Olivia Owre-Bell, a recent alumna of Columbia’s MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program, attended the Climate Reality Leadership Corps 31st training in the Philippines this March.
Together with approximately 700 attendees from 85 countries, Olivia joined diverse professionals to become part of this proactive Climate Leadership Corps, whose mission is to build public awareness of our global climate challenge and drive action for solutions worldwide.
Former Vice President Al Gore, chairman of The Climate Reality Project, led the training. His updated “Inconvenient Truth” presentation showed the dramatic realities of our changing planet: rising global temperatures (February 2016, now the hottest month on record), intense storms, diseases and droughts. He also featured the human cost of global warming, through personal stories from survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest cyclone ever recorded, which directly hit the Philippine city of Tacloban.
Gore outlined growing investments in wind and solar technologies, which can provide a clean energy future and mitigate these weather disasters. The conference encouraged participants to discuss a wide range of solutions in breakout sessions, and created its own social networking hub to keep the communication among the “Climate Leaders” active long after the event.
For Owre-Bell, an unexpected and critically important part of the conference was “the level of emphasis on addressing the spiritual side of climate change. Humanity’s disconnect to the natural world has led us to ignore the natural systems we are inherently linked to, and sadly we are now forced to witness the consequences of our actions, which are affecting the planet’s most vulnerable,” she said.
Owre-Bell recounted that the training emphasized personalizing global climate issues, and taking responsibility for the stewardship of our common home. “We caused this problem, and we are the only species that can take actions to correct it,” she said. “We just have to choose to do so.”
With the UN climate change agreement reached in Paris last December, and signed this month by most of the world’s nations, Owre-Bell is optimistic for a real change. “We must demand that the pledged commitments are implemented and strengthened,” she said. “We must continue to demand action from governments, organize from the ground up and talk to anyone we can about the state of the planet. Climate change is the greatest challenge facing the planet today, and I am excited to be part of the solution.”