Debating real problems

June 01, 2017

Debate: The Cobram Secondary College students argued on behalf of Kiribati, a small island nation in peril due to climate change.

Concentration: The island nation of Kiribati was representated the model United Nations conference by Cobram Secondary College students Victoria Allen, Audrey Sproules, Ellie Jones and Mathilda Noble.

Four Cobram Secondary College students took to a (mock) United Nations stage recently to debate a hotly contested issue — climate change.

Representing the small island nation of Kiribati, Mathilda Noble, Ellie Jones, Audrey Sproule and Victoria Allen engaged in vigorous debate on the topic, ‘Combating Climate Change: Committing to Global Change’ at La Trobe University Bendigo’s model United Nations conference earlier this month.

As most of Kiribati’s 33 coral atolls are less than 2m above sea level, climate change is the one of the biggest daily concerns of the republic’s 100000 residents.

The students, who are part of the Unit 1 Twentieth Century History class, spent a significant period researching the issues and legal rulings of climate change and developed their understanding of the issues from the perspective of Kiribati, supported by the whole class.

They learned of the urgency from their nation’s perspective, discovering that Kiribati had already lost two islands from inundation from rising seawater as a direct result of global warming.

The session modelled the formal processes utilised by the UN in the debate of resolutions.

Mathilda presented the team’s position statement, providing an overview of the issues and a clear position of the proposed resolution. Ellie Jones spearheaded the debate process in the caucus, where teams engaged in both formal and informal debate and conversation.

Audrey and Victoria networked with identified allies to facilitate amendment to the resolution.

This process has provided wonderful training in international diplomacy, skills soon to be employed by Ellie Jones as she represents the college in New York at the Global Young Leaders Conference, culminating in a UN Convention at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan.

The conference also featured guest speaker La Trobe University’s Ben Habib, speaking on ‘Confronting Climate Change: Committing to Global Action’.

‘‘We need to face the inescapable reality that we live on a finite planet,’’ Mr Habib said.

‘‘The survival of our species depends on a timely transition from the old model to the new.

‘‘As educators we are failing if we do not prepare our students for the serious environmental realities of our time.’’

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