›The problems of climate adaptation, poverty alleviation, and peacebuilding are common to many parts of the world. Yet the efforts to address them are often pursued separately or with little coordination. Capturing the co-benefits of building institutional capacity critical to all three areas is an idea that will likely receive little attention at next year’s Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil, says ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko.
Speaking at South by Southwest Eco (SXSW) last month, Dabelko made the case for bringing these communities together to make common effort in this resource-constrained environment.
While trying to encourage cross-sectoral collaborations, “at minimum we need to avoid, as we address climate change, creating problems and doing harm,” he said. The role increased biofuels production had on food prices in 2008, for example, shows the potential for unintended negative consequences.
Dabelko spoke as part of a SXSW Eco panel on “great ideas that won’t be on the Rio agenda.” He was joined by Roger-Mark De Souza, vice president of research and director of the climate program at Population Action International, who spoke about population, health, and environment (PHE) programs; and Aimee Christensen, CEO of Christensen Global Strategies, who made the case for more fundamental integration of the private sector and NGOs in the sustainability efforts at Rio+20, a process normally dominated by governments.
Be sure to see our full coverage from the conference, including Roger-Mark De Souza’s presentation on PHE, an interview with Grist’s Lisa Hymas on family planning in Ethiopia, and a report on Jon Foley’s presentation about the dire state of global food security (or just click the SXSW topic tag to see them all).
›“I am now serving as an example to other women in the community because I am not having any more children. I have received training in sustainable agricultural practices, I’m generating income, and I’m educating others,” said Berhane Ferkade, an Ethiopian farmer, to Population Action International’s Roger-Mark De Souza earlier this year. The 39-year-old mother of 11 become one of the community’s model farmers after working with LEM Ethiopia – a local population, health, and environment (PHE) development organization.
At last week’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco conference, De Souza, vice president of research and director of the Climate Program at Population Action International (PAI), told Berhane’s story at the “Three Great Ideas That Won’t Be On the Rio Agenda” panel, which focused on efforts like PHE that won’t be discussed at the upcoming sustainability conference.
“Globally, there are 250 million women across the world who say they would like to have access to reproductive health services and use family planning and they currently are not using these methods” – most of them in developing countries, said De Souza.
However, population remains a taboo subject for the UN and many others. As Rio+20 approaches, it is critical to get population on the agenda. “Population does matter for sustainable development: Family planning is easy to implement, it produces results in a short period of time, [and] it is really what women want,” said De Souza.
For women like Berhane, family planning is also a way to adapt to changes in the climate. A new documentary from PAI, Weathering Change, launched last week at the Wilson Center, focuses on three women in Ethiopia, Nepal, and Peru dealing with the impacts of climate change – from reduced agricultural productivity and household water access to increased migration. Family planning, said De Souza, should be part of the solution to increasing their resilience.
Be sure to read all of ECSP’s coverage from the first SXSW Eco and the “Three Great Ideas That Won’t Be On the Rio Agenda” panel.
›ECSP caught up with Lisa Hymas, senior editor at Grist, last week during the first South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco conference and she spoke about her recent visit to Ethiopia to see the country’s community health extension program in action. “Ethiopia has a big challenge around population,” Hymas said, “but the government is committed to bringing that down.”
The government extension program places health-workers – young women, for the most part, who have received basic training – directly into each community, where they are able to give out immunizations, provide advice on nutrition, teach families how to properly hang bed nets to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses, and provide family planning services and advice.
Thanks to the program, these health workers and those in the communities they service can “envision very different lives for themselves than their mothers had,” Hymas explained. For instance, one woman recounted that her mother gave birth to 10 children, “and almost died giving birth to the last one, because there was no access to birth control, and there was no good access to health care.” In contrast, she is now able to have a career and to use family planning to delay and space her own childbearing.
For more on Ethiopia’s health extension program, see Schuyler Null’s report on visiting a village health clinic near the town of Fiche last spring.
›Our director, Geoff Dabelko, provides a brief update from South by Southwest’s (SXSW) first Eco conference, being held in Austin, Texas this week:
Bill Ritter, former governor of Colorado, was impressive in an interview with Bryan Walsh of Time magazine, seamlessly alternating between technical and policy questions about energy security.
Ned Breslin, CEO of Water for People, provided some real talk, challenging the notion that it’s “easy” to provide needy populations with freshwater. It’s not as simple as “$25 saves a life,” he said. Providing long-term, sustainable water and sanitation solutions to people around the world requires a great deal of hard work, particularly on financing and ownership questions.
Finally, Jon Foley of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment presented a five-step response to what he called today’s three main food challenges: providing enough to feed today’s population, tomorrow’s (an estimated nine billion people by 2050), and doing it all in a sustainable fashion. The Institute on the Environment publishes an almost-quarterly magazine, Momentum, whose work we’ve featured before on New Security Beat (here, here, and here), and, incredibly, is available, delivered to your house, for FREE. Highly recommended.
Stay tuned for more updates from SXSW, including the ECSP-supported panel, “Three Great Ideas That Won’t Be On the Rio+20 Agenda.”
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