Lucy shares her biggest takeaway from her experience working in Humanitarian, Development & Climate Change. Lucy writes on how combating these challenges ahead will be uncomfortable, but necessary.
"My biggest takeaway from everything I have learned, particularly over the past six months, is that there seems to be a misconception that we can meet the challenge ahead of us without any sort of discomfort in our own lives. The reality is that facing the climate challenges we have ahead of us is going to be uncomfortable. Extremely! That’s if we are to do what needs to be done. But… what is the alternative?"
From the debilitating floods in Pakistan to the Horn of Africa on the brink of famine after its fifth failed rainy season, wherever you look, the threat of climate catastrophe is rearing its ugly head.
And really, we haven’t had to look so far. This year’s successive floods and cyclones have wreaked devastation across swathes of the North Island – the ongoing emotional, financial, environmental and psychological toll will be enormous.
In the past, it has been easy to look away, or compartmentalise climate change as a problem that happens elsewhere, not to us. The climate extremes that many of us have experienced this month in Aotearoa are proof that we are not immune. If we don’t act, sooner or later events of this scale will become the new normal.
For the past 18 months, I’ve worked at UNICEF. Essentially, my job requires me to scour global news for hours each day and give our staff all over the world a run-down of the latest humanitarian, development, climate and global health news. Funnily (or not so funnily) enough, the hardest section to fill every day without doubt is the section on good news.
Simultaneously over the past six months I’ve been working at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change supporting the Executive Secretary in his engagements including the United Nations General Assembly, the UN’s annual global climate conference COP27, and his back-to-back international engagements. It’s a privilege to be able to work so close to the nucleus of efforts to tackle the greatest, most terrifying challenge humankind has had to face.
I thought long and hard about the brief for this piece, in particular when asked ‘what changes do you believe need to be made?’. The reality is: everything needs to change.
My biggest takeaway from everything I have learned, particularly over the past six months, is that there seems to be a misconception that we can meet the challenge ahead of us without any sort of discomfort in our own lives. The reality is that facing the climate challenges we have ahead of us is going to be uncomfortable. Extremely! That’s if we are to do what needs to be done. But… what is the alternative?
Despite it all, the past year of craziness has also given me so many reasons to be hopeful. We’re seeing a growing consensus from people all over the world that climate change is, in fact, real. As a result, we’re seeing an increasing acknowledgement from world leaders that climate change needs to be at the top of the agenda (they’re saying that at least, lol). And this is being reflected at the highest levels of international climate negotiations.
Just last year at COP27 we saw countries unite and commit to developing a fund to address loss and damage faced by developing countries as a result of climate change, something many thought impossible even a few years ago. And this year we’re seeing a push from the international community to reform our major financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to ensure they are focused on our climate challenges.
These are real, positive signs of a sea-change towards progress.
The world can often feel hopeless when you pay too much attention. But I believe we all need to keep paying attention, and to encourage others to do the same. It’s uncomfortable because things need to change.
Sometimes it can be too much, and I will be the first person encouraging anyone who is feeling overwhelmed to take a break. But don’t step away permanently.
We, as individuals, have more power than we think. It’s an election year this year. Use your vote as your voice.
Written by Lucy Redwood