Hi everybody! My name is Maggie Sloan, calling from Scotland, and I’ve been asked to speak a little about my interest in sustainability for today’s “green” worship service. I am currently a junior at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and study International Relations with the hope of pursuing a masters in energy and resources management or environmental policy. Largely as a result of my parents’ influence, forcing me to constantly be in and think about our impact on nature, I am very passionate about environmental issues and more specifically sustainable international development.
This year, I have been writing about ‘climate justice’ for my university’s Sustainability Office, which provides information for all universities in Edinburgh. As an approach to climate change, climate justice links security, human rights, and development concerns. The Scottish government has already made commitments, in part through the creation of a ‘Climate Justice Fund’ for environmentally conscious projects, to lead the fight against climate change by putting people and their rights at the heart of international development.
Through writing weekly articles, I have been exploring the potential of the climate justice approach. I’ve been asked to speak to you today about writing I’ve done on child security and climate change and a bit about my experiences volunteering for the Save the Children organization which works in 120 different countries.
In writing about this topic, I wanted to investigate the role that aid organizations play in pushing the climate change agenda while supporting programs for the most vulnerable children. A multidisciplinary approach to global issues will likely prove useful in achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as adaptation of the world’s poorest children is believed by various organizations as fundamental to addressing the changing climate.
Child security is of particular importance as, according to Save the Children’s recent “Born Equal” report, the wealth gap has increased since the 1990s by 35% between the world’s poorest and richest children. Research from their “Young Lives” project (from 2010) points to the greater vulnerability of the poorest children, as they are roughly ten times more likely to be negatively affected by climate change. While people generally conceive of climate change as being an impending threat, rather than anything current, Save the Children responded to 45 emergencies in 2011 alone. While not all of these emergencies can be linked to climate change, increased occurrence of natural disasters – such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, drought in East Africa and floods in Pakistan – is likely.
In addition, human security is threatened by diminishing fresh water accessibility, disease pattern changes, and poor nutrition due largely to misuse of and diminishing access to viable farmland. According to UNICEF reports, malnutrition causes roughly a third of child deaths under the age of five and contributes to amplified child susceptibility to various diseases compounded by environmental alterations.
The example of Bangladesh is particularly interesting due to the immediate impact that rising sea levels are having on coastal communities. Inquiry into the situation in Bangladesh revealed that a high risk of drowning exists for children living in makeshift housing on low flood plains. According to a 2003 survey, referenced by UNICEF, drowning was the leading cause of death in children aged 1-18 with approximately 17,000 children drowning each year. Without efforts to combat climate change, the numbers can be expected to rise.
All this information can be pretty daunting which has led me to consider where we fit in to this climate justice discussion.
In 2010 I began volunteering for Save the Children through Edinburgh University’s Save the Children society. The organization drew me in with the opportunity to give talks about global child issues as part of their Speaking Out program. By going into schools especially, my personal goal is to illustrate to local children in Scotland the situation in other parts of the world as well as how they can share their knowledge with their peers. I have also provided workshops related to climate change and fair trade for the University’s International Development society.
It is empowering to see the children make connections between their own lives and that of people abroad. Especially with the continual threat of climate related disasters, child security is increasingly more difficult to secure. It is my hope that small efforts to educate children in the UK in interactive ways will make them think twice about how they can do their part to change to change our lifestyles and combat climate change.
To bring it back home a bit, on April 9th, the Next Generation Science Standards set new teaching benchmarks for science education in the U.S. in consultation with 26 states, including Maine! This is the first time that climate change has been included as a core subject in official teaching standards. While there isn’t the requirement to adopt these teaching recommendations, I believe that it is so important to teach issues of climate change from as young an age as possible in order to learn about global citizenship and our place within the ever-changing natural environment. That is why I have tried to embrace every opportunity that has come my way to communicate sustainability to a variety of groups, whether by writing about climate justice, presenting to schools, or speaking to my own church.
Maggie Sloan, Class of 2013, University of Edinburgh, Scotland