UNITED NATIONS DAY IN GAINESVILLE - FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2016
 
Report by Dr. Anita Spring, President, Gainesville Chapter UNA
 
 

The Gainesville Chapter of the United Nations Association held its United Nations Day celebration

on Friday, October 21 at the Gainesville Woman's Club. The theme of the program was “One

Humanity, Shared Responsibility: Climate Issues from Paris to Gainesville.”

 

Dr. Peggy Macdonald Executive Director of the Matheson History Museum served as Chair for the

Day. After the Welcome, Dr. Anita Spring gave a short introduction on the 2015 United Nations

Climate Change Conference (Conference of the Parties—COP 21) held in Paris, France, November

30 to December 12, 2015. It was the 21st yearly session of the 1992 United Nations Framework

Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the

1997 Kyoto Protocol. Its goal is to strengthen global response to threat of climate change. The accord

aims to keep temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and

limit rise to 1.5 Celsius.

 

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By the week of the UN Day event, 83 nations had ratified COP 21. Subsequently, and at the time of

this writing and after COP 22 in Morocco on November 16, 2016, 115 of the currently 197 Parties to

the Convention have signed the accord.

 

It should be noted that the Climate Accord fits into the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were

ratified by 193 nations for the time period 2015-2030.

 

The keynote speaker was Dr. Glenn Galloway, Director of the Sustainable Development Program,

University of Florida. He spoke on “Curbing Climate Change from the Perspective of Sustainable

Development” and received a standing ovation. He first considered that the earth’s permafrost’s

stored methane is released into the atmosphere where it is more potent that Co2, and then showed that

93% of Earth’s heat is trapped into the oceans leading to increased weather disturbances (events such

as hurricanes) and high temperatures, while leading to shortages and surpluses of rain and sea water.

Such events have accelerated due to increasing industrial emissions and agricultural development. He

also discussed wind and its mitigation, as well as solar energy, both the public and private sector

involvement. The Climate Accord includes funds for mitigation, but he asked: “If we spend all the

money on mitigation, what happens to food and development? He argued that we need a combination

of three climate-resilient pathways: adaptation, mitigations, and sustainable development that also

include equity and good ethical practices.

 

Author and ‘Climate Reality Leader’ Susan Nugent, spoke on “After Paris: The Climate Change Action

Network.” Her presentation showed her own participation in the Paris Conference along with members

from various non-governmental agencies. Several of the women kept in touch with each other, after they

returned to their countries, and were able to compare their activities on climate change issues in terms

of their respective constituencies. As a dedicated advocate, she argues that citizens from many

countries, as well as citizens in Florida and Gainesville can take steps to fulfilling the 17 Sustainable

Development Goals including practicing responsible consumption, holding educational discussions and

programs, and interacting with United Nations and their own governmental and political entities. In

addition, her article on the UNA event entitled “Climate Goals are a Shared Responsibility” appeared in

the Gainesville Sun on October 30 (Section F6).

 

Abhaya Thiele, the Southeast Regional Coordinator of Citizens Climate Lobby, spoke on

“Florida Citizens Climate Lobby”. She discussed curbing climate change from the

perspective of sustainable development. She provided local examples of activism along

these lines. She explained that a bipartisan policy would establish a steadily-rising fee on

carbon-based sources of energy, at the point where they are produced. The revenue from

this fee would be divided up equally among all American households, adding to jobs.

 

The Gainesville Chapter of UNA was again fortunate to have a guest speaker from the

national Headquarters of UNA-USA in Washington D.C. Ms. Tyler Browning, the

Administrative Assistant for “Nothing But Nets” spoke on “Climate, Mosquitoes and

Refugees” in which she argued that climate change, as well as political unrest increases

the number of people who become migrants in their own countries, as well as increasing

the number of refugees seeking asylum in host countries. Along these lines, Dr. Anita

Spring presented a brief description of the current UNA-USA campaign on behalf of

UNHCR (United Nations High Commission of Refugees—“The UN Refugee Agency”) to

Adopt-a-Future and raise funds to educate refugee children. Women and children make up

80% of refugees, and 51% are children. The campaign focuses on capacitating schools in

refugee camps.

 

This UN Day program had 30 organizational and 5 individual Sponsors, and 19 Exhibitors

who participated in the event—and there were over 125 attendees. The UN Day

Committee was chaired by Masuma Downie, who also coordinated the speakers. Lisa

Renner coordinated the sponsors and exhibitors. Bill Whitney was the AV producer. The

extensive World Bazaar, shepherded by Polly Doughty, Julie Burns, and Dr. Barbara

McDade, had objects for sale from all over the world; the proceeds were given to UNICEF.

UNA chapter board members assisted in greeting and recruiting new members.