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DATE: July 27, 2004
Jihan Gearon, Redefining Progress, 510-444-3041
Melissa Haynes, Redefining Progress, 510-444-3041


For the Second Year, Summer Corps Fights for Communities Impacted by Climate Change

Oakland, Calif.—The Climate Justice Corps, a group of young activists ages 18 to 28, who have been chosen by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, are working with communities impacted by climate change and its sources to fight against the political and industrial causes of climate change. Following the success of last year's original class, the Climate Justice Corps has expanded to include 12 Corps members and several new sites across the country.

While our leaders discuss and debate how to slow climate change, communities around the country are suffering its byproducts and impacts right now. In Oakland, CA thousands of diesel trucks travel to and from the port of Oakland everyday. The trucks idle for hours in the neighborhood of West Oakland, not only contributing carbon emissions to the atmosphere, but also releasing toxic pollutants that add to the already high rates of asthma and other health problems in the community. The increase in temperature that climate change brings will, in turn, exacerbate these effects. Zuri Maunder, a member of the Climate Justice Corps, is working with the Coalition for West Oakland Revitalization this summer to fight these very problems.

Across the country in Bemidji, MN Native American communities realize that as climate change transforms their environment, it endangers their culture, which has developed through interaction with their surrounding environment over thousands of years. "Climate change affects our Indigenous communities in profound ways," points out Sammie Ardito, a Climate Justice Corps member who is working with the Indigenous Environmental Network in Bemidji this summer. "We are already severely impacted by over five hundred years of colonization and destruction. We are intimately tied with the land and as such even the subtlest disturbances will disrupt our ways of life. Climate change will make worse what is already severely distressed. These impacts are akin to genocide."

And as is all too familiar, these communities are habitually excluded from the political process explains Roberto Nutlouis, a Climate Justice Corps member working with the Black Mesa Water Coalition in his home in the Navajo Nation this summer. "It is important to shed light on the unjust politics of climate change. People who contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions; Indigenous peoples, people of color, and disempowered communities, are the first to be impacted."

Eva Del Rio, a Climate Justice Corps member working with the Southwest Network for Economic and Environmental Justice in her hometown of Albuquerque, NM this summer, describes the need for impacted communities to be included in deciding responses to climate change. ".Environmental justice can only be realized when people in those communities speak for themselves in holding government agencies and mainstream environmental groups accountable."

Eli Yewdall, a young activist who is working in Washington, DC this summer agrees. "Breaking the political deadlock that is stopping effective action against climate change will require the creation of a grassroots movement that includes people of color and is based in the struggles people face every day in their communities. As young leaders in the Climate Justice Corps we're helping build that movement." This summer, the Corps is working on a variety of projects including an educational tour across the Navajo Nation in Arizona; conducting surveys about the local impacts of climate change on the elderly in Harlem, NY; promoting the Energy Independence Day Campaign, which partners cities throughout the US with Native American tribes that want to supply wind energy; and developing regional environmental and climate justice conferences in both New Orleans, LA and San Antonio, TX.

All of this year's Corps members will work to integrate and build up climate justice and climate change concepts into the work of their host organizations. They will create networks and strengthen existing alliances between different organizations around the topic of climate justice. They will work to make connections between the local concerns of their communities and the broader issues of climate justice and environmental justice. Perhaps most importantly, the Corps will develop as young activists and leaders who can continue their work with a stronger foundation in environmental justice.

Says Steven Waddy, a Corps member who is working in Atlanta, Georgia this summer, "the Climate Corp is preparing me to be one of the leaders in environmental justice and has provided a support network of other young people who are dedicated to reversing the negative trends of environmental policy in America. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I hope to build another Corps group of youth here in Atlanta."

The 2004 Climate Justice Corps is:

  • Sammie Ardito - Indigenous Environmental Network, Bemidji, MN
  • Thomas John Bell, III - West Harlem Environmental Action, New York, NY
  • Brittany Cochran - Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, New Orleans, LA
  • Eva Del Rio - Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Albuquerque, NM
  • Pam Graybeal - Intertribal Council on Utility Policy and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, Berkeley, CA
  • Eli Martinez - Southwest Workers Union, San Antonio, TX
  • Zuri Maunder - Coalition for West Oakland Revitalization, Oakland, CA
  • Roberto Nutlouis - Black Mesa Water Coalition, Navajo Nation, AZ
  • John Shimek - Southwest Workers Union, San Antonio, TX
  • Steven Waddy - Benjamin E. Mays Foundation, Atlanta, GA
  • Eli Yewdall - Just Transition Alliance, Washington, DC
  • Lei Zhan - Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco, CA

For more information on projects, and for complete biographies of the Climate Justice Corps, please visit

The Climate Justice Corps is a project of the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative, a group of environmental and social justice leaders organized to bring visibility to the disproportionate impacts of climate change on their communities, and to fight climate change at its source. The United States is the largest contributor of the gases that cause climate change, contributing approximately one-quarter of global emissions.

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