2020 will go down in history as a year of global health, economic and social crises occurring against the backdrop of increasingly catastrophic climate events. It is a year that defines disruption. However, as we jump into 2021, I’m taking a cue from last season’s development optimists to look for how to convert crisis into opportunity. This year, I will explore with my guests how they see us leveraging disruption for good in a post-COVID world.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has been unlike anything most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Conditions such as stay-at-home orders, wearing masks in public and the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression affect all of us in different ways.
The One Health concept calls for a worldwide approach to expanding interdisciplinary collaboration and communication on all aspects of health for humans, animals and the environment. This approach has tremendous implications for human health because an estimated sixty-one percent of human infectious diseases originate from animals. At the same time, there is a growing sense of urgency to advance One Health collaborations before more ground is lost in the fight for a healthy planet.
Are our growth-based models of modernization at odds with sustainable development? Does addressing environmental concerns need to take a back seat to economic growth in order to alleviate poverty? And is it reasonable to expect people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from to care about the environment?
In this episode, I sit down with Heather Tallis, Global Managing Director and Lead Scientist for Strategy Innovation for the Nature Conservancy, who dispels the myths and assumptions around the interplay of conservation and safeguarding the environment with meeting human needs and raising living standards. Marshaling the evidence, Heather makes the case that there doesn’t have to be a tradeoff between economic growth and poverty alleviation and conservation and that development goals and environmental goals can go hand in hand.
Now, more than ever, is a time to stand up for science. The U.S. administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 calls for severe cuts to several key science-generating institutions, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These cuts would result in a deterioration of the science that has allowed the United States to be the global leader in medicine, public health and environmental science. They would also stall progress in global development, an area which has benefited greatly from the many lifesaving solutions produced through science.
Given the administration’s apparent disregard for science, we should take a step back and ask ourselves what may seem like a simple question: What is science and why does it matter? Of the many definitions, the most basic is the standard dictionary definition: a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular matter. More importantly though, science is a process or way of thinking that seeks to reveal the “truth.” Not knowing the truth about something is like driving through a heavy fog. Science can cut through this fog and reveal the truth.
We live in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world. The risks to much of the world’s population that stem from climatic, political and economic fluctuations have played out again and again in recent years. While emergency response and humanitarian aid still have an important role to play, the development community is increasingly interested in how to build the resilience of individuals, communities and systems not only to survive these shocks and stresses, but also to adapt to them and better prepare for future occurrences.
There is no single solution for building resilience, as it is highly dependent on the population in question, the risks they face, local infrastructure and resources, and a number of other factors. However, one tool that has the potential to facilitate increased resilience across a range of contexts is digital technology.
Despite decades of investments to improve food security for the world’s poorest people, hunger and malnutrition are still problems for many. Indeed, a daunting food security crisis currently puts more than 20 million people at risk of starvation in just four countries: Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 42 million children under the age of 5 will be malnourished by 2050, and 10 million additional children will be malnourished if climate change impacts continue unabated.
This crisis calls for improvements in identifying, understanding and addressing the interlinked factors that result in broadscale food security crises. The cycle of resource degradation caused by climate change that leads to food insecurity, starvation and ongoing conflicts raises the question of whether climate change itself is a “threat multiplier” that increases the potential for conflict. Evidence suggests that the interplay between these sectors is critical to the emergence or development of many humanitarian crises. However, the complexity of these relationships and the role of climate change as a threat multiplier are less understood.
Hellen Mary Akiror’s livelihood relies on the right amount of rainfall coming at the right time.
A farmer in Uganda’s Soroti district, Hellen lives with her husband and seven children. Growing millet, groundnuts, sorghum, cassava and potatoes on her four acres, she is dependent on rain-fed agriculture for her survival. Yet, she said, “Rainfall comes at the wrong time, in huge quantities, and stops when we need it most.”
Hellen’s story is all too common. In 2014, I met Mukasa, an elderly Ugandan farmer grappling with the fact that his village was facing unpredictable rainfall and temperatures higher than any in living memory. At the same focus group discussion where I met Mukasa, I also met Father Philippe, the pastor of Mukasa’s parish. Father Philippe said, “We have sinned and the lack of rain and excess heat are the wrath of God.” Another parish member said, “We destroyed the trees and we are facing the consequences.”
While the villagers’ explanations vary, all agree on one point — rainfall in the country is becoming scarce and unpredictable, and extreme heat is increasing in intensity and frequency. During the 80 years between 1911 and 1990, only eight droughts occurred, while in the 10 years between 1991 and 2000, the country experienced seven droughts. As in other sub-Saharan countries, higher temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts and floods in Uganda diminish food security, decrease the quantity and quality of water, and deteriorate natural resources.
The Climate Change Adaptation and ICT (CHAI) project, co-implemented by FHI 360, uses ICT tools to provide climate adaptation information to more than 100,000 farmers in local languages in three intervention districts in Uganda with the goal of increasing agricultural productivity in communities vulnerable to climate change.
This week CHAI won the UNFCCC 2015 Momentum for Change’s Lighthouse Activities Award for innovative and transformative solutions addressing climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.
Studies conducted by the CHAI project showed that access to adaptation information improved by up to 48 percent in the intervention districts (Nakasongola, Sembabule and Soroti) compared to the control district (Rakai), while the effectiveness of adaptation actions that were based on information received through the project increased by up to 33 percent in the intervention areas compared to the control district.
The primary goal of corrections in the United States is keeping the community — everyone from offenders to those who work within prisons and jails — safe. Policies and strategies within the corrections community, however, increasingly emphasize cost containment and environmental sustainability. Addressing these two goals in tandem has proven to be a great opportunity for correctional leaders and their partners.
FHI 360’s Green Corrections project contributes to the goal of making the corrections system more environmentally sustainable by facilitating the sharing of effective practices and lessons learned.
A recent competition, the Green Corrections Challenge, highlighted exciting and innovative green practices in local, state and federal correctional facilities and reentry programs in the United States. The competition, part of the Green Corrections project, showed how dedicated corrections professionals are minimizing negative environmental impacts, saving taxpayer dollars and preparing offenders for green jobs.