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How can Nature Help People Adapt to Climate Change and Deliver

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  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation is critical for achieving the SDGs in a changing climate.
  • The GEF-funded project, ‘Ecosystem-based Adaptation through South-South Cooperation,’ piloted on-the-ground EbA interventions in Mauritania, Nepal and Seychelles.
  • An EbA South report identifies EbA knowledge gaps, and highlights a range of tools for planning and implementation of EbA measures.

This article was written by Tatirose Vijitpan and Diwen Tan, EbA South Project Co-Managers, UN Environment Programme – International Ecosystem Management Partnership (UNEP-IEMP), and Lili Ilieva, freelance consultant.

“Nature is our best bet to tackle climate change and secure the future,” said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, at the declaration of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) in early March. Sustainable ecosystem management is pivotal to achieving the SDGs, in particular on climate change (SDG 13), poverty eradication (SDG 1), food security (SDG 2), water (SDG 6) and biodiversity conservation (SDGs 14 and 15). To be precise, natural capital stocks and ecosystem service flows underpin all human activities towards accomplishing the SDGs.

In climate change adaptation, nature-based solutions, or Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA), are now entering the spotlight worldwide. In recent years, the term ‘EbA’ has been described as “the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.” EbA is critical for achieving the SDGs in a changing climate. Many of the SDGs are directly associated with the health of ecosystems and the services they provide. Besides, most SDGs specifically target the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups of society who are highly dependent on ecosystems to support their livelihoods. With the call to “leave no-one behind”, the SDGs also underscore the opportunity for the local communities and marginalized groups to supply their knowledge and needs into the design and implementation of policies. This “inclusive and participatory multi-stakeholder” approach is also a key principle of EbA in particular.

To give specific examples of EbA interventions, the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project, ‘Ecosystem-based Adaptation through South-South Cooperation’ (EbA South, 2013-2019), piloted on-the-ground EbA interventions in Mauritania, Nepal and Seychelles, representing three different vulnerable ecosystems (dryland, mountain and coastal areas, respectively). Mauritania established multi-use greenbelt using indigenous drought-resilient and soil-stabilizing species on the degraded arid/semi-arid land to combat desertification and provide non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for local communities. In Seychelles, the project restored mangroves and coastal wetlands to buffer against flooding and secure coastal livelihoods. Apart from protecting residential and commercial areas from coastal erosion, the project generated significant co-benefits by boosting ecotourism and green education for youth. In Nepal, among the project’s achievements was large-scale plantation of climate-resilient seedlings for reforestation, enrichment and/or household agroforestry, enabling communities to practice alternative livelihoods, including honey harvesting, vegetable plantation, fruit orchards, and cardamom plantation. All the interventions were implemented within a long-term research framework through cooperation between research institutes and governments, providing a scientific evidence base for practicing EbA, influencing national policies and designing future projects.

EbA has quickly gained prominence both in the context of climate change and biodiversity conservation policies. EbA has been applied in various ecosystem types, and the role of EbA at transboundary level is being increasingly highlighted. So far, there have been more than 150 EbA initiatives across the globe. However, despite the growing interest in EbA, its current application still lags behind its potential, and questions remain to be answered regarding the conceptual framework shaping EbA components and processes. To encourage EbA application, it is essential to strengthen scientific evidence for EbA to gain political support across different levels, secure funding, and ultimately facilitate its implementation.

So, what specific areas of knowledge are not yet sufficiently explored but essential? What tools can facilitate EbA research? What financial resources and events could support the latest EbA knowledge development? A new report titled, ‘Research on Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA): A reference guide,’ produced under the EbA South project has the answers.

Drawing on extensive literature review, the report identifies key knowledge gaps as follows:

  • A comprehensive grasp of the implications that climate change has on the human and natural systems in different geographical areas is still limited. Understanding how and to what extent climate change affects ecosystems and populations is imperative for the design of adequate and effective EbA measures.
  • Evidence of the economic costs, benefits and tradeoffs of EbA measures is essential but currently insufficient to advocate for their cost effectiveness. EbA is considered as a promising and cost-effective option to address climate change impacts and provide multiple benefits. However, its implementation still continues to be relatively underestimated when compared to engineered options. Additional evidence of the effectiveness of EbA measures compared to “grey” infrastructure is required.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of EbA measures remains a challenge, and impedes learning and establishment of best practices. The growing interest in monitoring, measuring and evaluating “successful” adaptation has resulted in the development of monitoring and evaluation frameworks and project-specific indicators for some tangible outputs. Yet challenges remain such as considering time horizons, complexity of socio-ecological systems and uncertainties regarding climate change and development paths.

The report highlights a range of tools for planning and implementation of EbA measures, with some focusing on ecosystem valuation and assessment of vulnerability and risk and others on decision support for adaptation planning. Several inventories on EbA-relevant tools are available, including the EbA Tools Navigator. Among the long list of tools, stands out the EbA planning tool ‘ALivE: Adaptation, Livelihoods and Ecosystems.’ ALivE aims to provide practitioners with a systematic process to identify and prioritize EbA options based on a context-specific analysis of ecosystems, livelihoods and climate change, to encourage greater uptake of effective EbA approaches.

To advance in EbA research implies to build the capacity of the research community, thus it is essential to secure funding for research. Examples of relevant awards include: Trees and People: Resilience in a Changing Climate; Doctoral Research Awards; Canadian International Food Security Research Fund; and Humboldt Foundation International Climate Protection Fellowship.

* * *

This article was written by Tatirose Vijitpan and Diwen Tan, EbA South Project Co-Managers, UN Environment Programme – International Ecosystem Management Partnership (UNEP-IEMP), and Lili Ilieva, freelance consultant. This article is based on a report of the EbA South. EbA South is a full-sized GEF project, funded through the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF), and implemented by the UN Environment Programme. UNEP-IEMP provides overall project management services and technical support, and fosters South-South linkages for the project.

 

Source: IISD

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Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!

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Our future is in OUR Hands

We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.

 

 

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CITIES

Rethinking Democracy From the Perspective of Political Ecology

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The issue of the governance of human societies immediately leads us to the issue of democracy, since the so-called democratic model is one of the pillars of modern civilization, today in crisis. Seen in historical perspective, governance — the ability to make collective decisions that are adequate to the extent that they are fair because they respond to the interests of the individuals who make them — became more complicated as societies grew in number of inhabitants and in functional complexity.

By Victor M. Toledo, originally published by Resilience.org

Ed.note: This piece originally appeared in Spanish in La Jornada, December 1, 2020

Translation into English by Jane K. Brundage

The issue of the governance of human societies immediately leads us to the issue of democracy, since the so-called democratic model is one of the pillars of modern civilization, today in crisis. Seen in historical perspective, governance — the ability to make collective decisions that are adequate to the extent that they are fair because they respond to the interests of the individuals who make them — became more complicated as societies grew in number of inhabitants and in functional complexity.

In the first extractive and agrarian societies, which make up 99 percent of the history of the human species, governance was carried out in a direct and balanced way. Governance began to become problematic with the appearance of the first cities, the State, class society and the diversity of work tasks. The democratic model, which according to E. Dussel was born not in Greece, but in Egypt and other Mediterranean cities, was defined as the power of the people in order to differentiate it from the various autocratic or despotic forms.

Today, modern governance in non-autocratic societies is generally synonymous with institutional, representative, electoral, formal or bourgeois democracy, in which decisions are made by representatives who are distantly elected by vote and usually through political parties. A good part of Western thought has forgotten or concealed the existence of another democracy, which was prior to the representative one, and which can be described as direct, participatory, radical or local. Four thousand years later, it continues to exist essentially among the planet’s 7,000 villages of indigenous peoples. Today, in the presence of the crisis of modernity, it resurfaces as the basic cell for constructing an innovative governance scheme that runs up the scale from the local to the global.

Today, the supreme and greatest challenge for contemporary science is to contribute to overcoming the crisis in which the modern world is plunged and to offer clarifications, clues, alternatives. The ineffectiveness of electoral or representative democracy as a way of reaching consensus and above all,  as a way of offering solutions to the phenomena of social injustice and the deterioration and depredation of nature, requires study and research. Modern democratic systems are also highly expensive. In Mexico, the National Electoral Institute (INE) will spend a budget of 12,493 million pesos in 2021 to organize elections and sponsor political parties.

In this context, because its long civilizational history has left a current legacy of 25 million Mexicans who identify themselves as indigenous and live in thousands of traditional communities, the Mexican case provides numerous living examples of a radical and participatory democracy. There are innumerable examples in the territory, especially in those regions where an inextricable relationship survives between culture and nature, together with a vigorous defense of communal territories.

This is the case in the state of Oaxaca, where 80 percent of its 570 municipalities elect their authorities directly. Likewise, the neozapatista caracoles[1] in the state of Chiapas, and the most recent processes of self-management and self-defense in the municipalities of Cherán[2], state of Michoacán; Oxcub, Chiapas, and Cacahuatepec and Ayutla de los Libres, state of Guerrero. By the same token, keep in mind the actions of the self-defense groups of Michoacán, a project frustrated by the power of the State, and the community police still serving in 920 towns and communities within 51 of the 81 municipalities in Guerrero.

All these experiences have been ignored, vilified, despised and repressed by the national system, because they contain the seeds of a profound transformation in the ways of governing. Their subversive power extends and multiplies beyond the local and acquires regional dimensions. In the Sierra Norte de Puebla, about 250 Nahua and Totonaca communities have held regional assemblies since 2014 (they have 30) with thousands of participants in defense of their territories, their forests, their springs and their mountains. Representative democracy, which maintains and conceals social exploitation and exploitation of the natural world, is under siege.

These reflections were shared by this writer speaking at the program “Rethinking Democracy in the Current World”, organized by the UNAM [National Autonomous University of Mexico]. It was a very successful event owing to the quality of the speakers and the number of those who followed the conferences virtually (ours was attended by more than 20,000 people.

For Dr. José Manuel Mireles, hero and martyr, for a true democracy.

+   +   +

Translator’s notes:

[1] Caracol is the Spanish word for conch shell — long used by Mexico’s indigenous peoples in ritual ceremonies. Blown into, they emit an unmistakable, hauntingly plaintiff tone that, once heard, is never forgotten. In the autonomous Zapatista communities of Mexico, caracol is the name given to its organizational regions, created in 2003 to replace the earlier organizational structure, Aguascalientes [Hot Waters]. Formed in 1995, the objective of Aguascalientes was to serve as contact points between Zapatista communities and other cultures in Mexico, and with cultures in the outside world. The Zapatista Caracoles were formed following a period of extensive discussion about the necessity of changing the traditional relation between Zapatista communities and other Mexican communities, and between Zapatista communities and the outside world.

 

In that sense, the objective of the caracoles is similar to its antecedent. In the Zapatistas’ own words, to be “windows for us to see ourselves, and for us to look outside” with “horns [ie, conch shells, in the sense of loudspeakers] to get our word out and to listen to those who are far away.” Source: Los Caracoles ZapatistasRaúl Romero, La Jornada, August 17, 2019.   (Spanish)

[2] Cherán, an indigenous community|municipality located on the Purhépecha Meseta [Highlands] in western Michoacán, is a remarkable story of community resilience, resistance, persistence and triumph over seemingly overwhelming odds. It is all the more remarkable for having been initiated and driven by the community’s women and young people. Here’s a good review at the 5-year marker: Mexico Indigenous: Cherán Celebrates 5 Years of Autonomy and Dignity.

Source: Resilience

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A Smarter Conversation

How localization leads to optimal health and well-being, hope and happiness.

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At a time of rapid change, there is a better way forward. A path that leads to optimal health and well-being, hope and happiness. 

Localization.

As globalization and consolidation has changed many of the ways we live and work, it has also contributed to the depletion of resources, on-going pandemics and crises and human suffering.

For four decades, Local Futures has revitalized  communities and local economies around the world

Mobilized spent about one hour speaking with the visionary founder of Local Futures to the ideas into action for a better way forward.

“A new human story founded on connection and diversity is emerging. It’s called localization.”

Helena Norberg-Hodge, Founder and Director is the founder and director of Local Futures/ISEC. A pioneer of the ‘new economy’ movement, she has been promoting an economics of personal, social and ecological well-being for more than forty years. She is the producer and co-director of the award-winning documentary The Economics of Happiness, and the author of several books, including Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, described as “an inspirational classic”, and most recently Local is Our Future. She was honored with the Right Livelihood Award (or ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’) for her groundbreaking work in Ladakh, and received the Goi Peace Prize for contributing to “the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide.”

 


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