North Carolina environmental quality secretary visits App State

Jackie Park, News Editor

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Students with hopes of working in a national park or preserving Earth’s climate filed into Adjunct Instructor Tom Randolph’s Environmental Education class Oct. 24 to hear from North Carolina’s Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality, Michael Regan, about his career path and the state’s challenges with climate change and the economy.

“The reality is, our climate is changing, and North Carolina is being impacted more. Not only are we seeing environmental consequences in the state, but we’re also seeing impacts to our local economy,” Regan said.

Regan discussed the several “500 year storms” North Carolina has experienced in recent years and the damage they caused to coastal economies. He said the coastal economies “just can’t get back on their feet.”

Gov. Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 80 last October to consider how to adapt for future storms and reducing carbon pollution, which makes the impact of climate change worse Regan said.

Regan said his office has traveled across the state and spoken to professors, business owners and local governments to formulate a plan in response to the executive order.

He told students it was up to them to ensure the planet is turned over to their children and family in better shape than they inherited it.

“I’m at the tip of the sphere trying to get this party started,” Regan said. “The reality is that you all will be the ones that inherit it.”

Regan also spoke about the connection between civil rights and environmental protection. He said his office created the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board, made up of people of different races, genders, ages and academic backgrounds, to act as a “sounding board.”

“Before, you would have environmentalists focused on protecting nature, less of an emphasis on people and human impact, and you would have a lot of social justice groups frustrated. We’re trying to put that on equal footing,” Regan said.

Maggie Rumley, a member of Climate Action Collaborative, said she thought the idea of the board was “huge.”

“(I’m) very grateful that he decided to come here and spend his time talking to students. I think that’s really important for making changes: building rapport with students,” said Rumley, a senior recreation management major.

Regan said he encourages students to follow their passion in choosing a major, and said if they’re passionate about what they’re studying, that will show through their job choice and job performance.

Right out of college, Regan worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. After a few years, he left to work for a nonprofit. He said his parents thought he was crazy. 

“I would encourage students to think outside the box and be a little bit adventurous. There’s nothing wrong with taking a calculated risk,” Regan said.

Regan said he was grateful for the opportunity to speak with students.

“This was a great experience, the ability to get outside of Raleigh and leave the noise and talk to students who are still trying to figure out their future… it’s invigorating,” Regan said.