a magic bullet, like one specific thing or even a small suite of things like there is a, you know, there's pretty, we need to change pretty much every, we need to change our waste system.

We need to change our food system. We, we change our water systems, our energy systems in order to really do this right. It's all interconnected. And so we need to change each and every one. But it's, it's all within a same, the same notion of like, if you want to kind of put bigger frame around it, like increasing localism, increase in deepening democracy.

Like these are the kind of big things that we need to do in order. Cause if we increased democracy than, than people kind of know what they need for their communities. We don't have a political system that's controlled by the will of people who are, whose, you know, there's this very small few who are trying to make profit.

Then we are going to have better decisions in general in terms of all of these different policies. So like, that's definitely a big one that I would say if I were going to make a big change, getting money out of politics and really restoring true democracy, or that was a true democracy, that would be one.

Another would definitely be be localisms. So we're, we're, we're not having this kind of massive, you know, whether it's coal plants, you know, do centralizing. So we have microgrids and moved up solar and so forth. Or whether it's not moving away from, you know, taking waste, you know, trucking waste to incinerators or landfills and actually doing, you know, local recovery reuse and recycling and so forth.

Um, having more of a share, the common resource that we're not even generating so much waste in the first place. So all of those. So that would be another suite. I would say restoring to democracy, one big suite, not restoring, but establishing true democracy would be increasing. Localism would definitely be another suite of things.

Jason Jacobs: So to bring about these types of changes, where does it come from? So I mean, obviously you've got this organization that's doing this important work, but like I guess what I'm getting at is. You know how much of it comes from the market, you know, from innovation, how much of it comes from policy, how much of it comes from voters?

Like what are the components of this battle that you think are the most impactful things? If you just take a step outside of yourself or me or any organization or individual, and just look at the system, like, are there key levers?

Jacqueline Patterson: Yeah, I mean, certainly. So for example, establishing democracy, you're saying, what are the levers to do that?

Jason Jacobs: Well, you said get money out of politics. So I would ask, how do we get money out of politics? You said move towards localization. I would say, how do we move towards localization? Because I think it's an exciting vision that you're talking about. What I'm really trying to push on is, okay, for anyone listening that agrees with you and wants to work to bring this about, what should they do?

Jacqueline Patterson: Right? And so there are significant efforts that are moving in, in all of these directions already. And so I'm not sure, I mean, when you say step out of whatever, so anyway, but the point being that, so whether it's the, there's a growing number of folks. We're looking to repeal the roll back of Citizens United.

And so really getting involved with these various organizations that are doing this democracy work, the Democracy Initiative and Democracy Collaborative, making sure that we are. Yeah. Um, and that...

Jason Jacobs: Are those two organizations, by the way, that you just mentioned too, that are doing this work, democracy initiative and democracy collaborative?

Jacqueline Patterson: And then I'll...

Jason Jacobs: Okay. Just because I want to make sure to link to them in the show notes and if there's others, yeah, I would love to, to hear about those. That way we can put them in the show notes for listeners to find.

Jacqueline Patterson: There's another group that Move To Amend that is working hard on pushing back, uh, Citizens United.

Yeah. And then there's just groups that are theirs, whether it's labor unions or other groups that are part of those groups too. So the democracy initiative, the democracy initiative consists of groups like FCIU and NAACP and Sierra Club and so forth. All these different, so join those groups and be a part of their concerted efforts within these larger umbrella groups.

Jason Jacobs: I'll tell you as a, as a newcomer coming in, that hasn't worked in this field and doesn't know all these organizations and have all these relationships and been in the same meetings and conferences and everything else, it is hard to navigate through and keep track of who's doing what and just kind of like find the organizations, not only that, do the work that you believe in, but also that are the ones that do that work, that do the best work, or the ones that most aligned with your values. It's, it's almost like you need a shepherd or some way to just kind of sift through all the noise to figure it out because there's a lot going on. But to your point, there's, you know, there's some that are doing really impactful stuff in certain areas, and those others that just use the words, but it's like sifting through it, I find is a daunting challenge.

Jacqueline Patterson: Yeah, it definitely can be done. Those are ones that I would recommend that are doing good work on it. And I would say there's all these different entry points, so certainly, not only kind of, you know, not everybody has the capacity to join an organization and be like rallying in that kind of way. So even if they are, even if they're just kind of mixture that people, individuals, make sure that they follow what's happening, you know, with the democracy initiative so that they know what policies are, are coming in their state legislature.

So they know what to vote on when it comes time to vote. Um, that then that's actually something, you know, that's important because that's the whole idea is so the voting on when a valid initiative comes up or the policy or whatever, the moves us towards getting money out of politics. That's, you know, that's something like everything that we do in that direction counts.

People don't have to feel like it's kind of all or nothing. Either I become like this campaigner or I sit on my couch. It's like there's all these things in between. The people can do and same with everything else. So you don't, you know, we don't have to join a group. Like there's great groups that are doing great work around food justice I food and water watch and, and others.

And if one just grows as a garden or if one becomes a part of a produce share in their local community or, you know, so there's just various levels of people can, can think of in terms of contributing to any given system has changed that we want to advance. Up to, you know, being  working in an organization or a voted for policies or whatever.

There's like a whole range and each of the areas. It might be good for us to think about as the NAACP and others to say, and this is something I do a lot when I'm making presentations in the end where it's like, well, what do we do? Then I'll have like a list of things from like big thing like running for office or starting an organization or whatever to small things like planting a small garden and maybe for each of the systems that we need to change what thing that we can do as the NAACP is say, you know, here's a list for each of these systems and here's like all these levels of engagement in every last one of them counts. Just do what you can so that people know that they don't have to get overwhelmed by like having to do this big thing.

Even if they do this small thing, it gets us down the street.

Jason Jacobs: Yeah, but the problem is that you have probably have a whole presentation just to outline. The issues and the landscape, and then it would take another whole presentation to, you know, you need a second speaking slot to, to get through this one.

Since that sounds like another beast of an effort, but it's, I, I would really benefit from it though. I'll tell ya, it's confusing and I want to know, and it's a struggle.

Jacqueline Patterson: In my presentation, I talk about like all the different things and then in the end I give this list of things that people can do from big to small and, and it has the whole continuum. But what I'm saying is that one good thing we could do, maybe even our website or develop a series of one pagers to really break it down system by system so that people have like a reference point to go to to say, Oh, like I really want to do something on waste or on food or whatever.

What are the different choices and where can I find myself according to my capacity?

Jason Jacobs: Yeah. And it, and that might be something like, I'm coming across a lot of technology, people from Silicon Valley who are looking to help with a problem with their software people. And then all the infrastructure people say, if you're not building infrastructure, there's nothing for you to do.

The software doesn't matter. But actually like taking what you just said and just like building the digital service that could walk someone through, you know, help them address, figuring out who they are and what kind of time they had to devote, and what kind of causes are most interesting to them. And uh, and what kind of skills do they have to bring to the table, et cetera.

And then just kind of come out the other side with some specific recommendations that are actionable.

Jacqueline Patterson: That would be fantastic.

Jason Jacobs: Yeah. Well we should talk more about that cause maybe I can drum up some volunteers for you.

Jacqueline Patterson: I would love that. I would go into that. Yeah.

Jason Jacobs: Uh, so a couple last questions I ask every guest.

One is just, if you had a a hundred billion dollars and you could, uh, allocate it towards anything to, to maximize its impact on the problem. And, and usually when I ask it, I say the problem of climate change, but given the focus today, I think it's, you know, on the problem of climate and environmental justice, I'll make it more specific.

Where would you put that money and how would you allocate it?

Jacqueline Patterson: So could you repeat the question again? Sorry. Um...

Jason Jacobs: Yeah. If you, if you just had a big pot of money, say $100 billion, uh, that's an arbitrary number, but just a lot of money and you could put it towards anything to help, I'm trying to think of the wording.

I mean, usually I say to help, you know, to help have the maximum impact on addressing climate change. But I think in this episode, we're not just talking about climate change, we're talking about climate change, while ensuring a just transition, which is very important. So if I didn't get the charter right, then just reframe it in a way that makes sense for you.

But if you had that big pot of money towards the charter that resonates for you the most, how would you allocate that money to maximize its impact?

Jacqueline Patterson: I would say first towards, I mean... I know I sound like a broken record, but, uh, definitely towards, uh, campaigning and educating folks around getting money out of policy because, because like I said, I think people, people have the solutions.

Like, when you talk to people. They kind of know what, what works and they, you know, when you pull people and so forth about certain certain aspects of this transition that we need to make people get it. Especially, you know, the closer you get to the local level. And I think if we really have, if we change our political system and then we increase political education, so people will know what policies will lead to what ins a little bit better then the people will, will lead us in the right direction in terms of the types of all of these changes that we need. Because, cause, like we said, there's just so many changes that we need across the board that are a, a well informed electorate is really, uh, the key to getting us and well informed and empowered elected electorate is, was a key to kind of getting us in that right direction.

Jason Jacobs: And I just want to make sure that I understand right. Is the importance of getting the biggest negative consequence of having money in politics? Is it putting corporate interest ahead of the interest, the best interest of the people?

Jacqueline Patterson: Exactly.

Jason Jacobs: And then for anyone who's listening, who wants to help.

And I'll ask it in terms of the work that you're doing specifically, what are the things that people can do that would be most beneficial to you?

Jacqueline Patterson: I would say one would be to join and or support any local environmental justice organizations, a frontline environmental justice organizations in their communities, if that exists.

And if that doesn't exist, if whatever local groups that there might be would be, you know, and helping those groups to start to understand. These very issues that we've been talking about today. So then, so really kind of each what each of us could do to kind of help to advance this political education is key.

And then really to the extent that people can join or be a part of our support, any of the organizations that are part of say the democracy initiative would be good so that we're all working in that direction. Those would be key steps.

Jason Jacobs: Oh, I was just going to say, I have a request for you as well, which is also atypical, but Hey, I'm being wild and spontaneous today, but this is an area that, as I said, you're the first guest around that addresses specifically, and I've learned a lot in this discussion, but candidly, I don't know enough.

So, uh, what would be helpful is maybe offline, just to get some suggestions from you of other people that I should talk to in my learning journey, whether or not they could be guests, but also ones that might be good guests on the podcast so that we can show some other complementary perspectives and help fill in the picture in this important area for me and for listeners.

Jacqueline Patterson: Yeah, no, I would be very happy. There's so many awesome folks out there that would be good to hear from. I could name some now or is that just something we'll do later?

Jason Jacobs: I mean, if you have them top of mind, but I didn't want to put you on the spot, but if you have them now, I'd love to hear more.

We can do it offline. Whatever you prefer.

Jacqueline Patterson: There's so many. And I wouldn't want to just name a couple in a soundbite leave out cause there's just so many. So I'll definitely share with you a robust list.

Jason Jacobs: Sounds good. Well Jackie, we've covered a lot of ground. Is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have or any parting words for listeners.

Jacqueline Patterson: Well, no, just the fact that A) that folks came on to listen in the first place and B) the folks have stayed on until the end is a, is deeply appreciated and it.

Jason Jacobs: Will, you don't know that they have yet though. Cause we're just recording it now. But let's assume that at least some will.

Jacqueline Patterson: That was the point because the people who are hearing me now are people who stayed until the end.

You know what I mean?

Jason Jacobs: So we can test them. If they say, Oh, I loved you on the show, then say, well, what was my last line?

Jacqueline Patterson: Well, no, I mean, the point is that anybody who's hearing me now, or people who say until the end, so that's what I'm talking. Okay, so point being, so people that have stayed on now until the end is really a, just want to extend that gratitude for that level of interest. And it gives me hope that you have stayed on till the end here. That we've got folks interested enough to be able to take gauge in the change that we need and that we are here to, we're here to support any way that you want to engage. And as I said before, I'm committing. To help us to develop more guidance for folks in terms of engaging in whatever level from starting from one's couch to being out on the streets or being in the halls of Congress, or any ways that people want to engage on.

I can give guidance for sure. So I'm committed to doing that so people can feel free to reach out so we can provide that help.

Jason Jacobs: So. Amazing. So we'll talk more offline about some other stops on the tour. Um, but again, such an important topic and, uh, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Jacqueline Patterson: Sure. It was a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Jason Jacobs: Hey everyone. Jason here. Thanks again for joining me on My Climate Journey. If you'd like to learn more about the journey, you can visit us at My Climate Journey dot C O. Note that is dot C O not dot com. Someday we'll get the.com, but right now dot C O. You can also find me on Twitter @jjacobs22 where I would encourage you to share your feedback on the episode or suggestions for future guests you'd like to hear.

And before I let you go, if you enjoyed the show, please share an episode with a friend or consider leaving a review on iTunes. The lawyers made me say that. Thank you.