Beahrs ELP Blog

The Berkeley Beahrs ELP: A Stepping Stone to My Career in Sustainability

by Alexander Belyakov (ELP 2001), Toronto, Canada 

Belyakov AlexanderMy career path in sustainability started with environmental journalism and communications. The environment has influenced my entire life. Even as a child, I knew I should do more for our planet. Mines with red smoke spewing over factories and dust-loaded air… This was a typical picture from my childhood in a small town in Debaltseve in the Doneck region in Ukraine. I grew up in the family of a disabled miner who survived a clinical death after an accident in the mine. My dad’s mine was closed with flooded shafts after the economy collapsed. Besides the mine, I knew that there was quite a different natural environment not so far away from our town – with pheasants in spear grass and the freedom of grassland plains. However, this place has become devastated with time and I was afraid it would die despite all my love. Unfortunately, I will never see the same Debaltseve again. I moved to Canada before the undeclared war in Eastern Ukraine began. It destroyed Debaltseve completely. Unfortunately, my parents are internally displaced persons now. My dad still cannot believe that our family lost everything. Both my parents were in a hospital in Kyiv this spring.

Another life-changing experience was the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that took place in 1986. Working as an environmental journalist in Kyiv later in life, I had to visit the Chernobyl zone in Ukraine and Belarus many times. This experience resulted in many journalistic and academic publications, as well as the recent presentations at Yale University, Pace University in New York City and the University of Toronto. I welcome any opportunity to explain consequences of nuclear disasters. Please read about my ongoing research at

At that time in my career, I had discovered that academia had more opportunities for free speech than mass media. Nevertheless, this window was small. Therefore, I did research on freedom of speech with an understanding that this issue affects environmental communications as well. I also was a pioneer in developing and teaching courses in environmental journalism in Ukraine.

Later, I decided to learn more from the established democracies. I have been to many countries (mostly in Europe) and in the USA. The Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program at Berkeley became a life-changing experience for me. The course in Sustainable Environmental Management in 2001 became an excellent foundation for my career in sustainability. I worked on projects with the United Nations Development Program (Urban Environmental Governance & Sustainable Development Programs) in Ukraine, on international projects with German governmental institutions, and USAID in Ukraine. Furthermore, I did academic research in sustainability communications. I have been a visiting scholar at the Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Communication at the University of Lüneburg in 2008. My study and travel abroad have enriched my mindset and helped me improve my knowledge that I am eager to share with others. What my colleagues learn from me is how to thinkoutside the box,” become generalists in system thinking and share a passion for sustainability.

I strive to apply my knowledge about sustainability through consultancy. The Global Sustainability Community of Practice of the Project Management Institute (PMI) valued my expertise. I was one of the presenters at the webinar “A ‘Triple-Bottom-Line’ Sustainability Project Evaluation Methodology” for 1116 registered project managers worldwide. Our webinar filled a gap in PMI training by connecting sustainability to project management processes with an emphasis on project management outcomes. The webinar was focused on the methodology of evaluating projects based on sustainability criteria covering three areas – social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainability. This was also a summary of our group project at Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada). I would be interested to discuss this methodology with experts from other countries. More about this and other my projects are on my website:

Another trend that inspires me is e-learning. I am looking forward to specifically developing an educational course in Integrated Sustainability / Sustainable Development for an Interned-based educational platform, which will be offered to the broad public in governmental, and non-governmental organisations, and within the private sector. This will be a professional and interactive course in sustainable development and also cover “how to” write sustainability reports.

The sustainable development philosophy is already a big part of my life. I believe that creating consensus and helping society be sustainable is the root of true meaning and purpose in life, but it is not easy to achieve. I hope that I can be a part of the process that improves the quality of life everywhere. I believe in making a living by making a difference. I enjoy working with people and helping them learn something new that makes not only transitional, but transformational changes in their lives.

Thoughts and Reflections about how UCB Beahrs ELP Influenced My Career

by Ronny Roma (ELP 2006), Guatemala


Farmer to farmer exchange between Nahuas and Chinantecs at Tosepan Titataniske Organization in Cuetzalana, Puebla.

The first time I heard something about the Beahrs ELP Program was in Nairobi, Kenya at the Ecoagriculture Conference (held in 2004) where I met Dr. Robin Marsh, the co-director of the program at that time. She explained to me clearly what the program’s aim was and motivated me to apply. I analyzed it but perhaps I thought I was too young then to fulfill the program’s experience requirements. I wanted to apply for the 2005 program, but many institutional changes at the Guatemalan National Council of Protected Areas delayed my decision to apply. Dr. Robin Marsh never gave up in her efforts to motivate me, and I finally applied in 2006 and was also granted a scholarship. Thus, I was finally able to attend this course at one of the best universities in the world.  I tried to prepare everything I needed to share my work. At Berkeley, when I arrived at the room facilities and met my roommate, I received a nice surprise. He was Aman Singh from Rajasthan, India, a person I met at the Ecoagriculture Conference in Nairobi two years before. That made it easier to organize and explore the campus and nearby places.

Then little by little, I started to meet other participants from all over the world and learn about their experiences. I realized that all human beings have expectations, dreams and lessons to share: it doesn’t matter which ethnic, religious or social background they come from. I remember my good times with Henyo, Valentina, Celia, Jens, Staline, Aman, Beatus, Kofo, Baraka, Staline and Eileen, and all the love, passion and care they put into their workplaces and projects. The ELP taught me the state of art about several socio-environmental issues. I learned how to use practical and non-expensive tools to create empathy, strengthen relations and create a more sustainable world by considering local contexts and factors that are commonly overlooked or misunderstood. So I went back to my home country with new skills, new friends and motivation to promote changes in my work.

This moved me to get closer to communities, indigenous peoples and non-governmental organizations. In 2008 I decided to apply for the ELP’s Buck Kingman Small Grant Initiative (SGI). My project was aimed to improving a process in which two governmental organizations, three municipalities and one NGO were involved to promote natural resources conservation without forbidding local communities from accessing these resources in the Guatemalan Central Volcanic Chain. That was a great opportunity to share and put into practice the knowledge on Collaborative Leadership gained in the ELP and to train local communities. Surprisingly, these communities were never included in any training session related to local decision making about natural resource use in their forests. The advice of Dr. Robin Marsh and Byron Miranda (from the Inter American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, Costa Rica) gave us valuable guidance for creating an interesting training program that enhanced not just conservation, but supported the provision of local necessities too.

Although I had job stability, I started to believe that it reduced my options to do something different. Hence, I decided to leave my job and acquire new knowledge by studying for a Masters degree in Mexico. During that time I personally met the Global Diversity Foundation’s Mesoamerican team, with whom I collaborated in Guatemala in 2007. They further invited me to collaborate with them. When I obtained my degree in 2011, I started to collaborate as Field Coordinator of this organization. Undoubtedly I would have never reached that stage without the skills acquired at the ELP in 2006, and especially Dr. Robin Marsh’s advice.

Considering the new challenges I faced in my work, I applied again to the SGI in 2011. However, lack of funding due to the international economic crisis affected the development of the project. Later in 2012, I again applied with a proposal to develop farmer-to-farmer exchanges between selected Chinantecs leaders from two communities in Mexico – Usila, Oaxaca and the Tosepan Titataniske Cooperative members from Cuetzalan, Puebla. The SGI funding allowed me to establish a project where the Chinantecs were able to share their knowledge and ideas about land management practices and in turn, learn about the sustainability practices carried out by the Tosepan Titataniske Nahuas and Totonacs members.

Thus, the ELP was undoubtedly a turning point in my life and career. The skills and knowledge shared by the professors and peers during those three weeks were fundamental to the decisions I made further in my life. The friends I gained have continuously shared their thoughts and reflections over the years and the SGI has complemented my abilities to offer ground-level solutions to farmers and indigenous groups, considering their thoughts, belief system and traditional way of life. The seed for these activities was planted while I attended the ELP and continued to grow inside me after I left Berkeley.


Environmental Leadership in Closed-loop 3D Printing in Moldova

by Alexandr Iscenco (ELP 2013), Moldova

We all have heard about the additive manufacturing technology called 3D printing. This is the process of producing a three-dimensional object from a digital design. This process includes the deposition of successive layers of material (plastic, steel, aluminum, silver, gold, etc.), extrusion of material from a basin of liquid and its solidification when it passes through a laser beam, and solidification of the powder when again it meets the laser ray.

3D printer of the model Arduino Materia 101 at 3D Magic Makers.

3D printer of the model Arduino Materia 101 at 3D Magic Makers.

Such a technology promises to deliver great value in terms of sustainable development. For example, as its name suggests, the additive manufacturing technology “adds” material where it is necessary, in comparison to the traditional subtractive manufacturing, where the material is removed from a block of plastic / wood / steel / etc. where it is not needed. Such an approach keeps the amount of waste generated to a minimum. Of course, there can be some amount of waste created from “failed prints”. However, with such devices as Filabot, one can recycle such “failed prints” and other plastic waste into the filament for a 3D printer, thus creating a closed-loop manufacturing system at home / garages / offices / etc.

And this is exactly what the startup called 3D Magic Makers, initiated by a Beahrs ELP 2013 alumnus, Alexandr Iscenco, and his 3 friends, Vergiliu, Ghena, and Marina, are currently doing. During the ELP, Alexandr learned about different approaches to environmental management and sustainable development, including the 3D printing technology, as well as received some valuable advice from entrepreneurs during his visit to Palo Alto, also known as Silicon Valley, in California, USA. And now he puts his knowledge into practice, as well as shares it with his colleagues.

Beahrs ELP 2013 alumnus Alexandr Iscenco presenting “Vasea,” the 3D printer.

Beahrs ELP 2013 alumnus Alexandr Iscenco presenting “Vasea,” the 3D printer.

Ever since 3D Magic Makers was established, the startup has become the leader in offering environmentally friendly 3D printing services in Moldova. Not only do they offer printing only in PLA (polylactide), a biodegradable and biocompatible material derived from corn starch or sugarcane, but they also collect all failed prints and other possible plastic waste to recycle them into filament that then can be used to 3D print new objects. Thus, 3D Magic Makers has established a closed-loop 3D printing service, where a customer can bring his/her previously 3D-printed objects or PET bottles to recycle them into new creations for half the price of the original print. The company and their 3D printer of the model Arduino Materia 101 (lovingly named “Vasea” by the team, which is a male name from the clip “DJ Vasile” performed by a well-known Moldovan band Zdob si Zdub) have already been recognized by a number of Moldovan mass-media agencies, such as Timpul and Publika.

3D-printed Technovation Challenge badges

3D-printed Technovation Challenge badges

3D Magic Makers offer their eco-friendly 3D printing service for a broad range of customers: from individual innovators to international organizations and companies. The most recent prints were badges for participants within the Technovation Challenge, which originated in the US and nowadays runs on the international scale, including in Moldova. The company’s further plans includes getting a “girlfriend” for “Vasea” that could print faster and in higher quality, as well as delivering courses and workshops on 3D design and eco-friendly 3D printing for young innovators and product makers in Moldova. In this way, 3D Magic Makers wants to promote 3D printing as a leading technology for environmentally friendly manufacturing of the future that will soon become the present in Moldova.


New Hope for Slums – A Spark in the Dark

by Jiawen Fang (ELP 2014), China

Although nearly one year has passed, the memory of participating in the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) in 2014 is still vivid and strong in my mind. For me, the program opened up a new world in my academic life – urban planning. From this program, I saw light in what I thought might be eternally dark in the past.

I was really enthused and excited after Prof. Ananya Roy’s lecture on Urban Planning for Sustainable Development. The ideas of regarding slums as regions with a strong socio-economic dynamic immediately resonated with me, and helped me deepen my thoughts on this issue.

Conflicts and interdependence between world-class cities and slums

Rethinking slums as a new economic center – Further research back in China
The relationship between the elite people who enjoy the benefits of the world-class city and the poor people who live in its slums is very complicated, rife with both conflicts and interdependence. On the one hand, these two groups share informality/illegality. Extravagant resorts or golf courses sprawl often to the rural areas, occupying farm lands illegally. Hence, farmers are forced to be packed in a small space without any infrastructure and public service. One the other hand, the elite people in the world class city want to clear out the slums but actually, the city is built by poor people in slums. There is a great example in Beijing which I have done research in. There are many golf courses located in the northwest region of Beijing. These golf courses illegally occupy a large area of land and resources, pushing farmers packed in slums (See in Fig.1.) The owners of the golf courses tried to clear the nearby slums, but the construction of the courses relied on the cheap labor living in slums. The paradox there shows both the inequity and interdependence between the poor and the rich. Unfortunately, our planning is always from the perspective of elite people, and our concern about the poor focuses on inability, neglecting its potential dynamic.

Fig 1

Back in Beijing, I started to do research in slums (the village in city) in a new perspective – its potential socio-economic dynamic. In fact, I discovered that the slum can be a place with wisdom and creativity. People living in slums build houses all on their own. The design of the houses and the wisdom of making spaces with full uses are just amazing. The following two examples are what my further research is based on.

1) Watermill Community in Beijing: Innovative design in architecture

To our surprise, people in the slum, or to be accurate, the village in city, do not only just make a living, but they enjoy life! For example, the porch is covered with fur, like a bear, as a shelter. The yard is decorated in a mixed Chinese and Greek style. In areas with narrow roads and high buildings, there are bridges connecting the two sides. (see Fig.2) These elements actually provide us with great inspiration in design for the optimum utilization of space, especially vertical space.

Fig 2

2) Dafen Village in Shenzhen: Cultural dynamic in economy

Dafen Village is revitalized to be an art village specializing in oil paintings, including replicated and original ones. After over 30 years of development, the village has become a haven for poor and young artists, where they can earn money, learn from others, and try out new ideas (see Fig.3). The success of Dafen Art Village shows the possibility of revitalizing slums as a dynamic economic center. Often, slums start their own community-based economy with art because the atmosphere of slums often attract people who are artistic and sensitive to the creativity in life.

Fig 3

Looking Ahead—Expectations for ELP in the future

I was very honored to be one of the 8 university students in ELP-2014, and all of us found it really helpful and provoking. Courses about various fields and communication with global leaders definitely broadened our horizons and I am sure that they will have a long-lasting impact on our future studies and work. Leadership is not only for so-called leaders, but also for all people, especially young people with a passion to make a difference in this world. In this way, I really hope there will be more and more young university students joining the ELP. I also believe giving them a chance to design some aspect of the curriculum in the ELP and enabling them to investigate environmental issues during the program will be useful. I think students can experience how to balance creativity and reality in the process of self-organizing, and that balance, in fact, is what all leaders should obtain.

A Train to Paris: Liability and Compensation Concerns for the 2015 Climate Agreement

by M. Hafijul Islam Khan (ELP 2011), Bangladesh and Ms. Sharaban T. Zaman working with Centre for Climate Justice-Bangladesh (CCJ-B) and involved with climate negotiations

khan1In response to growing concerns about climate change, the global community adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992. The Kyoto Protocol (KP) was adopted five years later in 1997 at the third Conference of the Parties (COP 3), with legal commitments for mitigation and an agreement for a five-year commitment period from 2008 to 2012 to meet the mitigation commitments. Negotiations for a second commitment period of the KP ended in 2012 with an agreement for an eight-year commitment period which is rife with political and legal challenges. On the other hand, the Bali Action Plan (BAP) adopted at COP 13 in 2007, ended without any agreed outcomes. However, it influenced the launch of a new process at COP 17 to negotiate a new agreement to be adopted at COP 21 in 2015 in Paris.

The road to Paris is quickly coming to an end with upcoming mandates to adopt an agreement by December 2015. The agreement may be adopted in various forms including a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force. In the absence of a predetermined specific legal form of the proposed agreement, parties of UNFCCC agreed on a draft text at COP 20 in Lima in 2014. The draft will be negotiated further throughout the year and an agreement will be made in December 2015 in Paris. This article particularly examines the negotiating text related to loss and damage associated with climate impacts and looks at the liability and compensation tension for the 2015 agreement.

The midnight negotiation of an extended day at the COP 20, with the collaborative efforts of Least Development Countries (LDCs), Association of Small Island Countries (AOSIS) and the African Group made it possible to bring the issue of loss and damage into the preamble of the COP 20 decision. Throughout the discussions, several groups proposed that adaptation by itself and loss and damage related to climate change should be two separate streams for negotiation, highlighting the limits of adaptation. However, others, particularly developed countries, pushed to incorporate adaptation as a negotiation stream without loss and damage in reference to the decision of COP 17. At the end, the Lima negotiating text incorporated two paragraphs on loss and damage within the Element Number E for adaptation and loss and damages (loss and damage is within brackets), and a number of proposals from different countries are included thereby.

A number of opinions and positions emerged from these different proposals of the Lima text, such as: mitigation and adaptation will not be sufficient to address all losses and damages and hence there is a need for a separate stream for loss and damage; need for establishment of a compensation regime; reference to the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for loss and damage; reference to loss and damage is not necessary; WIM can serve under the new agreement with additional modalities that should be agreed upon; no institutional arrangement necessary for loss and damage; and WIM to be strengthened separately from the agreement.

The Lima negotiating text was further discussed in Geneva in February 2015 and Parties of the UNFCCC provided new proposals, including additional views on loss and damage along with other elements of the text. In the Geneva text, an introductory paragraph was proposed to acknowledge that loss and damage is the result of inadequate mitigation and adaptation. This provided arguments supporting the need of a separate financial stream for loss and damage beyond adaptation. More controversially, proposals were made to establish a compensation regime by the governing body of new agreement or by the WIM, or to establish a financial technical panel under WIM. Another suggestion was for an additional international mechanism to address loss and damage specifically, which would be defined under a new protocol and would also be subject to authority and guidance of a governing body under the new protocol. There are three main challenges involved with negotiating loss and damage in the new agreement: establishing a separate stream for loss and damage beyond adaptation, establishing a compensation regime, and anchoring the WIM into a new agreement with modalities and procedures for further development.

Lima text discussion in Geneva session. Photo Credit - Sharaban T. Zaman

Lima text discussion in Geneva session. Photo Credit – Sharaban T. Zaman

Recognizing loss and damage with the compensation and liability approach in the new agreement is primarily important for developing countries. However developed countries have been clear in their disassociation with the item of loss and damage, which pertains to compensation and liability. It’s worth mentioning that an effort to establish a compensation approach to climate policy was taken by AOSIS prior to the adoption of the UNFCCC and this was not incorporated into the UNFCCC adopted in 1992. However, the negotiation for a new climate agreement to be adopted in Paris provides an opportunity to advance the issue of loss and damage as a third pillar of the climate regime through establishing a liability and compensation mechanism. So, the authors, who are involved with climate negotiations as a core team member of LDCs climate negotiator group and with an observer status with the Legal Response Initiative (LRI), an NGO based in UK respectively, suggest building a common position within the G-77 and China negotiation block in order to successfully establish a liability and compensation regime in the Paris Agreement.

Moreover, coordinated efforts, particularly from LDCs, AOSIS and other vulnerable states such as African countries are needed throughout the year to articulate their proposals regarding a compensation regime in the negotiating text, particularly in upcoming negotiating sessions. The train carrying the negotiation text of the Paris Agreement, stopped in Geneva in February, and is now moving towards the Bonn session to be held in June. The modified text from June session will move to upcoming August and October sessions accordingly, and finally it will reach to Paris in December of 2015. The liability and compensation approach for loss and damage is a crucial issue for the 2015 climate agreement. LDCs, AOSIS and the African countries need to start their coordinated journey towards Paris for establishing a compensation regime for loss and damage.

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