VIU students traveling abroad to help global climate change efforts

By Spencer Sterritt
February 9, 2018 - 7:29pm Updated: February 10, 2018 - 10:00pm

The six selected for the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship, who will now travel the world for research.Vancouver Island Unviersity

Masters of community planning student Lainey Nowak, who's travelling to New Zealand to study the policies which were in place when a serious earthquake hit the small island country. Vancouver Island University

NANAIMO — To help in global efforts to fight climate change, six Vancouver Island University students are traveling abroad as part of a prestigious scholarship program.

The six scholars, all women, were selected for the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship, which strives to create a dynamic and groundbreaking global community tackling serious situations and crises.

Lainey Nowak, studying for her masters of community planning, will travel to New Zealand to study the policies which were in place when the 7.1 magnitude Canterbury earthquake struck the island nation in 2010.

She'll then return to Canada and look at our existing policies in a disaster situation, such as how will responders be deployed, what shelters are available for familes affected and how will survivors eat when so much of our food isn't grown on Vancouver Island.

“We have a lot of the same natural disasters that are threatening our coast,” she said of why it's critical to compare and contrast Vancouver Island with other nations. The policies she'll work on upon her return will be put into action for small earthquakes and also if any long-threatened major earthquakes strike the island.

All six scholars from VIU are studying the effects of climate change in some way.

Nowak said it's important to secure global resources and learning now, before the situation gets worse.

“Climate change has crept up slowly and only in the last 20,30 years are we realizing all the things we did for hundreds of years have had a significant impact on the Earth.”

As part of the scholarship program, students from Belize completed a masters program at VIU.

Student Eric Sanchez, who's just finishing his program, saw the effects of climate change first hand.

“One of the best examples of climate change is what happened in the Caribbean recently, with the destruction of many Caribbean islands and how the situation has evolved continuously to become a worse and worse type of storm over the last couple years.”

Sanchez said he was stunned to see the record-breaking fury of the hurricanes this summer.

“Some of them almost exceeded what's known as a category 5, which shouldn't exist. But then, the way our world is moving now, sometimes things that don't exist tend to happen.”

In the nearly two years he's been in Canada, Sanchez said his eyes were opened to different experiences and perspectives when tackling the issue and it's a lesson he wants to take home.

“An open mind to the different perspectives and the importance of what is a priority. For us in the Caribbean, a priority might be the elimination of poverty, implementation of better health core or climate change that will flood out our land. Whereas for here, the priority may be different.”

Sanchez said while he's enjoyed his time in Canada and at VIU, he's excited to return home and share all he learned.


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