26th Annual Boe Forum

POSTED May 3, 2023

Every year since its start in 1995, Augustana University and The Center for Western Studies host the Boe Forum. The purpose of the Boe Forum is to educate Sioux Falls citizens about public affairs. The 26th annual Boe Forum featured Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway, also known as the “Mother of Sustainability”, to speak about this and other environmental issues of today. These are some of the topics she spoke of during this event:


Picture by Sophia Pritchard

How are poverty and population linked to pollution? 


In 1981 Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland became the first female Prime Minister of Norway. From 1998 to 2003, she became Director-General of the World Health Organization. One thing that Dr. Brundtland vocalized during the Boe Forum was that if we as people want to reduce pollution we must stop poverty. She stated that ever since she was a child she loved nature and not until she was a student at Harvard in 1964, did she learn about the problems of the world with pollution. Poverty, along with nuclear energy, is one of the major polluters. She spoke about how we should no longer continue worrying about what we individuals do to cause less pollution and start looking on a bigger scale. 


China, followed by the United States, then India are the largest producers of pollution in the world. Not surprisingly, they are also the most populated countries in the world. Dr. Brundtland explained that people should have a choice of when to have children, where to have children, and how many to have. She showed solutions including reproductive health and people having access to healthcare. Climate change and pollution are the last things for those that live in poverty to think about. Therefore, if we focused on assisting countries in poverty, it would help slow down climate change and pollution.


Uneven distribution of Healthcare


During the Boe Forum Speech, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland spoke about the effects of restricting access to reproductive and women’s healthcare, and how it is interconnected with poverty. At 25 years old, she was accepted into Harvard and majored in maternal and child health; there she learned about how important the reproductive rights of women are. She wrote an essay on breastfeeding and family planning while at Harvard, expressing her passion and concern on the subject. When it comes to women’s health and reproductive right, Dr. Gro Harlem is very passionate as shown in her speech and knowledge. 


She also spoke about the importance of healthcare policies in the United States. She explained how US Healthcare does not produce effective outcomes and how expensive it can be. She pushes the importance of free healthcare and that European countries with free healthcare are doing very well. Privatized healthcare, like in the US, causes an uneven distribution of healthcare across different income classes. People in lower income classes are unable to afford good healthcare, even with programs like Medicare. People who have high incomes are the only ones able to afford healthcare without getting into extreme debt. If a person with a low income has a medical emergency, they will be treated but also be put in debt. This debt can last for years, giving that person a lower chance of getting out of poverty.


Picture by Shane McFarland

U.S. Environmental Policies; What the U.S. Needs to Do


One question brought up at the Boe Forum was what her thoughts were on the Biden Administration approving the Willow Project. While she didn’t have enough information to give her opinion on the matter, she did mention some of the things that President Biden and his administration have done to advocate against climate change and other dangers to the environment. But even with the support coming from the U.S. government, there are still major setbacks coming from U.S. companies. 


Many companies around the world continue to use fossil fuels even though it is widely known (or aware) that it is causing climate change, but some of the bigger manufacturers are located in the United States. These companies have been funding counterattacks against getting rid of the use of fossil fuels and some even go as far as to make it look like they’re going green when in reality, they aren’t. 


Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland shared her views and a considerable amount of helpful information on how poverty is linked to pollution, uneven distribution of healthcare, and environmental politics in the United States. We thank Dr. Brundtland for her insights and opinions on many controversial topics. 

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