By Gianluca D’Elia
The reality of climate change is often overlooked, but a Rider student and an alumna were looking to change that as they attended a conference on the Climate Reality Project in Miami, Florida, on Sept. 28-30.
Alexandra Reynolds, a junior sociology major, and Sarah Bergen, ’15, spent three days learning about climate change from leading climate scientists and journalists after being accepted into the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.
“The Climate Reality Project’s mission is to educate people about climate change and why it’s the most vital issue of our time,” said Bergen, “so that we — the climate reality leaders — can go back to our communities and educate others.”
Bergen said the education that Climate Reality Project provides to leaders in the conference has a ripple effect.
“We learned how to recruit others to join our mission, utilize on-and-offline methods of communicating our message, and organize events at which we can give presentations in our communities about climate change,” Bergen said.
The conference also included panels and speeches by leading climate scientists, journalists who cover climate change, founders of nonprofit organizations that work to fight climate change and the mayor of Miami Beach.
“Seeing this kind of motivation and actions taking place was very refreshing,” said Reynolds. “It gave me hope for the fight to end further climate destruction. The most inspiring aspect of the training was the fact that all of these people, from all over the globe, had this concern in common.”
Another aspect of the event that Reynolds found inspiring was that current campaigns were being organized and put into effect during the conference itself. Reynolds said many leaders from Florida were able to bring their initiative to legalize third-party solar energy and get the attention of hundreds of people, and even the support of Al Gore himself.
Despite having met several motivated leaders who are fighting against climate change, Bergen said convincing others at home to join the fight is a challenge.
“Climate change is a war,” Bergen said. “There are two sides — those who care about life after our own death, and those who don’t care at all. When I was at the conference, those who had attended multiple conferences told me that the first day back home would be the hardest. My first day back home, a close family member of mine said to me, ‘Why do you care so much if we are all dead in 100 years?’ Hearing that felt like a slap in the face. How can a human not care about the continued existence of humankind?”
Reynolds said climate change is the number one human rights issue at the moment, affecting all people in some way or another, and should be considered as such.
“I am so grateful to have a better understanding now of the actual science behind the issue,” said Reynolds. “The training was truly an amazing opportunity and I hope to be able to put the experience to use and move more people to join the fight.”