Climate Change And Caribbean Youth!

Climate Change And Caribbean Youth!

Students gathered at The UWI Regional Headquarters in Mona Jamaica for The UWI STAT Ambassador Corps climate change forum pictured with: (l-r) Asha-Gaye Cowell, UWI STAT President Mona Campus; Danielle Andrade, Attorney at Law, Environmental and Human Rights; Una May Gordon, Principal Director of the Climate Change Division, Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation,  Jamaica; Dr David C. Smith, Coordinator, Institute for Sustainable Development and Celia Davidson Francis, Director of Alumni Relations at

The UWI Vice-Chancellor's Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow (UWI STAT) Ambassador Corps hosted a Climate Change Forum themed, The Eye of the Storm: The Implications of the Paris Agreement/Climate Change and the “Right to Life” for Caribbean Youth. The Forum was held synchronously at the University’s Cave Hill, Mona and St Augustine campuses and streamed live on UWItv  on April 12, 2018. This inaugural event was the first of what The UWI STAT Ambassador Corps hopes will be an ongoing initiative for young Caribbean persons to become more aware of and advocate for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Youth  were encouraged to join UWI STAT’s Climate Change Advocacy and Action Network by contacting  uwistat.cca@alumni.uwi.edu.

The format was a series of presentations by climate change experts followed by a robust discussion prompted by questions from the students. The panel of regional climate change experts included: Professor Leonard Nurse, Professor Integrated Coastal Area Management and Climate Change at The UWI, Cave Hill; Professor John Agard, Director, Office of Research Development and Knowledge Transfer at The UWI, St. Augustine; Dr. David C. Smith, Coordinator, Institute for Sustainable Development at The UWI, Mona; Jeremy Collymore, Advisor Disaster Resilience, The UWI Office of Vice-Chancellor; and Danielle Andrade, Attorney at Law, Environmental and Human Rights. Pro Vice-Chancellor, Graduate Studies and Research, Professor Dale Webber, Pro Vice Chancellor of Graduate Studies and Research  chaired the event.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles gave opening remarks and underscored the significance of the forum noting, “The Climate Change discourse will reveal the need for this region to address the fundamental issues: inequality, democracy and social justice. All of those big issues come into the fore of the climate change issue.” He explained, “Looking at the Caribbean 20 years from now, this is an opportunity to change the narrative about how our communities are built…As students, my expectation is that you would take all the fragments of knowledge, all the fragments of scientific research and history, sociology, anthropology and architecture and forge it into a discourse of activism where you can speak truth to power and be persistent about it.”

Mrs. Celia Davidson Francis, the Regional Coordinator of the UWI STAT Corps introduced the panelists, highlighting the different aspects of global climate change that each would address and how these affect the Caribbean region. Students and youth present were challenged to do their part in advocating for action and contributing to solutions.

Professor Leonard Nurse opened the presentations with a perspective on the human impact on coastal dynamics and beach systems, integrated coastal management and the impact of climate change on small island states. He said, “Climate change has always been regarded as a complex problem and indeed the literature goes on to refer to it as a ‘wicked’ problem. Wicked in the sense that it is a problem that is not becoming easier to solve, but it is becoming more and more difficult to find efficacious solutions.”

Professor John Agard focused his presentation on the climate change induced vulnerability of the region being magnified by the historical inequity of treatment of its people putting them in harm’s way due to their colonial past.  He warned, “We shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past and need to re-build climate smart islands with renewable energy micro-grids and resilient infrastructure including nature based solutions.” He reminded the audience that it is the young people who are quite key in applying all of this new knowledge about enhancing resilience.

Dr. David Smith also underscored the importance of the youth and their position and influence in the future of the region. He explained how climate could change in their lifetime, saying “If you are in the tropics, the bad news is that you are going to experience new climates much earlier than the rest of the world. World climate is likely to change probably around 2047 or 2069 depending on whether we do something about greenhouse gasses or not…You are in the right place. You are in the university presumably getting a good education, which you would be able to afford to use to help solve some of these problems.”

Jeremy Collymore painted the reality of small island states in relation the storms. “They are changing, they are frequent and they are intense,” he said, “but they are great experiences to us that are unprecedented and unfamiliar.” He challenged the audience, “The issue for us is to ensure that we are not lost in this conversation (about climate change). How can you influence the conversation? Do you have a voice? Or is it being driven by the upper level decision makers and funders?”

Danielle Andrade, bringing the presentations to a close, reminded that the adverse effects of climate change threaten our right to life to sanitation, to food, to shelter, to housing and even to our very development. She also had a special message for Caribbean youth. “You are engaged, you are armed with much more information that the generation before you, and you have at your fingertips, the options through social media and the internet to really influence and challenge the politics, the debate, and the discussion that is happening right now.”

Caribbean University students and youth who wish to join UWI STAT’s Climate Change Advocacy and Action Network are encouraged to contact the UWI STAT at uwistat.cca@alumni.uwi.edu.

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