Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Gina McCarthy & Making Climate Change Personal
July 22, 2019
Conversations with those taking action at the intersection of climate change and public health.
As part of our weekly Climate, Health & Equity Brief, we’re pleased to share a periodic interview series with leaders working at the intersection of climate change, health and equity. This month we spoke with former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, now director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
You’re a longtime environmental warrior. What inspired you to join Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health after the EPA?
My career has always focused on protecting public health and the natural resources we rely on to lead healthy lives. The Harvard T.H. Chan School is at the forefront of climate and health, and I was thrilled to launch Harvard C-CHANGE—the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment. We help everyone understand the health risks of fossil fuels, highlight solutions and emphasize the important role we all play in driving change.
How does your work at Harvard C-CHANGE address the health and equity impacts of climate change?
We focus significant attention on the most vulnerable—all too often they are the poor and minorities, our seniors and kids. We work with the healthcare and medical communities to design solutions and narrow health disparities. We also work with cities, states and other universities so we don’t miss any opportunity to help make people and our planet healthier.
What is your greatest hope when it comes to climate change?
The young people I have the pleasure to engage with know that climate change is happening. They are impatient, frustrated and getting more active everyday. They have no intention of settling for a future that is unhealthy, unsafe or unjust. And I have no intention of leaving this challenge to them without first doing everything I can to help make the world a healthier and safer place for them.
Your biggest fear?
That we will run out of time to stop the most significant impacts of climate change. This is an all-hands-on-deck problem and we have to get busy now. Even if Washington, D.C. continues to reject climate science and roll back climate actions, we can’t let it slow us down or lose hope. So many exciting things are happening at the state and local levels, so let’s get moving!
What is one thing you would encourage others to do to make an impact?
Stay hopeful and active. Find ways to make climate change personal—it’s not about polar bears; it’s about our family’s health and our children’s future. I was blessed with my second grandchild this month. When I get tired or ticked off, I think about these beautiful babies. They remind me why this work is important, why I cannot give up and why we must focus on implementing the solutions we already have today.
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