Kathryn Matthews

As Interviewed by Violet L., March 13, 2019

Kathryn Matthews: In her own words

Violet: This is Violet, interviewing Catherine Matthews

K: Oceana is a relatively big non-profit organization and we advocate for ocean protection and conservation of important habitats and important ecosystems. So places like coral reefs or mangroves and seagrass beds where manatees live. We spend a lot of time working on those sorts of things and I'm the Deputy Chief Scientist of the organization. Whe’re 250 people. About 50 of us are scientists. I'm the scientist responsible for the care and feeding of all the other scientists. Making sure they get what they need, And that we bring the most current science to bare on the issues that we work on. Making sure we stay up-to-date and that we talk to other scientists in the field, that sort of thing.
I think our biggest problem is generating the political will that is necessary to make the hard and uncomfortable decisions and that is a big obstacle because there are a lot of entrenched, very stubborn interest groups that don’t want to see change. You really need to work extra hard to convince decision-makers that this is a thing that they need to do. Maybe even against their own short-term interests and against the interest of the people that have been supporting them. Businesses and that sort of thing, and generating...like, when people ask me what invention they think is like going to save the planet, I say a technology that makes political will.

V: How can ordinary people help do something about climate change?

K: Two things. One- talk to your government. You talk to your elected officials. Make them know that you are paying attention and that you care about this thing. I know it sounds a little bit silly, like, what can one person do? And why would my senator or representative really listen to what I have to say? But I used to work for a senator, a guy named Ed Markey from Massachusetts. I worked on Capitol Hill and I worked in his office. I saw how he received information from his constituents and from his voters. For the people that lived in the district that he represented, it did matter and he did pay attention. If they get a lot of calls about health care, they're going to pay attention to health care. If they get a lot of phone calls or emails about climate change, they are going to pay attention to climate change. It ultimately does matter to them. But, there has to be a lot of people doing it, It can’t just be one person.

You're also going to live in a smaller house that doesn't require as much heating and cooling. You’re going to make choices about the food that you eat (food that has a smaller carbon footprint), so these are all choices that we can make and regulations that we can ask our governments to put into place. There was a really good fuel efficiency standard for cars that president Obama put in place, then President Trump repealed. This would have made our cars more efficient. This doesn't mean that you're not driving, it just means there are cars are burning gas more efficiently, Those are not particularly hard things to do, but there is a lot of opposition to these sorts of things. Some businesses that have built their business model, and the way they get successful is by getting people to burn lots of gasoline. So they don't want you to change your habits of behavior.