About three weeks ago, CIPSEM finished the 44th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries. The participants retrospectively state that CIPSEM acted as a platform and catalyst to connect people from different countries and continents who are unified regarding their will to bring about changes and their shared mission: to make this world a better place!
What is meant by that is to commit oneself to a sound environmental action and to take responsibility for the environment. This is important not only for businesses or the industrial sector, but also, according to the participants, at individual levels. Hence, they stress that aspects of green lives, sensitivity to environmental impacts of lifestyles and action, and carbon footprint reduction are essential, current, and of global relevance. Respective conclusions regarding key goals of environmental management drawn by the participants are the following:
The reduction of greenhouse gas,
The consequent reduction of the carbon footprint, and
The increase of green productivity.
Against this backdrop, they summarize that every step, every action, every measure – whether taken at the global level or the level of a country, region, city, community, family and individual – is a big and important one for environmental stability. Thus, one question came across the group: What can each one of us do to help achieve the above goals? For this, two aspects of the course seemed to be very important: First, the ecological footprint exercise helped raise environmental awareness regarding individual lifestyles and gave the opportunity to re-think one’s habits and everyday choices. Second, a fellow’s presentation covering how individual action helps lessen negative environmental impacts. In this light, the participants declared their goal to positively adjust their behavior based on the gained knowledge on sustainable living to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint in their environments. For that, the participants generously and creatively put together their and our course coordinators’ conclusions for an informative poster presenting proposals of small actions to answer the question presented above. CIPSEM and EM44 believe that small individual steps in daily actions can be constructive for collectively creating changes. Thank you very much to all of the EM44 participants for your commitment! We are happy to present the poster, developed by the EM44 participant Subha Niranjan, below!
The Centre for International Postgraduate Studies of Environmental Management (CIPSEM) offers a range of integrated and multi-disciplinary training programs supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, covering several concepts like sustainability, environmental management, and nature-based solutions. CIPSEM has designed these courses to prepare and improve professionals’ skillsets for their environment-related planning, coordination and management tasks in their home countries.
Worldwide, the implementation of the SDGs is lagging far behind the ambitious targets. One significant factor is the deficiency of suitable and understandable data, for example. High-quality data (relevant, timely, reliable and internationally comparable) are needed to identify development bottlenecks and inform policies and investment decisions. Within this context, data visualisation is essential for big data and data analysis. Big files with several numbers are usually hard to read and make it difficult to spot patterns easily. Data visualisation means presenting raw data through graphical representations that allow viewers to explore the data and uncover deep insights. We are an inherently visual world, where images many times speak louder than words. When considering strategies and goals, data visualisation can play a vital role for the decision makers in exploring the data effectively. For instance, visualising data contributes to identifying any errors in the data. Should the data tend to suggest the wrong actions, visualisations identify erroneous data in the analysis.
Moreover, designing data visuals in a meaningful way can assist the target audience in grasping the story in a single glance. Therefore, storytelling is a significant tool related to data visualisation and a powerful communication tool to develop narrative approaches for management. Think about project reporting or grant proposal writing. A well-structured story will convey understanding, inspire action and be remembered. The facts give stories substance; stories give facts meaning.
Following this thinking, the systemic, interdisciplinary approach adopted by CIPSEM adequately considers the complexity of managing environmental resources in a multifaceted way. As a practical example of what we are discussing here, below you can see a visualisation exercise within the 44th UNEP/UNESCO/BMU International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management for Developing Countries. Like most educational institutions, CIPSEM had to change to an online-only format to continue our course programme due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, this work was voted as the best outcome among the 21-course participants – the authors are: Ms Agustina Cundari (Argentina), Mr Miguel Angel Centellas Levy (Bolivia), Ms Mayra Flores Tavares (Brazil), Mr Dwayne Sherwin Griffith (Guyana) and Ms Jeimy Katherin Feo Mahecha (Peru/Colombia).
Moreover, you can read a text of Mr Mutasim Essa Abdallah Adam from Sudan, practising his storytelling skills. Enjoy!
“I grew up in a village where we depend on agriculture and animal products for a living, due to the important role that these resources played in our life especially for traditional medical care, food, income and construction, and since then I dedicated my career to keeping close to nature’s heart, give a hand in conserving these unique resources. But I started travelling and lived beyond my home in 2011 when I was undergraduate volunteering with a local NGO working to conserve endangered species, and since then, I began demonstrating this passion and interest in natural sciences. One day I participated in a national project that aimed to survey vultures. I loved migratory birds with no idea what kinds of careers were available in our field until after I started my undergrad. All I knew is that the degree I was pursuing had wildlife in the title, which was enough for me as one of the most passionate about nature and wildlife. Today many migratory birds are classified as endangered or in critical situate. We are all fascinated by birds not only because of that but also are sources of inspiration, and when we think of birds, we think of the glorious ability to soar up into the sky. So bird’s flights are one of our favourite samples for freedom and adventure for situate places. The journey to conserve migratory birds extended toward, finally, in 2021, when we had the opportunity to develop a project concerning environmental assessment to conserve migratory soaring birds in landfill areas”.
All over the globe, CIPSEM alumni are achieving amazing goals towards sustainable development. In this opportunity we want to congratulate Fernanda Silva Martinelli (EM40 alumni) and Rajarshi Chakraborty (EM43 alumni) for their effort and commitment to their work and encourage our follower to look on the recent publication made by Fernanda and Rajarshi inspired by their participation in the CIPSEM programs.
How far are the metropolitan areas in Brazil from achieving the sustainable development goals? An analysis based on SDG dashboards
by: Fernanda Silva Martinelli (Center for Development Research, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany) and André Lindner (School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany).
Cities comprise the major challenges for sustainable development and are key contributors to sustainability indicators in a country. However, research assessing sustainability performance often focuses on the national level, overlooking the role of urban areas. To evaluate the city performance toward a sustainable pathway, this paper proposes the sustainable development goals (SDGs) Dashboard for Brazilian Cities, with a comprehensive assessment of their specific challenges based on the SDG Index methodology (UNSDSN). The 19 country’s most populous metropolitan areas (MAs) were considered, which comprises 41% of the population. From 17 SDGs, this paper evaluates 8 of the 12 SDGs defined with a social and environmental profile, covering data from 34 indicators. Results show that all MAs have a long way to achieve most of the analyzed SDGs, especially regarding inequalities (income and gender). Inequalities of performance are also observed among the country into a clear north–south distinction, where the GDP richest regions perform better toward the SDGs. However, cities with a good performance in education (SDG 4) are less unequal (SDG 10), indicating interrelations between SDGs. Despite the inequalities, MAs are doing relatively well in reducing poverty (SDG 1) and providing water and sanitation (SDG 6). The SDG Dashboards for Brazilian Cities can be used as a framework for action and help urban leaders address implementation challenges across cities.
Public Participation in Biodiversity Impact Assessment in the State of West Bengal, India: Present Status and Finding Ways for Improvement
by: Rajarshi Chakraborty (Department of Environment, Government of West Bengal, India), André Lindner (School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany), and Wolfgang Wende (Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development, Landscape Change and Management, Dresden, Germany)
The present status of public participation in EIA particularly concerning biodiversity in West Bengal, India was studied. The issues raised in 50 public hearings were analyzed and chapters on biodiversity in 20 EIA reports were studied. Areas needing improvement were identified. Scientific literature was studied to gather best practices/concepts. It was observed that, despite all enabling legal provisions, public participation in EIA has not grown to its full potential. The discussion was mostly on jobs and benefits (and little on biodiversity impact). EIA reports did not provide any spatial information on biodiversity-rich/sensitive areas or impact on bio-resources that are used by people. We identified four pillars of effective public participation in EIA as: (i) institutional opportunity and conducive environment for participation; (ii) interest of local people to participate; (iii) capacity building of local people; and, (iv) support of clearance process. Specific recommendations under each are provided. A simple matrix for Biodiversity Impact Assessment and a list of components for the improvement of biodiversity, for use of local people, have been developed.
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.