Which education is needed to build a sustainable future?

The event, “Which education is needed to build a sustainable future?”, that took place on the 13th of May at the International House of Northern Denmark was one for the books. The goal of the event was to challenge the current state of education and reflect on which skills, in terms of education, might be lacking in order to build a sustainable future. The two main groups involved were UNYA, Aalborg, who provided a platform for the event, and BEST. Among the participants were students, recent graduates, and professionals from all backgrounds that engaged in a workshop, which highlighted the current state of education in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular focus on the eleventh: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. Continue reading “Which education is needed to build a sustainable future?”

The State building of East Timor: The role of the United Nations with former United Nations diplomat, Finn Reske-Nielsen.

One of the many purposes of the United Nations (UN) is to maintain world peace and security. Only few people know that the UN temporarily governed a country, East Timor. That is why on April 1st, UNYA Aalborg welcomed Finn Reske-Nielsen to help us understand the role of the UN during the state building in East Timor. Continue reading “The State building of East Timor: The role of the United Nations with former United Nations diplomat, Finn Reske-Nielsen.”

Aalborg’s Climate Strike

The weather is a bit grey, but there is no rain in sight- that came later. It is Friday March 16th 2019, the day of the climate strike. A green plant swings back and forth as the guy wearing it on his back carries it into the crowd, dancing his way in. Most people have brought more traditional means of protest such as banners, signs and t-shirts, all decorated with climate related statements, adding to the atmosphere. ‘Act or drown!’ reads one, ‘Eat beans and not friends!’, cries another. Other messages are more subtle, but they all call for change.

“It is important [to hold climate marches and strikes] to put a face to all the children which the climate challenge will effect.” – Mathilde Christiansen

The biggest group are the young- the school children who have left their classrooms to be here today. They are, however, not alone, ‘The Grandparents Climate Action’ has also shown up. With their grey hair and canes, there is a stark contrast between the two biggest groups. There are many others in between, too, like the mothers with their strollers, nurturing tomorrow’s generation, and the students with their long beards and hemp shirts. Maybe it would have been nice to see a politician or two more, but they still have time to see the light, or do they? After the Paris agreements and climate conferences, rising sea-levels, and coming climate related humanitarian catastrophes, one might think they should have noticed by now and taken action.

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The crowd at the Climate Strike (Photo by: Jacob Blasius Thomsen)

The good news is, a whole lot of people have noticed, not only in Aalborg, but all over the world. That’s why this climate strike was not only taking place in Aalborg. Actually, the idea did not even start here, but with a little girl in Sweden. Greta Thunberg is her name, and on a Friday in August 2018, she started the first strike in the, now world-wide, climate strike movement. With the slogan ‘Skolstrejk för klimatet’, she sat in front of the Swedish parliament Riksdagen, and bit by bit, a movement of young people have grown around her. When a young girl in Sweden puts her foot down and says that now is the time for action, no more talk, it inspires us all to do better and take such measures. As a result, in Aalborg, as well as in countless other cities around the world, both young and old people chose to strike for the climate and take action.  

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UNYA Aalborg’s Chair, Daniel Nielsen, delivering a speech at the Climate Strike on the importance of taking climate action (Photo by Jacob Blasius Thomsen).

 

Without taking away from the success of Greta, we have known about climate change for longer than she has been around. For much longer than she has been around, in fact. The idea of CO 2 contributing to higher temperatures was first published in 1896 (that was 1896, not 1996). In light of this, to say it is time to take action should probably be considered an understatement.

“If established politicians, decision makers and big corporations cannot do that now, we will come and do it for them in our own way, and it is going the be the way we want it.” – Karl Felix Flyvbjerg Poulsen 

The UN also states the importance. It even has its own goal among the sustainable development goals. It’s number 13, Climate Action, symbolised with an eye where the pupil is the globe. A true symbol of the planet’s relation to people.

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Mathilde Christiansen talking about organising the Climate Strike, as well as its importance, to UNYA Aalborg’s Journalism Team (Photo by: Søren Wurtz).

This relation to people is also what drives the people of the demonstration to protest. Like Greta, it’s the people that take action that matter. One of the organizers of Aalborg’s climate strike, Mathilde Christiansen, echoes Greta Thunberg when she emphasises the importance of having the children not yet able to vote showing up for the demonstration, “It is important [to hold climate marches and strikes] to put a face to all the children which the climate challenge will effect. So, getting them on the streets and getting them engaged in the climate debate, I think that is really important because it is their future and they don’t have the opportunity to vote yet, so them being able to show their faces and then the media covering that and the politicians seeing all these young people, I think that really does something in the grand scheme”.

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Two of the organisers of the event, Karl Felix Flyvbjerg Poulsen (left) and Mathilde Christiansen (right) (Photo by: Søren Wurtz).

Karl Felix Flyvbjerg Poulsen, who also helped organize the strike, considers it quite logical that young people would show up. As he puts it, “it is mainly young people who showed up today, because we know this is about our own future. I think a main message is that the youth do care about climate change. We do want action and we do want change. If established politicians, decision makers and big corporations cannot do that now, we will come and do it for them in our own way, and it is going the be the way we want it. So, they must act now and find reasonable solutions, or we will have to take over, because there is no more time to waste”.

The elder generation from ‘The Grandparents Climate Action’ take action for their grandchildren, the parents for their children, and the school children and university students for their own future. Why do you do it?

 

Article by: Jacob Blasius Thomsen

Interviews done by: Signe Kvistborg Balle and Michaela Higgins Sørensen

Article Edited by: Michaela Higgins Sørensen

Caption Picture By: Jacob Blasius Thomsen 

Wiki-edit-a-thon: Writing Women Back into History

Most of my history lessons throughout primary and secondary school were about great men and their achievements. Later on during my first year of anthropology at University, this trend continued as we were going through anthropological history. Classic pieces written by men, about men.

But what about the women in history? Where are they? The quick answer? Most women have been written out of history. An issue which the Wiki-edit-a-thon event on March 8th 2019 sought to do something about – by writing women back into history, thus working for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Nr. 5, Gender Equality.

As part of International Women’s Day UNYA, in collaboration with the Zebra Partnership, held the ‘Wiki-edit-a-thon’ at the International House, Aalborg. 

“Wikipedia famously bears one of the starkest gender gaps in contemporary culture.” – New York Magazine

With tables set up providing snacks and coffee, participants of the event could, from 16.00 – 20.00, act as editors by rewriting existing articles, writing new articles and translating wikipedia-pages into multiple languages.

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A few of the attendees present at the event helping each other out with some technicalities (Photo by: Lea Thies).

The event started out with a presentation from the organisers of the event, Lea Thies and Elias Mark, followed by a video with greetings from the founder of the initiative, The Zebra Partnership, Carol Ann Whitehead. What originally  started the initiative was a twitter conversation between the mayor as well as the Women of London. Following this, a strategy was made and a group was formed by bringing other organisations together, thus resulting in Wiki-edit-a-thons not just in Great Britain, but around the world, making partnerships and collaboration a core feature. 

 

Of the current 29 million pages on wikipedia, only 17% of women are on these pages. Of the 17%, only 10% of the contributors are women, therefore leaving many women underrepresented on Wikipedia.

After the heartwarming video by Whitehead, participants were instructed in detail on how to edit the Wikipedia pages. Examples of articles on Wikipedia in need of editing are; articles using sexist/biased language, articles where women are referred to as ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’, women being defined by their relationship to men instead of their accomplishments, or the articles simply don’t exist.

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A brief guide line, included by the organisers of the event, on how to go about editing women’s articles on Wikipedia.

 

As we were introduced to the Wikipedia articles in need of editing, I made the mistake of pressing a button on my laptop which resulted in the page moving to the bottom of the list on the site. In order to get back to the start of the page, I therefore had to scroll up for what seemed like an eternity. This in itself was proof that there is still much to be done in relation to the representation of women in history.

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The attendees eating their pizza after several hours of hard work editing articles (Photo by: Lea Thies). 

Throughout the whole event, there was an atmosphere of collaboration and inclusion. As stated by Elias Mark, “Everything we do is good. A little change is great”, and  “[it] is a learning experience for all of us”, in regards to the event. Some of the participants had difficulty, myself included, with the technical side of editing. However, everyone helped each other out whenever possible.

By the end of the event, many of the participants expressed interest in continuing the work, and as expressed by Carol Ann Whitehead, “Being involved in the Wiki-edit-a-thon is not a one-off, it is like a relationship, like finding a partner. It is not just a peck on the cheek. It is a long-term relationship”. Much like my situation at the bottom of the list of Wikipedia articles to edit, there is a long way for us to collectively scroll up to achieve gender equality, and this initiative is a scroll in the right direction.

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Created by the organisers of the event, here is a step by step diagram on how to get your own Wikipedia-edit-a-thon started! Check out the ‘Women in red’ and ‘Articles in need of attention’ links below to see which articles need editing 🙂

Links to get started:

•Women in red:
•Articles in need of attention:

Article by: Liv Inuk Oldenburg Lynge

Article Edited by: Michaela Higgins Sørensen

 

UNYA Debates on Gender and Equality

Spirits were high as the second UNYA Debates of the year took place on Tuesday the 4th of March in the International House of Aalborg. UNYA Debates provides a platform in which anyone is free to present their opinion on the given topic and have it contested in a comfortable and open-minded environment. The topic of this debate was ‘Gender and Equality,’ a topic which all participants were able to relate to personally and therefore eager to debate.

Despite the calm and collected beginning, the debate quickly picked up as more opinions were thrown on the table. Over the course of three hours, a broad variety of issues and conflicts were covered, taking as the point of departure the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals number 5, Gender Equality, and 10, Reduced Inequalities, while also slightly touching upon goal number 1, No Poverty, and number 4, Quality Education. The various goals covered within one topic shows how interrelated the Sustainable Development Goals are and proves that one cannot speak of nor attempt to solve one goal without taking into account the other goals and their progress. The participants of the debate thus quickly discovered that gender equality cannot be achieved without addressing poverty and education, among other goals, leading to a debate covering several diverse areas, in one way or the other, related to Gender and Equality.

One of the main topics during the debate was the notion that gender inequality is embedded within our societies to the extent that children are streamlined into the fixed gender binaries of ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ before they are able to think an independent thought. As children grow up, it becomes increasingly difficult to break out of the societal expectations connected to these predetermined gender roles. The majority of people do not wish to become an outsider and, hence, tend to tread in the footsteps of others, thus conforming to historically influenced gender roles. Therefore, the participants agreed that we should work towards gender neutralizing the influences which children are exposed to on a daily basis, that being for instance advertisements for clothes and toys.

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Sustainable Development Goal Number 5, Gender Equality

Amongst the topics which peaked the interest of the participants were the issues connected to the way in which gender inequality is addressed in public debates. New gender-neutral pronouns may be added for people who do not identify as a specific gender, but that does not necessarily address the problem in which such people are excluded from society because of how they identify themselves. The debate concluded that focus should rather be on achieving equal payments and equal access to any job no matter one’s gender. There should be an increased focus on addressing the roots of a problem because it cannot be covered up by new words as these issues will keep recurring in society. That being said, the issue of gender identification and the importance of using gender-neutral terms in order to include the various members of the LGBTQ community cannot be undervalued. In other words, it is important to have an inclusive society to all LGBTQ members, but in order to have that and get to that level of gender equality in our society, we need to focus on the roots of the problem.

The debate ended with the participants attempting to provide solutions to the problems connected to Gender and Equality. The most popular solution was a call for equal access to information and education on anything from sanitation to skill training and preparing for jobs. Basic health and other fundamental Human Rights have to be attended to before we are fully able to tackle the gender equality issue. After the last words had been uttered, the participants had a lot of food for thought and left feeling motivated to give another push towards gender equality.

Article By: Signe Kvistborg Balle 

Edited by: Michaela Higgins Sørensen

COP24, what’s been done and where do we go from here?

As the COP24 draws to a close this week, delegates from 193 countries, activists, non-profit organisations and private sector representatives will start to leave Katowice. And as the conference disbands, commentators from across the world are starting to ask, have we done enough to stop global warming and implement the 2015 Paris Agreement?

It must be said that much remains in the balance even after two intensive weeks of discussion and debate. Let’s look at the bad news first. A bloc of four oil-producing countries – the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait – have been accused of obstructing the UN’s climate change talks. All four have refused to “welcome” the IPCC’s special report warning of dire consequences if global warming rises more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. As major fossil fuel powers each of the four countries argued that the IPCC report should be simply “noted” in discussions. Their actions have brought sharp criticism from developing countries whose citizens are most at risk from climate-induced disasters. Ralph Regenvanu, the foreign minister for Vanuatu, a nation in the South Pacific Ocean, did not hold back as he delivered a damning speech before ministers and heads of state; “Whether you welcome, or note, or shamefully ignore the science altogether, the fact remains that this is catastrophic for humanity, and party negotiators blocking meaningful progress should have much on their conscience.” The talks were marred by further controversy earlier this week when Australia became the only nation to join the US at a pro-coal event where the US announced its commitment to extracting fossil fuels and warned against climate change ‘alarmism’.  Australia has also stated that it will not commit to larger carbon emissions reductions. As a result, the brokering of a “rulebook” for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement has slowed.

If you are wondering whether there is light at the end of the tunnel, allow me to illuminate some of the more promising developments from COP24. Following the stalls in talks earlier this week, UN Secretary General António Guterres returned to Katowice and he did not mince words. Speaking to the plenary he stated, “We’re running out of time. To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change. It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.” In response, some countries have upped their game. The High Ambition Coalition, a group of countries including the EU, Canada and New Zealand, as well as a large group of least developed countries and several other developing nations, have pledged to scale up their plans to cut emissions in line with the IPCC’s warning that global warming cannot rise above 1.5°C.

Other bright spots in the talks have included climate change commitments from fast and high fashion companies. Inditex, Burberry and 41 other companies have pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The launch of the Sports Climate Action Framework brings together 17 major sporting committees and federations in an initiative designed to get the sporting industry on track for a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. The sport industry is responsible for extensive carbon emissions through travel, energy use and catering. People from around the world were galvanised into collective action as part of the #ClimateAlarm initiative. On the 8th of December citizens of more than a hundred cities across the globe marched together to demand stronger commitments to climate action. In Brussels a record breaking 75,000 people took part. Greta Thunberg, a 15 year old Swedish schoolgirl made a lasting impression at the UN climate summit when she challenged world leaders to better climate action. Thunberg’s words taken hold in Sweden, Poland and Australia where school children have gone on strike in protest against climate inaction. New initiatives like the People’s Seat have been widely applauded for encouraging a spirit of openness and inclusiveness in the midst of complex political discussion.

So what do we take away from the last two weeks? Consider this progress as ‘two-steps forward and one step back’. Commitments from fashion and sports industries, collective action from across the globe as well as significant pledges by the High Ambition Coalition have brought us closer to significant climate action. But at the time of writing, the “rulebook”  for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement has yet to be finalised and the oil bloc of Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, continue to drag their feet.

Further reading:

Article by: Isobel Squire (with reviews from Jana Fleischer and Daniella Domsa)

Sustainable Development Goal No 13 and the Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World

E_SDG goals_icons-individual-cmyk-13.jpgThe COP24, Conference of the Parties 24, started this Monday, but why should we concern ourselves with what is happening in faraway Poland? The answer is simple: Because we live on the same planet and climate change concerns us all eventually. In this regard we want to introduce you to the Sustainable Development Goal no 13, which is dedicated to climate action, and how we can contribute to this goal and make the world more climate friendly.

So here we go!

“Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” that is the main message of the SDG No13. But what does this mean exactly? The UN defined it with the following five sub-goals it wants to reach by 2030:

  1. Strengthen the flexibility and the capacity to adapt to climate related disasters in all countries.
  2. Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and into planning.
  3. Build knowledge and the capacity to tackle the climate change. This includes an improvement of education, extensive awareness-raising and the human and institutional capacity building. Hereby, the focus is on mitigation, adaption and impact reduction of climate change and an early warning system.
  4. Implement the commitments of developed countries towards the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This also includes a pledge by developed countries to mobilise $100 billion together every year as contribution to the Green Climate Fund, in order to support the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions.
  5. Promote mechanisms to raise the capacity for an effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries and small island developing states.

The question now is: What has been achieved since the establishment of the SDG no 13?

In April 2016, 175 parties ratified the Paris Agreement and 168 parties communicated their first contributions. Additionally, 10 developing countries had successfully completed and submitted the first iteration of their national adaption plans for responding to climate change. In terms of the UNFCCC $10.3 billion had been raised, which is only little more than one 10th of what was planned on being raised until 2020. Furthermore, the implementation of national adaptation programmes of action will help the least developed countries prepare and seek funding for comprehensive national adaptation plans, thereby reducing their risk of being left behind.

In this regard, this 24th climate conference is especially important, because concrete rules and tools should be ratified now, in order to implement the Paris Agreement. If that will not happen, the fight against global warming and climate change will suffer a major setback.

But even if no agreement will be reached on the issue of committed implementation, we as the people can help to stop the severe consequences of climate change. Here are ten steps that every one of us can implement, even when sitting on the sofa:

  1. Calculate your carbon emissions with the Carbon Calculator. This way you are more aware about the amount of CO2 you produce and hopefully this motivates you to apply some of the following steps.
  2. Find a Goal 13 charity you want to support. Any donation, big or small, can make a difference! (See the “Get Involved” section on https://www.globalgoals.org/ for inspiration)
  3. Recycle paper, glass, plastic, metal and old electronics, in order to avoid exhausting our finite natural resources and raw materials.
  4. Composting food scraps can reduce climate impact while also recycling nutrients.
  5. Choose reusable products. Use an eco-bag for shopping and a reusable water bottle or a cup to reduce your plastic waste.
  6. Buy eco-friendly products. Read the packaging to see if products are produced in an eco-friendly way.
  7. Bike, walk or take public transport. Save the car trips for when you’ve got a big group.
  8. Consume less meat and become vegetarian for one day a week. The meat production industry has a huge impact on the environment.
  9. Reduce your use of paper. Avoid printing and substitute it with electronic devices or carriers.
  10. Stay informed. Follow your local news and stay in touch with the Global Goals online or on social media.

These are only a few ideas on what YOU can do.  If you want to get even more involved or are looking for other ideas, than try the Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.

For further reading:

More on the SDG 13: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg13 and the SDG Tracker

More about the COP24 on: https://cop24.gov.pl/.

The ICPP report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

A guide on becoming climate neutral, developed by the UN for citizens.