Tag Archives: Climate Change

From Brazil to Africa and Back Again

I wear a fist-shaped, green necklace around my neck. It beats against my chest when I run. I only take it off when I surf, for fear of loosing it. It’s made of African greenstone, my favorite. The stone is from Zambia — a precious gift given to me during a trip there in 2011. Wearing it reminds me of the Zambezi River, the generous people of Africa, their rich cultures, the profound wildlife, and the incredible 2-month journey in a continent I’d dreamt about visiting since childhood.

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Rewind to Bahia, Brazil in 2008. At this time, in Salvador, I purchased a small wood carving strikingly similar to that of my greenstone fist. This image of a fist – called a fig – is considered good luck in both Africa and Brazil. The cultural transmission from the former to the latter must have taken place centuries before. I believe Africa is the mother to us all, but who knows where the fig comes from. Maybe it has its roots somewhere else. Maybe an anthropologist will tell me one day…

I am back in Brazil, currently working with a dedicated group of rural development professionals from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Bangladesh, South Africa, and Nepal. Here in Bahia, Brazil, where the city of Salvador is considered to be the most African city outside of Africa, there are moments when I forget if I am in Salvador, Brazil or Maputo, Mozambique (also Portuguese-speaking). The knowledge, charisma and dedication of my colleagues from Africa and Asia inspire me more than they know. They are here to exchange ideas within a learning platform called ELLA, which is associated with my partner NGO, Adapta Sertão. Along with the ELLA organizers (Daniele Cesano, Martin Obermaier, Charlotte Heffer, Thais Corral, and Emily Trainor) we have all become fast friends. The stories from their home countries — experiences grounded in an incredible breadth of environmental, cultural, political, agricultural and historical understanding — amaze me on an hourly basis.

We are in the community of Pintadas, Bahia, Brazil. (Interesting side note: I am apparently the first person from the United States here in Pintadas, an intriguing thought.) My research, based out of UCSD, is helping Adapta Sertão determine the best technologies and strategies to help rural farmers in the Sertão region adapt to climate change. Bolstering resilience and improving livelihoods is the name of the game. My climatology analysis is nearly done and now we have to start looking at socio-economic indicators to see the impacts of the regions changing water cycle, especially ever-increasing droughts. The current drought here, starting in 2010, is said to be the worst in over 50 years. During a farm visit with a farmer named, Maceus, we saw how innovative these farmers can be. Deep wells, crop diversification (including varieties of cactus), drip technology, and many other techniques are yielding results and increasing climate resilience. These farmers, this community, and my colleagues from Brazil, Africa, and Asia give me a great deal of hope that we will improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities around the world.

Tomorrow morning I will run again, and the green fist will beat. Many of us feel that same green beat and we should continue to act on it; in spite of our frustration with the UNFCCC gridlock (fingers crossed COP-18), in spite of the reluctance of our respective domestic governments to agree (fingers crossed 2nd Obama administration), in spite of the skeptics. Just keep running — our sense of direction is sound. Good luck to the good work.

A special thanks to the ELLA participants (below). You are true thought-leaders.

Antwi-Boasiako Amoah (from Ghana); Farayi Madziwa (from Zimbabwe, resides in South Africa); Hedwig “Halima” Nenkari (from Kenya); Leonard Unganai (from Zimbabwe, Unganai means “come together” in Shona); Monica Chundama (from Zambia); Mousumi Pervin (from Bangladesh); Ram Chandra Khana (from Nepal); Sherpard Zvigadza (from Zimbabwe); Simon Shomkegh (from Nigeria); Stephen Awuni (from Ghana); Ujjal Tiwari (from Nepal); Victor Orindi (from Kenya).

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#Green Week Ahead (May 07-13)

Hello everyone — I hope you had a festive Cinco de May weekend!

Here’s what I am planning to attend this week. If anyone has any additional events that they would like to share – this week or next – please feel free to comment.

Tues May 08

One of thousands of islands in Queensland, Australia.

On a personal note, I am excited to announce that I will be teaching a monthlong course on sustainability this summer for San Diego State University undergraduates. The course, as part of their study abroad program, will be conducted throughout Queensland, Australia. I will be giving a pre-departure orientation on this day as we prepare to explore, firsthand numerous socio-environmental issues, developing a new perspective regarding our relationship with the planet.

 

Wed May 09

CleanTECH Advocacy Meeting from 2-3:30pm.

David Victor

New Ways to Stop Global Warming from 5:15-7:00pm. Professor of Political Science and Climate Change Specialist, David Victor discusses how global warming is affecting our planet today. Professor Victor will explore strategies that would be more effective in addressing issues surrounding climate change. He recently authored a 2011 Economist Best Book – Global Warming Gridlock – and advises countries and companies regarding energy and climate policy.

Here’s an interview I did with Professor Victor while studying with him at UCSD. My Interview with David Victor.

 

“IF WE DO NOT CHANGE OUR DIRECTION WE ARE LIKELY TO END UP WHERE WE ARE HEADED” – Chinese Proverb

My Close Friend & Mentor, Byron Washom, On TEDx

From Midway Island to Hawaii, from Hawaii to California, then MIT and back again. During this journey, he explored live ammunition fields, fell for surfing, set numerous energy world records, and developed amazing projects here at UC San Diego. Byron’s incredible life experiences, game-changing accomplishments, and deep insights create a story you MUST hear!

How do we tap into our innate creativity? Byron encourages us to follow our passion and push the boundaries, even beyond our comfort zone — beyond the barrier reef. How right he is. One in a million, Byron. Slam dunk!

What future do you want?

I want a future where equality of opportunity knows no borders and no era. Equality of opportunity in education, health, and economic development. Also, equality of opportunity across generations. Our children deserve a planet with the same environmental health that we enjoy today —  if not better. I believe in our ability to achieve a quasi-Utopian future, one in which imperfect (hence the quasi-), but thoughtful societies find a balance, both internally and with their shared environments.

I want a planet where societies make educated decisions that address the needs of now without sacrificing the foundations of our future. Ask yourself, “are we on a path to that future?”. There are lots of statistics, images, peer-reviewed scientific research, and harsh realities suggesting that the answer is “no”, that instead we are running a resource deficit and feeding a process that drives an ever-unpredictable climate and future. Part of this stems from our obsession with economic growth and consumption. Ironically, as a former student of economics and policy, now looking to launch his career, I care about the subject of economics. I want a stronger economy where I can create professional opportunities for myself and others. Still, within a finite world, fast-paced economic growth based on a business model of unsustainable products and services will not create a job that I want to apply for. Such a model is unfair to the whole of our population, and particularly unjust for the marginalized communities of today and the disadvantaged generations of tomorrow. These groups are ill-equipped to defend themselves against the impacts of shortsighted economic growth. Instead, let us look to how we may deepen economic development: doing more for society while manipulating less of our environment. I envision a future where individuals, governments, and businesses strive to achieve comprehensive sustainability by: (1) deepening economic development, (2) providing better information and tools to our communities, and (3) creating models of success in terms of the responsible consumption of resources (especially energy).

I will admit, this vision is vague on details, as it is a vision of a mindset rather than a roadmap. However, it is as much our mindset as it is our pocketbooks that drives our behavior — and I believe these issues all boil down to behavior. We can only technologically innovate our way out of some of this challenge. Therefore, our behavior must change. Otherwise, our environment will most certainly change to the detriment of a population that was unwilling – or unable – to do so itself.

I, for one, am optimistic that this will not be the case. We will innovate in technology and behavior. We will find a solution. I look forward to our shared challenge. Our shared roadmap. Our shared future.

Visit http://futurewewant.org/ to join the discussion.

Climate Vulnerable Forum: An Effort to Unite Efforts and Catalyze Action

It was my pleasure to participate in the Climate Vulnerable Forum today. The minister of Bangladesh, Hasan Mahmod gave a particularly touching speech. If even modest climate change projections are true, a massive proportion of Bangladesh is set to be flooded by sea level rise. Mr. Mahmod stated that our planet is a “single lifeboat. If one of us sinks, we all sink.” The panel moderator, Simon Maxwell, executive chair of the Climate & Development Network, echoed these remarks by stating that there can be no winners if there are losers in climate change. How right they are. The task at hand now is for these countries to lead by example and unite there message to reach the citizens of the major emitting economies. They look to be on track.

Best of luck to my new friends. Below are Mohamed Aslam & Stanislas Kamanzi, the Environmental Ministers of the Maldives and Rawanda.

 

A compelling lunch indeed. I immediately disclosed that I was from the US, but was quick to point out California’s cap-and-trade system.

Meet former President of Costa Rica, learn more about the Carbon War Room

Jose Maria Figueres proudly served his country in the mid 90’s, during which time he passed a nationwide carbon tax (’95). Now he continues to exhibit superb leadership in the environmental/business sector. We met during a media announcement of the Carbon War Room. He is chairman of the board for the War Room, which has an innovative idea for providing alternative jet fuel to airlines (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/04/idUS69743+04-Dec-2011+BW20111204).

I was happy to see a local, San Diego based company on the list of jet-fuel providers – Sapphire Energy.

For those unfamiliar with the org, “Carbon War Room works on breaking down market barriers for capital to flow to entrepreneurial solutions to climate change, by employing a sector-based approach focusing on the solutions that make economic sense right now.”

Over the weekend, I attended the World Climate Summit, which is the premier event for private sector participants. The CEO of the Carbon War Room, Jigar Shah, spoke eloquently of the role PPPs to establish effective and scalable projects in renewable energy.

Hello from COP17, Durban!

I’m here at the United Nations Climate Convention Conference of Parties (COP), which is now its 17th year. My first COP was last year, where I was the lead of a student delegation from my UCSD graduate program, IR/PS. These are MEGA conferences with 10’s of thousands of people. Anyone and everything to do with climate change gravitates here. Policymakers. Negotiators. NGOs. Media. Business leaders. Activists.

Though expectations reached an all-time high with Copenhagen (COP-15) in 2009, the hopeful were left bewildered as efforts to establish a framework for the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol took a back seat to the global financial crisis.  My friend and mentor, David Victor (UCSD faculty), published an amazing book titled, “Beyond Global Gridlock”. To understand why Kyoto missed the green mark, and why an effective global climate change policy is so elusive to even our planet’s brightest minds, you must read David Victor’s book.

Of course, like most, I would love to see a binding agreement sooner rather than later. However, the “Durban Accords”, like the Cancun Accords, will likely be a commitment to continue to engage in the process, not a push for a tangible result. Even this modest prediction may be too optimistic. Numerous countries are already threatening to breakaway from Kyoto; namely, Canada, Japan, and Russia. The United States, though positive about the goals of reducing global emissions, has always remained on the regulatory sidelines. The EU sits at the center of the effort to mitigate, looking for core support from other major economies. And it is left wanting.

Meanwhile, the trajectory of global emissions and the plight of the vulnerable countries (i.e. food security, access to water, flooding, etc) are becoming exceedingly worse.

Broadly, the topics being intensely debated at this conference are: How can the global community launch the second round of Kyoto commitments? What will replace the Kyoto Protocol and will all major economies participate? How to finance the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to reach US$100bn/year by 2020? Can reduced emissions thru deg. and deforest. (REDD+) improve gender equality? What to do about clean technology transfer, including a clear definition?

Come along with me to explore these issues, learn of new innovations and meet the individuals working to save our planet and our quality of life.