RCE Greater Atlanta - 2018

Civil Rights Catalyzes Climate and Environmental Action in RCE Greater Atlanta
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Civil Rights Catalyzes Climate and Environmental Action in RCE Greater Atlanta
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Greater Atlanta
Contributing organization(s) : 
Georgia Institute of Technology; Center for Sustainable Communities
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Jennifer Hirsch
Organizational Affiliation: 
Georgia Institute of Technology
Garry Harris
Organizational Affiliation: 
Center for Sustainable Communities
Format of project: 
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Friday, July 13, 2018
Executive Order 12898 Federal Action to Address Environmental Justice Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low Income Populations; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: National Environmental Policy Act
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
United States
Greater Atlanta Region, Georgia
Address of focal point institution for project: 
Georgia Institute of Technology, Clough Commons, Suite 205E, 266 Fourth Street NW, Atlanta, GA
Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
The Atlanta Metro region is vibrant and diverse, with a history of advancing civil rights and economic growth, while
struggling to reconcile systemic racism. With the 10th largest economy in the U.S. and the largest in the Southeastern U.S., Metro Atlanta’s 2015 GDP of $339 billion ranked it in the top 35 economies globally. Atlanta grew as a transportation hub for the southeastern U.S. Natural resources abound and the environmental assets of the region have facilitated its growth. Challenges include the area’s rapid expansion and urbanization, compounded by issues such as climate change, human migration patterns, and agricultural intensification.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
RCE Greater Atlanta has identified seven priority SDGs: Good Health & Well-Being, Zero Hunger, Sustainable Cities &
Communities, Climate Action, Quality Education, Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure, and No Poverty. The two biggest system-level challenges that Atlanta must address are Equity and Resilience. A legacy of systemic racism has created disparities, including access to fresh food and areas of high environmental contamination. Infrastructure systems are under increasing stress and these pressures impact natural systems, and social and economic indicators. Increasing the capacity and resilience of these systems to manage more volume and absorb shocks is another key sustainability challenge.
RCE Greater Atlanta was recognized by UNU in December 2018 and is currently developing its education and action agenda for its first year. Atlanta is the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and home to the largest concentration of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) in the U.S. As such, civil rights and social justice are foundational to our approach to local and regional education and implementation of the SDGs. This is an important foundation and direction for the region, since, as in most other regions in the U.S., mainstream sustainability efforts, including those in many of our HEIs (Higher Education Institutions), have been largely focused on environmental issues, disconnected from social justice work. Our new RCE aims to bring these streams of action together for greater impact.
In our new RCE, we are intentionally joining foci on social justice and environmental sustainability. This presentation - given by an HEI administrator who is a co-founder and co-leader of the RCE and an Executive Director of a community-based nonprofit who is a co-founder and member of the Steering Committee - will share how we are starting to do this through some of our emerging projects.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
We will introduce three projects in particular - the Environmental Justice Academy, which trains community leaders, faculty, researchers, and students in collaborative problem solving; the Georgia Climate Project, which aims to advance understanding of climate impacts and solutions in Georgia, and lay the groundwork for the state and its residents to take effective, science-based climate action; and our RCE public launch event, to be held October 10, 2018 at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.
Size of academic audience: 
RCE Greater Atlanta comprises eight Higher Education Institutions as well as approximately 25 other active members, from the business, nonprofit, government, and community sectors, which together reach thousands of stakeholders.
One of our key goals for our RCE and these initial projects is to establish models for collaborative education and action that approach sustainability from an equity-first perspective and draw on specific lessons learned from local history. Additionally, within our RCE structure itself and through our projects, we aim to create mechanisms and protocols for amplifying the voices of community professionals in regional sustainability initiatives - so that diverse experiences and expertise inform the direction our region takes now and in the future.
Lessons learned: 
TBD - our RCE and these projects are new
Key messages: 
Let’s learn from our Civil Rights past to create a Sustainable Future
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
These projects advance our RCE’s overall objective of linking social justice to environmental sustainability through the SDGs, building on our region’s strong history.
No funding has been received to date


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon Fall17 Espey Talk full room.JPG (5.5 MB) Fall 2017 Symposium featuring Jessica Espey from SDSN with RCE panel Georgia Tech Serve-Learn-Sustain
Image icon Fall17 Agnes Scott College CC Exhibit.jpg (3.55 MB) Fall 2017 RCE Quarterly Meeting hosted by Agnes Scott College began with a tour of their Climate Change art exhibit Georgia Tech Serve-Learn-Sustain
Image icon Apr 2018 CARE Group photo.jpg (1.08 MB) Members attend an event celebrating UNU acknowledgment at CARE, April 2018 Georgia Tech Serve-Learn-Sustain
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SDG 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture 
SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
Disaster Risk Reduction 
Traditional Knowledge  
Curriculum Development 
Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development – Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 1 - Advancing policy 
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Building capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Empowering and mobilizing youth 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level