by Catherine Price
On Saturday, March 4th, 2023, teens from across Davidson County gathered for the Nashville Youth Climate Summit, a full-day of learning and engagement for climate action in our community. Now in its fourth year, the Summit is hosted by the Mayor’s Youth Council, in coordination with the Oasis Center and the Cumberland River Compact. Young people at the event participated in workshops and panel discussions on the most pressing climate issues facing the city. Experts, community leaders, and local businesses facilitated these conversations. The event was held at the wonderful Eloisa Salazar Event Center at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. The Nashville Youth Climate Summit had 40 students from 10 local schools participating for the first fully in-person event since 2020!
Read below for some highlights from the Summit!
Opening from Mayor John Cooper
We were delighted to have Mayor John Cooper kick off this year’s Summit! Mayor Cooper shared about the importance of addressing climate change and the role youth play in the movement.
Climate Change 101 Panel
The Nashville Youth Climate Summit started with a panel introducing the basics of climate science and its impacts on communities in Nashville and around the world. Student attendees come to the Summit with varying levels of knowledge about climate change; the Climate Change 101 presentation is intended to set a baseline of understanding about the climate issues discussed throughout the day. Panelists included Krissy Hurley with National Weather Service, Dr. Patrick Greiner with Vanderbilt University, Devon Murrie with Stony Creek Colors, and Luis Mata with Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.
After the introductory panel, attendees chose workshops led by local organizations and experts. Workshop highlights include:
- An interactive look at urban heat in Nashville and opportunities to cool our city with Kendra Abkowitz with the Office of Mayor John Cooper and Zach Wampler with Vanderbilt University.
- Hands-on instruction on how to make a patch to mend clothes with Ellen Schalbach Turnip Green Creative Reuse.
- Discussion of Sustainable and Green City Planning with Kayla Anderson of the Civic Design Center and Olivia Ranseen from Metro Nashville Planning Department
- A tee-shirt tote bag workshop with Jaffee Judah from Recycle and Reinvest.
- An outdoor exploration of nature-based climate solutions with Joe Chapman and Meg Morgan of the Cumberland River Compact.
- A transit discussion and challenge with Jessica Dauphin of the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee.
A plant-based lunch was provided by the Nashville Food Project and served on all compostable or reusable serving items.
Tennessee’s Green Amendment
We were delighted to have Representative Justin Jones along with Sunrise Movement Nashville to speak about their work on the Green Amendment. The proposed amendment would instill a right to clean water, clean air, and natural preservation into the Tennessee State Constitution.
“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. Tennessee’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the State shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.” – House Joint Resolution 50
Writing for Climate Anxiety
Tackling the climate crisis can feel overwhelming and it takes personal resilience to keep moving forward. A recent survey of young people found that nearly 60% of them felt ‘very worried’ or ‘extremely worried’ about climate change. In the afternoon of the Nashville Youth Climate Summit, we took some time to decompress and check in with any feelings of climate or eco-anxiety through a writing break led by Joe Kane with The Porch.
A reminder: anxiety is a normal response to the climate crisis. But you don’t have to go at it alone! If you feel that your stress levels are interfering with your normal life, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional. The Oasis Center offers 24/7 crisis services by calling 615.327.4455
Climate Action Planning
After a full day of learning about climate change, it was time to plan for action! Attendees split into groups and got to work planning ways to take climate action in their school, community, or neighborhood. New to this year’s summit, attendees will have the opportunity to apply for funding to implement their climate action project. Funds from Nashville SC will help students make their climate visions a reality.
“We are proud to invest in growing the capacity of youth leaders to organize, lead, and take action on environmental issues”, says Brandon Hill, Nashville SC Head of Community Engagement. “This generation of young people are more passionate than ever about the environment and this project will give them the resources to make a difference in their communities”.
Stay tuned for information about the selected Youth Climate Action Projects!
We are already excited for our fifth Youth Climate Summit in 2024! We can’t wait to build on the exciting momentum from this year. Stay tuned for more Climate Leadership opportunities from the Cumberland River Compact.
Thank you to the support of Nashville SC and the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for their support of this event! We’d also like to thank all of our workshop leaders, speakers, and volunteers who made it happen!
Catherine Price is the Senior Program Manager at the Cumberland River Compact, where she manages the organization’s education, engagement, and volunteerism programs. Catherine brought the Youth Climate Summit model to Nashville in 2020 and has presented alongside national leaders on the Nashville program. Catherine has a Master of Science in Zoology from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Miami University.