by Sylvia Paulot, Blue Carbon Scientist, Toliara – Madagascar

I recently attended a training on climate change and marine protected areas in South Africa, part of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) programme on building capacity for marine protected area (MPA) practitioners in the Western Indian Ocean. One of the many new things I learned about was being considered a “climate literate person”. It’s not a new concept, but I was sort of surprised to hear it as I’d never come across it in my readings.


Learning that I wasn’t as climate literate as I thought!

You may be thinking it’s just someone who is able to read and write the word climate, but in fact it is more than that. A “climate literate” person is someone who is able to understand the essential principle of how the climate system works, can communicate meaningfully about climate change, and is able to make informed climate-related decisions.

So the climate is now also added to the other things that we need to be literate about. I understand if some of you are frustrated to hear that. It seems like life is always becoming more and more demanding; first we have to become computer literate, now we should also be climate literate. Enough is enough! Ok, I understand that, and I can do nothing, but please do not panic or jump from your window.


The training involved many different ideas, and had people from all over the WIO taking part

The climate is changing. Many of us have heard such things many times already, but we tend to appreciate the good life. We worry more about our day to day business, than a changing climate that won’t crash at our door soon. According to one of our instructors at the training,we tend to only talk about the changing climate and the activities we need to take, but we don’t actually practice and make those changes in our everyday lives.

To come back to the training, it made me realize that my knowledge on climate change was far from complete, but also that I’m in a good position to become a climate literate person myself. A real one.


Identifying the impacts of climate change as part of a learning exercise

The climate change and marine protected area training is a new program in the Western Indian Ocean, and it aims to train MPA practitioners to be climate literate people. MPAs are among one of the solutions to reduce the impacts of climate change to our oceans, and climate literate MPAs managers will be better prepared to face the challenges that climate change will bring. So I feel honoured to be a part of the program, not only because it interests me, but also because I’ll be able to contribute more to climate change preparedness in Madagascar.

In addition I was also so satisfied by our first training, indeed it very much exceeded all my expectations. The instructors from NOAA and US-AID were amazing, and very professional. For seven days, they managed to help us understand climate change. Our heads were filled with words like models, tools, worst case scenarios, and other  depressing things, caused by climate change, but they also talked about the small actions that we can do individually to slow the change, such as spreading the words, using green power, consuming less energy and many others.

At the local MPA conserving the African penguin (seen here on the rock)

A field trip the local MPA conserving the African penguin (seen here on the rock)

Then, they also trained us on the use of online climate tools that I never imagined I’d be using. At first glance, they seemed a bit too analytical for me, but when I looked closely and tried them, I was able to figure them out and even found them fun.

By understanding what climate change may bring us, we will be more prepared and will have the ability to decide what is the best action to take. I am looking forward to learning more, but for now I’m going to share what I have learned, so that other people maybe interested in being climate literate as well, and decide to double their actions – because small actions, when added together, will make a big difference.

Posted by Sylvia Paulot

Sylvia is one of our blue carbon scientists, originally from Madagascar, with experience working on conservation projects in Indonesia and Thailand. In her spare time she likes cycling, playing badminton and blogging.

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