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  • Writer's pictureArielle Kouyoumdjian

About the Host: Changing Planet Justice Podcast

From second to eighth grade, I cued up Science Friday, BrainsOn, TEDx, Moth Radio Hour, Fresh Air, and a plethora of other podcasts to make my hour-long commute to and from school more bearable. I remember the first time that an episode paralyzed me in my car seat long after we pulled into the garage.I was unable to tear myself away from the story on the radio until the automatic ceiling lights switched off and left me blinking in the dark with Guy Raz. Since the time I could walk and talk, I’ve rambled in the woods, endlessly describing what I see and searching for hidden forest treasures. Every family vacation focused on hiking, cycling, kayaking, and generally unwinding by winding up. Conservation is in my blood. At age 12, I decided to integrate my passions for podcasts, national parks, and activism. I began to research the effects of climate change on parklands and the indigenous people who were forced to leave their land, or in some cases, who still lived on nearby reservations.

Inspired by Greta Thumberg’s example, I felt that even someone as young I was could potentially make a difference. Climate change terrified me, but I wanted to spread awareness without alarmism. Upon closer inspection of these issues, I learned that climate change affects more than my favorite national parks, and my mission as a budding journalist moved beyond simply unpacking scientific jargon and telling compelling stories. I began to perceive how the climate crisis exhumes the delayed impacts of centuries of systemic racism and discrimination. My podcast evolved into an exploration of how climate change disproportionately affects marginalized communities. Today, I aim to explore the intersections of climate change and social justice in a way that is engaging and accessible to the general public, as well as amplify the voices of those on the front lines of the climate movement. For example, to produce my episode Costa Rica’s Indigenous Bribri: Climate Change, Cocoa, and Agroforestry, I traveled to Costa Rica to interview a member of the indigenous Bribi community about climate change’s impacts on their community. I learned about agroforestry–a traditional farming method that fuses rainforest flora with domestic crops to reduce carbon emissions and promote biodiversity. I also discovered how the Bribri women produce chocolate as a tool of political resistance and feminism in one of the world’s few remaining matrilineal societies.

In several future episodes, I returned to what the Bribri had taught me about integrating traditional ecological knowledge with Western science to combat climate change. Hopefully, these first-hand accounts from underrepresented stakeholders will offer listeners a new lens through which to examine climate change and create the impetus for change.

My role as a youth activist is not to convince people that climate change exists–I’ll leave that to the scientists–but to broaden our understanding of both immediate and long-term impacts on those who have no voice. I spread the word of those who know more than me, those whose voices are heard less than mine, and those who have the power to make change, all the while weaving in my perspective as a young person alarmed by the uncertain future of her planet.

I host this podcast not because I feel that I have power, but because I feel helpless and I worry that as a young female climate activist, I will not be taken seriously. I hold onto the hope that when youth are given the stage to speak about climate change, they are not just shouting into the wind. I must believe that because adults care deeply about children, they are motivated by our future more than their immediate fortune. I podcast because I cannot vote, I do not pay taxes, and I have not yet earned the credentials, so I am told I need to contribute meaningfully to this society. Telling my story, voicing my fears, and amplifying the voices of those who have more power than me are all I can do to take the grim future of this earth into my own hands and make a difference for our future.

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