by Zhe Sun, China, ELP 2015
Written on July 14, 2015.
1. Field Trip to Urban Adamah and Rene Zazueta’s Home
On July 2nd, we visited a Jewish urban organic farm and self-sufficient gardens directed by ideas of “resource-recycled utilization”. It was the first time for me to get in touch with a farm in person, because I have lived in an urban area of big cities my whole life, even in my childhood. I rubbed the goat that day. It is friendly, never afraid of us strangers.
The technique lay in the use of dead cactus stems and sawdust. The owner of the organic plant garden cut the dead cactus stems into small pieces and left them on the soil surface near the tomatoes. Dead cactus stems had plenty of water because of their strong water storage capacities when they were still alive, though they were dead when used as the water source for tomatoes. With the cactus stems turning rotten, the water stored would penetrate the soil surface and be absorbed by the tomato roots. However, that was merely an ideal model. The biggest challenge was that water would evaporate faster than be fixed by the soil, in which condition the tomatoes would be in lack of enough water. Considering the possible problem, the owner chose to use sawdust to help lead the water into the deep soil. He sprinkled the dry sawdust on the surface soil around the tomatoes, in order to make sure that sawdust could get in touch with both cactus pads and tomato stems, as well as to their roots. To conclude, the sawdust acted as capillaries which could make the water easier to permeate the rhizosphere soil.
I have to say, the tiny self-sufficient ecosystem is sure to be a miracle.
2. Field Trip to South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration
Another first experience for me was the trip to the South Bay Salt Pond on July 5th, because I have never seen any wetlands in my home country, China, in person, though there are several wetland nature reserves in China Mainland. Considering that I am studying environmental sciences, I have seen some wetland areas on the videos or textbooks, but I was still astonished at the first sight of the South Bay. It is extremely splendid, and remarkable.
Walking along the gravel road, with cool and fresh wind blowing around us, we saw the ecological habitats of many pretty looking birds, including the pelicans (Latin name is Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) as the most representative one. On the observation deck, all the participants enjoyed the beautiful scenery, as well as ourselves. We used the telescope to observe the seagulls meticulously in the distance, just like what the biologists usually do. That was quite interesting and unforgettable for us.
Then we had a lot of fun in taking pictures of ourselves by trying different combinations of participants and poses. The California South Bay acted as a really picturesque background, so no one wanted to miss the gifts from nature.
3. Field Trip to Muir Wood National Monument
Muir Wood National Monument was a brand new experience for me. I got in touch with numerous redwoods (also named sequoias) in the national reserves and breathed a lot of quite fresh air there, which was one of my initial targets of this Berkeley trip. The sequoias were really tall, and much taller than those growing in China, and therefore seemed more dignified.
4. Field Trip to Point Reyes National Seashore
In the afternoon of July 7th, we arrived at the Point Reyes National Seashore to enjoy the peaceful seascape. The sun shined mildly that day, making the offing sparkle charmingly. Waves were not fierce at all, different from those ferocious waves on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean – my hometown on the other side of the ocean, where I was born. Bathed in the sun, we all felt relaxed. Many of us embraced the coming waves, letting them take away our tiredness and worries.
5. Field Trip to Salinas Valley Agricultural Area
On July 11th, we went to the Salinas Valley for a visit to the agricultural areas there. I know little about agriculture, but I was still instantly attracted by the original ecological strawberry fields.
I have been to the strawberry fields in China several times, but never have I seen such big and brightly colored strawberries cultivated there. The professor told us that the farmers living there never used any organic or inorganic pesticides in order to avoid any potential harm to human health. They only used some kinds of innocuous biological agents for deworming. Under such circumstances, we visitors can pick up and eat the ripe strawberries directly, without any worries about the harmful pesticides remaining on them. All of us participants enjoyed ourselves a lot.
6. Field Trip to Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz was another field trip to the seashore. Probably because of the sea wind, the waves there were much more powerful than those on the Point Reyes National Seashore. The most memorable thing on the Santa Cruz seashore was my witness of sea lions. In my hometown, just as I referred before, located on the east coast of China, there are no sea lions coming and going on the beach, perhaps owing to the climate differences and ocean currents. The sand was soft, making me feel like I was enjoying a massage when I was walking on it.
by Hervet Randriamady, Madagascar, ELP 2015
Written on July 27, 2015.
Madagascar takes the lead on the environmental protection across the globe. In 2015, the Malagasy government adopted a decree that bans both production and imports of plastic bags. Most importantly, Madagascar President, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, has officially announced to triple Marines Protected Areas (MPAs) at the IUCN World Park Congress 2014 in Australia. Despite this great initiative, I am still very concerned about how the increase of MPAs will affect the livelihoods of the population. Could the increase of MPAs in Madagascar be detrimental for local communities’ livelihoods?
A study carried out by Goefrey Mwanjela (2011) in the Mnazi Bay Marine Park in Tanzania, “The Myth of Sustainable Livelihoods,” has concluded that the implementation of the Marine Park did not lead to a positive result on the livelihoods of the local communities. Villagers rejected the Marine Park. Communication between villagers and park officials failed. Furthermore, park officials put more attention to the marine conservation rather than to the livelihoods of the local communities. I hope that the same issue will not happen in Madagascar with the implementation of the new MPAs in the coming years. Thanks to the Collaborative Leadership for Sustainable Change course to address the aforementioned issue. Indeed, throughout this course, I have realized how important a negotiation is when parties have different interests, and how difficult it is to find consensus. During Susan Carpenter’s lecture, we have been exposed to a negotiation scenario. Each ELP fellow has been assigned to a specific role representing stakeholders such as a farmer, park manager, and an ecotourism representative who all have an interest in a specific natural park. At the end of the negotiation, each of us made a concession and agreement with an exchange of promise.
In sum, on the brink of the implementation of the new MPAs in Madagascar, the Malagasy government should organize a wide consultation for local communities living around those future MPAs. Most of the time, the implementation of any kinds of PAs—terrestrial or Marine—failed due to the lack of communication between stakeholders. A top-down decision usually happens without the consent of local communities. A negotiation must take place that includes all stakeholders, thus no parties would be left out. In other words, local communities should be part of any decision-making process thus the implementation of the new MPAs will succeed.
by Jigme Choki, Bhutan, ELP 2015
Written on July 26, 2015.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is defined as ‘the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made’ by the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA & IEA 1999, p. 2). Figure 1 illustrates different stages in the EIA process. EIA is used as a policy instrument to improve environmental outcomes and allow for democratic participation in decision-making. EIA is regarded as an effective planning and management tool (Toro et al. 2010, p. 247). The introduction of EIA as a policy instrument for decision-making as a part of development process in many countries has been increasingly recognised worldwide (Saeed et al. 2012, p. 1909; Cooper & Elliott 2000, p. 363).
A basic principle of EIA is that it should be participative. Public participation has been considered an essential and integral component of EIA since its inception (Saeed et al. 2012, p. 1909; Nadeem & Fischer 2011, p. 36; Portman 2009, p. 332; Stewart & Sinclair 2007, p. 161; Hartley and Wood, 2005, p. 319; Petts 2003, p. 273; Palerm 2000, p. 581). Public participation leads to better environmental and social outcomes of the project. The theory of deliberative democracy considers that EIA provides a forum for deliberative decision-making where individuals and groups can engage in a meaningful exchange of views and information (Macintosh 2010, p. 403). The EIA process should provide appropriate opportunities to inform and involve the interested and affected public, and their inputs and concerns should be addressed explicitly in the documentation of impacts and decision-making about development projects (IAIA & IEA 1999, p. 3).
Best-practice public participation is defined as consisting of two components: 1) legal provisions; and 2) actors’ attitudes and capacities towards participation (Palerm, 2000). However, most of the time the public is not aware of the legislation and their right to participate in the EIA process. Public participation in EIA is often ineffective due to barriers, which can be grouped into three subheadings: i) Lack of accessibility, ii) Lack of information, and iii) Lack of transparency. Some of the recommendations for strengthening public participation and EIA process at large for better decision-making are:
1. Ensure appropriate awareness on both legislation pertaining to EIA and on environmental issues of the proposed project. As per Kruopiene et al. (2009), the success of EIA has been rooted in legal regulation of public participation in the EIA. However, the general perception is that public participation in EIAs is conducted only because they are obligated either by the government legislation or donor agencies. For public participation to be effective, there has to be improved awareness on the legislation and environmental issues of the proposed project. It requires continuous effort to ensure that the process is effective and worthwhile. Public participation needs to be strengthened by promoting stakeholders’ awareness about potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of mega development projects (Panigrahi & Amirapu, 2012). The Regulatory authority should educate the general public on why they should participate in the decision-making process. The public should be convinced that their views and suggestions will be considered and will influence the decision-making of the proposed project (Yang, 2008).
2. Ensure accessibility. An inappropriate venue of a public hearing is considered an impediment to public participation (Nadeem & Fischer, 2011). The venue for public consultation should be accessible especially those by directly affected communities. The suitability of consultation timing is another factor to consider getting the right attendance of the participants. Other aspects, like financial and transport provisions, should be considered by the proponents to facilitate the participation of the public.
3. Ensure proper information dissemination. According to Petts (1995) (in Yang 2008), the credibility of public participation increases by making the project officers accessible to the public. There should be increased access to information through sharing information with local communities at the early stage of identifying projects and encouraging public comments on the draft EIA. The project proponents should ensure that public consultation is in the local language to improve communication.
4. Ensure transparency. It is important to build the trust between all the stakeholders by sharing the documents of consultation and how their concerns were incorporated in the assessment reports and in the final decision of the proposed project. Creating a transparent procedure helps to build trust between the public, and project proponents and decision-makers and thus facilitates smooth operation of projects. However, as Momtaz (2002) claims, to ensure effective community participation in the EIAs conducted by consulting firms are a contentious issue.
Figure 1. Stages in the EIA process
Source: UNEP EIA Training Resource Manual
Cooper, L.M., and J.A. Elliott. 2000. Public participation and social acceptability in the Philippine EIA process. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management 2(3):339–367.
Hartley, N., and C. Wood. 2005. Public participation in environmental impact assessment – Implementing the Aarhus Convention. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 25:319–340.
International Association for Impact Assessment, Institute for Environmental Assessment. 1999. Principles of Environmental Impact Assessment Best Practice. Fargo, United States and Lincoln, United Kingdom.
Kruopiene, J., S. Zidoniene, and J. Dvarioniene. 2009. Current practice and shortcomings of EIA in Lithuania. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29:305–309.
Macintosh, A. 2010. Best practice Environmental Impact Assessment: A model framework for Australia. The Australian Journal of Public Administration 69(4):401–417.
Momtaz, S. 2002. Environmental Impact Assessment in Bangladesh: A critical review. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 22:163–179.
Nadeem, O., and T.B. Fischer. 2011. An evaluation framework for effective public participation in EIA in Pakistan. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 31:36–47.
Palerm, J.R. 2000. An empirical theoretical analysis framework for public participation in Environmental Impact Assessment. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 43(5):581-600.
Panigrahi, J.K., and Amirapu, S. 2012. An assessment of EIA system in India. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 30:23–36.
Petts, J. 2003. Barriers to deliberative participation in EIA: learning from waste policies, plans and projects. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management 5(3):269-293.
Portman, M. 2009. Involving the public in the impact assessment of offshore renewable energy facilities. Marine Policy 33:332–338.
Saeed, R., A. Sattar, Z. Iqbal, M. Imran, and R. Nadeem. 2012. Environmental impact assessment (EIA): an overlooked instrument for sustainable development in Pakistan. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 184:1909–1919.
Stewart, J.M.P., and A. J. Sinclair. 2007. Meaningful public participation in Environmental Assessment: perspectives from Canadian participants, proponents, and government. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management 9(2):161–183.
Toro, J., Requena, I., & Zamorano, M. 2010. Environmental impact assessment in Colombia: Critical analysis and proposals for improvement. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 30:247–261.
Yang, S. 2008. Public participation in the Chinese Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system. Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management 10(1):91–113.
by Elsa Merrick, Australia, ELP 2015
Written on July 26, 2015.
One of recurrent tensions that arose during the 3-week Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program was the seemingly irreconcilable trade-off between the necessity of curbing carbon emissions and the need for continued economic and social growth in developing countries. In the most part, speakers kept the two issues separate: some emphasized the need to dramatically reduce our reliance on carbon and regulate climate change, others outlined the necessity of ensuring that those in developing countries to achieve adequate standards of life and health. However – as shown by the recent stalled climate negotiations – the issues of climate change and development are intertwined: How can developing states continue economic development, while the international community works to reduce carbon use and regulate global warming?
The concept of just transitions is a grassroots response to this conundrum, which seeks to link climate change adaptation and resilience with those most vulnerable and reliant on carbon for economic and social development. The term was developed by trade unions in the 1980’s as a way of articulating the need to respond to environmental harm in a way that supports workers who are currently employed and reliant on the industries that cause harm. Used in the context of climate change, it represents the idea that “efforts to steer society towards a lower carbon future [must be] underpinned by attention to issues of equity and justice”.1 The term has appeared in recent climate negotiation texts from the Cancun COP and the Rio+20 Earth Summit.2
While ensuring a just transition is becoming an increasingly important aspiration at international negotiations, what is exciting to me is it’s potential for implementation at a local level. Recognition that the goals of climate resilience and economic development can be constructively combined encourages community-wide engagement with environmental problems. It supports wide coalition-building, and results in initiatives which construct “an alternative vision for a region”1 that combines aspirations for sustainability and development to provide solutions that resolve economic and environmental problems.
An example of just transitions in practice is seen in the Australian organization Earthworker3, which is currently setting up a factory to manufacture solar hot water heaters in the heart of Australia’s coal production and burning district. This business venture will provide a community currently reliant on carbon-intensive industry with alternative employment that supports renewable energy and assists Australia in addressing climate change challenges. The motto of the organisation is “fostering fair, democratic workplaces, local manufacturing, strong communities and sustainable technologies”. Earthworker is actively contributing to a sustainable future and ensuring that those most vulnerable are included in the transition.
Thus, at a time when we are crossing our fingers for positive international climate outcomes in Paris, I think it is important to remember that climate change and development needs do not need to result in tensions or stalemates. At a local level, the idea of just transitions provides insight into how they can be constructively combined to secure a sustainable future that includes those most vulnerable.
1 Peter Newell & Dustin Mulveney, ‘The political economy of the ‘just transition’, The Geographical Journal, vol. 179, no. 2, pp. 132–140.
2 Dimitris Stevis & Romain Felli, ‘Global labour unions and just transition to a green economy’ International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 29-43.
3 Earthworker, http://earthworkercooperative.com.au
by Sheelasheena Damian, Malaysia, ELP 2015
Written on August 17, 2015.
I would like to begin my story by telling you about a beautiful flower I picked from our farm visit yesterday. I thought it was a “Forget Me Not”, but I am not too confident with the name of this flower. It is indeed my favorite flower. It is purple, it is a steady flower, and it will take a very long time to die.
It has been two weeks since I arrived in Berkeley for the ELP. Every day is a learning day. Not only about the substance of Environmental Issues, but about people. Every story will touch your heart in many different ways. That is just how amazing people can be. Deep down, I prayed my selfish prayer, that these people will never forget me, because if I ever have the opportunity in life to see them again, I want to have that very privilege to hear their story.
We came from many backgrounds, with different kinds of fights and battles at home, but we all are connected, this connection that we have with the nature that created this bond in ELP. Like this flower, I hope our bond will take a very (very) long time to die- or never!
I never once noticed any of ELP staff giving an exhausted or annoyed face, they are always smiling. It takes a steady heart to handle 35 people, who are not kids obviously, and have a lot of demands and expectations. You guys have been our real motivators to go up and down hill everyday- walking more than we do at home. I learned that it doesn’t hurt to smile all the time. I assume that’s the kindness of strangers.
Actually, I am having a hard time to find focus to write a proper blog entry. To be intellectual in this melancholic weather in Berkeley is really impossible. Therefore, I settle with this for now. I settled with this flower that I took from the farm we visited at Salinas.
Before you go on wondering what the whole point of this story is, I would like to remember some words I read from a book. I forgot the title, but it goes something like this:
“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things. But that other person shouldn’t be just ordinary people. That other person must be able to motivate you, inspire you to be better, bring out the best of you, and most importantly that other person will be there when you need a coffee shops, sunsets and road trips.”
I found that “other person” in each and every one of you.
Until next time.