Climate Change and Public Health: What does climate change mean for the people of Mongolia?

16 Days  ◦  3 Instructors

June 19- July 4, 2023

This course will focus on how climate change is impacting public health in urban environments and rural communities in Mongolia. We will visit sites in Mongolia to meet with local health officials and climate scientists to gain an understanding of how climate change (hotter days, more wildfire, colder winters, drought) is threatening human wellbeing. Mongolia, with its vast landscapes, limited infrastructure, and large indigenous population, is particularly vulnerable to climate change. You’ll come away from this course with a good understanding of climate and health issues facing this remote region as well as the social-economic disparities associated with climate-change responses. Hopefully, you’ll also see new opportunities to help chart a resilient and equitable future for Mongolia as well as for your own country.

Course Overview

Warmer temperatures are bringing more fires, drought, and extreme weather events to regions around the world, including Mongolia, and these changes are threatening water supplies, natural resources, and the people who depend upon them.  Participants in this course will have the opportunity to spend time in the field with experts in climate science, public health, and natural resource management, and to examine firsthand the connections between climate change, the environment and human health in one of the most wild and scenic places on Earth.   Together, we’ll witness some of the changes underway in a range of settings from Mongolia’s arid lands to its forested mountains. We’ll also meet with healthcare practitioners, resource specialists, and community leaders to gain insight about the climate-related health and environmental challenges facing rural and urban communities.  

 

This course will focus on how climate change is impacting public health in urban environments and rural communities in Mongolia. We will visit sites in Mongolia to gain an understanding of how climate change (hotter days, more wildfire, colder winters, drought) is threatening lives, livelihoods, and environments. Mongolia, with its vast landscapes, limited infrastructure, and large pastoralist population, is particularly vulnerable to climate change. You’ll come away from this course with a good understanding of climate and health issues facing this remote region of the world as well as the social-economic challenges associated with climate-change responses.  Hopefully, you’ll also see new opportunities to chart a resilient and equitable future for Mongolia as well as for your own country.

 

The class will start with discussions with government, health and climate leaders in Ulaanbaatar, then travel to the countryside to see how climate change is impacting traditional nomadic practices and public health delivery in rural areas.  Our travels begin with visits to urban and rural communities en route to the Eg-Uur Valley of Khovsgol Province, a region of stunning lakes and mountains. Along the way, we’ll meet with healthcare providers in rural community clinics, herders and resource specialists observing environmental change, and spiritual leaders considering the ethical issues of climate change.  At the end of the course, we will travel to the arid region of Kharkhorin in the Övörkhangai Province. There will be plenty of time to learn and explore on your own. 

 

Each student will examine a topic of their own interest, and as a group we’ll ponder some of these questions:

  • What are the global and local trends in climate with regard to extreme heat, extreme cold, drought, flooding, fires and smoke?
  • How has climate change affected natural resources, water and food security, and human health globally and in Mongolia?  
  • How are vulnerable populations affected and responding to climate change and how is indigenous knowledge offering unique perspectives for resilience?
  • What are the demographic and socioeconomic trends in Mongolia and current trends in health status/services?
  • What actions can health agencies, rural clinics, and health certification programs take to respond and adapt to climate change, and what messages will be most effective for clinics and communities, community planning, monitoring, policy change, and personal action?

 

This course is a great fit for those interested in climate science, environmental studies, global health, public health, medicine, health disparity research, ecotourism, community engagement, communications, journalism, and policy development. All are welcome as we assess together our collective global climate future. 

Anticipated Course Activities

Day 1-2

people at orientation

Course and Program orientation in Ulaanbaatar.

Course and Program orientation in Ulaanbaatar. Gain an introduction to Mongolian culture and language, history, and contemporary issues. Meet course faculty and participants, begin course sessions with a few agency meetings and review of air quality issues, and engage in team building through visits to some of the local sites as time allows (e.g., Gandan Monastery, markets, museums).

Program and course orientation in Ulaanbaatar

An introduction to the course leaders and methods, with site visits to and meetings with government ministries, NGOs and mining companies. Stay in hotel.

Day 3

Amarbayasgalant Monastery in Erdenet

Depart to Amarbaysgalant Monastery

Depart to Amarbaysgalant Monastery and stay overnight at the ger camp.

Day 4-5

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Drive to Erdenet

Drive to Erdenet and spend a day attending public health briefings and meeting with environmental quality specialists. During our travel route, we’ll observe how Mongolia’s ecosystems have been impacted by climate change, and how these shifts can and do impact human health. Night at a ger camp.

Day 6

Visit to Darkhan, Darkhan-Uul Aimag

Visits with local officials and residents on environment and mining issues.

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Drive to Erdenbulgan.

Drive to Erdenbulgan. Arrive at Eg-Uur Camp.

Day 7-11

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Class sessions in the forest-steppe of Eg-Uur valley

Class sessions in the forest-steppe of Eg-Uur valley include meetings with town leaders, healthcare practitioners, and natural resource specialists, as well as time exploring the ecosystem.  We plan visits to Dayan Deerkh Monastery and river camps.

Day 12-14

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Drive to and stay in Karakorum.

Drive to and stay in Karakorum. Tour of the Erdene Zuu monastery, and visits with local officials and spiritual leaders.

Return to Ulaanbaatar

The trip distance between Erdenet and Ulaanbaatar is 240 miles.

Day 15-16

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Depart to Ulaanbaatar. Conclusion

Depart to Ulaanbaatar, stop by Elsen Tsarkhai on the way. Conclusion and group presentations in Ulaanbaatar.

Course Conclusion in Ulaanbaatar

Course debriefing and a chance to browse in Ulaanbaatar, and plan for further research and explorations in Mongolia and beyond.

Recommended Reading:

Adams A, Byron R, Maxwell B, Higgins S, Eggers M, Byron L, Whitlock C. 2021. Climate change and human health in Montana: a special report of the Montana Climate Assessment. Bozeman MT: Montana State University, Institute on Ecosystems, Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity. 216 p. https:// doi.org/10.15788/c2h22021.

Instructors

Cathy

Dr. Cathy Whitlock

Montana State University
Regents Professor Emerita of Earth Sciences at Montana State University and a Fellow of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems. She is lead author of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment, and co-lead of the 2021 Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment. Cathy is nationally and internationally recognized for her scholarly contributions and leadership activities in the field of past climate and environmental change. She has published over 230 scientific papers on the climate and ecological history of Yellowstone and similar regions around the world. Cathy is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2018, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
Susan

Susan Higgins

Susan Higgins
MS, engages in water resources planning, landscape collaboratives and drought resiliency. She has consulted with the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, The Tributary Fund and The Taimen Fund, where she facilitated research activities, leadership exchanges and species and drought resiliency planning in Mongolia, Bhutan and Montana, all with an emphasis on developing best practices for scientists working with faith and indigenous communities. Prior, she directed research communications and water education at the Montana State University Water Center. Currently, Susan works to connect health science researchers with rural and Native Montana communities for the Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity.

Other Instructors TBA

We are in the process of identifying a Mongolian public health professional to join in field instruction, and are working to bring along an American physician, and a Native American professional in Montana who has developed climate and health adaptation plans for his tribes. We are also setting up meetings with representatives of Mongolia’s Ministry of Health; the Mongolian National Emergency Management Agency; Ministry of Environment and Tourism; Information and Research Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Environment; and other key partners like the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry.
Liz-SQ600

"Attending the renewable energy field school was the best decision I made in 2019! I was already attending a fulltime graduate program in Canada, but the field school added rich value to my learning. As the world is becoming more globalized, looking at how Mongolia is responding to the challenges of supplying cleaner energy was a valuable experience. Our instructors came with a vast amount of knowledge and a passion to teach.’’

Liz B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
Batkhuu SQ600

"As a sociology major student, this program was very helpful to explore urban issues and migration processes in contemporary Mongolia. Through this program, I sharpened my academic capabilities while refining soft skills essential for my future studies.’’

Batkhuu B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
Janis-Michael-SQ600

"The ACMS field school is a unique experience that has changed my life and teaching. In most programs, international participants are isolated from the country in which we are studying except for controlled visits to local people and sites. Not so with ACMS! Half of the participants in each field school are from Mongolia, ensuring that local and international participants have a chance to understand each other’s perspectives.’’

Janis M

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
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