Robinson: Climate Change is a Human Story

When Mary Robinson was working on behalf of her foundation to protect the economic and social rights of Africans in 2005, she said she started noticing a troubling sentiment emerge in the discussions she had with people across the continent.

“I began to hear a different voice, a different sentence,” Robinson said March 9 during a visit to Mount Holyoke. “A sentence that began, ‘Ah, but things are so much worse… We don’t have any seasons anymore. We have long periods of drought, and then flash flooding…’ I heard that constantly since then.”

And when she traveled to Somalia in the summer of 2011, a time when the country was being ravaged by a famine that claimed the lives of 28,000 children in less than two months, Robinson said she began to see that climate change was the source of the human misery she was witnessing.

“One of the things that had never occurred to me 19 years earlier in 1992 was absolutely in the front of my mind in July 2011,” she said. “That the Horn of Africa had had the eight hottest years ever recorded in succession. Therefore, the drought was getting worse, the impacts were much more tangible, and that this is what we mean by global warming. This is what’s it’s about.

“More and more, I realized that we weren’t talking about climate change as we should be.”

Robinson’s lecture was sponsored by the Odyssey Bookshop, the Office of the President, the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, the Miller Worley Center for the Environment, the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts, and the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center.

Watch the entire Robinson event.