Environmental Justice Summit


The Environmental Justice Summit was the capstone of the CCC's work and was hosted in-person on April 15th, 2022. The summit built upon the past 12 virtual Columbia Climate Conversations panels and focused on climate and social justice. The audience learned more about representation and inclusivity from keynote speaker, Leah Thomas, founder of the Intersectional Environmentalist platform. The audience also attended a Q&A panel featuring environmental justice community organizers, grassroots activists, and nonprofits based in New York City. Then audience members also participated in an art space, where they were encouraged to channel their environmentalist imagination into meaningful art.

Key Note Speaker

Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas is an eco-communicator, aka an environmentalist with a love for writing and creativity, based in Ventura, CA. She’s passionate about advocating for and exploring the relationship between social justice and environmentalism. She is the founder of eco-lifestyle blog @greengirlleah and The Intersectional Environmentalist Platform, which is a resource and media hub that aims to advocate for environmental justice + inclusivity within environmental education + movements.  Her articles on this topic have appeared in Vogue, Elle, The Good Trade, and Youth to the People and she has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, W Magazine, Domino, GOOP and numerous podcasts. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from Chapman University and worked for the National Park Service and Patagonia headquarters before pursuing environmentalism full time. Learn more about Leah and her mission in this BuzzFeed video. 

Environmental Justice Summit: Leah Thomas Keynote Address


The Environmental Justice in New York City panel dove deeper into the important work of various climate advocates and organizations throughout the city. Panelists discussed the links between climate change and housing injustice, resource access, poverty, the importance of bottom-up climate action, and the investigation of systemic inequity.

Daphne Frias

Daphne Frias (she/her) is a 24-year-old youth activist. She is unapologetically Latina. Daphne has Cerebral Palsy, and uses a wheelchair to ambulate. She is fiercely proud to be a loud champion for the disabled community. Born and raised in West Harlem, NYC, she has seen how minority communities are disproportionately affected by climate change. Her passion for advocacy, propelled her to run from county committee women of Assembly District 70, Election District 80 in West Harlem. In June 2019, Daphne won her election and continues to work hard to represent her constituents. She was appointed as one of the North American Regional Focal Points for Sustainable Development Goal 16 at the U.N. Major Group for Children and Youth. In this position, She works to highlight and represent the voice of her fellow youth and the work they are doing to become pivotal peacemakers.  Currently, she continues to stay passionate about creating change, as a freelance organizer. She spends her time speaking at various colleges, summits, and panels. In addition, she consults with non-profits, crafting engaging campaigns highlighting the voices of Gen-Z.

Whitney Mcguire

Whitney McGuire. Esq. (she/her/hers) is a mother, a New York state licensed attorney, legal and sustainability consultant & strategist, and co-founder of Sustainable Brooklyn, an organization that disrupts the whitewashing of sustainability in order to concretize equity in the sustainability movement. Whitney is a pioneer in the field of fashion law and a fierce advocate for the sustainability of communities first and most impacted by environmental and social degradation due to the climate crisis. In 2013, after graduating from the Catholic University of America - Columbus School of Law, Whitney opened her own law firm to support the sustainability of marginalized artists. Whitney completed a federal clerkship in 2017 and joined The Fashion Law Group as a contract attorney and eventually, of counsel before exiting to begin consulting and advising artists and art institutions on hybrid legal, business, sustainability, and equity issues. 

Jasmine Graham

Jasmine Graham is the Energy Justice Policy Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, responsible for strengthening and advancing the organization’s energy policies. She joined from Sustainable Westchester, where she served as the Westchester Power Program Manager and developed initiatives to create and promote local renewable generation and community-scale efficiency. Prior to that, she was a Legislative Researcher at the University of Vermont’s VT Legislative Research Service, synthesizing economic and social policy issues and publishing legislative research reports.

Jasmine is a Founding Member of the Trust for Public Land’s Next Gen Steering Committee. She also served as the Founding Political Chair of the Women of Color Coalition at the University of Vermont, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Environmental Policy and Development.

Image of one of the panelist speaking, in a table of 4 people including host

Creative Workshop and Mixer

The summit concluded with a creative workshop and mixer for the audience. The audience engaged with each other, panelist, and faculty in an informal setting after the panel and enjoyed freshments and snacks. Participants also had an opportunity to reflect on the knowledge shared throughout the afternoon and explored their relationships with climate, activism, and the natural world through arts and crafts.

Image of audience members painting arts and crafts