Looking Up to the Sky

As a pre-medical student with dreams of being an aerospace flight surgeon, I was surprised that the Global Climate Action Summit was so relevant and important to my personal interests. While I was not able to be at the Summit in person, I had the chance to engage with key moments online using the livestream. People from all over the world were able to tune in, and the online broadcast allowed me to immerse myself in the conference and topics of discussion in ways I could not have imagined possible.

The topic that resonated with me personally was the importance of creating solutions that address health and clean energy. On Day 1, the conference projected a video about the importance of merging the discussion of poverty and pollutions to implement solutions that address both. Because these issues are so interconnected, they cannot be solved unless they are tackled together. Van Jones, one of the speakers in the video, put it simply when he said, “it is hard to learn if you can’t breathe”.

Health problems due to pollution continue to worsen for populations around the world. Asthma attack rates have gone up in vulnerable populations living in areas with high air pollution, which include young children and the elderly. Health care cost burdens on low income families for pollution-related diseases continue to rise. Disadvantaged populations such as migrant farmers are forced to work in conditions that expose them to harmful pesticides and herbicides, compromising their health.

The main takeaway from the session was that solutions addressing pollution and health need to be implemented aggressively to ensure a clean and healthy future for ourselves and our descendants. Our future generation is going to live with the consequences of our actions today, and we have the responsibility and unique opportunity to take steps to better understand and prevent pollution-related health and climate damage.

My favorite part of the conference was hearing Mae Jemison speak about how we impact this planet and the sense of urgency that should inspire us to take climate action and protect our planet now. Change and commitment needs to start internally for world-wide change to occur and sustain. Jemison puts it poetically when she describes that all our hearts are made up of the hearts of stars; we are a product and are very much a part of this universe. Hence, our care and commitment to each other and our planet “must endure connecting us across generations and geographies”, space and time. Her inspirational speech changed my perspective on my responsibility as an individual to take climate action and advocate for something bigger than me, a better present and future for our planet and its inhabitants. Jemison’s speech reminds us that looking up to the sky grounds us and helps us fully appreciate our immense role and opportunity in this universe to do so much good for ourselves, for others, and for our planet.

About the Author: 

Himaja Nagireddy is a guest writer for the United Nations Association of the USA, selected from a competitive pool of applicants to serve as a UNA-USA 2018 Global Climate Action Summit Fellow. To learn more about UNA-USA fellowships and opportunities, subscribe to our mailing list

About the Summit: 

The Global Climate Action Summit will bring leaders and people together from around the world to “Take Ambition to the Next Level.” It will be a moment to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens with respect to climate action. It will also be a launchpad for deeper worldwide commitments and accelerated action from countries—supported by all sectors of society—that can put the globe on track to prevent dangerous climate change and realize the historic Paris Agreement. To relive the action, watch recorded sessions and behind-the-scenes interviews from the recorded livestream