Episode 18 – Black Environmentalists – John Francis & MaVynee Betsch

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First things first: we explain why we missed last week, and we think our excuse is pretty good: Elise was caught in the middle of the ongoing snow-induced Texas energy disaster, which has been exacerbated by climate change and inequality. We talk about how, as white activists, we need to tell stories that help you talk about racial injustice, but we also need to tell celebratory stories of Black joy, success, and leadership in the environmental space. To that effort, Elise tells us the incredible story of the ‘Planetwalker’ Dr. John Francis, who swore off motorized vehicles and took a 17-year vow of silence after witnessing an oil spill. Then Olivia shares the life of opera singer-turned-environmentalist MaVynee Oshun Betsch, also known as the Beach Lady of American Beach in Florida.

Elise has had electricity on the brain, so she listened to the How To Save A Planet episode entitled ‘Party Like It’s 2035‘ all about the switch to renewable energy and then happened upon a WSJ The Future of Everything episode about how advancements in superconductor tech could change what’s possible with electricity.

Then the worst happened! A climate disaster in the form of a polar vortex, snow, and freezing temperatures hit Texas and caused millions of people, Elise included, to lose power. At the top of the episode we discuss why Texas’ infrastructure isn’t set up for storms like this, how people are reacting, and what it means for fossil fuel power in Texas and elsewhere.

Recovery is going to take a long time and lots of resources, so here are some places you can donate if you’re able:

  1. Community Advocacy and Healing Project provide access to culturally proficient and trauma informed resources and supplies to communists systemically ostracized and oppressed.
    Donate via PayPal or MAIL to: Community Advocacy & Healing Project c/o Fatima Mann 1203 Springdale Rd, Austin, TX 78721. Found via Seeding Sovereignty and @empressofmyownfeetjd on Instagram.
  2. Austin Mutual Aid – They have been amazing and were out providing transportation for unhoused folks to paid hotel rooms during the worst of the storm, when it was clear the city had not prepared and would not be making sure those people were safe in any meaningful way. They continue to help and share invaluable information! Watch out though, there are scammers trying to impersonate them, so if you want to help and send money, their ONLY Venmos are @austinmutualaid and @austinmutualaidhotels.

Additional places to help suggested via @MaryBadThings on Twitter:

  1. Austin Urban League, @atxurbanleague, has a #LoveThyNeighborTX campaign emergency.
  2. Austin Echo, @atx_echo, (austinecho.org) has a wishlist for the Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center.
  3. The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County (#cfthhouston) needs donations.
  4. Dallas Stops Evictions, @dallasstopsevictions, has been moving people into hotels, etc. They accept donations thru Ca$hApp: $DallasStopsEvictions
  5. Feed the People Dallas Mutual Aid, @feedthepeopledallas, has Ca$hApp ($feedthepeopledtx) and Venmo: (@feedthepeopledallas) in addition to a wishlist.
  6. Camp Rhonda Collective, @camprhonda2620, has a wishlist for items being directly distributed to unhoused folks.
  7. ATX Free Fridge Project, @atxfreefridge, has a Venmo: venmo.com/atxfreefridge
  8. DFW Mutual Aid, @dfwmutualaid, has a Venmo: (dfwmutualaid)

Even if you’re reading this long after the worst storms have passed, still consider supporting these organizations and mutual aid in your own area.

As white people in this movement, regardless of how big or small our platform is, we have a responsibility to acknowledge the impacts of racism, colonialism, and injustice, especially in the ways that they benefit us.

As much as we want this space to be a place where you can learn how to have better conversations about the intersections of climate and racial injustice, we also never want to exploit Black trauma or only tell you difficult BIPOC stories. We also want to celebrate Black joy, successful Black leaders, and unique characters in the environmental movement.

For this episode, we chose both of our people from a great list of Black environmentalists by the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

Story #1: The Planetwalker, Dr. John Francis (Elise)
John Francis, Planetwalker, Wood River Valley, Idaho

Planetwalker: Dr. John Francis, National Geographic, Aug 2011
A Conversation With John Francis, ‘Planetwalker’ and Conservationist, The Atlantic, March 2011
About John, Planetwalker
John Francis Walk The Earth: My 17 Year Vow Of Silence, TED, 2008
John Francis, a ‘planetwalker’ who lived car-free and silent for 17 years, chats with Grist, May 2005

Story #2: The Beach Lady, MaVynee Oshun Betsch (Olivia)

Beach Lady: MaVynee Betsch wants to memorialize a haven for African-Americans in the time of Jim Crow by Russ Rymer for Smithsonian Magazine, June 2003
MaVynee “Beach Lady” Betsch oral history interview on The HistoryMakers
American Betsch | How Jacksonville’s MaVynee Betsch helped preserve an oceanfront oasis for African Americans by Shelton Hull for Void, January 30, 2021
Oral History Interview with MaVynee Betsch, Southern Oral History Program Collection, November 22, 2002
The Beach Lady in E, The Environmental Magazine, July 20 2004
The Beach Lady MaVynee Betsch: Gullah/Geechee Sacred Ancestor on January 13, 2015
Wading Through History At American Beach, Florida’s First Black Beach Resort by Danielle Dorsey for Thrillist, September 28 2020
Short videos: An American Beach, #LOVEAMELIA – Meet Me at American Beach, American Beach on Amelia Island
American Beach Museum website

The Dump

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Find the physical book in our World Is Burning bookshop via Bookshop, or click HERE if you want to listen via audiobook and still support your favorite independent book store!

How To Save A Planet – Unnatural Disasters

Bad Times At The El Royale
I Care A Lot on Netflix

Olivia also mentioned a free workshop hosted by Mikaela Loach and Mim Black–follow Mikaela on social media to stay up to date with any further workshops.
And join your local climate organization (or start it!)–don’t let Zoom hold you back.

An emergency plan. We hope you’ll never need it, but in situations like the one Elise experienced this week, a pre-determined plan can help you navigate a difficult situation and focus on your safety.

The World Is Burning bookshop is live! Help us come up with book list titles and bulk up our reading list.

Our World is Burning themed playlist is on Spotify.

You can keep up with us on Twitter and Instagram.

If you enjoyed this episode, considering reviewing us on Apple Podcasts and downloading/subscribing/following wherever you like to do those things. It helps us immensely.

Thanks for listening!

Sharing Is Caring [Down the Rabbit Hole Minisode 9] World Is Burning

This week we’re back with a minisode all about the sharing economy, or as they used to call it: sharing! Elise explains how community building can escalate quickly (in the best way) –– one day you’re bringing your wheelbarrow to the communal mulch pile, and next thing you know you’re on a free transatlantic trip with your neighbor. Subscribe/follow/press the button to keep up with new episodes every other Wednesday! You can also follow us @worldisburnin on Instagram and Twitter, and check out our website worldisburning.com for extended show notes including sources and photos. World Is Burning is hosted by Olivia Hamilton and Elise Nye. Our theme music is by Kaycie Satterfield, and our logo was made by Sonja Katanic. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/worldisburning/message
  1. Sharing Is Caring [Down the Rabbit Hole Minisode 9]
  2. Ep. 69 – A Positive Obsession with Octavia E. Butler
  3. Ep. 68 – Climatepunk – Vivienne Westwood and David Byrne
  4. Ep. 67 – 2022 Rewind: The Good, The Bad, & The Updates
  5. Ep. 66 – Myths, Part 2: The Overpopulation Myth