Celebrating Four Generations of Climate Leadership

Celebrating Four Generations of Climate Leadership

By Jakkie Greer

This year, Leaders in Energy held our Seventh Annual Four Generations Award Celebration.

This was our first virtual event, and it was a great success! We are deeply grateful to all those who helped make this event possible, including our “Big Green Shift” sponsor, EarthX, our “Clean Energy” sponsors, Catocin Creek and Longenecker & Associates and our “Environmental Leader” sponsor, Gamblin, in addition to our Benefactors and attendees.

The night kicked off with an opportunity to connect with fellow attendees, followed by a mixology demonstration with Master Mixologist, John Shope from the solar-powered Catocin Creek Distillery. This year we focused on honoring the multigenerational leaders who are working tirelessly towards regeneration of our economy and society for a brighter, greener future.

The awards ceremony began with recognizing the GenX awardee, Tonya Graham, whose was introduced by Annette Osso, Executive Director of Resilient Virginia. Tonya is the Executive Director of the Geos Institute’s ClimateWise program, which helps communities in adapting to climate change. Tonya leads climate resilience planning programs that provide assistance to various communities nationwide and has developed a holistic framework to move towards a green economy.


“For those who want to make a better, greener world, there will be days when you want to give up. Keep working. Change that seems to happen overnight is usually decades in the making. But the tipping point is only visible in the rearview mirror. So get clear about what you want, work with like-minded people towards that vision, love the world as you work to protect it. And as William Sloane Coffin suggests, be willing to risk something big, for something good.”


Our second awardee was Akanksha Khatri, our Millennial Generation representative. Akanksha’s award was presented by Leaders in Energy’s Executive Director Janine Finnell. Akanksha is the head of the Nature Action Agenda for World Economic Forum, where her work aims to create a strong business and economic case for safeguarding nature. Akanksha was the lead author of the report, “The Future of Nature and Business,” which stresses the need to protect global biodiversity in addition to fighting climate change.

Keep up the good fight, I think we need more and more people who are championing for a different way of living and a different way of operating in the economy. What is also important is we don’t just look at the green only as it’s my job or it’s my passion, but to be able to bring it together in every aspect of your life. So both in terms of how you choose to vote for your leaders – like are they raising ambition for the planet? How do they choose to buy produce and products? Is it done in a way that actually upholds your values?
And most importantly, take care of yourselves because we need resilient individuals if we have to have a systemic change in the coming decades.”

Jerry Achtermann was the recipient of the GenZ award, which was presented by Dr. Jennifer Sklarew, Professor at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. At the age of 12 years old, Jerry had an ambitious proposal to help make Fairfax County a more sustainable, healthier environment: he had learned about the dangers of polystyrene trays, and set a goal of making his school—and all schools—stop using them.  Jerry drafted several petitions and spoke at various events, which resulted in the county’s elimination of polystyrene trays. He continues to inspire others, and serves as a role model for generations of all ages.

“Success came not from choosing the objectively correct path to institutional change, but by simply trying things. So please, I challenge you, try things! If your middle school self knew everything about the world that you currently know, what would make you angry? Our futures will be shaped by our ability to remember and harness this anger. And what I hope I accomplish more so than alleviating one specific issue in one school system, is provided proof that reform and revolution thrive under the collaboration between experience and inexperienced alike. Tonight has highlighted the advantages that celebrating generational differences aford. Our diverse backgrounds are puzzle pieces for a holistic vision of the future.”


Next, William Brandon, Leaders in Energy’s Vice President presented our Baby Boomer generation award to Klaus Lackner, Ph.D. Dr Lackner is the Director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and Professor at the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Dr. Lackner’s research focuses on the notion that we should be capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in order to create sustainable energy solutions. A detailed description of this process is available at https://climatechange.medill.northwestern.edu.

Dr. Lackner’s research has focused on closing the carbon cycle by capturing carbon dioxide from the air.

“We are working with a startup company at silicon kingdom holdings. Their plan is to build mechanical tree farms and Arizona State is in the middle of this. We will be apart of the first prototype and it’s our ideas and our concepts that go into this. Think of these discs as the leaves on a tree, each one is about 10 meters tall, and they collect co2 for half an hour to an hour. Then it drops into these buckets/drums at the bottom where we remove the co2, extract the co2, process it on and we can do what we want to do with it. The opportunities are limitless.”


Finally, our new Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Peter Seidel, and was presented by Dr. Brian Czech, the Executive Director for the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE).


Peter is the author of the book “Uncommon Sense: Shortcomings of the Human Mind for Handling Big-Picture, Long-Term Challenges,” which discusses the global challenges related to population growth, and also provides an interesting analysis of the human brain and its shortcomings, and potential plans to overcome these limitations. His investigation delves into why we aren’t taking more meaningful actions to deal with these pressing environmental dangers, which has led him to publishing a number of articles and three books.


David Surber, who runs a PBS show: Make Peace with Nature, interviewed Peter Seidel about the direction humanity is going.

Peter states, “There is a possibility that the whole life system on the planet could be destroyed. I think there is time if we react and start doing things and changing our habits, the way we do things now and become aware of what we’re doing and decide, enough. We’re going to change. I think we probably could keep on living on the planet.” Later on he goes on to write the book, Uncommon Sense.


The night concluded with door prizes provided by our sponsors, as well as  ‘sustainability in action’ photos from our very own Leaders in Energy community members. We are deeply grateful to our Big Green Shift Sponsor, Clean Energy and Environmental Leaders, benefactors, media partners, the LE team and attendees, and look forward to continued successes in the coming year!

Leaders in Energy is grateful to our 4 Generations sponsors:

Big Green Shift Leader


Clean Energy Leaders

Longenecker & Associates

Catoctin Creek Distillery

Environmental Leaders


Morgan Stanley/Leila Peck


Amir D. Aczel Foundation for Research and Education in Science and Mathematics

Association of Energy Engineers – National Capital Chapter (AEE NCC)
Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN)
Green Team Academy
Potential Energy DC
Resilient Virginia
The Alliance for Regional Cooperation (ARC)
The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE)
Your Business Our World

Media Partners

Advanced Biofuels USA

Bethesda Green

DC Net Impact

EcoAction Arlington

Global Co-Lab

Maryland Clean Energy Center


Helaine Cooper

Capital Sun Group

Clifford Deaton

Nicole Gillen

Lavona Grow

Lara Ilao

Beth Offenbacker

Debbie Prenatt

Lee A. Williams


Learn more about our awardees and sponsors here. You can watch the event highlights in this video produced by Sustainable Scoop from Arlington Independent Media.

The award plaques were created by Dr. Elvin Yuzugullu, our LE Team Lead on Zero Waste, using sustainably-produced oil paints by event sponsor Gamblin, and incorporating a theme of the 4 Earth Elements to mirror the Four Generations.  Read her article “Colors that Matter.”

Learn more about all 7 editions of the 4 Gen Awards in Miriam Aczel’s Leaders in Energy’s Four Gen Awards: A Look Back Over the Years.


Jakkie is a Biology and Chemistry graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She currently works in the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at Children’s Hospital, but collaborating with a community of leaders to help create sustainable solutions to tackle the climate crisis head-on, is her passion. Her goal as an ambassador is to create a solid foundation in the Denver region, by integrating individuals from various communities. She believes her local success will be dependent on the involvement of the youth, as well as, the black and indigenous population. She is looking forward to being a catalyst for her community’s fight for social and environmental justice!

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