Christina Hui is a Political Science major and a Psychology minor. She is from Northville, Michigan. We had a conversation with her about her interest in climate change topics, and the experience she recently had in Morocco as a part of the Climate Change Conference.
You recently took a trip to Morocco as part of the Swarthmore delegation at UNFCCC COP 22 (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changes Conference of Parties). What inspired you to want to go to this conference?
CH: I went to China this summer as a field study through a PoliSci class. This class was called Government and Environmental Issues in China and in it, we looked at the current environmental problems that China faces. We experienced the air pollution firsthand. We saw people in developing parts of China such as the rural villages in the mountains suffering from direct harmful impacts of climate change. This experience opened my eyes to the realities that many people face that we don’t see as much of in Western, developed settings. For example, in these villages, the water that they use to drink, brush their teeth, and wash their pans with was polluted. I tried going for a run outside in Shanghai and after 3 minutes, I couldn’t breathe! The air was way too polluted. Afterwards, I learned that I was supposed to wear a mask. Seeing these problems firsthand really inspired me to learn what the international world was doing to try to solve the climate crisis. My experience in China drove me to apply to the Morocco Conference at the beginning of this past semester, because I wanted to learn more.
Wow. And what exactly did you do in Morocco?
CH: So, I observed plenary sessions and conducted interviews with government leaders, representatives, civil society, and activists. I would mostly go to meetings and interview people. There were so many different world leaders there, and the interviews that I conducted helped me to understand and engage with aspects of climate change that I hadn’t necessarily had the chance to do before.
What was your biggest takeaway from your time in Morocco?
CH: A lot of people there, at the conference, were anxious about what the U.S. might do in terms of climate negotiations in the wake of Trump’s election. John Kerry came to address the people who were worried and the U.S. delegation represented at the conference. Kerry said that one single climate change sceptic cannot undo all the work of the Obama administration after 8 years of work. Other important international leaders from countries such as China said that they would not stop their climate efforts, and that they would continue with their promises and obligations regardless of whether or not the U.S. shifted their stance away from progress. It was enlightening and reassuring to hear from these different speakers, especially considering similar worries that I’ve heard voiced at home.
Were there habits or characteristics that you noticed in the leaders you came in contact with while in Morocco that you hope to assimilate into your own leadership style?
CH: Yes! These leaders were very optimistic. Despite setbacks, they were still motivated and positive. They knew how to focus their efforts on the future rather than dwelling on things or other people that might try to inhibit their progress. I hope to be optimistic like them when faced with opposition to things and causes that I believe in.