In support of the Sustainable Development Goals, Technische Universität Dresden is offering a range of integrated environmental management courses in 2021 (online-based format) and 2022 (format to be defined):
82th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on:
Integrated Water Resources Management (SC82)
Application period: 02 March to 13 April 2021
Course period: 06 September to 15 October 2021(online)
Dresden covered up with a thin blanket of snow, empty streets, and only a few cars on the road. Unlike in other years, it was not the cold weather that is keeping people at home, but the recent regulations established by the German government to cope with the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of what we are going through, the CIPSEM family continues to work from home, and despite the challenges ahead of us, it is of great pleasure to announce the opening of the 44th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries that will be implemented entirely online.
Were of great inspiration the words of Prof. Dr. Uta Berger Scientific Head of CIPSEM, Prof. Dr. Ronald Tetzlaff the representative of the rectorate of TU Dresden, Ms. Lola Müller the representative of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU), Mr. Ralph Wollmann the representative of the German Environment Agency (UBA), and Dr. Katharina Stein acting Managing Director CIPSEM. As they expressed very well, we are living in challenging times, the pandemic has shown us how fragile we are, and the urgent need for immediate actions towards suitable solutions on environmental management for our common future.
Over the next six months, 21 participants from 21 different countries dispersed over 12 time zones in the world, will be connected in a virtual classroom exchanging knowledge, ideas and developing new skills to tackle the environmental crisis. Regardless of the origins of each participant, lifestyles, customs, religion, gender, age, they all share the same enthusiasm to learn more about environmental management and apply the gain of knowledge in their own countries. During this first week of the course, everybody has had the opportunity to introduce themselves and share a little of their professional background as well as hobbies. It is amazing to see the diversity of knowledge within this small group of extraordinary people. Without a doubt, it is for far a high chance of astounding final paper development, where each participant has the task to work on a topic of their particular interest, towards proposing suitable environmental management practices.
With that said, we wish a successful time during the course to all participants, and of course, to all the facilitators we thank you for your continued support, as well as your unwavering effort and contribution.
What comes next is always a mystery. We started the year 2020 with a solid plan for our training programs as always. But the unexpected pandemic has forced us to adapt our programs to the current situation. Without a doubt, this year was and still is one of the most challenging’ year for CIPSEM since the beginning in 1977. Nevertheless, thanks to the great effort and commitment of the representatives from UNESCO, BMU, UBA, TU Dresden, and the CIPSEM team, three postgraduate training programs were successfully implemented using online/e-learning methods. Of course, the commitment and enthusiasm of participants have motivated the CIPSEM – Facilitators to continue with the programs using new online tools to transfer their knowledge and experience.
Indeed, as the year 2020 comes to an end we are pleased to say: We made it! A total of 66 international executives and experts from governmental and non-governmental organizations from more than 30 countries have joined us in the virtual e-learning platform of NEO despite the difference in time zone. They were able to learn from the expert and share their experiences regarding the controversial field of environmental management, integrated water resources management, and sustainable mobility. The gain knowledge has enabled the participants to understand the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in their home countries and has provided them with the tools to implement local actions towards sustainable solutions at local level.
The year 2020 has given us, the CIPSEM family, the grates’ lesson of the times, and we are ready to go on with education. The 44th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries is already on, and ready to welcome the participants on January 13th. Until then, we wish you a beautiful holiday season and a new year of peace and health.
Growing up in a small farm in Nicaragua surrounded by wildlife, I always found natural processes particularly fascinating. This along with TV shows hosted by personalities like David Attenborough, Steve Irwin, and Jane Goodall were the reasons of my early environmental awareness. This continued in high school, where I researched about man-made forest fires and their impacts on soil quality, air quality and biodiversity; a lifelong environmental issue in Nicaragua. In a way, my career choice was decided in the early stages of my life, and led to me studying environmental quality engineering at the Universidad Centroamericana in 2008.
Whilst studying there, a severe drought lasting three years hit Nicaragua. Our family’s livelihood from farming suffered, requiring us to sell all our assets and changing our family lifestyle completely. Our farm was not adapted to climate change, a concept I learned about during my years at university and one that became mainstream with the help of Al Gore’s documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. The impact of drought on our farm was the first time climate change directly affected my life. This shaped my professional path, making me committed to working with those in need who lack the tools, knowledge or technologies to face climate change, something that they themselves had done little or nothing to initiate. This commitment is why, since graduating, I have been working with certified organic agriculture, a climate change resilient farming systems.
In 2017, I moved to Peru where I designed, validated and implemented a tool for small farmers that would help them sell their agricultural products for a better price. The tool was a participatory guarantee system (PGS), the second one in Peru, based on agroecological practices. The idea behind the tool was to bring farmers and consumers closer, fostering trust relationships, making consumers aware of the reality and challenges farmers face to produce food. This work led me to seek further professional development and Iuckily, I won a scholarship from the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety to study a Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries with the Centre for International Postgraduate Studies of Environmental Management (CIPSEM) at TU Dresden. Here I got the opportunity to meet individuals from all over the world, all with a shared concern for our natural world and how small efforts can pay off when they have the possibility to reach several individuals.
Learning from lecturers from one of the most advance nations in the world was a once in a lifetime experience. Here you get to appreciate that in a seemingly economy-driven world that, from the outside, looks to not care much about the environmental sphere, there are still individuals and institutions that contribute tirelessly with their work and research to bring new knowledge and technological advances for an environmentally friendly world.
During my first few weeks at the course I learnt about the International Climate Protection Fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and saw the perfect opportunity to extend the scope of the PGS I developed back in Peru. That is why I applied to the fellowship and my application was accepted in September 2020, and I will start my research in 2021 in cooperation with a senior professor at TU Dresden. The international Climate Protection Fellowship enables me to communicate my work to an international community so it can be replicated around the world. This programme will allow me to interact with brilliant minds that are constantly thinking about how to bring solutions to issues related to climate change from their areas of expertise and provide opportunity to learn about different perspectives or approaches to common issues.
Community garden experiences from the Global North to foster green development of informal areas in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
On behalf of the CIPSEM team, we are very happy to share with you the latest publication entitles “More Than Fruits and Vegetables” Community garden experiences from the Global North to foster green development of informal areas in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This research has been made by the alumni Alexandra Aguilar Pedro, a participant of the 41st UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries and with the cooperation of Dr. Anna Görner, Dr. André Lindner, and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wende.
Urban gardening contributes to society in various ways such as by enhancing communities, ensuring food security, improving health, providing places for recreation as well as by raising environmental awareness. Although urban gardening initiatives have been spreading, the challenge remains to include vulnerable communities, especially in developing countries, which face manifold infrastructural, environmental and social pressures, thereby helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) and foster urban inclusiveness.
The study evaluated the performance of urban community gardens in order to verify their potential for implementation in the slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Significant assets and drawbacks were analyzed from existing studies and categorized into social, spatial, economic and environmental factors. Additionally, qualitative interviews on societal and motivational issues were conducted with contributors to a community garden in Dresden, Germany.
The results highlight the potential of urban gardening to counteract spatial pressures in informal areas by creating green spaces, improving food quality, raising environmental awareness and, in general, ensuring a higher quality of life. On the other hand, some obstacles remain to be overcome, such as soil pollution, the high probability of further contamination as well as a lack of basic infrastructure. A top-down implementation of urban gardens within slums is considered feasible if the projects are designed in partnership with the community, and a long-term adaptive management model is applied. Under these conditions, urban gardening will make a significant contribution to ‘inclusive urbanism’.
Picture from the Opening Ceremony, 14th September 2020
How could we imagine that, in the blink of an eye, our lifestyle would take a 180-degree turn? The current health crisis due to COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact worldwide; many countries keep their borders closed, limited social life, low or limited access to essential resources, among other limitations. Despite all this, we at CIPSEM strongly believe that education must go on. For many years we have had the opportunity to bring together specialists and environmental leaders in our classrooms to share and exchange knowledge. For that reason, and with the same enthusiasm and dedication, we are pleased to inform that the 80th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Short Course on Integrated Water Resources Management – IWRM has officially started, and for the first time we are now developing the entire course online.
The opening ceremony took place on the 14th September with a total of 45 participants from different corners of the world, including 21-course participants and three guest listeners from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as the participation of several authorities from Germany, the representative of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the representative of the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), the representative of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP), members of the Curriculum Committee of the Course Programme CIPSEM Alumni, facilitators of the course and the CIPSEM Team and guests.
Although being online is not something new, we all use social networks in one way or another to connect with those who are far away from us, many universities around the world offer different higher education programs online. So, what’s new about doing a course entirely online? The participants of the 80th Short Course – IWRM are attending the virtual classroom from home while the specialists and facilitators are here in Germany. Therefore, a live session, implies that while some participants in Panama are having breakfast at five o’clock in the morning, others are at lunchtime in Europe and some already finishing dinner in Mongolia. Doing this course online is a big challenge that all participants are willing to take. Each one of them has the enthusiasm and desire to make this possible.
We have developed a strategy to support a group of 21 experts in upgrading their knowledge and skills concerning IWRM in the best possible way. We will ensure that, also in this online edition, the exchange will be interactive with plenty of opportunities for learning from and with each other as well as from numerous facilitators covering all sectors from academia through governance. Besides knowledge and skills related to IWRM, participants will also be better prepared to harness the benefits of digital communication and learning – something of great value for many of your professional challenges ahead. All the necessary tools are available to make this course successful.
Today, less than a week after starting the course, we can already see how the participants are beginning to interact and collect experiences. These are times of radical change, yet our problems remain the same; climate change, poverty, misuse of natural resources and more. We have the firm conviction to continue with the education, despite all the challenges, now more than ever we need leaders with knowledge and understanding in our environment, for that reason, here in CIPSEM we are willing to continue in the arduous task of education for the future.
In the middle of the coronavirus crisis, many of us have turned to nature to reduce stress levels, improve mental health and stay physically active. Yet, human interaction with nature and ecosystems contributed to the existence of the current pandemic in the first place. So what can we take away from this?
Human action has altered our planet, from land to ocean, and has led to a loss of ecosystems. There is strong evidence that the emergence of zoonotic diseases – those that jump between animals – is linked to alteration of ecosystems and human encroachment into wildlife habitats, and the United Nations has recently linked environmental degradation to the emergence of pandemics.
There are two main ways that our impact on the environment is increasing the threat of pandemics such as the current coronavirus outbreak.
First, with growing human settlements and land-clearing for agriculture, the transition zones between different ecosystems have grown. This leads to species from different habitats mixing and interacting with each other in new ways. These new contacts provides new opportunities for diseases to jump between species, as coronavirus did.
The second important driver for the emergence of zoonotic disease is biodiversity loss. With decreasing biodiversity, disease vectors – those animals that carry and transmit an infectious pathogen – are more likely to feed on vertebrates than other species which are no longer as abundant. Those other species then become the primary reservoir of the pathogen.
An example of this is the increased risk of Lyme disease to humans in North America. It was shown that forest fragmentation led to reduced diversity of vertebrates and increased the abundance of some generalist species such as the white-footed mouse, which has become the primary reservoir of the bacteria causing Lyme disease.
High biodiversity, on the other hand, can reduce the risk to human health. The underlying mechanism is called “the dilution effect” and it works by reducing both the relative density of animals that serve as a natural reservoir for pathogens and the population density of the pathogen vectors (such as ticks). This means fewer encounters between vectors and the animals they infect with the disease.
The benefits of nature
But greater contact between humans and their environment has been one of the most important responses to the pandemic, from a mental health perspective.
Many of us who have been fortunate enough to live in areas where lockdown restrictions still permitted outdoor activities turned to walking and exercising outdoors and enjoying the beauty of rivers, urban green spaces and forests, all the while adhering to the prescribed regulations on physical distance and group size.
As we respond to the pandemic, the draw of such spaces for improving well-being cannot be overlooked. Science has long established that access to urban green areas such as parks and lakes has positive impacts on health, typically due to improved air quality, increased physical activity, social cohesion, and stress reduction. It has also been shown that interaction with nature helps us to better recover from stress.
Green areas can also contribute to flood risk reduction by allowing more water to infiltrate into the soil and thus reducing the amount of excess water during rainstorms. Finally, urban green can create new habitats for plant and animal species.
What we can do next
In light of this, my hope is that the coronavirus pandemic will instigate action to address the underlying drivers of disease emergence, including ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. The challenge of protecting the environment in an era of a rapidly escalating climate crisis is enormous and individuals often feel overwhelmed and unable to contribute to change.
But our recent positive experiences with the environment also present a unique opportunity to emerge from the pandemic with a better relationship with nature. Recognition of the value of green spaces should be encouraged long after the pandemic has passed and, if managed properly, could encourage action on the community level to protect ecosystems from further human incursions.
As we look to the future, growing cities need to prioritise existing green spaces and build new ones within existing city boundaries. Green areas within cities support health objectives without degrading biodiverse areas elsewhere. Experiencing nature outside cities will remain important to maintain human health but will only be possible to access and experience in the long run if we can find a healthy balance between our resource use and nature protection.
Enforcement and strengthening environmental regulations to protect or restore biodiverse areas will be vital. The cost of managing those areas for biodiversity conservation and recreation is easier to communicate if the full range of benefits are considered, including the contribution they make to human health.
A green strategy that helps us build back better after coronavirus can support sustainable development on many accounts, not only for mental and physical well-being, but also to ensure that multiple global goals, such as combating climate change and reducing natural hazard risks, can be achieved.
For the first time we had a virtual ceremony. The worldwide disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the shut-down of the on-site activities for this course. Nevertheless, an online and virtual program was developed and implemented so the group could finish their studies and receive the well-deserved certificate.
Many words have been said during the ceremony as “challenge”, “effort”, “computer”, “friends”, “home”, “happy”, “grateful”, “online”, “dedication”, “sad”, “action”, “world”, “future”, “loss”, “family”, “lonely”, “nature”, “care”, “together”, “contact”, “winner”, “time”, “work”, “experience”, “concern”…and so on. Such words can really be considered the essence of this group. However, the most important thing here is that you, us, we really made it. It was a big challenge but a great learning experience for all of us, especially a learning experience about ourselves.
We hope that, globally, people also took the chance to ask themselves as we took now: “What does it really matter to me?”… And as the EM43 class highlighted during the ceremony, now is the time to act and to take better care of our nature. Anyway, the season has changed, it is time to go home, to be at home, and give our best.
What more to say? It was a pleasure. All the best. Take care. See you soon. Well done. Thank you!
We may instinctively think that we all know what a botanical garden is – a beautiful garden where plants are labelled. However, a botanical garden is much more than that. According to Botanic Gardens Conservation International, botanical gardens are institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purpose of scientific research, conservation, display and education. A botanical garden also has a greater emphasis on conserving rare and threatened plants. Moreover, it provides opportunities for society to immerse in nature, explore their interests, and experience leisure.
Today, about 10,000 plant species from different regions of the world are cultivated there within an area of approximately three hectares.
The collection is predominantly arranged geographicallyand is displayed in landscaped grounds. Three public greenhouses show tropical and sub-tropical plants of American and Old World deserts and rainforests species from America, Africa and Asia.
The Botanical Garden provides pleasure and inspiration to plant lovers all year round =) And a special thank you to Dr. Barbara Ditsch for the pleasant tour!
Once me and a friend and former colleague tried to come up with a fancy catchphrase for CIPSEM to be used for public relation purposes – we inoffically ended up with “CIPSEM – we open worlds” … and we still do, despite a global shut-down.