Connecting the Dots Between Social Justice and Climate Change

The NC Climate Justice Summit (NCCJS) was designed to be the first statewide gathering of youth and adult community leaders focused on connecting the dots between social justice issues and climate change. Created by a team of 10 adults and 14 high school student leaders, the retreat-like event was held at the Haw River State Park in Browns Summit, NC. Adults were treated to the park’s hotel style accommodations for the weekend while students and chaperones camped out in cabins nestled in the woods of the park.

The event took place on November 23, 2014 to a sold out group of over 200 North Carolinians. This year’s summit was incredibly diverse with 58% of those participants being ethnic minorities, and 48% under the age of 18. Over 50% of our participants came from rural areas of our state and about 90% attended at no cost or paid a discounted registration with the aid of our multiple sponsors.

Guided by the 4 “R”s, we experienced NCCJS in four stages: Re-imagine. Resist. Reform. Re-Create. Participants were grounded in the science behind climate change by a kick-off with the ACE assembly. In several student-led workshops, we explored how climate change impacts our food, water, energy, housing, transportation, health and economy in NC. But the NCCJS was designed to be more holistic than your average conference. We created a safe space where each person could gain the tools required to be/remain whole and healthy while on this journey to climate justice in NC. Facilitators from across the state led collaborative sessions on racial equity, advocacy, inner resilience and climate resilience. One of the many highlights from the weekend was the keynote speaker: Jacqui Patterson, Director of the NAACP's Environmental and Climate Justice Program.

The summit was an opportunity to bring together our heads, hands and hearts to meet the biggest challenge of our times. It was a space for deep dialogue, experiential learning, and creativity. Ultimately, it was a gathering that harnessed the strength of our diversity led by the understanding that we are all thought leaders with a crucial contribution to make in answering key questions. Questions like: How do we manifest climate justice in North Carolina? How can we make all of our communities more resilient?


Together, we named the problems we face as North Carolinians and identified emerging solutions. Together, we built new community connections and skills that will support us to do the work of building the world we want to live in.