On Thursday, September 13th in San Francisco, California, the night was alive with stories that put human faces on the push for clean, renewable energy solutions. In partnership with our friends at the Sierra Club, Seventh Generation co-hosted Generation Ready: an amazing evening of stories to amplify and grow Ready for 100: a revolutionary, grassroots campaign inspiring cities across the country to commit to 100% clean, renewable energy. This incredible gathering of climate activists took place around this year’s Global Climate Action Summit – a 3-day event attended by over 4,000 global mayors, governors, ministers of the environment, civil society organizations, entrepreneurs, CEOs and activists, all dedicated to raising the bar on climate action.
Seventh Generation CEO, Joey Bergstein, and Sierra Club Ready for 100 Director, Jodie Van Horn, opened the night with an affirmation of our joint commitment to a clean-energy future.
The evening’s emcee was comedian and storyteller Vijai Nathan.
The evening’s storytellers brought a wide array of perspectives from a diverse range of backgrounds. They made us laugh. They made us think. They opened up windows through which we could almost see a cleaner, healthier future. We hung on their every word.
Let’s meet them (in the order in which they spoke):
Abita Springs, Louisiana Mayor Greg Lemons is a highly-decorated Army veteran, and his family has lived in Abita Springs for four generations. Mayor Lemons has taken a stand to end fracking in his city and is committed to bringing 100% renewable energy by 2035. Mayor Lemons brought humor and humility to his story, acknowledging that he comes from “an oil and gas state” and that, as a boy, he was in favor of more oil and gas production. But through research, and through meeting families who’d been negatively affected by fracking, he realized he had to do something. “We can’t live off of fossil fuels forever,” he said. “We’ve got to come up with some kind of solution. And we have to start soon.”
Jackie Biskupski was Utah’s first openly-gay elected official and has been the mayor of Salt Lake City since 2016. She’s been a bold leader on renewable energy and has fought for an ambitious timeline to make Salt Lake City 100% renewable by 2032. Mayor Biskupski credits becoming a parent (when she adopted a son in 2010) with helping her see the need for changes in energy policy. “We’ve got to set the example,” she said. Noting recent, exciting progress Salt Lake City has already made, she said “we have 16 buildings with solar panels on top of them. And we have three buildings that are net-zero energy consumption.” She also touted a strong partnership with Rocky Mountain Power, which will allow the work to be replicated and grow far into the future.
Haven Coleman is, quite simply, an inspiration. Having started her climate activism journey when she was only 10-years-old, Haven has been pivotal in shaping public conversation around air quality, climate change urgency, coal plant retirement, renewable energy, and gun violence. “My story,” she began with a nervous smile, “starts with sloths. They are my favorite animal. They’re also endangered.” After learning about Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, Haven got involved and immersed herself in the effects of climate change, as well as potential solutions. She used the information she learned to teach other kids about how climate change is affecting us. “I want a livable future for me, for you, and for everyone. And, of course, the sloths.”
Larry Atencio has lived in Pueblo, Colorado his whole life and is proud to be a City Councilman there. Based on his own upbringing in a low-income neighborhood, he has taken a particular interest in fighting for energy justice for his city’s most vulnerable citizens. He is fighting to make Pueblo 100% renewable by 2035. “Coming from a low-income neighborhood,” he said, “my work consists of trying to relieve the financial burden of the people I grew up with. I knew the struggles that they had.” Connecting this passion back to climate justice, Atencio added, “if we lower the pollution rates, and the cost of electric power is coming down because of solar,” then things can bet better for those who need it most.
Reverend Leo Woodberry has distinguished himself as an environmental justice leader for over twenty years. He’s a lead organizer for the 2018 Justice First Tour, and is the Environmental Justice Chair for Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 Campaign. Reverend Woodberry spoke passionately and eloquently about how experiencing discrimination first hand in his life has helped inspire him to make things better. And when he learned about polluted waterways and air pollution due to climate change, he found that environmental justice was a powerful way to stand up for vulnerable people. “Why do I fight for environmental justice?” he asked. “Because I remember as a child hearing my grandmother talk about how someone died because the white ambulance came before the black ambulance came.”
The evening’s stories were powerful and inspiring reminders that the effects of climate change don’t live on a spreadsheet. They live in our cities and communities—in our homes, apartments, and dorm rooms. In the waterways where we swim. In the forests where we explore. On the playgrounds and ballfields where our children play. In the very air we breathe.
We left Generation Ready energized to do even more on behalf of a clean-energy future. The stakes are high, and the time is now for making real changes in our energy use that can make a huge difference to the health of ourselves, our planet—and our children. Now, and for generations to come.
You can make a difference, too. Join us, and the over 80 other U.S. cities that have taken the clean-energy pledge. Tell your local leaders that you and your city are ready for 100% renewable energy.
Missed our live stream of the event? Catch up below!