As you know, in September we will be holding an Experts Meeting to find out how households can become allies in the face of climate emergencies. HRF, NTU and UN-DESA will be the organisers. Prof. Gamal Abdelmonem is leading this project and we wish to thank him for all that he is doing to raise awareness of this issue. We have spoken to him and here is the interview.
On 28-29 September an Expert Meeting will take place at Nottingham Conference Centre to address the relationship between households and Climate Change. How did the idea come about?
Climate Change has always been a long-term and standing research agenda for both the Home Renaissance Foundation and my Research Centre at Nottingham Trent University. We all have a duty and commitment to address Climate Change through our research work, studies, and analysis of current attitudes towards the environment. With our focus on the home and family, the key victims of the impact of Climate Change worldwide, we have been working on the best way to develop a collective research effort to address how the home as a key societal, cultural and economic unit, can contribute to this global challenge.
Through my participation at the United Nation’s Family Focused Regional Meeting in Cairo in June 2022, I had an interesting conversation with Ms Renata Kaczmarska, where we discussed joining our efforts in a pioneering event that brings our experts and scholars on the family and home to address the challenges of Climate Change, in the build-up for the UN-DESA Year of Climate Change in 2024. It was a clear meeting of mindsets and research ambitions to work together. At this point the idea was born and later materialised with the support of HRF Chair, Mr Bryan Sanderson and the Directors at its Directors’ Meeting earlier this year.
What is expected from such a meeting and what perspectives will be addressed?
Over the past few months, we conducted our research to highlight the key strands and themes where the interest and activities of families and home can contribute to combating Climate Change. Despite its broad and wide coverage that can cover every aspect of our lives, we highlighted five key aspects and research strands that can offer strong research agenda and practical and innovative solutions to how family and home can make substantial efforts to address it. We then identified and approached international experts with a track record of research in this area to contribute to the collective discussion and the meeting specialist expert report.
Through rigorous research review and analysis, all contributors will produce specialised papers to address one of the themes, which will be peer-reviewed at three levels to contribute to the Expert meeting seminar at a 2-day event in Nottingham, as you highlighted. Following the debates and discussion during the meeting, a collective and edited expert report will be issued and will be part of the UN-DESA Scholarly and scientifically validated approach to how family/home can contribute to combating Climate Change in simple, practical and innovative ways. We will bring experts who cover wider geographic and research fields, but all focus on the home as a central focus of this report.
There are geographical areas that are already experiencing climate emergencies, for example as a result of drought, how can these households be helped?
Climate Change is a global challenge and a catastrophe that is waiting to happen. We all experience it in different ways, and some regions of the world experience it more promptly than others. So, I strongly believe, and research has confirmed that we all have to collectively act. Certainly, drought in Africa, wildfires in the US and Australia, glacier meltdowns, and tsunamis are amongst the most recent events to alert us that no one is safe. But, when it comes to those in most urgent need for help, either families who are dying out of drought, or out of cold and limited supplies in the refugee camps following storms and earthquakes in Pakistan and Syria, we can do a lot to help.
Collectively, we need to contribute by either direct financial support through charities that look at families’ and children’s needs in those extreme situations, but also provide infrastructure support to either develop new modes of water resources or by building shelters to help families in those regions. These are very basic and minimal needs to help those vulnerable families and children to survive such devastating situations. But my belief is we need to do much more, through economic support, building infrastructure as future investment in new renewable resources in those regions to operate and become safe places for communities and families. We need to treat those geographical regions as if they are our own homes and families. If we want to combat global warming, we can do it now in those regions and help those vulnerable families. If we fail to stop it now, we will not survive in Western countries.
Can households and families be allies in this ecological transition? What steps should be taken?
Yes, absolutely. Families are the basic and most powerful societal and economic unit as I mentioned before. If you have any doubt, look at how we managed to beat COVID-19 Pandemic: only through family and home-based response, where the home and family have become a place of work, education, social care, health and trade. In fact, if we do not focus our efforts and attention to the role families and homes play in our ecological transition towards a carbon-neutral planet, we are doomed. Over decades, we came to learn that if changing policies and consumption models do not change the attitudes of households and families in their daily lives, little or perhaps no change will ever be achieved. In this meeting and generally at HRF and at NTU, we attempt to reverse this perception, and place home and family not as contributors, but in fact champions of economical and carbon-neutral life. If families are aware of the danger to their wellbeing, the future of their families, young people and children, they have the capacity, well and power to change our way of living, modes of consumption, and support government or international policies and action plans to combat climate change.
To give you an example, only when the energy prices went up in the UK and Europe, did attitudes towards energy consumption and fossil fuel change, and during COVID-19 lockdowns, when we worked from home, our cities became largely carbon neutral overnight. This is not to suggest making life difficult and unaffordable. It is just telling us how powerful the change we can achieve if we put our focus on the family and their daily living and livelihoods.
We have to wait for experts’ research, but how can academic meetings of this kind help society?
Of course. Academic research that has a limited impact on our way of life, becomes very short-sighted. Our research and academic meetings are always geared to understand our current behaviour, attitudes, and cultural and economic attitudes and how to change and improve them. Our meeting will fall into this category of impact-led and practical research. Our interest is in bringing together expert and curious minds to explore what we do wrong and how to better learn from best practices, scientific evidence and successful experiences. This way, sharing knowledge and educating families across the globe is our shared mission as scientists and researchers. I can refer here too to the role of science to help us get through COVID-19. If we managed to beat COVID-19 through science and innovation, we can do the same regarding Climate Change. Research is very much pivotal in our effort and our success. I hope our meeting contributes a little to that collective effort. The report we will produce should give examples of best practices and innovation to be spread and used as a reference globally.