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UWI Students Discuss Climate Change with Regional Experts

For Release Upon Receipt - Friday, May 4, 2018

UWI students discuss climate change with regional experts

Regional Headquarters, Jamaica. April 25, 2018—On April 12, 2018, The UWI Vice-Chancellor's Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow (UWI STAT) Ambassador Corps hosted a Climate Change Forum themed, The Eye of the Storm: The Implications of the Paris Agreement/Climate Change and the “Right to Life” for Caribbean Youth. The forum was held synchronously at the University’s Cave Hill, Mona and St Augustine campuses and streamed live on UWItv.

This inaugural event was the first of what The UWI STAT Ambassador Corps hopes will be an ongoing initiative for young Caribbean persons to become more aware of and advocate for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The format was a series of presentations by climate change experts followed by a robust discussion prompted by questions from the students. The panel of regional climate change experts included: Professor Leonard Nurse, Professor Integrated Coastal Area Management and Climate Change at The UWI, Cave Hill; Professor John Agard, Director, Office of Research Development and Knowledge Transfer at The UWI, St. Augustine; Dr. David C. Smith, Coordinator, Institute for Sustainable Development at The UWI, Mona; Jeremy Collymore, Advisor Disaster Resilience, The UWI Office of Vice-Chancellor; and Danielle Andrade, Attorney at Law, Environmental and Human Rights. Pro Vice-Chancellor, Graduate Studies and Research, Professor Dale Webber chaired the event.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles gave opening remarks and underscored the significance of the forum noting, “The Climate Change discourse will reveal the need for this region to address the fundamental issues: inequality, democracy and social justice. All of those big issues come into the fore of the climate change issue.” He explained, “Looking at the Caribbean 20 years from now, this is an opportunity to change the narrative about how our communities are built…As students, my expectation is that you would take all the fragments of knowledge, all the fragments of scientific research and history, sociology, anthropology and architecture and forge it into a discourse of activism where you can speak truth to power and be persistent about it.”

Each of the panellists addressed a different aspect of the global climate change phenomenon and how it affects the region, and challenged students to do their part in contributing to solutions.

Professor Leonard Nurse opened the presentations with a perspective on the human impact on coastal dynamics and beach systems, integrated coastal management and the impact of climate change on small island states. He said, “Climate change has always been regarded as a complex problem and indeed the literature goes on to refer to it as a ‘wicked’ problem. Wicked in the sense that it is a problem that is not becoming easier to solve, but it is becoming more and more difficult to find efficacious solutions.”

Professor John Agard focused his presentation on the climate change induced vulnerability of the region being magnified by the historical inequity of treatment of its people putting them in harm’s way due to their colonial past. He warned, “We shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the past and need to re-build climate smart islands with renewable energy micro-grids and resilient infrastructure including nature based solutions.” He reminded the audience that it is the young people who are quite key in applying all of this new knowledge about enhancing resilience.

Dr. David Smith also underscored the importance of the youth and their position and influence in the future of the region. He explained how climate could change in their lifetime, saying “If you are in the tropics, the bad news is that you are going to experience new climates much earlier than the rest of the world. World climate is likely to change probably around 2047 or 2069 depending on whether we do something about greenhouse gasses or not…You are in the right place. You are in the university presumably getting a good education, which you would be able to afford to use to help solve some of these problems.”

Jeremy Collymore painted the reality of small island states in relation the storms. “They are changing, they are frequent and they are intense,” he said, “but they are great experiences to us that are unprecedented and unfamiliar.” He challenged the audience, “The issue for us is to ensure that we are not lost in this conversation (about climate change). How can you influence the conversation? Do you have a voice? Or is it being driven by the upper level decision makers and funders?”

Danielle Andrade, bringing the presentations to a close, reminded that the adverse effects of climate change threaten our right to life to sanitation, to food, to shelter, to housing and even to our very development. She also had a special message for Caribbean youth. “You are engaged, you are armed with much more information that the generation before you, and you have at your fingertips, the options through social media and the internet to really influence and challenge the politics, the debate, and the discussion that is happening right now.”

UWI students who wish to become Climate Change Advocates are encouraged to contact the UWI STAT at uwistat.cca@alumni.uwi.edu.

-End-

Photo captions:

  1. A group of The UWI Vice-Chancellor's Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow (UWI STAT) Ambassador Corps and other students post for a selfie withVice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles at the climate change forum at The UWI, Cave Hill.

  1. Students gathered at The UWI Regional Headquarters in Mona Jamaica for The UWI STAT Ambassador Corps climate change forum pictured with: (l-r) Asha-Gaye Cowell, UWI STAT President Mona Campus; Danielle Andrade, Attorney at Law, Environmental and Human Rights; Una May Gordon, Principal Director of the Climate Change Division, Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Jamaica; Dr David C. Smith, Coordinator, Institute for Sustainable Development and Celia Davidson Francis, Director of Alumni Relations at The UWI and Regional Coordinator of the Vice Chancellor’s UWI STAT Corps.

  1. The UWI STAT Ambassador Corps pose for a photo with Professor John Agard at The UWI, St Augustine.

About The UWI

Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged, regional University with well over 40,000 students. Today, The UWI is the largest, and oldest higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with four campuses inBarbados,Jamaica,Trinidad and Tobago, and theOpen Campus. The UWI has faculty and students from more than 40 countries and collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology Social Sciences and Sport. The UWI’s priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation. For more information, visit www.uwi.edu.

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)










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