Marine biologist to deliver U-M’s second ’21-22 Wege Lecture


Marine biologist and climate policy expert Ayana Elizabeth Johnson will deliver the Wege Lecture on Sustainability on Feb. 23.

Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

Johnson is the co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for coastal cities, and co-creator and former co-host of the Spotify/Gimlet podcast “How to Save a Planet,” which focuses on climate solutions.

A Brooklyn native, Johnson publishes widely, including in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Scientific American. She also co-edited the bestselling climate anthology “All We Can Save” and co-founded The All We Can Save Project. In addition, she co-authored the Blue New Deal, a roadmap for including the ocean in climate policy.

Johnson’s talk will focus on “Expanding the Base for Climate Action and Social Justice.”

The virtual event is scheduled for noon and is free and open to the public, but registration is required.


The 20th annual Wege Lecture is co-sponsored by the U-M Center for Sustainable Systems, the School for Environment and Sustainability, Democracy and Debate, and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

The Wege Lecture typically takes place each fall, but a second lecture was added this year to mark the 30th anniversary of the CSS.

It will be moderated by Sara Hughes, assistant professor of environment and sustainability at SEAS, whose research focuses on the political and institutional dimensions of sustainable and equitable water and climate change policies.

The lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer session with students and the community.

A recipient of the Stephen H. Schneider Award from Climate One, which recognizes a natural or social scientist for excellence in science communication, Johnson previously was the executive director of the Waitt Institute, a nonprofit institution partnering with island governments and communities to restore coral reefs and fisheries.

She also developed policy at the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and taught as an adjunct professor at New York University.

The Wege Lecture Series honors Peter M. Wege for his outstanding contributions to the CSS and to the environmental field.

Each Wege Lecture has addressed a critical sustainability challenge facing society in the 21st century, from energy security and declining fossil resources to global climate change, freshwater scarcity, ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, and sustainable development strategies.


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