By: Julia Fuller, CitySprouts Intern
This year CitySprouts has designated Bina Venkataraman as our Environmental & Community Impact Award Honoree. Bina is a climate and public health policy leader and writer who has served as Senior Advisor for Climate Change Innovation in the Obama Administration. She currently works as Director of Global Policy Initiatives at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and is a Fellow at New America. Ms. Venkataraman is also working on a book about “long term thinking in an age of impulse” and she recently took some time to speak with me.
One topic that came up throughout our conversation was making the science related to climate change more accessible to everyone. Bina commented that many times it can be “difficult for people to relate to climate change” in the way that it’s presented by scientists. A lot of people view it as an issue that is distant in both time and location, thereby not relevant to their daily lives. However, Ms. Venkataraman spoke about how climate change affects all communities and emphasized that transforming information about climate change into something more relatable will motivate people to prepare for and combat this environmental issue.
A lot of Venkataraman’s work focuses on bridging community needs and scientific knowledge. She does this by writing about issues, partnering scientists with communities and companies with government; teaching and forming alliances between groups that normally would not work together.
The second theme was thinking long term. When asked about what messages she would like to send to youth about the environment, Bina stated that children have more power than they think. That they should utilize their resources to help people in their lives prepare for the inevitable changes that will come with climate change. These ideas form the central thread of her new book. In her book Ms. Venkataraman discusses the long term effects of actions such as how we combat infectious disease, how we fish, and how we farm. The subject of the book ties into what seems to be Bina Venkataraman’s overarching goal – to make a difference in people’s lives.
When I asked about how she ended up on this career path, Ms. Venkataraman compared her life to a highway and said that she has taken “the interesting exits with the overarching goal of making a difference in people’s lives.” This social mission and commitment to the health of our planet and utilization of community resources drive Venkataraman’s work.
After publishing her book Ms. Venkataraman has several ideas for future projects but is not limited by any concrete plans. She hopes to be involved in Somerville and the Greater Boston area, continue teaching at MIT, and find opportunities to deal with climate change at the state, local, and community levels of government. CitySprouts is thrilled to be honoring Bina Venkataraman and we are looking forward to what the future holds for her. You can meet her on May 11th at Dig It! 2017.