On June 5th, NCLC and Defend our Future convened over 100 student leaders for its third annual National Climate Leadership Summit.
“I believe the National Climate Leadership summit is effective in empowering and educating students because it shows them they are not alone in the work they are doing on their individual campuses and communities. It exposes them to other students and environmental professionals that want to help them build on the work they've already done, hopefully, creating a community they can turn to as they finish their college careers and head into their chosen professions,” said Adrienne Cooper, Executive Director of Defend our Future.
Following a night of networking at the opening reception at the U.S. Green Building Council, students kicked off day two of the summit with issue breakouts on reducing the campus footprint, innovations in campus sustainability, championing conservation, and the intersection of policy and the market in advancing sustainability. Speakers included representatives from SmartPower, Second Nature, The Wilderness Society, and the U.S. Green Building Council.
Former EPA environmental justice assistant associate administrator Mustafa Ali spoke to students about the future of environmental justice.
“It's about how we deal with these moments to make change for the most vulnerable communities,” Ali told student leaders. “In working with vulnerable communities, you have to build trust. You have to be authentic.”
Following a lunch conversation on the background of environmental science with George Mason University Professor Dr. Cook, students worked with a range of experts to build skills on digital engagement, leveraging the press, advocacy, campus organizing, and civic engagement.
Former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy took the stage as the keynote speaker to share her thoughts on climate change, student leadership, and her hopes for the future of sustainability. She took time to emphasize that the Environmental Protection Agency exists to protect the public health and when fully functional, promotes both national security and a prosperous economy.
On the final day of the Climate Leadership Summit, NCLC and Defend Our Future hosted Congressman Charlie Crist, D-Fla., to speak on the power of student action.
“We are blessed to live in the greatest country on the planet. You are the future of this country,” Crist told students.
Following his remarks, student leaders engaged with panelists on the federal and state policy landscape before snapping photos in the Library of Congress and heading to lobby their state representatives on the issue of climate change.
Students didn't stop their activism there. During the National Climate Leadership Summit, more than 90 student body presidents and student environmental organization leaders signed a letter to Secretary Zinke, urging the Department of Interior to protect national monuments, particularly Bears Ears.
“Too often, campus activism happens in a vacuum. NCLC and Defend Our Future’s work brings students around the country together to form a more united student movement. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to attend,” said Rigel Robinson, a student at UC Berkeley.