Climate Crusaders–Dr. Warren Washington & Jerome Ringo, “The Nutmeg’s Curse”!

by | Mar 16, 2023 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Climate Crusaders–Dr. Warren Washington & Jerome Ringo, plus “The Nutmeg’s Curse”!



Warren Morton Washington is a Black American atmospheric scientist, a former chair of the National Science Board, and currently senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. He was born in 1936. He’s an internationally recognized expert in atmospheric sciences and climate research specializing in computer modeling of the Earth’s climate

Dr. Washington became one of the first developers of groundbreaking atmospheric computer models in collaboration with Akira Kasahara when he came to NCAR in the early 1960s. These models, which use fundamental laws of physics to predict future states of the atmosphere, have helped scientists understand climate change. As his research developed, Dr. Washington worked to incorporate the oceans and sea ice into climate models. Such models now include components that depict surface hydrology and vegetation as well as the atmosphere, oceans, and sea ice.

In 1999, Dr. Washington won the Dr. Charles Anderson Award from the American Meteorological Society “for pioneering efforts as a mentor and passionate supporter of individuals, educational programs, and outreach initiatives designed to foster a diverse population of atmospheric scientists.”

Dr. Washington has more than 150 publications, including an autobiography, Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents. An Introduction to Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling, written by Washington and Claire Parkinson in 1986 and updated in 2005, is a standard reference in the field.

Why does Dr. Warren Washington matter to us? Because his current research involves using the Community Earth System Model (CESM) to study the impacts of climate change in the 21st century. That and the Parallel Climate Model (PCM) models were used extensively in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment, for which NCAR scientists, including Dr. Washington, shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize,rare for a black man.

DEEPER DIVE: Dr. Washington, 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, IPCC, Parallel Climate Model, Community Earth System Model



Jerome Ringo is president of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of organized labor, environmentalist, business and civil rights leaders dedicated to freeing the United States of dependence on foreign oil. According to Ringo, “We are an organization that looks like the face of America.” Ringo began his environmental activism in 1991, by becoming member of the Calcasieu League for Environmental Action Now (CLEAN), an affiliate of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation. Among the 20,000 members of the statewide group, he was the first African American ever to join. 

Ringo’s experience as a union leader in the petrochemical industry solidified his commitment to environmental justice. He noticed that many of his relatives lived just beyond the fence from these industries, so he saw the impacts of pollution from refineries first hand. He noted that employees at the refinery wore masks and protective clothing, but that the neighbors across the fence, who were predominantly poor and black, received no such protection, and suffered disproportionately high levels of cancers and respiratory diseases.

Ringo decided to help educate the people in communities affected by petrochemical pollution, teaching them how to effectively stop the discharge of chemicals into neighborhoods around refineries, leading to the beginning of his environmental activism. Rather than trying to shut refineries and chemical plants down, he advocated the lobbying of state legislators on environmental laws, and encouraged citizens to show up at public hearings, where, as a community, they could express their fears and concerns and speak truth to power. 

Why does Jerome Ringo matter to us? Because he’s a life-long groundbreaker, Ringo becoming the first African American in history to chair a major conservation advocacy organization, the National Wildlife Federation. And because way back in 2005, a year before Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth debuted, in an interview with Mother Jones, Ringo said, “The single greatest issue for me as an environmentalist is climate change.”




What does nutmeg have to do with climate change? Quite a lot, says award-winning author Amitav Ghosh, who follows up his critically acclaimed The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable with his latest book, The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis. In this new book, the now-ubiquitous spice exemplifies the conquest, colonialism, and exploitation of the New World that led to today’s climate crisis. Specifically, it’s about how current environmental and social inequalities are rooted in our centuries-old geopolitical order. 

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. He studied in Delhi, Oxford, and Alexandria, Egypt. Why does The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis matter to us? Listen to what the New Yorker Magazine writes of the book: “Illuminating…[Ghosh] wants us to reckon with broader structures of power, involving ‘the physical subjugation of people and territory,’ and, crucially, the ‘idea of conquest, as a process of extraction.’ The world-as-resource perspective not only depletes our environment of the raw materials we seek; it ultimately depletes it of meaning.”

Or as Bloomberg wrote in naming it the 2021 Essential Climate Change Book of the Year: A beautiful, harrowing historical essay about mass-mobilizing empathy as the way to undermine the centuries-old drive toward targeted extermination of entire peoples and communities out of greed for ever-more natural resources. Ghosh produced a work that reaches your brain and your heart with unforgettable analytic and moral clarity.”

DEEPER DIVE: The Nutmeg’s Curse, YouTube, The Guardian, Amitav Ghosh