COP: A lesson in global citizenship, as a nurse and as a human being on this planet
Post by Kasey Bellegarde (she/her), a public health nurse and Doctorate of Nursing Practice Student in Health Innovation and Leadership at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, specializing in planetary health and climate change.
It is my final day here at COP27 and riding the bus back from the conference center as the sun sets behind the mountains surrounding Sharm El-Sheikh, I’m thinking back over the week I just had.
As the first nursing student from the University of Minnesota to be invited to a COP delegation, I am feeling honored to bring a health lens to the climate conversation which can often be overlooked.
Hearing testimony throughout the week from Indigenous youth and elders, from leaders and community members in Uganda, Senegal, Malawi, the Marshall Islands, Pakistan and more about the devastating havoc climate change is wreaking right now on their lands and livelihoods, the disruption to health and well-being is clear.
African nations, small island states, Indigenous peoples and frontline communities around the world are shouldering the heaviest burdens of a global crisis to which they contributed the least. The drumbeat for climate finance thrumming through this COP, to me, is money for health- the health gains that come from cutting emissions, from keeping people safe as they weather present and coming climate dangers, and from economic and social support for the irreplaceable loss folks have already endured, as climate change erodes precious land, culture and identity that people cannot get back.
For nurses or other health professionals like me who are feeling frustrated about the systems that do not work for our patients, there is space (and professional obligation) for us at the table at places like COP to advocate for policy that is good for health, for justice, for the communities we serve. Walking around the conference center in my scrubs and stethoscope has been a visible reminder that our health rises and falls on the decisions we make on climate.
My first day here I looked around the room taking in people from all over the world and felt a shock of wonder and hope at what can happen in the presence of a global community driven to gather by their concern and passion for a habitable planet. Diverse disciplines and perspectives from the world’s nations coming together, lifting their voices to stress what will and will not bring us into the better future we all need. The relationships we build together across sectors, from grassroots to governments, with and apart of our land, can be transformative toward shifting the ways we live and value our collective fate here on Earth. COP is truly a lesson in global citizenship, as a nurse and as a human being on this planet, and how much our successes and losses are wrapped up together. So now, to work!