Need some Earth Day inspiration? Check out these climate heroes

A roundup of Canary’s chats with 6 awesome humans tackling the climate challenge from different angles.
By Alison F. Takemura

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A panel of six photos of people with different skin tones and hair lengths with color overlays.
(Binh Nguyen/Canary Media)

Welcome to Canary Media’s Earth Day celebration (although, as our Editorial Director Eric Wesoff loves to remind us every April, it’s always Earth Day around here). Today, we’re spotlighting the people driving the clean energy transition. Because at its core, Earth Day is about individuals taking the reins to build a better future.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, an almost unimaginably large number of Americans — 20 million, or about a tenth of the U.S. population at the time — flooded streets and parks across the U.S. to demand change. They called for an end to the pollution poisoning their communities and the corporate evisceration of the environment.

That spirit lives on today in the people fighting climate calamity with tangible solutions. This Earth Day, we’re highlighting six such individuals that Canary has had the opportunity to talk to over the last year. They work in diverse sectors, from solar and finance to policy and activism. We hope you find them as inspiring as we do.

Headshot of Ayisha Siddiqa with her name written out to the right of her.

Ayisha Siddiqa, co-founder of Polluters Out

Siddiqa’s organization, Polluters Out, has called on the United Nations to prohibit the fossil fuel industry from lobbying and sponsorships at COP meetings. The move has precedent: She points out that the World Health Organization gave Big Tobacco the boot from its meetings. So why not see fossil fuel reps to the door during make-or-break climate negotiations?

Headshot of Cristina Garcia with her name written out to the right of her.

Cristina Garcia, Latinx assistant director of the Building Electrification Institute

Buildings account for about 40 percent of global carbon emissions — a share that’s way too big to ignore. Garcia is collaborating with cities across North America to accelerate the electrification of buildings and get them off fossil gas. She’s also working to ensure that this transformation includes all households — even those that can’t afford a building retrofit on their own.

Headshot of Robert Blake with his name written out to the right of him.

Robert Blake, Native solar entrepreneur and founder of energy nonprofit Native Sun

Blake is incandescently optimistic about the clean energy future. He foresees tribal community members being at the forefront of the transition, driving around in electric vehicles fueled by solar power. Now, he’s using a $6.6 million grant from the DOE to help realize that vision.

Headshot of Melinda Hanson with her name written out to the right of her.

Melinda Hanson, co-founder of micromobility strategy firm Electric Avenue

Transportation is the No. 1 source of U.S. emissions. To help slash them, people can swap their cars for electric bikes and scooters, according to Hanson. But widespread use of these alternatives requires supportive infrastructure that governments don’t always know how to develop. That’s where Hanson rolls in.

Headshot of Amy Duffuor with her name written out to the right of her.

Amy Duffuor, co-founder of climatetech investment firm Azolla Ventures

Duffuor sees into the heart of the climate crisis: its effect on human beings, she says, particularly low-income communities and communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted.” She’s using her background in finance to channel funds into companies seeking to develop breakout decarbonization technologies.

Headshot of Khanh Pham with her name written out to the right of her.

Rep. Khanh Pham, who helped pass Oregon’s 100% clean grid law

Last year, Pham ushered through a landmark bill to make Oregon’s electricity carbon-free by 2040. Despite that win, she doesn’t think of herself as a natural politician. But the climate crisis is something I’ve been worried about for over a decade,” she says. And I think we’re just all called to stretch ourselves beyond what we think is comfortable.”

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Alison F. Takemura is staff writer at Canary Media. She reports on home electrification, building decarbonization strategies and the clean energy workforce.