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Fellow Spotlight: Salem Afeworki


Salem Afeworki is a 2014 Climate CoLab Fellow in the Adaptation to Climate Change contest. Originally from Eritrea, Salem has lived in Santiago, Chile for the past eight years, where she is now the sustainability lead for Jacobs Engineering South America.

Salem was trained in journalism, but decided to redirect her career toward sustainability, so she pursued a Master’s in Environmental Management and has since been even more captivated by and dedicated to the dynamic field of climate change and sustainability.

   2014 Fellow Salem Afeworki

At Jacobs Engineering, Salem develops climate change risk assessments for the private sector throughout Chile, Peru, Colombia and Brazil. Salem’s work experiences have shaped her thoughts on how to best overcome hurdles to climate action on the global scale, and over the years she has come to find that one solution might be to increase attention on developing national action plans for mitigation and adaptation and taking a localized approach to resilience, through which she sees an opportunity to aggregate efforts for meaningful impact.

We recently caught up with Salem, and here’s what she shared:

What do you see as the greatest challenges of climate change and what solutions do you find most important?

I would say the biggest challenge is lack of knowledge and understanding of what climate change really means and its impacts. Everyone thinks climate change is a global issue that has no direct impact on our daily lives but we have been proven wrong, as seen through the  increase in natural disasters observed all across the globe as a result of human induced change in our climate system.

The first solution I can think of is increasing capacity-building initiatives and at the same supporting community based climate change adaptation measures to increase resilience.

What are you enjoying most aboutbeing a Fellow, and what do you look forward to as the year progresses?

What I love about being a Fellow is reading proposals and new ideas on how we should adapt to climate change. I look forward to seeing ideas develop into real projects once this year’s winners are announced. More than anything, this contest will increase global awareness on climate change and give individuals the opportunity to share and later develop their idea on adaptation.  MIT CoLab is the perfect platform to facilitate this process and help individuals get recognized for the efforts.

The minute I read about the opportunity to be a Fellow, I realized that I would find it very interesting; not only would I be part of a team that works towards climate change awareness globally but  I would also be able to connect with like minds to bring the change we want to see in the world.

As you work in the climate change field, what words of motivation inspire you most?

My favorite quote is by Louise Burfitt-Dons, explaining how climate change is one issue that brings the entire world together to work toward the same goal:

“Global warming causing climate change may be the ultimate issue that unites us all.”

-Louise Burfitt-Dons

Check out the Adaptation to Climate Change contest here:

And check out other Spotlights of Climate CoLab winners, Fellows and Advisors here: