Meet some of the delegates of the U.S. People’s Delegation.



Indigenous Environmental Network

Dallas Goldtooth

(Mdewakanton Dakota and Dine) is the National Keep It In The Ground Campaign Organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network and a co-founder of the 1491s comedy group. He is Mdewakantunwan Dakota from the village of Cansayapi in Dakota territory. He is a digital media producer, a nationally-known public speaker, activist, performer and event emcee. Dallas has traveled across Turtle Island aka North America sharing story, entertainment and knowledge.

Kandi Mossett

(Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara) was born and raised on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota and has emerged as a leading voice in the fight to bring visibility to the impacts that climate change and environmental injustices are having on Indigenous communities across North America.  After completing her Master’s Degree in Environmental Management, Mossett began her work with the Indigenous Environmental Network as the Tribal Campus Climate Challenge Coordinator, engaging with more than 30 tribal colleges to instate community based environmental programs, discuss issues of socio-ecologic injustice, and connect indigenous youth with green jobs.  She currently serves as IEN’s Native Energy & Climate Campaign Organizer, focusing at present on creating awareness about the environmentally & socially devastating effects of hydraulic fracturing on tribal lands.

Tom Goldtooth:

Since the late 1980’s, Tom has been involved with environmental related issues and programs working within tribal governments in developing indigenous-based environmental protection infrastructures. Tom works with indigenous peoples worldwide and is known as one of the environmental justice movement grassroots leaders in North America addressing toxics and health, mining, energy, climate, water, globalization, sustainable development and indigenous rights issues. Tom is one of the founders of the Durban Group for Climate Justice; co-founder of Climate Justice NOW!; a co-founder of the U.S. based Environmental Justice Climate Change initiative and a member of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change. Tom is a policy adviser to indigenous communities on environmental protection and more recently on climate policy focusing on mitigation, adaptation and concerns of false solutions.

Alberto Salamando:

Alberto Saldamando, (Chicano/Zapoteca) has a BA and JD from the University of Arizona and is admitted to the practice of law California (retired status, Arizona Bar). He served as General Counsel to the International Indian Treaty Council for 18 years and now works with the Indigenous Environmental Network as international counsel on climate change issues. He has served in many organizational and representational capacities before various and varied form at
the United Nations and Organization of American States, having been an active participant in the negotiations leading up to the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the first mandate for the now Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Isabella Zizi:

Isabella Zizi is 23 years old, and member of the Northern Cheyenne, Arikara, and Muskogee

Creek tribes. Zizi and her family has resided in Richmond, Ca for over 40 years and has served the Native community profoundly with bringing the first ever Native American Health Center and pow-wow to her city. As the youngest member of Idle No More SF Bay since 2014, she’s helped organize refinery healing walks; Indigenous led prayer walks, one walk a month from April to July all along the refinery towns on the East Bay of San Francisco from 2014 to 2017, this includes Shell, Tesoro, Conoco Phillips 66, Valero, and the Chevron refineries.


Heather Milton Lightening

Heather Milton-Lightening has seventeen years of organizing experience from local issues to international campaigns. Heather was a founding member of Native Youth Movement based in Winnipeg, MB in 1995. She helped found Winnipeg’s first Native youth organization called Aboriginal Youth Initiative, Inc. Heather then went on to found and build a national Native youth network that supported Native youth organizing across the US and Canada with the Indigenous Environmental Network. She was a former member of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Youth Advisory and has extensive experience in lobbying internationally through the United Nations and other International arenas on Indigenous Peoples issues. Heather’s work since then has been to build capacity and find resources that help local Native communities. She currently is a Co-Director of the Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign and is currently is working on a contractual basis with many different organizations doing trainings, facilitating and support work for Native communities.


Grassroots Global Justice and the Climate Justice Alliance


Kali Akuno

Kali Akuno is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson.  Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city.  Kali also served as the Co-Director of the US Human Rights Network, the Executive Director of the Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) based in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. And was a co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, California.

Monica Atkins

Monica Atkins is a Chicago native and graduate of Jackson State University where she completed a Bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in Journalism. A poet, activist, and member of Cooperation Jackson in Jackson, MS, Atkins has shown leadership in engaging public service workers around just transition, civil, human, and workers rights.  For the past 10 years, Atkins has organized social, cultural events and actions including Art, Poetry, and Justice Slam, Freedom Summer March, and March on Mississippi. Atkins has worked for several labor organizations including United Auto Workers, American Federation of Teachers, and Communication Workers of America. Atkins is currently the Just Transition Organizer  for the Climate Justice Alliance.

Katia Avilés-Vázquez

Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica de Puerto Rico

Katia Aviles has worked for the past 25 years seeking and organizing alternative participatory methods for under represented communities. Her work expands upon her activism in the US for visibility of Latino populations.  She has a doctorate in Cultural and Political Ecology and has worked for almost a decade on the intersection between science and political activism with grassroots community leaders and farmers.  She is a member of Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica, PR Chapter of La Vía Campesina, and currently working on Post-hurricane Maria self-recovery efforts.


Our Children’s Trust

Kiran Oommen

“Our government refuses to protect our basic rights to life. If those we have put in power aren’t protecting our necessities, what purpose are they serving?”

Kiran is a community organizer, musician and professional dog walker, studying sociology and cello performance at Seattle University. He organizes with many groups in Seattle, including the Neighborhood Action Coalition and Seattle U’s direct action club. Geophagia is Kiran’s folk punk duo, and they sing about the benefits of gardening and the problems with society in living rooms, at protests, or in the park if it isn’t raining.



Learn more about them here. 


Varshini Prakash

Varshini was born and raised outside Boston, MA. She got involved in the climate movement as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She joined the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign early in her time at UMass and lead the campaign for two years. In Spring 2016, the campaign won after a 2 week long mass escalation in which over 700 students, faculty, and alumni participated. 32 were arrested after peacefully refusing to leave the until UMass agreed to climate action. For the last three years, she has coordinated fossil fuel divestment campaigns with the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network at a regional and national level. She supported campaigns across the country through training, mentorship, and strategic guidance.

This Spring, Varshini supported the launch of Sunrise, a movement building an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. She is the Lead Spokeswoman and coordinates Actions Design. In her free time, Varshini loves dancing, reading as much fiction as possible, watching HGTV about tiny houses, and playing sports.


Karina Gonzalez

Karina is a xicana born to Mexican-indigenous parents. Raised in LA’s, San Fernando Valley, she found her passion for environmental justice experiencing the first-hand effects of environmental racism in LA and directly witnessing the effects of climate change in her family’s hometown in Michoacan, Mexico.

Karina is a first-generation student; the first in her family to attend kindergarten. Karina graduated with Honors from the University of Arizona in 2015 with a BA in Environmental Studies; soon after attending Northern Arizona University to pursue a Masters of Forestry. Karina got her start in the climate movement while working for GreenPeace USA. Holding several roles within the organization, including but not limited to: canvasser, campaigner, and opposition researcher. Karina has also worked on various environmental efforts on her campuses, such as: conserving endemic flora and fauna, educating children about earth science, and organizing fossil fuel divestment campaigns.

Karina was a recipient of the 2016 Brower Youth Award, the leading national environmental award for youth, as well as the recipient of the 2016 Northern Arizona University Sustainability Award, the 2015 SBS Excellence in Community Engagement Award, the 2015 SBS Excellence in Leadership Award among other awards. Her work has been featured on PBS, Democracy Now!, Earth Island Journal, the Arizona Daily Sun, Grist, and other news sources. Karina has been with SustainUS since late 2013; holding several positions including but not limited to, Agents of Change Coordinator, Steering Committee Secretary, and Board of Directors Secretary. She is currently a member of the Coordinating Body and a COP23 Delegation Leader. When she isn’t organizing Karina can be found, reading about political and social movements, hiking in the mountains, in a nearby pub watching rugby, or enjoying British comedies.


Andrea Schmid

Andrea recently graduated from Smith College with a degree in Environmental Science and Policy and a minor in Government. Four years committed to studying social-ecological systems and the importance of intersectionality in environmental problem solving had an enormous influence on her, and confirmed that she would make contributing to the environmental justice movement her life’s work, but it’s not where her sense of identity in the field began. Growing up in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and Miami, Florida, she was a part of two communities where migration, displacement, vulnerability, and profound inequality were deeply rooted forces that molded their realities. In many ways, Andrea’s story and identity are a product of the intersections between climate change, socio-economic inequality and the globalized forces that shape the relationship between Central America and the United States.

As a researcher, Andrea has studied the effects of foreign aid on small scale farmers facing drought in Honduras and designed a permeable pavement parking lot at Smith college for stormwater management research. As a storyteller, she makes podcasts on all matters climate justice. She hopes to refine this passion more now that she is out of the shadow of academia! Currently, she is a consultant for a nonprofit in Northampton, MA and works on implementation and outreach of state-sponsored food access initiatives to make local agriculture accessible for folks on SNAP. She is extremely excited to be a part of the COP23 delegation and looks forward to contributing to SustainUS’s mission in advancing justice and sustainability, with all that she can offer.


Eva Malis

Eva grew up in southern California and spent the most recent years of her life studying environmental science at UC Berkeley. There, she delved into youth activism and student organizing in a number of social and environmental justice campaigns. She was the core organizer of 2016’s Power Shift West Convergence and did her undergraduate thesis on wetland restoration in the San Francisco Bay. In her time as a student, she installed the first recycling and composting system in UC Berkeley’s dormitories and worked as an outreach coordinator for the Students Against Fracking Campaign. She co-founded the Students of Color Environmental Collective, organized with the California Student Sustainability Coalition, and won the Udall scholarship for environmental stewardship. Her passion lies in the overlap of racial and environmental justice, and she has deeply explored intersectional movement-building, environmental communications, and restoration ecology.

Eva is a creative writer, journalist, poet, and artist. Her work is rooted in the power of storytelling and building community. She fell in love with the red rocks and rivers of the Colorado Plateau as a participant in the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at NAU, which inspired her move to Flagstaff, AZ. Now, she works at the Grand Canyon Trust as the Uplift Coordinator, organizing an annual climate conference for young people on the Colorado Plateau.

Dineen O’Rourke

Dineen attributes her love for the world and her motivation to act to the Northeast: the Atlantic shores of Eastern Long Island, pine tree forests and lakes of Midcoast Maine, and the green hills and valleys of Western Massachusetts. She is a community organizer, mobilizer, educator, musician, and a friend. Dineen is a recent graduate of Hampshire College, having just completed a thesis on youth engagement in the UNFCCC following her participation in the SustainUS COP22 Delegation. Throughout college, she feels her most valuable learning came from outside of the classroom, and spent all of her four years actively engaged in the local and regional resistance against fracked gas pipelines: Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct (completely defeated!) and the Connecticut Expansion (still fighting today). She co-founded the Sugar Shack Alliance, a nonviolent direct action organization that’s since trained hundreds of activists in the Western Massachusetts region and built an ever-growing strategic and passionate movement in the process. Her work in defeating a multi-billion dollar pipeline has forever instilled a deeply-rooted sense of hope in her heart, knowing that grassroots movements will bring about the level of change our planet and society so desperately require.

As one of the two leaders for the COP23 Delegation, as well as this year’s Delegations Coordinator for SustainUS, Dineen is humbly eager to continue SustainUS’s legacy of providing a powerful international platform for young people to advocate for justice and strengthen cross-national youth movements, all while bringing skills and deeply-bonded relationships back home.


Michael Charles

Michael has developed a love for the world through many years of exploring Mother Earth’s beauty, respecting her gifts, and interacting with cultures across the globe. Hailing from the Southwest, Michael’s family is from both the Navajo reservation in northeast Arizona and also northern Colorado, where his parents currently live. Out of high school, Michael moved to Ithaca, New York to attend Cornell University, studying chemical engineering with a minor in music. At Cornell, he developed a strong sense of his own cultural identity, a passion for serving underrepresented students in the STEM fields, and began questioning how sustainability issues affect different communities. His research interests transitioned from biomedical research towards sustainability within the scope of engineering.

Currently, Michael is a chemical engineering Ph.D. student at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. His research explores how ecological systems can be included into technological design to expand the boundaries of traditional engineering and find innovative solutions that promote sustainability without jeopardizing economic competitiveness. This research interest is a result of searching for an intersection between indigenous cultures and engineering. For the past five years, he has worked with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and has organized multiple conferences, many with themes based on sustainability. Michael hopes to use his research and organizational actions to increase indigenous representation within the climate justice movement as well as within higher education. He is extremely excited to work with SustainUS and bring his story to COP23.


Maia Wikler

Maia grew up in Philadelphia, where the impacts of pollution and environmental degradation were directly tangible. From a young age, Maia cherished moments in the outdoors and developed a special appreciation for conserving the beauty of precious ecosystems. Her love for the outdoors inspired a move to Colorado, where she graduated from Colorado College with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. Her undergraduate thesis focused on cross-cultural communication as a civic skill for cross-cultural alliances in Indigenous rights movements. Her advocacy for indigenous and human rights, cultural preservation, environmental stewardship, and community engagement has culminated in various organizing, academic, and community involvements. While working in Washington D.C, at the Office of Native Affairs for the ACHP, Maia developed and proposed a Native youth program in sacred landscape preservation as a part of UNDRIP and Generation Indigenous initiatives. Last year, Maia was one of the organizers for Uplift, a SHiFT youth-award winning conference and movement to empower youth leadership in climate action on the Colorado Plateau. Maia founded and currently organizes a film series in Vancouver called ‘350 Films for Justice,’ she is also an Assistant Director for Community Eats, a food waste and local community lunch initiative. Maia is working on her Master’s degree in Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC with a focus on land-based trauma and community healing from forced displacements due to mega resource development projects, climate change and environmental degradation. Maia is humbled and honored to bring together the power of youth, storytelling, and advocacy for human and environmental rights at COP23 with the SustainUS delegation.


Charlie Jiang

Charlie grew up first-generation American born Chinese amidst the urban greenscapes of Hyde Park, Chicago. He found a passion for climate justice as an undergrad at Stanford: connecting the dots between Shell’s shameless pursuit of oil in the Arctic seas off Alaska, the deadly ravages of heat waves, floods, and wildfires from Indonesia to California, and the racial disparities in environmental protection in his own corner of Chicago’s South Side. Charlie quickly began organizing for oil and gas divestment with Fossil Free Stanford, and for sustainability and environmental justice with Students for a Sustainable Stanford.

After graduation, Charlie moved to Washington, D.C. to work with the Environmental Defense Fund on promoting equity in U.S. climate and energy policy. Meanwhile, as an organizer for local climate justice group 350 DC and the Sunrise Movement, Charlie is fighting to pressure the D.C. government to divest from Wells Fargo to help #DefundPipelines, stop a fracked-gas pipeline that threatens D.C.’s water supply, and achieve ambitious policies to secure climate justice and a just clean energy transition in the District and across the country. An avid writer and photographer with a love of law, policy, and systems analysis, Charlie aims to build a richer, stronger movement for climate action that strives for racial and economic justice for all. Charlie is honored and excited to bring powerful stories, ideas, and action to COP 23 with SustainUS.


Michaela Mujica-Steiner

Michaela is an organizer and dancer in a process of personal and collective healing. She grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and first became involved with organizing in college through her work on two fossil fuel divestment campaigns at Fort Lewis College and Northern Arizona University. The highlight of her college experience was coordinating a five day sit-in for fossil fuel divestment, which mobilized hundreds of students on her campus, put effective pressure on the college President, and landed her and another leader on Democracy Now! Throughout college, Michaela was also engaged with, from being a fellow in the Fossil Free Fellowship to being a mentor in their Training Corp Program. She has played multiple roles in the Divestment Student Network, including being the co-founder of the Southwest Divestment Network as a regional organizer and being on the Long-term Strategy Team, helping to determine the long-term trajectory of the organization. After graduating from college this past May, she worked for 350 Action as the Colorado Statewide Organizer, working on ballot initiatives to prevent fracking in Colorado and working on Get Out the Vote during the election. Her most recent work was with Earth Guardians as the Global Director of Leadership Development, where she trained, mentored, and supported hundreds of youth around the world to build power and create change. She continues to be active, fighting the political arm of the fossil fuel industry in her home state of Colorado with the Sunrise Movement, a movement of young people to stop climate change an urgent priority and create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. In her free time, Michaela enjoys going out with friends, free form dance, cooking dinner with her housemates, and being outdoors in the beautiful Rocky Mountains by her house.


Morissa Zuckerman

Morissa grew up in Oakland, CA, where she attended her first protest as a third grader toting handmade anti-war signs. She began organizing for divestment as a student at Pitzer College, where she helped lead a successful divestment campaign. From there she joined the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network and worked as a regional fundraising coordinator and then Development Director, and coordinated the People’s Climate March Youth Convening this past April. She is now organizing with Sunrise Movement, building a movement of young people to make climate change an urgent political priority, create millions of good jobs, and elect climate leaders who will stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people. She just launched a local Sunrise hub in the Bay Area.

She has also focused on faith-based activism, studying the role of religious leaders in the climate movement and organizing with IfNotNow, a group of young Jews working to end the American Jewish community’s support of the occupation and fighting for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians. She spends her free time cooking, reading, taking photos, and exploring in nature.


Katherine Bean Crane

Bean sees the world through many lenses – urbanist, artist, permaculturalist, social entrepreneur, queer feminist, amateur ethnographer, and more ever-changing perspectives. Her white and middle class lenses have set her on a lifelong task of deep listening and trying to use her privilege to empower others. Her anti-corporate lenses lead her to gather and spread knowledge about self-reliance (how to make, grow and trade what you need) while always aiming to bring individuals into collectives. Her storytelling lenses overlay them all – how to create multimedia stories (podcasts, videos, writing, art) in a way that enables unheard voices to shape their own narrative, stories that encourage the audience to take positive action, stories that show visions of societal change. She was born in the woods of Western Massachusetts with the name Katherine but somehow became Bean as a baby through a mysterious nickname evolution.

At Dartmouth College Bean studied Environmental Studies and Human Centred Design with the grand plan of applying these two frameworks to urban planning – enabling citizens to call the shots when it comes to their neighbourhood’s sustainable ‘development’. She came to believe that cities are the garden beds of systemic change during urban planning internships in New York and San Francisco, working on a community resilience strategic plan and a neighbourhood sustainability action program. Amidst the affordability crisis in these cities she realised that urban improvements will only contribute to gentrification if they are not accompanied by systemic change. This quest for bottom-up change lead her to Detroit, where her collaborators doing environmental justice work (shoutout to EMEAC) changed her outlook on gentrification prevention, the whiteness of environmentalism, and the importance of true grassroots organising. She took these learnings back to campus where she worked as the Social Justice Intern for the Sustainability Office, planning events and exhibits to highlight the intersection of social and racial justice with environmentalism. She also spent 3 of her college years co-founding a social enterprise called ArtxChange Marketplace, an online platform for nonprofits and artists to partner in mutually beneficial art auctions. Along the way she grew a love for creative direct actions, making podcasts and videos, and attempting various DIY projects.

After graduation in 2016 she spent a year in Australia on a fellowship to study community resilience. This started with ethnographic research on communal housing models and turned into a project called Re-Everything, a digital storytelling series about local approaches to systems change ( Now that she is back in the US she hopes to continue collecting stories about local grassroots action, growing food and community, and contributing to the climate justice movement on the homefront until COP23.

Amelia Diehl

Amelia is a vegan, queer, feminist, musician and artist, and most recently a farmer, hailing from the Great Lakes region. Born in Chicago, she grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and spent most summers on Lake Huron. This grounding in place and water has inspired her to explore the complex meanings of what it means to wade through and reflect on the water we are living in now, to confront and live the unprecedented challenges and opportunities of climatic change.

She recently graduated from Beloit College in Wisconsin with a dual degree in Literary Arts and Environmental Communication and Arts, determined to keep learning outside of formal contexts and committed to building climate justice. In spring 2016, she was fortunate to have the opportunity to study the role of community art in disaster recovery in Christchurch, New Zealand. While in college, Amelia wrote and edited for her campus newspaper and has worked as Communications Coordinator for the Unitarian Universalist Young Adults for Climate Justice Network. As someone with white and middle class privilege, she believes in deep listening as an act of love, and the power of storytelling to bear witness and lift accountability to ourselves and our surroundings.

Raised Quaker, Amelia became Unitarian Universalist in high school and found an urgency in interfaith organizing. While leading an interfaith community task force fighting for incarceration justice, she was inspired her to find connections between climate justice and other social justice movements, such as fossil fuel (and prison) abolition. She is a recipient of the Beloit College Weissberg Human Rights Grant and is trained as a dialogue facilitator. She is also passionate about intentional communities, informal anti-capitalist economies and biking.

Holding that questions are often more important than answers, she greets the despair and uncertainty of her personal and our collective future by walking and listening. In October, she will be walking from Paris to Bonn as a symbolic, literal and spiritual act of moving towards progress at COP23, embodying her role as witness to the planet’s precarity and possibility.


Kyle Lemle

Kyle is a community forester, with experience working for international and grassroots NGOs on participatory natural resource management projects across the Himalayas, Southeast Asia and California. Working with forest communities around the world, he has witnessed the power of tree planting to build ecological resilience while preserving culture. Kyle is an inaugural recipient of the Spiritual Ecology Fellowship, through which he is working with leading practitioners from South Dakota to Northern India to empower diverse moral imperatives for conservation. In partnership with another SE Fellow, Brontë Velez, he co-designed and launched the project which is transforming guns into shovels to use in ceremonial tree plantings at sites of violence and sacred sites across Oakland and Atlanta. Kyle is also a recipient of the Princeton in Asia Fellowship to conduct research with RECOFTC – the Center for People and Forests on community forestry and climate change adaptation across southeast asia. After returning to the USA, he served as Community Project Manager with Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), where he organized and implemented 30 neighborhood-level greening campaigns and the planting of over 2000 trees across the streets of San Francisco. When he is not planting trees, Kyle serves as founder and co-director of the Choir for, where he is writing and performing original gospel-for-social-change music in a growing, purpose-driven community based in Oakland. He is currently launching the Thrive Street Choir to mobilize the masses to voice the songs for climate and social justice.


Shreya Ganeshan

Shreya is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Georgia, where she studies economics and statistics. Through her academic and extracurricular activities, she has cultivated an interest in energy policy, clean energy innovation and deployment, and data analytics. Her extracurricular experiences – including working on implementing the Paris Agreement at the U.S. Department of State and researching policy instruments to reduce carbon emissions through building energy efficiency with the Roosevelt Institute – have revealed that sustainable funding pipelines are crucial to commercializing clean energy infrastructure. Her research on environmental quality metrics in Seattle has also demonstrated that data, alone, will not generate environmental progress. In her career, Shreya hopes to use quantitative and policy tools to engage competing stakeholders in joint clean energy initiatives. Shreya also enjoys running and trying new local farmers markets.


Ben Goloff

Ben crosses borders of politics, science, music, and action-research with movements for climate and environmental justice. Whether birding in Central Park or humming to impromptu fiddle concerts in the subway, he grew up seeking to reconcile New York City’s wonderfully messy natures/cultures with its entrenched systemic racial, economic, gender, and environmental injustice. A fourth-generation American descended from Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe, Ben finds musical nourishment for change-making with his great-grandmother’s childhood violin. Inspired by his parents, both therapists, and their dedication to interpersonal liberation, he studied and organized at Swarthmore College on the intersection of environmental justice, climate politics, and biology. Ben pushed for engaged curricula linking anti-oppression, social justice, and sustainability, and helped build alignment on core commitments to intersectional social justice across student environmental groups. Spearheading Swarthmore’s engagement with the UN international climate negotiations, he helped lead the College’s delegation to COP20 in Lima, Peru. Ben earned an M.S. in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance from the University of Oxford. His action-research focuses on building solidarity across US movements for climate and social justice.

Currently, Ben works at the Union of Concerned Scientists with advocates, scientists, and communities fighting the fossil fuel industry’s obstruction of climate action. Ben first joined SustainUS as part of the COP22 delegation to Marrakech, Morocco. As Community Building and Partnerships Coordinator and a COP23 delegate, Ben could not feel more honored to support SustainUS in cultivating solidarity and building power with movements for justice and sustainability.


Troy Robertson

Troy’s passion for ecological justice propels him to fight for a world in which all persons are entitled to dignity, self-determination, and a sustainable economy.  As a New Orleans native, Troy witnessed how decades of unaccountable extraction inflicts irreparable harm on Gulf Coast communities. Economic theories that promote the mass extraction of finite resources have damage the land, people and ecosystems of countless communities. Tragic events like Hurricane Katrina prove how vulnerable Gulf Coast communities are to extreme weather patterns and unveil the layers of injustice that exist during disaster recovery. As climate change continues to generate erratic weather patterns, communities on the Gulf Coast will feel the brunt of the burden. Through grassroots movement building, Troy has worked diligently to shift the narrative from resilience to resistance by holding corporations accountable for their destructive practices that drive the climate crisis.

During his time in college, Troy worked with Gulf South Rising and Gulf Coast center for Law and Policy two organizations dedicated to promoting ecological equity in communities of color on the front lines of climate change. There, he worked as a social media outreach specialist spreading awareness about the impacts of climate change on Gulf Coast communities. Working with these two dynamic organizations led Troy to discover that historically; communities in the Gulf South remain at the epicenter of intersectional oppression. He believes that these oppressive forces could only be countered with robust and dynamic intersectional movement building. Troy’s college thesis focused on how political rhetoric disseminated after Hurricane Katrina by politicians and the media played an instrumental role in strategically masking policies that perpetuated an inequitable recovery in New Orleans.

Currently, Troy is a math teacher at St. Alphonsus school where he dedicates his time to educating and empowering youth to be agents of change in their communities. He enjoys reading, writing, and traveling. He hopes to attend law school in the near future.


Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Climate Generation believes it takes all sectors to address climate change, and all voices must be represented at the decision-making table. We are sending a multi-sector delegation of Minnesota leaders to the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany from November 6–17. Our eight-member delegation features representation from education, law, philanthropy, youth, elected officials, and indigenous communities. Sign up to follow our delegation through daily digests, blogs and webcasts at


Ellen Anderson

Climate and Energy Policy, University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab
Ellen Anderson is Director of the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab. Anderson served in the Minnesota Senate from 1993–2011, representing several neighborhoods of St. Paul and the city of Falcon Heights. Her signature legislation includes the Renewable Energy Standard, Next Generation Energy Act, and many other energy, consumer protection, economic justice and civil rights laws.


Aurora L. Conley

Indigenous, Legal Policy, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe
Employer: Bad River Band of Lake Superior, Anishinabe Environmental Protection Alliance
Aurora is Anishinabe from the Bad River Tribe on Lake Superior in Wisconsin and lives there with her two sons- Misko and Jordan. She’s worked for the Tribe’s Legal Department since 2012 as the Litigation Support Specialist. She chairs the Anishinabe Environmental Protection Alliance (AnEPA) focusing on protection and preservation of land and water.

Leigh Currie

Energy & Environmental Law
Employer: Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Leigh is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and has served on the board of Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy since 2010, most recently as Chair.


Espoir DelMain

Youth and College Student
College: Dickinson College ‘21
Epsoir is a freshman at Dickinson College and planning on majoring in Environmental Science. She is an alumni of Climate Generation’s youth program, YEA!MN.


Ian Empson

High School Youth
Ian Empson is a high school junior from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has a strong interest in both Biology and Earth Sciences.


Melissa Hortman

State Government
Minnesota House of Representatives
Melissa Hortman, J.D., is a seventh term legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives. She represents a part of Minneapolis’s northwest suburbs, including parts of Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids. She serves as a Minority Leader.

Cheryl Olseth

Employer: Olseth Family Foundation
Cheryl Olseth is director of the Olseth Family Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to improve community through support of the arts, education, the environment, and the underserved.


John Olson

K-12 Education
Employer: Minnesota Department of Education
John Olson is the Science Content Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education. He works on science learning goals and instruction with teachers, schools, districts and other state education leaders.


ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability 

Bridget Tydor

Hometown: New Orleans, LA

Occupation: Senior City Planner with Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans

Twelve years after Hurricane Katrina, hurricanes, tornados, flooding and despair continue to threaten the lives of New Orleanians. Over the past decade Louisianans have relocated and rebuilt, but an increasing number of extreme weather events and out-of-date infrastructure wreak havoc on residents’ famous joie de vivre.

Bridget Tydor, ENV SP is a Senior City Planner at the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (SWBNO) and is a charter member of the Greater New Orleans Water Collaborative. She has an intimate understanding of the issues that affect her region and strives to ensure that SWBNO embraces the climate realities of the 21st Century. She works cooperatively with other governmental and non- governmental organizations to meet New Orleans’ citizens’ needs.

“I seek to usher in a new, progressive, more resilient era in stormwater management in New Orleans.”


Cade Emory Terada

Hometown: Dutch Harbor, AK

Occupation: Student and youth climate activist

Cade Emory Terada is a Japanese-American from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and is a former United States Arctic Youth Ambassador from the number- one fishing port by volume in the nation — every fish sandwich at McDonalds in the world (except in New Zealand and Australia) comes from his hometown. Cade served as one of 22 members of the U.S. Arctic Youth Council that educated national public on Arctic impacts from climate change. He attends Green Mountain College and is an alumni of Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, the U.S. Arctic Youth Ambassador program, and Students On Ice. He is attending COP 23 in Bonn, Germany to represent his community and the circumpolar Arctic by offering the perspective of an Arctic youth to the climate talks.

“I’ve watched Indigenous and Native peoples have their voices silenced and cut out because “they don’t know enough”. However, from my observations, I’ve seen that indigenous communities are often the ones being most heavily impacted by climate change and wish to see more indigenous voices brought to the table.”


Daisy Guadalupe Romero

Hometown: Hayward, CA

Occupation: Climate activist and field organizer with Ecology Action

Daisy Guadalupe Romero has witnessed poverty, poor air quality, and a lack of opportunities and resources in her low-income neighborhood in Hayward, CA. At 19 years, she knows the effects of poor air quality first-hand as she struggles with asthma. Her nascent activism was sparked with an opportunity to educate others on climate change. The City of Hayward, ICLEI, and the Hayward Promise Neighborhood teamed up to create a program called “Unite2Green”. Daisy lead bilingual workshops that covered topics such as composting, recycling, energy, and water conservation in the Jackson Triangle Neighborhood. She provided her neighbors with low-flow shower heads, LED light bulbs, and sink aerators.

“It is my mission to create a healthy planet by educating my community through culturally and language-sensitive information. I am always searching for opportunities to make a difference in my community, because we are affected by climate change. We need to provide disadvantaged communities with these tools.”


Dyanna Jaye 

Hometown: Richmond, VA

Occupation: Cofounder of the youth climate action organization Sunrise

“Growing up, I thought flooded streets and flood insurance challenges were just the normal way of life near the coast,“ says Dyanna Jaye, who grew up in Hampton Road, Virginia — a town bordered by seas rising at a rate twice the national average. She has committed the past seven years to building the youth climate movement in her home state and shifting local to international climate policy.

Dyanna co-founded the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition to unite students in the fight against environmental injustice. Recently, she started Sunrise, a movement of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across the U.S. and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.

“There is no single piece of legislation that makes a silver bullet to the climate challenge. My vision for an innovative and inclusive policy is a universal jobs program to build a climate stable and adaptive America. There is no reason for any American to be out of a job in the society-wide effort to address climate change.“


Justin Marquez

Hometown: El Cerrito, CA

Occupation: CivicSpark Americorps Fellow with City of El Cerrito

As a CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow, Justin Marquez works for the City of El Cerrito, California, on greenhouse gas inventorying, climate action plan implementation, and LED streetlight retrofitting. When he discovered that El Cerrito’s greatest emissions reduction opportunity would be utilizing more renewable energy sources, the city joined a community- choice aggregator to source 50% of its electricity from renewables.

Justin is a strong advocate for community choice aggregation policy, an alternative to the traditional utility provider that has proven to be a champion of greater renewable energy utilization. Justin explains that “part of the business model of these unique utilities includes using revenue to build more local renewable energy projects, which means more energy autonomy for a community and local job creation.”

“My vision for an innovative and inclusive climate policy is one that unlocks the potential of renewable energy.”

Rhiannon Gallagher

Hometown: Wheat Ridge, CO

Occupation: User experience consultant and climate activist

After the 2016 election, Rhiannon Gallagher wanted to build a bigger coalition across her county — almost evenly split politically between Democrat, Republican, and Independent. She knew that if she wanted to get her towns to support the Paris Agreement, she needed to work at a county level with more allies, more resources, and — frankly — a little bit of rivalry.

She started the Jeffco Climate Action Team to create innovation and inclusion in her county on two levels: by first encouraging sustainability in appropriate ways for the demographics and political makeup of the region and second, by sharing knowledge between cities and towns, to foster a community of learning and a shared vision for an economically and environmentally resilient future, independent of political leaning.

“We are working within the realities of our towns’ politics and demographics. These towns aren’t ever going to be full of liberal environmental momentum — but we can work effectively with what we have, if we are careful about our


Scott Tess

Hometown: Urbana, IL

Occupation: Sustainability Manager with City of Urbana

“Our city’s small stature makes us nimble and lean when taking action on emerging energy and climate opportunities,” says Scott Tess, the Environmental Sustainability Manager for the City of Urbana,

IL. He supervises the Recycling and Environmental Compliance programs and is responsible for implementing the city’s Climate Action Plan and Sustainable Water Management Plan.

Scott worked with neighborhoods and faith groups to create Low Carbon DietSM teams who came together to reduce the carbon intensity of their homes and lifestyles. Scott developed a partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association to run a group solar-buying program to install 81 solar arrays at homes and businesses throughout the county.

In addition to energy programs, Scott works to safeguard wildlife and resilient regional food systems: “We are also utilizing our City- owned landscapes to install plants that will provide food and shelter for monarch butterflies and other pollinator insects which are responsible for much food crop pollination.”

“Local governments and community organizations, taken together, may constitute the most effective force capable of throwing a life preserver to our shorelines, our crops, and our communities.”