To mitigate the impacts of climate change, “we are all responsible”

Prof. Celeste Saulo, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) © 2024 EPFL/Virginie Martin - CC-BY-SA 4.0

Prof. Celeste Saulo, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) © 2024 EPFL/Virginie Martin - CC-BY-SA 4.0

The 2024 Global Issues course held its Grand Témoin Ceremony on February 27. This important event featured the poster award for the 2023 Global Issues course, the award for best SHS Master’s project, the best teaching prize, and a keynote speech by Prof. Celeste Saulo, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The Global Issues course is part of CDH’s Social Sciences and Humanities (SHS) program and has been taken by all EPFL first-year bachelor students since the course began. The course is built around six interdisciplinary areas of focus: health, climate, food, energy, communication and mobility. Students work in teams to complete a final project, which are posters about an issue. Of these posters, 12 are awarded, three of which are presented on stage. During this year’s ceremony, hosted by CDH journalist Anne Laure Gannac, awards were given for the 2023 course’s best posters, as well as best SHS teacher – Jean-François Bert of UNIL who has taught in SHS since 2012 – and for best SHS master’s project – the film Rupture.

“Understanding society, history, and culture is essential for making a difference”

The ceremony began with a short speech by EPFL Vice President for Academic Affairs Jan Hesthaven, who underlined the importance of a humanities education in a technical school like EPFL.

“Today, engineering is not simply a technical science,” Hesthaven explained to the students. “We are all affected by the solutions that we develop and design. But if the solutions are going to make a difference, you have to understand the world in which we live. Understanding society, history, and culture is absolutely essential for you to be able to bring solutions into the world and make a difference.”

Rudolf Mahrer, director of the SHS program, also highlighted the importance of engineers and scientists having a solid background in the humanities to better do their work.

“A good engineer must also be part sociologist, part historian, part political scientist, part designer, part manager, among other things,” Mahrer said. “Engineers and scientists interpret, adapt, and create, and in order to innovate, they need to know the society to which they contribute and in which they participate.”

“The only way to avoid the risks of climate change is by engaging”

After the awards, keynote speaker Celeste Saulo, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), took the stage. Her talk, “Climate changes, weather speakers, society…reacts?”, gave the large audience an excellent overview of the climate change problem – particularly as it is experienced by lower income countries – explained how the WMO is trying to mitigate these problems, and provided words of inspiration and action for the future generations in the audience. Saulo also highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of the problems we face from climate change.

“Something that is relevant to this course that you are taking is that it’s at the intersection of climate physics, climate chemistry, and society where we feel the impacts,” she explained. She also discussed the importance of understanding different cultures and societies to help different communities respond to the impacts of climate change.

Students responded enthusiastically to her talk with lots of thoughtful questions, such as if “the fight against climate change and economic growth can be compatible” and “if real climate action can be taken without a strong political will”.

Saulo’s answers drove home the point that individual actions are important, and that everyone in the audience should be an advocate to convince others to act to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

“We are under a big risk and the only way to avoid this risk is by engaging. Engaging as scientists, engaging as individuals, engaging as society, engaging in every role you can. This is the way to convince people. And you are the network to convince others. There is no other way than speaking and explaining and working and showing that this is possible. It’s up to us. We are all responsible.”

All the winning projects of Global Issues 2023

Projects in bold were presented live at the Global Issues event:

Food A:
Emballages intelligents – Solution innovante contre le gaspillage alimentaire (Intelligent packaging - Innovative solution to combat food waste). Ines Amri, Sebastien Lê Agopyan, Aïda Besri, Isalis Amblard, Théo Francoise

Food B:
Le golden rice : bon ou mauvais pariz ? (Golden rice: good or bad ?). Taieb Gabriel, Chritin Armelle, Bernadet Pierre, Corman Eve, Dilouya Salomon

Climate A:
Fonte du glacier du Rhône, peut-on atténuer l’impact ? (Melting of the Rhône glacier: can the impact be mitigated?). Léo Gallacio, Josserand Darcheville, Nicholas Baltaian, Lukas Sauger, Nathan Taing

Climate B:
Les sargasses, fléau des Caraïbes (Sargassum, the scourge of the Caribbean). Daniel Jenelten, Edern Prigent, Charles Arbet-Engels, Dimitris Maret

Communication A:
Datarchives – Quelle est l’importance de la conservation de donnés face au temps et aux imprévus ? (How important is data retention in the face of time and the unexpected?). Andrea Crespo, Nathan Magnin, Salim Hallacoglu, Florent Monges, Aïna Froidveaux

Communication B:
Privacy or cookies, which tastes better? Accepting cookies: what are you willingly trading your privacy for? Joana Mizrahi, Laura Fayad, Rihab Belmekki, Marta Llull, Juan Peironcely

Energy A:
L’eclairage public de demain (The streetlights of tomorrow).

Energy B:
L'éco-immeuble du futur (The eco-building of the future).
Louis De Germay, Tim Librez, Joseph Prieur, Louis Tilquin, Benoît Tramoy

Mobility A:
Le biomimétisme au service de la mobilité (Biomimicry for mobility). Mostafa Zaki, Alexandre Boidi, Roméo Maignal, Moncef Ghelleb, Justin Décaillet

Mobility B:
The cycling infrastructure of Amsterdam - How does it impact the daily lives of its inhabitants? Maghur Omar Marwan, Yogendra Roshan, Karunakaran Valuthy, Tamenti Francesco, Weber Elisabeth

Health A:
L’importance de la diversité « ethnique » dans les études génomiques (The importance of "ethnic" diversity in genomic studies). Ghassan Abboud, Zoe Noble, Sarah Couelle, Ivana Chalhoub, Rayan Raad

Health B:
The challenges of data-driven bias in AI healthcare. Charles Foveau, Tamara Künzle, Lea Sučíková

Author: Stephanie Parker

Source: College of humanities | CDH

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