Equity In Every Drop: Series One

Episode 1: The Nexus of Water, Climate, and Environmental Justice


Series one includes six episodes focused on the issues and advocacy priorities of our Climate and Safe Energy campaign.

Hosted by Thomas Hynes, this first episode of Equity In Every Drop features discussions with Marc Yaggi, CEO of Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley, a human and civil rights advocate, on the vital work of Waterkeeper Alliance and the intersections between water, climate change, and environmental rights.

Marc shares insights on our mission to unite over 300 local Waterkeeper groups worldwide to protect waterways against pollution and climate change, emphasizing their global impact and community-based advocacy approach.

Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley, also a Waterkeeper Alliance Global Ambassador, reflects on his journey from the civil rights movement to environmental advocacy, highlighting the critical relationship between human rights and environmental justice. Both guests discuss the importance of individual and collective action in addressing the climate crisis, advocating for sustainable practices, policy changes, and the importance of engaging communities and leaders to ensure water quality, quantity, and security for all, particularly vulnerable communities already bearing the brunt of climate change.

Stay tuned! New episodes will be posted here every third Thursday of the month and anywhere you get your podcasts. Click “Subscribe” in the episode widget above to access links to popular podcast apps.

Thank you for listening, sharing, and supporting our mission to ensure everyone’s right to clean water. Together, we demand equity in every drop.


Transcript

[00:00:00] Tom Hynes: Hello and welcome to the first episode of Equity In Every Drop, the podcast from Waterkeeper Alliance. My name is Thomas Hynes and I will be your host. We’re very excited to kick things off and we thought of no better first guest for our first episode than our chief executive officer Marc Yaggi. 

Marc, thank you so much for being here today. 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: Thank you

Tom Hynes: There’s going to be no secrets about this. We’re going to advertise who our guests are at the top. I really appreciate you joining us and I think this first episode will be a good primer for who we are and what we do, and we’re going to move into some other issues like environmental justice and how climate change is impacting communities.

But I thought at the beginning. It would be really helpful to talk about Waterkeeper Alliance and what it is we do and how we’re different than others in the conservation movement. 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: Sure. Thanks, Tom. First I just want to say, it’s also exciting to be on this first episode, water’s our most important natural resource, so we need to spread the word as much as possible [00:01:00] and.

I know my fellow guest on the show, Reverend Durley, really well, he’s an incredibly inspiring and immensely talented advocate and and public speaker. In fact, you could say I drew the short straw on being a guest with them. He’s so amazing and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say, but I can’t answer your question about what is Waterkeeper Alliance?

We’re a global organization that unites more than 300 locally based clean water groups or Waterkeepers. And we focus citizen action, science, and law on issues that affect our waterways from pollution to climate change. Our vision is for clean, healthy, and abundant water for all people on the planet.

And our mission is to protect everyone’s right to clean water in communities around the world. And to really help facilitate that mission, we strengthen these 300 plus local Waterkeeper groups. We amplify their collective voices across the world. And we work together to fortify, defend, and enforce clean water laws and policies.

Waterkeepers really are at the heart of our organization and just to tell a little bit more about them, they’re located in 47 countries on six continents and are made up of more than 1200 clean water advocates. They’re protecting nearly 6 million square miles of watersheds across the globe for about 2 billion people and counting.

And I like to say, they’re drawn from different languages, different cultures different religions and different legal and political frameworks, but these dedicated women and men are fighting for a world where everyone can drink from their local water source without fear of ingesting toxins, where people can catch and cook a fish without fear of being poisoned and where children are nurtured by water, not sickened by it.

These are community based advocates standing up for their right to clean water. 

Tom Hynes: And when you put it that way, enjoying the water rather than being harmed by it. I mean that and the numbers that you talk about, with nearly two billion people and six million square miles. And it’s really very impressive when you lay it out like that.

So actually backing up a little bit, Marc, it’s so interesting to hear about Waterkeeper Alliance and what the organization does, but I would love to learn more about why you work here and why this work is important to you. 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: Good question. My journey to this work really started as a kid. I grew up in the Susquehanna river watershed in Pennsylvania, and I could walk outside my back door for what. as a child for miles. And my favorite memories, or my fondest childhood memories, were swimming and fishing basically day in and day out in the nearby creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes. And as I got older and I started traveling around, I learned that not everyone can go down to their local waterway and jump in and have a swim without fear of getting sick.

Just like I talked about earlier. And. That issue of people not being able to jump into the local waterway or being able to turn on a tap and draw a cool glass of drinking water and be sure it’s free of toxic chemicals or be able to catch and cook that fish seemed like a huge injustice. And I couldn’t really understand how such an important resource of fundamental rights in a key part of life wasn’t available to everyone or how You know, other kids couldn’t experience something that was so second nature to me.

So it makes you question how can we have a world that values human dignity and provides for prosperity and human aspiration without everyone having access to clean water. And so I started thinking about what can I do, and searching for that answer brought me to Waterkeeper Alliance, where I get to work on these issues around water and climate.

Tom Hynes: That’s amazing. And, just as an aside, I’ve been so lucky in my role here at Waterkeeper Alliance to talk to so many of those Waterkeeper groups that you mentioned earlier from all over the world and all these different countries, and you get a version of that answer from everybody. It’s not the same answer, but it’s a connection to water as a child.

And I hear a lot of our Waterkeeper groups out there saying, and I couldn’t believe that what I was enjoying with my friends and with my family and on summer breaks and on vacations and swimming and hunting and fishing that wasn’t available to everybody. And that sort of galling experience of this.

thing that’s second nature and so fundamental to everything that we do being poisoned and tarnished, but you really do hear so many folks tie it back to an experience in childhood. I do want to move ahead a little bit here and you began to hint at this a little bit, and I know we’ve talked a lot about this offline but for our listeners.

Let’s talk a little bit about how climate change and water are related. This is so obvious to us because we work here and we talk about this all day, but to someone out there listening for the first time who may be interested in what that connection is, tell us a little bit more about that.

Marc Yaggi – CEO: When you think about our work is rooted in clean water, but hovering over all of that is the existential crisis of climate change and climate change is a water issue. Climate change is altering the chemistry [00:06:00] of our oceans, the character of our coastlines, timing, intensity of rain and snow wreaking havoc across the planet.

And I talked to people a lot about climate change and how do they see climate change impacts manifesting and they see it manifesting through water, right? Their answers are always drought, flooding, sea level rise, extreme storms, ocean acidification and more. And it’s really because climate change is causing a disruption in the climate cycle.

Some communities are suffering droughts from. Less precipitation and others have to deal with flooding for more intense rainfall. And climate impacting our water chemistry. If the water gets warmer, there’s less oxygen in the waterway to support aquatic life. And then you’ve got rising sea levels, which are threatening nations around the globe, particularly island nations, you can start to see saltwater intrusion into freshwater.

And, ultimately we could talk about how climate and water interrelated all day. So I’ll stop there before, before we ended up doing that. 

Tom Hynes: We’ll have you on for more episodes. I guarantee [00:07:00] that. Yeah. And just listening to you, and I don’t want to read ahead too much, but it’s also, we talk a lot about how it’s going to affect not just communities, but businesses too.

There’s all kinds of industries that are impacted by the lack of clean water or the abundance of dirty water, and lost opportunities. It’s really just such a key issue. And then just thinking, you’re talking about rising sea level, our office in New York is rising.

One block from the water ourselves. I live two blocks from the water across in Brooklyn. So I think it’s such a real and existential threat as you put it is, I think that’s really hitting the nail on the head. We know that the situation is tough.

We know that there’s a lot of problems out there and we know that climate change is really accelerating. It’s here. What is Waterkeeper Alliance doing about the situation? How are we taking this on? 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: All of our work has a climate and water focus, but particularly with our Climate and Safe Energy campaign.

And with that campaign, we’re building on a lot of the work that came out recently from COP28 in Dubai and really trying to advance goals that contribute to that campaign and particularly, there are three key things that we need to do. One is we need an aggressive timeline to shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels and to bring an end to new and expanded fossil fuel sources.

Secondly, we need to commit to a low carbon future. And adopt holistic environmental strategies to build resilience in local watersheds and communities. And three, we’ve got to demand justice, equity, and better health outcomes for climate vulnerable, low income communities of color, and indigenous communities who bear the brunt of climate change impacts.

And it’s critically important that we phase out fossil fuels. And that often means stopping individual projects as they seek to expand into new areas. 

Tom Hynes: Yeah. We talked a lot about this after the most recent cop and it always comes back to me when I hear about these things that we need to do.

We talk about the fossil fuel drawdown, and I always hear the hypothetical argument against it saying, “oh we can’t afford to do that, but we can’t afford to do what we’re doing this way either.” “What we’re doing isn’t working. It doesn’t make any business sense. It doesn’t make any moral sense.”

And so it’s so important that we take these positions now and advocate for this safer future for everybody. It’s so critical. [I] want to talk a little bit more about…we’ve talked about ocean acidification and rising sea levels and the chemistry of the water.

And I know, you and I, we could talk about all kinds of pollution and permitting and things like that. But I want to just bring this back to more of the human angle. We know why this is bad scientifically and technically, but how and why is this crisis more than just a water and science issue? How is it affecting communities? 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: A few years ago I was on a work trip in the Middle East and one of our fellow guests on a tour we were taking was a woman named Sherry Goodman (sic) and she was a national security expert. She had several years before coined the term threat multiplier, which is spot on for climate change because climate change is a real threat multiplier.

It magnifies both existing challenges and it creates nuance and really climate impacts a whole array of issues that affect people from famine, disease, political instability, migration. Wildfires, air quality, supply chain issues for businesses, like you mentioned, and so much more, and it affects us all and will have increasing impacts on our food systems, on our water security and our overall security.

And while climate change has the greatest impact on low income communities and communities of color and Indigenous communities, ultimately, because it’s a threat multiplier, no one will truly be able to avoid the impacts of climate change. 

Tom Hynes: Yeah, that’s right. I hadn’t heard the term threat multiplier, but it immediately made sense to me and the way you explained it is very resonant and you think to yourself, of course, it affects all of these things and it’s going to reveal new problems and make the existing problems [00:11:00] so much worse.

It’s definitely, yeah, that’s terrifying in a lot of ways. 

So Marc, I’d love to talk more about some specific examples. About how this is impacting communities around the world and how this is becoming more than just, a technical issue and a scientific issue. How is this all, how is climate change hurting and impacting communities today? 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: One of the interesting, And at the same time, probably terrifying things about having this network of advocates all around the world is that we get to see the impacts of climate change through the lens of these local Waterkeepers. So for example, in Ladakh, India, our Himalayan Waterkeeper groups will tell you that for the past decade, things have turned upside down.

It snows when it shouldn’t, it doesn’t rain when it should. Some of their communities have had to be relocated due to drought. And others have been forced to rebuild after devastating floods. [00:12:00] Similarly, in Mongolia, our Tule River Waterkeeper reports how drought is forcing more and more people to migrate from the countryside into cities that aren’t equipped to handle the population growth.

Where you get here in the United States, we’ve got Puget Soundkeeper in Seattle. We’re seeing how ocean acidification is threatening their 270 million a year shellfish industry. Or in Louisiana, our Waterkeepers, they’re seeing the government remove more than 40 places or 40 names of places on maps because those places no longer exist, except in the memories of the coastal residents who saw that land disappear. And, speaking of land disappearing in The Bahamas, our Waterkeepers there know there’s a real risk that they will lose a majority of their land to sea level rise in the century.

And they worry about the security of their culture, their heritage, and their existence. And just through those four, I don’t know, four or five examples right there, you can see that threat multiplier in action. 

Tom Hynes: Yeah. And I know we have a dozen more examples just like it. It’s the [00:13:00] Louisiana one is so terrifying.

Because I’ve talked to that Waterkeeper and just hearing, it’s like a football field every day is gone or something like that. It’s terrifying. But when you talk about, and this is true in Louisiana, but you make the point about our Waterkeepers in The Bahamas, this becomes a loss of culture.

This becomes, and that’s the Louisiana example is the same. This is a town. These were communities that are literally off the map. And it’s so important for me when I talk about climate change, it’s not something that’s approaching, it’s something that’s here. And I think that’s one of the things that I’ve had to get my arms around.

Is that we’re now really in this new reality and the stakes couldn’t be higher. So really, this makes this work to me anyway, it feels so much more important than ever. 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: Absolutely. It’s not some far away threat. It’s here. Yeah. Yeah. And if we don’t take action now, it’s going to get worse. 

Tom Hynes: So speaking of taking action, we’ve talked about what our Waterkeepers are [00:14:00] doing around the world.

We’re talking about what Waterkeeper Alliance does and what you do here. What can our listeners do? And what can people who are concerned about this and people who hear from us on social media and are aware of our work or who aren’t aware and want, but who care, how can they get involved? What can an individual do?

To take on this problem. And as I say, sleep better at night, feeling like they’re part of the solution, how can our listeners take action? 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: Yeah, that’s an important point. And I like to break it down into three separate categories. One is that people can take actions to reduce their own carbon footprint. That involves making conscious choices in your daily life to minimize greenhouse gas emissions like your transportation options, your energy use, and your food choices.

There are a lot of resources available on this issue. So I’m not going to take a deep dive into that right now with our time limitations, but a lot of individual things you can do. Secondly, just as important is to get engaged, be a change agent [00:15:00] and use your voice to push for water and climate action.

You can contact your local officials and urge them to support policies that address water and climate issues. And I would also encourage everyone to please go to Waterkeeper. org and sign up for alerts and information about how you can take action because you can take it from the macro level, but on our site, you can also find your local Waterkeeper and support their work in your community where you can make the biggest impact.

The third category is really important too, which is vote. And, vote for officials who are going to walk the walk and stand up to polluters rather than be their puppets and convince your friends and your family members to do the same. And I’ll add one more thing to that, which is just that, the prospect of climate change is daunting.

But for all of this, all of those three buckets, remember that every action contributes to a larger impact and collective action can drive significant change. 

Tom Hynes: Absolutely. And I love how you laid that out. And I think that, being aware, right? Once I think that’s really [00:16:00] the first crucial step, right?

Because once you’re aware, that’s going to change what you buy, how you vote, how you talk about the issue. And that can affect the impact of your neighbors and your family members and your coworkers and people around you, hearing you speak with this more informed tone. I think that’s a really fundamental building block to this.

And I don’t want to make this a commercial for what we do too much, but definitely go to Waterkeeper.org and get my Dive Into Democracy emails. I’ll give you actions to take. I’ll give you one a month, but I digress. But we it, there, it is such a daunting and scary situation.

But we’re certainly not powerless and it’s, again, one of my favorite parts about working here is just feeling like we’re part of the solution, and we’re not just watching all of this happen. We’re really taking the fight to the problem. And it’s a big fight, but there’s a lot we can do.

And it’s important to be reminded of that in this climate of change. That can be a climate of doom and worry there, there is, there are some reasons to be [00:17:00] hopeful. 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: Your point about awareness being in a really important first step is right. If you, once you’re aware, you really do feel like you need to take action.

And we talked earlier about everyone having that, or a lot of people sharing that origin story about their connection to water as a child. But when you. Get older. Sometimes there are other factors that sort of push you along as well. And you’re a father. So I know this might resonate to you, but my original connection to water and my reasons for doing this have now been enhanced by the fact that I’ve got two kids who mean everything to me, I don’t want to look back in 20 years and ask myself why I didn’t do more to ensure them a safe and healthy future.

And I want them to have clean water, clean air, clean energy. I’m driven by the belief that we owe to future generations to give them a better world than what we inherited. And that’s the future I want to see. 

Tom Hynes: That’s awesome. And personally speaking, I completely agree with that.

And I love that you brought it back to that first experience that you had, because I was thinking that in my head, when you were talking about awareness, it’s, it was that awareness as a [00:18:00] kid that brought you to the situation. It was this feeling of saying, Oh my God, yeah. The whole world doesn’t have a river that they can run and feel safe in and play in, and that awareness has really been fundamental in your work.

And again, I hear it from our Waterkeepers all over the world. And I completely agree with you on parenting my kids younger than yours, but it is so important that we leave a better world for even our children and everyone’s children, even if you don’t have kids, it’s just the right thing to do.

And it, definitely, this is a tough, daunting situation, but I think that. Taking any kind of action, having some awareness about the problem is the only strategy forward. So I’m very glad to be a part of it, and I’m glad that we got to speak about it today 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: as well. Thank you. 

Tom Hynes: Marc, thank you so much for being here on our inaugural episode. It’s been so great talking with you as always. Before I let you go, is there anything else you would want our listeners to know about Waterkeeper Alliance and what’s in store and what our [00:19:00] plans are for this huge daunting existential crisis?

Marc Yaggi – CEO: Thank you, Tom. It’s been great to be here. I would leave people by saying, to tackle the global climate water crisis, we need everyone to be engaged. Think about what clean water means to you. Think about how every part of your life is affected by water, we drink it or we die, we bathe and we wash with it.

It’s a source of recreation, relaxation, rejuvenation. And without water, we can’t grow crops or get the food that we harvest from our fresh and salt waters that are major parts of our diets. And in all of its form, whether it’s rain, sleet or snow, water is essential to the atmosphere and the air we breathe.

It’s really no accident that we call this place the blue planet. And as we acknowledge water’s undeniable role in all aspects of our life, it becomes clear that advocating for water is not just a choice, but a responsibility. And recognizing the inherent value of water is pivotal for cultivating sustainable [00:20:00] habits and ensuring we have a flourishing legacy for current and future generations.

Tom Hynes: That’s so well said, Marc. Thank you so much for being with us here today. 

Marc Yaggi – CEO: Thank you, Tom. It’s been a pleasure. 

Tom Hynes: We are very fortunate to welcome our next guest, the Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley. Dr. Durley has been a leading human and civil rights advocate since the 1960s. As pastor emeritus of Providence Missionary Baptist Church, he fuses the disciplines of faith and science to spark meaningful change around water, climate and the environmental justice movement.

And as of last year, he served as a global ambassador for Waterkeeper Alliance. Dr. Durley, thank you so much for being with us today. 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: Tom, I’m so honored to be with you and all of the listeners here. This is my honor. 

Tom Hynes: It’s a huge honor and privilege to get to speak with you today.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your work and your career. I know there’s a lot to say on this, but tell our listeners a little bit about what you’ve done over the [00:21:00] years and the work that you’ve done. 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: First of all, let me thank you, the listeners, for tuning in today to this very important podcast.

One of the things that I’ve learned in my life is that the more that I can listen to a broad spectrum and voices of others, I can grow. So we pray that the few ideas that have transformed my life into this movement will be beneficial to some of you on the internet. This podcast. I never thought that I’d be on a podcast of this nature.

I never thought I would be discussing environmental concerns, environmental justice, or any of the issues around the environmental impacts on all of our lives. This was so alien and so foreign to me, and possibly in many of your lives, you never thought you’d be involved in this. We all come up with one thought or one purpose in mind and we’re going down that road in our professions.

Mine, of course, was in the civil rights movement. I joined with Dr. King in [00:22:00] 1960, met a young man who was two years older than me named John Lewis. There was Andrew Young who became an ambassador and a mayor here of Atlanta, but I was 18 years old when I got into the movement, but my concern was always civil rights and human rights and equal rights and justice rights for all people, because my concern was that it is absolutely essential if all Americans are to reach their potential, they need the constitutional rights being administered in their lives.

And because. Our constitutional rights were being denied. I got into the movement there in 1960. At that time, I was at Tennessee State University. We’re talking about 1959, 1960, years and years ago. That was the formulation of who I was about. When I got to Tennessee State, my goal was very simple to play basketball and to move on into the professional ranks.

But there are times in our lives, there’s certain kinds of. Issues occur that changes your life forever, that [00:23:00] transform where you’re going, that reorders your steps, that puts you in a different mission statement, if you will. But when I went to Tennessee State, I was on the bus going down there for the first time.

Here I was an all basketball sensation out of Colorado could do everything had a nickname the double defensive delectable darling dynamic dangerous devastating beef from Denver. I knew everything six feet from coming down to play basketball and when we got to the Tennessee state line. The bus driver came back and grabbed me by my shoulder and said you got to go to the back of the bus.

You people don’t sit above this white line. And I did not understand what he meant. You people know the book. I was coming from Colorado, having been raised in California, but now I was in Tennessee and I was getting ready to say something because obviously he didn’t know who I was. And two black ladies said, son, come back here or you’ll find yourself dead.

They’ll throw you off this bus. So I went to the back of the bus [00:24:00] and said nothing because I was still somewhat shocked. Many times when we’re going through transitions in our lives, we don’t know why, we don’t know who, we don’t know what the ethological factors are that cause it. I said that, so I got off the bus and I was thirsty and angry.

So I got ready to drink some water. I got ready to put my face down to drink water. And the man said, you don’t drink out of that water fountain. Your fountain is over there. This fountain is for white people. And I looked, I said, but that fountain’s filthy. He said, that’s where you drink. And I, once again, two times in the last eight hours I had been challenged.

on my ignorance. And the coach came in and got me and took me down back to the campus and said, you don’t go anywhere until we, you go with us and we’ll show you, you got a lot to learn about living here in the South. I’m talking about 64 years ago. And I was ready to transfer and go on to UCLA or one of the schools on the West or go up to schools on the East and play ball.

But sometimes there’s something inside that said, I must stay. And Tom, this is the turning point. [00:25:00] About a week later, I went down to Fisk University, which is a few feet from a few miles from Tennessee State. And I was sitting in the back of the room and we received a memo to come down to Fisk University.

And I was 18 years old, but I’d always heard about Fisk. And I knew Fisk had some of the most beautiful, intelligent women on the planet. So I wanted to go see some of the intelligence. And so I went down with my roommate who was six, nine hours, six, five, six, eight to see the intelligence. And we were there waiting for the intelligence and the back door opened and five men walked in.

I’m talking about moments when your life changed. And there were two kind of short guys and I was like, One of the short guys was John Lewis. The other was Andrew Young. Then there was Hosea Williams and then Martin Luther King. And I said, what is this about? And the next thing I knew I was in the movement about trying to live up to.

The country forced people to live up to constitutional rights. Years later, I went on, I finished Tennessee State, but [00:26:00] upon my graduation from Tennessee State, I was still fairly not angry, disappointed, so I moved to Africa for two years. A man named Sergeant Shriver came to our campus and convinced me to go into the very first Peace Corps program to go to Nigeria and work in agriculture, putting protein back in.

To the people’s lives. I finished two years in the Peace Corps. I thought I had done. I was still thinking about what was going on back in America. This is 1966 now. And they could not find my passport. So I could not get back into America. So I had to live in Switzerland for a year and a half in Switzerland.

And then finally in 1968 things had changed a little bit and I was allowed to come back to America. And I enrolled in Illinois where I received a master’s degree in psychology from Illinois, but interestingly enough, you cannot change what something has been placed inside of you. So I had this inside of me.

And I got involved with the Panther Party because it was serving young people. So I was earning a master’s degree in psychology while I was feeding children through the Black Panther Party in [00:27:00] Chicago, finished there. And I stayed at the university and started a program called CHANCE, C H A N C E, which stood for Complete Help and Assistance Necessary for a College Education.

So I started recruiting students from all over Illinois, coming to school to get that opportunity. I was 26 years old then. Then I was asked to come to Washington to put it together. Programs that would help young African American students coming from underserved communities to go and so that it was there that I felt a certain sense of obligation.

But when you reach one, I believe that life is a peak to peak experience. We are allowed to peak at something P E A K. So we can reach a peak. We peak P E K so that we can P E A K. And every time you peak at something, you ought to reach another P E A K. The P E A K that I reached then. Was I need to study more in psychology.

So I enrolled at the university of Massachusetts and received a doctorate degree in psychology and you haven’t received that. I reached another peak and I [00:28:00] stayed in there working just in psychology, but there was something missing, even the psychology, because we all reach a point of finitude where we don’t know exactly what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, who we’re doing it to do, and when are we going to change?

So I enrolled at Howard university and got another master’s degree in divinity. To combine the psychological and the spiritual after having finished they stayed at a university that then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, became the Dean at Clark Atlanta University. The reason I think that’s important is because all of our lives are just a connection of bridges that bring you to the point where I am today at my age.

And so I stayed there as Dean at the university and I became Dean at Morehouse School of Medicine, working with Satcher and Sullivan and all of them. But I had to make a decision. We all make decisions. Do we stay on the same track or do we shift up the stand at the university? I was making a nice little piece of money and that I’m a young man. I had a young dog, young children, but something down inside of you, and I hope all of those of us in this podcast understand: What is that thing that’s leading you?

What is that [00:29:00] thing? That’s guiding? What is that thing that you said that you must do something that’s so compelling that nothing can change you from that So I decided one day I went in to see Dr. David Satcher and Sullivan, who were fairly large in the federation, federal government, and I said, I’m leaving Morehouse.

And I’m going to Providence Baptist church. They said, what? I said, yeah. Why don’t you do a dual? I said, when you are committed to something, it’s very hard to do dual things. So I made a commitment. So I went to Providence and all the kinds of programs that I talked about during the civil rights movement that I felt about all of the programs in terms were going well, and that’s how I got.

And it was fairly comfortable and challenging working with the government trying to take a red state and make it at least purple and these kinds of things under the guidance and the psychological being and the spiritual guidance. But then I was fairly comfortable in 15 or so years past. And in my 15th year, a white lady came to Atlanta, Georgia.

She said, I’m getting ready to meet [00:30:00] with a large group of white evangelical pastors, because I want to change. I want to change the teenage pregnancy rate in the African American community. And people said, you’d be a good person to come with me to a meeting. Out at the airport. So I met the lady and I went out to the airport and she was telling this large group of ministers, preachers, and that’s why she asked me to go.

And she was telling me about teenage pregnancy. I said, okay. And I just stood at the door. One of the men said to me who are you? Her bodyguard. And I said, why would I be a bodyguard to this? I, sir, are you her bodyguard? I said, no, I just met her. If do you have anything to say? I said, no. So the lady said, don’t say anything.

Just let it go. And the man was somewhat persistent. And I said, I could say something. But it’s not necessary. I’m just with her. If you are ready to say something, then you need to then if you’re willing to say something, then [00:31:00] you need a PowerPoint. So she tried to stop me. So I went to the front of the room about 60 evangelical people of a different hue.

And I said, I do have a PowerPoint and I lifted my finger to the ceiling. I said, I’m pointing to my power. It never goes out. My, my finger never loses power. And here’s what I’m saying. You all are attacking this lady. Who’s trying to do something for the overall society, the culture to a people. And it was quiet as a mouse.

And then they started applauding. The lady said, when it was over, I’d like you to meet my husband. Her name was Jane Fonda. His, her husband’s name was Ted Turner. Ted Turner introduced me to Laura Seidel. Laura Seidel and Rutherford became friends. And then they introduced me to Sally Beam, who had started a program called Interfaith Power and Light out of San Francisco.

So I got involved and then I began to say the very thing that we were doing in the civil rights movement. For the rights to have voting rights, housing rights, health, education, right access to education is the same thing in [00:32:00] environmental movement. We have a right to clean air to clean water to toxic free air.

We have a right to those things. But because of the power because of the business people because of the corporate structure, they had stronger lobbyists. So this was put on a back burner while we needed to mitigate climate change, yet when we were talking about 1. 5 Celsius that we are at the critical point, no one was really talking about it.

So I got drafted. Another draft, and so I got into the movement and stayed with it. And it’s been about 14. I became chair of the board for seven years. I stepped down this year. But while I was doing it and particularly going into historically black colleges and universities, explained to them that.

African Americans pollute the least, but they suffered the most in terms of cancer, in terms of asthma, in terms of waste dumps. And when I got to waste dumps, I began to understand in an underserved community, environmental injustice. And that was the same thing. We were talking about voting injustice.

[00:33:00] Now it’s environmental justice. So I saw the parallelism. So for the last several years, I’ve been deeply involved in that, and I was very blessed because in 2007, I met a young man who was going to run for president, and I was saying the same thing I’m saying now, his name was Obama, so he gave me the highest award, a champion of change for the environment around 2009, speaking to him about how important it is to elevate the environmental justice, the environmental equity, the environmental equality act into the major discussion.

So Tom, that’s pretty much the journey of how I got here. And, uh, I’m very satisfied because now I retired from Providence when I was…it’s about 11, 12 years ago, I retired. So I didn’t retire. I don’t know what retirement means. If God gives you something and you believe in it and it’s a purpose, you stay there.

So I’m rewired now into this whole movement, and I have not gotten away from a whole movement because it’s all about everything is [00:34:00] connected. Crime and violence is connected to the environment that you live in. Your health care, your health benefits, your, where your money goes, it’s all tied into the environment.

You cannot separate the environment movement from the civil rights movement or any other, the justice movement. You cannot separate them. So I’m just pleased now with Waterkeeper Alliance because you’ve done such a great job all over the world and particularly in underserved communities and islands where people just don’t know and they don’t have the wherewithal to go up against the corporate powers, nor do they have the financial abilities to go up against the legal department.

So we’ve got to educate, we’ve got to excite. And the thing that kept us going during the movement, we had three words and I think they’re apropos today, organize, Strategize and mobilize. And when you organize, strategize and mobilize, you’ve got to move it. Otherwise you’ll only have a campaign and campaigns. In at a certain point, 

Tom Hynes: That was incredible Dr. Durley and what [00:35:00] an incredible journey you’ve been on. And you were talking about peak to peak, and I’ll just add the third homonym there and say that you’ve definitely peaked everybody’s interest P I Q U E D and and I love how you didn’t retire, you retired and I 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: think that’s Let’s say I retired at 71. In May, I’ll be 82 years old. Oh my goodness. And I have a tshirt that I say to young people, I say this, if I can, you can. If I can stand there for 60 years and take the harassment, if I can you can. Repeat if I can you can and for those of you who are [listening to] this podcast who’ve been in the movement, who’ve gone down rivers that are dried up, who’ve gone down rivers when you’re trying to take tires out of the rivers, and people are still.

If I can stand it for 60 years you can stand it for 60 minutes, 60 months, and continue to persevere and stay in there. And I think that’s the challenge we all face if you believe in something strong enough. If I can, you can. 

Tom Hynes: That’s very well said. This [00:36:00] has been so great. And I just, I really want to talk more about the through line between civil rights and environmental rights, because When we talk about it and the way you explain it, it feels so natural.

It’s a progression and you say it’s your rights in the constitution. It’s your right to a healthy life. It’s your right to clean air and your clean water. And it affects everything else in your life the same way that the struggle for civil rights would. But you don’t always see this through line and you don’t always see people shooing retirement for retirement as it were.

But in your mind, tell me more about how civil rights and environmental rights are related. 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: I think one of the travesties that we find in our life and the situation we live in because we are labeled. And once you get a label, you hold on to that label until you change. So that creates the silo effect.

You’ve got people in the movement. All they concentrate on is water. Some just concentrate on the environment or famines and they’re specialized, [00:37:00] not realizing that they all come together. I began to see that it is all interrelated. So it’s very difficult for me just to say, I am, I’m an environmentalist concerned about cut deforestation and tear down the trees and what’s going on in Brazil and all those, because that Indirectly watch this oxymoron it indirectly directly impacts everything that I do.

So I need to join forces with you. Now, this is something that I think is very critical in the civil rights movement, and my contrast. And when I started discussing and meeting with the people in the conservation. Environmental movement. I started to leave. I started to get away from it.

They frightened me. They frightened me because they believed in something, but their actions didn’t demonstrate that they believed. Let me give you an example. Yeah, I went out to a meeting about 11 years ago with Laura Seidel to New Mexico, and I sat in a room with the top philanthropists around the [00:38:00] country and environmentalists about 125 people.

I was there to learn, and I listened. I listened. And after three days, Of sitting and listening and the philanthropists, we’ve got to put our goals together. How do we finance this and how do we know and that’s fine? I’ve written many proposals as a dean, but I just listened and when I was over they asked me Dr. Durley, let us know what you think about this meeting? I said I have nothing to add and you have something to add and they were pretty adamant. I said, okay You all are the smartest people I’ve had an opportunity to meet and certainly you’re the wealthiest With all the foundations here But also you’re the dullest people I’ve ever met in my life.

I would not walk across the street to meet most of you were dulled. You were dry. You weren’t set. You weren’t excited about what you were doing. That we’ve got a program here in Atlanta called the Atlanta housewives. They get excited, and it’s nothing but trash. Here you all got this great opportunity to make a difference on the planet, make a difference in the waterways, and you said what [00:39:00] are we going to do?

What about this? And then the most excitement I saw was when you were planning the next meeting. That’s what I have to add. You could have heard a pin drop in that room. And I said, that’s my opinion. Next thing I knew it was a standing ovation and we all started singing together. How do we put that, the word enthusiasm in what we do?

Yeah. Enthusiasm. Then I, here it comes. I bring that. The spiritual part. Enthusiasm in the Greek is Entheos. Entheos. Theos in the Greek is God. So if you’ve got a God that’s keeping you healthy, a God that’s keeping you strong, a God that’s getting you up with a reasonable portion of your mind, you’ve got to be enthusiastic.

So if I’m concerned about the environment, if I’m concerned about what goes on in the environment, Then I’ve got to, I’ve got to, at that time, understand why it is so significant and why it’s so important. 

Tom Hynes: Yeah, that’s absolutely. And I, and I think that connection, again, when you make that connection and when you lay it out like that, it seems so obvious to me, but [00:40:00] I still want to give you credit because I feel like there aren’t that many people straddling that line.

And making that connection. And that’s why I’m so interested to talk to you today, because we have groups all over the world and I, and part of my job is that I get to actually speak to the people and go a little bit beyond the data and the science, which is so important.

And we want to know what PFAS analytes are in the water. And we want to know what permitting, is stormwater runoff is going to be affected by. We want to know all that technical stuff, but at the end of the day, this is about people’s lives and communities. And. How in your experience and observations does a tainted environment impact a community in the individual?

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: Okay, it has to. And for 25 years while out, also using the same techniques when I was inspiring students means to breathe into them something that they believe in. And so unless it reaches the gut level of the community or the village or the tribe [00:41:00] that you’re talking to, it’s just yeah.

It’s got to come down to, for example, when we were fighting years and years ago in Chicago, lead paint that was on the baby cribs in many of the projects and the children were eating it. The biting the bed and the lead paint is going into the system. So what did I say? My approach at the community meeting was I’m sorry to be here among a group of mothers who are murdering their children.

You’re murdering your children. How are we murdering? And I stayed on the murdering to build the case to put it in context. And one of the ways is that you need to see if the paint that’s being put on the furniture that your children are eating. You’re wondering why they got sick. It’s got lead in it.

And this is what led. And then I have a slide to show a child with lead. Another one was in fluoride in toothpaste. I was on the thing. We’re getting fluoride taken out of some of the water in America because fluoride was a gas that was used in New York to kill rats. But it’s put in toothpaste.

And guess what? [00:42:00] The teeth that were rotting in many of the urban areas where young children were. We’re coming because of the use of the fluoride. So I said, your teeth are rotting. They’re coming out. Look at what you are. You’re doing it. Then it begins to make sense. Let me even go to the other previous life.

Still the life preaching from a pulpit. Get up. You’re going to hell. If you don’t obey, you’re going, I don’t want it. You and until you can reach where the people are, where they got to connect with their head and then their head to connect with their thoughts and their thoughts connect with the legislative process.

It doesn’t make sense. Even I turn off with some of the luck and I studied statistics. Statistics was the dullest course I’ve ever had in my life. And somebody said you use it one day, but take those statistics and make them live in the person’s life. Dr King. I’ll never forget in Cicero one year, he was leading a march in Cicero, very tough community.

Tom Hynes: And that’s in Illinois, right? 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: Stopped him. Huh? Is that in Illinois? Cicero, Illinois. And it was a home cause [00:43:00] for a lot of the gangsters at that time. And a newscaster stopped him and said this, Dr. King, can we interview you? And he was getting ready to do an interview. And what he said has stuck with me all my life, and it leads, it helps me to what I’m doing.

He said, I cannot give you an interview right now. I’ve got to go catch my people. You only have a movement when your people have caught the vision and they’re moving without you. That the dream can go on, even though he’s been dead since 1968 or whoever it might be. Whether the, whether it’s Buddha, the Buddhists with Allah.

They believe in something that can move out ahead without the original visionary. So if we’re talking about preparing underserved communities around the world, then it’s got to be something that they can see. If I don’t do this, then this will happen to me and my family and my community. Then watch it.

Then they take charge and we merely become a catalyst for change. Then we can come in and say, all right let me contact this corporation. Let me [00:44:00] contact, and we can make it happen. But unless we have the power of the people, not down up from up down, but from down up, then we’ve got a movement, otherwise it’s just a campaign and it keeps a lot of people working.

Tom Hynes: I think he makes very valid points there. And that’s so interesting about catching up with movement and making something strong enough that it can continue to proceed without you. That’s really the goal. So I want to talk just a little bit more about the human costs of pollution and because, we talked a couple of weeks ago and one of the things that always stands out to me. In the environmental movement, the conservation movement is that on the surface it appears to be, and it’s presented as at odds with business at odds with convenience. And, you can either have a healthy environment or a healthy business world. I’ve come to realize that’s not true, that they’re not [00:45:00] mutually exclusive, but one kind of depends on the other.

How is the cost of pollution being paid for or beared by frontline communities around the country. 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: I think you made an excellent point. You said that it appears to be at odds. The business community is, it survives on a strange word. Money on business when business can say, if you notice even right now, there’s a major evolution that’s going on in America today because the business community is realizing that they can make a profit off of it.

And transportation is one of the major. pollutants in our air today. So we start off with the gasoline model, but you got to go all the way back to Henry Ford when he took out all the streetcars or the electric streetcars, because he owned standard oil and he owned more of the Ford motor company. So he had to have somebody to buy his cars too.

Buy his [00:46:00] gas. So he took off and now they’re going back to putting the electric cars in many of the cities because of the pollutant. But the initial impetus was around making money. Right now, if you look, we’ve got the gasoline models. Then we jump all the way over to the electric models, Teslas and others.

And now Tesla was the only brand out. Now everybody’s going. Toward electric but between that were hybrids. I drive a hybrid because I don’t want to get stuck without, it’s not the infrastructure is not across the country. If I drove to do that, I can put the gas in and I’ll go right to hide. I can to the hybrid, I can sit in the car and it’s not burning in any gas and it’s not polluting the air once the business people realize.

That we can make a profit in this, then they will put the pressure on the legislature. And once it puts pressure on the legislature, now we’ve got the teeth behind those who have been talking about the different movements for a long time. I’m so pleased that in the [00:47:00] last six or seven years, and this for a fact, That what we’re discussing today was not at the top of the agenda.

Climate change and global warming was not, but what happened to bring that into the top? Was it anything that you said? No. Was it anything that I said? Was it any revival meeting where people threw tambourines and jumped up and said, I’ve seen the light. No, it was a, it was flooding. It was fires. It was hurricanes.

It was tornadoes. That’s that. It came down to self survival where we’ve lost our home. We’ve lost this. We’ve lost everything to these weather disasters. Now, the question then becomes the people said, Wait, we’ve got to stop these weather disasters. What are causing what’s causing the weather disaster?

What we’re putting in the air. Now we’ve got a connection. And they say, All right, if we’re going to change it, how do we make a profit? That’s what we’re in business. We’re in a capitalist system. So how can we do it? And once And the people that’s what and then it’s more and more forest fires [00:48:00] and more and more catastrophe.

It got to the guts of the people, and the people start saying, if you’re not speaking about this we’re not going to elect you. Now the politicians are saying wait a minute, my job. It’s first to be elected and then maybe do a little good after I got elected . But . But so they’ve got, they said, now we’ve got something, and now the people and the politicians are putting the pressure and we’re seeing more cars coming out each year just around electric and hybrid.

We’re seeing more and more creative inventions by those that have great scientific minds to come up with solar panels, alternative energy, solar panels, how to do wind. These are the kinds of things. And now, when I went to the historically black colleges and universities, I talked to young African American kids.

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: Now, psychology is fine, law is fine, but the wave of the future is going to be, how are you going to work in this environment? In terms of not just putting solar panels on a building, but being the [00:49:00] president and the owner of a company, then that begins to see, wow, my mother and father sent me to school so I could take care of myself.

And I thought being a social worker would do it. But the wave of the future is how do you create an environment and work with people in that environment? And you can be an integral part of that and still make a living. 

Tom Hynes: Yeah. And you’re touching on that because what you’re describing, what I’m hearing too is you have politicians who are only going to move when the market moves and the market only moves when we tell the market to move.

So there is, it can feel very powerless, but even the example you use of hybrid cars and electric cars, 10, 15 years ago, they had none of the market share that they have today. And that’s because people. They voted with their feet, right and they voted with the pocketbooks and they changed their spending habits And I think you said this too. It came from the bottom up, right? I mean because it wasn’t right the president and the congress said oh we’re going to do this. They’re following business and business is following people and that takes me to my next question. So [00:50:00] We understand that the climate change is not only accelerating, it’s here, it’s got so many terrible manifestations.

It costs so much in real money, but also in people’s lives and in opportunity costs and in healthcare, looking at it from the other side. So we know what the problem is and we know how it impacts us scientifically, technically, and also personally and morally. But what can we do? What can an individual do to help remedy this?

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: That question is an age old question. Again, I go back to the civil rights movement and how I try to put it together. The question many times was, how can in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, I could go to other states that are not in the South, but I’ll stay in the South. And a person says, how can I make a difference?

I depend on them for my living to go to school, send my kids to school. And there’s a certain amount of fear. And when there’s fear, when there’s fear you get [00:51:00] a constipated moment when there’s fear. Now, what fuels fear? What fuels fear is ignorance. I didn’t say stupidity. I said ignorance when people are not knowledgeable about something else.

So our job now has to be to get them knowledgeable so that they’re not ignorant. And when they’re not ignorant, they’re not fearful. When they’re not fearful, then they will speak up. But why should I speak up if I’m going to? Either lose my job or I’ll get caught him in a lot of legal jargon. So you find so we’ve got to what can one person do.

And here’s the example I use. I am one brick. I’m just one brick. Now, I meet you. You’re another brick. I mean somebody else with three bricks. Fine. We’ve got 50 bricks, but I was one brick. And once I get the bricks together, then we decide, are we going to be a house, a castle, a wall? Then we decide what we want, but you got us.

And so one brick can make a difference. We say one vote can make a [00:52:00] difference. People say, why should I vote? Nobody’s going to listen to me. Your one vote coupled with another vote, but we’ve got to educate people why your one vote counts, why your one brick is important. That’s what one person can do.

One person Even though there were many people in the civil rights movement, there was only one that articulated enough. So his statue was up on the Potomac River. Now that was one person. This was one kid from Georgia who went to Morehouse and finished at 16 years, got into school at 16 years of age who had no idea. This is a kid who got a C in speaking at Morehouse. 

Tom Hynes: I didn’t know. 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: This was one person. And I’ve often used this example. If I were in New York City right now and I came and I looked up at a skyscraper and I continued to look up in the sky and you came along, you stop, you look at me, then you’d start looking up.

And that’d be two of us looking pretty soon. You have maybe 30 or 40 people looking up. And [00:53:00] I stopped and I said, excuse me, what are you looking at? And somebody said, you don’t see it? It’s right up there. And there was, I was just looking up. When people see, and I said, oh, it’s up there. Don’t you see it?

Ask them. And pretty soon we’ll assume now we’ve got a movement. Now we’ve got what one person can make a difference to do. 

Tom Hynes: Dr. Durley, this has been incredible.

Thank you so much for being here. Is there anything else you would like to get across to our listeners or that you would like them to know?

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: I think that is so important for any idea. Any group with an idea, any group of people that has something that they want to get across to realize that they’re not working in isolation. And in the community, you can’t convince people to do anything. They have to convince themselves. All of us have been to sporting events.

And you watch the sporting events and the cheerleaders get out there and they jump and they cheer and they jump and they cheer and most people just sit there and eat another piece of popcorn and drink a cold beer. But now when there’s a touchdown that goes across the place goes wild. So [00:54:00] what is it that we can do to get people to jump up and be excited.

Because right now we’re cheerleaders, but the stands are quiet until there’s something that happens and I believe that’s something that happens has to be those with Waterkeeper Alliance or other organizations. Waterkeeper Alliance whatever they might be, because we’re all championing the same cause, and we’re all championing it differently.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, because there’s something that has to be said in being different. I don’t like everybody to be the same. Let me give you an example. I was married for 54 years. Had I married me, I would have stayed married for six months. I would have, but because my wife was so different than me, we complement one another and we had a joyous relationship.

So I don’t want everybody to be like, every audience relationship should not be. Some people are more passionate about things, but how does your passion coupled with my passion? So we’ve got a passionate movement that will save the planet. So I would say there’s a phrase that we have, be ye not weary.

And well [00:55:00] doing for you will reap in due season. If you faint, not too many people faint along the way. Be not weary in well doing. And whenever I end up speaking to somebody, I always say this, I will not bend. I will not break. I will not bow and I will not back up. And if I can do it for 62 years, you can do it for 60 minutes, but you got to believe in it.

Yeah, absolutely. And then once you believe in something, you’ve got to have some substance. So that’s when your scientific facts can come in. But where we live, we’re competitive with CNN. We’re competitive with NSBC, we’re competitive with Fox, and they know how to put a spin on something.

Half the people on Fox do not believe what they’re saying, but they put a spin to it. So if we believe in and we can give the facts and the data where people say, Wait a minute, I’ve got I believe in the basic and basic dignity of and sincerity of the human population, and I believe they won’t change if it’s to their benefit, but we’ve got to convince them that it is to your [00:56:00] benefit.

So I think that’s what we got to do, continue to work that people say, I got it. It’s connected. And then here, my final thought is this, that they don’t see us competing with each other, right? People don’t like to make choices, real choices. Do I do this? Do I that? And if they can see that, then they can come together.

But, and so we’ve got to stop. I’m going to get, I’m going to be real colloquial enough. We got to stop squabbling among ourselves. I agree with that. That’s what I, that’s my little, 

Tom Hynes: I will say that if anybody is in the proverbial stands looking for a reason to stand up and applaud, they can just listen to what you said for the last half hour.

I think that would be a good reason as any, or a good example, a good inspiration for anybody would just be to listen to you talk. This has been a great conversation. So great, Dr. Durley and on behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance and I’ll just say the whole world, I appreciate everything that you’ve done and you continue to do.

You have inspired me to never retire and to keep these struggles for justice going. I’m [00:57:00] honored and privileged to have spoken with you today. 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: Thank you for allowing me just to come and just be basic, nothing complex.

Uh, marketer and advertisers. They want a good, simple message, right? They want this product will make your hands soft buy my product. You don’t know, you don’t need to know all the ingredients in the product. Can you imagine them coming on and saying, we’ve got nitro, we’ve got sugar, we’ve got this and that people would turn off and they say, they show some soft hands and we want you, if you use our product, your hands will be soft.

We don’t know any of the details. And that’s what we’re doing now. Just the basic message. And I hope that it wasn’t too simple. 

Tom Hynes: No, not at all, sir. No, this has been great. And thank you again for being with us here today. 

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley: You’re welcome. Have a blessed day. 

Tom Hynes: Thank you, sir.