Expert Interview: Dr. Timon McPhearson

Dr. Timon McPhearson is a Director and Associate Professor of Urban Ecology at the Urban Systems Lab at The New School. He works closely with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection and other city agencies to advance climate resiliency in NYC. This work has included as part of the NYC Mayor’s Task Force on the Urban Heat Island and led to the NYC Cool Neighborhoods Program, a $100 million policy and planning initiative to reduce the risks from heat and heat waves in NYC. He also co-lead the NYC Stormwater Resiliency project which is a $2 million research project to understand the combined challenge of extreme precipitation and storm surge on flooding in the city and produce recommendations for where the city should invest to reduce risks from multiple sources of urban flooding for people and infrastructure. In addition, he has also worked to advocate for green roofs as a nature-based solution for climate resiliency and which in part led to new legislation passed in summer 2019 to require green and/or solar roofs on all new construction in NYC. Now he works closely with city agencies to develop the science to prioritize where investments in green roofs should go and how to develop the regulations associated with this new legislation.

He is deeply concerned about the ways in which climate change is accelerating and  creating inequalities in who experience the impacts of climate change. Though he believes everyone has to absolutely invest and change behavior to limit CO2 emissions and mitigate the causes of climate change, much of the climate change for the next 100 years is already built into the climate system and so advancing adaptation and resilience is key to prepare for the drastically different future that we are already starting to witness. 

Experiencing Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was a wake-up call for both sounding the urgency on need for climate resiliency in policy, planning, and design, but also at all scales from communities, to cities, to regions. It also deepened Dr. McPhearson’s resolve to focus on climate change adaptation and resilience in his work because this work can save lives, and if everyone does it right, it can help transform our cities, nations, and planet toward a more sustainable relationship between people and nature. Additionally, though we can’t reverse the inequities and injustices of the past, we can focus on resilience efforts and investments for those who need it most, which are historically disenfranchised, low income, and minority neighborhoods. These are also the places likely to experience the worst impacts of climate change. So he believes we need to get to work!

He experienced Hurricane Sandy but have also closely followed similar events since Hurricane Katrina include climate related droughts, fires, hurricanes, and heat waves. These kind of so called “natural disasters” are ultimately very human caused as well and they are increasing in frequency, intensity and impact all over the planet. 

Students have so many ways to get involved. No one can solve the climate challenge alone, but we can do it together. And that means putting your skills and passion to work wherever you can. This can mean working with local community organizations to advance sustainability goals from recycling programs, to education, to helping communities learn to switch to renewable energy sources. Student can engage in research, community organizing, or learn how they can reduce their own consumption patterns and educate others to do the same. Students can lead the way partly because they are in an education system where they have access to the latest information about how to create positive impacts in the world.  But they can also spread this knowledge, action, and experience to their friends, family, and neighbors.  

The public needs to do the same but we also have to help them, listen to them, and understand where there is hesitancy, or lack of knowledge, or other concerns and find ways to be in conversation so we can keep the doors open to bring more people on the sustainability path.


Expert Interview: Caroline Hansley

Name and Title: 


Caroline Hansley-Mace, Senior Organizer


Role in the company/organization:


Organizer at Sierra Club


How you/ the organization is involved with climate change or environmental studies? 


We work on this mission:


“To explore, enjoy and protect the planet. To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out those objectives.”


What sparked your desire to be involved in this work?


I took an internship on organizing and loved it. I put the skills I learned to work for environmental justice back at college where I ran successful campaigns, and I was hooked!


Why is climate change important to you?


Because it impacts my future, and everyone’s future on the planet. My family, and future generations will all be impacted if we do nothing.


How have you seen climate change impact your specific region?


Hurricane Florence and Matthew


What do you think university students like us should be doing now?




What do you think the general population should be doing now?


Organizing and electing leaders who align with our values and urgency.

Expert Interview: Carolyne Buckner

 Name and Title

Carolyne Buckner

Environmental Specialist

Stormwater Division

City of Burlington 

Role in the company/organization

To implement a comprehensive stormwater management program aimed at minimizing the pollutants reaching our streams and other water bodies.  There are six Minimum Control Measures (MCMs):

  • Public Education & Outreach
  • Public Involvement & Participation
  • Illicit Discharge Detection & Elimination
  • Construction Site Runoff Controls
  • Post-Construction Site Runoff Controls
  • Pollution Prevention & Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations


How you/ the organization is involved in climate change resilience?

We respond to drainage calls, flooding complaints, etc.   We are well aware of the increased frequency and intensity of storms and the number of calls have been increasing. We are working with other municipalities to look at what can be done to minimize adverse impacts in areas that are already developed as well as what needs to be changed to minimize adverse impacts in future developments.  I think resiliency goes beyond just responding to the new normal, though. I want to start working with other departments within the City to address the causes of climate change. The coastal communities are doing some really good work in this area as they are most hard hit and can be great resources.


What sparked your desire to be involved in this work?

I love being outdoors and want to do what I can to conserve and protect our natural spaces.   I also love learning about nature and natural systems. The best technological solutions in this fields are always modeled after nature.


Why is climate change important to you?

I’m not sure how it couldn’t be.  It’s hard to overlook the change in weather patterns and how it’s affecting people, wildlife, and ecosystems.   Not to mention how it will affect my children and future generations.


How have you seen climate change impact your specific region?

Heat, more frequent and severe droughts, and increased frequency and intensity of storms.  Just more extreme patterns.


What do you think university students like us should be doing now?

I could list out a bunch of items from a climate action plan, but should tend to shut me down.   I’d say start by talking about it, like you are doing with this survey. The more we all talk about climate change, the more likely we will each find a way to act.   It can feel really overwhelming, so I say just start the conversation and let it lead us. I think a lot of climate change denial stems from the overwhelming nature of where the science is pointing.   


What do you think the general population should be doing now?

Same as above. Talking includes to elected officials. Talking also includes having conversations with those with different opinions and being willing to listen.   

Expert Interview: Matthew Adkins

Name: Matthew Adkins

Role: Small farmer, researcher, and filmmaker

Involvement in climate change resilience: Using film to discuss, document, and share ideas about permaculture and sustainability


What sparked your desire to be involved in this work? 

In high school, I read a lot of books about environmentalism and sustainability, and was really impressed by the wastefulness of modern human culture and industries, and their negative impact on the natural systems that we depend on in order to live and flourish. Since then, while studying environmental science, I’ve learned more about problems like climate change, pollution, and the misuse of natural resources. I took a class about permaculture and was really inspired by the possibilities that permaculture design principles offer for addressing some of these problems. I wanted to explore those ideas and share what I learned with other people.


Why is climate change important to you?

By throwing natural processes and cycles off-balance, climate change poses a number of threats to me and everyone else on the planet, but especially the most poor and vulnerable communities. These threats include extreme weather (storms, flooding, heat waves, and drought), depleted soils, crop losses, shortages of fresh water and food, decreased air quality, and diseases that can spread further and faster. At some point, energy and resource consumption will begin to decrease, either by choice or by necessity, and I think that our current communities lack the resilience to enable them to continue to function in the face of these external environmental and economic shocks.


How have you seen climate change impact your specific region?

We’ve already seen the impact that severe weather can have on North Carolinians, especially catastrophic flooding from hurricanes, which has devastated communities in the eastern part of the state (especially poor communities, often communities of color, who are less protected, lack access to resources, and may not be able to go anywhere else) as well as rural communities whose economies depend on agriculture. Of course, even without climate change, there would still be hurricanes. But climate change has resulted and will continue to result in more extreme storms and greater destruction and loss.


What do you think university students should be doing now?

Be creative in identifying aspects of an industry or community that are inefficient, wasteful, or harmful, and figure out how you can develop and apply your specific set of skills, talents and interests toward implementing changes and improvements to that industry or community. Develop leadership and teamwork skills so that you can take advantage of opportunities to exert a positive influence.


What do you think the general population should be doing now? 
I think we need to experience a shift in our cultural values, away from conquest, control, and consumerism, and toward freedom, equity, sharing, and community. We need to reduce our consumption and prioritize reusing, repairing, repurposing and redistributing goods before recycling them or discarding them. Instead of just fixating on all the “bad” things that we should avoid doing, I think it would be healthier to view things in terms of opportunities that we have yet to fully appreciate. For example, you should be composting, not because “sending food scraps to the landfill is bad and you should feel bad,” but because all of those food scraps are an amazing resource that you could be taking advantage of by enriching your soil, instead of missing out by throwing it “away.”


Sustainable “lifestyle” practices and personal habits (like not eating meat) are important and beneficial, but they are not enough. We need to reexamine our current systems of production and distribution, and rethink how we use and manage land, water, and other natural resources. We should be taking a whole-systems approach to designing environmentally and socially sustainable systems (food systems, transportation systems, etc) and more resilient infrastructure. Leaders in various industries should be identifying the role that their industries play in the overconsumption and waste of resources, and strive toward more closed systems that use energy and materials more efficiently.


Communities, organizations, and companies should investigate how permaculture design concepts may be useful in building the skills and systems needed in order to shift from consumption and dependence toward responsible production and independence, thus becoming more self-reliant and resilient. We need to be creative and innovative in adapting existing systems to make them more appropriate for a future in which we will need to use less energy and fewer resources.


Statesville: Fourth Creek Brewing

Fourth Creek Brewing Company is a local establishment in the heart of downtown Statesville, North Carolina and just a few minutes off of Highway 64. This brewery crafts local beer in house and provides a comfortable taproom environment that is great for a casual night out with friends. They offer samples of their products at the bar, which is great for someone wanting to learn more about craft beer. A multitude of board games and toys for friends to enjoy a game night, a first date idea that needs an activity to cut the awkward silence, or an activity so you can bring kids along. 


Jack, Erica, and I drove to Statesville to visit various Highway 64 foothills towns and our final stop for the day were downtown Statesville. We decided to stop in Fourth Creek Brewing Co. because it was open late and we could hang out and learn more from locals by talking and experiencing the environment for ourselves. When we walked in, we were struck by the North Carolina pride displayed in the flags and the fun names of the drinks available. For example, their Hard Selzer was appropriately named Holy Water while their signature IPA was named Friends In Low Places. Jack decided on a dark stout named, Weekend @ Garrett’s, Erica chose a lighter triple IPA named Dank Mofo, and I chose a cider from another local establishment Clay Ciderworks called Chai-Jacked. While we all sipped our differently colored drinks we decided to play a few games of Jenga while a Wednesday tradition of Trivia Night was starting up. 


What we loved about Statesville and Fourth Creek Brewing was the nice mix of a small city and mountain community. We saw a mix of people, from families with young children to friends relaxing a long day of work, enjoying locally sourced beer in one place. If you are ever in Statesville or driving on Highway 64, take a responsible pitstop at Fourth Creek Brewing Co. and then walk around downtown. You will enjoy great family-owned establishments and a really pleasant community.


Written by: Abby Fuller

A Taste of Hendersonville: The Rhythm and Brews Festival

The winding road seemed to be jutting around every hill in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains. Erica, with her fresh Connecticut license plate, grabbed the wheel and whipped through the roads like a champ and jack lay asleep in the back seat. We had been on the road for almost 3.5 hours and Hendersonville was only a few minutes away after we cleared through the woods and started seeing more signs of civilization. 


We were traveling to Hendersonville of this random Thursday to visit the Rhythm and Blues Festival, a locally thrown event that was highlighting local artists, chefs, and brewers. We found this event and thought it would be a perfect snapshot of the town and a perfect opportunity to engage with local vendors and ask questions about production and climate resiliency. We arrived in the downtown area around 5 and the festival wouldn’t start for another 30 minutes, which gave us time to explore downtown and drive around the small city just several miles south of Ashville. 


Our initial interpretation of the area and the locals was surprisingly similar to the more outdoorsy and rustic vibe that Ashville is typically credited with. There seemed to be a shift in this area that felt different than the people we ran into just a few miles east on Highway 64, who seemed more classically North Carolinian. These Hendersonville festival people in attendance wore hiking boots, colorful flannels, beanies, and were covered in Carhart. Although our sample was likely skewed towards people willing to go to a local festival, Hendersonville residents seemed to be revealing a shift from the Foothills and into the mountains. 


While we were waiting for the festival to begin, we found colorful bear statues that seemed to be a mark of Hendersonville and was a great way to support and showcase local artists. We also found an art show happening where women displaying their handmade crafts and paintings. But after walking around downtown, we entered the festival and started talking to vendors. We talked with a lady selling handmade juice and she talked with us for a while about this season and her crop yield. She did make a few comments about the earliness of the apple festival and claimed that it was due to the “weirdness” of the season, which implied changing farming and crop production that can point to climate change. We tasted some of her jams and chatted with her more about her process in creating these processes and at the end of the conversation we all bought some juice for the 3.5 hours drive that was awaiting us after the festival. 


We then decided to give the band, who had been playing this whole time a closer listen. The opener was Kenny George Band and there were dressed in almost costume like North Carolinian and Appalachia attire, with overalls with no t-shirt underneath and multiple banjos and straw hats. Their music was very Americana and folk-like and the audience seemed to be enjoying it, even if there were more people sitting on the grass than actually dancing by the stage. Due to the long drive ahead, we had to leave after the first song of the headliner, The Colby Dietz Band, who played more southern rock. 

After taking a solid lap around the festival, we decided to get sustenance, aka dinner. Jack and I used our drink coupons to get a local IPA from a vendor in a booth near the music and all three of us decided on a woodfire oven pizza from a vendor that brought their own portable oven to the festival. After a short line and a quick wait, we each took our personal pizzas and sipped our drinks while listening to music and taking in the mountains that were all around us. 


Hendersonville was the furthest point west in our journey through the foothills region on Highway 64 and this town gave us a new perspective on North Carolinian culture and the intersection of farming and mountain life vs. city life. Although Ashville always gets the credit for being the fun, hip city in North Carolina, I would recommend taking a trip south and visiting the beautiful and unique town of Hendersonville. 

Written by: Abby Fuller

Goat Lady Dairy

Goat Lady Dairy is a crown jewel for artisanal cheese making, proudly living in the back roads of North Carolina’s Randolph County where it has survived for the last 200 years. The burgeoning community surrounding it, English settlers who landed only two miles from the current goat farms, established families whose kinfolk prosper to the present day. Names like the Bradd’s, the Brooks, the Linberg’s, and the Routh’s whose bloodlines have been sowed into these very lands, never blow too far from home and keep proud traditions in the family.

On the sequestered roads stretching across the wide open plains, past the many horse and cow farms hugging Liberty Street, Ginnie Tate must have felt the same homey calmness that I did when she first arrived.  When she came to the abandoned tobacco farm atop of the sloping greens, she saw opportunity few others did and bought the thing for cheap, converting it into a family run goat cheese dairy. Her two pet Nubian goats she kept close earned her the nickname, by some questioning neighbors, “the Goat Lady.”  The goats matured enough to produce milk and she used the excess to turn into cheese. Her brother Steve and other family jumped on board to start one of NC’s first licensed goat cheese dairies. The Tate’s were only able to keep it running for so long, however. It wasn’t until one of their dish washers, a hard working 18 year old practically raised on the farm, matured into her own, rising above the rest to oversee all operations, catalyzed Goat Lady Dairies meteoric rise.  Carrie Routh has made it her life’s mission to preserve the traditions passed down to her from Steven Tate, a man who valued her so much, “He is exactly the kind of person you’d be happy to work for; calm, considerate, and always right there to do the job with you.” Carrie was asked by Steve to take his place in running the farm, and inherited the run-down outhouses, 40 acres of land, and a little blue house Steve and Ginnie lived in. She received grants to expand the farm’s operations, few banks wanted to get involved in because of the protected lands that back up into the property.  The newly renovated structure, built of logs found on the land, and compostable materials, was hand put together by Carrie’s husband Bobby, a skilled contractor. Custom made cleaning and aging equipment, several newly installed rinding chambers, and enormous acid vats, along with Carrie and Bobby’s business savvy, streamlined their production to turn them into a national cheese treasure. The dream of spreading passion-infused food products went beyond local neighbors to big retailers such as Wegmans, Harris Teeters, and Whole Foods, as well as many restaurants and farmers markets.  

Their goat and milk cheeses have collected many awards along the years, each with their own expressive and vibrant flavors. Every cheese: Providence, Lindale, Sandy Creek, Snow Camp, Fig & Honey, Smokey Mountain Round, and the many assortments of fresh chèvre each stand on their own as powerful, complex, and mouth watering bites that inspire gourmet dishes of many kinds. Each cheese is cared for throughout the entire process.  Each one is kept in their particular rinding and molding chamber at set temperatures and humidity levels and are not ready for packaging until the’ve aged at least one year. Carrie and Bobby put as much care into their cheese making as they do in taking care of their workers including the land they’ve built on. Their relationship to the land is almost personal and so much respect and gratitude is felt in Carrie’s words on their responsibility as farmers, “… we have to respect the earth. Me and my husband try to be stewards of the land, taking care of our animals and try to make environmentally friendly decisions wherever possible.”  Carrie worries about the impact humans are having on the earth who feels there should be something urgently done about it. When asked about how it might affect their business, Carrie wasn’t concerned as their facilities have lasted many hurricanes, and believes they’ve built something that will last many years beyond them.

Carrie’s father, a historian buff, was suspicious of the old log house at the bottom of the hill who actually dated it to about 1780.  Later, Carrie dove into her family ancestry, discovering that one of her great Routh relatives, was a Methodist priest right next to the farm dating back to around that same time the log house was built.  Carrie has reason to believe this priest built the little blue house, who always felt a deep sense of belonging when she first stepped foot in it all those years ago. Something brought Carrie back to the lands her ancestors were raised on, coming full circle to recover what is rightfully hers.  What used to be the humble abode of the Tate’s, and the many families before her, built by the hands of her ancient bloodline, has returned today as the quiet home of Carrie and Bobby, the little blue house at the bottom of the hill.

Written by: Zachary Stern

Angela Myers

Angela Myers is a junior at Elon University majoring in PWR with minors in Spanish, Latin American Studies, and History. Angela works in Elon’s Writing Center, is an Honors Fellow, and volunteers with the Village Project. When not in classes, she can be found writing in coffee shops, rereading Pride and Prejudice, or planning her next travel adventure.

Hayden McConnell

Hayden McConnell is a senior Professional Writing and Rhetoric major with minors in Digital Art and Multimedia Authoring. Professionally, she works in the Digital Art Studio on campus. Her plans for after graduation in May of 2020 are to begin her career in the marketing field where she can utilize her writing skills as well as her love for design. 

Leah Graf

Leah Graf is a senior at Elon University majoring in Strategic Communications with minors in Professional Selling and Professional Writing Studies. At Elon, Leah has been involved in  Live Oak Communications, a student-run strategic agency that creates integrated communications plans for local clients. Her professional experiences include internships at the American Cancer Society, NBC News Public Relations and NBC Entertainment Publicity. Following her May 2020 graduation, Leah plans to pursue a career in corporate communications that utilizes her marketing and writing skills.