Earth Day weekend kicks off today with the Climate Solutions Summit at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
The annual event, organized by Climate Solutions Accelerator of the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region, seeks to educate participants on their understanding of regenerative economy principles and develop ideas for regenerative systems for food, housing, agriculture, workforce development and finance, while building skills in climate action, advocacy, organizing and leadership.
“Participants will have the unique opportunity to participate in a communitywide conversation about what it will take to transition from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy in the Genesee-Finger Lakes region,” says Abby McHugh-Grifa, executive director of the Climate Solutions Accelerator. “Together, we will learn, strategize and advocate for actions that transform our region’s ‘business-as-usual’ practices for the benefit of both people and the planet.”
The Climate Solutions Accelerator began in the weeks leading up to the 2014 People’s Climate March and had a nonpartisan focus on addressing climate change in the nine-county Genesee-Finger Lakes region. Since then, the group has helped towns pass Community Choice Aggregation, supported renewable energy development, land usage, a multimodal regional transportation system, and sustainable home cooling and heating, among other efforts.
In 2019, the accelerator also was awarded the Seneca Park Zoo’s Environmental Innovation Award.
“Our northstar is about inclusion and acting as citizens to come together to find solutions that protect everyone,” says Andrea McLean, public engagement coordinator for Climate Solutions Accelerator.
The first day of the summit is focused on leaders and organizations in the area and how regenerative economy principles actually look in practice. Included are keynote presentations by Frederic Laloux, author of “Reinventing Organizations” and co-founder of the nonprofit The Week, and Amanda Janoo, Economics & Policy Lead at Wellbeing Economy Alliance.
The second day, subtitled “Citizens in Action,” will focus on community action and is open to the public. A highlight will be the Regenerative Economy Career and Opportunities Fair, which aims to connect the public with local businesses, nonprofits and community groups on products, services, job openings, and volunteer and advocacy opportunities that advance a regenerative economy.
One such organization in the fair is Color Rochester Green, the 11th offshoot of the accelerator’s Color Your Community Green efforts. CYCG organizations identify locally-relevant climate issues and advocate for environmental justice and equitable solutions at the municipal level using the CYCG “Toolkit.”
“(With CYCG), we’re not reinventing the wheel. It’s a way to come together and share with each other, ‘This worked for us,’” says McLean.
While there are already CYCG organizations across the Finger Lakes, including in towns like Brighton and Irondequoit, McLean is especially excited that the city of Rochester now has a branch. Climate change often has the largest impact on people with the least resources or power and can accelerate injustices or inequalities, reports show.
For example, McLean recalls how the extreme snowstorms this year in Buffalo affected a friend with mobility issues. Without neighbors looking out for this friend, she could have easily been snowed in for days with no relief coming from official channels.
“I am BIPOC, I live in what’s considered a disadvantaged neighborhood, I have neighbors who are climate refugees, I know how devastating the effects (of climate change) can be,” says McLean. “Rochester is diverse and we want to include (the) vulnerable population to make solutions as equitable as possible.”
Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].