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### Dedicated Binghamton Graduate Student Focused on Sustainable Community Growth

In his final year of high school, Elijah Conlin accompanied a friend to a climate conference showcasing various notable climate activists from around the United States. Conlin recounted a pivotal moment during a 45-minute presentation by one of the speakers, describing it as a transformative experience where the stark reality of climate change dawned on him for the first time.

While initially inclined towards a career in medicine as a freshman, Conlin’s encounter with the pressing issues of climate change spurred him to co-establish [ppp1], the inaugural college branch of an environmental justice organization dedicated to amplifying youth perspectives. This organization focuses on advocating for policy reforms addressing climate change, particularly tailored to the younger demographic. It is a student-driven initiative with a global reach, striving towards fostering a healthier environment and a more just society.

Recognizing the potential for expansion across college campuses, Conlin, unable to locate an existing student group centered on environmental justice at Binghamton University, took the initiative with his peers to fill that void. They engaged in weekly tabling sessions for “Fridays for our Future,” with Conlin devoting a substantial amount of his time as a freshman to nurture the growth of the campus organization. Over the past four years, Zero Hour Binghamton has experienced significant development, serving as a source of inspiration for similar Zero Hour chapters at other institutions like Brown University.

Conlin articulated the necessity of a collective movement to shift the prevailing consumerist mindset towards one of preservation and sustainability. He emphasized the communal aspect of this endeavor, portraying it as a shared commitment to safeguard and advance a sustainable future.

Upon completing his undergraduate studies in 2023, Conlin pursued further education at Binghamton University, enrolling in a graduate program in [ppp2]. Alongside his academic pursuits and ongoing involvement with Zero Hour Binghamton, Conlin assumed the role of a sustainable energy fellow at NeST, a non-profit organization fostering connections and support for clean energy, environmental education, climate justice, and economic equity in the Southern Tier region. Through his engagements with Zero Hour and NeST, Conlin contributes to organizing a range of activities, from waste management initiatives to workforce development programs, viewing these roles as integral to fostering a comprehensive, collaborative, and action-driven environmental justice framework for the broader Binghamton community.

Conlin underscored the interconnected nature of environmental justice with various other social justice movements, highlighting the significance of collaborative efforts among diverse organizations led by individuals sharing common passions. He stressed the importance of cultivating trust with community-based organizations as a fundamental prerequisite for driving meaningful change.

Furthermore, he emphasized the value of community integration and expressed his aspirations for university students and organizers to leverage the community effectively as a mutually beneficial educational platform.

Conlin encouraged individuals to engage with the community through volunteering opportunities, such as assisting with community meals at the North of Main Area Community Center or the Southern Tier Community Center. He emphasized the community’s role not only as a space of inclusivity and unity but also as a valuable environment for expanding perspectives and learning from mistakes. Conlin acknowledged that regardless of one’s post-graduation plans, four years present ample time to make a positive impact and cultivate the skills necessary to contribute to any community effectively. However, he also highlighted the promising prospects in sustainability careers for students within the greater Binghamton area, emphasizing the positive outlook for economic development in the region.

In September 2023, Conlin played a key role in organizing the Greater Binghamton Clean Energy Career Summit, a collaborative event that brought together governmental, industrial, and community leaders to share insights and create networking opportunities for community members and potential employers. Conlin described the summit as a success in terms of attendance and feedback, with plans underway to gather input for enhancing future workforce development initiatives.

Driven by the immediate relevance of environmental justice and its implications for Binghamton residents, Conlin dedicated his efforts and attention to this cause. With the support of peers, educators, and the community, he envisions tangible progress towards environmental health and justice for both the ecosystem and its inhabitants. Despite the prevailing pessimism, Conlin remains optimistic about a future where climate patterns undergo positive transformations, allowing him to pursue his initial passion for medicine.

“I still hope that in 20-30 years, when things quiet down, I can go back and get my medical degree,” shared Conlin.