Where the challenge is, there is an opportunity. Interview with Laura Faye Tenenbaum
This is a transcript of the podcast interview recorded for Sustainability Explored on 19 of December 2019.
This is Season 2 Episode 16.
You can listen to it here, or join on any of your favorite podcast platforms.
Anna: [00:00:12] Hi, this is Sustainability Explored and me, Anna, your podcast host. Thanks for being with me today. As we are exploring different angles of sustainability here, I thought of the importance of communication.
It’s not a secret that communication is the key to success. And if we want our businesses, initiatives, NGOs to be sustainable — raising awareness, sharing (which is caring), and properly communicating with our audience is an integral part of the process.
My distinguished guest today is Laura Faye Tenenbaum an innovator in science communication, a contributor to the science section at HuffPost and Forbes. She is a public speaker and writer.
Laura develops interactive new media products to engage and educate students, teachers, and professionals in climate and environmental science. Her team won five Webby awards: the internet industry’s highest honor for the “Best science website” and “Best green website”. I discovered Laura’s TEDx talk “Game on, Climate change. Game on” on YouTube, and around the same time, my friend Lincoln Bleveans, who you might remember from our episode # 12 “Every job is a Sustainability job” of this very podcast suggested I reach out to her.
So here we are and very excited to be interviewing Laura today.
While we are waiting for our guest — a small musical pause.
Anna: [00:02:01 ]Hello! Today my guest at the Sustainability Explored is Laura Faye Tenenbaum, a globally recognized innovator in scientist at climate change, climate communities, former senior science editor of NASA global climate change website at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory where she reported on sea-level rise, ice mass loss, climate modeling, regional climate impacts, and so on.
Laura, first question, as a woman in science, how did you come to science and what were your first starting points?
Laura: [00:02:46] Well, I, it’s interesting that you asked that because I think that there’s a myth going around right now that you have to be into science by the time you’re in middle school, like 8th grade, and if you’re not deciding to be a scientist by that time it’s too late for you.
And it’s a big myth in education and I believe that’s totally wrong. Lots of people decide that they want to get into college, get into science when they are in college, and that’s what happened to me. And it’s part of the reason I became a college professor as well. I taught university level oceanography for 13 years because that’s what happened to me: when I was a little kid, like in grade school and middle school, I remember my first chemistry teacher, he was really old and he had this horrible ear hair sticking out of his ears and he scared the kids and he would go back into the part of the lab and drink alcohol during class. So that was my first exposure to science, and I hated it.
But then when I was in university, people are required to take a breadth requirement to just fulfill, you know, a broad, liberal arts education. So, I decided to take some marine biology class and we were studying sea slugs. And slugs seem to be kind of small and you know, rejected, but they’re actually ridiculously beautiful.
And it opened my eyes to this kind of delicate, vulnerable part of the planet that was also super beautiful. And I identified with that and I had amazing teachers. And it just kind of one thing led to another throughout my university experience, and then I just kind of plunged deeply into earth sciences at that point.
Anna: [00:04:32] It’s not every day that I speak to a NASA somehow connected person. How did you get to that point?
Laura: [00:04:40] Well, I was working at the university, at the college, Glendale community college, and there was an opportunity to do a faculty fellowship at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. So, I wrote a proposal.
I was teaching oceanography at that time and in the textbook, there was a single chapter on climate change, and the students really wanted to know more about climate change, and I wanted to teach more about climate change. So, I proposed to write a full semester-long course on climate change, and that proposal got accepted. So, I did a faculty fellowship over at Jet Propulsion Laboratory writing this climate change educational content.
And then after I was there, you know, it was kind of like this love relationship where they really wanted me, and I really wanted them. So, the management at the Сhair Propulsion Laboratory literally created a position for me. It took a while. It took like more than a year for them to create the position, but they did. And then I worked there for 10 years.
Anna: [00:05:39] Well. Amazing. I also know that you were selected more than once to travel to Greenland, with NASA suborbital campaigns. Can you tell us a little bit more about that experience and what did you see there?
Laura: [00:05:53] Well, I mean, going to Greenland was, you know, sort of the highlight of my life and going multiple times, certainly. So, I mean, I could kind of talk again, and again and again. I guess that I’m trying to figure out which one of the 200 stories to tell.
Anna: [00:06:09] The first one probably. The first experience was, probably, the most vivid, no?
Laura: [00:06:17] Well, I mean, there’s, gosh, there’s just so many.
Anna: [00:06:20] How many times did you travel there?
Laura: [00:06:21] I’ve been up there twice, so I’ve been to like the South Western side, and then I’ve also been in the far-far North.
And NASA Suborbital Mission what that is, it’s a bunch of scientists, they take an airplane, a small private plane. In this case it was a G3, a Gulfstream-ɪɪɪ, and they completely strip it, and inside is nothing but scientific instruments.
So it’s virtually a flying science laboratory. So the first time I went, we were really flying low over the coast to measure, basically, every single glacier that goes from the Greenland ice sheet into the ocean because we’re wanting to measure how quickly the ocean is melting the ice sheet.
We know from satellite measurements that the warmer air is melting from the surface of the ice sheet, but nobody had looked at the warmer ocean melting the ice sheet from the glaciers around. So, we’ve measured the height of the glaciers in the warmth of the temperature of the water from the surface to the seafloor with these instruments aboard the plane.
So, you know, just flying over a glacier after glacier was astoundingly gorgeous. I mean, this happened multiple times. During the first trip I also took a trip just alone myself with the guide up to the Greenland ice sheet to see it for the first time and in my mind before I went, I thought: “Okay, this is going to be super sad! I’m going to see this thing that’s ridiculously beautiful — disappearing, melting.”
And there I was standing in front of this 60-meter-high ice sheet. And the ice is a hundred thousand years old and you can like see layer after layer of ice going all the way up a hundred thousand years. So, what happens is Greenland is actually really dry.
When you think, well, how does all this ice get there? Well, it does occasionally snow there. When it snows, it doesn’t, or it hasn’t in the past melted.
So, you just get layer after layer after layer building up every season until like you get a two-mile-deep ice sheet. So, I’m at the front edge of this ice sheet and I expect it to be sad and literally, you could see it melting right in front of me there’s a river.
So I see the ice sheet and that represents the melting ice sheet, represents what’s happening right now, but if you look at it, it’s a hundred thousand years old that represents the past and off to, if I turn my head to the right, I could see the river running off into the ocean, and that represents, well, actually ran off through a Fjord into the ocean.
And that represents the future, which is sea level rise all around planet Earth. So, I was like there, in this moment. And I expected that I was maybe going to be melancholy and certainly sad.
Maybe I thought that I would cry, but it was so mindbogglingly beautiful that all I could be was supremely grateful to be alive in this moment right now, appreciating the wonder and the beauty of our planet.
And I think that’s one of the things that I try to tell people all the time that we have to keep reminding ourselves what we’re fighting for. And it is this beautiful planet. So that’s just, well, kind of one story that happened again and again and again in different ways of life, just being completely gobsmacked and struck about, you know, the wonder and the beauty of our very planet.
Anna: [00:09:37] You know, I checked your TEDx talk, I think it was in San Diego. When you start with meeting your neighbor that has this climate anxiety. And I like the message that you transmitted towards the audience throughout this talk. I would wrap it up as, you know: “Where there is a risk, there is an opportunity”. And now I kind of bump it into the same, I’m hearing the same: “Yes, it’s climate change. Yes, it’s bad, but it’s also, you know, it also reminds us why we are here and what we’re fighting for.”
Speaking of climate change, when do you think we started to have.. You as a science communicator, you know that language is very… It’s a powerful tool and it’s important to choose words properly. At which point of time we started to speak not of the climate change, but rather of climate crisis. Whether it is valid?
Laura: [00:10:39] Absolutely. Well, I was just asked the same question just two days ago, so I think it’s an excellent question. The climate crisis isn’t new. It’s always been a climate crisis.
But this is what’s happened: in the past you had both, from the journalism side and from the science side, people who spent their decades in their career being focused on their research. So that was their focus.
And then, you know, the deniers really have a lot of free time. Because they’re not really doing any research to just kind of come up with these catchy phrases and framing.
And it’s only been recently that science communicators have really put themselves forward with enough kind of knowledge and background and information to understand how to communicate, what’s happening better than they have in the past. It’s always been a climate crisis. What’s new is that the communication side has been better at framing. What’s been happening this whole time.
Anna: [00:11:45] So you agreed to climate crisis, not just the climate change?
Laura: [00:11:50] Sure. It’s a climate crisis. It’s a climate emergency. Absolutely. Especially the longer we wait to take action.
Anna: [00:11:57] Speaking of actions, there is a research going on, especially… you are now based in Pasadena, California, am I right? — “Yeah”.- You are in the epicenter of research, of the opposite of climate deniers, so people who are actually doing something.
Laura: [00:12:16] Sure. Climate researches, climate scientists, earth scientists, not just Pasadena, but certainly in D. C. and across Europe there are climate researchers, scientists in Pennsylvania, all over the world that we can ask we share data and stories.
Anna: [00:12:32] But how about those ordinary citizens that are, I don’t know, like me sitting home doing some work. We’re working in any other sectors other than research, what can they do if they experience climate anxiety, just like your neighbor from the talk and they running around “I don’t know what to do. How can I be helpful?”
What kind of advice could you give to them?
Laura: [00:12:57] Well, it starts out where we have to know as citizens, as people who live here on planet Earth together, right, a global community, that we can’t sit around helplessly waiting for scientists to come to save us. And now’s the time for all of us to really start to ignite our own inner science spark and the inner science spark is something like if you’re born as a human, right, so all humans have this innate curiosity.
So, if you are curious about the world around you, if you want to understand how the world works, that’s science. Right? So maybe not everybody is interested in having a profession as a scientist or being a science researcher, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t own our inner science spark and understand the world around us using critical thinking and logic.
So the first thing to do is if you’re sitting there thinking, and this, this was probably the number one thing that I heard when I told people or people found out that I worked at NASA, they were like: “Oh, well I used to love science when I was a kid…”, or “I’m not a scientist. I’m not a math person. I’m not a science person.”
So, the first thing that you can do that everybody should do, that everybody needs to do is to reframe our thinking about who we are and what we can be.
So, reclaim yourself as a scientist. Right? Even if you’re not having a job as a scientist, you are a scientist if you seek to understand the world around you and using critical thinking.
So that’s number one.
And then once you kind of claim that, we all get to participate in the important conversations that are happening right now in our communities about, you know, what to do about these things.
So, for example, I’ve joined a number of environmental groups, so that’s everything from the “Buy nothing project” to local community environmental groups. I’ve got a position with my city council on the sustainability commission. I’m in gardening groups and zero waste groups, and I did a Waste Warriors project.
So those are all things that are in my community and they’re all things that bring me joy because I think one of them, you know, you mentioned earlier that I really strongly believe that every challenge is actually, you know, disguised as an opportunity or every opportunity is disguised as a challenge really they’re kind of both the same.
And one of the things that I find so much that it’s true about America is that we’re conditioned to believe that more and more materials stuff is going to make us happy.
And it’s just not true.
Especially now around the holidays, you see like this, you know, push for consumerism and more and more, more, more, more so people live in these big houses and they’re isolated and alone.
And what really brings people true joy is interacting in the community.
And so all these things that I’ve really started because I wanted to work in my own community to fight against the problems of the climate crisis have actually ended up bringing me huge amounts of joy.
Being able to know so many of my neighbors and like my girlfriend comes over, literally who, who lives near me and we both do composting and she brought some worms and some chicken poo and we dug it into the ground around my fruit trees.
And you know, I have all the material possessions that I wanted most in the world. It was worms and chicken poop.
Cause that was what brought me the most joy — to see my gardens flourish and to have relationships with, you know, strong women in my own community.
Anna: [00:16:38] Yeah. I’m on my way. This year actually, in January, I started the zero-waste experiment in my own apartment, and I’m coming, I’m coming to that organic composting and worms point and everything.
Laura: [00:16:54] So composting is so easy. It’s just one of those things, you know, everybody has to take in addition to, you know, joining all these communities, everybody has to take responsibility for their own behavior.
And composting is one of those things where, you know, maybe you think “Oh, but I have to learn something, I’m going to study something that’s going to be hard.” And it’s literally the easiest thing you can do.
Food waste makes up about a quarter of what ends up in the landfill and it’s completely unnecessary because those trucks that carry the trash to the landfill. So, about a quarter of what ends up in the garbage truck that goes to the landfill is food waste.
And remember those garbage trucks, they’re not fuel-efficient. They’re very energy consumptive.
And so, once food waste gets to the landfill, it doesn’t break down the same as it breaks down in your compost, digested by worms. It gets so compressed, it’s not aerated properly. So, it turns into methane gas, which is even more toxic for the environment. So, the simple task of composting, and that’s whether you have a yard or whether you do like worm composting in an apartment. It can really decrease a lot of greenhouse gases. And on top of it, you get all this really healthy nutrient-rich soil.
Anna: [00:18:11] We are now speaking of the household little actions, but in the global scene, how effective are composting, turning to zero waste compared to what companies are responsible for?
Laura: [00:18:24] Sure. Well, I mean, first of all, I just want to say that little actions aren’t little, and all of those seemingly small drops add up.
So, we don’t want to belittle or undermine in any of those small actions. There are 7 billion people on planet Earth and more than that. So, if everybody did their share, it could make a huge difference. So, let’s not do that. But yeah, it’s going to take everybody. And I, I think that you know, corporate change is made because the consumers demand it.
I was just working on a project. I remember I said, I’m all in about, in community. So, I was working on zero waste piece and we worked to do a campaign called “Cutout Cutlery”, and it was asking those food delivery services like Grub Hub and Uber Eats to make cutlery plastic cutlery opt-in. So instead of automatically having plastic cutlery delivered with your food because mostly the food’s being delivered to your home or office, everybody already has cutlery.
So that was public pressure and Uber Eats changed it globally. So now when you order, if you want plastic cutlery delivered with your food, you have to check a box. It’s not automatic.
Anna: [00:19:39] And pay for it!
Laura: [00:19:40] And, yeah, exactly. So this is the kind of thing that, you know, big companies will bend to consumer pressure, and we just, again, it’s like you think it’s a really small action signing a letter or a petition or doing a hashtag, but those kinds of things do add up.
This was “The Habits of Waste”, it’s the group that I was working with to do the “Cutout Cutlery” campaign and they’re still working on more and more projects.
So, you know, you don’t need to wait around for somebody else to come and fix it. If everybody, you know… it starts to either join a group or if there is no group, you start your own group.
And you know, there are so many examples of individuals starting something that, you know, Greta Thunberg. Another huge example of one person starting something that turns into a massive movement, and that’s the kind of opportunity I think that our society needs to really shift from an into a different value system.
Anna: [00:20:38] We can say probably that it takes one pissed person to start moving mountains.
Laura: [00:20:45] It has to start somewhere, you know, might as well be with me.
Anna: [00:20:52] Speaking of Greta, I noticed something, at least in the Ukrainian society where I’m based, that instead of turning people to pro-climate change, to turning them into active citizens, the society in fact divided into “Oh, no! The message was delivered so badly that now I doubt even what I already knew.”, and [the second group] those who were even more convinced. How is it in the US? Do you see the same patterns?
Laura: [00:21:22] Well. So, you know, working in climate change for so many years, I’ve definitely experienced a push from who we call them the climate deniers.
So, everything from really aggressive hate mail was some of the first experiences I had. And still, you brought up my TED talk — if you read the comments, you can see that many of them are, most of them are extremely, you know, angry and hate-filled.
Until most recently I was hosting a podcast for the weather channel. It is coming out, I’m not exactly sure the date, it’s called the “Big Lie”. And they had me guest host for one of the episodes where I literally went to the Trump hotel to a climate denier conference to interview these climate deniers and find out who you know, who are these people that hide behind their computer and spew out hate and disinformation.
And the truth is, is that it was a super small conference. Not very many people, but they’re super well organized.
And I think I mentioned this earlier, climate scientists spend decades doing research. And climate communicators spend decades, you know, working on their messages. But these climate deniers, what their focus is, is just spreading misinformation. So even a small group of them can be highly well organized because that’s what their main focus is. And so they’ve been just basically spreading a lot of…
Spreading misinformation and confusing people. And I can tell you that I went, when I was there, I saw them. They were all extremely old, I’m talking about, white hair and canes and stooped-over, there were no young people. And white, you know, predominantly, the vast majority of white, male, and old.
And the way I see this is that there’s a fear of change and fear of something new.
And this is kind of common. A lot of elderly people have a hard time with change.
And I’m not talking about climate change, I’m talking about with like moving away from fossil fuel type change, you know, embracing new technologies, right? Give somebody who’s 80 of a brand-new type of technology, and give somebody who’s 8, a new type of technology and see who adapts quicker, right? Just young people are just more adaptable, more comfortable with innovation.
So, I think part of the whole denier-complex is just old people clinging to the past because they’re uncomfortable with innovation.
And it’s sad because it’s worse than sad, it’s horrible because the older people have benefited financially from burning fossil fuels, but yet, you know, they’re trashing the economy and the environment for the next generations.
It’s mindbogglingly selfish.
And you know, I am on behalf of the older people of planet Earth, I apologized to the next generation, for the greed of our ancestors, but the younger generation is going to have to suffer through the consequences, and also be strong enough to make the changes that the older generations aren’t willing to make.
Anna: [00:24:32] Speaking of the changes, what can it be? What kind of change can be brought to the scene?
Laura: [00:24:39] So there’s kind of two ways that we burn fossil fuels predominantly. One is through transportation, and the other is through power generation, right? So, you’ve got power plants and cars. And already the technology is in place to completely electrify the transportation grid. The other cool thing about mobility is that cars don’t last that long compared to power plants, right?
So, the iPhone, for example, is less than a dozen years old. I think something right around 12 years old is the iPhone. And you think of how quickly that new technology got adopted into the society.
So, it’s almost unimaginable to me that we’re still going to be having a combustion engine in cars in a decade. I mean, it’s already gone. You know, there are so many car companies that have already committed to only doing electric vehicles. We’ve got now electric trucks, and I was just at a conference last week, the Smart City World Expo Congress in Barcelona where they were showcasing electric garbage trucks. So there, we’re going to have an electric transportation society very, very quickly.
The other really cool thing that I remember seeing there was this carport. It was beautiful and it was just very modular, very modern, super futuristic-looking, very beautiful. And it was all made of solar panels and you could just pull your car right in there and plug your electric car and so that you’re powering your car just with solar.
That was super impressive. And I do think that that technology is already in place. It’s just a matter of will and a little bit of time to flip over in the same way that, I mean, nobody wants to dial rotary phone anymore. We are all switched to mobile.
The bigger challenge is power plants. So, it’s not a case by case basis. It’s you’d have to have a whole citywide, let’s say, invest in a power plant and a power plant instead of a car that lasts about a decade, a power plant lasts about 50 years. So, the power plants that are being built today, many people alive today, won’t even live long enough to see where they reach the end of their lifespan.
So as long as we’re burning natural gas, which is what’s happening, they’re fighting right now, in the city where I live, to phase out natural gas. But then what are they going to replace it with? Renewable energy?
And I know that Ukraine has been in the news, the big natural gas line from Russia, and that’s what everybody is fighting over now.
So, to be able to move away from burning natural gas which is a fossil fuel, which releases greenhouse gases and to electrifying the power grid, I think it is one of the biggest challenges for two reasons:
- is because those power plants last a really long time and
- is because we have to come together as a community.
Because it’s not up to one individual, whether they’re going to buy a power plant or not.
Certainly, individuals can put solar panels on their roofs if you are in a situation both financially and if you’re not an apartment dweller or something where you’re not in charge of your own roof. But I think ultimately that’s the next really big challenge to face.
Anna: [00:27:58] So technology is gonna save us.
Laura: [00:28:00] I mean, two things. Yes. Technology will save us. You know, as it has, as humans. But also, I think we can’t just say: “ I’m going to keep everything exactly the same! And only change technology.”
As I said earlier, we’re going to have to change our value system and decide what’s really important. Because just buying more and more and more and more and more and more and more. And it’s, and it’s not just climate change is the problem. We have plastic pollution. We have a Pacific garbage patch that’s growing and there are garbage patches in every part of the ocean. This is basic…Can I swear?
Anna: [00:28:33] Yes.
Laura: [00:28:33] This is basic bullshit consumerism that is trashing the environment. We’re consuming more planets that we have to live on.
So, to me, the big opportunity with this climate crisis is to really reevaluate what we want as a society. And how we can be. And you know, a lot of times, we frame sustainability as giving something up, right? But really, we’re not giving anything up. We’re gaining free time. We’re gaining mental clarity. We’re gaining a clean house.
You know, like how many times, like, have you looked, I don’t know where you live, but for all of you listening right now, you look around your house and there’s tons of clutter. And it’s just all this stuff. It’s like, who wants all these gifts wrapped in too much paper then you’ve got to deal with?
Who wants all these gifts wrapped in too much paper then you’ve got to deal with?
And then you’ve got all these tchotchkes everywhere and things you don’t want, in the stress of having to buy a gift for everybody. It’s just awful!
And can you imagine if we just didn’t have any of that and we just had like healthy, wonderful relationships, connections, which is what we really… What we’re trying to say is when we give a gift, it isn’t about the gift. It’s about: “I care about you and let’s connect.” What if we just got rid of all the materialism and we had the “I care about you. Let’s connect!” instead.
Anna: [00:29:51] You know, the rise of Marie Kondo is not just an accident. People buying more and more.
Laura: [00:29:56] I totally agree. People are tired of the clutter and they want more. When I have a clean… like right now I’m looking, I’m sitting in my office and I’m looking at the wall that’s, there’s a fireplace, and some art and a couple of statues from India that I brought home and it looks super like, clean, and open, and spacious.
And if it was cluttered with a bunch of junk from everywhere, it doesn’t give a person mental peace. It doesn’t give you a sense of relaxation. It doesn’t give you a sense of freedom. And so instead of thinking about having less stuff and feeling like we’re missing something. We have to start thinking about having more peace of mind, more openness, more space, more sense of relaxation. That’s what we stand to gain instead of thinking about what we stand to lose.
Anna: [00:30:51] Yeah. So, technology and minimalism in a way?
Laura: [00:30:56] Minimalism or reframing of values or reframing of what’s important. You know, if I don’t have to beat myself up to work a million hours so that I can get more money to buy more stuff, you know, that’s not a way to live. And people are not happy with that. What they really want is more time with the people they love. That’s what they want.
Anna: [00:31:17] Coming back to the climate change, climate crisis issue. When we say ‘crisis’, it really adds anxiety even to me. Do we have time? And how much time do we have as humans on planet Earth?
Laura: [00:31:31] Okay. I’d like to frame it like this: if you think of this climate crisis is a war, right? We are going to lose some battles. So, there are areas, let’s say in the Keys of Florida, that we won’t be able to save. There are some areas in New York that we won’t be able to save. There are some areas in Bangladesh that won’t be saved. This is all due to sea-level rise. So, I’m just listing some areas. Maybe parts of New Orleans, The city is already smaller than it was before Hurricane Katrina.
So, some battles will be lost. And it could get as bad as, where we lose some percentage of the population of humans. I mean, we had that, you know, in the dark ages, where disease took so many of our population, right? I mean, it could get to the point where it’s really that bad.
And the truth is that everybody dies, right? We’re all going to die. So, the question is: — “Am I going to die? “ — Well, of course, you’re going to die. We’re all going to die. That’s the truth of it.
But how many other species are we going to take down?
How much of the planet are we going to destroy before we wake up and move to a newer green, renewable energy future where we’re not over-consuming and we’re not dumping all kinds of toxic pollution into our environment?
How bad does it have to get before people go ‘“Okay! I’m woken up now! I have to change!”??
Anna: [00:32:58] And how long, according to you, as a scientist?
Laura: [00:33:01] It’s not like going to be, one day you snap your fingers… It’s already started. Right? We’ve already lost some areas. Already species are going extinct. Already areas have been. Like Barham Fire, near where I live. There was a big fire about two weeks ago, right near the Hollywood sign. So, already things have been lost. Last year there was that big Paradise fire in California. We’re not, you know, life and property already lost. I believe there are fires in Australia right now.
So, it is already begun. Right?
But what do you do in your life when you face a big challenge?
I know what I do. Giving up isn’t an answer.
So, most people that I listened to, right when I go out and do a lot of public speaking, and a lot of interviewing myself, and when I talk to people, I also listen.
And those are the two things, it’s like: the extreme panic is one, or freaked out so much, that they just have to go eat a tub of ice cream or watch a reality TV show, can’t even bear to look at it.
And neither of those are solutions, right?
So, we have to have the courage to stand and see the truth and to not give up and to keep working.
Anna: [00:34:15] All right. One last question. Please, give one advice for the women specifically in science, in science communication, in sustainability, in climate change areas. As a person with this very interesting career path, you seem very bold and ambitious. What would you suggest other women do?
Laura: [00:34:40] Yeah, I mean, I guess I wish when I was younger that I’d had more support, believed in myself more.
This was about two years ago. I was at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a male colleague called me into his office and he said, “Hey, we made this new video. What do you think about it?” And he showed me the video, and this is a video for students, kind of encouraging them to participate in science. And I said to him: “Well, there’s no women in it.” And he said:” Oh, I hadn’t even noticed.” So, I got like really, really angry. The people don’t even notice when there’s no women there.
So, I think it’s always going to be the most difficult to be the first one. It’s always going to be hardest when they’re, you’re like one or two women in the room, but you have to remember that if you’re the first one, you’re also paving the way for the next one and the next one, the next one after it.
So, I’ve always worked really hard to like bring in women interns, when I was at JPL, always standing up for the other women, always making sure they felt comfortable and confident and also just kind of realizing what the challenges are.
I mean, sometimes I think women in our society, we grow up thinking that we have to be polite, and nice, and sweet, and you know, please everybody. And to even just look at the truth of that. And like I, not only do, I do it for myself, I have to remind all my girlfriends, that it’s like, that’s who we are.
We’re taught that behavior. and sometimes just seeing the truth of it and you go: “All right, that’s not me!” That’s just the brainwashing of our society to tell women to behave like that. And we do see more female strong role models. We see somebody like Nancy Pelosi as a strong woman role model.
So, I think the more women we see in the media, the more women we see in prominent positions, it’s going to be better for everybody.
Science is sorely lacking in that regard. But you know, we’d be gone. And if you look at the age distribution, a lot of the older people tend to be men, but a lot of the younger people starting out are women. So that to me is super encouraging.
Anna: [00:36:57] Great. We should be a little bit more dangerous.
Laura: [00:37:01] Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Take risks! Take risks! I mean, I, you know, and you know, find people who support you and believe in you, and take risks.
Anna: [00:37:12] All right. Super! Thank you very much for this encouraging and very interesting talk.
This was Laura Tanenbaum, the science communicator, and the climate change, how shall I say, communicator?
Laura: [00:37:27] Yeah. Climate communicator, climate change communicator, earth science communicator, and an advocate for making a difference in this world.
Anna: [00:37:35] Yes. Thank you very much. And goodbye.
Laura: [00:37:43] Thank you!
Anna: [00:37:46] If you like the podcast, please, leave a review rate comment on the platform you’re listening on -it helps other people to discover the podcast. Thank you again for listening. And until the next episode, take care and stay sustainable!
Podcast host Anna Chashchyna
Episode guest Laura Faye Tenenbaum
Transcript editor Anna Kharybina