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Past events

Inspiring Stories of Climate Action: Celebrating the Grist 50

Each year, the Grist 50 identifies emerging leaders in climate, equity, and sustainability. These brilliant people are driving change in policy, in fashion, in tech, and in our food systems. They’re creating climate-centric comedy and music. They’re accelerating the clean energy transition. They’re leading — and winning — David-and-Goliath-esque battles against big industry. Collectively, their work shows what a vibrant, diverse climate movement looks like, and how everyone has a place in it.

On September 19th, 2023, Grist celebrated the Grist 50 with an event highlighting the personal stories and solutions of this year’s awardees. At the event, five 2023 Grist 50 honorees told personal stories of hope, perseverance, and climate action, produced in partnership with Back Pocket Media.

Presented in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative and Climate Week NYC.

Afterglow: Envisioning a Radically Different Climate Future

The stories we tell about the future have the power to shape the world we eventually create. From creative scientific solutions to climate change, to an economy built on ecological restoration, to the pursuit of right relationships in social systems and inclusive design, imagination has the power to shift what we see as possible.

Inspired by cutting-edge literary movements, such as Afrofuturism, hopepunk, and solarpunk, Afterglow imagines intersectional worlds in which no one is left behind—where humanity prioritizes equitable climate solutions. Whether through adaptation, reform, or a new understanding of survival, Afterglow offers flickers of hope, even joy, and a springboard for exploring how fiction can help create a better reality.

The SciFri Book Club from Science Friday and Looking Forward from Grist presented a live event featuring New York Times bestselling author Morgan Jerkins (This Will Be My Undoing, Wandering In Strange Lands and Caul Baby), environmental health professor and researcher Dr. Yoshira Ornelas Van Horne, Grist’s Creative Manager for Climate Fiction Tory Stephens, and artist and social movement strategist Aisha Shillingford, exploring the role that creativity and imagination play in helping society envision and achieve a just, sustainable, and inclusive world for all people.

The event also featured live readings from OBIE Award-winning writer and actor Eric Lockley (playwright, Sweet Chariot, The Public Theatre). This event is made possible thanks to sponsorship support from Marine Stewardship Council.

Turn Your Job into a Climate Career

“Green jobs” are one of the fastest growing sectors for employment globally, projected to grow 8.6% and add 114,300 jobs over the next decade according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Working to preserve the climate and environment is not just for engineers, scientists, and policy professionals. Writers, designers, filmmakers, and creative professionals from all backgrounds have a role to play in the cross-industry effort to restore ecosystems, prevent future degradation, and support adaptation to the effects of climate change.

On August 30th, Grist and Creatives for Climate joined forces to map out the green job landscape and bring insights to how professionals can creatively approach turning their job into a climate career in a live online event featuring Kristy Drutman (Founder of the Green Jobs Board as part of Brown Girl Green), Heather Fipps (Co-Founder The Hollywood Climate Summit), Wes Gobar (Executive Director of BlackOak Collective) Lucy von Sturmer (Chairwoman Creatives for Climate), and Rachel Bouton (Senior Manager, Networks and Events at Grist).

How Gulf Coast polluters game the Clean Air Act

Thousands of polluting facilities in Texas and Louisiana emit hundreds of millions of pounds of chemicals into the air every year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators are tasked with keeping these facilities in check and protecting local residents. But recent reporting from Grist highlights how companies, from petrochemical refineries on the Gulf Coast to oil and gas wells in West Texas, have devised creative ways to bypass Clean Air Act regulations.

Earlier this year, Grist reporters Naveena Sadasivam and Clay Aldern uncovered how a Koch-owned company is manipulating its operations to create a false profile of its emissions. A second Grist investigation set to publish soon will examine so-called “excess emissions,” when a company releases vast quantities of pollution during a natural disaster, if a plant unexpectedly loses power, or when a piece of complex machinery malfunctions. These emissions — which companies claim are unavoidable — inhabit a legal gray area and polluters are rarely penalized. For those living close to polluting facilities, however, the emissions, which contain a slew of carcinogens and respiratory irritants, take a toll.

Grist thanks the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University for their sponsorship of this event. The Bullard Center works to address disproportionate environmental and climate impacts and eliminate structural inequality and systemic racism. Thank you for your support of this event.

How ‘Fortress Conservation’ is Threatening Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples safeguard nearly 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity, yet scientists, governments, and NGOs continue to advocate for conservation models that remove or kill Indigenous communities. Fortress Conservation, a model of environmental protection that is based on the belief that biodiversity is best protected when isolated from human presence, remains a major facet of global conservation efforts, especially in the context of 30X30. During the 22nd session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in April, Grist Indigenous Affairs Editor Tristan Ahtone, joined by a panel of experts, journalists, and indigenous leaders, will explore the impact that fortress conservation efforts have on Indigenous populations around the world. They’ll address ways in which international actors strip Indigenous people of rights and territory, and ways in which world leaders can safeguard biodiversity without sacrificing human rights.

The conversation and reception was held in-person in the Ford Family Auditorium at the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice.

Joseph Lee is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head/Aquinnah and is a former Senior Indigenous Affairs Fellow at Grist. His work has also been published by The Guardian, High Country News, BuzzFeed News, Indian Country Today, and more. He has been a fellow at the Asian American Writers Workshop and NPR Next Generation Radio.

Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and is Editor at Large at Grist. He previously served as Editor in Chief at the Texas Observer and Indigenous Affairs editor at High Country News. He has reported for Al Jazeera America, PBS NewsHour, Indian Country Today, and NPR to name a few. Ahtone’s stories have won multiple honors, including a George Polk Award, a National Magazine Award nomination, and investigative awards from the Gannett Foundation and IRE: Investigative Reporters and Editors. A past president of the Native American Journalists Association, Ahtone is a 2017 Nieman Fellow.

Dr. Aby Sène is a Senegalese national, researcher and professor in natural resource management at Clemson University. She is a trained biodiversity conservation scientist whose work informs strategy and policy development for socially and ecologically just governance of conservation areas, natural and cultural resources in Africa and the US. Her research lies at the intersections of protected area governance, indigenous land and resource sovereignty, rural livelihoods, and community-based conservation. For over a decade, Dr. Sène has worked closely with government agencies, rural communities, and NGOs in the US and West Africa to inform and design integrated management plans for large scale conservation areas of international importance for biodiversity and socio-economic development (i.e., RAMSAR designated Wetlands; World Heritage Sites, National Parks). Dr. Sène work appears in in academic journals, technical report and reputable news outlets. She has appeared in major international news networks including MSNBC and France 24. Her writings and public appearances cover the topics of conservation issues and resource sovereignty particularly in the African context.

Andrea Carmen, Yaqui Nation, became a staff member of the International Indian Treaty Council in 1983 and its Executive Director in 1992. Andrea was IITC’s team leader for work on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in 1997 was one of two Indigenous representatives to formally address the UN General Assembly for the first time at the UN Earth Summit +5. In 2006, Andrea was selected as Rapporteur for the UN Expert Seminar on Indigenous Peoples’ Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources and their Relationship to Land”, the first Indigenous woman to serve as a Rapporteur for an UN Expert Seminar. Andrea has been an expert presenter at many UN bodies and seminars addressing a wide range of issues and in February 2019, she was selected to represent North America Indigenous Peoples on the new Facilitative Working Group for the development of the UNFCCC Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform for its first three years of operation, and in 2021 served as co-chair. She is currently a member of the IUCN Climate Crisis Commission.

Off the Rails: Chemicals, Communities, and ‘Bomb Trains’

In the wake of the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment, many who live in railroad towns are wondering what sorts of materials are being transported through their communities and whether something similar could happen to them. Many are examining the common practices, oversights, and failures that led to the derailment in East Palestine, while others are looking beyond the Ohio disaster and shining a critical light on the industries that require the use of such dangerous, often extractive, petrochemicals in the first place.

Grist hosted a conversation about “bomb trains,” and the communities put at risk by the transport of hazardous chemicals.

Katherine Lanpher, is an award winning editor, currently working as a Senior Editor at Grist. Prior to joining Grist, Katherine worked as interim editor-in-chief at High Country News, Senior Online Features Editor for Al Jazeera America in New York, and as a past host of “America Abroad,” a monthly documentary on foreign policy issues distributed by PRI/NPR, with nearly a million listeners.

John McCracken is a former Midwest Reporting Fellow for Grist and winner of a 2022 SEAL Environmental Journalism Award. He reports on industrial pollution and how climate change is impacting agriculture, culture, and rural life in the Midwest and beyond.

Justin Mikulka is a research fellow at New Consensus working on investigating the best solutions and policies to facilitate the energy transition. Justin most recently was an investigative journalist covering the finances of the energy transition and is the author of the book Bomb Trains: How Industry Greed and Regulatory Failure Put the Public at Risk. He has a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.

Yessenia Funes is an environmental journalist currently the climate director for Atmos, an independent nonprofit magazine covering climate and culture. She has also been published in The Guardian, Vogue, HuffPost, and more.


How can we build up the workforce to ‘electrify everything’?

The race to “electrify everything” is picking up. President Joe Biden’s signature climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, signed in August, contains billions of dollars to help Americans electrify their homes, buy electric vehicles, and install solar panels. Meanwhile, cities all over the country, including New York, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco are requiring that new buildings run only on electricity. To reach our climate goals the United States must prepare for a monumental increase in electricity use. The problem is, electrical contractors are already in short supply. Residential electricians are swamped with calls and struggling to find experienced people to hire. The schools tasked with training the next generation of electricians are tight on funds and short on teachers.

Grist’s Executive Editor Katherine Bagley hosted a conversation with Dr. Janell Hills; Director of Workforce Programs at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), Adewale OgunBadejo; VP of Workforce Development at GRID Alternatives, Emily Pontecorvo; Staff writer at Grist and Nathanael Johnson; electrician and former environmental journalist.

Loss, Damage, and Progress: Unpacking COP27

Last month, climate leaders from across the globe gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27). There, delegates reached a historic agreement to set up a fund for “loss and damage” to assist regions feeling the greatest impacts of the now-unavoidable effects of climate change. Other measures, however, stalled out, delivering little progress in adaptation funding or phasing out fossil fuels.

Grist CEO Nikhil Swaminathan hosted a conversation between Grist 50 Fixers Jade Begay, Climate Justice Campaign Director of NDN Collective; Moñeka de Oro, Just Transition Curriculum and Policy Fellow with Climate Justice Alliance; and Adrien Salazar, Policy Director at Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, to unpack their experiences at COP27. The event featured an engaging discussion on what it was like to be at the gathering, what was accomplished, and where COP27 fell short.

Climate Solutions From the Frontlines of Environmental Justice

As humanity tackles the threat of climate change, it must move with urgency to ensure a liveable future. At the same time, it must also protect the lives and livelihoods of those on the frontline of the crisis today — who suffer unduly from the pollution that contributes to warming, as well as the impacts of a changing climate. Leaders from frontline communities throughout the United States have worked hard to ensure a voice for their neighbors and have also developed a framework for evaluating solutions to the climate crisis that are just and equitable.

In this discussion, leaders from across the country will discuss the framework of centering equity and justice and tackling the root causes of the climate crisis as society moves away from fossil fuels, share real-life examples of how solutions that meet that framework operate on the ground, and warn of what they see as “false solutions,” which rather than benefiting vulnerable communities will ensure they remain sacrifice zones.

Law of the Land: Climate Justice on the Hill

Grist CEO Brady Walkinshaw will sit down with Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, who co-introduced the Green New Deal, for a live conversation about the fight to bring climate justice to the halls of Congress.

Growing climate justice: The recipe for a just and sustainable future

Principal of Black Futures Lab and co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, Alicia Garza; food justice activist and co-executive director of Soul Fire Farm, Leah Penniman; and Grist CEO, Brady Piñero Walkinshaw convened for a discussion on food sovereignty, climate justice, and racial justice.

Climate justice and racial justice are inextricably linked. But how can they evolve from protest rallying cry to real results for the communities most impacted by climate change and environmental harm — particularly communities of color? We heard it first from folks creating change in the world.

Sponsorship Spotlight: This conversation was brought to you in partnership with Nature’s Logic, 100% natural pet food

The Year Ahead: American Leadership on Climate

White House Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Grist CEO Brady Piñero Walkinshaw held a discussion about the Biden administration’s plans to tackle the climate crisis in 2021.

After four years of environmental rollbacks, White House climate action is entering a new chapter. But what will it look like in practice? How will the Biden administration set climate policy priorities, address environmental justice, and what needs to happen for the US to hit its ambitious net-zero emissions goal by 2050?

Sponsorship Spotlight: This conversation was brought to you in partnership with Nature’s Logic, 100% natural pet food

Climate. Justice. Solutions. Reframing the Climate Story

Grist CEO Brady Piñero Walkinshaw, Grist Executive Editor Nikhil Swaminathan, and Fix Director Lisa Garcia had a conversation about Grist’s new focus, the climate opportunity in 2021, and how stories can change the climate crisis.

Sponsorship Spotlight: This conversation was brought to you in partnership with Nature’s Logic, 100% natural pet food

The Uproot Project Launch

The Uproot Project, a new network by and for environmental journalists of color, hosted a launch event featuring a discussion with Julian Brave NoiseCat, award-winning journalist and VP of Data for Progress, and Yessenia Funes of Atmos.