Reflections on the 2023 Georgia Climate Conference

Staff Report

Tuesday, May 30th, 2023

Well dang, if it wasn't great to be with my people again! Last week, I had the great joy of attending the Georgia Climate Conference, hosted by the Georgia Climate Project at the University of Georgia. It was an excellent few days, filled with learning, fellowship, and a reminder that Georgia's climate community is remarkable. Now that I've had a few days to rest and reflect, I want to share a more philosophical post about what has stayed with me.

It Takes a Village

First and foremost is gratitude for all of the people who made the conference happen. There were so many students who volunteered their time, presenters whose sessions offered rich content, and staff at the conference center who took excellent care of us. It took a village to pull off, but there were two leaders of the village whom I want to lift up.

Dr. Tish Yager is the Director of the Georgia Climate Project, but she is also a Professor of Marine Science at the University of Georgia. In other words, she has two really big jobs! And in the last academic year, I know that planning for this conference has consumed an inordinate amount of her time. Tish, thank you so much for the long days (and sometimes nights) that you poured into this conference. You should be really proud of it, and I hope you enjoy getting back to your Antarctica research this summer!

Right by Tish's side was McKenzie Beverage. In February, McKenzie took the role of Project Manager for the Georgia Climate Project. Often with new jobs, folks get a few weeks to ease into the role, but it has been the exact opposite of that for McKenzie. She jumped right in the river and shouldered the load of pulling this conference off. McKenzie, I was glad to meet you in person, and thank you for saying yes to this important work!

Climate Change is No Longer a Niche Issue

My second takeaway was just how interconnected so many issues are with climate work in Georgia. I've always had a general sense of that, but it was incredible to see them all condensed into one conference. There were sessions on critical climate challenges like sea-level rise and climate vulnerability assessments. So too were there sessions on climate solutions, ranging from mass timber buildings to effective planning for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.