“It takes a village.” That phrase became popular almost three decades ago in regard to raising children. But it applies equally as well to the challenges of addressing climate change and environmental conservation. At least that’s the outlook of two Charleston-based, ocean-focused nonprofits founded by College of Charleston alumni.
The Charleston chapter of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, co-founded by Zach Bjur ’12 and ‘16, and the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network (LMMN), founded by Lauren Rust ’04, are two local nonprofits actively engaged in raising awareness about climate change and biodiversity loss. To further this work, the two organizations have teamed up to host what they’ve dubbed The Hope Summit. This event – scheduled to take place on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Charleston – will be part virtual conference and part in-person festival, entirely focused on how to take action to address climate change.
Rust, LMMN’s founder and executive director, says the summit will be a solutions-centric celebration of community action, stewardship and regenerative management with the ultimate purpose of engaging more Charlestonians in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.
“This event came together as a result of our team at LMMN wanting to create more opportunities for the community to learn about and get involved with local organizations here in Charleston,” says Rust, who earned her undergraduate degree in marine biology from CofC. “There’s a great network of nonprofits in Charleston all fighting for a variety of important causes. And a lot of people want to get involved, but often don’t know who to talk with or how to join in. The Hope Summit will bring together many of these local organizations, and share information on how the community can help whether that’s by volunteering, helping to share an organization’s message or by providing comments on local issues.”
And Bjur, who earned degrees in political science and biology from CofC, concurs, emphasizing the importance of grassroots efforts to address climate and environmental issues.
“At the Sustainable Ocean Alliance,” he says, “we’re engaged in work that supports what LMMN’s staff and volunteers do on a daily basis. Grey Gowder, who is our co-founder and director, is very interested in community-driven solutions and this summit is the result of his collaboration with Brooke Brown at LMMN. Both Grey and Brooke want to find ways to facilitate greater collaboration in the community and connect residents with as many local organizations as possible. They both know doing that will enable ordinary people to find ways to make an impact. As Grey is accustomed to saying, ‘By giving people tools to help create the future they want to see, they gain agency, and agency fuels hope. Hope is a powerful thing.’”
The Hope Summit’s virtual conference, which like the festival is free and open to the public, will feature both experts and local stakeholders from throughout the Southeast, who will share their perspectives on climate change, conservation and the restoration of biodiversity. Those interested in participating in the conference should register via eventbrite. The festival, which will take place from noon to 4 p.m. at Brewlab (2200 Herriot St.), is a family-friendly event where attendees can learn about the variety of local environmental organizations making an impact.
Other organizations participating in the Hope Summit include Charleston Moves, Birds of Prey, Oceana, Keep Charleston Beautiful, the Turtle Survival Alliance, Charleston Waterkeeper, the South Carolina Aquarium Conservation Team, Charleston Climate Coalition, Lowcountry Lowline, the Sustainability Institute, and Citadel Sustainability.