November 7, 2023
By: Yvonne Mongare

Human built systems – a work in progress!

Human built systems – a work in progress! - Photo

One of my favorite authors, John Green, has authored many books — mostly young adult novels. However, he recently released a book called The Anthropocene Reviewed

This book is unlike his others, in that it’s essentially a collection of short essays which are all based on many human concepts. Green describes how diseases such as the plague, cholera, or even tuberculosis have shaped our world into what it is today. For example, tuberculosis will kill at least 1,600,000 people this year even though it is a treatable disease. It is one of the oldest contagious diseases and yet it’s still killing more people than many other diseases combined. 

As I was learning this, I felt ashamed to see how our society has let price gouging, socioeconomic differences, racial bias, and other factors determine who gets certain diseases and treatments.

As a future healthcare worker, I was shocked to discover our environment is directly dictating which people are affected by certain illnesses. 

I am currently majoring in nursing, and I eventually want to become a doctor. I hope to educate and promote effective solutions towards social and environmental determinants of health. Environmental hazards, food insecurities, socioeconomic factors, housing and social support systems are currently disproportionately affecting BIPOC residents across the Twin Cities. People that live in urban areas are more likely to acquire and sustain respiratory and infectious diseases due to the unjust climate crisis. 

For example, the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) is a large trash incinerator burning tons of chemical toxins such as carbon monoxide and acidic gasses from many majority white suburbs of Minneapolis annually into residents of Northern Minneapolis atmospheres. Northern Minneapolis is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Minnesota and they have to endure the repercussions. 

I was only able to see this with my own eyes when I moved to Minneapolis for college. Though my family lives in a suburb only 25–30 minutes south of Minneapolis, I was not able to see the “climate crisis” right in front of me. Now don’t get me wrong, I was a proud climate activist before and after the move. Yet, I wasn’t really able to feel the impacts of the climate crisis until living here for a year. 

When fall semester began, I found myself experiencing chronic allergies and a sore throat when I woke up. I had to get a humidifier; I was drinking endless cups of hot tea to find comfort. I thought I was catching a cold or something at first, but upon further investigation I realized the air quality in Cedar-Riverside, a neighborhood of Minneapolis, was much lower than what I was used to back in my hometown. I would typically sleep with the window open at home, but I couldn’t do this in my dorm.

I was left star-struck and with so many thoughts. The residents of Minneapolis are unfortunately suffering from lower air quality compared to other parts of Minnesota. Considering my own agency, I had to acknowledge how privileged I was to not experience any respiratory diseases that might be caused or worsened based on where I live. 

Poor air quality is just one factor that disproportionately affects lower income or BIPOC individuals and families in Minneapolis. 

Human built systems are continuing to fail us! And we are letting it happen.

I want to be a part of the movement that recognizes this and supports the people that are suffering from the consequences. As a lover of people and human experience, I do not think we deserve this. I know we do not. 

Change is difficult but absolutely necessary for a healthy world which I am optimistic can happen.

Yvonne Mongare

I am deeply honored to be granted the opportunity to attend COP28 this year with Climate Generation. I have always been curious about learning how I can impact my own community, especially with knowledge that might not be readily accessible or available to others. When I started volunteering/working with Climate Gen, I realized that there were so many unjust environmental issues happening around my community. The correlation between health disparities in areas that experience environmental injustice was strong. Though I am a nursing major, I am also on the pre-medicine track and hope to use my uniquely acquired skills from both my career path and this international event to help the people within my own community become healthy and environmentally conscious individuals.

Yvonne is a Climate Generation Window Into COP delegate for COP28. To learn more, we encourage you to meet the full delegation and subscribe to the Window Into COP digest.