Nilusha Rattansi

Nilusha Rattansi is an Honours Public Health student in her 3B term and one of the participating Waterloo students in the Climate Connect program. Here is what she had to say about her experience.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

As a Public Health student interested in global health, international development, and climate change, I was drawn to the Climate Connect program because it seamlessly combined all the pressing world issues that I cared deeply about. As climate change affects the entire globe, I’ve always viewed climate change mitigation actions as being like a “group project.” In other words, every country needs to pitch in and contribute something because we all live in the same atmosphere and no country can build a wall to protect itself from extreme weather events and other negative impacts of climate change. Climate Connect beautifully facilitates this process as it virtually connects like-minded individuals from a range of countries. In my everyday life, I would never get the chance to speak to international students and professors, but the program allowed me to do just that.

I am grateful that I’ve been given the space and freedom to share my ideas and knowledge on different projects that we’ve worked on. One particular contribution that I’ve made to the program that I am proud of is connecting climate change to another current global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. In our first Climate Connect video I incorporated a few lines in the script about how air pollution increases the prevalence of CVD, how CVD is also a risk factor for severe COVID-19, and how COVID-19 causes lung damage which increases vulnerability to air pollution. It is easy to view global issues in silos, but in reality, they are interconnected. Understanding these connections can help us identify and tailor our solutions to communities that are disproportionately suffering from the combined burden of world issues.

Remote video URL

One thing I’ve had the privilege of learning so far is that climate change cannot be successfully addressed by only one sector. Instead, we need the expertise from engineering, health, finance, peace and conflict studies, and more. My fellow Canadian and international participants in this program always impressed me with the knowledge they have on climate change from their discipline’s point of view. I am so used to seeing world issues from a health/wellbeing lens that it is refreshing to speak to people in other faculties and understand the issues from their points of view. Discovering this has been impactful to me because it reminded me that any climate action that I wish to take in the future should be informed by a diverse team of individuals, in order to prevent tunnel vision.

Overall, I think this program is valuable at a community level. It gives climate leaders a chance to learn about how the changing climate is manifesting itself in other parts of the world and be inspired by unique actions that those leaders are taking, which you can try in your local community. It is easy to get caught up in the idea that how you personally experience climate change is how everyone experiences climate change, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Without the fresh, external perspectives that our fellow international participants bring, I believe it may be easy for our local climate action to simply remain stagnant and uninspired. Seeing the hard work that people overseas are putting into the same cause that you care about is a strong source of much-needed motivation and inspiration in this line of work.

Climate Connect is a collaboration between six universities across four continents to promote international networking across student and academic career stages, and to create space to share and learn about diverse perspectives on sustainability and how the climate crisis and responses to it are being experienced from one region to another.