The Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) at the University of California, Berkeley, offers a unique learning opportunity for mid-career practitioners and decision-makers to broaden their knowledge and perspectives on environmental and natural resource science, policy, management, and leadership. Through exposure to innovative sustainability approaches and dialogue, ELP participants develop the tools and skills necessary to meet environmental goals that also reduce poverty and social conflict. Established in August 2000 with seed funding from UC Berkeley alumni Carolyn and Richard Beahrs, the ELP offers an annual three week summer certificate course at UC Berkeley, and coordinates the Berkeley ELP Alumni Network with nearly 500 members from over 100 countries. The ELP also supports post-training conservation and sustainable development collaborative projects with alumni, their organizations and the UC Berkeley community of faculty, staff, and students.
Nearly 20 Beahrs ELP alumni attended the June 2012 “Rio + 20” UN Summit on Sustainable Development as well as four Berkeley/ELP faculty members. Some participated in official negotiations but most attended parallel forums and side events centered on the issues of greatest concern to their organizations. In this article we feature the reflections of some of these participants six months after the event. One common feature stands out – that despite negative claims by media and experts regarding the lack of major inter-governmental commitments and outcomes, on individual and organizational levels, ELP participants felt strong solidarity at the Summit and are committed to moving their programs and partnerships for sustainable development forward.
Six months after Rio+20, all of the ELP alumni and faculty who participated remain actively involved in follow-up activities. The Rio Summit brought people together to dialogue, debate, renew commitments, establish alliances and contacts that make their sustainable development work more effective and visible. Kofo, from Nigeria, provides some concrete examples, “As a result of contacts made in Rio, CCDI involved a UNISDR (UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) consultant in a successful workshop on disaster management in Lagos; ENDA Senegal invited us to join the AfriCAN Climate Project; ICLEI has asked us to help get more local governments involved in their activities; and Columbia University has invited CCDI to become part of the Climate Change and Cities network. Participation in Rio +20 has given credence to the activities we are engaged in, prior to and after the event, and hopefully will provide inspiration and knowledge to help sustain CCDI over the next 10 years.”