On the Environment
Thursday, October 31, 2013
By Guest Author, Avana Andrade, Yale F&ES '15
Jason Foscolo, principal attorney at The Food Law Firm, will kick off Part II of the Frontiers in Food and Agriculture webinar series on Tuesday, November 6.
Part II of the series, titled A Legal Framework for the New Food Movement, will examine the legal structures that support and enable a new food movement. Mr. Foscolo’s presentation will explore how specialized legal tools can be used to promote sustainability, ethical livestock production, and soil-enhancing agriculture practices. In particular, he will highlight the unique features of the cooperative model in agricultural contexts, the sustainable cultivation of livestock through contract production, and agricultural leases that reward tenants for soil-enhancing farming practices
The series continues Wednesday, November 13, with Laurie Ristino, director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School; her presentation will offer a brief overview of modern agriculture history and the forces that produced our highly efficient, industrialized food system – touching upon the environmental, social, and economic impacts of our consolidated food production and the economies of scale that define its production, distribution, and marketing. Rachel Armstrong (11/20), and Janelle Orsi (12/4) will explore new business models to help farmers access the legal system as well as the possibility of re-envisioning our food system as a commons. These guests, in sum, will shed light on the role of law in giving the emerging food movement legitimacy and durability.
For more detailed information on each webinar see YCELP’s calendar of upcoming events: http://envirocenter.yale.edu/events.
To register for any of the webinars in Part II, including Jason Foscolo’s, please see the following links:
Food Law Activism: Legal Models for Sustainable Business
Jason Foscolo, Principle Attorney at The Food Law Firm
Wednesday, November 6, 2013| 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM EST
The New Food Movement: How We Got Here + Why It Matters
Laurie Ristino, Director, Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, Vermont Law School
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 | 12:00 – 1:00 PM EST
Business as Unusual: Building the New For Movement with Business Law
Rachel Armstrong, Executive Director, Farm Commons
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 | 12:00 – 1:00 PM EST
Legal Structures for Just and Sustainable Food Systems
Janelle Orsi, Executive Director, Sustainable Economies Law Center
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 | 3:00 – 4:00 PM EST
Monday, October 28, 2013
By Guest Author, Verner Wilson III, Yale F&ES '15
A changing climate will mean big changes in our agriculture and forestry systems that will affect every American, and that’s why the US Department of Agriculture has an office devoted specifically to analyzing and taking action to minimize the negative impacts of climate change. Bill Hohenstein, director of USDA’s Climate Change Office, will discuss how USDA approaches that mission Tuesday, October 29. His talk, which begins at 6:00 PM in Kroon Hall’s Burke Auditorium, is free and open to the public.
Earlier this year, under Mr. Hohenstein’s leadership, the USDA released a report that underscored the negative effects that climate changewill bring to US food systems. While USDA says that changes must be assessed at a regional and local scale, the changes will be felt throughout the US. For example, in an interview with US News in April, Mr. Hohenstein said that a changing climate will cause more “miserable days” for farmers and ranchers in the Southwest US. That’s because an increase in the misery index, which is a combination of temperature and humidity, will mean hotter temperatures that can kill crops and livestock dependent on cooler temperatures. Miserable days also will mean higher prices for food that consumers buy at the grocery store.
Mr. Hohenstein serves as a liaison to thirteen federal agencies, serves as a US representative during international climate negotiations, and provides recommendations to America’s top leaders on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Yale Climate and Energy Institute are pleased to host him during as part of their fall 2013 speaker series: From Mitigation to Adaptation: Regional Responses to Climate Change.
Verner Wilson, III, is a first-year Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is originally from Bristol Bay, Alaska, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies in 2008 from Brown University. He previously worked for the World Wildlife Fund, as well as a coalition of Alaska Native tribes, on issues related to sustainable wild salmon fisheries, environmental justice, mining, oil and gas, and climate change.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
By Guest Author, Amy Weinfurter, Yale F&ES '15
During a recent presentation at Yale Law School, Maxine Burkett noted that her scholarship often focuses “on the edge of what is possible.” Professor Burkett, Associate Professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii, and the former director of the Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy (ICAP), visited campus Friday, October 18, as part of the fall speaker series From Mitigation to Adaptation: Regional Responses to Climate Change speaker series, co-hosted by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Yale Climate and Energy Institute. Her scholarship tackles a problem that indeed seems unimaginable, but increasingly threatens island and coastal communities across the world: how states might continue to exist, even after climate change has made their physical territories uninhabitable.
For island and coastal nations, rising sea levels pose an urgent threat. Saltwater intrusion can damage water supplies, and ruin soil’s ability to support agriculture. More frequent and intense storms can damage infrastructure, and accelerate coastal erosion, a phenomenon creating tough decisions for coastal Alaskan communities. For island nations, such as Tuvalu, the threat is so complete that it is difficult to truly comprehend; rising sea levels are likely to completely flood low-lying countries, creating scores of climate refugees.
The toll of climate change on communities is already heavy, though the many people do not always recognize the link between migration and global warming. Professor Burkett noted that in the continental United States – an area that might not seem to be at risk for climate-change-driven migration – Hurricane Katrina temporarily or permanently displaced 1.1 million people from communities in Louisiana and Mississippi. In addition to the impact of extreme weather events, like hurricanes, a more subtle and long-term exodus is also underway. Many residents of Pacific islands have begun what Professor Burkett terms a “slow-moving migration,” leaving now in anticipation of the future threat of rising seas. This process threatens to create “empty states,” by draining communities of skills and tax revenue even before the full physical impacts of climate change hit.
This migration poses challenges that existing legal tools cannot easily meet. As a closely watched court case in New Zealand demonstrates, human rights laws do not account or make provisions for victims of climate change. In New Zealand, as in most states, the “legal concept of a refugee is someone who is being persecuted, which requires human interaction.” Climate change, which depends on so many different decisions and decisionmakers, is difficult to fit into this framework, despite the clear threat it poses to the future of vulnerable communities. Additionally, in countries like the United States, the political difficulty of accepting the presence of global warming may prevent conversations about climate refugees.
Professor Burkett argues that the unique threat climate change poses to vulnerable communities – and the current legal system’s inability to tackle it – requires a radical rethinking of the definition of a nation. The current legal framework for a state requires a permanent population, defined territory, functioning government, and capacity to enter into relations with other states. Professor Burkett envisions a new type of “ex-situ state” that could operate without a physical territory. These nations would use virtual networks to maintain a sense of culture and identity among a citizenry spread across the globe. They would also act as important intermediaries and advocates for citizens who have immigrated to – but not yet received full citizenship in – other countries. Her proposal draws on current alternative models of the state, such as the Tibetan Government-in-exile; the Sovereign Order of Malta, which operates out of Rome after losing access to its island territory; dual citizenship models; and the networks that link post-colonial diaspora populations to their home countries.
Professor Burkett’s talk highlights the environmental injustice inherent in climate change; a major brunt of its impacts will be born by island nations with tiny carbon footprints. While adaptation strategies often call to mind engineering or urban planning initiatives, climate change also has the potential to radically alter political framework and boundaries. Professor Burkett’s work eloquently illustrates the need to more fully plan for the human and sociopolitical impacts of climate change, and the moral imperative to invest in mitigation strategies, to make such drastic measures less necessary.
Amy Weinfurter is a first-year Masters of Environmental Management (MEM '15) candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, focusing on the intersection between environmental communication and policy. Before arriving at Yale, she studied English and environmental science at Colby College, and worked with non-profit organizations in Colorado and Washington, D.C., on communication, watershed management, and community outreach and engagement initiatives.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
By Guest Author, Rachel Lipstein, Yale College '15
Superstorms and costal flooding may grab headlines, but water scarcity is emerging as our most immediate environmental concern. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent assessment highlights the increasing risk of water scarcity in this age of climate extremes and skyrocketing populations. Another recent study finds that if, by the end of the century, 500 million people are subjected to water scarcity, it will be the result of an optimistic warming scenario. Even now, the droughts plaguing many of the world’s most arid regions—including parts of western United States—are contributing to economic fragility and social unrest.
Water meters, small devices that track water usage, could play a key role in helping people understand the reality of water as a limited resource. Because they allow utilities to bill by volume, meters encourage customers to conserve—often with dramatic results. In the upcoming series, we will examine metering's effect on water consumption, its intersection with cultural norms and individual rights, and its impact on communities.
In urban areas of Chile, people know exactly how much water they use. The country’s regulatory agency pegged average usage in 2009 at 44.9 gallons per capita per day, nearly half the United States’ average consumption. They know with such a high degree of certainty because 96 percent of households across the country—100 percent in urban areas—have water meters, small devices that track consumption. Meters allow for volumetric billing, charging consumers for the water they actually use, which encourages them to pay attention to how long they run the tap.
Outside of Chile, where meters are sparse or nonexistent, households pay for water at a flat rate, which encourages users to ignore how long they run the tap. With flat rates, lower-volume users subsidize higher-volume users, and neither has an incentive to curb consumption.
Urban Chileans pay for water by the cubic meter. The more they use, the more they pay. Poor Chileans are protected by a direct subsidy that has money going directly into citizens’ pockets to help pay the bills. To maintain fairness and equity, and to ensure that utilities charge a fair rate, tariffs are set by an independent regulatory body.
Despite success stories like the one in Chile, many countries have been slow to accept meters. Chile has a remarkable degree of meter coverage, particularly for Latin America (according to the World Bank). For the sake of comparison, Ireland hovers just above 0 percent. For most countries without a history of utility centralization and regulation, such as the United States, metering policy may vary widely from region to region. It seems high levels of development or GDP are no indicator of coverage.
Chile’s exceptional performance is a result of a series of transitions that began with a 1974 military coup headed by Augusto Pinochet. As a component of sweeping centralization, Pinochet implemented a national public water and sanitation company, extending coverage dramatically through the 1970s and 1980s. Meters were installed in most new connections, paving the way for a mandatory metering policy.
After the 1988 transition to democracy, Chile adopted a spate of laws that divided the national company into several public and private corporations. Mandatory metering was implemented, and a powerful state regulatory agency was established to oversee it all. New progressive policies ensured that no household spent more than 5 percent of its average monthly income on water and sanitation. While customers have an incentive to conserve water, no one is denied access due to price. Utilities are incentivized to maintain good quality water and reliable systems.
Chile, the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reported, has created the perfect public-private model. Privatization has increased in recent years, accompanied by a private service provision that maximizes efficiency and quality. Meanwhile, an autonomous public regulator ensures fair prices and equitable service. , 
Bolivia is a counterpoint to Chile’s success. In 1997 and 1999, the government awarded two major contracts to foreign private utilities, granting them the right to provide water in La Paz and Cochabamba. These contracts resulted in skyrocketing prices and water cut-offs, along with mandatory meters. Multi-city riots ensued in a conflict known as the Cochabamba water wars. Thousands took to the streets, erected roadblocks, and defied police. Within the span of three days in April 2000, several protesters were killed, including a 17-year-old boy. Then-president Hugo Banzer declared martial law. The government finally agreed to grant water control to the grassroots coalition of protesters with the promise of dissolving the private contract.
The memory of that conflict remains in the hearts of many Bolivians. “In a lot of Latin America, there is a hesitancy to talk about metering due to its association with the water wars,” said Kim Lemme, of the international non-profit, Water for People. The mention of metering, she said, often elicits murmurs of “Bechtel,” one of the despised private water companies. “Being able to get people used to the idea of metering,” she concluded, “is powerful.”
Bolivians are still adjusting to the idea of meters. However because of innovative funding plans and the example set by model projects, several communities have already made the switch. According to Kate Fogelberg at Water for People, over 120 rural communities in Bolivia now have metering systems. While Chileans enjoy 96 percent metering, they still face challenges in their water sector, particularly in the over-allocation of rural water rights that leaves remote, arid, downstream households dry.
A progressive metering policy, accompanied by careful regulation, has made Chilean cities standout sites of clean, affordable water in Latin America. Because of its broad implications, water metering can act as an indicator of both water conservation policy and practice. However, spotty data coverage may hamper the development of a metric to assess how much water consumption is metered in countries, mainly because information is self-reported by the utilities themselves and only in selected countries. Representing the status of water resources, describing systems, and guiding policy meaningfully is an Augean task, one in which metering will play a part.
This post is the first in a series on water metering. The next installment will look at residential metering in the United States and other developed countries.
Rachel Lipstein is a junior at Yale College majoring in English major with a concentration in Writing. She is interested in sustainable agriculture and enjoys spending time on farms. Previously, she worked on the 108-foot sloop, Clearwater, which is dedicated to protecting the Hudson River through education, advocacy, and celebration.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
By Guest Author, Verner Wilson, III, Yale F&ES '15
In the vast Pacific Ocean lie thousands of islands with rich cultures and histories. One of them is the country of Tuvalu. The country, with a population of about 12,000 people, is the fourth least-populated nation in the world. Tuvaluans have called their island home for thousands of years and depend on fishing as well as their islands for food and livelihoods. As an Alaska Native I can relate to their culture. It shares a tradition of hunting and fishing for survival, as well as a deep connection to the sea. This island and my own home face a similar threat from the impacts of climate change.
Tuvalu and many other Pacific Island nations are low-lying. The tallest point in Tuvalu is fourteen feet above sea-level. This is problematic, since studies show sea levels will continue to rise as a result our changing climate. In late September, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) released its fifth assessment on the impacts of climate change, and their report predicted that oceans would rise by at least a foot or two this century. This is a larger increase than predicted in the IPCC’s previous report, and raises the stakes for small island-nations such as Tuvalu.
One or two feet may not seem like much, but in Tuvalu the average elevation is just about six feet above sea level. That means that infrastructure – homes, schools, workplaces – will be compromised. When this happens, Tuvaluans may be among the first nations forced to completely desert their homeland, creating a state of climate refugees. In Alaska, Shishmaref is facing a similar fate. The small Arctic village is located on a barrier reef. When I visited the Alaskan island last year, while working for the World Wildlife Fund, many people told me how reduced sea ice and increased storms had already carried away one home in their village. It struck me to hear of their experience and plea for action.
Stories like this illustrate the importance of Maxine Burkett’s work. Professor Burkett is an Associate Professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii, and the former director of the Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy (ICAP). She is an expert on climate change law and policy, and her previous work includes advising Pacific Island nations like Tuvalu on how to move forward. Her lecture, titled “Climate Refugees and the Challenge of Statehood: Defining the Problem, Identifying Solutions,” is on Thursday, October 17, at 12:30 PM in Yale Law School's Room 121. The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Yale Climate and Energy Institute are honored to host her while she explores the issue of climate justice and regional adaptation and mitigation measures in the Pacific. All are welcome to be a part of this important discussion.
By Guest Author, Avana Andrade, Yale F&ES '15
In her October 2 webinar, “Gender, Food and Agriculture,” Maria Trumpler, Director of the Office LGBTQ Resources at Yale, spoke about the centrality of women’s labor and expertise in agriculture around the world and highlighted the ways in which interdisciplinarity can illuminate conventionally delineated topics such as agriculture and gender studies. In doing this, she helped listeners find connections between agriculture, international development, cooking, gender, women’s voting rights, and the simple (or socially complex) act of eating.
This approach reveals that women are critical drivers behind the sustainable production of food globally, particularly in many developing countries where women provide 43 percent of agricultural labor. The recent report, The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011, released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recognizes the “gender gap” in agricultural production. That is, recent data reveals that despite their large contribution of labor, women own less land, fewer livestock, and have less access to machinery, credit, or extension education. Ameliorating this gap could increase a locale’s food production and help reduce food shortages.
From a women’s history perspective, this report reflects an important historic trend, the acknowledgement of women’s labor as independent of men’s. The inclusion of gender studies in agriculture does much to dismantle the invisibility of women’s work in the fields and in the home, an all-too-familiar historic narrative.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, women run 14 percent of farms (as opposed to 5 percent in 1978) and are increasingly interested in small-scale farming ventures. By 2007, in fact, small or “tiny” farms represented 31 percent of all U.S. farms (as opposed to 11 percent in 1982). Women play an important role in the local agriculture movement that is gaining momentum across the US. Local farms and community-supported agriculture organizations (CSAs) are becoming important sources of organic produce, dairy, and meat in regional markets. Groups such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are pressing for federal action to support small farms as drivers of local economies. Such efforts are creating a national platform for re-thinking food production and distribution.
Women’s support of small farms may boost regional economic systems, but may also be a source of biological and cultural revitalization. In this sense, perhaps, local women farmers are both reclaiming and redefining their roles as members of their communities. As the loss of crop diversity globally becomes a greater threat to food security, the task of protecting native and heirloom varieties becomes ever more important.
Indeed, the protection of crop diversity is both biologically and culturally relevant as these carefully selected plants are, in many ways, embedded in a cultural milieu. Crops such as lacinato kale, beets, or cabbage bind cultivators and consumers to the land and to each other through economic and social ties. These plants often represent seasonal traditions in celebration of the spring planting or fall harvest, or may be a central component of how communities express social values like sharing or cooperation.
Increased involvement with growing food locally may allow women to build not only a more robust economy but create a stronger community-driven and cooperative relationship to the land.
If you weren’t able to join us for Maria’s webinar but are interested in exploring this topic more, a recording of Maria Trumpler’s webinar is available here.
Please join us November 6 at 11:00 AM EST for our next webinar in the series. Jason Foscolo of the Food Law Firm will join us to launch “A Legal Framework for the New Food Movement,” the second part of our yearlong webinar series on Frontiers in Food and Agriculture. Registration details are forthcoming. For more information about the series and to register for upcoming webinars, visit our webinar page.
Avana Andrade is a first year Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She earned her B.A. in International Studies and Western European History at Colorado State University in 2010. Before returning to school, she worked as a public historian and backcountry ranger with the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service in both Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Her work has focused on the history of grazing and cultural resource management in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Canyonlands National Park. Work and recreation on the Colorado Plateau motivates her primary interest in grad school, environmental conflict mediation. Avana is a Colorado native and an avid backpacker and gardener.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
By Guest Author, Verner Wilson, III, Yale F&ES '15
We don’t often talk about American communities falling into the ocean, what it means for an entire ocean to lose 75 percent of its summer sea-ice volume, or of extreme weather events like super-storm Sandy becoming the norm. Yet on September 24, in front of a crowd of over one hundred Yale students, faculty, and members of the public, Fran Ulmer, the chair of the US Arctic Research Commission, addressed these issues as the new reality in a changing world.
Fran Ulmer’s talk launched the fall speaker series From Mitigation to Adaptation: Regional Responses to Climate Change, co-hosted by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and the Yale Climate and Energy Institute. In her lecture, “What Happens in the Arctic Doesn’t Stay in the Arctic,” the former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska and member of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill explained her current work for the US Arctic Research Commission. The Commission is a federal agency created in 1984 by Congress to help protect this remote and mysterious region by directing and coordinating Arctic research. (Photo: Danielle Lehle)
Ulmer explained that Alaskan communities have already experienced warmer weather. Many schools, homes, and other infrastructure have already suffered from the impacts of thawing permafrost. The loss of sea-ice that usually protects Arctic villages against the cruel waves of the open ocean has also increased coastal erosion, putting seaside communities at risk. Arctic sea-ice has gotten so low, she said, that the Arctic has lost 75 percent of its entire volume of summer-sea ice since 1980.
One of the consequences from this loss of volume is a change in the atmospheric jet stream that regulates weather. The alteration of the jet stream is likely to cause more intense storms and extreme events in places around the world, including the US East Coast. What happens in the Arctic truly doesn’t stay in the Arctic. Ulmer highlighted the importance and relevance of the Arctic to Americans from all climates, reminding the audience that the US is an Arctic nation – whether or not it understands itself as such. Ms. Ulmer said that this lack of understanding means research projects in the Arctic are insufficiently funded.
Funding to help Arctic communities adapt to a changing world is even more lacking, and it affects the millions of people and wildlife living in the Arctic. Ms. Ulmer’s speech underscored the fact that Alaskans like myself have already suffered the impacts of climate change, and we need proper research and preparation to reduce the threats climate change poses to our communities in Alaska. While I was in high school, as part of a group called Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA), I was moved by the experience of my peers, who told stories about how their villages and towns were experiencing changes. I knew that it was the youth of Alaska who were going to be most affected by climate change in the future, and as the leaders of tomorrow we had to take action. As a result, AYEA started a climate change educational initiative directed at our peers throughout the state, and a corresponding petition to our elected officials demanding that they also take action on climate change. We got over 5,000 Alaska high school students from over 105 Alaskan communities to sign the petition and as a result, our elected officials vowed to take action. Some went from naysayers of climate change to co-sponsoring legislation to help with the adaptation and mitigation of climate change.
I continued my outreach and activism on climate change while in college as a presenter with the Climate Project, and during my professional career at the World Wildlife Fund in Alaska. After years of doing this work, it is humbling to know that leaders like Ms. Ulmer understand the important research needs for the adaptation and mitigation of climate change and are advocating this to federal agencies.
Adapting physically to a changing climate is only one of the challenges. Our research, priorities, and regulations must also evolve to address the challenges this new reality brings. Ms. Ulmer urged the US to catch up with the other seven Arctic nations and develop a comprehensive climate action plan for America’s Arctic. For example, many nations in Europe have already adopted comprehensive plans for adaptation to climate change. A website by the European Environment Agency is a useful tool that shows what initiatives each country have taken or will take for climate adaptation. For example, Finland adopted a comprehensive plan that includes resources for its citizens to obtain climate change information, and a step-by-step guide to support adaptation and mitigation strategies from the municipal level to the small business level.
It will be interesting to see if our leaders in the US heed the advice of policy experts such as Ms. Ulmer and others in the near future. Organizations such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington, D.C.-based bipartisan policy think-tank, have come up with specific recommendations for the US, including adopting the United National Convention on Law of the Sea Treaty, appointing an Arctic Ambassador, and improving interagency cooperation on the Arctic. In 2015, the US will take the reigns as chair of the Arctic Council, an international forum between all eight Arctic nations with a mission to help foster a dialogue on Arctic issues. Ms. Ulmer and the CSIS argue that in order for the US to be more credible as chair of the Arctic Council, it should adopt these recommendations.
Further, international figures, including President Obama, are hoping to enact a big global climate change agreement in 2015 to strengthen efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What leadership role will the US play during these two global opportunities? As Ms. Ulmer said in her speech, Americans should think about what our responsibility is as an Arctic Nation. President Obama, the leader of the second largest carbon-dioxide-emitting country in the world, has stated that climate change is the greatest global threat of our time, and that a great deal of work remains to solve this problem. It will be interesting to see if actions will speak louder than words within the next two years.
For more information on the US Arctic Research Commission and updates on the latest Arctic research, you can subscribe to the US Arctic Research Commission’s daily Arctic Update newsletter at www.arctic.gov. The newsletter covers Arctic updates from around the world, including news from places such as Russia and Greenland. The Research Commission’s site also includes an Arctic Science Portal, a tool on research projects in the Arctic, and facilitates networking among those doing related work in this region. These are small, important steps to help make a difference on climate change impacts to the Arctic.
For more from Fran Ulmer, listen to her podcasts interviews here and here.
Verner Wilson, III is a first-year Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is originally from Bristol Bay, Alaska, and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies in 2008 from Brown University. He previously worked for the World Wildlife Fund, as well as a coalition of Alaska Native tribes, on issues related to sustainable wild salmon fisheries, environmental justice, mining, oil and gas, and climate change.
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
By Guest Author, Omar Malik, Yale F&ES '13
What do headliner musicians like Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys, John Mayer and Stevie Wonder have to do with the United Nations? Before the annual Global Citizen Festival, which took place in Central Park on September 28th to raise awareness about the global Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty, I wouldn’t have made the connection. Nonetheless, I found myself rocking out to music alongside 75,000 other attendees—ranging from academics to hipster youth—who were supporting an end to extreme poverty even though they may not all have classified themselves as being socially minded.
The concert was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, and it was cleverly punctuated with special guests who talked about the importance of building a movement around poverty reduction. A recurring festival that travels the globe, it’s put together by the Global Poverty Project and the Cotton On Foundation, both international advocacy organizations that use new media to raise support for social issues.
As an awareness-raising tactic, concert attendees had to do a series of online learning activities to be eligible for a ticket to the concert. Users racked up points by exploring the website for the Global Poverty Project and answering quiz questions based on, for instance, issue briefings and through watching videos and re-posting articles to their own blogs. Once a user accumulated 10 points, he or she was eligible to be in a drawing for tickets. It’s an interesting business model, and while I’m not sure everyone paid attention to the finer details of the games, I'm sure that some people did learn something new.
Much of the audience was young people and social media was a key feature of the show. The hashtag of the concert, #GlobalCitizen, was popular on Twitter and real-time tweets were displayed on the jumbo screens while the concert was rolling. Instagram was also littered with New York youth showing off their end-of-the-summer outing. It’s a clear sign that the ideas of the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations are percolating down to “non-expert” demographics, broadening the reach so that perhaps the next generation will take up the cause.
At one point, while I was waiting in line to purchase the healthy food, the profits of which were to go toward alleviating poverty, I looked over to the stage and saw that Jeffrey Sachs--the famous professor of economics at Columbia and Director of the Earth Institute--was on stage. He was soon joined by the actress Olivia Wilde, and together they were commenting on ways to reduce extreme poverty. And if this duo didn’t already represent worlds colliding, Sachs brought onto the stage other special guests, including the President of Malawi, Joyce Banda.
That’s about when I was informed that the food ran out. The festival had not, it turns out, been prepared for the scale of its own success. It was a slight disappointment to those waiting in line, but showed how popular the event was.
Later in the night, former Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am took the stage and proclaimed his vast admiration for recycling, which I thought was valuable because he showed that sustainability can be a mainstream thing. He challenged the audience to make use of the recycling bins (dubbed “Ekocycle” bins) so that next year, he could wear a jacket made entirely of the recycled plastic gathered from this concert.
I left the concert early, a bit hungry from having missed out on the healthy food options. But while I was eating the notably less sustainable burger-and-fries option later, I soon regretted ducking out after I heard (through social media) that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon himself was on stage with Stevie Wonder, to offer one more exhortation to action before the closing performance.
In the end, this concert made me think that this kind of messaging and outreach campaign can be more effective in reaching the public than some of the academically oriented reporting that’s aimed at influencing the UN process. The presence of so many celebrities alongside leaders from the global South, where poverty is a pervasive problem, at this place in New York City led me to think that perhaps academics and policymakers might be finally understanding how to “get hip” with the new generation who will the global citizens that affect change in the future.
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
By Guest Author, Jena Clarke, Yale F&ES '15
Alison Alkon and Teresa Mares join us this week on our webinar series Frontiers in Food and Agriculture as we continue our conversation about linking theory and practice in food justice. Dr. Alkon will be joining us online from the University of the Pacific in California where she is an associate professor in and chair of the sociology department. Dr. Mares is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Vermont. Their talk this week will center on their shared interest in race, inequality and neoliberalism in the food justice movement.
Alison Alkon is a 2008 PhD recipient from UC Davis. Her dissertation, which in 2012 was expanded into the book Black, White and Green: A Study of Farmers' Markets, focused on two farmers' markets located in Bay Area neighborhoods that were racially and economically distinct. She examined the limitations of sustainable ideals within each and considered the way in which the dimensions of race and class in these spaces reinforced inequalities. She continues to be involved in research and participation in the sociopolitical issues of food systems. This has included papers on local organic food, food politics and nutrition, and sustainable agriculture in Latin America, just to name a few. She has also been actively engaged in community-based research in California's Central Valley.
Teresa Mares received her PhD from the University of Washington in 2010. Like Dr. Alkon, her work deals with inequality and food, focusing primarily on issues relating to the Latino/a migrant community. Her dissertation We Are Made of Our Food: Latino/a Immigration and the Practices and Politics of Eating, examined Latino/a food justice, security and access in Seattle. Her work incorporates the wider concepts of citizenship, transnationalism and identity and their relationship to food.
Together, Drs. Alkon and Mares have co-written two papers; Food Sovereignty in US Food Movements: Radical Visions and Neoliberal Constraints and Mapping the Food Movement: Inequality and Neoliberalism in Four Food Discourses, both published in 2012. We look forward to continuing this line of inquiry with both of them on Tuesday, October 8th at 3:30 pm EDT. To join the webinar, please register at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/498446839.
Jena Clarke is a first-year Master of Environmental Management candidate at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She earned her B.S. in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis in 2009. She is interested in agricultural policy, especially relating to livestock production and rangeland management. Her background is in cattle ranching in the US and Australia, where she worked as a cowgirl and later as a business analyst for a corporate agricultural funds manager.