Climate Justice for U.S. Territories: Islands and Communities

Speaker: Kieren Rudge

How is climate change impacting island territories and how are people responding to those impacts?

As international organizations, national governments, and private entities race to limit emissions and reduce climate change impacts, small island developing states (SIDS) face disproportionately high levels of risk. This is a clear issue of environmental injustice, as these islands are among the lowest producers of greenhouse gasses but are burdened with the greatest impacts. The United Nations and other multinational groups have established frameworks for more developed nations to provide resources to threatened island nations that need to adapt. However, another type of island state exists and often falls through the cracks when it comes to climate support: territories.

Across the globe there are over 40 island territories who largely gained their current status due to colonization from Western nations. These territories are often separated from their country’s mainland by incredible distances and receive fewer resources than incorporated states and provinces. The marginalized political statuses of territories coupled with the environmental challenges facing all islands make them particularly vulnerable to climate change.

This talk will explore these dynamics in U.S territories. We will dive into how the political status of these island territories relates to climate change impacts, the resources that are available to communities, and how the people who live there are adapting and responding to emergencies under these conditions.

About the Speaker

Kieren is a PhD student in environmental science, policy, & management at UC Berkeley where they research the intersections of climate adaptation, critical race theory, and environmental justice. Kieren's work is driven by their interrelated passions for protecting natural ecosystems and supporting equity for marginalized communities. Their personal roots as a Singaporean who immigrated to the United States at a young age continue to inspire their focus on small island developing states. They have a a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Johns Hopkins University and a master's degree in environmental science from Yale University.

Suggested Audiences

Age: 6th - 12th grade and community college; note that middle school students may find the material challenging

Preparation: There is no preparation necessary. This talk includes a set of handouts for students. The speaker will ask the teacher to make copies in preparation for the talk.

Courses: Environmental Science, any other science classes where students are learning about climate change; World History, US History, Global Studies, Government, Economics, Geography, other social studies courses; Journalism; Leadership classes

Invite Kieren Rudge to Speak