MENTORSHIP SPOTLIGHT – Meandering Paths Toward Adaptation

Mentee Camilla Lizundia: Camilla Lizundia is an urban planner and artist based in Philadelphia, PA. They are the founder of Moving People Studio, a blog, and marketplace honoring the art of movement and contemplating the built environment. Camilla is particularly passionate about neighborhood-level responses to climate change, such as expanding transit networks, urban gardening, and community coalition building.

They completed their Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning (’22) with a focus area in transportation planning and their Bachelor’s in the Environment (’20) from the University of Michigan.

Mentor Jessica Cahail: Jessica Cahail is the Product Lead for EarthScan at Cervest, a climate intelligence company (and B Corp). Before joining Cervest, she was a Product Manager at Azavea, where she guided the development of Temperate, a vulnerability assessment and climate action planning tool for communities.

Not all adaptation professionals begin their careers in adaptation. Many have meandering journeys that brought them to climate work. Camilla and Jessica are no exceptions.

Camilla’s greatest strength is their multitude of interests and passions. They take pride in not being defined as one thing. Since they were young, they have participated in art and writing. A semi-regular poetry hobby turned into a poetry editor position at their college’s literary magazine, which led to academic publications, then songwriting, and now organizing shows and events with a Philadelphia queer art collective. Camilla has always had a deep connection to the environment, but it wasn’t until their grandparents became climate migrants, moving from the heart of California wildfires to the more temperate Midwest, that climate adaptation became a crucial part of their life. For Camilla, climate adaptation is about making the world more livable for humans, and the way they approach that is from an urban planning and environmental justice perspective. Adaptation is a theme they aim to continue exploring in their art, music, and creative writing in the near future. 

Jessica started out studying museology and working in academic museums on both the East and West coasts. Museums led her to the greater arts and culture sector in Philadelphia and a role at The Pew Charitable Trusts, which is one of the main funders of arts organizations in the region. After a decade there and in the independent nonprofit that Pew spun off to maintain the project she was part of, she found herself taking stock and realizing that she had been managing a technical SaaS project for some time- perhaps it was time to dive into tech. But the jump from nonprofit to for-profit is across a chasm, so she found a bridge between the two in the B Corp Azavea. It was there that she was first introduced to the specifics of making climate science accessible to decision makers throughout the country. After many iterations– evolving from a simple API to a decision-support tool for communities undertaking their own vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning– emerged as the first climate product that Jessica was to manage. Five years later, she wanted to devote 100% of her time to climate solutions and left Azavea for Cervest, another SaaS product designed to democratize access to and use of climate intelligence.

One common thread in these two stories is that both Camilla and Jessica live in the Philadelphia metropolitan region. During her time at Azavea, in addition to product management, Jessica had the opportunity to manage several environmentally focused client projects. Through those projects, she learned not only about the tireless work of the City’s Office of Sustainability (specifically their Building Energy Benchmarking program) but of regional organizations like Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission that help to coordinate efforts across jurisdictions. Alongside city and local government climate initiatives organizations like The Water Center at Penn are local anchors bringing private and public groups to the table to safeguard our water supplies. Nonprofits like People for Bikes and the Clean Air Council (via their GoPhillyGo program) advocate for our communities to be more cycling-friendly and less reliant on gas-powered vehicles. Camilla has also had the privilege of working with several Philadelphia-based organizations addressing resilience and environmental justice work. In their free time, they volunteer with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and 5th Square, an urbanist political action committee. Both organizations advocate for the improvement of public and active transportation. As an active bike and transit rider, Camilla has closely followed SEPTA Forward’s Bus Revolution. They have also managed an environmental campaign focused on improving the city’s waste management system while working for Trash Academy, an environmental justice branch of Mural Arts Philadelphia. Each of these departments and organizations approach climate resilience from a different angle, but all are part of the solutions we will need to adapt to the future climate reality facing us.    

Thanks to Jessica and Camilla for sharing their experience! Learn more about the mentorship program here.