Late Winter Roundup: ‘tis the season to welcome Spring…and a changing climate

© 2013 Ann Goodman

While Spring officially arrived a week ago, the weather took a cold, dreary turn in New York and elsewhere, auguring more climate change to come.

Nonetheless, it’s been an exciting Winter for my sustainability activities.

Over the winter season, I’ve been active in a number of high-level sustainability events

US-China Green Consumption Forum, Washington, DC, March
US-China Green Consumption Forum, Washington, DC, March

and other projects, including the five spotlighted here:

1)Most recently, I learned 

that my dear Chinese colleague of some eight years, Prof. Shi Qi Qing, passed away. But I had the chance to pay tribute to our joint vision of US-China ‘green’ cooperation, especially through the work of businesswomen in both countries, at a stellar conference organized by my friend, Diane MacEachern, at the World Bank in Washington, DC last week (see last two posts).

At the forum, Chinese colleagues, old and new alike, were more passionate than ever about the need to combat or somehow use the combined power of two economic–and polluting–giants to both counter and adapt to climate change through shifting green consumption patterns in both countries.

The morning panel I moderated, ‘Gender, Consumption and Sustainability,’ included two superb speakers, Liane Schalatek, Associate Director of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, North America, and Ban Li, Senior Research Director for the Shaanxi Women’s Federation.

Ms. Schalatek spotlighted underlying policy issues that affect green consumption, including social, gender and overall economic policy. As an example, she talked about how policy around the world is encouraging cleaner energy, particularly in the developing world, by offering women “more sustainable choices.”

Ms. Ban talked about balancing human needs with nature, green production (starting, in the stunning Shaanxi Province, with agriculture), and using individual actions to change the environment for the better, highlighting special projects among women in the region to advance cleaner production.

2)The China conference followed a slew of important sustainability and social innovation events in New York City, including, notably, the 2013 forum held by Greenbiz, the premier business/sustainability web site that features my columns.  Overlapping was Social Media Week, highlighting a number of enterprises combining ingenuity with the newest technologies to create socially responsible and more sustainable solutions for a more livable world.

The season also included a fascinating conference presented by NowStreet, focusing on how crowd funding can help level the playing field among businesses of all sizes, shapes and forms to create more opportunity (notably for women and minorities) and a higher level of social equity, one of the pillars of sustainability.

3)I rushed to those events in New York, still jet-lagged, following a breathless return from Thailand, where I had the pleasure of speaking at the AIDF-Asia Pacific Forum in Bangkok

At AIDF Asia Pacific Forum with Panelists
At AIDF Asia Pacific Forum with Panelists

on two of my  specialties: 1) women’s empowerment as a development tool, and 2) social networking and (sustainable) development. The first jammed panel discussion, which I chaired, offered a chance to learn about how, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, gender inequity (or worse), is holding back sustainable progress in society and the economy.  At the second, I and a number of colleagues from Asia and elsewhere focused on the pros and cons of the using social media to advance development. Several of us who had recently lived through environmentallyIMG_1112 related crises drew attention to some alarming drawbacks of social media during disasters (and some positive successes), with my own experience of Hurricane Sandy as one key example.

4)Let me not forget the publication in Sustainability: The Journal of Record, in mid-February, of our seminal piece, The Sustainability-Social Networking Nexus. Focusing on the goals of sustainability and resilience, social networking may facilitate adaptive responses to proliferating risks likely to arise from climate change and resource depletion, especially during climate-related disasters.  (Look for more to come on progress in our business of improving communications before/during/after the proliferating climate-related disasters worldwide).

5)And, last but hardly least, the timely conference on Disasters and Environment, hosted by the National Council for Science and the Environment in Washington, DC, in January, included a plethora of outstanding speakers. One standout keynote speaker, highlighted on this blog on January 22, was Margareta Wahlstrom of the UN Office of Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva. She warned that functional communications will be key to resilience in disasters. (Look for more to come from speakers there).

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