Howdy, good to see ya! I’d like you to meet naturalist, Johnie Gall. She’s a writer/photographer/producer, and most importantly — an environmental advocate.
Johnie exemplifies how to fuse a career and lifestyle with a sense of empathy for our planet.
No joke — one interview with her and I can feel my mind expanding. Whoa! Let’s take moment to see the world through Johnie’s curious eyes…
Tell me more about your relationship with public lands. What do they mean to you?
I want to be mindful of Indigenous land rights and that starts with conducting myself as a guest in someone else’s home when I’m outside. I grew up on the East Coast and a lot of the land there is privately owned. That’s why I’m so grateful that, in California at least, there’s legislation in place maintaining that all beaches are open to the public up to the mean high tide level.
Because I spend so much time in national and state parks, I feel a lot of responsibility for contributing to their protection. It’s a natural give and take, I think. Recently, I interviewed a paleontologist and he opened up my eyes to another reason to love public lands: that’s where we find some of our most well-preserved fossils!
How has learning about the environment impacted your actions?
I’ve been really fortunate to travel to places where there is a lot of incredible natural beauty: Cuba, New Zealand, the Alaskan backcountry, Indonesia, the Pyrenees. Seeing the effect of humans in such remote places is a major wake-up call. It’s impossible not to want to live your life in a way that does less harm to people and the planet once you have that first-hand perspective, that reminder that you’re just as much part of the problem. It’s impossible to want to consume or waste the way you did before.
What can concerned athletes, scientists, artists, or creatives do in the face of these challenges?
I think you have to be an optimist — if you really don’t think we have a chance to course-correct, there wouldn’t be a point in trying, right? I think you’ve got to find your “thing” and find a way to contribute using that. I’m not a climate researcher, but I can provide pictures to those climate researchers to use to communicate with the public. Everyone — everyone — has a skill they can use to contribute. Patagonia Action Works is a brilliant platform that allows you to search by cause and location and get connected to grassroots environmental efforts right in your own backyard. Also, read! Read environmental literature from varied perspectives and equip yourself.
Passions beyond work?
Huge bookworm, only wish there was more time in a day to read. Also love surfing, rock climbing, mountain biking, diving, and gardening. I run a small handmade jewelry studio called Near & Yonder, metalsmithing pieces from recycled materials and ethically sourced stones. I hope to expand this year to include items made from natural dyes, deadstock fabric, and vintage textiles. My newest hobby is birding! I love observing the natural world.
What are your materials and how do you think about them?
As a writer, photographer, and filmmaker, my “materials” are mostly just my cameras and tools. They are extensions of me at this point and I’m so appreciative of what they allow me to do. For metalsmithing and sewing, I think about material almost constantly. I’m always trying to learn new methods for reclaiming silver or textiles or finding stones that are responsibly mined. There’s already so much “stuff” in the world — I want to use what already exists in a beautiful way.
How do you give back to your community?
To hold myself accountable, I’m a member of 1% for the Planet, so at least one percent of my earnings help fund grassroots and environmental groups. I try to volunteer my photography and writing services to nonprofits in the regenerative agriculture and marine conservation space. But most importantly, I try to examine my own choices, living in the most active, healthy, and conscious way I can and trying to share knowledge and take care of people in my day-to-day life.
Specific moment in your life that instilled in your passion for your craft?
Following curiosity. I just love learning about the world and asking questions. It’s led to so many unexpected experiences and friendships. I owe everything to having curiosity and the fascinating people who are willing to sit down with me to help satiate it.