News & Updates

June 5, 2019

Getting to Know You: Pamela Conrad


This month we are featuring Pamela Conrad, Principal at CMG Landscape Architecture in San Francisco and a 2018-2019 LAF Fellow for Innovation and Leadership.


Pamela says that she is “just a farm girl from Missouri” and that experiencing her connection to the natural world and the need to steward and care for it informed her desire to become a landscape architect. With a background in Plant Science and Regenerative Studies, Pamela approaches her climate and resilience planning projects from a deep ecological perspective. Her continued work on groundbreaking Bay Area resiliency projects including Treasure Island and the San Francisco Seawall Project demonstrate Pamela’s leadership in managing complex project relationships and extensive community engagement efforts. Those projects frame the context of her and CMG’s climate initiatives which she has been sharing around the globe to expand the role of landscape architecture in climate change solutions.


In her work at CMG, Pamela realized that in addition to working on climate change mitigation, she had no choice but to tackle the cause. Pamela began to do research to understand the impact of her projects. When she couldn’t find a tool to calculate the carbon impact, she built one.


Close to half of global greenhouse emissions are generated by the built environment, and Pamela want to know what designers were doing to curb this issue. She knew that we have to keep the carbon out of the atmosphere and draw it down in order to keep the atmospheric temperature down. Pamela recognized that landscape architects hold an important responsibility as the only design professionals whose most fundamental medium includes carbon sinks in their everyday toolkit.  She is clear that landscape architects and designers have a unique opportunity to provide climate positive solutions through their work.


Pamela’s Landscape Carbon Calculator is going live this month, and with it will be a global call-to-action: a challenge to measure and make a positive contribution to prevent the 2°C temperature increase that would take us down a pathway that we would not able to reverse.


She believes that of our solutions must be positive: that as Project Drawdown recommends, we must provide education and opportunities that allow access and stimulate positive action, rather than giving up as though there is nothing that can be done.


Pamela is going to be one of three panelists at our Summer Speaker Series events on 20 June in San Jose and 22 August in Sacramento, and we are honored to be able to support her featuring her Landscape Carbon Calculator.


Getting to Know You Q&A

  1. What do you want to people to learn/do in your work with them? To realize that in the decisions we make we can be mindful about where things come from and where they go. That we have good options, and that with climate change devastation, landscape architects and designers can contribute to the solutions.


  1. One thing you have learned over the years: Communication is everything, and it’s important to be open and positive. If we communicate in the right ways, we can share the tools to make the right decisions that are accessible to everyone.


  1. A big failure that (you) turned into a positive: This not necessarily a failure: the Landscape Carbon App. There was gap in the information I needed in designing landscapes, and now we have a tool that is changing how we are designing.


  1. What is most precious to you? The earth.


  1. What do you most value in your colleagues? Their incredible talent and passion. They are inspiring to be around; I feel I am a better person working with them.


  1. Who is (are) your hero(es)? Paul Hawkins. In establishing Project Draw Down he is offering solutions to reverse global warming, not with “doom and gloom” information but in a positive way that provides opportunity, possibility, and hope for the future.


  1. What is your greatest achievement? I was the first generation in my family to graduate from college. My parents made many sacrifices for me to be able to do what I am doing.


  1. What is the thing for which you want to be remembered? I didn’t just sit back and let this (climate catastrophe) happen. I stepped in and made a positive difference.


  1. What would you tell your younger self? It’s okay to be focused, but take things less seriously. In spite of this global challenge, it’s also a wonderful world.


  1. The one thing you have not done/achieved and want to before you die: I am grateful for everything; it’s okay if I die tomorrow.
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