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Friday, October 03, 2014

Building climate resilience: Unlock the technology


In 2012, I went to Inner Mongolia to see how local nomadic communities were fighting an advancing desert. I was very fascinated to see how they were building a green wall in the middle of a sandy land. It was then that I heard an expert from the United Nations Convention for Combating Desertification (UNCCD) say, ‘many countries, especially India, have so much of knowledge and technology in their labs. But little of that is reaching the people on the ground. We need to make that happen.”
Putting life back in lifeless sand. In Inner Mongolia, scientists and locals have worked hand in hand to make this miracle happen.
Two year later, today, at the 4th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in Kuala Lumpur, I heard many experts expressing the same view again – a logical, practical and extremely timely expression.


One of them was Rajib Shaw, a professor of disaster and risk management at Kyoto University. 
Very recently, Rajib sent me a message appreciating one of my stories that highlighted how farmers in drought-prone districts were learning water-mapping and crop budgeting.He loved that a complex science like hydrology could be interpreted and made applicable to the barely literate people and that it helped them fight off the risks of droughts.

Today, when in his presentation at the forum Rajib said that technology must be made accessible to communities to help them better adapt to climate change, I wasn’t surprised.  What did surprise me is how eloquently he put it. “We need to understand the different technologies and who they are meant for. For example, there is green technology for communities. We need to unlock the technology and take it to the people to help build their disaster resilience.’

But, how to unlock the technology? Shaw had an idea: ‘let’s put a great focus on education. Let us establish one university in each country of the region that will be a center of excellence in risk and disaster reduction.’

There was huge applause in the hall after this which, I think, was totally deserving.

Later, I spoke with Joy Jacqueline Pereira – another scientist who teaches at the Institute for Environment and Development in University Kebangsaan in Malaysia, how exactly could the center of excellence actually help build better resilience.

 Her reply: most of the times, people are not aware of the level of climate risks. They are not aware of the real danger of a disaster. Along with the civil society, the universities could directly interact with the communities and explain to them the hazards of climate change and (climate-induced) disasters.

And how could the unlocking and transferring of technologies from lab to the field happen?

Here, Joy felt that the technology should be built only after assessing the needs of the people. What risks do they have? What kind of disasters are they going to face? How could they prevent those disasters and reduce the risks? Once these answers are found and accordingly the technology is built, it becomes a solution designed for the particular community. Transferring this technology would then mean taking it back to the community which actually provided the idea.
In Meghalaya - a hill state in north-east India, a man takes his child to a safe place as his house lies completely submerged in flood water/Hindustan Times
 (As Joy was talking, my mind traveled back to my home province North east India which is currently under massive flood affecting 1200,000 people. They don’t have fresh water or toilets. They don’t have access to seeds that can grow despite the salinity or after being under water. They don’t have machines that can help them quickly harvest their ripened crops. The list goes on. And the list of human misery - well, it cannot be put on a list. On the other hand, we have an amazing community of scientists. They know answer to every problem I just mentioned. But there is no way to connect them directly with the flood ravaged people.)

Presently, we talked of how the media could be roped in to help in this transfer of knowledge and technology.  Joy told me that the same universities could conduct special interactions between scientists and technocrats and journalists, so the journalists could explain it to the public.
 
Learning meteorology: women learn to monitor the weather at a mini weather station in a village near Hyderabad.

The adaptation Forum happens every two years, meaning, it will again happen in 2016. I hope that by then we will see some of these suggestions put into action and that there will be far more people learning of complex sciencees in a simplified, comprehensible manner and applying them to improve their daily life, as well as minimize the risks of climate change.

As one of my astrophysicist friends once said, ‘only a small part of technology is rocket science, rest is just the ‘people’s science’. It’s time to give people the key to that.

3 comments:

Kimmie Jean said...

I am humbled and honored to know you, my dear friend and sister. This is a brilliant topic you are bringing to the light. Thank you thank you thank you!

Unknown said...

I am so grateful, Stella, for your insights and connections. I recently had the fortune to train with the Transformational Resilience group. They are connected with climate change experts and are spreading a technology of resilience in the face of trauma, so that communities, companies, organizations, neighborhoods can bring those tools to support healthy response when the inevitable traumas come to pass from climate change.

The local university idea makes so much sense, fueling resilience in groups of people facing local challenges together. Then their success and lessons can go back to the common knowledge base to support others. From macro to micro and back again using passion and community to harness technology, insight, and ideas.

Blessings to World Pulse, to you, and to great ideas and love, bringing new possibililties across the planet.

Unknown said...

I am so grateful, Stella, for your insights and connections. I recently had the fortune to train with the Transformational Resilience group. They are connected with climate change experts and are spreading a technology of resilience in the face of trauma, so that communities, companies, organizations, neighborhoods can bring those tools to support healthy response when the inevitable traumas come to pass from climate change.

The local university idea makes so much sense, fueling resilience in groups of people facing local challenges together. Then their success and lessons can go back to the common knowledge base to support others. From macro to micro and back again using passion and community to harness technology, insight, and ideas.

Blessings to World Pulse, to you, and to great ideas and love, bringing new possibililties across the planet. From Anna Sontag, of Full Life Programs, former World Pulse midwife.