Panelists for the online presentation are (top row, left to right) Ajulo Othow, Curtis Wynn, Shirell Parfait-Dardar, Kristina Peterson, (bottom row) Wenix Red Elk, Colleen Sanders, Jeremy Richardson, and moderator Chitra Kumar.

Rural people have a central role to play in crafting solutions to climate change, according to the organizer of an online event that will feature stories about rural climate-change efforts. 

“Any solution to climate change must involve rural places — the rural people and places that are deeply impacted by a changing climate,” said Clifford Devin Deaton, communications manager of Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group in an email interview. Rural communities are “the source of many important climate solutions,” he said.

Aspen Institute’s Thrive Rural will be hosting the virtual event, titled Pathfinders: Climate-Smart Solutions from Rural America and Native Nations, Friday, 1:30-3:15 p.m. July 16. This will be the sixth installment of their ongoing Rural Opportunity and Development Sessions Series.

The eight panelists featured are: 

  • Ajulo Othow, founder and CEO of EnerWealth Solutions.
  • Curtis Wynn, CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative.
  • Shirell Parfait-Dardar, traditional tribal chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw.
  • Kristina Peterson, co-founder of the Lowlander Center.
  • Wenix Red Elk, public outreach and education specialist for the CTUIR Department of Natural Resources.
  • Colleen Sanders, climate adaption planner for the CTUIR First Foods Policy Program.
  • Jeremy Richardson, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
  • And Chitra Kumar (moderator), acting associate director for Environmental Justice at US EPA. 

The event aims to answer questions about expanding clean energy, whether through innovation, using Indigenous knowledge, or community-built solutions. By emphasizing rural voices, attendees will better understand how rural America can be a key part of fighting national climate disaster, said Deaton. 

“As we see increasing negative effects of climate change, like extreme heat and weather events, drought and fires as well as rising sea levels, rural people and places are most deeply affected,” Deaton said. “And because of historic and systemic spatial inequities, many rural places and communities are shouldering a disproportionate burden.”

Those interested in attending the event may register on the Aspen Institute’s website here

The series is a collaboration among the Community Strategies Group, the Housing Assistance Council, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Rural LISC, and the Federal Reserve Board. 

The program will include a question-and-answer session and breakout rooms that will allow participants to interact directly with panelists. Reducing carbon emissions, engaging Native and rural people-of-color communities, retrofitting, and prioritizing Indigenous knowledge will be the overarching themes, according to Deaton.

“I hope that people take away a renewed understanding that climate solutions are to be found in many different places, and that contrary to outdated stereotypes, rural communities and Native nations are leading the way,” said Deaton. 
For further updates on ROAD Sessions programming visit their webpage.

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