Girl Plus Environment had the ultimate Carrie Bradshaw experience during NYC Climate Week. From meeting renowned climate activists, to engaging in stimulating conversations over coffee… this week was truly unforgettable.
I had the honor of entering rooms that a younger version of myself could never have imagined setting foot in, and imposter syndrome was in full effect. At GPE, we kicked off our Climate Week by joining The Nest Climate Campus for some incredible panel sessions and interactive spaces that allowed for a deeper immersion into the environmental sector. We connected with other remarkable individuals in the climate space, and we even had the privilege of meeting the extraordinary Dr. Robert D. Bullard, following the remarkable event organized by our sponsors at The World Wildlife Fund.
While recurring themes of the week centered on the urgency for change and the imperative for diversity and inclusivity within the climate space, I couldn't help but notice that only one main stage panel was composed entirely of people of color. This is both shocking and unfortunately not surprising. We often hear many talk about the importance of diversity and the necessity of having those on the front lines of the climate crisis leading the conversation. Yet, very few actually take meaningful steps to make this a reality. I vividly recall someone stating that
“the solutions we urgently need are likely held within the minds of those who directly experience the harsh effects of the climate crisis”.
These are individuals who lack the exposure and resources to voice their ideas and implement them to bring about the change we so desperately require. While it's commendable that we are recognizing the need to shift the focus towards environmental justice leaders, it's simply not enough. My question remains: when will we move beyond talking about diversifying the climate space and actually put it into practice?
One of the panelists I observed closed their discussion with a poignant reminder to all the men in the audience: "We must decline invitations to participate in panels that consist solely of white men." This is a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. What truly resonated with me, however, was during one of the final panel discussions I attended at The Nest Climate Campus. Nelson ZePequeno, the founder of Black Men with Gardens and The Nature Hood L.A, emphasized that it's not sufficient to merely express a desire to reach these communities. It's up to us to bring the knowledge, programming, and opportunities directly to the communities that need them the most. This, he stressed, is the most effective way to make a meaningful impact.
As the week drew to a close, we had the pleasure of hosting our very first event for NYC Climate Week, "The Green Table Talk: A Panel on Representation of Women of Color in Climate." The turnout was absolutely phenomenal, and the discussions even more so. One recurring theme that stood out was the pressing need for funding in our communities. While access to this space and these programs is crucial, it's equally important that our communities have the financial resources necessary for sustainability. The beauty of this event was not just in the content of the discussions, but also in the shared experiences, interests, and backgrounds of those present.
This experience was unlike any other and will undoubtedly be one for the record books. While this may have been our first NYC Climate Week, rest assured, it will not be our last.