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Three Takeaways from Climate Week NYC 2023

The Generation180 team with President Bill Clinton at the CGI 2023 Meeting

Three Takeaways from Climate Week NYC 2023

Last month, several Gen180 team members were on the ground in New York City during Climate Week. This annual climate pilgrimage brings together the world’s most influential sustainability leaders – representing business, government, and civil society – with the idea of creating a diverse platform for climate action.

This year’s theme for Climate Week was “We Can. We Will.” – reflecting determination and focus, but also a hopeful promise and a call to action to work together.  From spotlighting our Solar for All Schools program on the Clinton Global main stage to discussing creative communications approaches for tackling the climate crisis with Save the Humans, Gen180 is proud of our involvement in the week to help reinforce the message that it’s not too late to take climate action. 

Take Away #1: Keep Going

Our journey to Climate Week began exactly a year ago when Generation180 got an unexpected shout out from President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2022 Meeting. The Associated Press reported that President Clinton “hopes CGI can spotlight various solutions that need more support,” pointing to our 2022 study of solar at K-12 schools. This year, Gen180 joined CGI’s worldwide community of doers to announce our new commitment to grow our Solar For All Schools program.

President Bill Clinton kicked off the meeting by asking, “How do ordinary people in the face of insurmountable obstacles keep going?” 

After spending two days hearing from influential world leaders, celebrities, corporations, NGOs, and community activists fighting for a better future, we felt recharged. Chelsea Clinton announced a new pillar of CGI’s work to bring equality to women and girls, and she recognized that ‘climate resilience is a women and girls issue.’ 

Hearing from new allies across the globe in this fight against climate change helped us feel empowered to keep going.

Take Away #2: It’s All Connected

“When It comes to climate, it’s all connected,” said Esteban Gast, Generation180’s Comedian-in-Residence, who emceed the event, Inspiring Stories of Climate Action. As a 2023 Grist Fixer, Esteban shared his journey from comedian to climate advocate and Generation180’s Comedian-in-Residence. 

Esteban Gast speaking at the Grist Fixer 2023 event

Before joining the climate fight, Esteban had been performing stand-up comedy, but was only talking about issues that he felt like he had to cover, like dating and friendships, when in reality, he wanted to talk about issues that mattered to him in his day-to-day life, like the climate anxiety he was stewing over at night and the headlines he was reading about fossil fuel profits. It finally clicked when he realized “it’s all connected” and he could do both.

That’s exactly why we wanted to work with Esteban – to tap his expertise and passion and and help our work reach a larger audience through comedy. Making climate activism accessible is about making sure that everyone can understand it. Comedy can play a key role in that.

We need creators and creative approaches to tackle the crisis at hand. Whether you’re a painter or a comedian or a musician, we all have a role to play in the clean energy transition. 

Take Away #3: We Need Climate Joy

Can small, joyful actions ladder up to large-scale meaningful change? Save the Humans thinks so–and we agree. That’s why we partnered on their Stand-Up For Humans panel and climate comedy event, which brought together communicators, comedians, musicians, artists to inspire authentic responses through culture and spark joyful climate action. One of the many reasons we love Save the Humans is their goal of transforming climate anxiety into action by “leaning on the power of joy as an uplifting tool for climate mobilization.”

Stand-Up for Humans Panel Event at Climate Week NYC 2023

During a panel presentation on effective climate communications, Kay Campbell, Generation180’s Communications Director, spoke about why culture plays an essential role in social change. “We need people to be talking about this everywhere – where they live, work, play, pray, in comedy clubs. That is why Generation180 is partnering with comedians and creatives to shift cultural norms,” she said. 

Other panelists included Katy Jacobs from National Resources Defense Council, who spoke to the shift underway in Hollywood writers rooms to bring real storytelling into the issue of climate change beyond apocalyptic scenarios. Seeing the shift in scripts is a challenge, but there’s a consortium of activists rallying for change to have the big screen better reflect our climate reality. 

Generation180’s Esteban Gast emceed the event, and four Climate Comedy Cohort comedians performed climate stand-up. (The CCC is a project co-created with Gen180 and American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact). 

Inspired? Check. Dose of climate joy? Check. Should we keep going? Check. We can. And we will.