Tackling climate change ‘most important thing’

George St was a sea of people on Saturday morning as family, friends and supporters joined Otago...
George St was a sea of people on Saturday morning as family, friends and supporters joined Otago University graduands as they paraded towards the 1pm graduation ceremony. The ceremony — one of two on Saturday — brought to an end a busy week of ceremonies, in which there were six University of Otago events as well as two Otago Polytechnic graduations. Photos: Christine O'Connor
Tackling the major challenge posed by global climate change is "the most important thing you can do", Prof Jim Cotter told University of Otago graduates at the weekend.

Jim Cotter
Jim Cotter
"You’re more able to turn this ship around," Prof Cotter told about 330 graduates, urging them to take action, at the first of two graduation ceremonies at the Dunedin Town Hall on Saturday.

The graduates at the 1pm ceremony mainly gained qualifications in applied science, physical education, surveying, biomedical sciences, health sciences, education and teaching.

Those graduates with four-year degrees, in surveying and physical education, had "spent the world’s hottest four years in history" in Dunedin.

"You’ve also lived through the hottest 20 years on record," Prof Cotter, of the university’s School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences, said.

Carbon dioxide was rising again, "with no end in sight, but we need to halve it within the next 12 years".

Queenstown twins Taylor and Olivia Bain (21) graduated with a bachelor of arts and bachelor of...
Queenstown twins Taylor and Olivia Bain (21) graduated with a bachelor of arts and bachelor of teaching respectively.
As the head of the World Wide Fund for Nature had commented, "we’re the first generation  that knows what we’re doing to the climate and the last that can do anything about it".

A researcher in exercise and and environmental physiology, Prof Cotter recalled growing up on a farm on the West Coast, "mud fighting, building huts, possuming, fishing, milking — a lucky childhood I wouldn’t swap for anything".

In those days there was "mostly play, and less sport, pressure and helicopter parenting".

And teenagers then were about a third fitter than teenagers today, on average.

In science, he had sought to understand more about what exercise was, how to optimise fitness and how to live  active lives that worked with the environment.

He also believed "too many rules" had been expounded about the amount of exercise people needed.

Some people complained they did not have time to exercise, but given the major health implications, "you don’t have time not to exercise".

People could "exercise anytime, anywhere, anyhow", and any problems were mainly "just in the extremes; doing nothing or building too quickly".

People determined their own resource use, and it all made a difference.

"If you’re like me and Christmas isn’t yet on your radar, maybe don’t buy but make or do something for each other, or just be together."

Graduates should also "be gentle on yourself, each other and the planet".

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