Leaves 18(1) January 2016

LEAVES

Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 18, Number 1 --- 15 January 2016


                                       

 

Website: iefworld.org
Article submission: newsletter@iefworld.org Deadline next issue 13 February 2016
Secretariat Email: ief@iefworld.org General Secretary Emily Firth
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland

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From the Editor, Request for information for upcoming newsletters

This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on environment, climate change and sustainability. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to newsletter@iefworld.org.

Please share the Leaves newsletter and IEF membership information with family, friends and associates, and encourage interested persons to consider becoming a member of the IEF.

 

Next IEF Conference in Bolivia

The IEF Governing Board has initiated planning for the 20th IEF Annual Conference to be held in October 2016 at Nur University in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, probably around 8-9 October, to allow those who are able to participate in the dedication of the Baha'i House of Worship in Santiago, Chile, on 13-16 October to continue on to Chile. Since participation at the dedication from around the world will be limited, we are announcing this early so that anyone hoping to combine the two events can make plans accordingly. This would also allow linking the IEF Conference to preparations for Habitat III (https://www.habitat3.org/the-new-urban-agenda) which will take place in Quito Ecuador from 16-23 October.

The board has long had a policy of holding IEF conferences on different continents in order to build its global membership and to permit members from different regions to participate in IEF activities and to contribute to public discourses on themes relevant to their regions. Members who have suggestions for topics and activities to be included in the next Conference are encouraged to contact the board at ief@iefworld.org. Members planning to attend the IEF conference in Bolivia should also advise the board of their intention so that this can be included in the planning. More details will be announced as planning goes ahead.

 

Planning future research

Three IEF board members were among eight researchers from Norway and the Netherlands to New Zealand who met at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, on 19-21 December to consult on future interdisciplinary research strategies inspired by the Baha'i teachings. They represented a range of fields from sustainability and environmental science to philosophy, education, governance, political science, international law and science methodologies. They discussed future directions for the work that IEF has been associated with on values-based education and indicators, governance and accountability, and involvement in international processes, among other subjects. The IEF participants were Victoria Thoresen, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen and Arthur Dahl.

 

Rapid follow-up to COP21 in the UK

Alessia Freddo, one of the IEF members who participated in the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in December, has already organized two follow-up public events in the United Kingdom on 15 January and 9 February in collaboration with the Baha'i Communities in Chippenham and Portishead. She will give a presentation around the recent statement of the Bahà'í International Community on "Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing our global future together” (see the December Leaves newsletter) and share the contents of the talks given by IEF during COP21. After the presentation, the people attending will be invited to create small groups where they will consult on selected quotations.

 

APRE NGO activities in the Congo

from Kadima Mpoyi Long'sha

The NGO Action for the Protection and the Reorganization of the Environment (APRE) in the Democratic Republic of Congo joined in the celebration of the world day of the tree on 5 December 2015, when the RLCC (in English NFCC: Network to fight climate change) organized a series of talks and planted some seedlings. APRE distributed to the participants and the public of the town of Kananga a brochure on the importance of trees.

Also on 21-22 December, the University Notre Dame du Kasai (UKA) organized, in collaboration with the UNESCO network of the University of Bergamo and the Association Vittorino Chizzolini international-ONLUS, a scientific seminar on "Human rights and good governance in Democratic Republic of Congo". This seminar on the campus of the UKA in Kananga involved teachers of various higher institutions and universities of the city, third year students of the UKA Faculty of Law, representatives of civil society and public servants. The eight speakers included IEF member and APRE coordinator of the dialogue with civil society, Mr. Kadima Mpoyi Long'sha, who spoke on "Challenges and perspectives of COP 21". He defined some concepts of climatic change and summarized the Paris Agreement, before discussing the challenges and opportunities for the province of central Kasaï from this agreement. This stimulated a debate on climate change and the insufficiency of information locally on the topic, leading to a recommendation for civil society to sensitize the local population on the implications of the climate crisis. He announced his next publication entitled: "Global Warming, we are more than concerned" to show that Africa, in particular the RDC, risks becoming the dustbin of the remainder of humanity as second-hand goods from high-consumption countries invade the African market.

 

New Compilation on the Transition to a New World Order

IEF member Gary Coliver has prepared a compilation on "Transition to a New World Order: The Role of Bahá’ís in Responding to Chaos, Confusion, and Calamity in Today’s World", which has been added to the compilations from the Baha'i writings on the IEF web site with the assistance of Christine Muller in formatting it for the web. It can be accessed at https://iefworld.org/cmptransition.

 

Wilmette Institute online course Climate Change starts March 1st

The 8-week course on Climate Change covers the basic science of climate change and provides an understanding of how climate disruption impacts us today and will continue to affect us in the future. We will explore ethical questions related to climate change and address them in the context of the spiritual teachings of the world’s religions, especially those of the Baha’i Faith. Some readings will help us make enlightened decisions for our personal and community lives that are consistent with our spiritual and ethical values. For those interested in a more thorough study of climate change and its spiritual dimensions or who are interested in specific aspects of it, the course offers numerous optional resources. The course is interfaith in tone and people all of all religious backgrounds are welcome to participate.

For more information and to register, go here: http://www.cvent.com/events/climate-change/event-summary-08ab43e8614241…

 

Wilmette Institute course Sustainable Development Goals and Spiritual Development:
How You Can Help

http://wilmetteinstitute.org/sustainable-development-goals-and-spiritua…

by Christine Muller

In September-November 2015, the Wilmette Institute offered the course Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind. It was full with 43 learners and 5 faculty from 5 continents: Australia, Laos, Malawi, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zambia. The course distinguished itself by a high level of meaningful discussions that continued throughout the grace period and even beyond. What was the reason for all that enthusiasm?

The course started with the study of the SDGs. Are you kidding? You don’t know what the SDGs are? The abbreviation stands for Sustainable Development Goals.

At the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit held in New York, 25-27 September 2015, world leaders adopted the following 17 goals for sustainable development and committed to achieving them by 2030:

1. Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
2. Food: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
3. Health: Ensure healthy lives, and promote well-being for all at all ages.
4. Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.
5. Women: Achieve gender equality, and empower all women and girls.
6. Water: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
7. Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.
8. Economy: Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
9. Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation.
10. Inequality: Reduce inequality within and among countries.
11. Habitation: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
12. Consumption: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
13. Climate: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
14. Marine Systems: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.
15. Ecosystems: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems; sustainably manage forests; combat desertification; halt and reverse land degradation; and halt biodiversity loss.
16. Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; provide access to justice for all; and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
17. Sustainability: Strengthen the means of implementation, and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development (in Finance, Technology, Capacity-Building, Trade, and Systemic Issues, including policy and institutional coherence, multi-stakeholder partnerships, and data, monitoring and accountability.

The 17 sustainable development goals shine with a bright light in a world over-shadowed by dark problems — and are reason enough for most people to get excited. For the participants in the Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind course, the enthusiasm stemmed especially from the realization that the SDGs are a practical expression of Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for a new world order. For those of you reading this article, you have probably found yourselves thinking about the spiritual and ethical principles underlying these goals.

The goals encompass the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, each of which was covered in units of the course. Learners discovered that all three dimensions are inextricably interrelated. Learner Christine Boyett put it this way: "One of the foundations of the sustainable development agenda is the acknowledgement that economic, social, and environmental aspects of development are linked, and that you cannot solve one without an holistic approach to solve all three."

Another learner, who requested that we not use her name, wrote this: "It seems to me that the economic, social, and environmental dimensions are mingled and intertwine as a complete system. We have, according to my interpretation of our [course] readings, a system that has an overemphasis placed on the economic dimension. Therefore, problems have accrued to the social and environmental dimensions because of the lack of balance. We are wanting to set the policy for a fully integrated system. The relative weakness of the social and environmental dimensions are threatening a system collapse through breakdown of the economy."

Eight learners participated in a class project the purpose of which was to come up with a list of practical actions that they have taken or will take in their own lives to contribute to the achievement of some of the sustainable development goals. The further challenge was to see whether all of the learners together would be able to cover all 17 goals in one way or another. Each participant reported how they began and are continuing or intensifying their efforts on one or more of the sustainable development goals.

The eight participants reported a total of 27 actions (including a few planned actions). These actions directly covered 15 of the 17 SDGs. Some of the goals are tricky to address as individuals, but, as all the goals and the learners’ actions and goals are strongly interconnected, we can honestly say that all SDGs were covered, a few more indirectly than others.

The learners addressed many goals in multiple ways. There was a tie, with 7 actions for each, between goals No. 13 (“Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”) and No. 15 (“Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems; sustainably manage forests; combat desertification; halt and reverse land degradation; and halt biodiversity loss”).

Many actions counted toward more than one goal. Can you guess which single action addressed the most goals? Review the 17 goals above, and think about what action might get the most mileage.

One participant shared this action: “My husband and I have decided to become vegans.” This single action alone covered eight different SDGs. Here is how: Eating fewer animal products promotes “healthy lives” and “well-being for all” (Goal No. 3). It contributes to “sustainable consumption and production patterns” (Goal No. 12) as well as to the conservation and sustainable use of “the oceans, seas, and marine resources” (Goal No. 14). It especially contributes to ensuring “availability and sustainable management of water (Goal No. 6) because the production of “a 1/3 pound burger requires 660 gallons of water” (http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-gallons-of-water-to-make-a-…).

In addition, reducing meat consumption contributes greatly to Goal No. 15: “Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems; sustainably manage forests; combat desertification; and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss” — because, among other reasons, nourishing people with beef requires ten times more land area (and with chicken, three times more) than that needed for a grain diet. As greenhouse gas emissions of livestock are an enormous factor in heating up the planet, eating less or no meat contributes significantly to Goal No. 13: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” In its broad impact, cutting down on meat consumption also helps to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition; and promote sustainable agriculture (Goal No. 2) and to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere” (Goal No. 1).

As one might expect, the topic of diet developed into a passionate discussion in the forum discussions in the course on Sustainable Development. Participants pointed out other aspects of this issue. For example, livestock is needed for their manure because chemical fertilizers are based on fossil fuels that, as we now know, must be quickly phased out. Moreover, many people depend on animal protein because of the geographical area in which they are living and because of various other factors. Everyone agreed, though, that global consumption of animal products, especially beef, must be significantly reduced and that factory farms must be abandoned as they are cruel to animals and are extremely harmful to human health and to the environment. Eating lower on the food chain is also in line with the teachings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who said that in the future humans will get their nourishment from a vegetarian diet.

There are other areas where the Bahá’í teachings are supportive of, or even a prerequisite to, sustainable development. One participant wrote “To be content with little, to take only what we need from this planet, should be our motto.” Another learner provided a practical example: “Wear clothing, and use products to their ultimate point, and recycle items by continuing to take them to Habitat Restore and Goodwill.” The connection to the words of Bahá’u’lláh addressed to the “true seeker” is clear: He or she “should . . . be content with little, and be freed from all inordinate desire” (The Kitáb-i-Íqán 214: 178–79). In another passage Bahá’u’lláh writes: “Fear ye God, and take heed not to outstrip the bounds of moderation, and be numbered among the extravagant” (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh 118: 251).

Aside from generalizations about the nature of the actions that the learners in the Sustainable Development course reported, here is a list of the wide variety of actions or changes in life-styles:

In the area of energy, some learners offered these actions:
• Explore solar energy.
• Continue, and renew the Green Energy option currently being offered by the local electric utility. This action means that one’s share of the electricity used comes from 100 percent wind sources.
• Reduce use of fossil fuels for heating by better insulating windows, doors, walls, and floors in buildings.

In the area of transportation, learners came up with these actions:
• Walk, whenever possible, to do shopping and attend local functions.
• Support local public transportation, and encourage policies that would expand and improve public transportation services in the region.

In the area of sustainable agriculture, gardening, and land management, the students were especially interested. The following list is a selection of the many activities offered:
• Support community gardening and home-gardening activities.
• Use organic methods for lawn care and for community and home gardens, and promote permaculture.
• Plant hundreds of live oak trees and palms, and continue to enrich pastures naturally without synthetic products.
• Investigate fish farming that will provide a reliable food source for local and regional communities.
• Support, and, if time allows, volunteer at a local organic urban farm.

In the area of education about sustainable development, learners expressed dedication in the following ways:
• Make a presentation at their local Bahá’í center to explain to their cluster the meaning and significance of sustainable development.
• Create a presentation about sustainability to offer to faith groups and/or Bahá’í communities.
• Plan a devotional meeting around the subject of sustainability.
• Host a study class on sustainability.

It is not practical to list all the actions that participants in the Sustainable Development course are taking, but the actions above illustrate that living sustainably does not require a major project or event and often does not take a lot of time. We can integrate sustainable development into our daily lives, sometimes into our professional lives, certainly into our community lives, and into Bahá’í core activities.

Are you inspired to follow the lead of the learners in the course on Sustainable Development and the Prosperity of Humankind? What actions can you add to the lists above? We would love to hear from you. Consider the challenge this way: Spiritual development can be expressed in more mindful consumption and sustainable practices. The act of service in such expressions contributes to further spiritual growth.

Clearly, what is good for society and the environment is also conducive to the well-being of the individual and his or her spiritual development. Sustainable development truly means that all of us, according to Bahá’u’lláh must be part of carrying “forward an ever-advancing civilization” (Gleanings 109: 215).

For more from UNDP on the Sustainable Development Goals, see http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sdgoverview/post-2015-developm…

 

Bahá’í Contributions to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference

http://wilmetteinstitute.org/bahai-contributions-to-the-2015-paris-clim…
by Robert Stockman

Television and print coverage, local and national, of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change held in Paris from 30 November through 12 December 2015, was spotty, depending on where you live. At the conference, representatives of the 196 parties attending negotiated a global agreement on the reduction of climate change. Now that publicity about the Climate Conference has died down, you may be wondering, “Did the worldwide Bahá’í community participate and, if so, how did it participate and what contributions did it make?” The answer to the questions is “Yes,” “Yes,” and “Yes.” Here are four perspectives that highlight the nature and depth of the Bahá’í contributions.

Bahá’í International Community (BIC) Document. You may want to start with the Bahá’í International Community’s document submitted to the UN Climate Change Conference: Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together (https://www.bic.org/statements/shared-vision-shared-volition-choosing-o…). Since 1947 the BIC has been contributing to major discourses in the areas of human rights, gender equality, social and sustainable development, youth, religion in society, and the situation of the Bahá’ís in Iran. As in all of BIC’s statements, you will find that the Bahá’í perspective is brought to bear on the topic of climate change. (For French speakers, there is a French translation of the document: Vision commune, volonté commune : Ensemble choisissons le futur de notre monde, https://www.bic.org/statements/vision-commune-volonte-commune-ensemble-….)

BIC Press Release and Video. After the conclusion of the Paris Climate Change Conference, the Bahá’í International Community sent out a press release summarizing the highlights of the conference and the events in which it and the Bahá’í-inspired International Environment Forum had collaborated (https://www.bic.org/news/paris-climate-change-conference-movement-towar…). Be sure to look at the photographs in the release.

The BIC press release includes a video of the Bahá’í delegation to the Paris Climate Conference (the 5:26 minute video is the last visual in the release). Seven of the Bahá’í delegates (a mix of women and men) are interviewed in the video: Peter Adriance, representative for sustainable development in the U.S. Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs; Serik Tokbolat, representative of the BIC’s UN Office; Dr. Mojgan Sami, from the University of California, Irvine, Program in Public Health; Professor Victoria Thoresen, Hedmark University College, Norway and UNESCO Chair for Education about Sustainable Lifestyles; Dr. Arthur Lyon Dahl, President of the International Environment Forum and retired deputy assistant executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); Dr. Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Assistant Professor, Wageningen University, The Netherlands; and Janot Mendler de Suarez, Visiting Research Fellow, Boston University, Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. You will want to hear the different perspectives on climate change offered by the Bahá’í delegates.

International Environment Forum’s December Newsletter. For a detailed account of the two-week Climate Change Conference in Paris, see Leaves, the electronic newsletter of the International Environment Forum at https://iefworld.org/newslt78. The newsletter provides coverage from beginning to end; much of the report captures the feeling of the conference in first-person coverage. The report is illustrated with many photographs. Anyone interested in the environment and climate change will want to make a monthly trip to the IEF website to check out the newsletter https://iefworld.org/newslt.htm.

A Non-Bahá’í’s Blog on the Bahá’í Involvement at the Paris Conference. Finally, click on https://wclsdlp.wordpress.com/tag/bahai/ to read “The Baha’i Pave the Way for Religious Communities of Practice in Response to Climate Change Disasters” posted on the blog entitled Sustainable Development Law & Policy: Exploring How Today’s Development Affects Future Generations Around the Globe. The article was written by Kelly Carlson, Senior Contributor on UNFCCC [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] Party Actions to Address Climate Change after the Bahá’í International Community’s presentation on “Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together” at the Paris Conference. Carlson wrote in her blog: “In terms of framing responses to natural disasters from a social change perspective, the Baha’i community offer[s] valuable teachings other communities can benefit from and model their response plans after when natural disasters spawned by climate change occur.”

 

Paris climate change conference, movement towards global unity

https://www.bic.org/news/paris-climate-change-conference-movement-towar…

Baha'i International Community, PARIS — 14 December 2015

The outcome of last week’s UN Conference on Climate Change, known as COP21, which resulted in an accord signed by 196 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reflects a significant step towards greater unity and cooperation among nations as the world learns to face major global challenges, says the Baha’i International Community (BIC).

“From the perspective of unity in action, the Paris conference must be considered a success,” said Serik Tokbolat, a representative of the BIC to the United Nations. “While some have suggested the final document falls short of what is really needed to prevent major effects from climate change, the world has proven its ability to come together at the global level and to consult deeply about its future.”

Mr. Tokbolat represented the BIC as part of a Baha’i delegation to the conference, which brought together thousands of representatives of government, business and civil society.

“Our focus, in our activities, discussions and statements, was to call attention to the need for individuals, communities, and institutions everywhere to develop new patterns of action and interaction that can help humanity collectively take a more balanced attitude toward the environment.

“Humanity can take steps to prevent the negative effects of climate change and improve its relationship with the planet if it acts with vision and volition,” he said.

The main contribution of the Baha’i International Community to COP21, he said, took the form of an official statement, titled “Shared Vision, Shared Volition: Choosing Our Global Future Together.”

Among other things, the document explains that “sustainable patterns of individual and collective life will ... require not only new technologies, but also a new consciousness in human beings, including a new conception of ourselves and our place in the world.”

The International Environment Forum (IEF), a Baha’i-inspired organization, also participated in the event. The BIC and the IEF organized, co-sponsored, or participated in a number of side events to COP21. These included:

1) “Community resilience in the face of climate-driven extreme events, a Vanuatu case study.” Held 5 December in the Climate Generations area, and sponsored by the IEF, the event explored the tools used by Baha'is for building social cohesion at the rural village level, and more broadly in communities and neighborhoods that are often vulnerable to extreme climate events. The event featured a video showing the response of the Baha’i community and others in Tanna, Vanuatu, after Cyclone Pam in 2015.

“Central to Baha’i efforts is the conviction that, important as raising consciousness and awareness is, movement toward true sustainability will require development in the capacity to act ethically, effectively, and collectively,” said Mr. Tokbolat, speaking at the side event. “Baha’is are therefore seeking to build foresight, wisdom, and a capacity for moral choices that favor collective well-being over self-interest, in growing numbers of individuals, communities, and institutions of society.”

2) “Examination of How Nations Have and Should Consider Equity and Justice in Setting INDCs.” Held 5 December in the main conference area, the event examined how nations have and should set INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) on the basis of justice. It was organized by the Baha'is of the United States, the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium, Unitarian Universalist Association, and Widener University.

Peter Adriance, a representative of the Baha'is of the United States to COP21, talked about the role of faith communities in the climate change negotiations and the importance of action based on ethical and spiritual values, stressing that “we are a single people on a single planet.”

The IEF also organized or participated in other side events, including events on “Principles for accountability for climate change agreements,” “Values-based climate change education,” and “Accountability after Paris.”

Arthur Dahl, president of the IEF, said their events “sought to broaden the discussion of climate change beyond the science and technological solutions to include the values-based social transformation that will be fundamental to implementing the Paris Agreement.

“It supported this with practical examples of the learning in Baha'i communities, as in Vanuatu and Malaysia after natural disasters, and in Baha'i-inspired courses on climate change, as well as in research on values-based learning to motivate sustainable lifestyles and on mechanisms of accountability in international governance,” said Dr. Dahl, who is a retired deputy assistant executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

 

The Digital Divide: a challenge to overcome in tackling climate change

https://blogs.worldbank.org/climatechange/digital-divide-challenge-over…

Try to imagine a world without the Internet.

Impossible, isn’t it?

Over the past 25 years, the Internet has become the nervous system of our society, interconnecting all the different parts of our everyday lives. Our social interactions, ways of doing business, traveling and countless other activities are supported and governed by this technology.

At this very moment, just over three billion people are connected to the Internet, 105 billion emails are being sent, two million blog posts have just been written (including this one) and YouTube has collected four billion views. These numbers give you a glimpse of the extent to which humanity is intimately and deeply dependent on this technology.

The digital revolution has changed the daily lives of billions of people. But what about the billions who have been left out of this technological revolution?

This and many other questions have been addressed in the just released 2016 World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends, which examines how the Internet can be a force for development, especially for poor people in developing countries.

A striking contradiction

In many developing countries, more families now own a mobile phone than have access to electricity or clean water. No major technology has reached more people in such a short time but, unfortunately, there’s still a significant digital divide between the poor and the wealthy parts of the global population when it comes to Internet access. Perhaps not surprising that the same digital divide has an impact on the ability of developing countries to deal with the impact of climate change.

According to our recently released Report, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, climate risk management requires data and knowledge. Connectivity is therefore a fundamental part of the equation for protecting poor people from climate change.

Making the difference on the ground

We already know that greater connectivity in vulnerable countries is crucial for ensuring access to information before, during and after a disaster. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery has developed a wide array of tools for disaster risk management (DRM), and they rely heavily on the Internet’s infinite capabilities.

The GFDRR’s Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) is helping countries to set up open disaster information platforms. Through the GFDRR’s risk identification efforts, like OpenDRI, over 160 million people in 60 countries have gained improved access to risk information, and 1300 new datasets are now freely available to the public. Digital technologies also allow us to use innovative approaches to disaster risk management such as crowdsourcing and social data mining, which can expand the information base rapidly and cheaply. These digital approaches can also facilitate closer collaboration between all parts of the government, enable fuller integration of public and private services, and allow greater involvement on the part of the public.

The Flood Tags project, for example, is developing a tool to harness data collected via Twitter for on-the-ground flood observations. Such mining of social data can give us a constant and up-to-the-minute understanding of the situation during a disaster, in a way that could not be done before. Connected open-source mobile weather stations can help reduce flood damage and increase community preparedness by collecting crucial weather data and broadcasting SMS-based communications to early warning systems.

As outlined in the Shock Waves Report, another great example of how connectivity can help poor people is financial inclusion. In most developing countries, poor people have less access to financial tools than the rest of the population, often forcing them to save “in kind.” Thanks to mobile banking, it is now possible to provide convenient and affordable financial services to those living in rural areas, reducing the vulnerability of poor families. And that matters. For instance, changes in rainfall patterns can mean farmers may have to adjust their practices or need to invest in new machinery and seeds, or possibly learn new techniques. Without access to credit, these measures may be unaffordable, and they could become locked into activities with declining productivity and income.

Moving ahead

As underlined in the World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends, more investments are needed if we are to boost our efforts to close the digital divide and make the Internet universal, affordable, open, and safe. Equally we know solving the “climate puzzle” will take a vast array of resources and forward-thinking solutions. The Internet is, without any doubt, the tool that will best allow us to connect, share information and gather collective intelligence in the years to come.

Download the 359 page PDF World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/…

 

Faith Climate Action Week in USA

Published: 7 January 2016

Interfaith Power and Light: A Religious Response to Global Warming http://www.interfaithpowerandlight.org/2016/01/faith-climate-action-wee…

The Faith Climate Action Week (formerly known as the Preach-In on Global Warming) will take place during Earth Week, 15-24 April 2016. Celebrations, sermons, service projects, events, and nature walks will be held, all week, around the signing of the landmark Paris Climate Accord in New York City at the United Nations.

In honor of the pledge we have made as a nation along with the rest of the world in Paris to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will be focusing on ways we can green our facilities and homes, take action locally, and advocate nationally for positive steps towards a sustainable, 100% renewable energy future. Join us for a whole week of Creation celebration and carbon-cutting activities.

Sign up to receive information and activities around this exciting event.

 

Viet Nam Dragon Fruit Orchards Bloom in New Light

A UNEP-GEF project is helping Vietnamese farmers to reduce their environmental impact and their electricity bills.

Thursday 31 December 2015 http://www.unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentID=26856&ArticleID=…

A farmer for more than three decades, 50-year-old Nguyen Minh Cam from Viet Nam's Binh Thuan province earns over 70 per cent of his annual income by cultivating dragon fruit on his two hectare plot.

This Southeast Asian delicacy requires the long daylight hours of summer to blossom and bear fruit. Many Vietnamese farmers rely on artificial lighting during the shorter days of the off season to ensure a year-round harvest and a year-round income.

Minh Cam's family, including his wife and three children who help on the farm, has seen its income increase after they switched to energy efficient lamps on the advice of the local district committee and the Dragon Fruit Research and Development Center in Binh Thuan. After replacing the incandescent bulbs on his farm with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), Minh Cam's electricity bill came down from about US$660-700 to US$177-220 per lighting session.

His farm is one of sixty dragon fruit plantations in Binh Thuan and Tien Giang provinces that are part of the "Phasing out Incandescent Lamps through Lighting Market Transformation in Vietnam" project, funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the UNEP Regional Office for Asia Pacific in partnership with the Vietnamese Institute of Strategy, Policy on Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Vietnam.

"The transformation of incandescent lamps to CFLs in growing dragon fruit will help farmers reduce production cost and save electricity, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation in Vietnam," said Dr Nguyen Trung Thang, Deputy Director General of the Department of Integrated Research at Viet Nam's Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment (ISPONRE).

Local agencies and district committees played a crucial role, addressing dragon fruit farmers' concerns over initial investment costs and the impact of the new lamps on the crop, the ISPONRE official said. With savings of up to US $485 per hectare, the number of dragon fruit farmers using CFLs has increased by 20 per cent. This change of attitude was shared by the nearly 14,000 families in seven provinces who participated in energy efficient household lighting demonstration projects. For example, in three communes of the Ha Tinh province, all household lighting was replaced with CFLs.

Participation in the project has also benefitted two of Viet Nam's largest lighting manufacturers who were able to improve product quality, heighten staff skills and introduce new technologies. Working with them and supported by a two-year-old ban on the import, production and sale of incandescent lamps with a capacity higher than 60 W, the project aims to transform the country's lighting products market, making it more energy-efficient and climate-friendly.

 

River Bend Nature Center Faribault MN USA

As our culture continues to shift from nature to the age of electronics, places that work to reconnect people to the natural world around them are becoming more and more essential. One of these places often referred to as a “hidden gem” within the community of Faribault in southeastern Minnesota (population 23,000) is called River Bend Nature Center. With their diverse programming, natural site, and enthusiastic staff, River Bend Nature Center is one of those places that you experience once and never forget.

River Bend Nature Center was the dream of a Faribault community member, Orwin Rustad. The project began as part of the Bicentennial Project within the Faribault community. After many years of work the first trails were started in 1978, and one year later this nature area containing 487 acres was officially named River Bend Nature Center, a name derived from the great bend in the straight river that falls within the nature center. After many more transitions and donations of land, River Bend accumulated the 743 acres is has today. The building on site serves as an interpretive center, visitor center, and a teaching or meeting space. There are 10 miles of multi-use trails including several miles of paved, handicap accessible trails. The trails are versatile enough to be used by bikers, skiers, hikers and even snowmobiles in certain areas. The land contains four diverse habitats including: forest, wetland/ponds, prairie, and riparian.

River Bend is an independent, membership supported, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. The generosity of River Bend's community, donors, and members are the main sustaining constituents of the organization. This small organization located right on the edge of the city of Faribault strives to help people discover, enjoy, and understand the incredible natural world that surrounds us. The mission of River Bend is implemented and carried out by a board of directors consisting of 10-15 members and a small staff of 8 people. With just that small number of people, River Bend Nature Center is able to reach 3000 youth and 2000 adults annually, and including trail users, the number of people reaches close to 10,000. River Bend is an active member of the community and is constantly growing and developing new programs to meet the needs of that community.

One of the amazing things about River Bend Nature Center is their close partnership with the schools in Faribault and the surrounding areas. Since the beginning of River Bend, a partnership with the Faribault Public Schools has existed where elementary students are provided with an outdoor learning experience. That partnership now encompasses all students in kindergarten through sixth grade and has each student visit at least twice a year. The focus with these students is enhancing their science benchmarks in a hands-on outdoor setting, reinforcing science while adding new experiences and building connections with the world around them. Some favorite programs of students include: "Humans are Animals Too" for kindergartners and "The Seeds of Life" for second graders. The impact River Bend Nature Center is making on its student visitors has lasting results as evident by River Bend's education coordinator, Amber Brossard. "My experience with River Bend started as a kindergartner visiting with my school and continued throughout elementary school. I came on field trips to River Bend just as the students do today" Brossard explains. "River Bend was always an amazing and exciting trip. I credit a large portion of my passion for environmental education to my exposure and inspiration in those field trips in elementary school."

Another opportunity offered to the youth of the community is summer camps. Multiple camps are running every week during the summer and are offered to ages three through sixteen. The camps for younger students focus on building relationships with nature and often involve things like chasing butterflies or learning how to properly hold a frog without harming it or letting it slip away. The camps for the older students consist of outdoor adventures. They learn to connect to nature in an exciting way by outdoor activities such as rock climbing, canoeing, or slack lining. "We have the best job imaginable. Practically every moment at River Bend we get to watch that spark for nature ignite in someone's eyes" says Kaytlan Moeller, education coordinator. "During summer camps we watch kids overcome fears, develop new hobbies, and build relationships with each other and with this amazing place. Those moments of inspiration and wonder are what keeps our small staff motivated and passionate". In the summer of 2016 River Bend is offering over 20 camps.

Connecting adults with nature often proves more difficult than connecting children; however, River Bend has many successful programs targeted specifically at adults. One of the more popular programs is called Older Wiser Livelier Seniors or O.W.L.S. This monthly luncheon program has a variety of topics varying from native bees to talks on the Pacific Crest Trail. Around 60 adults will attend an O.W.L.S talk each month. Another technique to reach more adults is partnering with other groups and organizations. For example River Bend has been teaching Master Naturalist courses through the University of Minnesota Extension office and has graduated over 40 adult learners, with most continuing to be involved with the program and with River Bend.

Being the largest green space in the community, River Bend strives to be a leader in environmental stewardship. To encourage more community involvement, they host several groups, such as The Restoration Club, which was formed by volunteers, meets monthly and has evolved from three members to fifteen in just a few meetings, and works to maintain River Bend's landscape. The impact that fifteen people can make on an area in a few hours is truly amazing. In the fall of 2015 River Bend staff and volunteers put in over 300 hours working towards restoration and promoting stewardship.

Having a presence in the community is essential for an organization like River Bend. You will find them at community events such as the Rice County fair, the International Festival, the Faribault Green Expo, and even judging science fairs at the local schools. Furthermore, River Bend offers a large community nature event every season, where 100-2,500 families attend these events. The most popular event known as "Bats, Bones, and Bonfires" has had record-breaking attendees over the past two years. Popular attractions at this event include a hay wagon ride through the prairie and live animal presentations.

Through visitor’s experiences such as skiing amid a layer of hoar frost coating the trees, or smiling at the sound of chickadees singing in the spring, River Bend Nature Center continues to be a source of inspiration and amazement for those in the community. Continued support will ensure that River Bend remains around to provide children, families, and adults with that essential component of happiness that can only be found when you lose yourself in nature.

For information, contact Amber Brossard
Education Coordinator
River Bend Nature Center
PO Box 186, 1000 Rustad Rd, Faribault, MN 55021-0186 USA
+1 507.332.7151 http://www.rbnc.org/


Updated 18 January 2016