E²SHI Symposium Highlighted Interdisciplinary Nature of Climate Change Resilience

E²SHI held its 6th Annual Symposium on April 6, 2016, featuring keynote speaker Roger-Mark De Souza, director of population, environmental security, and resilience at the Wilson Center. The Wilson Center, chartered by Congress as the official living memorial to President Woodrow Wilson, is a non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue to inform actionable ideas for the policy community. At the symposium, De Souza discussed the intersection between climate change resilience, sustainable development, and population health.

      Roger-Mark De Souza at the symposium. 
Photo credit: Dylan Alvarez

What does it mean to be resilient?

As part of understanding resiliency, Mr. De Souza pointed to global pressures – such as urbanization, environmental degradation, growing inequality, population growth, climate change and increasing demand for resources – that in turn create compound risks which can threaten societies. For example, as pressure on natural resources increases, competition can lead to instability and conflict, such as the pastoral conflicts in Mali or Sudan and the conflicts around extractive resources in Latin America. Learn more about what it means to be resilient

Building resilience

Asking the question how to build resilience, De Souza highlighted examples of programs around the world that integrate livelihoods, reduce disaster risk, and adapt to climate change in a single framework. He showed a video about a program’s efforts to empower women in Tanzania and to educate women that reproductive rights are connected to climate change resilience. For example, decreasing birth rates put less stress on the natural resources of a community, and empowering women can help create jobs that do not rely as much on natural resources for profit, such as educators and radio hosts. Furthermore, using traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) helps to create trust and support in the communities, instead of pushing a top-down formula developed by non-residents. See the video

Population growth and climate change vulnerability

De Souza presented a map produced by Population Action International and the Joint Global Change Research Institute that explores population growth and high vulnerability to climate change across the world. By overlaying different quantitative metrics, it became clear that there is a strong connection between “hot spots” (areas in the world with high population growth and high vulnerability to climate change) and couples seeking access to contraceptive methods. This analysis provides further evidence of the complexity in addressing issues like climate change and the need for collaboration and cross-discipline thinking to promote sustainable development in the developing regions of the world. Check out the map

Posters presented during the reception showcased the wide range of research supported by E²SHI. Photo credit: Dylan Alvarez

In closing, De Souza noted that we have an opportunity to build inclusive, climate-smart resilience from the ground up.

A few key takeaways:

  • Resilience has to be absorptive, adaptive and transformative
  • Multisector integration matters
  • Youth engagement is key
  • Accountability measures are critical
  • Mobilizing communities is a powerful approach
  • Empowering women is a cornerstone to building resiliency
  • Resiliency programs must be scalable

Recommended resources

New Security Beat: a blog of the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program, featuring articles by Roger-Mark De Souza and other contributors from the Wilson Center. 

Publication: De Souza, Roger-Mark. “Demographic Resilience: Linking Population Dynamics, the Environment, and Security.” The SAIS Review of International Affairs, 35, no. 1.

Mapping population and climate change hotspots: an information sheet from Population Action International.

Healthy People, Healthy Environment video

Video credit: A co-production of the Wilson Center andThink Out Loud Productions.
Filmed on location in Pangani and Bagamoyo Districts, Tanzania.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
— Daniel Patrick Moynihan