Thursday, April 28, 2016


After a very fantastic reunion in London, featuring a pint out with the other geography PhDs and a grinning five-year-old:

I am about to board a plane once again. Happily, not for so long this time around. 

Effy and I are heading to Istanbul, Turkey this weekend for an AMENDS conference. The Fellows from across class years come together for a Reunion Forum each year at KoƧ University, an AMENDS and Stanford University partner. It's a focused few days of spending time with good people while sharing initiative ideas, building new joint projects together, and problem-solving with others who face similar challenges. My helping out with the Jerusalem Youth Chorus came directly out of this Forum 2 years ago, and all of my PhD research partner organisations are AMENDS introductions. Excited to see what life-changing meet-ups I have this time around!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Au revoir, Liban!

Well...that two months certainly ran by!

It's been six months since I flew off to Morocco and began this very cool adventure of PhD data collection fieldwork. I have now shadowed 3 non-profit, non-governmental organisations across the Middle East and North Africa to examine how activists around the region are engaging creatively with nature to build relationships and further peace aims. 

So. Now I have all this data. And not the faintest clue what to do with it. ;)
My summer will be spent transcribing 35 interviews - listening to what on earth we said during our conversations and typing them up so they're easily searchable. I'll then plug them into a software that qualitative (word- and description-based) researchers use and begin "coding" - putting flags on certain words, phrases, and claims. From there I'll begin looking to see what trends emerge. 
I also have data in the form of ranking around groups that have control over environmental peacebuilding efforts and some "maps" of purpose to create. It'll be a mix of reading and writing and graphing to keep me occupied. Whilst looking longingly out the window at the London sun (which does actually appear in the summer sometimes). 

I will, in fact, be glad to actually be home for a solid bit. I've some brief conference trips planned to Turkey and Morocco, and I'll be training around the UK for meetings and friends as per usual, but I am ready to be at least nominally based in one place for a solid while again. Living out of a suitcase the way I do is quite the privilege. But so too is home. :)

Lebanon, you've been a very worthy last round. Ta ta for now! I am sure I'll see you again. 

My thanks and best wishes to a full crew of wonderful humans who made my time here so valuable and fun. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Monday and Tuesday brought me back to my days in Michigan State University Student Life (way to make me feel old, were those days 4-8 years ago?!?). I represented MAP at the American University of Beirut's NGO Fair. Several groups I knew - including Maya's FoodBlessed! - gathered to share their missions and recruit student participants.

I had a lot of fun getting to know students...lots of good chat about the media in Lebanon, experiences abroad, and career paths. We got a good cohort of around 60 volunteer sign-ups, so hopefully some fresh new blood will come into MAP as I leave and another team will take on the next exciting project.

Monday, April 18, 2016

First National Conference on Media, Peace & the Environment

The big day was Saturday!

100 journalists, students, researchers, policymakers, and concerned citizens gathered in Beirut to explore the connections between peace journalism and environmental peacebuilding. It was a really great day with some fascinating topics covered - and links made between quite divergent sectors in fantastic ways.

The programme:

  • 9am ​​Opening 
    • Speech by the Minister of Information
    • Speech by the Representative of the Indian Embassy to Lebanon
    • Speech by Vanessa Bassil, Founder and President, Media Association for Peace
  • 9:30am​ Panel I: The Media-Peace-Environment Nexus Panel
    • Chair: Vanessa Bassil, Conference Director, Media Association for Peace 
    • Christina Boutros, Conference Coordinator, Media Association for Peace: Overview of MAP Environmental Media, Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation Project
    • Linda Haidar, Research Intern, Media Association for Peace: Launching of MAP Media, Peace and Environment Report 
    • Rebecca L. Farnum, Environmental Peacebuilding Researcher, King's College London, Nature & Peace: The Concept of Environmental Peacebuilding
    • Bassam Al-Kantar, Journalist, Greenarea Website: Assessment of Media Coverage of Climate Change Issues
    • Writer Habib Maalouf, Journalist, Assafir Newspaper: Environmental Problems as a Source of Conflict and Environmental Philosophy as a Doorway to Peace
    • Veronique Abou Ghazale, Journalist and Media Researcher: The Role of Media in Sustainable Development and Environmental Peacebuilding
    • Pascale Azar, Former Journalist, Annahar Newspaper and Media Researcher: Challenges and Opportunities of Environmental Media in Lebanon 
  • 11:30am ​Panel II: Public Engagement, Education and the Environment 
    • Moderator: Corine Chalfoun, Journalist & Member, Media Association for Peace
    • Leon Semerjian, Co-Founder of the Green Party: Environmental Political Parties & Peacebuilding
    • Ramy Atta, Journalist and Media Scholar: Media Professionals Role in Encouraging Citizenship Culture
    • Dany El-Obeid, Environmental Researcher: “If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation”: Religious Communities in Environmental Peacebuilding
    • Jasmin Diab, Researcher and Project Assistant, Lebanese Emigration Research Center, Notre Dame University-Louaize: Educating Youth towards Civic Engagement for a Culture of Peace and Environmentalism in the Middle East
  • 2pm​​ Panel III: Climate Change and Natural Resources Management
    • Moderator: Corine Chalfoun, Journalist & Member, Media Association for Peace
    • Walid Nasr, Head of Strategic Planning Department, Lebanese Petroleum Administration: Considering Peace and Security when Managing Lebanon’s Oil
    • Laury Haytayan, MENA Senior Officer, Natural Resource Governance Institute: The Role of Gas in Building Peace in Lebanon and MENA Region
  • 3:30pm ​Panel IV: The Garbage Crisis & the Civil Movement 
    • Moderator: Ildico Elya, Host, Free Lebanon Radio Station
    • Antoine Abou Moussa, Terre Liban: Waste Management, Conflicts and Peace
    • Mario Goraieb, Project Coordinator, Arcenciel: Tracing the Links between Media, the Syrian Refugees, and the Waste Management Crisis 
    • Assaad Thebian, YouStink! Activist: The Role of the Civil Movement in the Garbage Crisis: What Lessons?
    • Foutoun Raad, Reporter, Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI): Media Coverage of the Garbage Crisis & the Civil Movement
  • 4:45pm ​Closing Remarks 
    • Vanessa Bassil, Founder & President, Media Association for Peace

The pictures:

And now...the Planning Team will all go sleep for a week. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

T-minus six days and counting...

The conference is this week! Lebanon's Media Association for Peace hosts the First National Conference on Media, Peace and the Environment. Speakers will reflect on how the concepts of peace journalism and environmental peacebuilding intersect, exploring issues of climate change, oil and natural resources, the country's waste management crisis, and public engagement.

This project is the primary reason I'm working with the Media Association for Peace - the least hands-on environmental action-y (yes, that's a technical term) of my research groups but the most explicitly focused on the ideas of environmental peacebuilding. The conference is what the majority of my work with MAP thus far has focused on.

Happening's hoping all of us manage to get at least some sleep this week. ;)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Nahr Ibrahim

Sunday I traveled to Christina's seaside village of Nahr Ibrahim.

Here I am overlooking Nahr Ibrahim itself, a beautiful river meandering toward the Mediterranean. It's flowing strong right now, fed by melting snow from Lebanon's gorgeous mountains.

Also on the day's agenda:

A fantastic homecooked lunch from Tina's mom, lovingly made vegetarian. Hello, potatoes of perfection and fabulous fattouche!

Cotton candy and a stroll through another nearby town

Ping pong in the currently empty pool (isn't that the normal use of such a space?)

Becca climbing all over a shut-down railroad bridge

Exploration of some other fantastic ruins

A healthy dose of just plain silliness

And, of course, a bit of treehugging :)

It's been a great addition to fieldwork, the chance to see different parts of the country and experience homelife a bit. Thanks to my MAP mates for being such amazing hosts!!