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Youth-Driven Climate Action at First Ever Nashville Youth Climate Summit

April 29, 2020

The Cumberland River Compact was proud to partner with the Mayor’s Youth Council to host Nashville’s first-ever Youth Climate Summit on February 8, 2020! Around 60 teens from across the city took a Saturday away from their busy lives to come together in the Cumberland River Compact’s River Center for a day of learning about climate change in Nashville and beyond. 

Kicking off with Climate 101

Dr. Jonathan Gilligan with Vanderbilt University

The Youth Climate Summit was filled with energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and a desire to make a change in Nashville. The day kicked off with an introduction to climate science and climate change from Dr. Jonathan Gilligan with Vanderbilt University. His talk covered the basics of climate science and how we know climate change is happening. (His presentation is available online if you’d like to take a look). 

Jonathan Gilligan’s talk also provided the needed intel for youth to lead productive conversations.

“I’m excited to be able to engage in deep and respectful discussions with climate skeptics and deniers with a greatly expanded base of knowledge,” says attendee Oscar Fox, junior at University School of Nashville. “Hopefully [I can] use some facts from Jonathan Gilligan’s opening talk to win some people over to the green side.”

Next, youth rotated through three workshops: Climate Equity and Climate Justice with Sizwe Herring, Climate Change in the Media with Amanda Little, and the Roles of Social Activism with high school senior, Reem Wolde. Over lunch from the Nashville Food Project, we welcomed Tequila Johnson with Equity Alliance and Jason Luntz with the Tom Steyer campaign who shared their personal journeys in civic engagement. 

In the afternoon, we welcomed experts and community leaders who shared about different climate actions for our city. This included Ryan Burke (Sunrise Movement Nashville),  Kendl Kobbervig (Tennessee Conservation Voters), Diana Andrew (Urban Green Lab), Lauren Fitzgerald (Metro Arts), Dodd Galbreath  (Lipscomb University Institute for Sustainable Practices), Peter Bird (Metro Planning Department), Christina Reichert (Southern Environmental Law Center), and Jason Carney (Energy Electives).

Driving Neighborhood-Based Solutions

To end the day, youth assembled into neighborhood groups to develop a climate action plan for the community. Groups discussed everything from waste reduction to public education campaigns. The Climate Action Plans are aligned with some of the Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Board’s focus areas and including, sustainable and efficient energy, mobility and sustainable transportation, waste reduction, community engagement and the arts, climate adaptation and resilience, and political advocacy. Laurel Creech the Assistant Director in Nashville’s Division of Sustainability offered feedback and actionable next steps. 

By assembling into neighborhood groups, youth were able to meet, engage, and learn with their peers. “I learned about the common things I share with the people in my community and the issues regarding climate change we all faced in our neighborhoods,” says Anisa Yusuf, junior at Overton High School.

Youth left ready to take their own next steps. Some created group chats to follow-up on their plans or registered to volunteer at other events. “One thing I’m excited to do next to address climate change in Nashville is attending more tree plantings and spreading the word about climate change in my school, my classes, and clubs and trying to encourage more youth to learn about it and to be involved to make a change and a difference”, says Anisa Yusuf.

The Nashville Youth Climate Summit built a cohort of Nashville youth ready to engage and take the next steps. “The Youth Climate Summit cemented some ideas into my mind: climate change is urgent and its harms are indeed preventable, climate change will deepen existing inequalities, and every action matters”, says Oscar Fox. 

We are excited for the next Nashville Youth Climate Summit in 2021! Stay updated with our new date on Instagram @NashvilleYouthClimate

Thank you to the Dan and Margaret Maddox Charitable Fund for their support of the Nashville Youth Climate Summit. 

Thank you to our Youth Climate Summit Planning Committee:

Oscar Fox (University School of Nashville)

Heba Alali (Overton High School)

Mayowa Kassim (University School of Nashville)

Anisa Yusuf (Overton High School)

Reem Wolde (Hillwood High School)

Tatyana Denis (McGavock High School)