Thursday, February 28, 2013

Three Cheers for Bureaucracy

This is an annoyance more than an actual problem, but it is an annoyance - and will trouble more people than just I, unfortunately.

From Glasgow:
Dear Miss Farnum

I am delighted to inform you that the University of Glasgow is making you an offer of a place. Please take the time to read all the information attached to this formal offer to study at the University.

The details of your offer are as follows:



Mode of Study:              Full time  
Duration of Study:        12 months
Start Date:                     16 September 2013
End Date:                     16 September 2014

From Edinburgh:
"We will accept an official document in the interim stating that she has successfully completed her degree, it does not have to be the degree certificate itself; a letter on headed paper with the appropriate stamp will suffice. Upon receiving her degree certificate she will need to provide us with a copy for our records.
"It is a University policy not to accept students onto our programmes who are simultaneously registered elsewhere at another institution (an alternative would be to interrupt but at this late stage in her degree seems rather pointless). Until we have such a letter stating that Ms Farnum has successfully completed her degree we cannot issue an unconditional offer."

I need an unconditional offer in order to get a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies), something critical for my visa.  So I somehow need to have my dissertation officially done and some kind of highfaluting letter into U of E pretty early in the summer.

Doable, and not a huge issue in reality.  Just an annoyance that something like 10 busy people are now involved in trying to help me with.  Alas.

Water and Enterprise - Some Details

Stolen from the blog post I did for the International Office:

From 17-19 February 2013, Norfolk County Council’s Integrated Education Advisory Services hosted a pilot enterprise programme focused on water and carbon reduction at Holt Hall. Twenty-nine (29) students from seven (7) Norfolk schools and colleges and six (6) students from Randaberg College in Norway attended...and so did American student ambassador Rebecca Farnum!
The programme included team building, leadership and mentoring approaches and specialist support to develop students’ expertise in water efficiency and carbon reduction. After attending the programme, the pupils are expected to run a short water-saving campaign at their high school/college, followed by a stronger campaign with 1-3 cluster primary/feeder schools in order to develop their skills as young consultants. Norfolk and Norwegian high school and college pupils were joined by Norfolk County Council (NCC) staff and consultants, University of East Anglia (UEA) faculty member Declan Conway, and UEA students for teaching, mentorship, and support.
As a MSc Student in Water Security and International Development, this programme was right up my alley! And the Norfolk County Council made use of my know-how in global water issues by asking me to do a presentation on the very first day about water quality, quantity, and the hydrological cycle. See everyone else who was involved - including Professor Declan Conway from my school - at the Water & Enterprise website!
We had lots of fun - here's just a few pictures of the UEA and high school students working and playing at the beautiful and historic Holt Hall!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Remembering Old Dreams

Yesterday, I was pulling some old information out for an interview with MSU's Alumni Association, and I stumbled upon my Truman application. In it, I found:
"I will pursue a Master of Science in Environment and International Development from the University
of East Anglia. UEA’s School of International Development is a world leader in poverty alleviation and human, social and environmental change. Particularly exciting is the new work of Dr. Shawn McGuire on social networks’ effects on agrobiodiversity. Using genetics, agronomy, anthropology, and network modeling, McGuire’s team is exploring how seed sharing can improve management, environmental sustainability, and food security. The project runs through January 2014, meaning I will be at UEA in its final stages and hopefully join an action team arising from its results.
In the classroom, courses such as “Political Ecology of Environment and Development,” “Understanding Global Environmental Change,” “Health and Development,” and “Conflict, Peace and Security” will build upon my current skill set and prepare me for a career in food security policy. Other Masters programs offered by the School include Conflict, Governance, and International Development and Water Security and International Development, ensuring that the School is well-equipped to provide me with faculty mentors in each of my interests, including professors such as Mark Zeitoun (relationships between environmental conflict, and human, state and regional security in the Middle East and Africa), Steve Russell (health economics), Declan Conway (climate change), Bruce Lankford (agricultural water management), Daniel McAvoy (humanitarian crises and post-crisis transitions), and Elissaios Papyrakis (natural resource management economics). Strong in both the natural and social sciences, I am excited for how this MS program will allow me to continue my multidisciplinary interests while shaping me into an activist with the ability to do both environmental research on agricultural production and political research on policy change."

I'm doing the Water Security MSc, not the Environment one - the Water Security masters barely existed yet and wasn't on my radar when I was applying for the Truman. But I'm going to the "Political Ecology" class tomorrow morning, and being led by Shawn McGuire - for whom I now baby-sit. Declan Conway and I both just lectured at a "Water and Enterprise" Programme for Norfolk County and Norwegian high schoolers on green entrepreneurship and water use in their schools. I'm leading a working group with Mark and Bruce on the hydrosocial cycle.

The point: Life-changing seeds are planted early. Dearly beloved educators, never think what you're doing doesn't matter. Huge, huge, impossibly inadequate thanks to the many faculty who took an 18-year-old and showed her how little she knows about the world.  :)

"The Final Sprint"

Returning from our School's "Reading Week" (a time mid-term during which there are no taught classes), we are in the final few weeks of teaching for the term, believe it or not - Easter break starts March 24, and I don't actually have any classes after that.  Three and a half more weeks...craziness!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Home and Off Again

I was back in Norwich for a little over 24 hours after our "Water & Enterprise" Programme...and now, I'm off again to London for a conference!
What colour is your water?
It's gonna be a good time!  I also have an awesome event at the Embassy on PBS' documentary series "Finding Your Roots" and catching up with some Marshall mates on the schedule.
: )

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Water and Enterprise

I am currently at Holt Hall, an outdoor education centre in Norfolk, helping to lead a programme for area and Norwegian high schoolers on water and carbon reduction along with green enterprise and entrepreneurship.  Having a delightful time - local high schoolers, water security, and English countryside all in a lovely combination!
: )

Friday, February 15, 2013


Thank you, Guatemala, for my sugar snap peas! Garlic, lemon, almonds, and Parmesan to make even more delicious. :)

Water Policy Brief

Warning: This is unlikely to be all that interesting to any of you. ;)

Key Findings
·      “Water for food” is not necessarily synonymous with “water for food security”
·      Countries with similar geological conditions face very different geopolitical realities; national water policies and agricultural motivations reflect this
·      Water policies and research should seek to understand “water for food” and its connections with economics, the environment, and securities more broadly

Purpose of and Motivation for Brief
Agriculture accounts for 70% of the world’s “blue” freshwater use. Understanding how and why this amount of water is allocated for agricultural production is critical in properly managing water resources.
This policy brief will examine how water for food is understood and utilised in national water policies. Using comparative analysis with Egyptian and Israeli case studies, the brief will explore how different geopolitical realities can create drastically different motivations for agricultural water allotments.
Egypt and Israel were selected as case studies for geopolitical considerations. Both are arid or semi-arid, yet devote a great proportion of national water resources to agriculture. Each is a downstream riparian but also a regional hegemon. However, the states have drastically different national cultures and priorities. Israel’s status as a regional “outcast” in many ways and the recent political turbulence in Egypt – motivated partially by food issues – make the countries particularly interesting for study.

The Web of Water Security
Connections between water, food, energy, and climate are increasingly highlighted in academic research and policymaking. A number of nexuses have arisen in discourses surrounding these issues, the most popular of which is the “Water-Energy-Food Nexus”, a concept taken up by numerous think tanks, environmental organisations, international bodies, and governments. More recently, Mark Zeitoun has suggested a “Global Web of National Water Security”, a conceptual tool meant to draw attention to the strong but often unrecognized links between biophysical and social processes surrounding water resources. Zeitoun’s web places “water security” at the centre with six connected spokes: national security, water resources security, food security, energy security, climate security, and human/community security.

The Web of Water for Food
This policy brief builds on Zeitoun’s web, making the water-food linkage the centre of its own web. The “Water for Food Web” suggests that agricultural water is not necessarily water meant primarily for food as food itself. Instead, national policies around water and agriculture build on a variety of motivations and uses of agricultural production and food products.
·      National Security. Water and agricultural development have strong ties to nation building. Food production may reduce dependence on external actors and promote internal stability.
·      Economic Security. Agricultural products may be used in trade. Agricultural sectors can grow local economies and industries. Internal food production may improve resilience to global food price shocks.
·      Energy Security. Crops may be used for biofuels. Food production may free up money previously spent on food for oil, natural gas, etc.
·      Climate Security. Agricultural development may increase adaptation possibilities and teach countries to better manage water. Internal production may protect against or make a country more susceptible to climate shocks.
·      Human Security. Food may be meant to feed people for their own sake. Agricultural production may provide local jobs.
·      Food Security. Food production may be meant “simply” for food security. But food security for urban elites or for rural populations and for the sake of individuals or the nation is not always clear.

Egyptian and Israeli National Water Policies
Current Egyptian policies are muddled by government instability; research reflecting on previous policies may thus be particularly relevant in informing possible future steps. This brief is based on the 2005 “Integrated Water Resources Management Plan” and “Water for the Future: National Water Resources Plan 2017”, the latter of which was supported by the Dutch Government. Stated major concerns are water for people; water for food production; water for industry, services, and employment; developing a strong institutional framework; quality, supply, and demand management; protection and restoration of vital ecosystems; and cooperation with Nile Basin countries.
The State of Israel has a nationalised water sector. This brief is based on the 2002 “Transitional Master Plan for Water Sector Development in the Period 2002-2010” and 2011 “Long-Term Master Plan for the National Water Sector”, which focus on action in uncertain conditions; system management; consumption management; water and agriculture; urban water systems; improving institutional-organisational structures; quantities and qualities of water; minimising harm to ecological system services; and balancing economic, social, environmental considerations.

Water for Food in Egypt and Israel
For both countries, increasing populations and rising demands are the major concern in national water policies. However, both Egypt and Israel heavily prioritise agricultural development and work to ensure adequate water resources for the sectors. In Egypt, agriculture accounts “for about 95% of the total net demand” (IWRM 20). Israel’s “Long-Term Plan” explicitly states that, once the water sector has stabilised, “the amount of water for agriculture will not be limited and will fully match the needs of the sector’s development” (44). But even though both states have a strong emphasis on water for food, the two states’ motivations for allocating water to their agricultural sectors vary.
The word clouds above highlight the most commonly used words in Egyptian and Israeli National Water Policies, illustrating the two states’ different approaches to and priorities in water management. “Agriculture” and “nature” both appear in Israel’s; “land” and “agricultural” are relevant keywords for Egypt. “Food”, however, is not one of the most common words. The possible disconnect between agriculture and food in national water policies can be explored through the “Water for Food Web”.

Water for Food…
…for National Security
Egyptian national security has recently been rather shaken by protest and the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. National unrest in the past decade has been motivated partially by global food price spikes over grain, a staple of the Cairene diet. The Egyptian government has since prioritised food self-sufficiency to protect national security against global shocks and has made multiple statements on the need to expand agriculture through irrigation.
Israeli policy documents regularly call agricultural development a “national objective”. “Making the desert bloom” was central to Zionist policy. Agricultural success was seen as a way to legitimise the Jewish claim to the land. The state continues to employ its technical expertise in irrigation and water efficiency technologies for diplomatic relations. In this way, water for food has been water for nation building more than water for food itself.

…for Economic Security
Egypt’s IWRM Plan recognises that agriculture is a “major economic activity in Egypt”, accounting for nearly 15% of its GDP. Egypt has been more susceptible than most countries to food price shocks; internal food production is thus partially a mechanism for ensuring economic resilience.
Israeli agricultural produce is marketed throughout Europe and is one of the country’s links to countries, something sorely needed for a country that is not recognised by many of its neighbours. Israeli policies of agricultural water pricing promote economic sustainability for the sector.

…for Energy Security
Egyptian national water policies say virtually nothing about the link between water for food and energy. For Israel, energy is one of the few issues present in this web that does not come under the direct control of the National Water Authority. A great deal of energy is used in water for food: Drip irrigation and other agricultural technologies are energy-intensive.

…for Climate Security
In Egypt, food industries are one of the major contributors to water pollution. Water for food is thus considered by the state as a climate security issue primarily through the lens of environmental sustainability concerns, and the link between water for food and climate security is a negative one.
In Israel, the bulk of the water used in agriculture is marginal water from brackish sources. Israeli policy documents also speak of the need for water to help preserve the land’s fertility. For this country, then, the water for food-climate link is a more positive one.

…for Human Security
Egyptian water policies consider rising populations and improved standards of living, indicating that water for food is considered, at least partially, an issue of human security. Policy documents also speak of the desire to improve farmers’ incomes, raising another consideration in water for food.
Israeli documents discuss the need to care for rural communities. Population growth, primarily from immigration influxes, is heavily considered.

…for Food Security
Egyptian water policy documents explicitly mention “food security” as often as they do “water security”; indeed, food security is listed as the first challenge “facing the Government of Egypt as pertaining to water resources management” (IWRM 19). Food security is also stated explicitly in Israeli documents as a major policy motivation, but the state is richer and thus more able to depend on food imports if needed.
The links between water for food and food security are obvious in many ways, but consideration is needed of the myriad number of ways states employ “food security”.  Food security for whom and to which ends?

Conclusions and Recommendations
       Agricultural water can contribute a more than food to a state’s national security
       States facing different geopolitical conditions may have different motivations that lead to similar policy actions (e.g., Egypt and Israel both prioritise water for their agricultural sector but for different reasons)
       The new Egyptian government must balance an increasing population’s freshwater needs with agricultural demand and a desire for food self-sufficiency
       The Israeli government must better consider the costs of energy used in agriculture as well as water allocations
       Policymakers should understand and act on the ways agriculture and food production impact other sectors
       Researchers must consider the nuances of states’ motivations in agricultural water allotments

AbuZeid, Khaled. “Executive Summary: Policy Analysis of National Water Plans in Selected Arab Countries.” Available online at
Arab Republic of Egypt. June 2005. “Integrated Water Resources Management Plan.” Available online at
Arab Republic of Egypt. January 2005. “Water for the Future: National Water Resources Plan 2017.”
CIA.  “The World Factbook.”  Accessed online 13 February 2013 at <> and <>.
Rejwan, Ariel. April 2011. “The State of Israel: National Water Efficiency Report.” Available online at
State of Israel. March 2012. “Master Plan for the National Water Sector: Main Points of the Policy Paper.” Available online at
State of Israel. June 2002. “Transitional Master Plan for Water Sector Development in the Period 2002-2010.” Available online at
State of Israel. July 2011. “Long-Term Master Plan for the National Water Sector: Policy Document Version 3.” Available online at
World Bank. Country Data.  Accessed online 13 February 2013 at  <>.
Zeitoun, Mark. 2011. “The Global Web of National Water Security.” Global Policy 2 (2).

Friday's Agenda

1. Decide not to go to a workshop you're auditing on ArcGIS in the name of focusing on the policy brief due soon. You have access to all the GIS materials, so you can simply save the files and work on them in the computer labs on campus in a spare hour between lectures sometime in the future.
2. Receive an email from an instructor stating that the game with high school students you were meant to facilitate is suddenly happening today, so he'll take care of it but you're welcome. Realise you don't really have time to make it there easily, not to mention that going to campus would then negate the point of not going to computer workshop.
3. Eat Belgian eclairs and Michigan chocolate-covered crisps during Lent. Reflect on the power of switching things up in spiritual discipline.
4. Receive handmade Valentine's card from former GenCen colleague.
5. Write policy brief very happily while watching movies in the background.
6. Reflect on the fact that it's probably not really necessary to watch/listen to "The Avengers" more than five times in 24 hours. Do it anyway.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Thursday!

Becca's Thursday:
9 am: Tools and Skills in Environment and Development.  Group presentation (ungraded) on an Environmental Impact Assessment.
12:30 pm: Filmed promotional interview for the masters course and "green" programmes in UEA's School of International Development
1 pm: Lecture on global food prices and local economies
2:30 pm: Meeting with International Office on presentation proposal for an advisors' conference in Atlanta in July (whoever thought Atlanta in July was a good idea?!?)
4 pm: Meeting with instructor re: teaching a water basin pedagogical game to high schoolers and developing a version of "Risk" related to virtual water (more details to come on the game!)
5:30: Cook dinner: Chicken tikka masala.  (Totally not from scratch - the grocery store has canned tikka masala sauce.  And it is surprisingly good!)  On the "not helpful" list of things, my store-bought rice is the "product of more than one country."  So...thank you to farmers somewhere in the world for my dinner tonight!  My chicken came from Norfolk, and the tikka masala sauce was made in the UK.
7 pm: Babysitting!  Always a joy.

Great moment of the evening:
The kid I just tucked into bed: "You can get married and have babies anytime you want!" Apparently I passed the test. Kevin thinks that her relationship advice has been nullified by a later comment: "You can have more than one boyfriend." Hahaha. This has been Valentine's Day optimism from a six-year-old British girl!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday's Dinner

This year for Lent, Becca is paying attention to where her food comes from.
So, dinner:
Chicken from Holland cooked in Italian balsamic vinegar over a salad of Spanish spinach, Spanish raspberries, Chilean blueberries, French garlic and herbs Boursin, and American almonds. Also known as the "red, white, and blue" salad or the "Becca's favourite things" dinner.

Yes, this Lenten resolution is also known as "Becca brags about her cooking".  ;)

Welcome to Lent

In Michigan, it's hard to miss the "Fat Tuesday" Mardi Gras celebrations that signal the coming start of Lent. Paczki are everywhere. In the UK and other parts of the US, though, where the Polish community isn't so prominent, most people have never heard of paczki (huge doughnuts with jelly or custard that run around 900 calories each). My British mates don't even call the day before Ash Wednesday "Fat Tuesday." For them, it's "Pancake Day."
But like so many things in this country, "pancake" does not mean what most Americans think it means. Here, a "pancake" is distinctly more like a crepe - quite a bit flatter and a good bit more eggy. They are very similar to Grandma Dean's pancakes, for those of you who have enjoyed that particular delightful breakfast.
Needless to say, I was not able to procure paczki yesterday. I did, however, make my mates a bunch of crepes. I mean pancakes.

And now, it's Lent. "Happy" Ash Wednesday to all. Becca is hereby not eating out unless traveling, and then only in extreme moderation. Here goes nothing. :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Birthday to Linda!

Happy Birthday, Linda!  A special shout-out to Kevin’s mom today.

I hope you have a fabulous one.

: )

To the rest of you, a very happy Monday and the best of weeks!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Yesterday entailed a first visit to Oxford.  I had to go for the traditional Rhodes versus Marshall Scholars (American) football game.
The weather was wet and the pitch incredibly muddy...we played "slip in the mud with a ball" more than flag football, but a grand time was had by all nonetheless.
The Marshalls got red sports shirts with witty language and artwork:

Since the weather was foul, I didn't focus too much on touring; instead, I focused on seeing people! I'll be back to Oxford twice in April - once with Maddy for a tourist visit; once for a conference.  So I will have plenty of time to explore the colleges and see the sites.  I did take one required "Oxford" picture of Radcliffe Camera:

A friend who worked in The White House with me is currently doing a masters in Russian international relations, lit, and history; she and I had a delightful catch-up over tea. Mum will be glad to know it was proper tea with loose leaves and everything.

One of the Rhodes who couldn't make the game and I went to dinner at the most wonderfully geeky restaurant.  Its walls and ceiling are covered in DC and Marvel comic, Star Trek and Star Wars, Doctor Who, etc. decor.  Its menu is comprised of burgers and sides named after heroes, villains, etc.  It was really fun - and really good.  Goat cheese and onion marmalade chicken burger with chocolate and strawberry milkshake?  Yes, please!

Oxford, I think you're lovely...I'll come finalise that judgment in April when the weather shows you off better!  :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ah, productivity

I am one of those people who gets a very serious happy buzz off being very productively busy.  I had a delightful Monday, comprising of:
  • 1 two-hour lecture on Environmental Impact Assessments
  • 1 two-hour lecture on the Water-Climate-Energy Nexus
  • 1 hour spent in my office doing work for UEA's International Office as the American Ambassador
  • 2 hours spent helping out at an Excel workshop for coursemates on an upcoming modeling coursework we have to do
  • Drafting an itinerary for Maddy's visit to the UK and Ireland.  (We are going to have an obscene amount of fun.  No, really.  The draft itinerary makes me jealous of myself. We are going to Cardiff, Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Brighton, and Oxford. We are visiting cafes where Rowling, Tolkein, and Lewis have written. We are riding ferries. We are going canoeing. We are swimming in the English Channel. We are seeing like four shows in the West End. We are going to the "Doctor Who" Experience. We are visiting national libraries, botanical gardens, and zoos. You really should hate both of us.)
  • Sending 15 work-related emails
  • Two Marshall Scholar work-related conference calls
  • Revising a presentation I'm giving Wednesday with a mate on the social construction of knowledge
Ah, life.  'Tis beautiful.
And now...I'm going to write up a paragraph on my Marshall Experience for a website redrafting and probably do some coursework.  Just because I'm seriously on a productivity high.
It's possible I have a very mild and not very problematic form of productivity bipolarity...I couldn't make myself do a thing on Saturday.  :)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Weekend!

The first weekend of February contains several delightful things for me.

I just finished a choir rehearsal with the Octagon; we're singing a few songs composed by our speaker next Sunday 10 February.
This afternoon, have a Google+ Conference Call with several other delegates from AMENDS, a conference on US-MENA relations to take place at Stanford in April.
Tonight, I am baby-sitting for the first time for a professor from the School of International Development. I'm mostly just keeping an eye on the house, as the kids should already be asleep by the time I get there. This is a bit sad, as I'd love some play time with the kiddos. It does, however, mean that I get a Google+ date with Kevin, Megsie, and Evan!

Tomorrow, I am reading for the service at the Octagon on "The Wisdom of the Smurfs."  (Yes, we awesome Unitarians have Smurf-themed services.  Heehee.)  I've been digging out blue and white clothing to wear.
After Octagon, I'm kidnapping an adorable two-year-old (Iorwerth) and taking him to the Cathedral for a rollicking round of ball.
And for dinner, I'm meeting up with a bunch of coursemates at one of my favourite chain restaurants.

Somewhere in there, perhaps I'll get a bit of work done...

: )