Recap: Who declared emergency bells at the UN Climate Summit?
Spoiler: Many of the VIP Changemakers are lurking right outside.
Last week, world leaders gathered at the UN Headquarters of New York to discuss climate change, sustainable development, and other issues.
Although Greta Thunberg’s passionate and heart-wrenching speech drew many headlines, many other stakeholders were combatting climate change through various mediums.
I made the trek to the UN last week to cover the Climate Summit and talk to those leading sustainability efforts.
Here are a few highlights.
How the UN Practices what they Preach
Many organizations talk about the importance of zero waste and reducing emissions, but how many actually walk the walk?
The United Nations implemented measures to reduce plastic and food waste.
Before entering security, a large banner declared not to bring single-use plastics on UN premises. Unfortunately, single-use plastic wasn’t confiscated, but it was nice to see the declaration in a prominent place.
Inside the cafeterias, waste was diverted into compost and recycling with no trash can in sight. Instead of plastic cups filled with fruit or parfaits, food was packaged inside of glass mason jars, with signs to leave it in designated bins for reuse in the cafe.
Outside the building, systems using the NY Department of sanitation compost (and mulch) with signs educating visitors.
Using Art for Change: A Journey of Breathing through the World’s Pollution
Directly outside the United Nations Building, a series of domes housed a climate art exhibit. The Pollution Pods by British artist Michael Pinsky contain carefully created environments to “explore air pollution as one of the many environmental and human impact of contemporary consumerism,” according to the exhibit pamphlet. Before New York, the Pollution Pods previously were exhibited in Norway, London, Geneva, the United Kingdom, and Melbourne.
The exhibit emulates the atmosphere conditions of cities like London, New Delhi, Beijing and San Paulo due to the presence of ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Each pod represented a city’s air quality, complete with screen monitoring projecting with an air quality rating, amount of pollutant, and the number of days at the pod’s pollution level each year.
Upon leaving the exhibit, materials translated the experience into real-life consequences, sharing that 9-in-10 people breathe unhealthy air quality, largely caused by burning fossil fuels.
How VR Can engage people on land about Climate Change effects at sea
The SDG Action Zone included panels, lighting talks, interactive exhibits, and receptions to accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals.
One exhibit in the Action Zone included a VR game, the Lost City of Mer. Using wands, players are guided by a seal throughout a deserted sea and are tasked with replanting coral while learning about the ocean ecosystem.
Why do interactive games like these matter? Coral reefs support over 500 million people worldwide for daily subsistence, but all 29 reef-containing World Heritage sites are in danger of demise by the end of the century if greenhouse gas levels continue at the current rate. Rather than taking trips TO the coral reefs, VR and apps like Lost City of Mer can educate users about the link between climate change and our oceans.
Climate Activists Old & Young
Outside of the UN Climate Summit, the Climate Group hosted its annual Climate Week NYC. One event at the New York Society for Ethical Culture focused on conversations with those leading the climate movement.
As a follow up from the Youth Climate Strike, Former Vice President Al Gore interviewed five young climate activists. Sophie Anderson
of the Extinction Rebellion Youth US, Xiye Bastida of
Earth Guardians, Naomi Hollard of the Sunrise Movement, Jamie Margolin of Zero Hour and Alexandria Villaseñor of Earth Uprising. Along with 14 other children from across the world, Villaseñor and Thunberg filed a landmark complaint at the UN that the world is violating their rights with the climate crisis.
On the stage at age 14, seventh-grader Villaseñor became involved in the climate crisis after California Paradise wildfires triggered her asthma.
Clip: Villaseñor discusses her entry into climate activism.
Although it may be easy to feel defeated in the climate crisis, these five young activists inspired an audience of (mostly) adults. And if we still don’t act, there’s no doubt that they’ll be watching.