Earth Day Reflections on Climate Change

With Earth Day just around the corner on April 22, the recent release of the United Nations climate change report has spotlighted the critical state of our planet. The report warns that we may soon surpass a dangerous threshold of 1.5°C global warming within the next decade, leaving many of us wondering how to prevent further environmental damage.

Byron Glacier Alaska
Credit: Maris O'Tierney, Lever for Change

This crisis is personal, as I grew up close to nature and wildlife in Alaska. I spent my childhood hiking in the tallest mountains in North America, nestled by the Pacific Ocean, and watching salmon spawn in local rivers. My parents taught me to appreciate and respect the environment from a young age. Even while now living in Chicago, I still remain connected to nature. As we approach a critical point in global warming – which if left unmitigated, will lead to catastrophic weather events – I feel further protective of my home state and community.

Oil revenues make up almost 85% of Alaska's budget. Still, the warming in Alaska will continue at twice the rate of the rest of the U.S., and the effects of climate change on nature, wildlife, and communities are already palpable. President Biden recently approved an $8 billion oil drilling project in Alaska called Willow. Alaska faces complex tradeoffs: shorter-term job creation and revenue opportunities in natural resources, for long-term negative impacts on the environment, which can further compound existing economic and racial inequities -- particularly for Alaska Native communities.

I learned more from my mom, who has worked with the Iñupiat communities of Alaska’s North Slope to assess the environmental, economic, and cultural impacts of oil and gas development on their lands and waters. For the Alaskan Iñupiat, food security is synonymous with environmental health. Multiple food ecosystems – for Arctic biodiversity and Alaska Native subsistence culture and practices – face threats as rising temperatures deteriorate the sea ice habitats and migratory patterns of walrus, seal, and bowhead whales, and ocean acidification depletes their feeding sources.

Alaska is but one site of climate disruption. Lever for Change’s Bold Solutions Network highlights the urgency and pervasiveness of climate change through projects from across our 11 domestic and global competitions. The projects featured in the collection below propose a range of solutions. Climate change exacerbates social issues, such as poverty and food insecurity in Native communities, which is why the Indigenous-led Intertribal Agricultural Council (IAC) is proposing sustainable agricultural practices to build greener, more equitable food economies. Additionally, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has convened a coalition to reduce industrial heat in U.S. manufacturing, which creates 12.5% of America's greenhouse gas emissions and is critical to meeting the 1.5°C climate goals.

As Earth Day approaches, it is essential to remember that the climate crisis is personal and affects us all. The time is now to invest in our planet, and one way you can do so is by investing in the projects – and the people that lead them – below. The home we share is in crisis. A greener, more equitable reality will require all of us – governments, businesses, institutions, and civil society – to work in partnership. We invite you to take a step today to contribute to this collective work.

Whether you are an individual looking to make a difference or an organization seeking to support meaningful solutions for climate change, these projects are ready for action.

We can provide you with additional information about any of the featured projects, facilitate introductions to the organizations, and even share additional curated collections for your philanthropic interest areas. Please reach out to Karen Minkel, our Director of Philanthropy, to take the next step in supporting one or more of these compelling and bold solutions.

Sign up for our newsletter

Sign up to receive announcements when new challenges launch and to learn about other updates.