Nominate a youth for Climate Gap Year

This is a guest post from Anna Claussen from Voices for Rural, Minnesota. This is one example of the kind of collaboration that was inspired by the National Rural Assembly gathering in Durham in 2018. If you have other examples, let us know.


The 2018 National Rural Assembly provided the space for us to lean into the wealth of relationships, experiences, and creative power we know exists in rural America. To be inspired by the committed citizens who have been doing the hard work of showing up, creating, leading, and mending fences for a long time - and are now modeling for the nation how we mend and strengthen the social and civic fabric of our country. We carry all of it with us and we move forward - seeking equity and inclusion in communities who are bearing the brunt of violence, poverty, and extreme weather - at home and around the globe. We know that whether it's the task of building civic courage or tackling climate change, it requires urban and rural America working together.

I need your help!

We have an amazing opportunity to ensure that rural voices and experiences are a vital part of the climate gap year programs and talent pipeline that FOCUS Climate Gap Year is launching Spring 2019 (spring in India; fall in China, Chile/Argentina). For years, taking a gap year before starting college (or even while you're in your first two years) has proven to be one of the most transformative experiences to learn new skills, gain greater perspective on the world and yourself, and get on a career path grounded in purpose and community. FOCUS has developed an amazing program for youth ages 17-22 to earn college credit and access financial aid while living abroad and learning how the impacts of climate change can inspire a life-long career of purpose. Students will learn new languages and wilderness skills, live as a cohort with diverse peers, and learn from experts in renewable energy, transportation, bio-diversity, rural electrification, supply chain mapping, conservation, and policy. In addition to the experience of living abroad, one of the things I find most exciting is that FOCUS will actively support students upon returning home from their climate gap year when they join the alumni network. As part of the FOCUS network, alumni will receive ongoing support as they navigate future decisions like choosing their major, finding summer internships, exploring grad school options, and pursuing other opportunities like leadership and technical trainings, mentorships, and job placements.

Nominate 2 youth!

It will only take a few minutes but it will have huge impact!  Rural America produces youth who are primed for building community and careers with purpose. They personally know the interplay of human impact on natural systems - the complexity found living close, within, and on the land as stewards of our natural resources and on the front lines of climate change. As FOCUS co-founder and CEO, Garett Brennan shared with me on the phone last week, "Rural youth bring such a critical perspective in building strong cohorts abroad and the kind of leadership network back here at home in the US."

Who's the right person to nominate?

When you think of this person, you see the potential they have to overcome challenging situations - the resilience and staying power to endure new environments and language barriers. Contrary to some beliefs, Garett has shared with me that this type of resilience does not require previous travel experience or a resume that includes extensive exposure to other cultures or worldly experiences.  More importantly, it is cultivated within individuals who embody traits that are learned at the most basic community and familiar level. Here are a few of those traits to think about in the youth you want to nominate:

  • The flexibility to expect the unexpected and adapt to changing circumstances and demands
  • The patience to adjust to a new culture’s customs and pace of life and potential to focus on the process rather than the outcomes
  • The humility required to admit how little one knows and to be open to learning an unfamiliar language, new rules, and a foreign culture.
  • The dependability necessary to follow-through on commitments and respect the time and energy of those one travels with and meets along the way.
  • The enthusiasm they embody - in their presence, attitude and actions - vital for creating the highly impactful gift of optimism that can encourage and inspire those living within challenging circumstances.
  • The commitment they have to strengthen and look out for their community and those around them


Don’t hesitate - do it today - the nomination process ends August 31st! Extending a nomination is an important act that validates and gives confidence to our youth and the important role they play in our nation’s future.

"Successful Climate Policy Requires Rural Engagement"

Last week, the National Rural Assembly and the Rural Climate Network hosted a webinar about climate change and the importance of rural engagement in this issue.

Here is a recording of that webinar.

Below are the materials the presenters shared.

Climate change and a dialogue process that might bridge chasms

Climate change is perhaps the singular most important issue in the future of our nation and our planet. It is also one of the most challenging issues around which to have constructive conversations.

Rural communities are essential to this issue, in part because they account for the majority of our nation's land area and supply most of the nation's energy.  Despite this, many consider this issue too controversial to talk about. How can we address the high stakes issues of climate change when they involve some of the thorniest political, geographic, cultural, and economic divides in our country?

Through dialogue.

In recent climate dialogues, rural community participants who are diverse in age, background, and economics have come together to do the hard work of exploring the issues, finding common ground, and identifying policy recommendations and direct action ideas.

This approach may be more than a way to begin negotiating ways to address climate change -- it could be a path to a more functional and participatory democracy.

Read about this and more on Bill Moyer's blog from National Rural Assembly Steering Committee member and Director of Rural Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Anna Claussen.

For more information about collaboration among rural communities regarding climate change adaptation and mitigation, visit the Rural Climate Network.

Rural America Critical to Energy Transition

Rural engagement will be a critical part of our nation's transition to limit carbon emissions, as called for by the implementation of the Clean Power Plan.

A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), titled “The Clean Power Plan: Opportunities for an Equitable Energy Transition in Rural America,” outlines how the Clean Power Plan can benefit all communities, especially the rural communities that produce most of the nation’s energy.

The IATP report concludes that states should actively integrate rural perspectives into their Clean Power Plan compliance plans. In February, the Supreme Court halted implementation of the Clean Power Plan until a federal appeals court rules on its legality. That ruling is expected sometime in June. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remains confident that they have strong legal footing, and many states are moving forward to develop their compliance plans.

Rural communities produce most of the nation’s energy and will be affected as mines and coal-burning power plants close or reduce capacity. This report finds that states could use the Clean Power Plan to ensure that the transition to clean energy is fair and equitable. The Clean Power Plan can be a path to sustainable, well-paying jobs in rural America as well as an affordable renewable energy supply, but only if states build the proper assistance mechanisms into their Implementation Plans, the report concludes.

   From the IATP report "“The Clean Power Plan: Opportunities for an Equitable Energy Transition in Rural America”


From the IATP report "“The Clean Power Plan: Opportunities for an Equitable Energy Transition in Rural America”