The Climate Crisis Initiative: Working Together for Future Generations

In February, Meridian welcomed the inaugural cohort of the International Visitor Leadership Program initiative, “The Climate Crisis: Working Together for Future Generations” in partnership with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. As the threat of climate change grows increasingly urgent and its effects indiscriminatory, international exchange serves as a critical opportunity for both cooperation and coordination.

A first of its kind program, the Climate Crisis Initiative convened over 80 climate change professionals from over 56 countries who are each finding innovative solutions to address this shared challenge. Participants included scientists, public affairs officers, entrepreneurs, and organizers who each approach a different facet of this crucial work. From amplifying the urgency of this crisis through the public media, to creating businesses that recycle plastic into new sustainable products, to engineering ways to transition energy sectors to less carbon-intensive processes, all participants were united in their shared dedication to mitigating climate change globally, and its local effects.

Beginning in Washington, visitors were introduced to other regional initiative teams and began connecting on how climate change manifests itself in communities around the world. Programmatically, meetings were arranged to introduce how the federal government works to address climate change both domestically and internationally. Visitors shared more about the personal and professional importance of this program:

Departing the nation’s capital, all regional teams then embarked on varied itineraries taking them to cities across the United States – from Denver to San Francisco, Portland to Phoenix – to study local responses to the climate crisis in ways specific to the challenges in their global region. In Chicago, visitors met with the local Environmental Protection Agency to discuss the implementation of the Clean Water Act and its effects on America’s Great Lakes. In Salt Lake City, visitors connected with Envision Utah, a nonprofit focused on environmental education and communication that empowers local communities to begin a focused dialogue on how each person can make a difference. In each exchange, visitors engaged and formed connections with local climate change fighters, gaining perspective and networks that will assist in future work.

Reconvening in Miami, Florida, all groups met for several days of meetings capped by a closing evaluation session: a time for reflection, feedback, and planning how this IVLP experience can inform future efforts to combat the climate crisis across the globe.  In closing conversations, many visitors indicated plans to collaborate with new connections, both American and international, that they made over the course of the Initiative. To a great number of visitors, the size and scope of the project – including 60+ international visitors from around the world – provided a unique and valuable experience to gain varied, local perspectives on this topic, in addition to those of American hosts. In speaking with the Meridian team on the project's final day, visitor's shared this about their experience:

As concluded by a visitor from the Western Hemisphere, “The climate crisis does not recognize borders, so we must advance in regional and global policies. It is essential to know the reality of the other countries in the region in order to address climate problems jointly and consistently. As for everything we learned in these weeks, it will be of great importance to my future.”

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