Jacqui Patterson at John Jay College

by Nyasha Laing

On Wednesday, September 30, the Program in Sustainability and Environmental Justice, the Africana Studies department and the Gender Studies program welcomed Jacqueline Patterson, Director of Environmental and Climate Justice at the NAACP to John Jay as part of the Sustainability and Environmental Justice speaker series. Ms. Patterson’s talk was framed by the 2015 COP 21 Climate Change Negotiations. It drew attention to climate change impacts occurring around the globe (such as storms, droughts, fires & food insecurity, and sea-level rise). These impacts, Ms. Patterson urged, give communities in the U.S. and around the world a “common cause” and unite them in the need for organized action. Climate activists, said Ms. Patterson, have an important role to play in the geopolitical debate and can raise important social, economic, and cultural issues in negotiations relating to the reduction of emissions and access to energy.

JPatterson & students JJ9-30-15 IMG_1079

The other half of the equation, Ms. Patterson noted, is the “common but differentiated” responsibility of developed nations such as the United States for anthropogenic climate change. In the U.S., four percent of the world’s population contribute to twenty-five percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. She broadly addressed the impacts of climate change on persons of color, women, indigenous persons, and other vulnerable populations, highlighting environmental disasters, toxic waste, transportation and housing infrastructure as key public health and policy challenges for communities, policy makers and activists. Ms. Patterson explained that climate change is also a global migration problem that is causing the loss of entire homelands and habitats and the relocation of displaced persons, as well as a crisis shaped by trade imbalances and increasing inequality around the world.

JPatterson-2 JJ9-30-15 IMG_1093

Ms. Patterson highlighted climate change education as an imperative and encouraged students with a variety of academic interests to pursue careers related to climate change and environmental protection. Jacqueline Patterson, MSW, MPH, has worked on international and domestic issues including gender, racial, economic, environmental and climate justice. She began her work in environmental justice as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica.

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One comment on “Jacqui Patterson at John Jay College
  1. Students in Environmental Justice were really interested in Jacqui Patterson’s talk. Many students wrote response papers for extra credit, which unfortunately I cannot quote as I’ve returned them to the students. But, in general, students were turned on: their understanding of climate justice was deepened, as was their understanding of the role of climate deniers in halting meaningful legislation and, most important, their understanding of the direct actions going on around the world and their own potential career options, and their commitment to addressing climate change was increased. They appreciated Ms Patterson’s wide knowledge, her humor and openness and felt special to be there early to engage, even though some students were unwilling to take the mike to ask their question, they did feel many of their questions were addressed.

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