On Monday, March 19, I attended the first ever ClimateCon at the Collider in my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville houses the world’s most extensive sums of climate and weather data and is the headquarters for NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information and NC State’s National Climatic Data Center. In recent years, Asheville has become a mecca for sustainability and green entrepreneurship, so it’s no surprise that my hometown has earned the named Climate City. ClimateCon was a conference meant to celebrate and bring together entrepreneurs and business leaders with the common goal of doing something about climate change. On Monday, I participated specifically in the Summit for Emerging Climate Leaders part of the conference. As a senior about to graduate, not only was this an exceptional networking opportunity for me but it also opened my eyes to the incredible amount of work already being done by business leaders and my own peers to ensure a better future for all of us. I got to meet people like Jeff Hicks, CEO of FernLeaf Interactive – a company, based in Asheville, that works around the country doing scientific risk assessments for communities already dealing with the impacts of climate change. I met Andrew Jones, the Director of Climate Interactive, who developed a game and software used all around the world to help people understand the severity of climate change and the actions needed to address it. You can download and play his Climate Pathways app for free on the AppStore to see if you have what it takes to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 C over the next century. One of the most interesting people I met at the Summit was Dayna Reggero, founder of the Climate Listening Project. Reggero travels to under-privileged communities around the country (in many cases the communities at risk of suffering the most from climate change) and simply listens to and records their stories. This idea struck me since too often we focus on the impact climate change will have on our cities and infrastructure that we don’t even take time to notice the impact climate change already is having on poor communities.
I think that since taking this class, I’ve been too caught up in recognizing the ways humanity is failing future generations that I never stopped to realize the incredible things people are already doing to help. All of the people I mentioned before were once just wide-eyed college students who most thought could never have an impact, but their creativity and determination led them to do incredible things. While some businesses and corporations are contributing to the problems associated with climate change, there’s a whole community of businesses hell-bent on contributing to the solution, which I found very inspiring. The motto of the whole Summit was “do well and do good,” meaning your business should make enough money to be comfortable and prominent but it should also be good for your community and the Earth. I think that as young people of rising influence in the environmentalism and sustainability movements, we can all strive to live by that motto.