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Exclusive – COP27’s Science Day with Ann Makosinski

We spoke to inventor and public speaker Ann Makosinski about science, climate change, and how COP27 can help young people to get their voices heard.

We’re back with another exclusive chat with Ann Makosinski, the inventory and public speaker from Canada.

In 2013 she won the Google Science Fair with a novel flashlight that uses Peltier tiles to transform human thermal energy into light. She also created the eDrink, a mug that converts heat from your beverage into an electric current to charge phones. You may have seen her on Jimmy Fallon, as well as on TEDx where she’s hosted five talks.

If all that wasn’t enough, Ann was also included in Forbes 30 Under 30 list, winning four major awards at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2018. We wanted to know about her thoughts toward COP27, and how she feels more young people can get involved in science as the climate crisis becomes more urgent.

Plus, if you enjoyed our chat here, why not check out our previous interview with Ann from 2021? Let’s jump in.


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Thred: So without further ado, I’d love to ask you our first question. How does the climate crisis affect your work and creative processes? Is it something that you think about on a day-to-day basis?

Makosinski: Right now I’m on Vancouver Island, which is in British Columbia, Canada. I think just naturally the community here has always been very eco-conscious, and very, very aware of global warming and trying to find ways to mitigate it. It’s definitely something I think about every day.

Nature here is astoundingly beautiful, and I get to see it every day when I walk around. The question of how can I help preserve this, either through my own smaller actions every day or on a professional level through my career, is something that definitely crosses my mind.

Thred: Are there any specific things that you would like to hear leaders discuss at COP? What are the topics or issues that you hope to be addressed as part of this year’s science theme in particular?

Makosinski: I think we need to get more young people involved in inventing and feeling empowered. They need to know they can create positive solutions, a difference, and make an impact with whatever they come up with as young people.

I think society needs to change the way that people are perceived in the sciences. This kind of crucial, yet often overlooked combination of science and art is so important to create the best and most useful solutions. I hope science education is actually addressed.

The way we portray science is going to influence younger generations to feel like they can start inventing and making positive differences at any age. Does it matter how old you are? Does it matter if you have a high school degree or went to university? I think my own experience has really taught me that you can invent something that could inspire others and create a difference.

I don’t even know if it’ll be addressed so much at COP, but I am really excited about the number of young delegates that I hope will actually be given a voice and will be listened to.

Thred: I’d love to hear a little bit more about this combination of science and art that you touched on previously.

Makosinski: Instead of STEM, which is science, technology, engineering, and math, I’m really passionate about STEAM, which is science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. I believe it’s when arts and sciences come together that we can get the best innovations of our time.

I mean, the iPhone that you’re watching this on is a great example of something that uses science and technology to work properly as a tool, but is also really beautiful. It’s aesthetically pleasing.

I think also in my own experience as an inventor, a lot of times when I brought in my skills from the arts, whether it is my love for drawing, design, acting, or performance, it all helps with everything when presenting my inventions.

Typically art is regarded as a hobby, and science is a career. We’re taught that at a very young age. You go to an arts class and get creative, then to a science class and you’re technical, there’s no crossover of the two. I’m actually writing a book right now called The Inventing Mindset that will be kind of addressing this crucial combination of art and science and showing how to integrate that into your life on an everyday basis.

Thred: So how do you think that Gen Z will approach science with new inventions and innovations? Will climate be a big part of their future?

Makosinski: Yeah, I think it’s gonna be huge.

I would hope that Gen Zers are open minded to whatever new technologies are being created. Climate change will just be a very natural part of everyday thought. Even small things like recycling, trash, compost. Previous generations did not care as much about that, it’s much more of a natural thing now, I would hope for most people my age and younger.

A small invention can actually have a large impact, it’s just you need to think ahead of time because usually people go, oh my God, I have no idea. A question you could ask is, how can I stop global warming? That’s a huge issue, but tiny actions day-to-day can help.

Thred: Do you think that COP could do more to include young voices in their policies and pledges? If so, what advice would you give to Gen Zers looking to get involved in science?

Makosinski: Greta Thunberg has accused COP27 of being an exercise in greenwashing, which I totally understand. If you look at the number of private jets that have flown to the COP27 event then, yeh, totally.

Coca-Cola is one of the biggest sponsors of COP this year, which is kind of contradictory. They have the money, sure, but also – what are you saying? You have to walk the talk.

For young people that want to get involved in science and aren’t sure how, or it’s not necessarily a favourite subject, or if they don’t feel like they have skills, I guarantee you do. I think we’re all naturally innately inventors built to solve our own problem.

If you want to get involved with science, which I think is a very broad subject, just look around at how your individual world works and see what problems you encounter on a day-to-day basis.

We get set in these patterns or habits and then we just keep doing them without questioning if there’s a more efficient way or method of living. Looking around you and questioning ‘why is that this way’ and ‘why are we doing it in this pattern’ is really important.

Thred: On a final note, what do you hope the future of science looks like? What would you like to see be a focus or a big change as we get deeper into this century?

Makosinski: I just hope more people feel they can build their own solutions for themselves and aren’t aligned with consumerism.

I mean the number of social media ads we see on a day-to-day basis and absorb is, I think, kind of suffocating when it comes to creativity. Instead of making your own solution, you could just buy something else.

I hope we see a world where people are buying less products and being less reliant on that, and instead thinking with a very innovative, incentive mindset. The more people we have thinking like that and changing the way they look at the world, the more likely we are to see a positive impact on the environment and hopefully slow down global warming.

A lot of poorer countries are being told to invest in renewable energies when all the richer countries have made money off of fossil fuels. The whole system needs to be uprooted, basically.

Thred: Just to round up, is there anywhere that people can get involved with your work or get in touch about things that you’ve covered today?

Makosinski: I have Twitter. I have a YouTube channel that I update sporadically, and I’m have some stuff coming out in the next few months and year. So yeah, keep an eye out!