Dr. Austin Shelton Speaks at First-Ever Obama Foundation Democracy Forum

University of Guam Assistant Professor Austin Shelton concurrently serves as the program director of the UOG Center for Island Sustainability and UOG Sea Grant.

The Obama Foundation held its inaugural Democracy Forum in New York City, where leaders worldwide discussed how to preserve and strengthen democracy globally. 

Among those leaders included Guam’s very own Dr. Austin Shelton, Director of the Center for Island Sustainability and UOG Sea Grant, and an Obama Foundation leader since 2019— who, during his presentation at the forum, highlighted the connection between climate change and democracy. 

During his lightning talk at the forum, Shelton, through the perspective of an islander himself, honed in on the myriad of threats that climate change poses to democracies— not just in Guam but to our neighboring islands, which he shared with NewsTalkK57’s Patti Arroyo in an interview this morning. 

He said, “This is something that we have to worry about— Like what happens if we have climate migrants— if we have climate refugees? Guam, we are very fortunate to have a high island, and we’ll be okay with some sea level rise, but we do have our brothers and sisters from other islands that will need to find a place to go to— and if they leave their homes, what happens to their sovereignty? What happens to their peoplehood?”

Further in the interview, Shelton raised the following question, is the rest of the world thinking of what happens to those most impacted by climate change? Most significantly, he said, those less likely affected by sea level rise, coral bleaching, and more frequent and intense storms.   

He continued, “They have their own climate impacts, but we have to think about the most vulnerable— the people who actually didn’t contribute to climate change impacts, but we’re feeling the wrath here in islands. So, it was just a real honor and an important thing I had to do to bring up those issues and connect it to democracies.” 

Following the forum, Shelton says its content will continue to be shared through the Obama Foundation’s platform globally, as islands now get to be a part of the conversation and solution to issues like climate change. 

Destiny Cruz, PNC News First.


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Starting as the weather personality for the Pacific News Center in 2019, then as a reporter, Destiny Cruz is now PNC’s lead anchor, producer, writer, and TV host for two of Sorensen Media Group’s shows. Over three years at PNC, Destiny has covered issues impacting our island in areas including legislation and health, to name a few, in addition to highlighting the meaningful stories of Guam’s community in features and lifestyle. Corresponding with her professional growth, Destiny has acquired personal achievements that have contributed to her development as a dynamic woman: she is a proud graduate of the Guam Community College, earning her degree in liberal studies, a former Miss Guam (Miss World Guam 2017), and singer/songwriter.