By Kaitlyn Scanlon, Alliance Intern from Oregon State University ’26
Getting bogged down by the various crises plaguing the world today? Feelings of powerlessness or hopelessness may abound — but you don’t have to be consumed by those feelings. Transformation and possibility are the two words marine biologist Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson emphasizes in the commencement address to the graduating class of Middlebury College. Those words are the way to tackle the debilitating climate crisis that will affect each and every one of us in some capacity.
Dr. Johnson explains how we must “transform society, from extractive to regenerative,” while also “summoning a massive expanse of possibility, on harnessing our imaginations and our creativity.” Born in 1980, Dr. Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, writer, and co-founder of the non-profit think tank Urban Ocean Lab, climate initiative The All We Can Save Project, and podcast How to Save a Planet, as told by her website.
Above all else, Dr. Johnson makes the point that “what this moment in history requires is a tenacious focus on solutions, and a vision of what we are working toward, of what is possible.” Saving the planet we love, stewarding it well and ensuring that it is hospitable for generations to come, that means taking action in a way that’s attainable to you personally.
Dr. Johnson suggests creating a Venn diagram that portrays what you are good at, the work that needs to be done, and what brings you joy. Creating this climate action Venn diagram and staying in the heart of it for as much of your life as possible is one great way to take action for yourself. In spite of whatever the world is throwing at you, doing your personal best each day, choosing tenacity over complacency, is always worth it.
What you do in your community, job, relationships, it all matters. Regardless of how small or insignificant you may think your actions are, Dr. Johnson reassures us that we do indeed add up, and make all the difference for life on Earth.