An Isle Madame native who is attending this week's United Nations climate summit in Paris believes it’s both an individual and collective moral obligation to be aware of the issue and try to become part of the solution.
Courtney Kehoe, 27, is pursuing a master's degree in environmental sustainability at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of the Environment.
“I knew that development and environmental sustainability are mutually inclusive practices,” Kehoe said when asked in a phone interview Wednesday how her interest in environmental issues developed. “I figured if I wanted to focus on development abroad, or even here domestically, you can’t separate it from the environment.”
Kehoe previously earned an undergraduate English degree from St. Francis Xavier University before pursuing a bachelor of social science in international development at the University of Ottawa.
A number of students at the institute applied to go to the conference as part of the Canadian youth delegation, but at the time Kehoe was busy preparing a proposal to do fieldwork in Thailand as part of her master's program.
David Runnalls, a visiting professor at the Institute encouraged her to look at the summit website to see what civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations were recognized and then work back channels and reach out to them and see if they were sending delegations.
She ultimately contacted the Forest Products Association of Canada. It was an organization with which she had some connections after having held an assistant research position with Sustainable Prosperity, a national economy-environment think-tank based out of the university involving forest products as a case study.
The association eventually agreed, in exchange for Kehoe using their observer status to report back to them on a number of areas of interest and issues related to forestry.
Kehoe has gone through the lengthy listing of the side events taking place as part of the conference to determine which she will be able to attend. She plans to focus on issues related to forestry, but also, given her fishing background that also that her academic research focuses on small-scale fisheries in Thailand, she intends to make time to attend events related to oceans.
Kehoe said understanding the problem of climate change — which includes how people are able to come together and negotiate solutions to address the issue — is important because it poses an imminent threat to the current generation and those to come.
“I think it’s a moral obligation of us all and individually for myself to become aware in order to be part of the solution,” Kehoe said.
She left Sunday for Paris, arriving in time for the opening of the summit today. She will return to Canada on Dec. 12.
Kehoe said she will be eager to share what she learns.
In the words of a speaker she heard earlier this week, Kehoe describes her outlook as being “realistically optimistic.”
“Now that we have new national leadership in Canada and you see the provinces coming out, like Alberta with their new climate policy, and you see a lot of momentum going into the Paris negotiations, I’m hoping that that moment translates afterwards as well, and coming out we can make better strides in order to address the issue at hand,” she said.