Mary Robinson speaks about women and climate change

Josephine Bush

President Mary Robinson speaks to the Colorado State University community Monday about climate justice and human rights development. Robinson is the former president of Ireland and was the first elected female president. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer)
President Mary Robinson speaks to the Colorado State University community Monday about climate justice and human rights development. Robinson is the former president of Ireland and was the first elected female president. (Photo credit: Megan Fischer)

Mary Robinson, United Nations special envoy for climate change and former Irish President, spoke Monday night on the importance of climate justice.

Since her presidency ended, Robinson found the importance in NGO work and now operates the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, which focuses on grass-root development in areas such as Africa and southern Asia, and also supports giving voices to women as advocates of change.  According to Robinson, the regions that face extreme poverty also face larger issues of climate change.

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“In Liberia they have two predictable raining seasons … now they don’t know if they’ll even come,” Robinson said.

In Africa, in the last eight years they have experienced long periods of droughts and then flash flooding, leaving many farmers without consistent food.

“Seventy percent of farmers in Africa are women but women only own 2 percent of the land,” Robinson said. “Women are agents of change … their voices need to be heard.”

Before opening her talk to questions from the audience, Robinson said that universities are a wonderful place for opportunities because they have the capacity to help climate movements go faster.

“We need the strength and research of the universities and the  innovation of young people,” Robinson said.

There is a growing movement mostly from students to divest from fossil fuels … calling on a university, would you divest in fossil fuels?

I do support divestment but I don’t stop there … there is a need for mindful consumption …  CSU is a leading University on being green.

Why do you think the U.S. is so far behind in women representation in congress and the presidency?

I don’t think it so far behind. They still have to struggle in many countries … It is important that we do get a balance, a gender balance of 50/50.  A number of EU countries require a quota of women who are on boards for companies. The value (of women) is unquestionable, but it’s hard to get there.

How much do you see fair trade working in tandem to improve climate justice?

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We need a fair trade world in context of climate change. To buy more locally, sell more locally, consume more locally.

How can you work on a micro-level to improve climate justice?

There is great wisdom on the local level. We come to see what they think best, no matter where it is start by valuing local knowledge and then engage. Best thing is to listen from local knowledge and build from that. My foundation works on the local level.

How can we decrease waste every year? What tactics is the UN using?

I would say the UN is not leading. This is something on a  entrepreneurial level, within the business community. We need to value waste, in terms of energy and the potential of it. There are  exciting ideas moving the direction of the circular economy, making things that last longer.  We need things to be entirely recyclable, and everything we do should be recyclable.

Whats your opinion on vegan and vegetarian movement?

I think it will be necessary to have a broad mindfulness of how much more it takes to have cattle and beef and livestock of different sorts … there should be much less.

Collegian Reporter Josephine Bush can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @JoBush620.