Global Town Hall to address climate, gender and sustainability issues


Just days before the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Summit on Sept. 23 in New York, Pitt will hold a Global Town Hall to address some of the same issues.

Jae-Jae Spoon, director of the European Studies Center who is one of the organizers for the Pitt event along with Michael Goodhart, director of the Global Studies Center, said they planned the town hall for Sept. 19 and 20 so that some of the people attending the U.N. summit could make a stop in Pittsburgh beforehand, including keynote speaker Wanjira Mathai.

Wanjira MathaiThe theme for Pitt’s Global Town Hall, which participants can attend in person or see via livestream, is “Climate, Gender and Sustainable Development: From Local Activism to Global Reform.”

Spoon said the focus is “thinking about what individuals can do locally, how we can think about the issues locally, and how that can then influence global governance, at the U.N. and the EU level, etc.”

“The issues of climate and gender and sustainability are very much things that fit into that kind of framework,” she said. They want to look at how local activism on these issues are interconnected with what’s happening globally.

Pitt has worked with two organizations — Global Voice and Workable World Trust — that have organized similar town halls at other universities.

“The goal of this is to … bring together local activists, local community members, students, faculty, etc., for a day of really thinking very carefully about these issues and how they're connected and what they can do, and what they can learn from these experts,” Spoon said.

She said that about 100 people have signed up for the expert panels and breakout sessions so far, and she expects there will be more. Those planning to attend can register here.

“All of the experts that we have coming in are very excited to interact with participants and talk with them about what issues they're most interested in and how they can then take these ideas and do things to affect real change,” Spoon said.

Keynote speaker Wanjira Mathai is carrying on the work of her mother, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who started the Green Belt Movement, an environmental organization that empowers communities, particularly women, to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods. Maathai was a native of Kenya but received her master of science degree from the Pitt in 1966.

The town hall begins at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19 with the opening lecture by Paulo Magalhaes, "Common Home of Humanity: Creating the Legal Environment to Meet Climate and Nature Emergencies," in the Humanities Center, Cathedral of Learning   

On Sept. 20, the morning sessions will be in Alumni Hall:

  • “Overview: The Road to 2020” by Earl James, Global Voice

  • Expert Panel Plenary: Gender, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development

Breakout sessions on Economics of Sustainability; Security; Gender and Development; and Climate Action and Social Justice will take place in the afternoon in William Pitt Union.

A separate youth town hall will be held on Sept. 19 for high school students in the Pittsburgh area, “to bring in the next generation of individuals into the discussion.” The youth event will end with a screening of a documentary about Wangari Mathai, “Taking Root,” in the Connolly Ballroom, Alumni Hall, followed by a discussion with Maathai’s daughter — both are open to the public.

Co-sponsors of the Global Town Hall include: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, the Department of Political Science, Center for International Legal Education, African Studies Program, Department of Geology, GSPIA, Office of the Provost and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women Studies Program.

Find more information, including the schedule and livestreaming information, on the UCIS website.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.


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