Defend Our Future co-hosted a series of panels and conversations on climate policy, building power and advancing environmental issues on college campuses and beyond. We again partnered with the National Campus Leadership Council (think the Conference of Mayors, but for student body presidents) who brought more than 100 student leaders from across the country to Washington, DC, for a three-day Presidential Leadership Summit on some of the issues impacting young leaders – affordable education, civil rights, and, of course, climate change.
We kicked off the Climate program with our first panel, “Global, National and State Context,” featuring EDF legislative analysts, Alyson Lee and Caitlin Hart, to get their take on congressional action on climate – including the Climate Action Now Act and the Green New Deal – in the absence of federal leadership and the Trump administration’s outright hostility towards our issues. They also teased our new 100% Clean campaign and shared career experience for those in the audience who had an interest in working on a campaign, on the Hill or even running for office themselves. Alyson and Caitlin were joined by the National Council of Environmental Legislators’ Michael Bueno, who shared his insights on climate and clean energy solutions at the state level. The panel was moderated by Defend’s Jonathan Soohoo.
Our second panel, “Campus Context: How Campuses and Students Can Advocate for Climate Action,” moderated by former Georgia Gwinnett College student body president Eliman Marenah featured our own Matt Oberhoffner, Defend’s new project director; Temple University Office of Sustainability – and former Defend Pennsylvania organizer – Caroline Burkholder; and Mi Familia Vota Florida community organizers Ahtziry Barrera and Ivan Vazquez. We discussed the ways organizations like Defend and Mi Familia Vota engage young people on campus and in communities and the importance of lifting up the voices of people of color and those living in frontline communities when advancing solutions.
We concluded the program with a Q&A session featuring all our panelists as well as time to speak one-on-one with the students. And we provided students with state-specific fact sheets and materials on 100% Clean for their meetings on the Hill the following Monday. At both the Friday program and the Saturday expo and reception, we heard from student body presidents who were excited about incorporating climate change solutions in their agendas for the upcoming school year, engaging with Hill offices, and plugging in with Defend by helping us establish chapters, advocating for our issues in meetings with policymakers and hosting events.