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Aug 3, 2018

On Sourcing Matters episode 29 we welcome Gina McCarthy, Director of C-Change at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health. McCarthy has a background fighting for, and evolving practice & policy relating to the environment that is second to none!  A change-agent of positivity, Gina McCarthy has been a leading advocate for common sense strategies to protect public health and the environment for more than 30 years. She served under President Barack Obama as the 13th Administrator of the EPA from 2013–2017. Her tenure as EPA Administrator heralded a paradigm shift in national environmental policy, expressly linking it with global public health. Prior, during her career in Massachusetts, McCarthy advised five governors on environmental affairs, worked at the state and local levels on critical environmental issues, and helped coordinate policies on economic growth, energy, transportation, and the environment.

In our 45 minute conversation we discuss both the need and opportunity to embrace sustainable best practice across the board.  We chat about the current landscape in DC. We discuss Scott Pruitt and his $43K soundproof phone booth, Trump’s perspective on the environment, climate change deniers, future food, agriculture and much more. Regarding her take on the political divide “We need to stop Washington from simply making climate change part of a partisan platform. Frankly, It has nothing to do with being a Republican or Democrat.  Absolutely nothing! If you’re a human being – you need to care about this, and you need to act.”  To do this we need to motivate, inspire and let people come to their own conclusions that this all matters.  “It’s a strategy that we need to stop scaring people, and start creating the pied piper effect. Play great music, and let people follow you.”


Gina explains that the EPA isn’t a birds & bunnies agency.  But, instead one focused on public health and national security. “People need to realize, climate isn’t about polar bears, it’s about their kids.”  McCarthy gets to the brass tacks of the movement, “The most important thing we can do is to realize the future is in our hands. We need to grab opportunities where they come, and be positive about it.”  She continues, “We need to put science to work, and explain it in terms that everyone can understand.”  McCarthy recently completed a few fellowships at Harvard. “I found the students to be incredibly exciting and engaging. They had a sense of social justice and equity that was just palpable. They just didn’t want to tolerate moving forward in a world that doesn’t recognize that science is real, that climate change is happening, that manmade emissions are causing it; and that we have to do something – not least of which is to more women into office!”

After her work in DC and finalizing the fellowship programs, Harvard’s Chan school of Public Health became the ideal venue to continue her transformative work in materializing the impacts of climate change and environmental pollution on public & personal health. The goal of the new C-Change center is to make sure science is driving actions continuously. She explains “The Dean wanted the science to be done not just well, but to be communicated well. To actually get into the hands of decision makers, and we can actually make a difference based on real facts on the ground.”

McCarthy details, “The greatest opportunity we have to improve health in this century is embrace climate change as a public health issue. Climate change is opening our eyes to what we need to do to live sustainably. And, a low carbon future is something we should be running towards; investing in; talking about; getting exciting about!  I want people to know that climate change is perhaps the most direct threat they have today for their kid’s tomorrow. Taking action against climate change now is the greatest opportunity we have to chart a future that is sustainable.”
What we’re learning is: we do have great leaders, from all over, with diverse backgrounds who are ready for their time up at bat.  This has melded with a confluence of a citizen awakening, and what seems to be a zeitgeist of generation next where responsible action can be the permanency to set a proper course moving forward.  Recent defeats from this administration is a gut check; maybe a call to actions for us to gain some small wins, together, for greater good and stability.  So, whether instigating change from our dinner plate, in a lab or research center, via technology & innovation, or from some of the most prestigious institutions in the land – we’ve got this talent.  We need now to mobilize around small victories and milestones from the grass-roots.  It’s our time we get out and make a difference!