Beahrs ELP Blog

Reflections from the ELP

by Gabriela Ponce Guerrero, Ecuador (in Switzerland), ELP 2015
Written on July 18, 2015.

gaby1The summer course is close to an end. Each one of us will go back to reclaim what we left behind, to continue what we have postponed, to carry on with our goals and ambitions. We have had three intense weeks of lectures, field trips and, most of all, getting to know each other. The great diversity of the ELP participants was definitely one of the things I enjoyed the most, since we got to experience a truly international environment. We are, literally, from all over the world with unique and inspiring stories.

One of the moments I will not forget is when we started singing songs from our respective countries when coming back from one of our field trips. We were all surprised by the deep voice of Mister Hamid while singing in Persian, or by the powerful voice of Jason while singing some old Chinese song. Or when even after a long day we will gather just outside our dorms and start reciting poems, singing, and dancing. We also had so many discussions ranging from the importance of education to food security and overconsumption. We got a glimpse of each other’s experiences and opinions. We became close and formed lasting bonds and memories.

With the fear of sounding idealistic (which happens to be my personality type according to the test done in the workshop by Susan Carpenter), I believe that many of the conflicts or problems could be solved or prevented if more and more people get to experience an international community. Once you have formed good memories with people from countries you might not have even heard before, you realize that we, humans, are not as different as you may have thought.


Climate Change Challenges in Bangladesh

by Marjana Chowdhury, Bangladesh, ELP 2015
Written on July 29, 2015.

Climate change has emerged as the greatest threat to humankind. The long-term effects of climate change are likely to hinder the progress towards sustainable development and undermine the development gains. Climate change will have negative impacts on all aspects of human development including livelihoods, food security, safe water and sanitation, health care, shelter, etc. Poor communities of the developing countries will be pushed further into extreme vulnerable conditions and suffer the most in the face of increased intensity and frequency of disasters.

Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries that is facing immense challenges due to climate change. Its geophysical position coupled with highly dense population, limited resources and dependence to nature makes Bangladesh a hazard-prone country with many subsequent catastrophic events like floods, cyclones and salinity intrusion. The poor are the most affected by the climate extremes and have very little capacity to cope with the risks.

Bangladesh is already experiencing the impacts of climate change through irregular rainfall patterns, floods, flash floods, cyclones, saline intrusion, drought, sea level rise, tidal surge and water logging. Poor communities in the coastal areas of Bangladesh are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme climatic events with environmental degradation. The northwestern part of Bangladesh is experiencing successive drought and acute water shortage, pushing agriculture dependent communities further into poverty. In the central zone and northeast, increased and prolonged flood, flash flood and river erosion are causing unprecedented loss of livelihood and assets.

Two devastating cyclones, cyclone Sidr in November 2007 and cyclone Aila in May 2009 that hit the coast of Bangladesh gave a glimpse of the challenges waiting for the country in the near future. While the loss of lives during the cyclones were reduced, the destruction to infrastructure, ecosystem and livelihood would take many years to recover, making the long-term impact of climate change visible with declining living conditions for the coastal communities.

Hundreds of thousands of coastal improvised communities have already been displaced and pushed into extreme poverty without any livelihood opportunity and shelter. Millions more will follow if the sea level rise and saline water intrusion continues to move upward in the inland. A 45 cm rise in sea level will not only affect the vast coastal ecosystem and hamper agriculture and food production, it has the potential to dislocate about 38 million people from 20 coastal districts. The climate-induced displacement will create new housing, livelihood and settlement challenges as well as enhance competition and conflict over scarce resources including land, water, fisheries and forests. Rural to urban as well as cross boarder migration will continue in the slums without adequate income, food, water, shelters and basic amenities.

Even with its scarce resources and increased challenges, Bangladesh has traveled a long way in reducing risk of its people and communities. People of Bangladesh have shown incredible courage and steadfast determination in combating the impact of disaster and climate change. From each disaster, the country bounced back with renewed optimism, harnessing the unwavering spirit of the people, learning from the past and preparing for the future.


by Nadine Ruprecht, Germany, ELP 2015
Written on July 15, 2015.

“Sustainability” was probably one of the most often used words during the ELP 2015. It was defined by the Brundtland commission as development meeting the needs of the current population without compromising the satisfaction of the future generations‘ needs (UN 1982). However, sustainability has not only an inter- but also intra-generational dimension, given the aspects of justice in resource distribution. A sustainable development path would be one that a) fosters social equality, b) is within the environmental thresholds1, and c) uses economic development to improve the livelihoods of the poor rather than to further increase overconsumption in industrialized countries. The graph (SER 2011) shows the need for policies to overcome silos between the social, ecological, and economic aspects of development in order to foster sustainable development.


Sustainable policies need to be “eco-social-eco:” fostering economic production that meets the needs of the poor, driving social wellbeing and respecting our sensitive and interrelated ecosystem (Rockstrom 2009). State intervention not taking those three dimensions of sustainability equally into account has led to environmentally negative results (Reed 2012), e.g. in the case of fossil fuel subsidies.

A sustainable future requires more than a “technical fix” from green technology (UNRISD 2012), but a process of “greening society” towards consumption reduction in industrialized countries (Daly 2005) and socially and environmentally sustainable growth in developing and emerging economies. A global society that succeeds to build resilience (Diamond 2004) requires new measures for development beyond GDP, precaution due to the thresholds of our finite planet (Rockstrom 2009) and strong sustainability criteria (Daly 2005). Solidarity is a central part of a sustainable future based on shared prosperity: if more people need to eat from the same cake, the ones who already have a large piece need to share with those who have not yet had their fair share.


1 Thus maintaining the value of natural capital stock

Is the selfie important for environmental leaders?

by Harutyun Gevorgyan, Armenia, ELP 2015
Written on August 13, 2015.

As with any program, the Environmental Leadership Program also needs an evaluation. By evaluating the program, we make an assessment, to analyze project objectives, development effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability. Actually evaluation can be different; it depends on the situation, project requirements, project context, etc.

The evaluation itself should cover not only all activities, which has been done during the program, but also some photos and other necessary illustrated materials should be added. In my understanding, one of the most highly used forms is photo reporting, when you can present photos from all your activities. And by doing so, the evaluator can understand the project and what kind of visible outcomes you had.

What is the difference between ELP and other projects? It was highly interactive with intensive participatory actions (all participants are actively involved in almost all processes, generally any academic lecture does not exist, but in contrary, more discussions took place) that were very diverse (almost all activities are different) and very fast-paced (we saw one process, but we should move forward quickly because there are so many other things we should see in the frame of ELP). So now the questions, if you want to participate, listen the lectures, and report all your activities, you should be very attentive and behave accordingly to the situation.


Of course for your photo reporting you can take photos of the current activities and move forward, but I have a theory, that the quality is a bit different, when you or your face appears in the photos, which makes an effect of participatory actions. I understand this theory since in my professional activities I had an opportunity to lecture quite often and I saw from students’ and other participants’ feedback that if in your presentations you show just a photo of the exact activity, it can be fine, but when you show a photo where you are involved (your body or your face are in the photos), it gives a totally other taste to your presentation and makes it more qualified. After understanding this a few years ago, I always try to take photos not only for the presenting activities, but also taking selfies, getting photos with my face, because I know that when I use them I will have better presentations.

Besides that, you want to share your feelings and experiences in social nets for your friends and other people, which will make them learn and also think what’s going on around them. I like when I received comments and likes from my Facebook friends, which means that they are following me and I can share my stories with them.



But what is another advantage of selfies? During the intensive learning process, all participants are very busy. They do not have time or are not in the mood to use their time for taking your photos anytime you need. But with selfies, you can do it alone and have the same outcome. And even more, if you ask someone to take your photos, he/she will take only one and will finish, and I can tell you for sure that the quality of that photo usually is not good. And therefore you need more, in order to get a better one. But at the same time you feel uncomfortable to ask for another photo. With selfies, you can take as many photos as you want and then later you can select the best one, which you like and which fits with your interests.

By saying so, during the 3 full weeks of the ELP, I took about 4000 photos (I counted all the selfie photos I took). Initially I got a lot of Jokes from ELP participants about it, but at the end I see that about 50% of participants started to do the same and even some more people, who never took a single photo, started to take selfies too.

To conclude, I just want to ask a question. What the lecturers do during their lectures, is that not a selfie of their knowledge? What specialists do during their job, is that not a selfie of their skills? And what the Earth does with us, is that not a selfie of its weather and climate change?

So, always take your selfie stick with you, learn, get practice and take photos.


The Rotten banana: Rural challenges in Denmark

by Mette Dam, Denmark, ELP 2015
Written on July 11, 2015.

On Monday morning, I participated in a workshop about rural development in South Korea and it made me think about how the challenges in rural Japan differs from the issues we face in Denmark.

In Denmark all of the basic needs such as roads, electricity, etc. have already been established in the rural areas for a long time. The challenges in the rural areas of Denmark exists of an overall negative tendency where rural areas become more and more isolated and lag behind the national average for a number of key indicators such as income levels, population and employment opportunities making the difference between the rural areas and cities more and more significant.

The areas where this negative tendency are most significant are metaphorically called the rotten banana as the shape of these areas looks like a banana and because things are not going well in these areas it is a rotten banana, see picture 1.

However this has not always been the case. 
Historically, industry heavily relied on uneducated people and used to be situated in the rural areas, but as the industry started to move their production towards the east because of lower labor cost, more and more jobs were removed from the rural areas without the creation of alternative job opportunities making it difficult to maintain economic growth at remote areas.

Figure 1: The rotten banana in Denmark (Source:

The Danish welfare system tries to address this problem by transferring funds from rich to poor regions, compensating for the income gap. Another plan which is not implemented yet but is on a proposal is the liberalization of the Danish planning act, making it possible to build recreational areas as vacation centers and large water parks on our seashores in order to generate economic growth in the rural areas. However, this idea has been heavily criticized.

Many people are against the plan, including me, as a clear seashore without buildings is something special for Denmark that many countries do not have, making it one of our main tourist attractions. It will be interesting whether the action plan will be enforced or not.

Figure 2 Drawing from a danish newspaper (source:

Figure 2 Drawing from a danish newspaper (source:

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