What do climate change, food security, and women’s rights have in common? A theatre packed with students, faculty, and community members waited patiently on Wednesday, February 2 to learn the answer. The event in question was UFV’s Oxfam Campus club’s second to date, and was organized by student representatives Ashley Aune and Laura Rickard. The club invited a range of captivating speakers to campus to share their knowledge.
Ben West from the Western Wilderness Committee was the evening’s first guest speaker; he began by addressing the various concerns regarding climate change. West came prepared with a power point presentation containing information about the Alberta tar sands, the extreme weather events in recent history, and environmental refugees. West left the audience with a call to action: we have already seen the effects of climate change, and citizens need to be informed about Canada’s responsibility to reduce carbon emissions and live responsibly. By 2050, Canada is supposed to be carbon-free, but as of now, West told audience members that, “living in an urban world with cars is equivalent to living with a smoker who smokes a half pack of cigarettes a day, because of emissions.” By being informed about climate change and the problems associated with it, change in other areas such as food security and women’s rights can be made more attainable.
Food security was the next topic on the evening’s agenda; guest speaker Hannah Cavendish-Palmer of Farm Fresh Project BC spoke on the importance of farming. Cavendish-Palmer linked her presentation with West’s, explaining how the production of food “will change with climate change.” She explained the reasons why relying on imported food is both expensive and dangerous, particularly when we live in a city that is one of the most productive farming communities in Canada. She stressed the importance of supporting local farmers, which also protects our families through the simple fact that they know what they are being served; knowing what is in our food is just as important as knowing what kind of emissions our cars are spitting into the environment, and by improving one area, we improve our quality of life as a whole. Cavendish-Palmer and her three business partners own Skeeter Farm, a place situated in Yarrow that offers veggie boxes and other locally grown items. She also works for the project Farm Start BC, which helps to support farmers in the development of new farmland and business plans, encouraging new growth in terms of both crops and businesses.
Also on the topic of food: Sasha Caldera from Fair Trade Vancouver spoke on the importance of buying Fair Trade food items. Caldera shocked the audience when he shared that Canada only has eight cities that are Fair Trade-conscious, which seems especially low when compared to the 448 towns in Europe. He discussed how buying Fair Trade products supports the men, women, and children in lower income countries who provide us with our vices, like chocolate and coffee. Caldera noted that the export business is often the only source of income in these countries, and although we may pay four dollars for our morning cappuccino, the farmer who produced those beans is getting as little as five cents. Caldera encourages audience members to look for the Fair Trade logo on food items when out shopping; by paying only pennies more, we can ensure people in developing countries are not working for pennies.
Last but not least, Taryn Diamond from Oxfam Canada gave a presentation on women’s rights. Diamond tied all of the topics together, discussing gender equality and its link to climate change. She showed a video about a Bangladeshi woman named Sahena who works to help prepare her village for natural disasters. As a woman, Sahena faced many challenges in gaining support, but in the end she said, “I don’t ask for [my husband’s] permission anymore; I do what is right.” Diamond advocates for equal rights, working to ensure that women aren’t left out of planning for and campaigning about climate change.
Equal gender representation is not global, but climate change is. Diamond explained the domino effect climate change has: as we increase the amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, and contribute to extreme weather, we create environmental refugees. For example, women run and work the majority of small-scale farms, and climate change creates problems for farming, such as crop failure due to drought. These tragedies in turn stimulate disease and illness. If the women are all dying, who will act as child-bearers or caregivers? Climate change spurs problems such as poverty, violence, long work days, illness, and death – all connected to women’s rights.
The Oxfam event was informative and empowering. During the break, the club served locally-produced organic food and Fair Trade green tea donated by Martin Kelly, a member of UFV student life.
All those interested in getting involved in UFV’s Oxfam club are invited to participate in their weekly meetings, held Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in University House. Connections with the Vancouver Regional Oxfam Office are available to all those involved in UFV’s Oxfam club, offering many new opportunities for volunteer work and Oxfam-focused workshops. For more information, contact UFV student reps Aune and Rickard at oxfam.ufv.@gmail.com.