We’re constantly trying to come up with ways of communicating the issue of climate change in a way that inspires people to take action.
Communications around the issue of climate change have begun more and more to deal with involving people because human stories make it more real and help forge deeper, more emotional connections.
But we’re also experimenting with infographics. Why?
They are attractive and fun to look at. They are insightful and make news look interesting. They help us understand information easily and quickly, and they help us remember things.
Here are some cool infographics that Practical Action have produced on climate change:
This first one has been a huge success and went viral after it was recommended by the data visualisation gurus at Information is Beautiful. It is an alternative tube map that highlights the impact climate change and rising sea levels could have on the London. The “London Underground Map 2100″ highlights those areas that could be underwater if no action on climate change is taken including Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, London Bridge, Embankment, Sloane Square and Canary Wharf.
Someone asked me at a conference recently: “Is climate change real?” I was stunned. “Is that a trick question?”
I’ve seen for myself the real and devastating impact that climate change has on the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Our staff who work in developing countries across the world see it every day. With more cases coming to our attention all the time we expect to see more people suffer from the adverse effects of climate change over the coming years.
What are the effects of climate change?
As the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases increase, the energy in the atmosphere is changing and that’s causing extreme weather conditions like droughts, floods and severe winters.
Climate change is real for the world’s poorest
I went to Mandera, northern Kenya, at the height of the 2011 drought where I came face-to-face with the terrible reality of climate change and the impact it’s having on families and children.
Practical Action works with agricultural communities to cope with climate change by helping to develop simple farming approaches using drought tolerant crops, protect livestock and provide safe, clean water.
High up in the Andes in Peru, the temperature can drop to as low as -35 degrees centigrade and there is limited vegetation. Practical Action works with communities to develop approaches that enable crops to be grown that will survive in these harsh conditions.
And in flood prone places like Bangladesh where it’s impossible to grow crops, Practical Action has developed a technology to allow farmers to grow food on flooded land.
We believe that as the climate changes, poverty and hunger is likely to increase. Many people in developing countries rely on agriculture for their livelihood, and increasingly erratic weather patterns mean that crops will fail.
Progress on tackling preventable diseases will be severely threatened by climate change as people become more vulnerable to the spread of disease.
Access to clean water will also be threatened as our climate changes. The lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is a major cause of ill health and life threatening disease in developing countries.
Will you be asking if climate change is real when you’re affected by it?
Practical Action see that for many people – businesses, governments and the general public, although it is a concern, it’s not high on their agenda.
Practical Action believes it should be, because climate change will also affect our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren. Take a look at this tube map – is shows how a lot of London will be under water by the end of the century.
The evidence to show that climate change is real
I don’t know all the science behind climate change so I asked Practical Action’s climate change advisor Colin McQuistan.
His response was: “An annoying question and one I was fired up to highlighted in a recent blog.”
This is his blog on how climate change is real.
He added: “All the evidence indicates that temperature is linked to rising GHG emissions with CO2 being the biggest culprit. The sceptics keep saying correlation isn’t causation, even though now 97% of global scientists and the overwhelming literature have disproven all the other options.”
If you are still not convinced, the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (AR5) due out early next year should provide more concrete evidence on this cause and effect linkage.No Comments » | Add your comment
I recently watched Kate Humble’s excellent episode of Wild Shepherdess, focusing on Alpaca farming in the High Andes of Peru.
What was most striking about the programme was the difficulty people face in maintaining their livelihoods with the spectre of modern life looming large.
Certainly, we at Practical Action have been working with communities in the region for many years, supporting them as they try to reconcile their traditional way of life with the demands of the 21st Century.
And while Kate certainly enjoyed, or perhaps endured, a taste of life as a shepherdess in the region, her experiences brought to mind a shepherdess I have worked with over the years.
The story of an alpaca shepherdess
Gabriela lives in the Peruvian Andean community of Negro Mayo, Ayacucho. She’s 27. She has one love in life – her alpacas. She loves them because they are her family, her livelihood, her reason for being.
She said: “My dream is to improve my alpacas, which are everything to me. They clothe me and they are my livelihood. If I treat them well my life will improve even more.”
Practical Action has been working with Gabriela to make her dream come true.
Life in the high Andes of Peru
It is impossible to adequately describe the environment in which Gabriela lives. The living conditions are very hard. High in the Andean mountains, some 3,500 metres above sea level, winters see temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees.
The land is barren, capable of producing little more than potatoes. Homes are made of mud with no basic services. Families struggle daily to make enough money from selling the wool from their alpacas.
The commitment these families make to their alpaca livelihoods under such difficult circumstances is moving.
We have supported a number of alpaca communities in Peru to improve their livelihoods and quality of life by providing appropriate technologies in the production management of alpaca breeding, improving their wool and crops, the grasslands that the alpacas graze on and improving the market access.
We have also worked with them to introduce basic services such as dry composting toilets, bio-sand filters to provide clean water, improved stoves that don’t emit smoke which was polluting their homes and Trombe walls that can heat their homes when the cold weather strikes.
Practical Action has been training people like Gabriela to become Kamayoqs (para-vets). Together, we have helped alpaca farmers learn how to best care for alpacas and how to earn a better living from the sale of their wool.
Gabriela said: “People were selected and invited to join the Kamayoq School so that they could be taught various techniques to improve the food security rate of their families and transmit their knowledge to their people. My community chose me. I suppose they consider me a responsible person.
“I did not know how to look after and maintain our pastures. We were taught to store water, taking more advantage of rain water as there is a shortage of water in this area. With good water and soil management, we Kamayoqs can set an example for our people, who are unaware that they are mistreating or abusing the countryside.
“Part of the teachings at the Kamayoq School is related to alpaca diseases. Now I can tell why alpacas are sick and why they die so quickly and what medicines should apply.
“We have learnt how to improve our breeding, mating white with white, brown with brown. This produces better quality wool.”
She said: “I am very grateful for the arrival of Practical Action because it is the first time anyone has shown concern for us.”No Comments » | Add your comment
June is almost over and like me, I’m sure you are waiting for summer. Winter doesn’t seem that long ago and with the passing of the northern solstice and the celebrations at Stonehenge, summer has begun but not with a blaze of sunshine more an overcast whimper. So what has happened to Global Warming, this massive problem that we were warned against (or rather promised) by climate scientists and widely reported in the media? Why aren’t we all out in our shorts enjoying the sunshine? Unfortunately this scepticism has also reached senior government. On June 7th during the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions’, the UK Secretary of State for the Environment, the Right Honourable Owen Paterson said “ the climate has not changed – the temperature has not changed in the last seventeen years”. Well, it certainly hasn’t changed in the UK I hear you say! This may be true if you look at temperature, but is climate change only about rising temperatures? This is the problem with the phrase ‘Global Warming’, the expectation that it’s going to get hotter.
What we know is that human activities: the combustion of fossil fuels, land use change and deforestation are releasing carbon dioxide and other gases that are changing the composition of the atmosphere. These gases have no effect on the sunlight as it enters the atmosphere, but they are good at capturing the heat energy of the reflected sunlight, therefore the atmosphere is heated as less energy is lost to space. So although the amount of energy entering the atmosphere remains fairly constant (see sunspot activity below), more energy is being retained in the atmosphere as the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases increase. This increasing atmospheric energy is affecting everything. What we noticed first was the increase in temperature with a number of record hot years widely reported by the media in the 1990’s, apparently reaching a peak in the late nineties as recalled by the minister above. However, the hottest global year on record is the 12 month period from June 2009 to May 2010. So globally temperatures have continued to rise despite the fact that here in the UK, this may not seem to be the case.
Moreover it’s not just the atmosphere that has warmed, but also the oceans. Oceans due to their global coverage, size and heat storage capacity are a much better indicator of global temperatures change. Ocean temperatures have steadily risen regardless of El Nino or sunspot activity that can affect atmospheric temperatures in the short term as the diagram below indicates.
So regardless of the fluctuations that have been experienced in the historic past and the error of judging climate change on a seventeen year timeframe, climate scientists are 97% certain that the earth’s climate is changing and the window for action to avoid dangerous climate change is rapidly closing. What is needed is drastic action to stabilise the climate, which demands the return of climate change to the political agenda alongside economic health and energy security.
It’s important to look at climate change as part of our future wellbeing and not isolated as idealised local warming. With human activity changing natural cycles, it’s not just temperature that will rise but with more energy in the atmosphere other things will change. We can expect weather conditions to become more unpredictable and for weather events to become more severe. So it’s not just warmer summers and hazy blue skies, but also more drought, more hosepipe bans, more unseasonal flooding, more extreme winters and more climate induced natural disasters not only in the UK but around the world, with the poorest and those living in the most vulnerable locations the hardest hit. The future looks bleak, not just for the environment, but for us all if politicians don’t wake up soon! Perhaps it’s time to pick up pen and paper and write to Mr. Paterson?
 97% of climate papers (13,950 peer reviewed papers published 1991-2012) stating a position on human caused global warming agree global warming is happening and we are the cause.
First, I always dreamed to build an aircraft and fly, but that hasn’t yet come true, anyhow I love all aviation issues.
On Friday 14th June I was watching a live TV show, the first launch of Airbus350, made of composite of light carbon-fibre and a light fuselage. I was very happy to see this innovation and initiative of 20% more fuel efficient. When the aircraft took off, all the attendees applauded and clapped, as did I.
How is this news linked with Practical Action, an organization that works with the poor people around the world? It does in fact have a strong relation. Here is the story, I’m quoting from carbonplanet.org:
“It is widely acknowledged that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, predominately from the consumption of carbon-based fossil fuels, are causing major changes to the planet’s climate. Aviation emissions differ in that they have a greater climate impact than the same emissions made at ground level at ground.” Emissions from aircraft flying at cruising altitudes (8 to 13 km) affect atmospheric composition in a height region where there might be significant climate impact through changes in the chemical and physical processes that have climate change consequences. Future emissions from aircraft are expected to increase much more rapidly than emissions in general, with global aviation annual growth currently estimated between 4 to 5%. Therefore, not only will the overall impact of aircraft emissions increase, but also the importance relative to the total climate impact. In order for carbon credit offsetting to be credible, the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from flights requires a special approach”
Therefore, fuel efficiency differences can be explained largely by differences in aircraft operations. Here are the factors that determine the fuel saving and reduction:
1. Higher passengers load, contributes to fuel reduction.
2. Fuel carried in aircraft (extra load).
3. Fuel efficient aircraft engines used.
4. Engine-wise: regional jets are 10%-60% less efficient than turboprop.
5. Body-wise: regional aircraft are 40%-60% less efficient than narrow, large body.
Since these emissions are still there and those form aviation flights are more harmful, Practical Action, in responding to these issues, is committed to reduce its GHG footprint in its daily operation around the world, this year our Sudan office has emitted a total of 262.3 tons of carbon during the period April 2012 to March 2013 (93% of its target for that period).” I am proud to be a part of Practical Action.No Comments » | Add your comment
We all know the story of how Cinderella’s fairy godmother changed a pumpkin into a golden carriage to take Cinders to the Ball – Practical Action is turning this humble green vegetable into food, livelihoods and secure futures for thousands of families in Bangladesh.
Practical Action’s Bangladesh team is changing the lives of some of the poorest people living on the shifting margins of Bangladesh’s great rivers, where the increasingly severe and regular floods are displacing thousands of extremely poor people each year.
After the rainy seasons, large sand islands, deposited by the floods, appear in the main rivers of North West Bangladesh. These islands although common property had never previously been used for productive purposes until Practical Action experimented with planting pumpkins. A small hole is dug, the bottom scattered with a small amount of compost and urea, the pumpkin seed planted, and (almost!) as quick as a wave of a wand, the pumpkin plants grow, thrive are producing wonderfully large, green pumpkins.
Not only are the pumpkins nutritional for families who previously had neither the money or permanent land on which to grow food, but they can be stored for over a year, providing food in leaner times, and their longevity and robustness makes them ideal for transporting to distant markets.
Since the project started in 2005, over 10,000 people, mainly women, have produced 55,000 MT of pumpkins, worth over £5m and more and more communities are taking up the technology. The project has also been recognised for its innovation and impact, having recently been shortlisted to the last three for the prestigious St Andrews Prize for the Environment.
Move over fairy godmother!No Comments » | Add your comment
On a recent trip to Nepal I was introduced to Practical Action’s work on flood preparedness and in particular the development of Early Warning Systems to provide poor communities with advance warning of devastating floods. Poor people living in the Terai plains in Nepal are all too familiar with the danger posed by flash floods, which according to UNDP have on average killed 178 people, affected a further 114,000 and caused over US$ 34.5 million worth of damage each year since 1980.
Recognising this threat, Practical Action started in 2002 by engaging vulnerable local communities in flood prevention planning and it was quickly realised that the major problem was a lack of prior warning. Hence regardless of when the flood struck the losses were considerable, particularly for the poor and marginalised families that lived in the most vulnerable locations. Therefore Practical Action and the community constructed the first watch tower in Bhandara village, Chitwan district in 2002 and provided a basic siren that they could use to provide advance warning. The benefits this system provided were immediately realised as only a few moments’ advance warning enabled families to move to higher ground, protect their most vulnerable assets and importantly collect their official papers, documents that were critical to access relief services and to return to their farms once the floods had abated.
However, the limitations of the system were quickly realised. It only provided advance warning of a few minutes governed by how far the observer could see and the system was dependent on the observers remaining vigilant and was only effective during the monsoon when flash floods were most likely. Another limitation was the noise generated during a downpour when rain drops hitting a corrugated roof quickly overwhelmed the ability of the siren to be heard, so Practical Action subsequently modified the system with higher powered and linked sirens so that they could be heard by more people simultaneously.
Based on the lessons learned and the feedback from the local community it was realised that this technology was effective and could easily be taken to new areas. So Practical Action approached the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology of the Government of Nepal, with a proposal to link their river monitoring stations using mobile communications to communities downstream to extend advance warning from a few minutes to at least a couple of hours. Following the agreement of the department, Practical Action worked with local communications specialists Real Time Solutions Pvt. Ltd to link this information to SMS services and also connecting the data to the internet, allowing real time flood warning information to be disseminated to many different users. This system is now operational in 5 river systems in Nepal, the West Rapti, Narayani, East Rapti, Babai and Karnali Rivers, providing between 1.5 to 5 hours advance warning depending on the river system. This has reduced the flood vulnerability of poor communities living along these rivers and has enabled local authorities to deliver more responsive flood relief.
The system I viewed in the Karnali River basin has water levels displayed in real time at the district police station with a warning alarm linked to moderate, high and dangerous levels. The district police station in the administration centre was chosen as this is one of the few local offices that is manned 24 hours each day, and the police have good communications to the necessary agencies should a devastating flood strike, thus shortening the time needed for mobilisation and avoiding the need for the plea for help to come from the affected communities. One community member I met, mentioned that previously his family had spent two days living on their roof before an army helicopter was spotted heralding the arrival of assistance to their community.
Practical Action plans to roll out the system to other locations and is advocating for the system to be adopted nationwide. A first step was the demonstration of how effective and practical this technology can be to the United Nation’s hosted Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium a key platform driving Disaster Risk Reduction in the country. We are also exploring with key stakeholders how our developing expertise can be applied across borders to reach larger populations and to tackle more problematic early warning challenges such as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods and Landslides, so watch this space!4 Comments » | Add your comment
“Women farmers produce more than half of all food worldwide and currently account for 43 percent of the global agricultural labour force.” – UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
An earlier blog highlighted the potential of smallholder producers as part of the solution to the food crisis facing the planet. A crisis that is exacerbated by inaction to reach a global deal to tackle climate change and dwindling support going to agriculture in developing countries, in spite of some ambitious but as yet unmet pledges. The IF campaign highlights this conundrum, ”that we have the capacity to eliminate hunger from the face of the earth in our lifetime, we only need the will.” (John F. Kennedy, 1963)
Changes in global climate are leading to less predictable weather patterns with increasing failure of planting season rains blamed for recurrent famines in impoverished rural areas. Around the world over 500 million people live in vulnerable rural communities, with smallholder farmers, and pastoralists supplying food to almost 2 billion of the poorest people on the planet. Supporting these small-scale producers to reach their full potential is one of the simplest strategies that could transform global food systems overnight.
Such a transformation of the role of smallholders in the global agricultural system would also deliver significant benefits to rural women; a critical area where gains are needed most. Smallholder agriculture is critically dependent on the input of women, especially for largely unrecognised labour, starkly contrasted with higher profile male dominated activities. The recent FAO study acknowledged that women comprise at least 50% of the labour force in most of Africa and Asia, with their agricultural duties undertaken alongside existing household and child care duties. By closing the gender gap in smallholder farming, crop productivity will increase, local food and nutritional security will be improved and the increase in the income of women will deliver far reaching social benefits. Women interviewed as part of Oxfam’s Researching Women’s Collective Action project regularly responded that they gain a sense of freedom from their own income, allowing them to prioritise family nutrition and even send their children to school.
To support women producers will require considerable investment, but this must be quality investment reaching the most needy. Collective approaches offer opportunities to reach scale and can empower women to participate as part of an initiative in a way that defuses social tensions with husbands and fathers, who might see their roles threatened. The Oxfam “women’s collective action” research programme, has identified some of the key challenges to women’s engagement including; access to formal groups, being overlooked by extension services and the need to provide the support women require and in a way that works for women.
By mobilising the latent potential of women smallholder farmers to transform global agriculture, global food security could be improved overnight. For example by providing equal access to existing resources and opportunities – could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people. Such a transformation could go a long way to feeding the estimated 325 million hungry people on the planet and at the same time enable millions of smallholder producers to feed their families and escape poverty.
This BLOG is based on work undertaken while Colin worked for Oxfam and was originally published on their Policy and Practice website. http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/2 Comments » | Add your comment
Sometimes going back can spoil a good memory.
On my first visit to Bangladesh, to Gaibandha in the north, I was taken by boat across a broad, slow moving river to islands of homes created by Practical Action and riverside communities, whose homes, livestock and sometimes lives, were being lost on a regular basis, to increasingly severe flooding.
The project was called, ‘Disappearing Lands’, and had been funded by the Big Lottery Fund. The team worked with the communities to identify the poorest families who were most vulnerable to the floods and created a safe island home for them by building a raised platform of earth, on which were clustered one room homes, with space for a small homestead garden, together with emergency shelters for their livestock for when the floods came. The pleasure and pride these families took in their new homes was evident by their eagerness to show me inside. There was room to store pots, pans, clothes and blankets and a space for the parents to sleep on one side of the room, the children on the other.
Even in the last village I visited, completed only a few weeks before, small homestead gardens had been demarcated and the first shoots of spinach were unfolding. Seeing such obvious pleasure in their new, safe homes, was moving and was a good memory to leave with.
That was four years ago. I’m back again in Bangladesh with Karin Reiter, Group Corporate Responsibility Manager for the Z Zurich Foundation. The Foundation has supported Practical Action’s work with communities in the district of Sirajgonj, also vulnerable to flooding , where extremely poor families have so little that even a small life shock, such as illness, is enough to destroy their ability to survive. So flooding is truly devastating. We’re here to see how the project, V2R (Vulnerability to Resilience) is progressing and what lessons can be learned for the future.
Using the principles and lessons learned from Gaibandha, the V2R project is taking an holistic approach. As well as ensuring people’s homes and livestock are safe from rising water, people now have choices in the way that they can support themselves, so that they are no longer reliant on a single livelihood option, which could easily destroyed by one flood. They are also involved in preparing plans to respond to flooding so that people know what to do in times of emergencies, such as which evacuation route to take, where the shelter areas are, and how to ensure the safety of their livestock. And when the rising waters isolate them, they have the means, in an emergency, to transport a seriously ill person to a hospital using an ambulance boat.
We visited a cluster village, now home to 25 extreme poor families. We were shown round neat rooms, with outside cooking areas, and access to clean water with tube wells. They also have thriving businesses such weaving, crocheting and tailoring, as well as raising chicken and ducks, and the newly introduced rabbits – a sure-fire high production product!
What struck me most forcibly is that it’s the women who are the running these businesses and their confidence and determination is inspiring. With the money they’re making, they are paying for their children’s education, investing in their businesses and putting money by for emergencies.
There are still issues to be solved – how to provide affordable and sustainable energy, for example, to the communities (ensuring technology justice) – but the partnership between the Z Zurich Foundation and Practical Action is changing lives for the better for many children, women and men living beside the river in Sirajgong district, and the good memory of Bangladesh, and the impact of Practical Action’s work, remains very firmly intact!1 Comment » | Add your comment
“ …..unless action was taken to combat global warming, the next generation would be “roasted, toasted, fried and grilled.”
Not a pleasant prospect – and this prediction comes, not from an environmentalist but from the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, at the meeting of world financial leaders at the swish Swiss ski resort, Davos.
I have a very low level of understanding of economics – despite the best efforts of my economics student daughter to explain the basics. But even I can grasp the essential point that if we carry on emitting carbon at the rate we are we will destroy the very basis on which our economic wellbeing depends – the earth itself and people, lots of people will suffer.
The global downturn has had the effect of reducing carbon emissions for many nations simply because industry is not making as much, which seems like a golden opportunity to reform our energy supply.
1.3 billion people in the world lack access to any form of modern energy and 2.7 billion still cook over open fires using biomass. While in the developed world energy companies invest in environmentally damaging ‘fracking’. Reducing our carbon emissions and redirecting investment to renewable energy for people with no energy would stimulate growth in the developing world, pulling millions out of poverty without destroying the planet - surely a win-win situation.
It doesn’t sound so hard, does it?
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