Confronting climate change will mean changing society, Elizabeth Yeampierre argues in Rose Sheinberg Lecture

The groups most exposed to the risks of climate change must have a leading role in the effort to contain—and survive—global warming, argued Elizabeth Yeampierre in the annual Rose Sheinberg Lecture on October 3. For more than 23 years, Yeampierre has led Brooklyn’s UPROSE, a Latino community-based organization focused on sustainability, and she is co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance, a network that seeks environmental justice and equitable economic change. She was introduced by Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.  

Elizabeth Yeampierre speaking
Elizabeth Yeampierre

Among those on the front lines of the climate crisis, Yeampierre said, are people of color, economically disadvantaged communities, and young people, and she discussed her work to build a movement that gives them a voice and offers a new model for activism.

Selected quotes from Elizabeth Yeampierre:

“One of the biggest challenges is that folks think that they’re going to…to continue to work for the kinds of salaries and the kinds of [things] that they have in the past. And climate change changes all that. Literally, people are going to have to get used to the idea that we’re going have to learn to live with what we need and not with what we want.”

“The truth is that learning happens across the table, and power is built across the table from each other. I think that I am sharper and a better organizer because I work with young people, and I think they know how to read the room politically because they get to work with me.… When young people are not integrated into power, their progress is slower. The political progress, their ability to actually change things is slower. If we want them to work faster—and climate change demands that we move faster—we have to have intergenerational power, and it has to be frontline-led.”

“With climate [change] deniers, I think that there are some people who should [engage with them], but for us in the climate justice movement, I feel like it slows us down. It's not like we’re going to change the way they think. It's not like we’re going to change their hearts. I think our responsibility is to build momentum and to build a groundswell around people who may be on the fence, people who may be disengaged, people who haven’t been exposed to thinking about these things critically and how it affects their families and their lives and their future…and I feel that that’s how we build the bigger we.”

Follow the full discussion on video:


Posted October 28, 2019