Friday, November 16, 2012

World Resources Institute Week in Review

World Resources Institute
In an effort to develop a richer understanding of the environmental work going on around me (and in front of me!) at the World Resources Institute, I'm going to write a weekly post about the talks and brown-bags I've attended and the articles I've been reading on the intersection of the environment and human needs.  My work focuses on the forests in Central Africa but the Institute's work spans sectors, regions and focus so it will be quite the mix here.  

Last week, Robin Chase - founder and former CEO of ZipCar - delivered a talk on leveraging excess capacity and this week saw even more activity.  At the beginning of the week, WRI and the Climate and Knowledge Development Network (CDKN) hosted a panel discussion entitled "Aid Effectiveness for Climate Compatible Development" and invited a number of experts to discuss their own experiences in the field and suggestions for improvement (including Ari Huhtala, Director of Policy and Programmes, CDKN, Frances Seymour, former Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Clifford Polycarp, Senior Associate, International Financial Flows and Environment at WRI and Sarah Mason-Case, Legal Officer).  

My biggest takeaways from the panel?  Knowledge exchange is key (Huhtala) and a billion dollars gets people's attention (Seymour on a billion dollar deal between the Norwegian and Indonesian governments).  She also stressed that framing money as aid can undermine its' effectiveness and that it is critical that partners view one another as equals rather than in an imbalanced power struggle.       

The Access Initiative held a viewing of Hernando de Soto's film The Power of the Poor (made with the Institute for Liberty and Democracy).  Have you seen it?  I have qualms with one part of the film - when de Soto was talking about the poor living on the outskirts of Lima, Peru who see how the other half lives on television and want that.  Education, health, housing - I am 100% behind.  Intense consumerism?  Not so much.  I wonder what Uruguay's President, Jose Mujica, thinks about de Soto.

Today, I sat in on a presentation by Marco van de Kooij of the Canadian aerospace company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) where he talked about Radarsat 2, which can, among other things, track deforestation quickly, in high resolution and accurately.  Needless, perhaps, to say is that much of what he discussed was way over my head.  I am putting getting a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate on my horizon - it really is such an incredible tool no matter what sector you're working in.

Here are some of the articles I've checked out this week.  Big props to the Central Africa Forests Team for getting a blog post on the New York Times!!

Mapping Cameroon's Motley Canopy (check this out to see quotes from my boss, Matt Steil!).

Under Threat: Deforestation Pressure on Congo Basin Forests Increasing
This article raises the issue of land that has been in families for centuries and is now classified as a protected area.  How do you satisfy the need to protect forests while also respecting the fact that people are just living where they always have?

What caught my attention here was the statement that"fuelwood and charcoal represent 90% of all wood removal from forests in Africa and a third of the global wood fuel production."  That's a lot!  It's also encouraging that forestry organizations (like CIFOR) are making a more concerted effort to train local youth to become forestry experts.

Forest communities in Cameroon cannot adapt to climate change alone.  

Forest Conservation is Key to Food Security.
Important to note the difficulty in focus of forest work - do we have to decide when it comes to a focus if the choice is between conservation or people's livelihoods?

What do you think about Africa being behind on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?  This report claims that education is on a better track than other sectors with enrollment close to 90% - but what kind of education are those kids receiving?  Is it enough that roll is being counted and they're in a classroom if the teaching that is happening isn't of quality?  There's also a noted trend toward English in Francophone, African countries.  Do you think it's a good thing for countries to shift toward English as their official language?  

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