Press Room

Young Climate Advocates Across Political Spectrum Say #YESonClimate at Virtual Summit

Nearly 100 college students unite behind climate action and environmental advocacy at the Youth Environmental Summit.

NEW YORK & WISCONSIN – This weekend, nearly 100 students came together at the inaugural Youth Environmental Summit (YES 2020) hosted by the National Audubon Society and the American Conservation Coalition Campus, with select sessions publicly livestreamed on social media reaching hundreds of thousands more. Students registered from 36 states, ranging from Florida and Pennsylvania to Nebraska and California, joined the two-day, 10-hour virtual conference for panel discussions, advocacy training and networking opportunities with leaders in climate science, activism and policymaking.

“Even in the midst of uncertainty for the fall semester, the next generation of climate activists across the country showed up for the environment at the Youth Environmental Summit with an exhilarating energy and dedication. We’re more inspired than ever that these students are the leaders to drive climate conversations on their campuses and communities to protect the future of birds and people – right as we head into the most consequential election for our planet,” said Heather Starck, vice president of grassroots capacity building at Audubon. “We’re thankful for the partnership with ACC Campus to make this summit a reality and for their leadership in the climate space to move bipartisan solutions forward.”

"For the first time in history, a boldly bipartisan group of young activists stood together in solidarity on behalf of the environment. Throughout the weekend, Republican and Democrat elected officials, as well as liberal and conservative activists, participated in the much-anticipated Youth Environmental Summit,” said ACC Campus President Benji Backer. “Conversations, trainings, and calls-to-actions like the ones at YES 2020 have already guided a strong path forward. I'm thrilled ACC Campus was able to partner with Audubon on this inspiring event!"

In addition to advocacy training and networking, YES 2020 offered a wide array of appearances and discussions with a bipartisan group of elected officials as well as leading nonpartisan scientists and prominent young climate activists. Notable summit sessions and guests included:

  • Conversation with Congressional Climate Leaders
    • Speaker: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
    • Appearances from co-chairs of the Senate bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) as well as Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX)
    • Networking with Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM)
  • Climate Science, Conservation, and Environmental Justice: A Panel Discussion
    • Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, marine biologist, policy expert and climate activist
    • Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University
    • Dr. Brooke Bateman, Audubon’s senior climate scientist and lead author of Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink
    • Joanna Wu, avian biologist and project manager at Audubon
  • Young Climate Activists Panel Discussion
    • Vic J. Barrett of Earth Guardians
    • Xiye Bastida of The Re-Earth Initiative
    • Danielle Butcher of the American Conservation Coalition
    • Tykee James, co-organizer of the first #BlackBirdersWeek and government affairs coordinator at Audubon
    • Jamie Margolin of This is Zero Hour
(Top) Danielle Butcher of the American Conservation Coalition, clockwise from top left, Xiye Bastida of The Re-Earth Initiative, Vic Barret of Earth Guardians, and Jamie Margolin of This is Zero Hour speak with moderator Tykee James of the National Audubon Society during the Youth Climate Activist Panel Discussion. (Bottom) Benji Backer, President of the American Conservation Coalition, speaks with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) during a Q&A session during YES 2020. Photos: Luke Franke/Audubon

YES 2020 grew from a partnership between Audubon and the ACC Campus with a goal to channel the immense energy and activism of today’s youth that is also evident in the growth of both organizations’ campus initiatives. Originally designed as an in-person conference to encourage community building among advocates, the summit was transitioned to an entirely virtual experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic and safety concerns.

In less than two years, the Audubon on Campus Program has expanded from ten pilot chapters to more than 115 chapters on campuses across the country, showing a strong, rapid growth of interest in bird conservation. Audubon on Campus engages college students and young leaders to take action on protecting birds and their habitats as well as inspires the next generation of environmentalists through educational, advocacy, networking, and career development opportunities in science and conservation.

“The Audubon on Campus Program continues to take hold on campuses nationwide, creating a space that empowers and supports young environmentalists and birdwatchers to advocate for the birds in their backyard. Members of campus chapters continue to exemplify the leadership that Audubon and the country need to protect birds and the places they need – that we all need, now and in the future,” said Diana Braithwaite, Audubon on Campus Program manager. “We’re eager to offer more opportunities like YES 2020 for our campus chapters to develop new skills, network and advocate for the environment.”

A project of the American Conservation Coalition, ACC Campus is a student-focused, environmental organization. ACC Campus works to educate students and activists alike about a market-based approach to clean energy and conservation issues, supporting a broad range of limited-government and innovative policies to usher in a new generation of stewardship. By working with a diverse group of organizations and activists, ACC Campus is changing the narrative and beginning a new discussion about the environment on campus and in communities.

“In less than 3 years ACC Campus has grown into the leading youth organization for market based environmental solutions with a presence on over 200 campuses in nearly every state,” said ACC Campus National Field Director Tex Fischer. “Student activists have passionately advocated for free-market and limited-government environmental solutions on their campuses through tabling, panels, advocacy campaigns, and social events.”

Attendees participated in interactive trainings led by experts in their fields to equip activists with skills to mobilize advocates on campuses and in communities around the country. Students who attended and completed all of the training sessions will receive a Completion of Student Advocacy Training Certificate.

Audubon and ACC Campus look forward to this summit becoming a recurring event with hopes that student climate activists can gather in person in the future.

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About Audubon
National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

Media Contact: Chandler Lennon, chandler.lennon@audubon.org, 804.832.0832

About the American Conservation Coalition
The American Conservation Coalition (ACC) is  a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the narrative on environmental discussions through promoting a mix of free-market, pro-business, and limited-government environmentalism in legislatures, college campuses, the political arena, and beyond. ACC was founded in June 2017 by a group of Millennials who saw an ideological gap in the environmental movement preventing necessary bipartisan action. Learn more at www.acc.eco and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @ACC_National.

Media Contact: Karly Matthews, karly@acc.eco, 717.676.2783

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