Beahrs ELP Blog

Just Transitions

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,

Forget Me Not

by Sheelasheena Damian, Malaysia, ELP 2015
Written on August 17, 2015.

Damian, Sheelasheen - Blog PhotoI 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.

Flexibility options for higher integration of renewable energy- the role of residential demand side management

by Ioana Bejan, Romania (in Denmark), ELP 2015
Written on July 21, 2015.

Renewable energy sources continue to expand their shares globally. Yet 80% of total energy consumption still comes from fossil fuel combustion (IEA, 2015). Advances in technology make the road to a low carbon economy shorter, but many challenges need to be addressed in order to make this transition fast and safe.

To maintain power grid stability, supply has to be able to meet demand at any time. With the integration of higher shares of intermittent renewable energy sources, supply becomes less reliable and thus poses significant challenges to grid operators. The figure below shows the frequency distribution of hourly ramps in wind and solar power generation in Germany as a share of installed capacity. It is easy to understand that higher installed capacity of intermittent renewable energy sources, especially solar, leads to more frequent high ramp events.

Figure 1: Frequency distribution of hourly ramps of wind and solar power generation in Germany

Fig 1.1 PV

Fig 1.1 PV

Fig 1.2 Wind

Fig 1.2 Wind








Source: M. Huber, D. Dimkova and T. Hamacher, 2014

The traditional way to ensure grid stability in such events was to hold conventional plants on stand-by (such as OCGT plants) or spinning reserves. However, there are cheaper and more “environmentally friendly” solutions that provide flexibility. One of them is making demand more flexible.

For DSM program design to be effective, understanding consumer behavior is critical. Especially for price-based programs such as real time pricing for residential consumers, pilot projects implemented by power utilities help understand consumer response and identify the most responsive segments of the population.

I believe that every country that recognizes the threats of climate change and is serious about decarbonizing their electricity systems should provide targeted incentives for demand side management. Power utilities should be encouraged to engage in pricing experiments and induce wider adoption of smart meters among consumers.


Matthias Huber, Desislava Dimkova, Thomas Hamacher, Integration of wind and solar power in Europe: Assessment of flexibility requirements, Energy, Volume 69, 1 May 2014, Pages 236-246, ISSN 0360-5442,

The Typical Way to Accelerate the Rural Development in China & Reflections on How to Be a Leader

by Zhe Sun, China, ELP 2015
Written on July 10, 2015.

On July 6th, I attended the lecture addressed by Kihwan Kim, which was very fantastic and thus impressed me a lot. The most unforgettable part of his presentation was the background music he used to assist his expression of commiseration to those miserable kids who survived the war, and aroused my sympathy instantly.

Figure 1. Kihwan Kim’s lecture on SMU in Korea

Figure 1. Kihwan Kim’s lecture on SMU in Korea

At the beginning, I need to make a brief summary about Kim’s lecture. Major reasons for the rising of Korea is their transplantation of the Saemaul Undong (SMU), a movement originated in Africa. SMU advocated a Community Business Model and Capacity Building Program which appealed women to be involved in Korean rural areas. By means of the movement, the economic situation and construction quality improved more rapidly than the pace of ever-increasing demand of the population, especially in the rural regions. That evolutionary trend eventually led to the prosperity of Korea, and changed it into a developed country. A successful country will never abandon the undeveloped district forever.

As for the workshop in that class, I was assigned to participate in the group discussion on systematic monitoring and evaluation of the rural rising. At last, my group came to a common conclusion that we need to supplement bureaucracy to realize the efficiency of rural management. We were supposed to set a chief minister who can either be a position or an organization of which the function is to conduct macro-control and to adjudicate all the proposals supremely. Then we expected to set a series of directors in a secondary place whose target is to specify the order and demand given by the superior officers and assign tasks to the inferiors. In that case, we also suggested that coordinators should be set to make sure the instructions from above be carried out successfully. In this circumstance, government monitoring can be achieved effectively by stepwise commands, and evaluations can be finished accurately and timely due to the progressive feedback.

Figure 2. Kihwan Kim’s lecture on current rural constructions in Korea

Figure 2. Kihwan Kim’s lecture on current rural constructions in Korea

In China, the only way to settle the rural problems is Rustication, a special program that demands the graduates to go downtown and to the countryside for work, usually voluntarily for at least two years, and then they can be sent back to the urban area to get new work, maybe in a higher position and salary, according to the contribution they have made during the process of countryside volunteering work. To use the conclusion obtained in our workshop for further analysis, I think that the monitoring and evaluation systems that China’s national government is using now run efficiently and smoothly. The volunteer graduates are getting senior because of the experiences accumulating with the time going by, so senior graduates will be sent to administrate larger areas while juniors take charge of smaller areas. Local government staff can supervise their jurisdictions and report to the superiors, and so forth. Under such circumstances, information can be collected exhaustively from each small region units, and finally achieve the monitoring effect. As for the evaluation system, nowadays we have constructed adequate signal stations in the countryside, so it is possible for us to use the Internet for feedback collecting. But the challenge is that we cannot make sure that every family has Internet access. So it is the graduates’ work to hold regular meetings for the neighborhood committees in order to learn whether the current policy is useful or not. Feedback information will thus be collected separately and combined and submitted to the higher hierarchies to the central authority. So, in those off-Internet regions, volunteer graduates act as communication and feedback media.

Figure 3. Part of our discussion results on monitoring & evaluation of rural areas

Figure 3. Part of our discussion results on monitoring & evaluation of rural areas

Another remarkable lecture that week was the Collaborative Leadership for Sustainable Changes given by Professor Susan Carpenter on July 8th. Susan focused on the exploration of characteristics which an excellent leader should have, and divided all the participants into four groups with different personality traits through the world-wide famous test named the Keirsey temperament sorter.

Figure 4. Susan Carpenter’s lecture on the basic characters of leaders

Figure 4. Susan Carpenter’s lecture on the basic characters of leaders

There is always more than one way to succeed, just as the fact that great leaders can also have various characteristics. Though people with different inborn temperaments can be cultivated into good leaders in several styles, we still cannot deny the fact that people with some certain characters like cooperativeness, communicability and logic are more inclined to be leaders in many situations. As for me, I got “INTJ” finally through the interesting test, which found me to be a rational.

I have been studying chemistry and mathematics, so it was not so surprising to get the result. I hope to be a professional in my field and be recognized by others on my research projects. That is also to say I would be annoyed if my work, to which I devoted much effort, time and energy, was rejected by others. So, at many times I would like to work alone, including studying and experimenting. I know that is a negative for me if I want to be a leader, although I have close logic and diligent attitude towards my tasks. On that condition, I need to learn from those who are outgoing and extroverted because they are more charismatic and own plenty of skills for communicating with others, including expressing their opinions and making others understand. In addition, cooperation with them is another feasible choice for me to harvest more. According to the fact, I should learn to be a better eclectic listener in order to accept proposals and trenchant advice.

Figure 5. Part of our discussion results on three questions

Figure 5. Part of our discussion results on three questions

In a nutshell, I have to admit the fact that everyone with different temperaments each has his or her unique advantages and disadvantages. The optimal way to achieve a goal is just to learn from and complement each other.

ELP 2015, the beginning of my story and vision for sustainable Environmental change in Africa and the world

by Binta Iliyasu, Nigeria, ELP 2015
Written on July 17, 2015.

As a 2014 Fellow of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), I set out from Nigeria feeling extremely lucky to participate in the 2015 Environment Leadership Program on “Sustainable Environmental Management” during its 15th year anniversary! I came with great expectations to learn and also interact with renowned professors and faculty members and fellow participants and in addition, develop partnership and collaboration.

My story began from Northern Nigeria where I was born. This is a part of the world where women are denied the opportunity for education. I was lucky. My parents were enlightened about the importance of education by the missionaries. Therefore, they risked sending me and other girls to school. At the age of nine, I was selected to write an entrance examination to a boarding primary school when some women from my community who knew I might succeed tried to discourage me. They advised me to write the wrong answers in order to fail and be denied education. I ignored them and did the right thing. The heads of the institutions I attended encouraged me as I persevered, giving me the push in the right direction.

I secured admission into the university immediately after my secondary school, but social pressures emerged again. My parents were persuaded to get me married. Among all my suitors, the man who would become my husband was the only one willing to allow me to further my education after marriage, even though he was advised against it. Today, I stand before you as a biochemist, the best overall student at my graduation! I am the first female university graduate from my community of hundreds of households. At present, I am a Principal Research Officer with the Nigerian Institute for Trypansomiasis Research and also a 2014 Fellow of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development. I am committed to improve the livelihoods of rural sub-Saharan African smallholder farming communities by addressing our greatest challenges.

African trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness in humans and ‘nagana/sammore in animals, remains one of the greatest constraints to agricultural development in the region. The tsetse fly vector of the disease inhabits fertile areas, causing farmers to migrate, abandoning their land. Global warming and the political crisis in the region only worsens the situation so the disease now exists in areas known to be free. Chemotherapy, which is the main control option, is weak and unsatisfactory. I am exploring the difference between the parasite and mammalian host as potential target for DNA vaccine. I want to prove that women can make a big difference in improving the lives of our people. In doing so, I hope to become a role model to the women in my community.

My expectations were met. The three-week learning experience was great and rewarding. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about a wide range of topics suitable for interdisciplinary learning, networking, collaboration, conflict resolution and negotiation. I had special coaching on communication and in building “My story,” resulting in the creation of my vision to reach out to the women from my community who are still not as lucky as I am – educated.

It is obvious, and there is no controversy; education is the path away from poverty and other environmental problems and the doorway to sustainable livelihood. The ability to make the right decisions in life hinges on empowerment through education. I therefore envision Africa to rise up to the current challenges of food insecurity, poverty, maternal and child ill health, gender inequality, and socio economic under development through the provision of quality education to all – men and women alike. Education should be embraced and integrated well into the culture. My vision for Africa and the world is the phasing out of restrictions on education by ensuring gender equality.

To the world, I am saying:
No to gender discrimination!
Yes to quality education!

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