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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Dickson

#005 Jo Lorenz: on climate denialism, intersectional justice & giving a f

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

Why do people choose science when it’s convenient for them? How can we (as a society) move beyond talking about racism only when it’s fashionable and performative allyship? Was 2020 the kick in the dick we all needed? We caught up with Jo Lorenz on the Live Wide Awake podcast and deep dove into choosing to live in joy and not the shit, the real power behind politicians, unlearning your own inherent racism and how to be a good ally.

When I first discovered Jo Lorenz on Instagram I devoured her feed for hours. Something I don’t think I have ever done. Not only is it a total delight for the eyes (think cheeky messages, in a perfectly curated feed that just makes you want to keep scrolling), but also the captions are a perfect blend of laugh out loud funny, on the money commentary, that leads to head-bopping agreement with the eloquently crafted opinions.

Jo Lorenz does a myriad of things that focuses on the intersections of climate change, politics, social justice and sustainability. She is the founder of lifestyle website Conscious Citizen Co, podcast host of Giving A F is the New Black, and 24 Hours of Change – a grassroots social justice movement for climate action – which has worked with the Sierra Club and Lonely Whale.

Below are a few highlights of our chat, but we highly recommend listening to the full conversation via our Live Wide Awake podcast.

STEPH L DICKSON: This has been a shit show of a year, no one is going to forget 2020 anytime soon. I loved one of your recent posts where you said: “thanks 2020 for being a real kick in the dick, I needed you, we all did.” While I’m not quite there yet, I’d love for you to share more on letting that shit go and finding joy during this very bizarre year we’re living in.

JO LORENZ: Pretty significant yes. Yet 2020 is also been of a real year of enlightenment. At least for me. We now have more people interested in and fighting for intersectional justice and we’ve ever had before; the fight against climate change, the black lives matter movement, the feminist movement, LGBT QA rights. Each of them is essentially about fighting for equality and justice for people and the planet. This year has definitely brought more so many more people to the activism table.

2020 has really taught me about the art of letting go, which is something I have been struggling with for years. It feels like a metaphorical kind of spring clean of my own person. I’ve really been able to choose to declutter my mind, uncomplicate my body, and essentially re-energize my entire being. I’ve made room for my own growth, learning, creativity, happiness and all of that has just been completely invaluable. And in terms of the way that I’ve actually done it, I’ve done it in a number of ways. Physically by donating possessions, a few older items and clothing that I was never going to wear again, to a recycling textile initiative. But deeper than that, I’ve also stopped giving my time and loyalty to people who consistently make me feel bad about myself. I’ve stopped listening to the views of people who only prioritize their own views without regard to anyone else’s. And I’ve allowed myself the freedom to stop punishing myself from mistakes I’ve made in the past or all the things I can’t change. And in doing all of this and in letting it all go, I’ve chosen a happier version of myself. I choose to live in that joy, not to live in the shit.

SD: Yes to choosing joy! Have you found that it was a massive shift and that you didn’t really fall backwards or do you still find moments where those negative biases do return and it’s there?

JL: It’s really hard to go completely cold Turkey on anxiety, I consistently suffer from anxiety. I think all humans do think we just have different levels of it based on personal priorities, personal privilege, personal wealth, personal trauma, all the rest of it. I pep talk myself like I am my own coach, by consistently remind myself to let it go and to laugh at myself when I’m letting my anxieties take hold because so much of my anxiety is based upon a fear that is irrational. The older I get, the more I laugh at my own jokes. It’s kind of embarrassing. Some of my anxiety is based upon rational fear, like climate change, but other things are just based on things that are out of my control and that everyone is experiencing. There are plenty of people that live out there with a whole lot less than me and live very happy and fulfilling lives. So I always try and keep it in perspective and to think rationally about it.

SD: This year has highlighted too many the environmental impact of humans on the planets. Do you think it’s enough, and why did we need a global pandemic for more people to actually wake up?

JL: The proof is in the pudding with the effects of this lower-impact living and with us all just slowing down. Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen and across continents and China’s emissions fell by 25% early this year. I think we all remember the photos of the Venetian canals being gorgeous and clear. All these things are great, but the thing is we didn’t actually need a pandemic to achieve these things? We know what the problems are. We already have a vaccine for climate change, it’s called cutting out fossil fuels, that simple. The world has now witnessed the impact of this climate vaccine in real-time. So the problem is not really solutions. The problem is government inaction, and governments and big corporates being paid off by coal. Tech innovation and cost reductions mean that renewable energies are now I believe the cheapest form of new electricity generation across two-thirds of the world.

We do not need to guilt individual people. We need strong legislative support for clean energy. And then things like tax credits for electronic cars. We need people to lobby our politicians to demand these things because if enough of us do it, politicians will listen because that’s their job and they want to get voted back in. With renewable energy legislation, as well as the shifts that we’ve already seen materializing because of COVID-19, we could realistically give ourselves the climate resistance that we so desperately need.

SD: Let’s talk about climate change deniers. In the year that we are living in there are a lot of people who want to race back to the previous normal, which I don’t think will ever happen again, but you’ve previously spoken about people’s relationship with science and scientists, so can you unpack your view this.

JL: 97% of scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change. Yet, despite this, there’s still a whole bunch of people out there who choose to deny such overwhelming scientific consensus, while simultaneously believing in and benefiting from science in all other areas of their lives. Do you think that these people, when they get a headache, they suddenly deny science? Or if they have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, do they take medicine for this or do they simply leave their arteries in the hands of the gods? Not, of course, they use science when it suits them, they drove a car to work and they, they put their reading glasses on at their computers no less, they use electricity and plumbing in their homes, which is science, science, science. I mean, essentially my view on climate denialism is, for the most part, is politically motivated by greed. People choose to deny because their political leaders deny it (hi Trump) or because they don’t want to give up their own privilege. But I would love to see these same idiots deny science when it comes to fulfilling their Viagra prescriptions.

SD: Share with us about the intersections of justice, systemic injustices and how these are all connected with everything we’ve seen this year, and the work you’ve been doing.

It’s interesting all our reformist movements, they’re all 100% linked, and they’re all essentially just about protecting marginalized people. Our ambitions for equity are all about sustaining human lives. The reality of black lives matter, and indeed all justice or racial justice movements, is and has always been about protecting marginalized people. It’s not about talking about racism when it’s fashionable, it’s not about performative social media posts. It’s about consistently calling out racial discrimination and unlearning your own inherent racism. It’s about white people de-Centering themselves from centre stage and amplifying the voices of black indigenous and people of colour. For climate justice, we need to be ready to help environmental migrants and future climate refugees. It is about protecting the vulnerable nations who are already feeling the damaging effects of climate change nations. And it’s about listening to indigenous wisdom and respecting the custodians of our lands. Look, we’re only as strong as the most vulnerable people within our movements. The future of our planet needs everyone to be unconditionally intersectional.

SD: How do you explain white supremacy?

JL: White supremacy is not just the KKK and pointed hoods. White supremacy is everywhere. It is a construct from which white folks, myself included, have benefited for centuries. White privilege is forcing white culture or beliefs upon nearly every other culture for thousands of years. It was 100% propagated by all our big institutions – the education systems, the media, Western science, Christianity, all of which really you produced the idea that whiteness or white culture is, is normal, quite, quite better, smarter holier in contrast to the cultures of black indigenous and people of colour. As a white woman, I strive to be a good ally by not only actively working to dismantle white supremacy, but also commissioning other folks to join the cause. Because if white people are not willing to own racism in its entirety, then the problem will exist.

SD: Can you unpack performative allyship (as so many people did with the black lives matter movement), privilege and how we can do better?

JL: It’s been the year of performative on so many levels, but with the black lives matter movement happening all over the world right now, we’re all really bearing witness calls for systemic change. This provides people, individuals and businesses and establishments (such as our schools and healthcare systems etc.) with a real opportunity to assess whether they are doing enough when it comes to areas such as race and inclusion, diversity and bias. We’re not a one size fits all world. And for far too long, white has been the default, as male has been the default, or being cis-gendered has been the default. And this has got to change, skirting around the issues of race and systemic racism will get us nowhere. We need to be honest about our privilege and about our past, for example, having a comprehensive black and indigenous history to be taught in our educational institutions in order for students to understand our deeply racist history and how colonialism and slavery have constructed systemic disadvantage.

Amplifying the voices of black indigenous and people of colour does not simply mean censoring your own accountability to aid justice. This was what happened with the ‘performative black squares’, but it was also people just shutting up and not saying anything for a while. There is a fine line between amplifying voices, and censoring your own, which means doing nothing. Posting that performative black square on social media and then thinking your work has done is far from it being a good ally. Instead, you need to decentering your white voice from the narrative learning, unlearning and actively fighting to be anti-racist or anti-oppressive. It means welcoming in the time for white people to be supported in the wings, not staring centre stage. It’s the time where white people can continuously address systemic racism, with absolutely no expectation of personal gain.

Head to your favourite podcast streaming service to listen to the whole conversation, and follow along with Jo Lorenz’s journey on her Instagram account @Jo_Lorenz.

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