Woman outside riding a bicycle wearing a helmet.
The author rides a bike to campus.

Putting climate and sustainability on the agenda

When I first arrived at the HKS Environment and Natural Resources Program (ENRP), I worked on a neighborhood-led recovery project in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. At the time, I wondered if this convergence of an enormous natural disaster and abject government failure would finally get people to pay attention to climate change.

Fifteen years later, I’ve seen climate and environment move up and down on the list of important policy topics at HKS; in the past year or two, interest and commitment has surged to new heights. Climate has suddenly shifted from a problem that we’ll eventually have to figure out to an immediate threat that requires unprecedented collective action on a global scale.

With this surge in interest, we've seen increased interest in our relevant research projects, students clamoring for more teaching and co-curricular activities, and people inside and outside our institution wanting answers to the fundamental question: how does Harvard Kennedy School address the urgent threat of climate change?

Navigating the climate network

I am the Associate Director of ENRP: one of four research programs at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. ENRP is structured as a central node within a wide-ranging network of environmental programs, projects, and initiatives across Harvard University. We work in partnership with other HKS and Harvard centers and programs through collaborative research, joint fellowships, student support opportunities, and co-sponsored events. The experience I’ve gained through cultivating ENRP’s network of partners, faculty, students, staff, and fellows working on environmental, energy, and climate policy means that I serve as a source of institutional knowledge – especially for incoming HKS students and fellows who want help navigating Harvard’s institutional depths.

When I meet with new students each fall, they typically ask me three questions:

  1. What is happening at HKS in the area of climate/environment/energy/sustainability that I should know about?
  2. Who should I talk to?
  3. How can I get involved?

So I explain how research centers at HKS function; who to contact about projects of particular interest; and how to successfully connect with faculty and fellows to identify opportunities for engagement.

But no matter how many tips I dole out, or how many of my colleagues are doing the same, these conversations can only cover some of the many climate-related activities going on at HKS. It's difficult for anybody new to our community- particularly while we’re not on campus due to COVID-19- to grasp how all these centers, programs, projects, and individuals fit into the greater ecosystems of HKS and Harvard University. The new Climate@HKS website will help you navigate the full range of activity – with an initial focus on research, education, and operations for Fall 2020.

Our goals for Climate@HKS

An inclusive and wide-reaching platform. We will actively reach out to the HKS community for ideas and contributions. We will encourage more conversations across disciplines, bringing in perspectives from faculty and fellows on topics such as the intersection of climate policy and politics; climate and environmental justice; and climate change risk and national security.

A reliable resource for current information and updates. Incoming students and fellows interested in climate and environmental policy often spend a lot of time assessing the HKS landscape before making the right connections. Our hope is that Climate@HKS will be an institutional guide, shortening the learning curve and providing an up-to-date map of activities for our community and interested members of the public.

A call to action for collective engagement on climate. The New Orleans-Broadmoor project engaged dozens of students, staff, and faculty over the summers and spring breaks and led to a community-based recovery model that has been applied in multiple post-disaster environments. What made the project so successful? The strength, courage, and resilience of the neighborhood residents. The energy and excitement from students who put their HKS training into practice and saw the positive results of their work in real time. There was a genuine commitment from many groups at HKS – and from our civic and private partners on the ground – all contributing their expertise and energy and backed by strong HKS leadership.

Across this community, there are countless opportunities to address the immense public challenge of climate change. Start exploring right now on Climate@HKS.


Amanda Sardonis is the Associate Director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program (ENRP) at the Belfer Center. She oversees the day-to-day activities of the program and keeps ENRP focused on its research mandate: analyzing and developing policies that are sustainable in a world constrained by climate, security, energy, and economic development concerns. Amanda also manages ENRP’s student support programs and the Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership. Her research focuses on the potential of environmental public-private partnerships to meaningfully address complex environmental challenges such as climate change. She has a Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Sustainability and Environmental Management from Harvard University and a BA in English from Mount Holyoke College.

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