Migration challenges inspire Rotary peace scholar

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Migration challenges inspire peace scholar

Rotary Peace Fellow Linda Low could not have known what world events would bring when she took a position as the communications manager for the Europe region of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 2015. 

But shortly after she started her new job, the migration crisis began to overwhelm Europe. Low saw the waves of migrants and heard their stories firsthand. This challenging experience sparked her desire to help communities in conflict and ultimately led Low to the Rotary Peace Center at Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is studying the connection between the environment and peace.

Low will speak on 10 February at a conference on environmental sustainability and peace hosted by RI President Ian H.S. Riseley in Vancouver, B.C. It will be the first of six presidential peacebuilding conferences in locations around the world between February and June, focusing on the connection between building peace and Rotary’s areas of focus. 

Low spoke with The Rotarian about her work and how the environment affects peace.

Q: What’s your background? 

A: I am a communicator by trade. I started in corporate communications but always volunteered with the Red Cross in Vancouver. The more involved I got with the Red Cross, the more I realized my values really aligned personally with the work of organizations like this. They do disaster relief but also build stronger communities.

Q: You worked for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies a total of six years. What led you to leave this work to become a Rotary Peace Fellow?

A: Over six years at the Red Cross Red Crescent, again and again as we responded to crises, words that kept coming up were “climate change.” In the Syrian crisis, drought was happening in rural areas, and farmers moved into the urban centers where they were competing for limited resources. I remember thinking that if I had to be part of it I would go back and tackle climate change.

Then I received the gift of this generous scholarship from The Rotary Foundation and the opportunity to go to Duke and study the nexus between policy, environment, climate change, and community.

Q: Do you have a specific area of study in your program? 

A: I am focusing on the link between food waste and climate change. As food rots in landfills it creates methane, which is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. In the developed world, we all waste food. If I don’t waste one banana, that’s not a great impact, but if everyone in my community, everyone in my state doesn’t waste, then there is greater impact. 

Q: What has been your experience as a peace fellow? 

A: Everything I have learned here is elevating my game. Coming into this program I could write a great story that could bring you to tears, but I did not understand the science and economics behind it. Now I understand science and economics. I can bring that holistic view to drive solutions that are truly sustainable. I want to mobilize people in every community to reduce food waste and help build healthier environments and secure food systems.

–Susie Ma

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