“We usually think about climate change only, but now we also learned how climate change also impacts the labor issues,” said Gregoria Arum Yudarwati, an associate professor at the Universitas Atma Jaya Yogyakarta's School of Communications in Indonesia. "And here, we could learn from the expert, as well as from the journalist who is really hands-on, directly from the field, as well [learning] from other students. So, I think that’s very insightful for students, and I hope this is not the [last time] Pulitzer Center links [students].”
On November 30, 2023, students from Universitas Atma Jaya Yogyakarta and Universitas Airlangga in Indonesia, Washington University in St. Louis, and Rede Emancipa, an education organization in Brazil, gathered for a conversation exploring the nexus of climate change and labor conditions.
Aryn Baker, a Pulitzer Center grantee and TIME senior international climate and environment correspondent, presented to students on her reporting project Too Hot to Work.
Reporting from both Qatar and the United States, Baker explored how high heat exposure, combined with a lack of water, rest, and shade, can lead to poor health outcomes and even death, and highlighted the battle to get regulations in place to protect outdoor workers.
“Laws only go so far, you have to be able to enact them and protect them,” Baker said. “What we’re already seeing is that in many cases the laws are not rigorously applied as much as they should be and that is a question of continued monitoring. Especially now that people aren’t looking at Qatar; when the focus is off, those new regulations can be weakened.”
Environmental physiologist and researcher Leonidas Ioannou presented his work on occupational heat stress, sharing data and graphs revealing the specific negative ways heat affects the body.
He acknowledged politicians' unwillingness to read scientific research, and, as a researcher, stressed the importance of collaborating with journalists to ensure their findings reach decision makers.
When the students asked for recommendations on how they could influence decision makers, Ioannou advised: “You have to be consistent. You have to be there and speaking about it all the time. You have to make them understand that these will affect both the economy of the country and in the long term, the health of the people of the country.”
Climate change has too often been explored from an environmental angle while labor conditions are often seen as a labor-rights issue separate from climate change.
The dialogue encouraged students to challenge the siloed view of these two issues, encouraging a more integrated perspective on their interdependence.
“One really important point that the Indonesian students in our group brought up was that developing countries don’t often have the resources or the technological development to pursue more sustainable alternatives,” Washington University in St. Louis student Lara Briggs said. “We talked a bit about how, at least in the United States, we really feel that we need to be doing more … to help the sustainable transition across the world.”
After the presentations, students moved into breakout rooms to talk with peers from around the world. They discussed how they viewed the connection between climate change and workers’ rights, and brainstormed on how industries and governments can protect workers’ well-being.
"I found this forum very impressive because Pulitzer opened up an opportunity for the students across the world and across cultures; our students can hear another perspective from another country,” said Jani Purnawanty Jasfin, a lecturer at Universitas Airlangga. “Climate change is something to be discussed across the globe, it is not only about what happens in Indonesia, even if I’m talking with my students.
"This forum is a really good start for the students because here they also have the lecture in the same forum, so I think it opened up the platform for us to discuss in a more casual way. As a lecturer, I also have a chance to introduce climate change in the perspective [of my classes].”
In a poll, 67% of students said they were very anxious about climate change. Nonetheless, 60% of students indicated they were extremely confident that young people can drive change in climate action.
At the end of the conversation, students and professors shared key takeaways from the dialogue.
"Connecting students with underreported global stories and sparking meaningful dialogues in their communities are important steps toward the change we wish to see," said Intan Febriani, director of International Education and Outreach at the Pulitzer Center.
The event was a collaborative effort between the Pulitzer Center’s International Education and Outreach team and the Campus Consortium team.
The teams fostered an environment for students from three countries to learn from each other by exchanging ideas and local insights inspired by Pulitzer Center-supported reporting projects.