Social Good Summit 2019: We Are All Part of the Solution
By Charlene Ryan and Krysta Villarosa
October 2, 2019
October 2, 2019 – The Amazon rainforest is burning. Hurricanes bring more devastation upon coastal communities as winds become stronger. Animals and plants are becoming endangered and extinct. People are displaced and dying. These are the headlines of today as our world faces the harsh effects of climate change. We, as global citizens, are now faced with what feels like an insurmountable problem that requires multi-stakeholder solutions.
The 2019 Social Good Summit took a step towards achieving those solutions. Held each year in New York City, it is recognized as being the start of the week leading up to the United Nations General Assembly. As members of the Evoke KYNE team, we were able to attend the event. In years past, it has covered several focus areas such as peace, security and gender equity. However, this year marked the first time the Summit focused on only one topic. A topic that rests heavy among many hearts and minds: climate change.
Global leaders, activists, advocates, and brands used this day to present scientific evidence, fears, hopes, and solutions towards climate change. At Evoke KYNE, our focus is on how these issues affect health and wellbeing – here are some of our team’s key takeaways:
- As our environment changes, women and girls, those facing poverty, Indigenous peoples, and coastal communities are disproportionally affected.
- Although strides have been made in promoting the pivotal role of girls and women in society, they experience some of the most devastating effects of climate change. Globally, more than 800 women die every day from complications during childbirth. But how do these two facts relate? Pregnant women living in rural communities in South Eastern Africa are placed at risk of death purely based upon location. Climate change is creating longer periods of draught with sporadic flooding that destroys roadways that pregnant women need to take to get to the nearest healthcare provider for prenatal appointments and while in labor. If there is a flood, a woman is unlikely able to walk or be driven to receive medical attention. This puts both the woman and the child’s life at risk.
- Women of color and women living in poverty in the United States are less likely to obtain proper access to prenatal medical care due to “maternal deserts”. These areas historically exist as a result of spatial inequity. Women and girls living in these communities are also subject to racism and implicit biases that lead chronic stress and mistreatment by healthcare system. In addition, communities living in resource-poor settings are also subject to environmental disparities as companies use these communities as the location for manufacturing or waste disposal. The exhaust and pollution released from these plants have immediate health effects on the people living in proximity.
- Indigenous peoples are experiencing food shortages. Amy Cordalis of the Yurok Tribe located in Northern California shared her tribe’s struggles in finding food due to the depleted amounts of wild salmon caused by warming waters. Her tribe and others that rely heavily on animal migration cycles for sustenance are unable to maintain their diet and livelihood. The change in diet could lead to nutritional deficiencies and health conditions not typically experienced by these communities.
- In Traveling communities, like Hindou Oumarou Ibrarhim’s located around Lake Chad, the loss of biodiversity is creating more than just nutritional deficiencies, it’s aggravating warfare. As climate change causes resources to deplete, large communities are forced to relocate which leads to fighting for land and resources.
- Hurricanes are becoming more powerful resulting in massive flooding and overall destruction of urban infrastructure for those communities living along the coast. As destruction persists and sea levels continue to rise, people are forced to migrate further inland. This places a strain on inland communities that may not be equipped to handle an influx of people with housing, food, economic and health needs.
While climate change seems dire, there are solutions that we as a global community can achieve.
Continue to promote the voices of women and girls. By providing women and girls with the agency to be active members of their local communities at a young age, their voices contribute to social and political discussions that affect them the most. In addition, ensuring women and girls have access to education and ensuring their reproductive rights may be the one of the most powerful solutions to mitigate climate change.
Learn from Indigenous peoples about the effects of climate change. Frontline communities hold the belief that the land is a part of all of us and we, as civilization, should have a symbiotic relationship with the Earth. Because they are more in tune with the daily activities of animals, plants, and weather, they see the effects of climate change first-hand. Giving Indigenous populations a seat at the table will lead to a better understanding of how our changing natural environments affect things like animal migration and the availability of natural resources.
Make climate education available to young people all over the world and encourage them to be part of the solution. Although many young people have already taken this task upon themselves, institutions must recognize their role in providing these educational opportunities. At the Summit we heard from Alexandria Villaseñor, co-founder of the US Youth Climate Strike and founder of Earth Uprising, whose actionable goal is getting the attention of global leaders and holding major polluters accountable.
As such, an economic, racial and gender justice approach to environmental policy change must be enacted to ensure equitable solutions are created together with the people most affected. We learned from Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, that “Climate change is an intersectional issue and must be treated as one.”
Despite how trying it may seem, all of us have the power to make an impact and here’s how:
- Ask yourself what you value and have a plan for making your values known. As Jonathan Safran Fore said, “write that plan down – give it words, numbers and days of the week. Share this plan with your family and friends, knowing that those not yet alive will witness it too.”
- Be a more conscious consumer. Think about what you buy and how those decisions affect the environment. Reducing what you consume or simply making the decision to forgo the plastic to-go cup has more of global impact than you realize.
- Because as Robert Swan said, “The greatest threat to our planet, is the belief that someone else will save it.”
- Continue to educate yourself about climate change at https://climate.nasa.gov/ and be informed on the latest conversations by following @UNFCC.