Panel speech at the Drawdown Research to Action Conference at the Penn State University, USA. Credit: Penn State
Growing up in Bangladesh, I encountered many environmental problems but I focused on a particular one for my thesis to complete my B.Sc. in Urban and Regional Planning from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. The leather manufacturing industries in the Hazaribagh Tannery area of the capital Dhaka extensively polluted the surrounding environment and the main river Buriganga leaving notorious health effects for thousands of people but several attempts by Bangladesh government to relocate these industries failed. I asked why? The answer was my first scientific paper. Soon I realized that some scientific tools like, what is popularly known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), are incredibly helpful to find such answers. I came to Europe in 2010 with an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to study for an M.Sc. in Geospatial Technologies and it blew my mind. What I used to know as a system (GIS) turned out to be a Science of spatiotemporally explicit phenomena!
The study of GIScience helped me understand how things are spatially related, distributed and globally connected, and discover the global problem that has been instigating and exacerbating many other local problems, Global Warming. The water level of Buriganga dropped significantly in the summer intensifying the pollution, whereas the increased flooding disseminated the contaminated water throughout the city during the monsoon. Nonetheless, little was known about the climatic variability and its social-ecological impacts in Bangladesh, so I applied what I learned from the GI school to fill this knowledge gap. Applied GIS and geostatistics became my core expertise and I applied them to understand both climatic variability and environmental contamination, and their ecosystem and human health impacts. I completed my Ph.D. in Spatial Environmental Health from University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany in 2015.
Understanding the global warming problem indeed made me interested in the solution of it. I came to Sweden in 2016 and joined the Planetary Boundaries research group under the direct supervision of Johan Rockström. Simultaneously, I joined as an Earth Doc of the Earth League research alliance. This completely changed my life! The amazing group of scientists and communicators at Stockholm Resilience Centre and the strong leadership of Johan made me realize that global warming (or climate change) is not just any environmental problem, it's an existential threat to humanity and also a threat multiplier. The irony is that our society acts quite naive about this problem, which makes the challenge of solving it greater and greater every year. The urgency of climate action hit me and I delved into finding ways to abruptly transform our society into sustainability. Exponential Climate Action and Social Tipping Points (rapid social transformation) became my research priority.
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