Making global connections to take on climate change
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The University of Waterloo is finishing their participation in an exciting new collaborative program, Climate Connect, which involved 60+ students and over 20 researchers from across the world to gather and discuss climate change.
The goals of the program were to promote international networking among students across 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. The Waterloo student cohort was led by Angela Carter, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science & Balsillie School of International Affairs, and Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3) member. She is assisted by a team of four facilitators, Chad Walker, Lowine Hill, M. Salim Uddin and Sarah Norton.
Thanks to Climate Connect, University of Waterloo students have learned about climate crisis impacts and responses in a truly global setting, spanning the UK, South Africa, Malawi, Sweden, and China. Even better, they are now exploring how to build on these new relationships to take effective local-to-international climate action. It is inspiring to see Waterloo students leading in this innovative global partnership.
“Thanks to Climate Connect, University of Waterloo students have learned about climate crisis impacts and responses in a truly global setting, spanning the UK, South Africa, Malawi, Sweden, and China. Even better, they are now exploring how to build on these new relationships to take effective local-to-international climate action,” Carter said. “It is inspiring to see Waterloo students leading in this innovative global partnership.”
The program started in October 2021 and has become a viable replacement for in-person networking opportunities while the challenges of pandemic restrictions on international travel persist.
"We wanted to give our students a platform to replace the international networking and engagement that was lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Simon Glauser, Managing Director at the University of Waterloo’s Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change. “While the pandemic forced us into this model, it's also shown us that we can maintain a lot of the richness of international networking and engagement without the heavy carbon footprint associated with international travel. As well, removing the travel cost has allowed the program to be more equitable and inclusive, which only enhances the diversity of perspectives and experiences.”
Throughout the five-month experience, Waterloo students have learned the dynamics and nuances of the global climate crisis through hearing the different perspectives, opinions, and experiences of their peers from Strathclyde University in the United Kingdom, Peking University in China, Stellenbosch University in South Africa, University of Malawi in Malawi, and KTH Royal Technical Institute in Sweden.
As Simrit Dhillon, a Public Health and Psychology student, commented, “we’ve learned how challenging but worthwhile it would be to try to build a larger-scale, global system to monitor and manage these types of worldwide concerns.”
“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. 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,” added Nilusha Rattansi, a Public Health student.
Overall, the value of connecting with other students around the world about the climate crisis has enabled a deeper level of critical thinking and reflection. As Philip Zuidema, a Peace and Conflict Studies and Political Science student, says: “It’s one thing to read an article, watch a TED Talk, or listen to a podcast describing climate change – it’s entirely different to be face to face with people who experience the crisis and its solutions firsthand.”