How will each and every community prepare for the forecast of climate change? Garry Harris is a wellspring of ideas and actions for weathering the storm.
Editor's Note: Right now, individuals around the world are taking decisive action to address climate change. Through a collaboration with Climate Changers, Outrider is sharing examples of people stepping forward to make a difference. Their inspiring stories can ignite more of us to take meaningful action. Garry Harris engineers a future where communities take the heat and cold and emerge more resilient. His story is one of an unrelenting care for people and planet that prepares for the predictable and unpredictable. Outrider invites you to get to know these Climate Changers and see how you can be part of the solution, too.
I believe that I have been placed on this Earth for two things: to take care of people and to take care of the air, water, and land. I am an engineer from the energy field, but I always had a passion for community and people, especially youth and their proper development. I started the Center for Sustainable Communities, a nonprofit, specially designed to make our communities greener, cleaner, healthier, safer, and more climate resilient. In addition, I work to promote and advocate for climate protection measures and policies.
A few years ago, we had a terrible snowstorm here in Atlanta that crippled and paralyzed our city. But on the evening of the snowstorm event, I took to the streets to free stuck cars and buses, and generally, care for the welfare of those stranded—sometimes for more than 24 hours. After the event, I got community residents together with government leaders and elected officials to hold a summit on making our metro Atlanta region more resilient to climate change. We made more than 40 recommendations to the Mayor and Governor to correct identified deficiencies to help mitigate future severe weather impacts. We also began working very closely with NOAA in the Weather-Ready Nation project.
These projects work to mitigate climate impacts including education and awareness, emergency management strategies, adaptation and mitigation strategies, field trips and tours to NOAA National Weather Service facilities.
We worked with other agencies to create a community-based initiative known as a "Rally for Climate Resilience" that attracted more than 200 residents primarily from vulnerable communities. We worked with NOAA to expand this concept to nearly 100 cities around the country. We also helped Raytheon to design, develop, and deploy a national K-12 training program on Building A Weather-Ready Nation.
We worked with the City of Atlanta on its application to become a 100 Resilient City. We have helped to organize several public marches and demonstrations for climate including the People's Climate March. We have conducted several environmental education classes for youth on climate change and its effects. We have created the Advanced Atmospheric Research and Monitoring Station (AARMS) that will conduct Earth Science Laboratory experiments and climate modeling and analysis. We are also working with the NSF INCLUDES Program on their EarthConnections Programs—linking Earth Science including Climate to Communities.
We have also conducted many faith-based initiatives in relation to climate including a commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative for the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and extensive measures on energy efficiency and climate education for neighboring communities.
We have worked to create ECO Districts that utilize climate, equity, and resilience as foundational imperatives and to establish large-scale community solar and energy efficiency programs aimed at the homes of thousands of low-income residents. Our work includes forming the 1.5 Degree Patrol, a coalition of national and local organizations that help lead the charge on climate activism. We also helped to start the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge to reduce energy consumption in the commercial area. Today, it is one of the largest programs of its kind in the U.S.
Garry A. Harris is the President of the Center for Sustainable Communities.