Ireland's former president brings message to Missouri, urging fight against climate injustice

Mar 6, 2013

Credit Rachel Wittel / KBIA

The former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, is targeting youth specifically to find and act on low-carbon solutions to reverse climate injustice and secure a livable future world. Mary Robinson is also the former United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights.

Robinson spoke last night as part of a Columbia College lecture series titled, “Making Human Rights the Compass for All Ethical Globalization.”

Robinson became the first woman president of Ireland in 1990 and has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. She emphasized that the context of climate change actually involves people.

“When people talk about climate change, they’re talking about melting glaciers somewhere very far away, or a polar bear on a melting ice flow,” Robinson said. “We feel sympathy, but no connection. I believe we need to change the story of climate and tell the real story, which is that millions of people in our world today are already suffering in having their poverty undermined.”

Robinson says our use of fossil fuels is causing the undermining of poor countries’ development, but there is still hope to fix climate injustice.

“Somehow, we’ve got to get real on this and realize the injustice that our lifestyles are contributing to undermining their development,” Robinson said. “And yet, there are lots of things we can do. It’s not a story with no hope. It’s a story with lots of hope.”

Columbia College Professor of History Ethics Anthony Alioto reiterates that anything citizens can do to better the future of this world will be beneficial.

“I’m optimistic and she’s optimistic,” Alioto said. “We hope the message goes out that, ‘Hey, the smallest thing people can do–the smallest thing–will help.’”

Robinson was recently appointed to the United Nations Global Compact Board, which is a group working to advance business principles in areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption.