What do a Unitarian minister, an economics student, an HIV/AIDS educator, and a Sierra Club outings leader all have in common?
It may sound like the beginning of an off-color joke, but what unites these four activists is an interest in global population and reproductive health as they connect to the environment and climate disruption. Along with 24 other spirited volunteers, they spent last weekend exploring these issues in depth at the Global Population and Environment Program’s Fall Activist Training.
Bringing together participants of all ages and backgrounds from every corner of the United States, we spent the weekend exploring the complex relationship between human and planetary well-being, digging into the important contribution of voluntary family planning and women’s empowerment to the health of our planet, human pressure on scarce resources, and the resilience of communities to climate disruption.
Participants heard from experts in the field on topics ranging from global population projections to integrated development models. They explored infographics on recent population data, watched two films on Population-Health-Environment (PHE) programs around the world, and discussed best practices for social media, messaging, and community engagement.
Most importantly, participants shared ideas and inspired each other to make these connections for students, Sierra Club members, communities, and policy makers – spreading the weekend’s messages far beyond the walls of a conference room in our nation’s capital.
What was most inspiring about the weekend was observing everything that goes into making our issues salient in a world of competing interests. Just like the Sierra Club as a whole, the training included an incredibly diverse range of people, opinions, experiences and ideas that result in robust discussion and creative problem solving. Integrating environmental and reproductive justice in the faith community, discussing population pressure with hikers on outings trips, and linking condoms and climate disruption on college campuses were just a few of the ideas that emerged from our dynamic group.
As participants filed out of the training Sunday afternoon, exchanging last-minute hugs and emails, I thought about this diversity and the rich outcomes it produced. How often do a 16-year-old highschool student, a septuagenarian college professor, and a middle-aged Sierra Club political chair get together in one room to discuss their beliefs about the causes of and solutions for our changing climate and growing planet?
These conversations should happen more often – and we commit to facilitating dialogue and action by continuing to bring together diverse groups and brainstorm actions to change our world. To get alerts about future training opportunities with our program, sign up for our PopNews listserv here. Together, we will make the world a better place for women, families, and every citizen across the planet.-- Kim Lovell, Program Director, Global Population & Environment Program