The Gainesville chapter of the United Nations Association is celebrating the UN’s 74th anniversary on Tuesday with an event focusing on climate change.
The organization is hosting UN Day 2019 on Oct. 24, with the theme “Our Climate...Our Future.” The event will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Women’s Club at 2809 W. University Ave. and is open to the public.
UN Day 2019 will feature a student panel and a keynote speaker. The panel is made up of three local high school students presenting their views on climate change impacts, policy and solutions, Jacob U’Mofe Gordon, vice president of the United Nations Association..
“We want to get more young people involved in the crisis. Their perspective is extremely valuable,” Gordon said.
Cynthia Barnett, the keynote speaker, is an environmental fellow at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at UF and an award-winning environmental journalist. She recently returned from Ghana where she was conducting studies on climate change.
Aqueela Khuddus is a board member for Welcoming Gainesville and Alachua County, a nonprofit dedicated to making Gainesville an inclusive community. Her organization is sponsoring the United Nations Day.
Khuddus said that a one-day event is not going to help; they must serve as a constant reminder.
“We have to be able to preserve our earth, and we are going to work as much as possible to bring that awareness,” Khuddus said.
Khuddus and her family moved to Florida in 1972, and during their first 30 years of residence, they experienced two hurricanes. During Hurricane David, she recalls watching palm trees bend over and thinking how powerful nature was.
In the last 17 years, Khuddus has seen so many hurricanes she cannot recall all of their names. They have become more common and more vicious, and she has witnessed firsthand how the climate crisis is escalating exponentially.
“This is all in our backyard. People are not understanding we can lose anything; it can be us at any time,” Khuddus said. “It is my only purpose to make sure the future generations are OK; in their hearts and their souls and in their physical environment.”
Khuddus hopes to follow UN Day with a series of speaker events discussing the climate crisis and educating people on changes they can make in their home lives to become more eco-friendly, Khuddus said.
“We are trying to motivate people to do basic things that can save thousands and thousands of loads of garbage that are floating around oceans around the world,” Khuddus said.
Steve Kalishman, former president of the United Nations Association, believes that a lot of politicians aren't paying attention to the issue, so people have to take responsibility.
“I think it’s pretty clear that if we don’t do something soon, there are going to be really bad consequences for the next generations. Everyone has to do what they can,” Kalishman said. “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”