Warnings about the global impact of climate change continue to mount. And Northeastern student Ryan Maia has heard these warnings. But working on a research project in Singapore compelled him to him turn his attention more toward the solutions to climate change than the risks it poses to people and the environment.
In 2017, Maia visited Singapore and interviewed government officials, leaders at non-governmental organizations, and university researchers to learn how the country is preparing for climate change. He discovered creative solutions for mitigating its effects and promoting sustainability, as well as examples of government, industry, and the public working together to create these solutions.
He learned about a program that recycles sewage into clean drinking water, businesses committed to reducing the packaging they use for their products, and a sprawling city park designed to help prevent the surrounding area from flooding.
“So often when we talk about climate change, it’s a field of crisis, we’re all in danger,” says Maia, who plans to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and international affairs. “Going to Singapore opened my eyes to the solutions that exist out there, and the potential for the solutions that exist around the world. That’s something I really want to tap into in my career.”
Maia says that his experience in Singapore inspired him to explore the fields of climate change and international development after graduation. He says that he hopes to work in Washington, D.C., and plans to pursue a graduate degree in international affairs.
He is also is among four Northeastern students named Presidential Global Fellows this year. The students, who were recognized at the university’s annual Academic Honors Convocation, were named fellows based on their academic standing, leadership qualities, and understanding of the importance of the global experience to their education, personal development, and career goals.
Maia worked on co-op in Australia at the Institute for Economics and Peace and presented his study of how Australia and New Zealand are helping Pacific Island nations prepare for climate change at a conference earlier this month in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve had so much privilege to take advantage of global opportunities and engagement at Northeastern,” Maia says, “and I hope to, as a Presidential Global Fellow, convey those opportunities to current and future students.”
He says that his research experience in Singapore also led him to educate children in Boston about climate change and sustainability. He got that opportunity through the Clinton Global Initiative University. The annual conference—which Northeastern hosted in the fall of 2017—brings together more than 1,000 college students worldwide to discuss and develop effective solutions to pressing global challenges, including climate change.
Students who participate in the Clinton Global Initiative University must commit to developing specific plans that address one of these challenges. Maia co-founded EcoScholars, a program in which Northeastern students teach lessons on environmental education to children at after-school programs in Boston. The lessons being taught this spring focus on defining climate change and explaining how people contribute to it, how it affects people and the world, and how people can fight it.
“The way we’re trying to address this problem [of climate change] is thinking globally but acting locally,” Maia says. “EcoScholars is a manifestation of that way of thinking. We’re cognizant that climate change is a global issue, but we can make a change right here at home in Boston by empowering local students with knowledge about climate change and how they can take action.”