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At the 6th Appalachian Energy Summit in Boone, Gina McCarthy Delivered a Rousing Keynote Speech

During the keynote address at the 6th Appalachian Energy Summit in Boone, Gina McCarthy, former head of the EPA, called on grass roots activists to address environmental issues with renewed vigor. Photo by Marie Freeman

BOONE, N.C.—In her keynote address at the 2017 Appalachian Energy Summit, former head of the EPA Gina McCarthy cautioned against complacency and despair, calling on grass roots activists to address environmental issues with renewed vigor, especially around clean energy and climate change.

On Monday evening in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, her words – with clipped delivery and flavored with a heavy Boston accent – had her audience charmed, inspired, clapping, howling with laughter and rising to their feet for a standing ovation.

“Thank you for all the great work you are doing to not just talk about sustainability but to live sustainably at this great university,” she said. “You have demonstrated an unbelievable commitment across the North Carolina campuses to sustainability – with Appalachian leading the way.”

Majora Carter, an urban revitalization strategist who hosts “The Promised Land,” a Peabody Award-winning public radio series, delivers a second address on Tuesday evening, also in the Schaefer Center. https://sustain.appstate.edu/initiatives/energy-summit/2017

McCarthy “is known as a gifted communicator and strategist – with a talent for making environmental issues nonpartisan, highly personal and solidly backed by science – and the law,” Chancellor Sheri N. Everts said in her opening remarks.

EPA head under President Obama, McCarthy was critical of the Trump administration’s policies, specifically its decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, and she proposed ways to move forward.

“Just because Washington, D.C., has decided to take a nap on core environmental protections and critical actions to address the most significant public health challenge of our time – climate change – (does not) mean the United States of America is asleep,” she said. “I’m not. You’re not. We are not.”

McCarthy, while expressing optimism that investing in science would continue because it “is the foundation of progress,” urged everyone to do their part.

“We all have to be active citizens and engage others so more people get involved,” she said. “Talk to people who agree and disagree with us to try to identify core values we share and what we can do to move forward together… We need to focus our efforts on communicating science and facts, reaching out and engaging others to connect the dots between exposure to pollution and our ability to live healthy, productive lives.”

During a lively discussion following her speech, she was asked, “What is the most optimistic thing you’ve seen in the past six months related to climate, the environment and energy?” McCarthy replied, “If you’re asking for the most recent reason for (my) optimism, it’s being here at this school.”

About the Appalachian Energy Summit

The 2017 Appalachian Energy Summit is the sixth-annual meeting of clean energy leadership from academia and industry. The theme, “Perspectives: Policy & Practice,” highlights the multiple viewpoints needed to develop successful strategies that promote clean energy production, distribution and consumption. Appalachian assumed an active leadership role in reducing the UNC system’s energy costs by initiating the annual summit of UNC system leadership in 2012. The Appalachian Energy Summit has provided a platform through which UNC campuses together with industry partners have avoided more than $499 million dollars in utility costs, representing almost 9 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.