Social Isolation and Climate Change: An Inextricable Bind

Jessica Farber is finishing her final year of a B.A. in Honours International Development at McGill University. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of McGill’s Global Health Journal, the Prognosis, and is a passionate advocate for global health justice with Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. Jessica’s other research interests lie in refugee & forced migration studies and human rights.

In her essay, Social Isolation and Climate Change: An Inextricable Bind, Jessica Farber argues that, in order to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement targets and Sustainable Development Goals, marginalized populations already affected by climate change must be consulted in policy and program development, and be empowered to serve as agents of change in their own communities. She adds that these steps will not only help mitigate the effects of climate change, but will also build social connectedness.

Jessica explains that it is those communities already experiencing social isolation that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which is only isolating them further. She describes the impact of extreme weather events and how they have already produced the world’s first “climate refugees”, including the people of Isle de Jean Charles off the coast of Louisiana and the Uru-Murato people in Bolivia. The greater spread of infectious diseases, aided by the warming global climate, is also mentioned as exacerbating social isolation.

In particular, Jessica highlights the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and “the critical role they can play in the management of natural resources and as agents of change.” She also explores programs launched by UN Women in countries, such as Peru and El Salvador, that empower women to lead the sustainability movement.

Jessica concludes by emphasizing the importance of collecting environmental data that reflects the experiences of those bearing the heaviest burden from climate change. She mentions the Environmental Performance Index, created by Kim Samuel, Dr. Angel Hsu and colleagues at Yale University, as a prime example.


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