Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Earth Issue of The Gazelle, the student publication at NYU Abu Dhabi. It has been reprinted with permission as a part of an ongoing collaboration between The Gazelle and WSN to connect our two campuses.
On April 26, environmental enthusiasts gathered at the Downtown Campus for Biiah 2014, a one-day event hosted by NYU Abu Dhabi’s environmental advocacy Student Interest Group, Ecoherence. Biiah, Arabic for environment, is the first climate change youth conference in the UAE. Biiah was created to be “the kickoff to a burgeoning environmental movement in the county, bringing together students, community members and experts in the region to start a grassroots environmental movement.”
After a series of icebreakers, Biiah 2014 began with a presentation by members of the organizing team, followed by a keynote presentation by Robert Bradley, Senior Advisor of the Directorate of Energy & Climate Change at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We address climate change specifically, but we want to look at the issue from the holistic approach. For that reason we have speakers who talk about art and climate change, youth activism, national policy and environmental law. We hope that their diverse experiences will start a cross-sectional approach to addressing climate change,” said sophomore Louis Plottel, one of the three members on the core organizing team.
This holistic approach to addressing environmental issues was apparent in the selection of panelists which included, David Holland, professor of Mathematics and Atmosphere-Ocean Science and principal investigator of the Center for Global Sea-Level Change; Una Chaudhuri, professor of English, Drama and Environmental Studies; Simran Vedvyas, youth activist, chairperson and founder of SynergYouth; Shakeel Hussain Kazmi, professor of International Environmental Law and policy advisor to the Pakistani Ministry of Climate Change and the Green Climate Fund.
The panel discussion preluded a keynote speech by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Abdul Aziz al Nuaimi, also known as the Green Sheikh, Official Environmental Advisor to the Ajman Government.
The talks were designed to be educational and informative.
“The team hopes to be able to bring awareness to people about the environment, especially to the youth in the UAE, for it is only if people are knowledgeable can real change in the environment happen,” remarked freshman Patrick Wee, participant relations director.
After the keynote speeches and panel discussions, the participants partook in two workshops hosted by guests, NYUAD faculty and affiliated faculty. Workshop topics were also aimed to promote a multi-faceted approach to climate change. Some examples were “The Responsible Partnership — Why Caring For The Environment Is Everyone’s Business” and “Scientific Evidence of Climate Change and Implications.”
“We hope to use the ideas we hear today to build a network of young people that are passionate about environmental issues,” said Plottel.
“Our ultimate goal is to be able to send a delegation to the [21st Conference of Parties] in Paris, where a new climate agreement will be written. To do this we need to build a strong coalition of passionate youth that are willing to take this local knowledge to an international scale,” said Plottel.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 28 print edition. Julia Saubier is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.