Mentorship Spotlight: Collaboration Amongst Crisis

Mentee Kira Rib is a graduate student at the University of Michigan, pursuing her MPH in Environmental Health Promotion and Policy. Her experience in sustainable agriculture and food justice across the country helped her to develop a passion for the impact of climate change on the resilience of food systems. Critically examining the intersection of climate adaptation, public health, sustainable food systems, and policy, Kira is working to build a career centering local strategies for the future wellbeing of communities. Her interest in emergency management helps her to synthesize the relationship between food security, public health, and the hazards of environmental change. Kira’s passion for sustainable and climate resilient agriculture was kickstarted by the time she spent learning to farm as an Adamah Fellow within the Jewish farming community. 

Mentor Justin Kates joined the Mayor’s Cabinet in August 2011 after coming from his role as a Homeland Security Consultant for the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.  In his role, Justin coordinates city-wide emergency response efforts by working with the Federal, State, and other areas of municipal government in obtaining the necessary resources to recover after a disaster.  He developed the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan for the City and chairs the Local Emergency Planning Committee.  During his time in Nashua, Justin was responsible for coordinating the response and recovery of FEMA declared disasters Tropical Storm Irene, the “Snowtober” Nor’easter, Superstorm Sandy, Winter Storm “Nemo”, Winter Storm “Juno”, and Pandemic COVID-19.

Developing increased collaboration between emergency management and public health professionals at the local level has been the basis for the pairs mentoring relationship. The recent COVID-19 response has demonstrated two independent silos that aren’t currently organized to collaborate for long term adaptation. Further efforts are needed in each profession to consider and adopt the useful approaches of each profession and identify additional synergies. In order to address giant questions regarding climate adaptation as a “preparedness” challenge, improving collaboration will be incredibly important for the development of meaningful solutions.  

Through mentorship, the pair has discussed the lessons all should be learning to ensure a collaborative response to the pandemic. They believe there are lessons to be learned during the pandemic that can be translated to climate adaptation and public health preparedness in the future. They have appreciated new approaches during COVID-19 in the integration of organizations while tackling such a massive crisis, and are inviting the thought that we as climate adaptation professionals should be taking note of how these crises are comparable in their collaborative needs. It is in the best interest of adaptation professionals to learn deeply from the pandemic. This has only affirmed the need to include public health and emergency management at the climate planning table.

Thanks to both for sharing what they’ve learned!