Building the Next Generation of Climate Justice Leaders

About the Author: Joanna Stancil is the Senior Advisor for State and Private Forestry at the U.S. Forest Service. She is a member of the Climate Change Sub-Committee of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice. This subcommittee is responsible for leading the charge of the EMI Climate Justice Initiative.

If the future belongs to our youth, then we must include our youth in addressing our future’s key issues, such as climate change and climate justice.

In 2015, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG), in collaboration with the White House, announced the Educate, Motivate, and Innovate (EMI) Climate Justice Initiative. The goals of this initiative are to educate by providing a two-way learning experience, motivate by igniting interest in climate justice, and innovate by embracing opportunities for creative thought and action.

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Student Panel during EMI Workshop at the 2016 National Environmental Justice Conference

This initiative would be incomplete, however, if it did not target those most disproportionately impacted by climate change. It has been well documented that the impacts of a warming and increasingly unstable climate are already weighing more heavily on underserved, low-income, minority, and tribal communities. That’s why the EMI initiative builds collaborative relationships between federal government agencies and Minority-Serving Institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions.

Earlier this year, three students were selected and asked to share the projects they had been developing in their local communities during the EMI’s inaugural training workshop held as part of the 2016 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program.

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Soh-Yoke Bravo,  from Florida International University, examined the relationship between reforestation and carbon sequestration.

Lauren Wiggins and Kelley McClelland, from Tennessee State University, investigated air quality using funding from the Toxic Release Inventory Challenge. Soh-Yoke Bravo, from Florida International University, examined the relationship between reforestation and carbon sequestration.

The workshop focused on the effects of climate change on communities and featured training on EPA’s EJSCREEN, an environmental justice screening tool that provides users powerful data and mapping capabilities to access environmental and demographic information. Hands-on training with EJSCREEN allowed participants to explore how the tool can help them identify and better understand potential community vulnerabilities. Users identified communities they were concerned about and used the tool to better understand demographic and environmental trends for the area.

Lauren Wiggins and Kelley McClelland, from Tennessee State University, investigated air quality using funding from the Toxic Release Inventory Challenge.

Lauren Wiggins and Kelley McClelland, from Tennessee State University, investigated air quality using funding from the TRI Challenge.

Due to the success of the inaugural EMI workshop, we are excited to announce that the 2nd annual EMI workshop will be held during the March 8-10, 2017 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program in Washington, DC.

The EMI initiative has released the Call for Student Abstracts to all students attending Minority Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities, who are interested in participating in the EMI workshop. The workshop at the 2017 National Environmental Justice Conference will provide a forum for the selected students to share their work addressing the impacts of climate change on communities with environmental justice concerns.

We are looking for abstracts that address resiliency, adaptation and mitigation with a focus on relationships between climate change and climate justice and human health, environmental health, culture, traditional practices, and/or economic development.

Of particular interest are:

  • Technical environmentalism – green apps
  • Geo-mapping
  • Forest or landscape impacts and community solutions
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Capacity building
  • Green and renewable energy: just transition, just sustainability
  • Climate change impacts: water/sewer infrastructure enhancement
  • Wetlands protection
  • Human health and safety reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Impact of residential and commercial development

Interested individuals should visit this webpage, or contact Joanna Stancil for additional information on how to submit their abstract.

These young minds are indeed the next generation of climate justice leaders and we are honored to offer opportunities for them to expand their knowledge about the environment and climate and to hone their leadership skills.  We truly believe that with help from these young people, we will be able to address our climate concerns with solutions that are equitable and sustainable.