We’ve held Climate Reality Leadership Corps activist trainings all around the globe – from Brazil to Germany – and every single one of them holds a special place in our hearts. We’re proud to have trained more than 19,000 climate activists through these events and watched them push hard for climate solutions.
But from the early stages, we knew that our Atlanta training had to be different.
From the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the activism of today, the city of Atlanta has long played host to some of the nation’s leading movements for transformative change. Inspired by this legacy, we went to Atlanta to focus on environmental justice and highlight how the climate crisis is hurting communities and fueling injustice throughout the American Southeast and beyond.
The numbers don’t lie. Communities of color and underprivileged communities are disproportionately affected by fossil fuel pollution. Over 70 percent of the 2 million Americans living within three miles of the top-12 dirtiest coal power plants are people of color. As a result, these communities are facing severe consequences around health and well-being.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Frontline communities are also the least responsible for the climate crisis but are the ones being hit the hardest – and it’s just not fair.
Want to learn more about environmental justice? Take a peek at what happened during our three-day training as we revisit our favorite moments.
1. REAL PEOPLE, REAL STORIES
Watch Live: Stories on the Climate Crisis from the Frontlines
Tune in as courageous community leaders share their stories of fighting for climate and social justice at our training in Atlanta. #LeadOnClimatePosted by Climate Reality on Thursday, March 14, 2019
It’s one thing to read about the impact fossil fuel plants have on the news, but it’s another to witness real people give testimony to how these plants have deeply (and negatively) impacted their lives and communities.
During our training, we bore witness to the harsh realities communities across the South are facing.
One of the most gripping speakers was Danielle Bailey-Lash, who has been battling brain cancer since 2010. She drew connections between her illness and exposure to the coal ash pollution dumped by Duke Energy's Belews Creek power plant in her North Carolina neighborhood.
Danielle’s suspicions were recently reinforced by a report published by the Environmental Integrity Project. Scientists found arsenic, beryllium, boron, cobalt, lithium, molybdenum, and radium in groundwater used by her community.
“Initially we didn’t do anything, because unfortunately, me and so many other people weren’t aware of what was going on. We were swimming in the water, fishing, eating the fish,” she said. Once Danielle became aware of the contamination, she decided to speak out against the dirty power plant – while she also fights for her life.
Danielle is a testament that people and communities who choose to speak out are powerful. On April 1, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality ordered Duke to totally excavate all remaining coal ash in the state, including the site in Danielle’s community of Belews Creek.
2. YOUNG PEOPLE TAKE THE STAGE
We're confident about the future of our planet after listening to these amazing young climate activists in #Atlanta: Levi Draheim, Gabrielle Heidrich, @JeromeFosterII and @lilylevin_. #LeadOnClimate pic.twitter.com/q44eXTmKuD— Climate Reality (@ClimateReality) March 15, 2019
Thousands of students joined the Youth Climate Strike of March 15, and we were (quite honestly) in awe. The global strike took place right in the middle of our Atlanta training, but we wanted to make sure to support these leaders in their unprecedented effort.
So as students took the streets, we invited young climate activists to take the stage.
Among the young activists to address our attendees was Levi Draheim, who is only 11 years old, but has already experienced the climate crisis up close. He lives in Satellite Beach, a barrier island located in Florida in danger of being swallowed by rising seas.
To save his island – and the planet – Levi is suing the federal government for failing to address climate change as part of the lawsuit Juliana v. United States. “I fear that I may not have a home in the future,” he said. Other young activists who joined the stage included: Gabrielle Heidrich, Jerome Foster II, and Lily Levin.
3. Reclaiming the Moral High Ground
Watch Live: A Moral Call to Action on the Climate Crisis
Join us live for an interfaith mass meeting as we explore how diverse faith traditions and common values compel us to respond to the climate crisis. #LeadOnClimatePosted by Climate Reality on Thursday, March 14, 2019
When it comes to climate change, we often talk about the scientific and technical sides of the issue. However, at our training, we explored a less-considered, but equally compelling idea – that the climate crisis is a moral issue.
Our first-ever interfaith mass meeting – A Moral Call to Action on the Climate Crisis – left no doubt that the scientific evidence and our individual moral values go hand-in-hand as factors compelling us to confront this crisis.
We tapped into the reality that our inner morality, which exists in each of us in many different forms, drives our understanding of why this fight is important. Family, faith, or future, there are deep drivers inside each of us that push us to win this fight.
“We still have a window of opportunity here to repair our planet. But I don’t have to tell you that that window is closing,” said Rabbi Lydia Medwin, one of the faith leaders to speak at the event.
We’re happy to say that attendees left the meeting with a renewed sense of climate hope.
We’re not sure if it was the venue – the Ebenezer Baptist Church was a second home to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Perhaps it was the ah-mazing choir. Or maybe it was watching multiple faiths come together to tackle one of the greatest challenges of our time.
4. BONUS: A VERY FUNNY GUEST
Humor can be a powerful leadership weapon. Especially when the person cracking jokes is Saturday Night Live regular Pete Davidson.
It was all very unexpected – just before Vice President Al Gore presented his famous slide show on the climate crisis, he asked the comedian up on stage to help translate climate facts to a younger audience. Here are some of the highlights from the hilarious convo:
VP Al Gore: “The last five years have been the hottest years on record.”
Pete Davidson: “You know all those Supreme hoodies you got? They are worthless!”
VP Al Gore: “We’re on the right track to beat the climate crisis. But we have to act faster and with more urgency.”
Pete Davidson: “Pretend the environment is a girl you’re in love with. She just got engaged, but there’s still time!”
YOU ARE INVITED: CLIMATE REALITY LEADERSHIP CORPS TRAININGS
We know what you’re thinking right now. That you missed an extraordinary training. The good news is that we have a lot more opportunities for you to become a Climate Reality Leader.
At Climate Reality Leadership Corps trainings, individuals ready to make a difference in our planet’s future spend three days working with former Vice President Al Gore and world-renowned scientists and communicators learning about the climate crisis and how together we can solve it.
Will you join us? Learn more and sign up for updates here.
Before You Go
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