CHOW Chat: Arthur Johnson on Centering Collaboration and Culture

Arthur Johnson looking over a water purification canal within the Sewage and Water Board pumping station. Photo credit: CSED

The Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2023 program will explore the ocean-climate connection and how we can make ocean conservation part of climate strategies and nationally determined contributions to address climate change. Arthur Johnson is a member of the 2023 CHOW Advisory Committee and Chief Executive Director of the Lower 9th Ward Center for Sustainable Development & Engagement. We spoke with Arthur about his role on the Advisory Committee, his hopes for this year’s conference, and how to center collaboration and culture when engaging frontline communities. Register today at

What are you most looking forward to during Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2023? 

Since this is my first Capitol Hill Ocean Week experience, I plan to use this opportunity to learn, listen and engage with a focus on enhancing the delivery of information and dialogue for the strong development of our water ways and its importance to the betterment of all communities. 

How have you hoped to shape this year’s Capitol Hill Ocean Week through your role on the Advisory Committee? 

 As a CHOW 2023 Advisory Committee member, it is my intent to bring an array of focused elements relevant to making Capitol Hill Ocean Week significant to all communities and all people. I particularly want to bring attention to its importance to underserved and overburdened communities and people of Color throughout the United States. 

How do we ensure that climate resilience and adaptation strategies center equity and environmental justice, and uplift the voices of frontline communities most impacted by a changing climate?  

The only way to ensure a better and more responsive world is to hold our social, political, and educational sectors accountable in delivering a narrative that includes the needs and justices of our frontline communities. This must be a priority in the presentation of our environmental narrative. That being said, the existing narrative has to change and those who will not change must be held responsible for the consequences of their actions!

How do we consider preserving the history and heritage of communities in the wake of climate disasters like Hurricane Katrina? How does culture play a role in climate resilience? 

Natural climate disasters are an evolution of our history and heritage and should be a learning tool for our communities on how the world changes over time. It is a sign that our climate and weather patterns are not totally controlled by humans. We should embrace, learn, and prepare for these changes over time.  Teaching future generations about the importance of the past to prepare for the future is key to our resilience and survival as we contend with climate change disasters. The cultures that make up our society must be recognized, presented, understood and accepted as we make this journey to move forward in a successful manner.

How do we support community-driven goals to create economically, culturally, and environmentally sustainable communities? How do we meaningfully engage with communities? 

Community-driven goals must be linked to all aspects of environmentally sustainable objectives that impact quality-of-life directives which drive the very existence that enhances the growth and development of sustainable communities.  We must establish and deliver results that bring all aspects of improved life components, linking them to creating stronger neighborhoods and collaborations working together for the benefit of a healthy and productive world!  This engagement can only be accomplished through sincere and meaningful collaborative efforts purposefully designed to be engaging and enhancing with a result of including equitable and meaningful economic development through cultural awareness and sensitivity!

The theme of this year’s conference is Ocean X Climate. What is one thing you want to share (or that you wish more people knew) about how our ocean and our climate are connected? 

I believe that it is important to understand that our ocean is directly related to the impact of climate change and plays a significant role in the quality of life for all of us on this planet. 


Arthur with Environmental Community Youth Ambassadors engaging at the Platform at Bayou Bienvenue Triangle. Photo credit: CSED