Tuesday, December 13, 2016
After all, 2016 took David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, and Prince. As if that weren't enough, Ron Glass - the much loved Shepherd Book from Joss Whedon's "Firefly" - passed away the day after Thanksgiving.
Then, of course, there's the outcome of certain votes in the UK and the US - to say nothing of various political upheaval and pain in other parts of the world.
As a viral Tweet so eloquently asked: "Has anyone tried unplugging 2016, waiting for ten seconds, and turning it on again?"
We're struggling, friends. We're struggling. And many of us are rather worried 2017 is set to be worse.
But it's Christmas. And Christmas means hope.
The world, at times, seems a mess. As a species, we're awfully good at screwing up. And yet...we're also the species that birthed Shakespeare, that landed on the moon, that cries when a kitten is hurt. We are capable of being open-handed, heart-warming, awe-inspiring. We just have to remember it.
In a time when insularity seems to be synonymous with security in many people's minds, relationships are more important than ever.
My current work as a PhD Scholar at King's College London is the product of one such relationship - one between the UK and the US that goes back to the world's struggle to recover from World War II (another set of years that likely felt broken and, at times, hopeless). In 1953, the Marshall Aid Commemoration Act was passed, establishing a scholarship for young Americans to pursue postgraduate study in the United Kingdom. Today's Marshall Scholarship community includes Supreme Court Justices, a Nobel Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winners, Oscar nominees, and NASA's youngest astronaut.
Beyond - and more important than - the prestige, the Marshall Scholarship is about making the world a bigger yet tighter community. It is about Americans meeting other people, seeing new sights, comprehending the complexity of our world. It is about relationships.
2016 seems broken? A few good things have happened lately that are going to help fix it.
This Monday, Alok Sharma (the United Kingdom's Foreign Office Minister) announced a 25% increase in the number of Marshall Scholarships offered for 2017. In September, I'm getting forty (rather than the usual thirty-ish) new friends as the Marshall Scholar Class of 2017 begins their tenure. I am hopeful that this increased number of Scholarships will help bolster the Commission's ongoing efforts to empower underrepresented communities, widening participation and improving diversity in academia and politics.
On that note: a few weeks ago, the Rhodes Trust announced its expansion to underrepresented countries in the Middle East. My beloved friend and AMENDS Colleague, Hashem Abu Sham'a, has been named Palestine's first Rhodes Scholar. Hashem will join the University of Oxford in September 2017 to continue his battle for peace and justice in the world.
And there, my friends, you have it. 2016 wasn't all bad. So long as we can continue to invest in relationships and value collaboration, focusing on our shared humanity and seeking new things to discover and create, I have faith in us.
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Nadia, age 25
Zahra, age 21
Abdelkrim, age 26
Jamila, age 20
Salma, age 20
Sara, age 26
Abdelhaq, age 23
Souad, age 22
Sara, age 20
Oumhani, age 21
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Monday, November 21, 2016
Monday, November 14, 2016
I've spent the last week at COP22 observing Dar Si Hmad's incredible environmental diplomacy. They've been showcasing fog technology, environmental education, and climate change adaptation. I've been helping to staff the booth and work with our incredible Environmental Youth Ambassadors - urban students who are producing multi-media, multi-lingual content about environmental issues in Southwest Morocco.
After waving at camels and goats, being sprayed by young students pretending to be 'fog' with our interactive teaching net, and meeting some friends from around the world also here for COP, it's time to head back to London.
While I don't recommend being on crutches for 2 months, it does make security queues at the airport much faster to navigate! Let's hear it for a quick and easy immigration experience...
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Monday, November 7, 2016
Stealing from the Dar Si Hmad blog:
Climate change is having huge impacts not only on ecosystems and economics but also on societies and communities in a broad variety of ways. In the Aït Baamrane region of Southwest Morocco, climate change alters rainfall patterns, influences crop yields, and reshapes ecosystems, especially forests. Forests are particularly important as the United Nations has found that around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods – including some 70 million indigenous people. The impacts of climate change on agriculture, energy supply and water sources directly affect humans’ lives.
The residents of rural Aït Baamrane are struggling to adapt to global warming and climate change. Regional drought levels are rising as temperatures warm, leading to higher chances of experiencing extreme heat and an ecosystem unbalance. This makes it harder for women searching for water, as supply and sources are harder to predict.
The world’s largest environmental “fog harvesting” system run by Dar Si Hmad is based in Aït Baamrane. It was created with the aim of helping communities thrive and provide them with potable water, creating a local solution to climate threats.
Dar Si Hmad doesn’t limit its work to providing people with clean water. Humans, after all, aren’t the only Life on Land! Projects like the Water School and Women’s Capacity-Building in the Anti-Atlas Mountains help people learn about their surrounding ecosystems, other species of fauna and flora, and the role they can play in climate stabilization.
Dar Si Hmad is a poignant example of how local systems can lead a revolution toward climate policy and what kinds of solutions can be delivered to communities. Dar Si Hmad is helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals working to transform the world and create a better place by:
- Ensuring the sustainable supply of clean water for the Aït Baamrane region;
- Improving the lives of local communities; and
- Creating and stimulating sustainable livelihood opportunities.
The climate is changing. Dar Si Hmad doesn’t wait to adapt, it innovates first. The group’s recent United Nations Momentum for Change Award has recognized the great success of the work being done.
In just a few days, Dar Si Hmad will join forces with other NGOs, activists, journalists, policymakers, and diplomats to fight climate change at COP 22 in Marrakech. We hope you’ll join us, either at our booth in the Green Zone or online. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to learn more about how we are making a difference and how you can join us to protect life on land for all.
Hello from Marrakech, and happy Climate Action!
Thursday, October 27, 2016
This trip focused on the University of East Anglia's Water Security Research Centre, where I am a Visiting Fellow. I attended a seminar by Jamie Linton, a great mind in human-water interactions. He presented on the politics and social relations surrounding a dam in the Eastern Pyrenes of France. Fun stuff - and very different than what I usually do!
This afternoon, I got to know this year's cohort of postgraduate students a bit better through a three-hour seminar exploring the hydro spiral and how we understand models. I do believe a good time was had by all.
The Hydrosocial Spiral: Exploring Human-Water Interactions through Participatory Modelling
Abstract: “All models are wrong, but some are useful” (George E. P. Box). In 1934, the National Resources Board of the United States of America published the first visually descriptive hydrologic cycle diagram. Like water itself, this simple graphic has evolved in some ways and remained stagnant in others throughout the past eighty years. Multiple edits have been made, graphics have become more realistic, and many agencies and organisations have developed their own diagrams. Yet the majority of hydro cycle diagrams continue to ignore or understate the role of humans in the hydrologic system and the vast diversity of watersheds. For some time now, social scientists of water have been offering critiques of the ‘classic’ hydro cycle, with scholarship emerging around the ‘hydrosocial cycle’ and increased consideration of water’s interplay with other systems through the food-water-energy nexus, the planetary boundaries framework, and others. Building from these critiques and advances in our thinking on the teaching and modelling of water’s movement in the anthropocene, a Working Group at the University of East Anglia has created a participatory tool for exploring the historical, political, economic, cultural, and natural processes of water. The “hydrosocial spiral” is a dynamic visual graphic for use by researchers, teachers, managers, and activists allowing for a variety of conceptions of and communications around water. This seminar will review the extant literature on hydrosocial interactions, describe the creation and implementation of the hydrosocial spiral, and engage participants in creating their own version of a hydrosocial model.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
"Cous Cous the Elephant: Espionage, Diplomacy, and Cultural (Mis)Understanding in the Middle East"
A number of folks asked if the talk might be recorded - so here's a quick, entirely home-shot/unedited version!
A disclaimer: I talk about my wonderful research partners in this presentation. I do so openly and informally - and very much as a reflection of my time and experiences with them, not as an authoritative statement from the organisations. It’s an uncensored look at my thinking and research logic - please take it in the spirit intended!
The photos don't come through all that well in the recording. The presentation can be downloaded from: http://tinyurl.com/hzq5fuc
Enjoy if you like James Bond-puns and my rambling. ;)
Monday, October 17, 2016
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Today marks twenty-five days until the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In other words: in just under a month, Morocco will be kicking off the world's biggest meeting about climate change!
The UN Climate Change Convention is an international plan for action against climate change. The treaty was launched at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. 196 countries have signed the agreement and pledged their support. Each year, representatives of these countries meet at a Conference of the Parties to review progress and decide on next steps. These annual meetings have been held since 1995, when the first Conference of the Parties was held in Berlin. Last December, COP21 was held in Paris.
November 7-18, the city of Marrakech will host foreign heads of state, international diplomats, scientists, lawyers, researchers, journalists, and activists for COP22. In addition to the legal and policy meetings, environmental groups and activists will gather to share ideas and programs that help combat climate change and its impacts.
Dar Si Hmad for Development, Culture and Education is proud to be taking part of COP22 as a civil society partner. We will have a booth in the Green Zone and will be presenting our award-winning fog-harvesting project at a sponsored side event on November 7.
As part of our lead-up to Marrakech, Dar Si Hmad will be running a social media campaign focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs are a UN-led call to action for countries, corporations, groups, and individuals. The goals focus on ending poverty, protecting the planet, and creating peace and prosperity for everyone.
The goals are:
- No Poverty - End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- Zero Hunger - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
- Good Health and Well-Being - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
- Quality Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- Gender Equality - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
- Clean Water and Sanitation - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
- Affordable and Clean Energy - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- Decent Work and Economic Growth - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
- Reduced Inequalities - Reduce income inequality within and among countries
- Sustainable Cities and Communities - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- Responsible Consumption and Production - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Climate Action - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting develoments in renewable energy
- Life Below Water - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
- Life on Land - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
- Peace, Justice and Strong 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
- Partnerships for the Goals - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
The UNFCCC acknolwedges that certain areas are more vulnerable to climate change. This includes arid or semi-arid zones and developing countries with fragile mountainous ecosystems. Aït Baamrane, where Dar Si Hmad works, is one such place, subject to extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, desertification, and other negative environmental impacts. We are proud to be hosting COP22 in a country that knows the risks and problems of climate change, and we are proud to be actively working to ensure that our most vulnerable populations - rural communities, indigenous peoples, women, and children - do not face the costs of climate change alone. As we journey to Marrakech for COP22, we invite you to join us. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals, COP22, and our work to combat climate change in Morocco and around the world.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Friends with cars are helpful things - I managed to get rides from and to the rail station from folks I was meeting with, making my total walking for the day perhaps less than if I'd stayed at home getting up and down the stairs for meals!
All in all, a very lovely day - though I am definitely exhausted.
Happy Wednesday to all!
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Thirteen game-changing initiatives from around the world were announced today as winners of the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change climate change award.
Winning activities include:
- A Google-led project that could catalyse the rooftop solar market for millions of people across the United States
- An ingenious net that harvests fog from the air to provide drinking water for people on the edge of Morocco’s Sahara Desert
- North America’s first revenue-neutral tax that puts a price on carbon pollution
- A project that has established the first women-specific standard to measure and monetize women’s empowerment benefits of climate action
Further winners are a company that provides solar systems to homes and businesses in rural Tanzania through an innovative financial package and a Swedish city that became the first in the world to issue green bonds, enabling it to borrow money for investments that benefit the environment.
The Momentum for Change initiative is spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat to shine a light on some of the most innovative, scalable and replicable examples of what people are doing to address climate change. Today’s announcement is part of wider efforts to mobilize action and ambition as national governments work toward implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities underline how climate action and sustainable development is building at all levels of society from country-wide initiatives to ones in communities, by companies and within cities world-wide,” UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said. “By showcasing these remarkable examples of creativity and transformational change, along with the extraordinary people behind them, we can inspire everyone to be an accelerator towards the kind of future we all want and need.”
Each of the 13 winning activities touches on one of Momentum for Change’s three focus areas: Women for Results, Financing for Climate Friendly Investment and ICT Solutions. All 13 will be showcased at a series of special events during the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco (7 November to 18 November 2016).
The 2016 Lighthouse Activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum Global Project on Climate Change and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative.
Read more: http://darsihmadorg.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/dar-si-hmad-fog-harvesting-project-wins.html
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Friday night, I somehow managed to slip down the stairs coming down from the loft to put Iorwerth to bed. I slammed my left foot so hard into the wall that my little toe was cut nearly to the bone.
Blood, a very alert five-year-old, and a bit of concerned investigation later, Eamonn drove me to Ealing Hospital to get it checked out.
The nurse practitioner took one look at my toe, cocked his head to one side, and said "huh. What are we gonna do with that?"
Not the easiest of locations to patch up - there's no real way to get in their for stitches, it's a place that is constantly pulled on whenever walking happens, etc.
In the end I got glued and steri-stripped up and told to keep the bandages present and dry for five days.
So, here's me on a weekend confined to bed with my foot up catching up on lots of rest and writing.
We aren't sure whether the toe is also broken - from the swelling and external bruising, it seems quite possible something is also wrong internally. But again, there's really nothing they can do except bandage and keep off it, so we didn't even bother with an x-ray.
In positive news, I was in and out of the hospital in just an hour on a Friday night, and the process was friendly and easy. Go, NHS!
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Thanks to guest author and Environmental Youth Ambassador Mohamed Moumin for this piece!
International Day of Peace
Spotlight on the Role of Dar Si Hmad’s Programs in Promoting Peace
Peace is not merely the absence of war but is a state of mind, a way of being and a way of living. Peace means establishing an active culture in the world with collective social, political and economic harmony.
Every year on September 21, the United Nations leads an International Day of Peace. The Day was declared by the United Nations (UN) in 1981. Since then it is observed annually by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. International Day of Peace is a globally-shared date for all humanity to take the lead in activities that contribute to the creation of a more peaceful, compassionate, knowledgeable and unified world.
To preserve a positive human heritage, we invite you to join us in celebrating the International Day of Peace and take a close look at how Dar Si Hmad is promoting peace with innovative ideas.
Sustainable development and livelihoods are at the heart of Dar Si Hmad’s mandate. Training and empowering young people are a powerful way to do this. During the 2015-2016 school year, Dar Si Hmad’s leading RISE & THRIVE program successfully enabled 69 university students and 120 trainees from the CFA vocational school with professional competencies to enhance employability and entrepreneurship. These programs offer tailored workshops led by professionals supported by multi-media and online learning platforms. The primary objective of the project is the nurturing of self-growth and community solidarity, vital to raising a generation that promotes peace and defends sustainability.
This past week, Dar Si Hmad relaunched RISE, which will focus on environmental issues for 2017. The program aims to equip young students with technical and planning skills along with experience in the practical implementation of environmental projects.
In the bled (Moroccan countryside), Dar Si Hmad’s E-Learning and Women’s Empowerment programs have advanced the right to quality education and gender equality throughout the country. Girls in the E-Learning Program are equipped with valuable knowledge and skills vital to further education and personal empowerment. Women in rural regions are now able to apply knowledge and capacities they have developed toward economic and social progress, promoting for peace and sustainable development.
Looking internationally, Dar Si Hmad’s Ethnographic Field School creates a universal platform for socio-cultural exchange and dialogue that helps break down stereotypes between Moroccans and foreigners. Dar Si Hmad invites researchers and students from all over the world to be part of inspiring experiences facilitated by academic and cultural programs, service learning, homestays, and language classes.
Scientifically, Dar Si Hmad has focused its work on issues of global concern requiring multinational collaboration. Innovative research and experiments in freshwater resource management, climate change, renewable energy, environmental education, and capacity-building in technology are expanding the global pool of knowledge even as they are making positive impacts on local lives.
As we celebrate the International Day of Peace, we recognize that promoting peaceful practice is at the core of respecting human rights, basic freedoms and the values of tolerance and equity. Youth in particular are encouraged to initiate educational programs and promote the values of sustainable development for future generations so as to improve people’s lives for the better.
We believe that the achievement of sustainable peace is a collective responsibility and that “everyone has a stake and everyone has a contribution to make in order to achieve peace!”
Simple actions can be of a big change, and everyone can contribute to positive change by taking the lead of initiative!
Fetching the lines of this article was already your beginning.
See more about Dar Si Hmad’s Environmental Youth Ambassadors program and how they promote for peace in their inspired way: https://eyadarsihmad.wordpress.com/
Friday, September 16, 2016
Check out the original in French: http://darsihmadorg.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/international-day-for-preservation-of.html
Monday, September 12, 2016
Thursday, September 8, 2016
This post was written by Environmental Youth Ambassador Abdelhaq Ait Boulhous in honor of International Literacy Day for the Dar Si Hmad blog. Check out some news from Morocco about empowerment through the written and read word!
At first glance, "literacy" would seem to be a term that everyone understands. But at the same time, literacy as a concept has proved to be both complex and dynamic, continuing to be interpreted and defined in a multiplicity of ways. And according to Merriam-Webster website, "Literacy" means to be able to read and write, and also the knowledge that relates to a specified subject.
Fifty years ago, UNESCO officially proclaimed 8 September as International Literacy Day to actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.
Learning to read and write is a fundamental right, protected by international human rights law. Yet, 38% of African adults are illiterate – and two-thirds of these are women. Unequal access to education and low literacy means that women have trouble accessing careers and the public section, making them more likely to get married at an early age and have few avenues for future independence or personal growth. This, in turn, negatively impacts their children – Africa is the only continent where more than half of parents are not able to help their children with homework due to their own illiteracy.
There is a proverb that says “You educate a boy, you educate a man. You educate a girl, you educate a generation". Dar Si Hmad, an active NGO in Southwest Morocco dedicated to sustainable livelihoods and the empowerment of rural communities, recognizes the importance of literacy. It thus developed programs like the Girls’E-Learning project to help girls from rural villages study and prepare their exams. The Girls' E-Learning program uses technologies to help girls succeed, have access to a good education, and improve the region’s high school dropout rate. Participants have the chance to learn and receive lessons online, improving their literacy in the formal Arabic and French they will be tested on in exams.
Literacy for younger children is addressed through our “Water School”, targeted at primary schools. This program, full of lessons & workshops, makes students of the future understand their environment as a huge space of many objects. It modules include animal & plant biology, recycling, pollution, the water cycle, and sanitation. The program gives Dar Si Hmad the chance to discover and encourage talented kids who have skills like public speaking, theater, and painting. In a few months, the Water School Curriculum will be available for free online, part of the organization’s ongoing attempts to share resources and ideas.
Older adults in the bled (Moroccan countryside) are supported through trainings for women in Aït Baâmrane, Southwest Morocco. These literacy days help women with basic numeracy and literacy skills, enabling them to use their mobile phones to text – a much cheaper alternative to phone calls. The women are now exploring ways to use their enhanced skills for income-generating activities like an argan co-operative.
Bridging the urban center of Agadir where Dar Si Hmad’s main offices are and the bled where much of the programming take place is a new initiative I represent. In May 2016, Dar Si Hmad launched the Environmental Youth Ambassadors, an innovative program bringing 7 RISE program participants from different parts of Morocco to be involved in the NGO’s activities. Our work has focused on media and environmental literacy, using visual content & online campaigns as a way to communicate based on events and sensitization.
For all those who can read this – Happy International Literacy Day! Today, I encourage you to take the time to improve your own literacy. Those of us who have the tools to read and write can improve our subject-area literacy about environmental issues. Take a minute to learn about COP22, the international climate change negotiations happening in Morocco in November. Or explore and support our Water School and Women’s Empowerment programs.
And lastly, here’s to all of the projects around the world working to make sure a greater number of us can read, write, and enjoy the power of written communication by this time next year. I am excited by Dar Si Hmad’s work and I hope you’ll join us in working to improve the lives of our communities, in Morocco and around the world.