The Climate Crisis and Its Impacts: Perspectives on Public Health, Forests, and Indigenous Rights
Moderated by Andréia Coutinho Louback, journalist and climate justice specialist, the panel was part of the Climate Hub Rio launch on March 14.
Addressing and mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis is a matter of social justice. So providing a space to discuss such issues is directly linked to our mission. Moderated by Andréia Coutinho Louback, journalist and climate justice specialist, the panel brought perspectives on public health, forests, and indigenous rights to the discussion of the climate crisis and its impacts.
The debate was part of the Climate Hub Rio launch event, on March 14, which was attended by several Brazilian and foreign authorities in the fields of climate, environment, human rights, public policy, technology, and innovation. A panel on urban sustainability and the role of cities in the climate crisis completed the day’s program (news article to be published soon).
To start the discussion, indigenous issues were the first topic to be addressed. “We know because there is scientific research, that indigenous territories and conservation units are the territories in Brazil where biodiversity, fauna, and flora are preserved the most”, Samela Sateré Mawé, Indigenous Communicator and Climate and Indigenous Issues Activist, said. This is because indigenous peoples have a sense of belonging and connection with the territory, she added. Therefore, the climate crisis has a direct impact on indigenous peoples and their health, especially when combined with the impacts of illegal mining on their territories.
In addition to all the violence caused by illegal mining, mercury also affects the biodiversity of the region, as it contaminates rivers and animals. This in turn affects the diet of indigenous peoples, as one of their major food sources is contaminated, which causes them to starve and die. It is an extremely negative cycle, Sateré Mawé explained.
“Indigenous causes and environmental causes go hand in hand, it is impossible to dissociate them”, she highlighted.
Bringing academia into the conversation, especially focused on health issues, Professor Rudi Rocha, Director of the Institute for Health Policy Studies (IEPS), shared that the volume of research about climate change and its impacts on society’s health is growing, which is good news.
As Director of IEPS, Rocha is the coordinator and one of the authors of the study “A Saúde na Amazônia Legal: Uma Agenda para Ação” (in Portuguese), about health in the Amazon. The study was recently published as part of the Amazônia 2030 project, an initiative led by Brazilian researchers to develop an action plan for the Brazilian Amazon.
“The intersection between health, environment, and climate is the most fundamental one for life, and it's so natural that we don't even realize it”, he said.
“The intersection between health, environment, and climate is the most fundamental one for life, and it's so natural that we don't even realize it”
Health issues also encompass healthy and sustainable eating. So, when speaking of food systems, the question posed was: “Can Brazil and Latin America feed the world in a sustainable way?”
Sustainable food production is a challenge to the country, the region, and food producers around the world. However, the answer lies on the balance of three aspects: economic, social, and environmental, said Water Baethgen, Senior Researcher at Columbia Climate School.
Baethgen emphasized that, even though carbon neutrality is a very important indicator, there are many other dimensions we have to consider when talking about sustainable food production, such as biodiversity and economic viability. “Brazil can [feed the world in a sustainable way], it needs good, coordinated research support that is multidisciplinary and not only looking at the quantity of food but also at quality, nutritional value, etc. And I think the Climate Hub has a very important role to play in coordinating this type of research”.
Dr. Murugi Ndirangu, Director of Columbia Global Centers | Nairobi, highlighted the importance of cooperation and collaboration in addressing the climate crisis’ impacts, especially in the Global South. “Numerous countries and cities are pursuing adaptation and mitigation measures in an unsystematic manner. If they were to choose to cooperate, they could develop mutual support by pulling human, financial, and institutional resources. It is through this mutual support and cooperation that countries and cities in the Global South can develop common positions and strengthen the voices of developing countries in international climate negotiations”, she said.
The Green Belt Movement could be a great reference in terms of cooperation. The Kenyan environmental organization was founded in 1977 by Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and empowers communities, particularly girls and women, to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods. “It is a great project we can learn from about cooperation and youth. We need to bring young people to the discussion because the world belongs to them”, Dr. Ndirangu stated.
ABOUT CLIMATE HUB | RIO
Climate Hub Rio is a knowledge, research, and innovation hub that will bring together experts from Brazil, Columbia University, and around the world, to discuss and work on global climate issues while benefiting from an important regional perspective. The project is a partnership between the City of Rio de Janeiro and the Rio Global Center and will foster more effective collaboration and outreach between local leaders in Brazil and the global scientific community.
The Hub will offer scholarships to Brazil researchers and scientists to develop projects in the country and also at Columbia University, in New York. The Hub's goal is to promote broader cooperation between the academic community at Columbia University and Brazil, as well as promote more effective collaboration and outreach between local leaders in Brazil and the global scientific community.
From education to action
The Climate Hub will be organized around four main activity models.
Education: Columbia faculty participation in educational programs to be developed at the Hub.
Convening: development and organization of events and programming around diverse climate-related issues, including energy transition, land use, and climate equity.
Network: creation of connections between academic talents, with the aim of promoting research and, above all, expanding the dissemination outside of Brazil of the work and results developed by the Hub and partner educational institutions.
Action: Make a concrete impact on climate policy actions locally in Rio de Janeiro, nationally in Brazil, and globally through the Columbia University network.