This is an insight written by Sara Rissanen on the recent Bahá’í Chair for World Peace Conference, “Global Climate Crisis: Seeking Solutions” held on April 14, 2020.
The Bahá’í Chair’s Climate Conference was a great opportunity to learn from many incredible speakers in the fields of environmental science and climate change. I appreciated the diversity of the speakers – not only in nationality but in their work within creating solutions to climate change. While I am not going into the environmental field, I found the conference to be insightful. It brought across the urgency of creating solutions to the global climate crisis. The conference allowed me to see the problem of climate change being tackled on a larger scale, which was extremely encouraging.
Prior to the conference, I understood the importance of climate action and have taken small steps within my own life to reduce my environmental footprint. I brought my own bags to the grocery store, I became a vegetarian to reduce my carbon footprint, I carried around a reusable spork so I didn’t have to throw away a plastic fork every time I bought food. These small actions continue to be important in the solution to climate change. During the conference, Richard Houghton, a senior scientist at Woodshole Research Center, made the point that “everything you do is making a vote for that way of living,” referring to our everyday individual actions such as transportation, or how we heat our homes. While these actions add up to a much greater impact, just doing these small actions in my daily life has failed to offer me a wider perspective on climate action on a national or worldwide level. This conference allowed me to take a step back and gain a wider perspective on climate solutions.
As Houghton discussed in his talk, Land’s Potential for Limiting Climate Change, land management is necessary, but it alone cannot solve the climate crisis. I felt this was an important point to mention in starting off the conference – that alone, all these topics by the speakers are important but none alone can solve climate change. Only together can they make a larger impact. This idea was mirrored by the conference as a whole – the Bahá’í Chair has opted for a conference and not just a single speaker. This alludes to the point that none of us alone can solve our environmental crisis, it takes many coming together to work on different aspects of the same problem to solve it.
Rathana Peou, the Southeast Asia Scenarios Coordinator at CCAFS, and Kyle Powys Whyte, Professor and Timnick Chair at Michigan State University, both echoed this idea in their talks. As Peou talked about the water, energy, and food security (WEF) nexus, she stressed the importance of understanding how we are linked to each other. “The WEF nexus according to the Food And Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, means that water security, energy security, and food security are very much liked to one another, meaning that the actions in any one particular area often can have effects in one or both of the other areas.” Whyte also pointed to the importance of working together as he spoke about how important it is to include indigenous people in finding climate solutions. He elaborated by discussing “kinship” and how that plays a role in setting up laws and policies that reflect trust.
Throughout the conference, there was a common theme of the importance of relationship-building as a key component in solving climate change. Dr. Victoria Keener said it well as she discussed the role of boundary organizations. Keener explained how intensity of interaction is the most effective factor in getting science and data actually used in management. In this, intensity of interaction meaning repeated interaction over time and getting to know the people you’re working with and building a relationship with them. I was surprised by this because this was found to be more successful than the technical aspects of climate science. It goes to show the importance of relationship-building and working together to solve this world-level problem. It also emphasizes the importance of each individual in their personal efforts towards climate reform. To quote Dr. Hoda Mahmoudi, “we are trustees of the earth, individually and collectively,” where each individual has the potential to create bigger change within their organization, community, or nation.
Climate change is a global problem and therefore requires global solutions. We are all affecting our global climate every day through our actions, from industry to our personal consumption. Because of this, we need climate solutions in all sectors to be able to have an impact on decreasing our warming climate. This requires individuals, industry leaders, policy-makers, and nations to work together to create a unified solution to the climate crisis. Dr. Mahmoudi wraps up this idea well as she closes the conference with: “we believe that the most challenging issues of today require all of us.”
I would like to thank all the speakers who took the time to share their work with us during this conference.
You can watch the full video of the conference on our youtube page here.
About the Author
Sara Rissanen is a junior studying Marketing at the University of Maryland. She is currently the Marketing Specialist at the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace. Sara hopes to create a better future by opening the conversation of peace-building among her peers.