Holistic Climate Solutions Summit guests check in at the entrance to the Tzu Chi Center for Compassionate Relief in New York.
The theme of Climate Week 2022 was “Getting It Done.” Thus, Tzu Chi’s summit gathered over 30 partners, comprising academics, activists, youth leaders, government officials, and people from all walks of life, with one goal: Developing the innovative solutions we need to tackle the climate crisis.
The summit program consisted of 22 sessions: Panels, workshops, and community dialogues with a specific theme each day.
Food systems were the focus on September 19. The first panel, “An Intergenerational Dialogue: Youth Solutions and Priorities for Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems,” brought together youth-led group representatives and veterans at the forefront of championing comprehensive change in global food systems to share their perspectives and activities.
The “Faith-Based Solutions to Create Climate-Resilient Food Systems” workshop built upon findings generated during the Faith + Food Coalition’s Faith and Food Dialogues for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.
Then the “Revolutionary Strategies of Food Sovereignty for Historically Marginalized Communities of Color” panel revealed how certain populations globally face severe and disproportionate rates of food insecurity.
Many indigenous communities are working hard to revitalize their local food systems, and encouraged this as a path forward.
The first day of the summit concluded with “In Dialogue With Youth Environmental Leaders: Creating Transformative Change at the UN,” an intentional meal.
Local to Global
The sessions on September 20 explored the geographical aspects of climate change. The “How Global Solutions Are Failing Local Communities” panel highlighted how regions hardest hit by natural disasters in the developing world struggle to cope with the loss and damage while being the least responsible for the climate crisis.
The “Responding to the Food Crisis: Future-Proofing Local Food Systems to Be Resilient” panel featured how – given the growing global population, which reached eight billion in 2022 – we must transform current food systems as they are vulnerable for a variety of reasons.
The panel created a space for Tzu Chi and partners, currently collaborating to aid Ukrainians displaced by the Russian invasion of their homeland and the ensuing war, to converse.
Broadening the conversation, a Tzu Chi representative to the UN highlighted recycling as part of bouncing forward to a more sustainable future and spoke of Tzu Chi’s innovative DA.AI Technology that transforms PET plastics.
“Global Solutions from Your Home,” a community-based dialogue, drew the day to a close and focused on how everyday lifestyle choices regarding food, fashion, travel, recycling, plastics, and energy can make an environmental difference.
Interfaith and Wellbeing
September 21 opened with “Highlighting Interfaith Responses to Climate Anxiety,” an intentional meal where faith groups connected with mental health experts. Then, the “Faith Dialogue Informing the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health” workshop drew together people of faith eager to contribute their thoughts and experiences to the design of the U.S. national strategy to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases and health disparities.
The Faith + Food Coalition hosted the program as part of the Good Food Dialogues led by Food Systems for the Future in advance of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health days away on September 28 – the first conference of its kind in 50 years.
That afternoon, the “Explorations of the Climate Security Nexus” panel created a space for youth peacebuilders, climate activists, and representatives from government, UN agencies, and civil society to discuss sustainable peace solutions that acknowledge the connection between climate change, peace, and security.
Another workshop, “The Building Blocks of Mutual Aid for Disaster Resilience,” featured preparedness with the growing understanding that among communities’ greatest tools are awareness and resilience. If communities at risk anticipate not being able to receive government assistance following major disasters, they can create mutual aid networks to ensure they’re ready.
However, disaster readiness is also a personal matter, and many find coming to terms with climate change difficult.
Building on the thread of resilience, three mindfulness practitioners offered interactive meditation, yoga, and group therapy sessions during the community-based program, “Mindfulness in the Face of Eco-Anxiety and Climate Grief,” that concluded the day.
Envisioning Our Shared Future
September 22 brought three panels aiming to contemplate the future we want. The first, “The Zero-Zero Solution: Getting to Actual Zero Anthropogenic Emissions of GHG with the Vision for Equitable Climate Action (VECA) Framework,” walked attendees through the VECA. Collaboratively created by hundreds of organizations with diverse background experiences, it provides solutions that foster bold, comprehensive, and equitable climate action, recognizing that the scale and scope of the global crisis arise from systems of colonialism, racism, and injustice.
“Youth Leadership in the Triple Planetary Crisis: Creating the World We Need to Live In” presented perspectives from the frontlines of creating change within communities, building innovative solutions, and ushering in a more sustainable future. The triple planetary crisis – climate change; nature and biodiversity loss; and pollution and waste – are projected to put millions of species at risk of extinction and lead to the continued erosion of ecosystems and destruction of the air and water we depend on to survive. With over 49% of the global population below the age of 30, integrating the voice of youth in decision-making processes is critical.
“Innovative Usage of Storytelling for Media Communications on Climate Awareness and Climate Action” gathered youth activists, climate change communications experts, and representatives from the UN to reflect on how to generate concern about the climate and catalyze social change and climate ambition from governments. Including those most affected by climate change in the conversation, and an uncompromising stance, emerged as vital.
Concurrently, some bemoaned the enormity of the task:
The day closed with “Art for Climate Action: Creating Our Future Together,” an evening of art-making and conversation where participants shared their hopes and stories.
Building a Flourishing Future
September 23 began with “Marching Towards COP27: Building Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Climate Resilience by Engaging Women of Faith in Food Systems Transformation.” The panel presented how with a collapsing global economy and worsening impacts from climate change, around 20% of people in the MENA region are food insecure, then shared best practices in transforming food systems.
The “Solutions at the Nexus of Climate, Animal Welfare, and Sustainable Development” panel showcased how improving animal welfare contributes to achieving global climate goals and accelerating progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goals. A central element of protecting animal welfare is promoting a global shift to a plant-based diet.
Tzu Chi brought a religious perspective, emphasizing compassion and ethics.
The “Exploring the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution on the Human Right to a Clean, Healthy, and Sustainable Environment” workshop followed up on the July 28, 2022, UNGA declaration that access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a right for all, not just a privilege for some. Individual nation-states must take action to implement it, as people are losing their homes and access to food, causing climate-forced displacement. Participants pinpointed that the dialogue concerning what lies ahead must be inclusive in the broadest sense.
A networking event completed the day’s program, allowing attendees to meet the speakers, panelists, event organizers, and other summit participants and continue the conversations informally.
On September 24, “Confronting Plastics: A Strategic Ethical Response” zeroed in on our global reliance on plastics across all sectors of society, and its detrimental impact on the environment, health, and more. As one of the panelists said, “Plastic pollution, to our environment, to our community, is real. We’re not projecting that it will happen in the future: We’re seeing it happening right now.”
Some were quite upbeat about potential solutions alongside systemic change.
Others were more focused on individual action regarding plastics.
Live Taping of United in Action
The Holistic Climate Solutions Summit ended on September 25 with the live taping of United in Action, the Tzu Chi Center for Compassionate Relief’s latest program, produced in collaboration with Tzu Chi USA’s Global Affairs Team and featuring in-depth conversations between the host and representatives from the UN community. The Holistic Climate Solutions episode spotlighted how we can overcome gaps and obstacles and solve the climate crisis through mutual understanding and cooperation.
It was a stimulating week that motivated attendees to do their part to drive climate action and get it done: Fast.