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Climate of Change

Updated: May 10, 2021

22 Days of Learning and Action for Intersectional Climate Justice in Rochester and Beyond.

Climate of Change was co-created by the Urban League of Rochester, Ibero-American Action League, City Roots Community Land Trust, Connected Communities, M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, Rochester Area Community Foundation, St. Mark’s and St. John’s Episcopal Church, and Climate Solutions Accelerator

Learn more here.

Day 1: Intentional Intersectional Climate Action

Featuring Daphany Sanchez, Kinetic Communities. Recording here.

Both globally and locally, climate change is an injustice accelerator, impacting vulnerable populations first and worst, despite their having contributed least to the problem. In our region, populations that are likely to be disproportionately impacted by climate change include children, people of color, people living in poverty, refugees, farmworkers, people with disabilities, and other groups. To overcome the threat of climate change and advance climate justice for our region, we must collectively ...

  • Focus on addressing the systemic, root causes of climate change that create and / or exacerbate other inequalities in our communities, including racial and economic inequality;

  • Center the needs of vulnerable populations by prioritizing solutions that ensure safe, healthy, and affordable living conditions for all people;

  • Distribute the benefits of climate solutions equitably and fairly;

  • Encourage those who are most impacted by climate change to speak for themselves and play a meaningful role in decision-making processes;

  • Build political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy that meets community needs while restoring natural ecosystems.

Daphany Rose Sanchez kicks off our 22-day exploration of climate justice issues with an inspiring keynote address. Daphany is a climate justice expert and entrepreneur based in New York City, whose personal experience with the dangers of climate change during Hurricane Sandy led her to become a passionate advocate for energy equity.


Day 2: History

Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism, and Environmental Injustice

The history of the United States of America begins with the genocide and erasure of Indigenous People. The history of this land and the people who have lived here begins long before that, but the moment that Europeans came to the North American continent they began a long project of settler colonialism in this country which has decimated Indigenous Communities.

Colonialism occurs when one group of people take control of another group of people and the land and resources that group has. Settler colonialism is a particular type of colonialism in which the group of people doing the colonizing not only take control of the colonized group and its resources, they also take control of the land occupied by the colonized group and remove the Indigenous groups of people from that land, often through violence.

This type of colonialism and the removal of Indigenous People has always been a part of the United States. Historically it took the form of mass murder and genocide, the construction of the reservation and treaty system, the erasure of Indigneous Cultures through the boarding school system, and a variety of other forms of violence. In many ways this violence is still ongoing today, and issues of environmental injustice are very clear examples. The high profile protests by the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline throughout the 2010s highlights the intersections of settler colonialism and environmental injustice very clearly.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is designed to transport more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil every day and crosses sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux. The Tribe has been fighting the construction of this pipeline in the courts and through protest for years now, but were not successful in protecting their sacred land from the pipeline. The forces that have colonized and erased Indigenous Peoples for centuries are the same ones who have taken and destroyed the sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux in order to further exploit the earth and extract its resources. If we are going to heal our Earth and build a better, more sustainable society, we must ground ourselves in this history of colonialism and build relationships of solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples who have been harmed.

To learn more, check out these resources:


Day 3: History

Racism in the White-Led Environmental Movement

There is a deep history of racism in the White-led American environmental movement. John Muir, who is considered by many to be a founding father of environmentalism, expressed negative views of Black people and Native Americans. Despite his admiration for the beauty of nature, he failed to recognize that Indigenous people were the caretakers of the forests and gardens he loved so much. Racist views even led to the removal of Indigenous people from land that would be designated as national parks, and a precedent was set for racism to be intertwined with environmentalism. The legacy of racism in the environmental movement persisted over the years. Although environmental groups have done much important work, they have largely neglected to take on environmental problems affecting BIPOC* communities, such as incinerators being placed near Black neighborhoods. There has also been a lack of inclusion of people of color in environmental groups as members and in leadership roles. In recent years, there have been efforts among environmental groups and within the environmental movement to be anti-racist and more inclusive of people of color, while taking on environmental problems harming communities of color. But there is still work to be done to build the diverse and inclusive environmental movement needed to move solutions forward effectively and equitably. To learn more, check out these resources:

*Black, Indigenous, and People of Color


Day 4: History The Birth of the Environmental Justice Movement

While the exact start of the environmental justice movement is unknown, protests in North Carolina are considered the first major milestones of the movement. In 1982, the state of North Carolina decided to dump thousands of tons of hazardous waste in the small, rural, and predominately-Black community of Warren County, North Carolina. Many residents voiced their concerns, but the State ultimately dismissed them and moved forward with the site of the landfill. Frustrated residents and their allies met the dump trucks, lying down on roads leading into the landfill upon their arrival. The initial protest was followed by six weeks of marches and nonviolent protests, and more than 500 people were arrested—the first arrests in U.S. history over the siting of a landfill. The protests of Warren County gained national attention, making Warren County the first major milestone of the movement. Many early environmental justice leaders came out of the civil rights movement, engaging in some of the same tactics seen in the Civil Rights movement - marches, petitions, rallies, coalition building, community empowerment through education, litigation and nonviolent direct action. Later in the 1980s, the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice published “Toxic Waste and Race in the United States,” which shed light on massive disparities in the burden of environmental degradation and pollution facing low-income and Black and Brown communities. This report helped the environmental justice movement gain traction across the U.S. and guided government actions for mitigating environmental injustice. To learn more, check out these resources:


Day 5: History Vacuum Oil and Brownfields in the Rochester Region

A 40-acre forest alongside the Genesee River exists right in the heart of the PLEX neighborhood, untouched by development for decades. Never heard of it? That’s because the Vacuum Oil site (contaminated by what is now the ExxonMobil gas company) is incredibly polluted. The site is considered a brownfield, or in other words, a piece of previously developed land with known or suspected pollution, contaminated soil, and/or hazardous waste. Efforts to understand the potential threat to the surrounding community and clean up the site have spanned almost 40 years. The City and developer DHD Ventures currently share ownership of the space, and City government received an Outstanding Achievement Award for their work on the site in 2014. So why is the site still untouched and contaminated? We invite our participants to take a look at the history of the site as an example of how brownfields are commonly dealt with in the Rochester area and New York State as a whole. New York State’s Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Program identifies revitalization and cleanup strategies that encompass both individual brownfields and their surroundings in “economically distressed” neighborhoods. Rochester, for instance, has four large regions designated as BOAs. City governments commonly use the brownfield program tax credits to advance development goals or increase their property tax base. In fact, the controversial Goodman Section Police Substation that faced polarizing criticism was set to be built on a brownfield site in the Beechwood neighborhood. As a community, it’s important that we ask ourselves critical questions around who benefits from brownfields, why it takes so long for them to get cleaned up, and how the existence of contamination exacerbates systemic racism and inequalities in Rustbelt cities around America. To learn more, check out these resources:


Day 6: History Redlining and Racial Covenants in the Rochester Region

In order to solve the injustices of today we must first understand their roots in our history. When it comes to Monroe County, racist housing and land use policy have historically been some of the most powerful root causes of the myriad injustices our communities face. Low-quality housing, environmental degradation, poor health outcomes, under and unemployment, a dysfunctional education system, and so much more can all be traced back to the housing and land use policies that segregated our region. Redlining is a government policy at the heart of this system. In the 1930s, a federal agency known as the Home Owners Loan Corporation drew maps of every American City and rated the quality of each neighborhood in that city. To rate neighborhoods, they looked at factors like housing stock, amenities, location of industry, environmental hazards, and the race of the people who lived there. Neighborhoods with large populations of immigrants and Black people were rated lowest on this scale specifically because immigrants and Black people lived there. These maps would go on to direct hundreds of billions of dollars in federal, state, and local investment in housing stock, almost entirely preventing neighborhoods where Black people lived from accessing any amount of government investment in housing. Alongside these maps, local real estate developers would use tools like racially restrictive covenants in the deeds of the homes they built to legally prevent people of color from purchasing homes in White neighborhoods. Because this history has never been undone, Rochester is still among the most racially segregated regions in the entire country today. The majority of the housing stock in the City of Rochester, particularly the housing in previously redlined neighborhoods, is much older and under maintained compared to the surrounding suburbs because government investment in housing stock has historically been denied to these neighborhoods. Redlined neighborhoods are still disproportionately home to brownfield and EPA superfund sites. Residents in these neighborhoods have lower life expectancies and higher rates of poverty. The intersections of environmental, housing, and racial justice are clear to see in this history. It is incumbent upon us to educate ourselves and one another about this history and find solutions that address all of these injustices.

To learn more, check out these resources:


Day 7: History Resistance to Environmental Racism and Injustice

All around this country and the world, BIPOC Communities have faced disproportionate amounts of environmental injustice for centuries. Environmentally hazardous waste and debris have consistently been located in places where People of Color live, as in the case of the Vacuum Oil site in Rochester. These things often result in higher rates of disease like asthma and cancer. Environmental destruction disproportionately affects BIPOC Communities as well, as in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux. And of course climate change has already begun to disproportionately impact BIPOC Communities. These communities are more likely to live in areas that are vulnerable to flooding from rising sea levels, more likely to be affected by the increase in extreme weather like hurricanes, and less likely to have access to the resources needed to deal with the effects of climate change. None of these things are accidental; they are the result of centuries of intentional racist exploitation and oppression that has enriched a small number of incredibly wealthy people. This is environmental racism. However, no history of racism and injustice is complete without telling the countless stories of how people resisted those things, and this is especially true when it comes to environmental racism and injustice. BIPOC Communities have fought back against these injustices as long as they have existed, and the stories of these rebellions have so much to teach all of us about environmental equity and justice. Again and again, BIPOC Communities stand up, organize, and fight back against these injustices. This is especially the case here in Rochester, as our community has both a long history of racism and of resistance to it. There are too many stories to tell them all here, but check out a few wonderful examples of this resistance to environmental racism and injustice below. To learn more, check out these resources:


Day 8: Live Panel Discussion. Recording here. Historical Perspectives on Environmental Racism in Rochester

A panel of local community leaders share their perspectives on how Rochester’s history of environmental racism continues to shape and harm our community today. The panelists synthesize the issues examined over the previous week and help us think about what our community can do to address the legacy of systemic environmental injustice. The panel includes:

  • Simeon Banister from the Rochester Area Community Foundation

  • Ronalyn Pollack from the Native American Cultural Center

  • Dorian Hall from the Plymouth-Exchange Neighborhood Association

  • Marielena Velez de Brown from the Monroe County Department of Public Health.

  • Shane Wiegand, a local educator, researcher, and board member at City Roots Community Land Trust and Connected Communities, moderates the panel.


Day 9: Current Local Issues Climate, Poverty, and Jobs

Climate change disproportionately impacts those living in poverty and communities of color, largely due to increased exposure to climate hazards and decreased access to resources necessary to respond to climate change. However, climate solutions that prioritize equity can mitigate existing inequalities, while also protecting vulnerable populations from the threat of climate change. In the U.S., wealthier households, on average, have carbon footprints five times higher than those living in the poorest households, with much of this difference due to transportation and household size. In other words, wealthier households are generally more responsible for causing the climate crisis. Over 30% of the population in Rochester lives in poverty and although poverty rates are lower in surrounding areas, poverty continues to be a major challenge for our region. Even though low-income residents contribute less to causing climate change, they bear the brunt of the impacts. For example, housing quality makes those living in poverty more vulnerable to climate impacts, as many low-to-moderate income households live in buildings that are more susceptible to storm damage. In our region, climate change will increase precipitation, as well as the frequency and intensity of storms. This increased moisture will put additional strain on homes that already have problems with mold and dampness, which also worsens health conditions, such as allergies and respiratory illnesses. In addition to increased exposure to climate impacts, those living in poverty are less likely to be able to access the resources necessary to respond to climate hazards. For example, the costs associated with making home repairs are often out of reach for low-income homeowners and the costs associated with property damage from severe weather disproportionately impact those living in poverty. In the Western New York/Finger Lakes Region property damage from winter storms cost approximately $1.5 billion between 1960-2014, with an average cost of $1.4 million/storm event. Temperature extremes associated with climate change also increase the need for energy to heat and cool homes, adding stress to those who are already struggling to afford their utility bills. Although NY State’s Energy Affordability Policy says that no New Yorker should pay more than 6% of their income on energy, more than one-third of households in Rochester spend over 10% of their income on energy, forcing them to choose between paying for heat or other necessities, such as food or healthcare. Energy efficiency upgrades can reduce this energy burden. Climate solutions can also reduce poverty by creating well-paid jobs. Research shows that clean energy jobs, on average, exceed national hourly wages by 8%-19% and that most clean energy occupations do not require more than a high school diploma. In New York State, the clean energy job sector grew 16% since 2015, and approximately 70% of clean energy workers receive health care, retirement, and vacation benefits. The NY Renews coalition estimates that the Climate and Community Investment Act would create at least 150,000 new jobs over the next decade. Developing our region’s clean energy workforce in the areas of renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, and environmental management, can therefore reduce emissions, build resiliency, and create employment opportunities for local residents. However, access to clean energy jobs, thus far, has not been equitable, with women making up less than 20% of the national workforce and African-Americans making up less than 10%. As we work to transition our region to a clean energy economy, we must target our clean energy workforce development programs to those who have historically been marginalized in the labor market so that clean air, clean energy, and clean jobs are available to all. To learn more, check out these resources:


Day 10: Current Local Issues Climate and Police Brutality

The connection between climate change and police brutality may not be immediately apparent, but since both disproportionately impact people of color and are rooted in systems of exploitation and injustice, the connections are indeed there. The most blatant example is the deadly violence wrought on Black and Brown “environmental defenders” from around the world. Research has shown that “Indigenous environmental defenders face significantly higher rates of violence” than their White counterparts. According to Global Witness, “212 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2019 - an average of more than four people a week.” In addition, though they use primarily nonviolent forms of protest, the environmental advocacy efforts of Indigenous people are often criminalized. Here in the United States, the fossil fuel industry is actively working to criminalize pipeline protests and cast protesters as environmental terrorists. There are also financial ties between the fossil fuel industry and police foundations in many parts of the United States. In addition, police violence and pollution are linked by geography. The neighborhoods where housing conditions are poor and economic opportunities are limited, due to historic disinvestment, are often the same neighborhoods where toxic industrial sites are located and police violence disproportionately occurs. This directly and negatively impacts residents’ health and well-being. As Bill McKibben writes, “Having a racist and violent police force in your neighborhood is a lot like having a coal-fired power plant in your neighborhood… ‘I Can’t Breathe’ is the daily condition of too many people in this country.” To learn more, check out these resources:


Day 11: Current Local Issues Climate and Housing

Climate change and natural disasters have a big impact on our ability to access safe and affordable housing. As climate change worsens - with higher temperatures, flooding, and other forms of extreme weather - its effects on housing all across New York state are anticipated to increase. These impacts place the population as well as the economy at risk. In the City of Rochester, 63.6% of the housing units are renter-occupied and the median age of real estate in Rochester is 78 years old. These old rental housing units are home to many low-income families that often live in substandard conditions paying a high portion of their income on rent and energy bills. In addition to being expensive, living in drafty, inefficient housing, is also unhealthy and uncomfortable. In May 2017, Rochester’s City Council endorsed a community-wide Climate Action Plan that identified housing as a key source of local greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions come primarily from the natural gas we burn for heat and hot water, which can be reduced through a combination of energy efficiency measures and beneficial electrification, or in other words, insulation, air-sealing, and getting a heat pump. Though there are generous, income-based incentives available to help low-income residents reduce energy use in their homes, these programs can be difficult to access, especially for renters. For Rochester to meaningfully address climate change and improve residents’ health and wellbeing, increasing access to energy upgrades is a must. Climate change has also been related to population displacement or “climate gentrification.” This term refers to the process of wealthier majority populations moving to areas that are less affected by climate change that were occupied by lower-income families, ultimately displacing these families. According to the City of Rochester’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment, our region’s population is expected to increase over the coming years, as climate change causes other parts of the country to become increasingly uninhabitable. Without intentional efforts to maintain housing affordability, this could result in rising housing prices and displacement. To learn more, check out these resources:


Day 12: Current Local Issues Climate, Health, and Food

Climate change is a public health crisis. The impacts of this crisis can already be seen in our region, and as the climate continues to change, threats to human health will continue to grow. Increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere result in higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, increases in extreme weather events, and other dangerous conditions. These factors impact human health by affecting our food and water sources, the air we breathe, the weather we experience, and our interactions with built and natural environments. We also see higher rates of vector borne-diseases, such as Lyme disease from ticks and West Nile virus from mosquitoes, as well as increased stresses to mental health and well-being. In addition, climate change affects global, regional, and local food security, as sea-level rise and changing weather patterns can make farmland unusable and threaten harvests, thus worsening access to food for all people. The COVID-19 pandemic recently revealed how vulnerable our food system is in times of crisis. Climate change could lead to even more severe food shortages. Moreover, the air pollution associated with burning fossil fuels is a direct and immediate threat to human health. For example, homes with gas stoves have indoor concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) that are approximately 40 to 500 times higher than homes with electric stoves. According to the EPA, short-term exposure to NO2 “can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing), hospital admissions and visits to emergency rooms,” whereas long-term exposure can cause these illnesses to develop. While everyone is at risk of the health- and food-related impacts of climate change, some communities are disproportionately vulnerable, such as People of Color, children and pregnant women, older adults, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions. To learn more about Climate, Health, and Food, you can visit the following links:


Day 13: Current Local Issues Climate, Transportation, and Land Use

Transportation and land use have a large impact on climate change. In New York State, transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 36% of the state’s total. The burning of gasoline by motor vehicles is the major contributor, but other types of transportation - especially traveling by airplane - also contribute. The way that land is used exacerbates the transportation emissions problem. Sprawl has caused more people to drive longer distances while making our public transportation system less efficient. Sprawl has also resulted in farmland and woodlands being converted to housing developments, which means less carbon dioxide is being taken out of the atmosphere by trees and other plants. Fossil-fueled transportation and inefficient land use is a dangerous combination when it comes to climate change. In addition to producing greenhouse gas emissions, our transportation and land use systems are problematic in other ways:

  • Automobile emissions pose a direct threat to people’s health, and the places with the highest concentrations of vehicle traffic are often located in or near communities of low-income people and/or people of color.

  • Sprawl has contributed to fewer jobs and the concentration of poverty in the city of Rochester, as well as segregation of municipalities and schools. People who do not have their own car are treated like second-class citizens, facing many more barriers to pursuing economic and other opportunities.

  • Although we have a public transit system, it is inefficient and unreliable. A “reimagined RTS” launched this year and will hopefully be a step in the right direction, but there is still much work to do to create a cleaner and more equitable transportation system in our community.

To learn more, check out these resources:


Day 14: Current Local Issues Energy Democracy and Access to Affordable Clean Energy

According to PUSH Buffalo, energy democracy is “a political, economic, social, and cultural concept that merges the technological energy transition from extractive to regenerative energy sources with a strengthening of democracy and public participation.” The goal of energy democracy is to “build resilient communities while remembering class, power, accountability, urgency, and the wisdom of Indigenous communities.” In simpler terms, this means that energy systems should be controlled by local communities instead of big corporations, to ensure that everyone has equitable access to affordable clean energy. RG&E, a subsidiary of the multinational Iberdrola group, provides power to most households in the Greater Rochester Region. Despite the fact that RG&E continues to use dirty energy and many local residents struggle to afford their energy bills, RG&E’s wealthy shareholders are guaranteed an 8.8% return on equity, thanks to how utility companies are “regulated” by NYS’s Public Service Commission. Some local communities (e.g., Fairport, Spencerport) already have municipally controlled utilities, giving their residents access to cleaner, cheaper energy. In the City of Rochester, Metro Justice is leading a campaign to “replace RG&E with a public, locally and democratically owned and governed utility.” To learn more about the concept of energy democracy and strategies for increasing access to affordable clean energy, check out these resources:


Day 15: Live Panel Discussion. Recording here. How to Build a Prosperous Region in a Healthy Planet

A panel of local community leaders shared their perspectives on how we can build a thriving region on a healthy planet through climate justice.

The panel includes


Day 16: Building Skills and Taking Action Principles for Environmental Justice Organizing

For those who are new to organizing for environmental justice, please know that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Experienced environmental justice advocates from around the world have already developed the tools and principles we need to collaboratively advance climate justice here in the Greater Rochester region. For example, in 1991, delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit defined 17 Principles of Environmental Justice that focus attention on “the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples” and the importance of ensuring that People of Color “participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.” These principles also remind us of “the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and providing fair access for all to the full range of resources.” The Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing (developed in 1996) are a widely used and foundational framework for helping mainstream (mostly white) environmentalists successfully partner with BIPOC and low-income communities to advance environmental justice. The full document provides detailed descriptions of each principle, but in essence, they are as follows:

  • Be inclusive

  • Emphasize bottom-up organizing

  • Let people speak for themselves

  • Work together in solidarity and mutuality

  • Build just relationships among ourselves

  • Commit to self-transformation

The Principles for Alliance with Green Groups created at the Second People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 2002, provides more specific guidance on how white and BIPOC environmental groups can successfully work together, including recommendations on how to equitably access and utilize funding in support of collaborative projects. BIPOC environmental leaders have also developed principles specifically for climate justice organizers:

To learn more, check out these resources:

And then practice, practice, practice, to develop the self-awareness, leadership, and communication skills you’ll need to successfully implement these principles!


Day 17: Building Skills and Taking Action Just Transition Framework

Most of us would agree that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but how do we do that? There are various options on the table for how to make the transition from burning fossil fuels to using clean energy, but if we want to ensure climate justice, we need a Just Transition. The Just Transition Framework prioritizes the needs of people who are most affected by greenhouse gas pollution in developing policies that bring about healthy communities with sustainable economies. Pursuing a Just Transition would improve equity through climate action, rather than perpetuating existing inequities. The Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) has been proposed in New York State to facilitate a Just Transition. This bill will institute a fee on greenhouse gases that will be paid largely by companies importing fossil fuels into the state. The money collected from this fee will be used for investments in clean energy, public housing, and transit (with corresponding job opportunities), support of community-based organizations in frontline communities, and direct assistance to low- and moderate-income families. NY Renews is a coalition of more than 200 organizations that are fighting for climate justice and advocating for the CCIA to be passed in the New York State Legislature. To learn more, check out these resources:

Then use this tool to call your New York State Senator and ask them to co-sponsor the CCIA!


Day 18: Building Skills and Taking Action Elevating Voices - Celebrate and Support Leaders of Color in the Environmental Movement

To build a more diverse environmental movement, we need to elevate the voices of people of color and celebrate and support leaders of color. People of color have been leaders in the fight for environmental justice for many years. The climate movement has gained momentum in recent years because of the leadership of people of color in our country and around the world. Right here in our community, there are people of color who have taken the lead on advancing environmental justice. For example, Dorothy and Dorian Hall have been leading the fight to clean up a brownfield site in Rochester’s PLEX Neighborhood; Calvin Eaton created a communiversity called 540WMain, which facilitates education on antiracism, environmental justice, and more; Lucienne Nicholson has worked to improve equitable access to the outdoors via Inclusive Woods and Us, an organization she founded; Simeon Banister has made environmental justice a priority of the Rochester Area Community Foundation; and Tonya Noel Stevens and Kristen Walker co-founded the Flower City Noire Collective to promote healing and community building through urban gardening. We must stand behind the efforts of these leaders while also supporting more people of color in taking leadership roles in our local environmental movement. To learn more, check out these resources:

Then, if you have the capacity, please make a donation to support a BIPOC-led environmental organization in Rochester or elsewhere!


Day 19: Building Skills and Taking Action Community Organizing in Diverse Communities

There are many approaches to solving the problems our communities face, each of which should ideally begin with an understanding of what the root causes of those problems are. Community Organizing recognizes that the various problems facing BIPOC and low-income communities are rooted in power. The challenge is not a lack of solutions to social problems, but rather that the people who would benefit from those solutions lack the power to implement them. Organizers also believe that almost every problem, from poor housing to environmental racism, is the result of a person or group with power who uses that power to exploit and oppress others for their own benefit. In this way, power is both the problem and the solution to the many problems facing everyday people. Organizers believe that to solve the problems facing low-income and BIPOC communities, those communities must build their own power, and use it to overcome the people who benefit from the injustices everyday folks suffer from. Organizers believe that the power of everyday people comes from sustained collective action, and understand that in order to achieve this, everyday people must come together in large numbers. This is why organizers focus on building mass, democratic, grassroots organizations of and by the people most affected by injustice. These organizations provide the infrastructure through which ever increasing numbers of people may come together to engage in collective action. This is what the practice of community organizing is concerned with, building grassroots organizations that facilitate mass collective action by everyday people, which can challenge the power of those who benefit from exploitation and oppression. Often the expression of people’s collective power involves direct-action tactics, like protests, rallies, sit-ins, and strikes, but this is only one part of community organizing. It also involves popular education, relationship and community building, leadership development, and lots of community engagement. Organizers believe that regular, everyday people can address complex, intersectional challenges like climate change, by coming together to fight injustice and change the world for the better. Learn more:


Day 20: Building Skills and Taking Action Building Relationships of Solidarity

At the basis of every organization and movement are relationships between people. Relationships are the glue that holds us together, so it is critically important that we intentionally build healthy, trusting relationships with the people we live, work, and organize with. Having strong relationships with one another allows us to stay engaged in this work long-term, navigate conflict in productive and restorative ways, and bring new, diverse, previously unengaged groups of people into our efforts. The most meaningful, authentic, long-lasting relationships in movements for justice and liberation are always built with a deep grounding in solidarity. Fundamentally, solidarity is a belief in the interconnectedness and interdependence of all human beings. It is an understanding that in order for any of us to be free and seek fully actualized lives, all of us must attain this freedom. Though our experiences with oppression and privilege vary greatly depending on our many identities, we all ultimately suffer under systems of exploitation and oppression like racism, capitalism, and patriarchy. We are all harmed and dehumanized by these systems. Beginning any relationships with this worldview gives us all a common ground on which to work together. It helps us understand that despite how the world may position us, we are not in competition with one another, and we actually depend on one another deeply. This grounding in solidarity will help us navigate any conflicts that may arise in our movements, hold each other accountable to our shared goals, heal and find justice for instances of harm, and love and care for each other in a much fuller way. As we strategize in meetings, engage in collective action, and try to change the world together, grounding ourselves in the fundamental interdependence we all share is an invaluable way to make our movements outlast any challenges they will surely face along the way to justice. Learn More:


Day 21: Building Skills and Taking Action Asset Framing

“Deficit framing defines people by the worst possible thing that ever happened to them, and that happens a lot with Black communities,” says Deborah Douglas, a distinguished visiting professor at DePauw University. “You focus on a negative thing as opposed to, these are full people with full lives and aspirations. I try to balance that with asset framing, which is who they are, their aspirations… There are positive stories. Where you have Black pain, you have Black joy.” Asset-framing is a critical skill in the intersectional fight for environmental justice. Climate change lends itself to deficit framing, in part because of the necessity to emphasize the time-sensitive, dire nature of global warming. But to make the most of opportunities to create a greener future in Rochester, we need to understand the assets already available to us, be they social, political, built, or natural. The Rochester area has a history of leadership on important social issues. We celebrate Frederick Douglass for the important work he did to abolish slavery. Susan B. Anthony led the way on women’s suffrage. Now it’s up to all of us to collectively position Rochester as a leader in the movement for climate justice. This will require bold and sustained action over the coming years and decades, but together, we will keep Rochester cool! (Pun intended.) To learn more, check out these resources:

Then give some thought to what assets you bring to the local movement for climate justice, and if you’re not already putting those assets to good use, fill out the Climate Solutions Accelerator’s volunteer interest form. Someone will follow up with you to discuss local volunteer opportunities that are a good match for your skills and interests.


Day 22: Closing Keynote.

Vic Barrett, Youth Climate Activist

The Time for Climate Justice is NOW

This event was not recorded but you can learn about the incredible Vic Barrett here.


Participatory Grants Awarded!

Thanks to generous support from sponsors and registrants--and an exciting last-minute infusion of $7,000 from sponsor EDF Renewables!-- the hosts of the Climate of Change series were able to offer $17,000 in grants.

We received almost twenty very worthwhile and compelling proposals to support climate and environmental justice work and initiatives, and ultimately the voters--each series registrant was invited to cast a ballot--selected three awardees: City Roots Community Land Trust, for an initiative to install high-efficiency electric heat-pump technology in their permanently-affordable land trust properties Rochester Museum and Science Center, for their program to bring low income youth and youth of color to the museum for immersion into climate exhibits and study Inclusive Woods and Us, for their initiative to train youth of color to lead hikes for fellow youth of color We extend our gratitude to all the applicants that submitted proposals and presented their proposals at last night's final series session!

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