Reflections from the
by ECP's Chief Development and Partnerships Officer Karyn Knox
Truly inspiring encounters that involve people coming together from all over the world with a shared mission are precious. Times, when you find yourself surrounded by individuals with open minds and hearts who understand collaboration to be the best way to amplify impact and make a difference, are seldom. I was incredibly fortunate to have experienced both of these things recently at the Fifteenth International Conference on Climate Change, held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver!
I was asked to join the conference as an Innovation Showcase Speaker delivering a session titled “Food Literacy as a Path Towards Sustainability” and discussing how to effectively educate current and future consumers about the impact of food choices on environmental health. In my talk, I spoke about the effects of our current food system and its contributions to the environmental crises we face as a global community. I shared insights we have gained at ECP from our years of experience delivering science-backed food literacy programs and information gleaned from our Living Lab research feedback regarding attitudes towards, motivations for and perceived barriers to making sustainable food choices. I illustrated the importance of an educated consumer base, the power of collective action, and the significant impact that individual changes can make in the battle against climate change.
It was an honor to share a stage with environmental scientists, doctors, lawyers, judges, and other professionals dedicated to solving our problematic ecological struggles. It was also a wonderful reminder that we are all in this together and must work collaboratively to find solutions. The knowledge that it takes many approaches coming at the issues from every angle to make progress was abundant at this event!
The topics of conference sessions offered included a wide range of case studies and ongoing research. Colleagues from France, Australia, Croatia, Peru, Bangladesh, and Nigeria were among the speakers who brought their experience to the conference. We heard from scientists working to make Hydrogen energy production more green and efficient. We learned from business consultants who help communities and entities like airports and other large corporations to build sustainable infrastructures that help to aid in flooding mitigation and other local environmental concerns. We gained an understanding of preemptive measures being taken to avoid severe damage from natural disasters in Colombia and actions being taken to prevent habitat loss in and around bodies of water in Bangladesh. We heard of research results indicating the mental impacts of climate change on youth in the form of climate anxiety and gained insights into the benefits of implementing an intergenerational approach to climate change responses. In addition, we learned about the benefits of utilizing indigenous knowledge to mitigate climate risks, the likelihood of the community’s willingness to adopt the measures due to the alignment of values associated with them and the high efficacy of the processes. We heard about research indicating the direct correlation between commitment to sustainability goals in developing countries and foreign companies' willingness to invest directly in those countries. We also heard about the lessons we learned from COVID-19, the associated social behavior restrictions that were enforced, and how to use those lessons to implement climate change behavior modifications.
One of my favorite discussions was one surrounding “Ubuntu” (I am because we are) as a social response to the burden of climate change stressing that we can’t separate ourselves from nature or each other. This theory for change emphasizes that humanity is part of a community of nature and that we should cooperate with the world around us. It also encourages us to examine the nature of the help provided to others and work together to meet our collective responsibility to the planet we share. Honestly, I think that this brilliant conversation led by a new friend and colleague, Gabriel Sunday Ayayia, summed up the overall message of the conference well.
When experts can come together and acknowledge the importance of each other’s work, although they offer so many varied perspectives and approaches to improve the environmental situation we find ourselves in as a global community, true progress can be made. The event atmosphere was one of support for each other and was filled with the desire to collaborate and combine our experience, research and ideas to find effective solutions that can benefit the world at large! It is my wish that each and every human has the opportunity to experience these moments of global unity, as it brings with it so much hope for the future of our planet and all those who share it!