PPC Youth Ambassadors Interview Experts on Plastics and COP26

Guest blog by: Eva Geierstanger on behalf of the Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassadors.

Before the start of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow Scotland this November, we sat down and spoke with several experts on the global plastics crisis—addressing its impacts from the perspectives of health, and environmental and social justice.

We felt that in our 10 Calls to Action for COP26 leaders, we had to acknowledge the often hidden and complex reality of the plastic crisis, like the involvement of fossil fuels in plastic production and the various impacts of plastic on human and animal life. Specifically, we have learned that plastic has become “the new coal.” As stated in the new report The New Coal: Plastics and Climate Change: “As of 2020, the U.S. plastics industry is responsible for at least 232 million tons of CO2e gas emissions per year. This amount is equivalent to the average emissions from 116 average-sized (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants.” 

We are seeing  the petrochemical industry increasingly use plastics to make up the profits they are losing due to the global push for cleaner energy. As climate change continues to  threaten us all on a daily basis and endanger future generations with increasing urgency, it is more important than ever to amplify the voices of the scientific community, activists, and victims of industrial colonialism to educate the world on the continued dangers these materials pose.

As youth, we may only be 18% of the population today, but we are 100% of the future. As we look ahead to COP27, we continue to demand that world leaders take urgent action on plastics.

Interview with Heather White, One Green Thing

PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Heather White about her experience as the founder of One Green Thing, a nonprofit seeking to raise awareness of the impact of climate anxiety on mental health, as part of the Countdown to COP26 and Beyond 2021 campaign.

In this interview, we discuss Generation Z and how the climate crisis has impacted the wellbeing and mental health of the generation as a whole. Heather speaks to the importance of taking climate action one green thing at a time, which can range from writing a letter to congress to spending time outdoors. Heather encourages climate activists, especially youth activists, to find a unique place in the movement that gives them joy and prevents burn-out. 

One Green Thing

Heather’s page

Interview with Jackie Nuñez, The Last Plastic Straw

PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Jackie Nuñez about her experience as an activist and leader of The Last Plastic Straw as part of the Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador’s Ten Calls to Action campaign to world leaders at COP26 and beyond.

Jackie created the No Plastic Straws movement when she founded The Last Plastic Straw in 2011 as a volunteer project for Save Our Shores, and now a program of Plastic Pollution Coalition since 2016. Her goal is to help educate the public about the absurdity of single-use plastic, it’s effects on our health, environment and oceans. Eliminating single-use plastic pollution from the source. While using the plastic straw as a gateway issue towards eliminating our single-use plastic habit.

Jackie Nunez Bio:

Interview with Alexis Goldsmith, Hudson Mohawk Environmental Action Network & Beyond Plastics

PPC Youth Ambassadors Countdown to COP26 and Beyond with Alexis Goldsmith PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Alexis Goldsmith about her experience as a grassroots organizer and an organizing consultant for Beyond Plastics as part of the Countdown to COP26 and Beyond 2021 campaign.

“Plastic is a production issue and not a consumption issue,” Alexis says. With Beyond Plastics, she is helping bridge the gap in public knowledge about the connection between plastic pollution and the climate crisis. Coming from Indiana, Alexis has a deep appreciation for sustainable agriculture and helping land “thrive ecologically.” As co-founder of the Hudson Mohawk Environmental Action Network, a grassroots organization advocating for environmental justice and indigenous rights along the Hudson River, she shares the importance of giving back to the lands damaged by fossil fuels and plastic. When asked about her hopes for COP26, Alexis replied:

“We need to stop fossil fuel development, period. We need to stop taking fossil fuels out of the ground and stop the build-out of fossil fuel infrastructure. We need to protect the ecosystems that we have left and restore ecosystems that have been damaged. We need to listen to indigenous peoples and BIPOC peoples, listen to their stories, and let them lead on this.”

Interview with Dr. Arlene Blum, Green Science Policy Institute at UC-Berkeley

PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Dr. Arlene Blum about her experience using scientific research to change policy toward a healthier world as part of the Countdown to COP26 and Beyond 2021 campaign.

In this interview, Dr. Blum shares how her biophysical chemistry and mountaineering background helped her to not only solve difficult research problems and climb challenging peaks, but also to overcome the obstacles from the chemical industry in reducing the use of toxic chemicals. She conducted groundbreaking research of the elimination of flame retardants from children’s sleepwear. Since then, as the Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute and as a scientist at UC Berkeley, Dr. Blum has taken the lead in convening scientists, policy makers, and business leaders to reduce harm from toxics. In this interview, we hear how she hoped COP would consider “Plastic and chemicals in addition to climate”.

Green Science Policy Institute’s homepage

Dr. Arlene Blum’s Website

Interview with Dr. Shanna Swan

PPC Youth Ambassadors Amber Chen and Eva Geierstanger interview Dr. Shanna Swan about her perspective of single-use plastic as one of the world’s leading environmental and reproductive epidemiologists as part of the Countdown to COP26 and Beyond 2021 campaign.

Dr. Swan and her colleagues have been studying the dramatic impact of plastic and environmental chemicals on the reproductive health of all people. Her book Countdown, which talks about how the modern world is harming reproductive health, came out in February 2021. In this interview, Amber and Eva ask Dr. Swan about the impact of the toxicity of plastic and recent developments in her field of research. When it comes to COP26, Dr. Swan hoped for “a discussion of the role of fossil fuels in the production of plastic and a recognition that these two conditions, climate change and the plastic crisis, are intimately linked.”

Swan’s website