In the nearly three years since Earther started, the site has been a space marked by freedom to write without limits. It’s Yessenia who helped carve out the expansive space we now have to work in.
She was hired as our environmental justice writer and quickly made it clear to readers that every story is one about, well, justice. Her writing is fierce and direct, and she calls bullshit on bad actors. Whether it’s gang violence and pollution or destroying the Amazon as a form of genocide, Yessenia’s work has drawn connections few see. But once you see the world through her eyes, it becomes impossible not to make these links and want to fight for something more just and fair for all.
While she’s not afraid to pull punches, Yessenia also Did It For the Blog more times than I can count. Among her many divergences are her quest for a planet-friendly beauty routine, cruising at 25 mph on an e-bike, conquering her fear of the ocean, and playing Sims 4. That, to me, illustrates the other side of Yessenia: the pure joy she brings to work and life.
It’s only fitting that Yessenia left Earther for a place called Atmos (insert climate joke here). In closing, let me offer this GIF of Yessenia because I didn’t know where else to put it, but it’s too good to not share.
- Brian Kahn, Managing Editor at Earther
I decided I was going to like working with Yessenia during a recruiting call three years ago. As I was trying to sell her on becoming the environmental justice reporter at a nonexistent site called Earther, she interrupted to ask, ever so politely, if I even knew what environmental justice was. This, I would come to learn, is who Yessenia is in her bones: someone who doesn’t fuck around.
I apparently knew enough about environmental justice to convince Yessenia to give this strange idea—a site that finds the environmental angle on whatever the news of the day is, be it the Oscars or Animal Crossing—a shot. But she taught me so much more, broadening the way in which I thought about pollution and giving a voice to the people whose climate stories we don’t tell often enough. Yessenia wrote about real-life mermaids and she wrote about nuclear waste dumps, but however lighthearted or serious the topic, she approached it with a clear moral compass and boundless empathy. Journalism needs more people like her.
During my two years as her editor, Yessenia gamely reported multiple stories about animal poop, for which I am grateful. Also, one time she asked me if it was OK to describe a 35 year-old as “middle aged” and I nearly died.
Emily Lipstein, Former Social Media Editor Gizmodo/Earther OG and Current Senior Social Editor at Motherboard
Yessenia, you’ve been an endless source of inspiration at Earther. Whether you’re reporting on parks or petrochemicals or ice caps or the Sims, you always do it like no one else could. Thanks for showing me the ropes and also for knowing who has the good online sales! Can’t wait to see all you do next. No one owns the EJ beat like you do. Will miss you so much!
Yessenia, you are a brilliant writer, you have amazing style, and you always laugh at my jokes. For these and so many other reasons, I’m going to miss working with you terribly. Earth is lucky to have you. 😊
Yessenia! Thank you for being an absolute joy to work with and talk to. I know you’re gonna do great things in your next endeavor! Gonna miss briefly seeing you on 27 and being like “Heyyyy!”, and you briefly seeing me on 28 and being like “Heyyyy!” Damn, some good times.
Yessenia—Sinceramente tú eres calle pero elegante, and that’s only half of the reason why I love you! You are an EJ queen and your writing, wit, and willpower to fight for what’s right are going to be missed greatly (especially by me and everyone else who had the pleasure of working with you). But since I follow you on Twitter, I’m just going to DM you angsty teen jams there instead. I know you’re destined to change the world. ¡Adelante!
Dear Yessenia! I think you were one of my first friends at G/O Media! I truly enjoyed our kitchen chats about sustainability. Thank you for your energy and light. Best of luck on your next endeavor! Your new team is so lucky to have you!
Yessenia was always the first friendly face that greeted me whenever I came into the office. She’s such a badass fighter, both for the environment and our union, it really sucks to be losing her.
Yessenia, despite being every bit as young as our resident Youth, has almost always skirted Youth status. This is because she is secretly the oldest god damn person at Gizmodo/Earther/io9. She watches Grey’s Anatomy! She doesn’t watch much else! She has no idea who a wide range of influencers, actors, and musicians are! She used to have a motorcycle mainly to drive on the weekends. I’m not sure how she’s secretly a very environmentally conscious Baby Boomer in the body of a Youth, but here we are.
Yessenia is hands-down, one of the most articulate people I know when it comes to climate change. She don’t know jack shit about pop culture though. If you think of a celebrity that probably 99% of people know, I guarantee you Yessenia has no idea who they are. She knows, like, Rihanna and that’s about it. When I was new to Gizmodo, I for some reason signed up for the annual Secret Santa. I got Yessenia and panicked. The only thing I really knew about her then was that for some reason, she had no idea who Hanson were. Yeah, the MMMmMmMBop boys. So the only thing I could think to do was give her Hanson’s Christmas album, which cost $15 on Amazon. I was worried that as a newbie, that this would be taken as a “shots fired” type of troll, but Yessenia actually laughed.
Since that time, Yessenia still has not learned who anyone of note in popular culture is but I’ve learned a lot more about Yessenia. She’s got more chutzpah and heart when it comes to diversity, inclusion, and equity than anybody I know—and she’s a great writer to boot. Truly angry that she’s this talented of a unicorn, and only a little miffed she didn’t take home the Chapaghetti I left on her desk before we all fled the office due to the pandemic.
More like Yessenia Fun-es, am I right? Yessenia has always been the brilliant, caring, sassy, and righteous reporter and union leader we needed. I could generally pop into the Earther office and “mm-hmm” at a number of systemic issues without any specificity, have a great chance of being understood and validated, and walk away more informed and motivated. From her being very early on this Kamala Harris incarcerated firefighting labor bullshit and her toxic waste dump investigation in Piketon, Ohio, to her admirably productive tenure as the union’s Diversity Chair, her sense of justice has and will continue to lead her to action. I look forward to seeing her shine on and to stealing her shit in Animal Crossing.
Yessenia is one of the fiercest union organizers I’ve ever met. I know we’re typically supposed to roast each other in these things, but I simply can’t, mostly because I’m too sad. She has always stood up for what is right, and because of her, so many of us have felt emboldened to take part in union organanizing and advocacy—including me!!! I’ll miss co-ordinating with her in 27 different slack channels and private messages, but want her to know, in her honor, I will open an additional 44 channels and private messages, to carry on her legacy. Good luck, and get some fucking sleep! (After the ride we’ve been on this last year, you definitely need it.)
Yessenia, I will always cherish how passionate you are about this fucked up hunk of rock we live in and the people who live on it. I will also cherish the time we shared a wasted cab ride from the holiday party in Manhattan back to Brooklyn and immediately went to a wine store to get even more alcohol before going up to Victor’s party to get even MORE drunk. You’re a real one, sis!
Few people I’ve met are as simultaneously chill and vicious as Yessenia. While she and I bonded as the only two people at Gizmodo foolish enough to ride motorcycles, it’s her excellent reporting and analysis on environmental justice issues that made me see who she really is: Friendly and easy-going in person, she will straight-up annihilate you on the page with the razor-sharp moral compass that guides her journalism. I’m not sure how old Yessenia is—20? 45? Who knows!—but I do know that I’ve learned more from her and her climate coverage than she ever learned from me. Give ‘em hell, Yess, and keep the rubber side down.
You’d be hard-pressed to name all of the ways Yessenia has positioned herself as an all-star reporter on the environmental justice beat, and reading her work at Earther these past couple of years has always been an absolute joy. She’s also a fierce advocate for her colleagues, a genuinely kind human being, and one of the funniest people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. Yessenia’s excellent reporting chops are probably matched only by the astonishing and frankly impressive level to which she’s plagued by tech doom. The anguish Yessenia experienced earlier this year after her cat spilled water on her virtually fresh-out-of-the-box MacBook—which she’d purchased, to the best of my knowledge, almost exclusively so she could party in Sims 4: Eco Life—could only be described as an odyssey, a drama filled with highs and lows and losses and triumphs. Roughly two months later, after weeks of updates about a laptop that had finally been returned after seemingly vanishing from the face of the Earth, Yessenia texted to announce that she had “just sneezed with water in my mouth and it sprayed my laptop.”
Yessenia, you and your evident witch’s curse will be missed dearly.
Dearest Yessenia. You and the Earther team have really helped me see the world and what’s happening, and for that I am grateful. I have always loved reading your thoughtful and passionate words, and they have definitely made an impact on me. I am sad you won’t be at Earther, but I am so happy because you’re growing. I will read you wherever you go! Thank you for your kindness towards me. On a random note, it’s nice to know you’re also obsessed with soap like I am. ;D So we can talk about soap whenever.
It was awesome working with Yessenia. Her passion comes through in her writing so clearly that it’s practically infectious. And she likes farming sims, which automatically puts in her in the upper echelon of humanity in my opinion. I’ve no doubt she’s going to continue kicking ass at Atmos, and wish her the best of luck!
Writing roasts that pick on the dorks at Gizmodo is extremely easy, but roasting Yessenia is challenging, because it is very difficult to poke fun at people who are actually cool and human—people who have zero pretension and don’t stink up the office with vape clouds. Because Yessenia is extremely cool, I won’t bother trying to roast her. I will just send some compliments her way.
It takes a very special person to look the heat death of the earth in the face every day, and still be a delight to work with. Cheers to you, Yessenia, for being kind and smart and just the best at what you do. You just radiate warmth, and not the bad-climate-change kind, but the good-personality kind. You will be missed.