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Gina McCarthy: Discouraged By All The Bad Climate News? There's No Time For That 03:21
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Gina McCarthy, Director of the Change for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University, gives the keynote speech at Science to Action Day, an affiliate event of the Global Climate Action Summit on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in San Francisco. (Peter Barreras/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Gina McCarthy, Director of the Change for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University, gives the keynote speech at Science to Action Day, an affiliate event of the Global Climate Action Summit on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in San Francisco. (Peter Barreras/AP)

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I was in San Francisco during the wildfires this fall.  The air quality was so poor almost everyone was wearing a face mask. One woman canceled our meeting because of the smoke — she had to leave town with her kids, who have asthma, just to find cleaner air.

Honestly, sometimes it feels like we’re all just one forecast away from total disaster.

The latest news on climate change paints a dire picture: rising seas, forced migration, severe drought.

In Boston, we’re dealing with sea level rise, wetter winters and more intense heatwaves.

I’ve worked in the environmental world for more than 40 years. As the former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it seems like everything I care about is at risk. Science and scientists are under attack.

A ferryboat and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge are obscured due to smoke and haze from wildfires Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg/AP)
A ferryboat and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge are obscured due to smoke and haze from wildfires Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg/AP)

But in New England, we pay attention to science. The current administration isn’t doing anything to deal with our warming climate — they’re actually trying to take us backwards — but we can make progress. Cities and states have always been the first to act, because they are the closest to the threats and can't ignore them.

Forty years ago, Boston Harbor was toxic. Anyone who fell in ran to the hospital for a tetanus shot. But we cleaned it up. And we can face climate change, too.

We have solutions right now. The clean energy sector is growing. We know how to cut carbon emissions without busting the bank.

People ask me all the time, "Gina, what can we do?" Well, every single one of us can do more than change a light bulb.

I’m putting my faith in American ingenuity and entrepreneurship. I won’t allow science and facts to be politicized, inequities to multiply and injustices to go unchallenged. What’s important to you?

I know it’d be easier to hibernate; to eat ice cream and binge-watch Game of Thrones. I've tried it. It won’t help.

It’s time to get the people in power listen. Clean air, clean water, healthy land, a stable planet — those are values worth fighting for.

Gina McCarthy at WBUR. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Gina McCarthy at WBUR. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

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This segment aired on December 21, 2018.

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Gina McCarthy, a former EPA administrator, is the director of C-CHANGE at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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