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Youth Summit Summary

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Youth-Led Environmental Justice Summit Report Back

April 29, 2023 | Locatelli Center for Student Involvement

Part of SCU’s Environmental Justice and the Common Good Conference

“Maybe I can’t do it all, but I can do something.” - Regina Jones, World Cafe discussion

  • An image of a youth panel

    Panelists, left to right: Antonio Amore Rojas ‘23, Emily Pachoud ‘23, Declan Bernal ‘23, Jordan Tachibana, Madeline Pugh ‘23, Rosa Maria Gordillo (Veggielution Farm), Aanya Dhruv (Nueva  School).  Photo by Regina Jones

    Students and community members came together at Santa Clara University’s first-ever Youth-Led Environmental Justice Summit on April 29th, 2023 as an event connected with the Climate and Environmental Justice Conference. The goals were to support young people’s ambition, creativity, and energy to counter the consequences of climate change and drive forward environmental action. This event was organized by student researchers with the Environmental Justice and Common Good Initiative and Agroecology, Climate Resilience, and Food Justice Lab, including Madeline Pugh, Antonio Amore Rojas, Kimber Wood, and Paola Felix, as well as Declan Bernal, member of SCU Environmental Action (ENACT).

    Organizers and advocates collaborated to advance climate justice through student-to-student discussions and networking. SCU students, local university and high school students, and environmental clubs and organizations were invited to join in presentations, dialogue, and action planning to strengthen relationships and promote collaboration around climate and environmental justice, and the common good. 

    The summit included a formal panel with topics such as fossil fuel divestment, community gardens and environmental education, global food security, environmental justice grassroots movements, and campus food systems. This panel was followed by a 30-minute interactive Q+A in which members of the audience had the opportunity to come to the stage and present their questions to the panelists.

    After a nourishing lunch break, panelists and participants then joined together in a World Cafe discussion for the remainder of the afternoon, which is a methodological workshop that facilitates the sharing of ideas in a relaxed and creative environment with small group discussions. There were three 10-minute rounds, each with a different theme: Motivation, Communication, and Action.

    image of two cards with notes on the summit

    Notes from the WorldCafe Discussion. Photo by Regina Jones

    The groups then came together for “Harvest,” an opportunity to share takeaways and insights with the whole group in order to identify patterns, grow collective knowledge, and identify new possibilities for action. The group reflected on the event together and left with a collective feeling of community, strategies for better communication, and better confidence in tackling the climate crisis. The image above shows one message that was emphasized multiple times in both of the groups: Radical Hope. There is nothing more important for youth tackling the climate crisis than this.

Radical Hope, coined by philosopher Jonathan Loer, is “directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.”

image of students standing around two posters on the floor

World Cafe Harvest. Photo by Regina Jones

Here is a summary of the main takeaways:

  • Be curious
  • Support people and things you care about
  • Learn from and connect with others
  • Be kind and educational, but not condescending
  • Emphasize that climate change is an ethical problem that affects everyone
  • Don’t compare, work together
  • Find common ground
  • Give entry points and accessible messages
  • Be patient
  • Figure out what small actions you can easily take
  • Build community over individualism
  • Respect the process
  • Find balance and give yourself flexibility
  • Respect students capacity

The first-ever Youth-Led Environmental Justice Summit at SCU was largely successful, with more than 30 participants joining us on a warm Saturday afternoon. As the organizing committee, we hope that this event will continue in the years to come and incorporate more high school students, students from surrounding universities, and community partners. The summit was successful in meeting its goals to:

  1. Build connections between fellow youth environmental justice groups and the greater Bay Area community, 
  2. Promote greater awareness about local opportunities to advocate for climate justice and the common good, 
  3. Provide an opportunity to share and co-produce research and actionable knowledge and social change amongst youth groups, 
  4. Inspire new and creative perspectives for organizing in their own communities. 

As this event develops and involvement increases, the impact will become even more significant. We would like to thank all those who participated and supported this important event, and our donors, SCU’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education and Valley Water.

Summary by: Madeline Pugh