Isaac Wolfe Bernheim

Climate Heroes

Be a Climate Hero

With your help, we will protect natural ecosystems, inspire a new generation of environmental stewards, and reduce our carbon footprint. Give today and your donation will be DOUBLED by the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation!

Donate Now

Eleven individuals and organizations were presented with the first annual Isaac Wolfe Bernheim Climate Hero Award on Saturday, April 20, at Bernheim Forest and Arboretum. These honorees are taking action every day to mitigate climate change. They inspire us all to join in their heroic work. Bernheim aims to counter climate dread and climate anxiety by lifting up their stories to show that everyone can be a climate hero.

Christina Lee Brown

Christina Lee Brown, a Louisville resident since 1968, co-founded the Envirome Institute at the University of Louisville to study environmental and social effects on clinical health. The Institute operates under a new vision of health, viewing it as a collective social phenomenon, arising from a confluence of nutritional, economic, environmental, psychological, intellectual, spiritual, cultural, and physical health of individuals. The institute is also a pioneer in Implementation Science, using research as a means for improving and modeling urban health with community partners. 
Christy Brown serves on the boards of the Sustainable Food Trust in England, The Berry Center, The Center for Interfaith Relations, The Louisville Orchestra, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation and supports many charitable causes that cultivate health and sustainability in Kentucky – including Bernheim Forest! At the heart of Christy Brown’s new vision of health is the commitment to protect and restore healthy air, water, and soil for present and future generations. She advocates for science and nature-based strategies, emphasizing that we all must become part of the solution. Her partnerships with Bernheim, Kentucky Natural Land Trust, Ohio River Way, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, and many more partners amplify this cause. Together, they emphasize the need to protect our precious waterways, conserve globally significant forests, and cultivate care for our common home, including the preservation of agrarian culture.   

Kurt Mason

Kurt has spent decades promoting urban and rural conservation through both professional and volunteer service to urban and rural communities across the state. Through his work as both District Conservationist and Urban Conservationist for Kentucky with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kurt helped landowners develop opportunities to utilize USDA resources and programs. He is the Chair of the Louisville / Jefferson County Environmental Trust, a quasi-governmental land trust organization. He serves as the Board Chair of the Food Literacy Project, through which youth transform their communities through food, farming, and the land. The Community Farm Alliance also benefits from his service as a Board member, where he supports the mission of helping family farms be socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable. And he serves on the West Jefferson County Community Task Force board, which identifies environmental and environmental health concerns of the residents of West Louisville and western Jefferson County and helps raise the voices of residents to address them. 

Beargrass Thunder: Jody Dahmer & Mariah Corso

Jody and Mariah, who collectively make up Beargrass Thunder, do outstanding advocacy work to improve our built environment, make communities and transportation accessible, and promote urban biodiversity and agriculture. They run the Louisville Seedbank Program, which focuses on finding and distributing heat-resistant vegetable seeds that can survive in the urban heat island neighborhoods of Louisville. Jody and Mariah successfully advocated for ‘yarden‘ legislation in Louisville, making it legal to have edible and native gardens in front yards instead of only lawns. They also promote New Urbanist principles like adding trees to the streetscape, rezoning so different amenities can coexist in the same neighborhood, walkability, and public transit. Jody and Mariah are always positive and delightful to be around, even when the issues are discouraging and unjust. They lead by example, always at the front of an event or workshop, or with their hands in the dirt planting native plants removing invasive species, or cleaning waterways. They are always open to community input and work in a coalition and consensus model, inspiring others to join them on the journey. Through their work with Beargrass Thunder, Jody and Mariah are taking climate action one yarden at a time. 

Chef Eneitra Beattie

Chef Eneitra Beattieaffectionately known as Chef Ehas been an environmentalist from an early age. Through her contagious enthusiasm and positivity, she inspires West Louisvillians to grow their own healthy, organic food. She believes connection with the earth leads to better treatment of the earth, and that healthy food leads to healthy bodies, healthy minds, and healthy behaviors. As an urban farmer, she collaborates with other nonprofits, including Bernheim, Change Today, Change Tomorrow, the Louisville Urban League, and the Parks Alliance of Louisville to advance urban, organic gardening and showcase creations made from shareable recipes. Chef E also advances her work through her e-commerce business called Greenz N Tingz. She makes organic products including salads, soups, and hot sauces. Most of her ingredients come from her garden with no added sugars or salts. Chef E often gives food away —to kids, neighbors and others in the community – to both feed them for today and inspire them to learn to grow their own healthy foods. 

Kentucky Resources Council

Kentucky Resources Council is a statewide nonprofit organization that has become a cornerstone of environmental advocacy in the Bluegrass. Since its creation in 1984, KRC has led decades of impactful work to defend the health of Kentucky’s natural environment and communities. KRC informs and empowers the public to protect the environment and foster healthy communities, and they provide free legal assistance to those living “downwind, downstream, and downhill” of environmental problems. Through KRC’s vision and dedication, people from across the Commonwealth are inspired to engage in collective action and be a part of the solution on local and state levels. Legislative victories, such as raising landfill standards and promoting renewable energy initiatives, have directly improved the health of Kentucky’s communities. KRC’s legal team currently represents the Bernheim Foundation in fighting the gas pipeline that seeks to cut through Bernheim Forest, and a coalition of allied groups in cases before the Kentucky Public Service Commission, helping to chart a more clean and equitable energy future for Kentucky. 

Jessie Rathburn

Jessie has inspired the community to live more sustainable lives and take more responsible action on behalf of Earth through her lectures, tours, writings, workshops, community activism, and deeply held love of the Earth. Jessie has a background in urban agriculture and environmental education in Colorado and brought her skills and passion to the Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse in Loretto, KY. Through her work in the Community, Jessie encouraged and supported sustainable farming practices and expanded wildlife habitat. She helped establish the Carbon Reduction Fund and encouraged renewable energy practices on the campus. Jessie was one of the primary organizers for the movement to place more than 600 acres of Motherhouse land into a conservation easement and assisted in establishing the Nature Preserve Cemetery, a sustainable green burial option for members and co-members of Loretto. In addition, she’s built needed relationships with local Kentucky environmentalists and activists working toward all aspects of Earth’s sustainability. Through her current work with Land Justice Futures, Jessie partners with religious communities to heal the land, protect it from extraction, and restore stewardship to Black, Indigenous, and other dispossessed communities. Jessie lives with her family on a sustainable homestead outside of Loretto. 

Louisville Climate Action Network & Sarah Lynn Cunningham

Sarah Lynn Cunningham is known for her commitment to environmental stewardship in both her personal and professional life. After a career in civil service, she co-founded the Louisville Climate Action Network (LCAN) where she currently serves as Executive Director. Sarah Lynn advocates for both energy efficiency and alternative energy as inseparably key solutions to the climate crisis. She established LCAN to build a web of partnerships between businesses, faith organizations, and community groups – including Bernheim Forest – to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy goals. LCAN offers reliable climate-action tips to renters, homeowners, and small businesses; advocates for smarter public policies; and provides independent technical assistance to other nonprofits. To acknowledge the gap created by red-lining and improve partners’ environmental, economic, and social sustainability, Sarah Lynn created LCAN’s Urban Energy Partnership. This provides nonprofits that primarily serve Louisville’s BIPOC communities with free services to cut carbon consumption and utility costs, so they can spend less on utilities and more on their missions. 

Amanda Fuller and Justin Mog

Amanda, as the Executive Director of the Kentucky Academy of Science (KAS), drives scientific communication and collaboration to enhance research, education, and public engagement. Through KAS’s advocacy training and toolkit, individuals across Kentucky are empowered to influence public policy decisions. Additionally, Amanda’s initiative, Lots of Food, has revitalized vacant lots in the Portland neighborhood into productive gardens and orchards, serving as educational resources for the community.

Justin, serving as the University of Louisville’s Sustainability Director since 2009, spearheads efforts to implement the university’s climate action plan, aiming to eliminate carbon emissions. With a 53% reduction in emissions under his leadership, UofL has invested in efficiency, launched composting and reuse programs, and installed solar panels, while also promoting sustainable transportation habits. Beyond his professional role, Justin co-founded Forward Radio, amplifying information on climate solutions through the Sustainability Now! radio show and podcast. Both Justin and Amanda exemplify sustainable living, opting for eco-friendly practices like using public transportation and biking, which has enabled them to afford rooftop solar for their home while actively participating in community initiatives like tree plantings and garden care.

Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition

KSEC connects and empowers young Kentuckians to take action for a just and environmentally sustainable Kentucky through training, leadership development, and community engagement. The group of young people has organized door-to-door canvassing for climate action in several Kentucky counties, including in Bullitt County to raise awareness and opposition to the proposed natural gas pipeline across Bernheim land that is protected by a conservation easement. They inspire people of all ages by their commitment to justice and environmentalism. The group has created and distributed informative, creative zines about climate justice and convenes young people through their annual week-long summer camp, Catalyst. They also support other advocacy groups – including the Save Bernheim Now Coalition, Building Communities Not Prisons, and the Just Transition Coalitionproviding fresh ideas for organizing and deep knowledge of how to mobilize people. 

Berea Earth Warriors

Led by Amber Shaffer and other consistent volunteers, the Berea Earth Warriors are dedicated to removing litter from Berea’s parks, streets, and waterways and spreading environmental consciousness in their community. They not only care for the environment but also emphasize care for the town’s people, particularly those in need. They cultivate fresh produce for the local food bank in the East Ridge Community Garden and teach workshops about growing food at home. The Berea Earth Warriors Facebook group has over 750 members and hosts near-weekly clean-up events. One of their primary projects concerns the Owsley Fork Reservoir, which is home to several bald eagle nests and other vulnerable species and is where Berea gets its drinking water. The Berea Earth Warriors reported a dump site on the Reservoir and mobilized volunteers and other community partners, including Get Outside Kentucky, to clean up the area. They continue to advocate for more sustainable practices to be adopted by the city. 

New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future & Sister Claire McGowan

In 2005, Sister Claire McGowan founded New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future with a mission to promote sustainability in rural communities, emphasizing the spiritual and moral obligation to care for the Earth and uphold social justice. Through her leadership in the faith community, Sister Claire brought a unique perspective to environmental advocacy, ensuring that the voices and needs of local communities are at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

Over nearly two decades, New Pioneers has driven community action by initiatives like the Green Pioneer Home effort, opposition to the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline, and providing locally-based educational programs. Today, the organization continues Sister Claire’s legacy, positioning itself as “the voice for sustainability in central Kentucky” with a newly released strategic plan aimed at fostering education and systemic change to transform the region into a model of sustainability.

Be a Climate Hero

With your help, we will protect natural ecosystems, inspire a new generation of environmental stewards, and reduce our carbon footprint. Give today and your donation will be DOUBLED by the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation!

Donate Now

We are proud to recognize these leaders for their exemplary work in environmental sustainability. They inspire us all to take climate action!

– Bernheim's Director of Advancement, Melissa Raley