Think globally, act locally.
Global Health Liaisons Associate Stella Kirkendale attended the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training held by The Climate Reality Project in Atlanta, Georgia March 14-16. Led by Founder and former US Vice President Al Gore, the CRP team and a diverse set of climate experts, community organizers, impacted people and youth activists – over 2,000 participants from 44 countries learned about the climate crisis, solutions and action planning to educate others and inspire action.
The training offered extensive opportunities for networking and skills development in climate-related communications, leadership and coalition building. Upon completion of the training, participants joined the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, a global community of activists who are committed to fighting the climate crisis, the fossil fuel agenda and accelerating the renewable energy revolution.
The climate crisis is a global health crisis, a security and environmental justice crisis for nations around the world, and a threat to the global economy – all of which affect the most vulnerable communities disproportionately. Extreme weather, infectious diseases, and water and food scarcities are taking tremendous tolls on the health of people, communities and economies all over the world.
The training included plenaries, speaker panels and table work. Key themes included:
- Dirty energy fuels injustice – Recognition of the intersections between climate change and its disproportionate impact on poor families and communities of color, particularly in the Southeast United States. Health disparities and environmental racism emerged as a prevailing and critical theme, as poor families and communities of color are most impacted by proximity to petrochemical plants, toxic waste sites, coal ash, etc., contributing to higher rates of cancer and other diseases. Solving the climate crisis requires that we address environmental injustice and join with grassroots climate justice leaders and directly impacted people.
- Stronger storms and rising sea levels – Rising ocean temperatures have strengthened the severity and duration of hurricanes, cyclones and other storms, ravaging coastal communities. (from Puerto Rico to Mozambique);
- Climate and Health – Climate change, when combined with other natural and human made health stressors can both intensify existing health threats and contribute to the emergence of new ones. A breakout session on Climate and Health focused specifically on the growing threat of climate change and rising temperatures in the US Southeast. The combination of heat and carbon pollution from fossil fuels in the atmosphere is exacerbated in cities, where buildings and pavement trap heat, increasing the risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and even death among vulnerable groups such as the elderly, low-income households, young children and people with preexisting conditions. Stagnant air traps pollutants and allergens, leading to higher rates of asthma attacks and cases of heart and lung disease. Warmer temperatures and flooding after hurricanes make the Southeast more hospitable to emerging vector-borne diseases like Zika, West Nile and chikungunya viruses, and cholera and malaria outbreaks in the wake of Cyclone Idai in southern Africa. Extreme weather events create climate refugees. Floodwaters contain contaminants, and can overwhelm drainage of wastewater management systems, increasing the risk of exposure to bacteria, parasites and other toxins.
- Climate and Agriculture – changing weather patterns have had a profound impact on agriculture and forestry – from prolonged drought, pests, heat stress in the US Southeast to wildfires on the west coast.
- Making the Just Transition – Al Gore presented The Climate Crisis and its Solutions, an up-to-date version of his famous An Inconvenient Truth slide presentation that sparked a global movement. A just transition aims to create more green jobs and build a clean energy economy in the SE United States. The technology to create affordable renewable energy exists – now we need to mobilize and work together to towards a sustainable future.
Walking the walk. As part of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, participants committed to translating new skills into action. This includes making presentations, contacting influencers, organizing events, writing blog posts and other forms of climate advocacy and education. To facilitate this work, Climate Reality Project established Reality Hub, a social media platform where past and current leaders can join up to 13 interest groups and access resources, ideas and projects to stay connected with and support one another.
It is imperative that we follow the lead of Greta Thunberg, Levi Draheim and thousands of climate youth activists globally to mobilize for action and build the strongest climate adaptation, preparedness and capacity programs we can before it is too late.