May 9, 2018 — Loyola University Chicago hosted its fifth annual climate change conference in March, bringing together students, professors, experts from Jesuit universities and partners from across the United States, Canada and the world. “Climate Change and Human Health: 21st Century Challenges” examined how we must continue to work together to address the global challenge of climate change.
Gina McCarthy, senior leadership fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and former U.S. EPA administrator under President Barack Obama, delivered the keynote address. She highlighted the need to protect public health and the direct effects environmental degradation imparts on humanity’s well-being.
Gina McCarthy delivers the keynote address at the climate change conference.
The second day of the conference was devoted to five panels that featured discussions from climate change experts, physicians and public health advocates surrounding environmental issues. Panelists discussed major climate change issues, such as catastrophic weather events, the U.S. federal government’s lack of commitment to the Paris Agreement and the increasing prevalence of climate refugees.
Dr. Michael Tiboris, global water fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, during a conference panel.
Panelist Susan Crate, an anthropologist from George Mason University, told conference attendees that we are all climate refugees. “We are all being displaced by the climate” and very often “wars and conflict have deep roots in climate change,” she said. As our climate changes, storms will become more powerful and situations like the one occurring in Puerto Rico will continue to happen, so we must be prepared and willing to help those affected.
Dr. Susan A. Crate during the panel on climate refugees.
“The increasing intensity and frequency of climate-related disasters that directly affect human health points to the need for a comprehensive, immediate and humane solution,” said Nancy Tuchman, Ph.D., founding dean of Loyola’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability.
The conference also shared eight important takeaways after it concluded. These included reiterating that change happens on the grassroots level and young people have a unique voice in that change; that taking action on the grassroots level means listening to underrepresented voices like those from indigenous communities; and the importance of taking time to examine your relationship with creation and the planet, using resources like the Ecological Examen.