Climate Hero Q&A: Kristy Drutman
In World War Zero's Climate Hero Q&A series, our team goes one-on-one with some of the most influential voices of the climate movement.
Kristy Drutman is an American youth climate activist and the creator of Brown Girl Green, a podcast and media series that interviews environmental leaders and advocates on diversity, inclusion, and creative climate solutions. Kristy has spoken in front of thousands of people and facilitated nationwide workshops on environmental media and storytelling. In an effort to change the image of what it means to be an "environmentalist," Kristy has worked with youths from around the world to create collaborative, intersectional online media and conscious, culturally relevant content that can engage audiences with proactive solutions to the climate crisis.
WW0: Tell us about yourself and what you do outside the sphere of climate change.
KD: My name is Kristy Drutman, and I am a Jewish-Filipina environmentalist and content creator who hosts a podcast and media series called Brown Girl Green. My work centers around the intersections between environmental issues and cultural identity. I am passionate about creating educational and uplifting content that helps people understand what’s going on with our planet and what they can do to plug in and build with others. Outside of the sphere of climate change, I am a storyteller, friend, daughter, and occasional poet. I actively seek spaces and people who are inspired to connect and innovate. I care a lot about joy, humor, and mental health as I feel these are also scarce commodities to come by in this day and age.
WW0: As a global village, what's our biggest opportunity to reverse climate change?
KD: Our biggest opportunity is to make as clear as possible that our world leaders have failed us in creating the legislation and conditions necessary to reduce the extraction and exploitation of communities and resources. From there, educating, campaigning, and mobilizing communities to understand the realities of the climate crisis and to support frontline communities on the ground who have been doing the work to address this extraction is essential. I believe that the faster we collect information and connect the dots on just how dependent our global economy is on unwieldy greed and unsustainable resource depletion, the sooner we can move away from a world where fossil fuels are ubiquitous. We must innovate, expand, and adapt to a changing climate right now while simultaneously demanding that our leaders no longer support, fund, and ease restrictions on industries that prioritize profit over people.
WW0: What aspect of climate change do you think isn't talked about enough?
KD: There is not enough discussion about how poorly funded frontline BIPOC organizations are and the implications that has on truly generating climate justice. The Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to be a global pool of funding to support climate mitigation and adaptation in the Global South, is poorly resourced and this trickles down into other financial channels and pathways that may not value climate justice.
WW0: Are you working on a specific project that you'd like the world to know about?
KD: My Love and Climate Change series -- coming soon!
WW0: You have an incredible podcast! Can you tell us how that came to fruition?
KD: I created Brown Girl Green as a response to feeling frustrated by the lack of representation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color leadership in mainstream environmental media and storytelling. The lack of intersectional dialogue, connection, and mentorship made me feel personally isolated, and I figured if I felt this way, then there must be many others who feel the same. Since then, the podcast evolved into a multimedia series on social media that involves blogs, graphics, videos, and other fun stuff that all treads those same intersections.
Brown Girl Green: Why the climate movement needs to be more diverse, May 11, 2020.
WW0: With great power comes great responsibility. As an established social media strategist, what was (or is) your biggest challenge when it comes to utilizing your platform?
KD: The biggest challenge is definitely creating a platform that I can sustain while also being vocally political and direct about my views on issues happening in the world. A lot of past environmental media content was depoliticized -- focusing solely on the planet and sustainability, but not addressing racial or social justice issues. It can be difficult to find a balance between educating folks about why they should care or feel passionate about being stewards of the earth and critiquing "climate solutions" that don't combat colonization, capitalism, or white supremacy. This can lead to making hard decisions as to what content I put out on a consistent basis. I've had to learn to be okay with knowing that from time to time, not everyone is going to necessarily agree or vibe with what I’m presenting.
WW0: How do we bring more people together around climate change?
KD: We need to bring the climate conversation to our dinner tables, to our social media, and to our schools. It isn't just about educating folks about what is going on, however -- there has to be clear pathways of action, campaigns to plug into, and community groups where people can connect and innovate with one another. This work can feel very isolating and disconnected -- therefore, we need to remind people that they aren't alone in their fears, and encourage them to have more open conversations about the difficult challenges and opportunities ahead.
WW0: What do you think is the Biden Administration's biggest opportunity to lower emissions?
KD: The Biden Administration's greatest opportunity to lower emissions is to make bigger strides in regulating emissions from the fossil fuel industry. This means cutting subsidies, reinvesting in renewables, and moving away from fossil fuels -- including fracked natural gas.
WW0: If you had an audience with leaders of the world’s most polluting nations, what would you say to them?
KD: I would tell them that they have an opportunity to innovate and lead one of humanity's most existential fights, and that it should be their top priority above all else to address this crisis. The amount of loss, damage, and devastation the climate crisis has and will continue to wreak on communities worldwide, especially BIPOC communities can no longer be an afterthought. The negligence of top polluting countries is leading to runaway climate change, which is leading to mass fires, drought, floods, sea level rise, and more. I’d tell them that the compounding impacts of this crisis will lead to global economic losses, mass migrations, food insecurity, rampant disease, and more, making it practically unbearable to adapt within for future generations. It is their moral imperative to legislate, negotiate, and divest from destructive fossil fuels.
Columbia University Earth Institute: Intersectional Environmentalism Panel with Kristy Drutman, Aditi Mayer, and Tori Tsui (moderated by Lauren Ritchie), November 19, 2020.
Brown Girl Green: It's not about helping "poor countries" - how can we build climate resilience from the ground up?, April 26, 2021.