Global Perspectives Highlights Social, Environmental Issues

Global Perspectives Highlights Social, Environmental Issues

Jody Williams, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and cofounder of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

The UCF Global Perspectives Office recently hosted two speakers who addressed pressing global concerns.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams on March 21 recounted her personal development as an activist who eventually led the successful International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Since winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Williams cofounded and chairs the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which, she said, “uses the notoriety that comes with the Peace Prize to put a spotlight on other, great women’s organizations.”

Williams said she hesitates to use that word spotlight because it can put people on a pedestal. “I am no different from anyone else, and I am no saint.” Making a point to personally introduce herself and shake hands with audience members beforehand, Williams emphasized that anyone can be an activist. 

Elaborating on her goals as an activist, Williams stressed her aim to create a world in which the focal point is human security instead of national security. “What did people feel insecure about when the economy crashed,” she asked, “It wasn’t the fear about being attacked. The fear is losing jobs, houses. Will I be able to provide for my children? That is the security that I think we need to pay more attention to in the world.”

The UCF community last week also heard from an activist for the Amazon rainforest.

What images come to mind when you think of the Amazon? For author, lawyer and film producer Mark London, he said he thinks of the 21 million people that live there in villages, towns and cities. After a screening of his film, Shark Loves the Amazon, London led an interactive discussion about the dilemma of development in the rainforest.

The film told the personal story of London’s travels to the Amazon in Brazil over the past 30 years, and narrated a brief history of 50 years of development in the Amazon. According to the film, the Brazilian government offered tax incentives for people to buy and develop land in the Amazon as a form of “border protection through cattle ranchers.”

Attempts to develop, the film suggested, have historically been unsuccessful. In Shark, developers were portrayed as “absentee landowners” whose lack of connection to the land led to unsustainable and harmful practices.

The film acknowledged that, for better or for worse, the 21 million people who live in the forest are there to stay, and that their need for development cannot be disregarded. Recognizing the Amazon as a vast, biological treasure, London asked the question, “Do you kill a tree to save a child?”

In pursuit of sustainable development, London pointed to a personal project, the Rio Juma Reserve. There, people agree not to deforest the Amazon and, in return, they get access to schools, medicine, food and a stipend to buy essentials. This program was subsidized by sponsors but later supported by selling carbon credits to companies and even countries – a practice that London expressed hope would stabilize and continue.

London’s visit was a co-curricular component of the UCF General Education Program unifying theme “The Environment and Global Climate Change,” which is led by the Office of Undergraduate Studies. The event also marked the 7th annual UCF Community Summit on Environment and Global Climate Change.

Both visitors spoke under the 2012-2013 theme of “The Changing Face of Freedom in Today’s Turbulent Times.” Sponsors and partners of one or both events included the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, UCF Student Government Association, UCF Diplomacy Program, UCF Middle Eastern Studies Program, The India Center at UCF, UCF China-Taiwan Cross-Strait Program, UCF Kurdish Political Studies Initiative, UCF Human Trafficking Awareness Program, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, UCF International Services Center, UCF Political Science Department, UCF LIFE, UCF Book Festival 2013 in association with the Morgridge International Reading Center and the Global Connections Foundation.