(List #54) Responding to an open letter on climate change

This week is about climate change and health, and business school’s potential response.

(List #54) Responding to an open letter on climate change
Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography / Unsplash

This week is about climate change and health, and business school’s potential response.

On June 9th, 2022, the World Health Organisation Civil Society Working Group  urged academia in an open letter to ensure graduating health professionals are “prepared to identify, prevent, and respond to the health impact of climate change and environmental degradation”. This had me wondering what role business schools could have here? I looked around and, apart from COVID specific examples, courses in mindfulness and helping healthcare implement better information systems, I couldn’t find a lot of business schools prepared to take on this challenge

This is an opportunity for business schools. This week is a mixture of examples I found of business school partnerships with health, interesting climate change programmes that could be provided to health care professionals and some relevant courses that could provide a way forward. A few examples are taken from the winners of the Green Gown Awards, announced this week.


1.     CREATIVE REUSE

The health industry generates a lot of waste. In the US alone, 4 billion pounds of it a year. While some of the waste is deemed hazardous (15%), the remaining 85% needs to be addressed. In addition to designing waste out and minimizing it in the first place, what about reusing it? I love the idea of Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse in Canada. Originally funded by an internal ideas competition (Big Hairy Ideas Competition) at the University, the Centre now has several locations on campus that provide depots for used materials as well as material and tool literacy spaces. The spaces currently feature a variety of material storage and displays that showcase the diverse materials coming out of offices, departments, studios, and labs on campus. A variety of wood, glass, metal, fibres, office supplies, plastics, paper, tools and equipment, and arts & crafts supplies fill the shelves. You can also see real time statistics on waste diversion and money saved.

2.     DEEP BREATH

Air pollution is the largest single environmental risk to health, responsible for an estimated 7 million premature deaths every year. WHO data shows that almost all of the global population (99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits. Business obviously have a lot to do with this, but universities can also take a stand on this issue. At Northumbria University, the law school launched a Climate Change Think Tank in 2020, a space for students and staff to explore climate change challenges and solutions from a policy angle. One of their actions was to respond to Newcastle City Council’s air quality consultation. The goal is to expand the Think Tank to become university wide (including health?).

+ The impact of a company’s emissions in terms of climate change is increasingly a part of the curriculum, but what about in terms of health?

3.    LIGHT IT UP

Tobacco kills up to half of its users, with more than 8 million people killed each year. According to the WHO, it also cost 600 million trees, 200,000 hectares of land, 22 billion tonnes of water and 84 million tonnes of CO2 every year. Cigarette buts are the most littered item on Earth apparently, with an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette butts discarded every year. These contain over 7000 toxic chemicals that leech into the environment. The University of Bath has this interesting resource on Tobacco Tactics and greenwashing. The WHO recently released Tobacco Poisoning our Planet that provides an excellent overview.  However, tobacco production also plays an important economic role in producing areas. A project between INSDEAR (Argentina), SUNCHEM (Italy), the University of Rostock (Germany) and Wageningen University (Netherlands) aims to explore how the tobacco seeds and leaves could be used as a sustainable substitute for fossil raw materials and non-degradable. This would support the local economy and introduce new market opportunities for tobacco producers.

4.    ONE HEALTH

The course Global Health at the Human-Animal-Ecosystem Interface”. was produced by the University of Geneva, University of Montreal and University Paris Descartes in collaboration with WHO, involving more than 30 top experts from over 20 academic and research institutions and international organisations based in Geneva, Paris, Montreal and the world. This MOOC proposes a dynamic, international and interdisciplinary programme based on the One Health approach (human- animal- environmental dimensions), with one of the modules dedicated to “Management of Ecosystems under Global Changes: Implication for Human Health”. The course is included in the University of Geneva’s curriculum.

5.     TRANSDISCIPLINARY SOLUTIONS

This call to action seems like a good challenge to present to the students enrolled in the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney. A winner at the recent Green Gown Awards, it is a transdisciplinary programme that takes multiple perspectives from diverse fields.  Students from 25 different fields are enrolled, including from several that are health related. Students work on a final project in teams with industry partners to develop solutions to real-world “wicked” problems and to re-imagine challenges. For example, UNICEF, one of the 2021 industry partners, challenged students to design a platform for young people to share their opinions and concerns about climate change, mental health, education and equality and inclusion. Sounds like this open letter would be a good one to tackle next!

6.    BY KIDS, FOR ADULTS

Climate Change Catastrophe is a theatre project (that was recently highly commended at the Green Gown Awards) where hundreds of children from local primary schools across the North of England were brought together with scientists and engineers at Newcastle University to create a drama production with cap a pie drama group. The show, created by children but aimed at adults, showcases the fears and also ideas that children have for tackling climate change in the future.  The show was performed at COP26 in Glasgow.

7.     BEWARE OF THE TALK

My 9-year-old son has recently started saying he doesn’t need to do homework “because humans are going to destroy the world anywhere before I’m an adult”. This is based on climate change lessons he is receiving at school recently.  As you can imagine, this is making me mad (and not even in relation to the homework). Apparently, little research had been done to investigate the issues of climate change anxiety in educational spaces or how educators are seeking to respond to or prevent such emotional experiences. The University of Cambridge and University of Sydney did, and have published research exploring the issue of ecological distress, eco-anxiety and climate grief. Educators involved in the study reported that their students commonly experience feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, anxious, angry, sad and frustrated in response to ecological crises. They also found that educators found it challenging to support their students because of their own emotional distress and lack of guidance on what works.

+ These issues are critical, but how they are brought up will heavily influence our ability to act on these challenges.


THINGS TO CLICK ON

The World Health Organisation health and climate change toolkit

Greening a National Health System (example from the UK)

The Sustainable Business Simulation by Edumundo has teams of students tastks with imporving the performance of a multinational focused around the SDGs

The Positive Impact Rating 2022 Report is out, oulines how students view their schools in relation to the SDGs and more

How to make clean, affordable energy available to everyone

The problem of discarded fishing nets

UN's High Level Political Forum on Sustainability Development is on now and live here

How to phase out fossil fuels without leaving people behind

How Climate Finance slow SDG progress

College grounded in Indigenous ways of learning

Design is shaped by likes, and that's a problem

A sustainable  moo-vement (get it)

We asked AI to write an academic paper about itself and then tried to publish it

California's new plastic laws could be a game changer

Can H&M ever be sustainable?

What kind of a dog are you?