40 years of building bridges across nations

Authors: Adrian Lauer, Aliya Orozakunova, Natalia Jiménez

On 16 May, the UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB Centre for International Postgraduate Studies on Environmental Management (CIPSEM) celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Alte Mensa ballroom in Dresden. Together with partners UNEP, UNESCO, BMUB, UBA; CIPSEM Secretariat, current fellows, alumni, supporters, facilitators of the Program and other guests celebrated the success of environmental education. During these decades of steady work, this programme has trained specialists from 140 countries, coming from government, civil society, specialized consultancy, and academia, empowering them to become change makers.

The ceremony started with welcoming inspiring speeches made by Prof Dr. rer. nat. habil. Hans Georg Krauthäuser, Vice-Rector for Academic and International Affairs of TU Dresden, Ms Jame Webbe, Head of UNEP Environmental Education and Training, Dr Harry Lehmann, General Director of Division I “Environmental Planning and Sustainability Strategies” at the German Environment Agency (UBA) and Mr Uwe Gaul, State Secretary, Saxon State Ministry for Higher Education, Research and the Arts. Prof Krauthäuser emphasised the strong focus of TU Dresden on environmental research, as the work of ca. 25% of professors is related to environmental affairs. Ms Webbe mentioned the need for skilled professionals in the field, praising the practical and interdisciplinary approach of CIPSEM and the programme’s contribution to UNEP’s global training platform, while Dr Lehmann highlighted to role of CIPSEM in building professional capacities for specialists around the world in a context of evolving environmental institutions and frameworks and the urgency of preserving science as the prime source of knowledge for decision making in environment. Finally, Mr Gaul pointed out to the gender-balanced selection of fellows as an advantage for building a fair discipline and society.

After the first part, two CIPSEM alumni, who came to Dresden on the occasion of the anniversary, took the podium: Prof Dr Bert Kohlmann (Costa Rica/Mexico), participant of the 5th environmental management course (1981/1982) and Ms Rachel Boti-Douyoua (Côte d’Ivoire) participant of the 38th long course (2015). With exciting speeches, they shared their own experiences at CIPSEM, and the impact the programme continues to have on their professional life. They, like over 2200 participants who have been involved in CIPSEM’s trainings over 40 years, are nowadays agents of change in numerous disciplines around the world.

At the end of the ceremony, Prof. Dr. Rattan Lal, distinguished Professor of Soil Science and Director of the Carbon Management Sequestration Center at the Ohio State University, gave a lively keynote speech in emphasizing the importance of environmental education and “building bridges across nations”. Supporting the CIPSEM approach he also highlighted that environmental education is not only giving information and raising knowledge, but also training and creating awareness, inspiring responsible attitudes, fostering sensitivity and imagination, providing practical learning by bringing nature indoors and the class outdoors, and, by all means, linking these aspects with ecological, economic, social and political issues. ​

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Photo: by Harald Schluttig

The uplifting, innovative music by Roger Tietke (saxophon) and Moritz Töpfer (piano) invited the audience to reflect on the importance of a humanist approach to environmental education, involving culture and art. Everything is connected.

The celebration was also a candid space to share. “Friendship”, “connections”, “international exchange”, “inspiration for changing the world”, “experience from Germany” were some the impacts of CIPSEM trainings named during an informal exchange held by CIPSEM alumni and current participants before the ceremony. They all agreed that this programme was the starting point for taking action and making the difference.

The Magic of forms – National Park “Sächsische Schweiz”

by Natalia Jiménez (Colombia)

On 15th may 2017, the participants of the 40th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Postgraduate Training Programme immersed themselves in a natural landscape of forest, history and magical forms of sandstone and basalt. Between caves with secret passages, rocky ridges and centennial trees, the participants learned how over millions of years this amazing landscape was sculpted by wind and water.

Judging from this picture, being inside the forest makes EM40 participants happy. (Photo: André Lindner)

The participants also visited the National Park Information Center in Bad Schandau where they experienced how with creativity, images, sounds, colors and shapes, it is possible to make the visitors discover and explore this unique landscape in a fun and exciting way.

Dancing and singing was the amazing way to teach the participants how quartz grains are kept together shaping the sandstone with a fantastic art that only nature can do.

It was inspiring to experience how exploring nature with different options (climbing, guided walks, excursions, workshops, educational programs, etc) is ideal for creating awareness in people. This is by combining knowledge and emotions, the way that people feel themselves as a fundamental part of nature and responsible for taking care of it.

 

“…The experience was breathtaking, and being there made us one with nature…”

Joyce Kiruri (Kenya)

 

“…Great hike and dark caves! Learning about sandstones in a fun way is the best approach for environmental education.  Learning by playing! Five stars to our amazing guide!…”

Andrea Vera (Perú)

 

“…It was great experience; landscape, professor, what we learned and how we learned. All was inspiring…” Ramshid Rashidpour (Iran)

Another knowledge-search excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA)

by Ms. Kebaabetswe Keoagile (Botswana)

It all started with the admiration of the main building. One would have thought it’s a business building; it is a piece of architectural beauty indeed!

 

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Picture by Bendicto Kabiito, Uganda

That was on the 11 th and 12 th of May, 2017 when CIPSEM EM40 participants had an excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA) in Dessau. The Agency is Germany’s central federal authority on environmental matters. According to their website and other websites, there have three main functions.

Its key statutory mandates are:

  • To provide scientific support to the Federal Government (e.g.. the Federal Ministries for Environment; Health; Research; Transport, Building and Urban Affairs);
  • Implementation of environmental laws (e.g. emissions trading, authorisation of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plant protection agents)
  • Information of the public about environmental protection.
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Introduction to UBA (Photo by Andre Lindner)

 

Different topics were presented, graced questions and discussions from the participants. The agenda for sustainable development 2030 was of great importance to generate insights into topics such as Sustainable development, green economy, sustainable resource use, and resource efficiency. Presenters were insightful about the need for action regarding transitioning to green economy. Population growth, high economic growth in developing countries, increasing fluctuating energy resources prices were cited as reasons for action.

And with these actions they are benefits that can be derived and the presenter covered: business opportunities, job creation, less environmental change hence higher welfare and quality of life, less dependency on energy imports and less use of resources, to name a few.

In the discussions, green economy was being viewed an aspect of sustainable development.

It also emerged through the discussions that sustainable development is an overarching vision while green economy gives shape to sustainable development, however, it does not fully address social issues.

It was important for us to learn that Germany has sustainability strategies which include resource efficiency policy and national strategy for sustainable development which were updated in 2016 for alignment the Sustainable Development Goals.

As the day progressed, the Dr. Uwe Leprich, Head of Department under Climate Protection and Energy unit, welcomed us to the Agency and introduced the two alumni of the CIPSEM Programme: Ms Rachel Boti-Douayoua (a 2015 CIPSEM participant) and Prof. Dr. Bert Kohlmann (a 1981 participant). The two gave interesting presentations about their experiences during the course. The latter noted that environmental issues by that time included ecological change, soil pollution, ozone layer depletion and air pollution, as opposed to climate change. His valuable experiences included making friends who were resourceful for his subsequent collaborations and project work. His projects were more into what he studied during the course (renewable energy and bio monitoring) and currently embarking on renewable energy projects as part of the transition to green economy.

Ms Boti-Douayoua also gave insights into her current work of which she managed to integrate what she learnt from the course on carbon credits. This was evident that indeed the course reaches its objectives of skilling and enriching participants.

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Professor Dr Bert Kohlmann (CIPSEM Alumnus -1981, photo by Dr. André Lindner)
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Ms Rachel Boti-Douayoua (CIPSEM Alumna -2015, Photo by Dr. André Lindner)

The participants had a relaxed evening and informally continued discussions about the day’s events at a joint dinner at the NH-Hotel (courtesy of CIPSEM secretariat). Some participants had a night-walk within the city centre to appreciate its beauty thereafter. Thanks to CIPSEM invite!

Day 2 was the day to get the practical part of the issues previously identified, with aid of cases from Germany. The topics of the day ranged from climate change priorities, adaptation and institutionalisation, to waste electrical and electronic equipment management and the strategic and environmental impact assessments. Thanks to the presenters for the knowledge share with or imparted onto the participants on the above areas. The participants engaged the presenters through discussions.

At the end one will say it was still clear that the challenge is putting theory into action remains critical in many spheres. One example of such challenges was the comment from a participant on the amount of work done on the environmental issues especially climate change, the results of which are not yet realized.

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Ms Judith Voss-Stemping (presentation on international Climate Protection-Priorities and institutionalization in Germany, photo by Dr. Anna Görner).

Implementation! Implementation! Implementation!

The Dilemma of land use: Bringing Reality to the Classroom

By: Ahmed Said Sulaiman

Making decisions that affect people’s use of land is among the most anxious actions that any progressive society has to deal with. Some of the mainstream arguments claim that the economic needs of the country should always take the priority in determining land use, while others say that indigenous or traditional claims to land use have to be respected. Emphasizing humankind’s stewardship obligations, still others argue that where nature is threatened, the best use of land is excluding human intervention. Even though, the intensions of conservation might be industrious in protecting fauna and flora, its final consequences could also be destructive. For example, if the actions of protected areas impose misery on people especially those who are fully dependent on it for their survival, it is unlikely to succeed in the long run. Well!  What is the best option of using natural resources then? This question seems easy to ask than answered!

As part of unpacking this complexity associated with land use, Environmental Management Class (EM40) led by Dr. Eckhard Auch, performed a simulation game on May 3rd 2017. The role play was based on a case of conservation area located in India (Kaziranga National Park) which was threatened by human encroachment. The intension of the scene was to bring all relevant stakeholders and involved actors to a meeting and eventually make an agreement on issue at stake (eviction of local users). The scene brought reality on the ground to the classroom and provided a lively discussion, arguments and counterarguments among the opposing parties.

Jürgen Habermas, a German Sociologist was right when he said “only by knowing the partner’s real interests (best), a negotiation can achieve best compromises”.   I learned that land use is beyond the affiliation of certain actors. There are other stakeholders (private, civil society and NGOs etc.) who have a say and influence the decisions of every aspect. Hence, making compromises was one of the determinants of reaching success.

However, even with in this role play, the process of making compromise was not smooth either. It was quite challenging to reach a common ground even with in a small group of the same interest let alone confronting opposing parties.

On the other hand, moderation of such kind of meetings needed skillful tactics and attention to the details. For example, the facilitators’ understanding about the culture of the involved community or behavior of individuals is crucial while on the other hand systematically balancing the power of the actors in the discussion process is important factor for reaching a fair consensus.

Overall, being part of this exercise was a valuable brainstorming. It stirred my sense and brought my attention that land use management does not happen in a vacuum – it combines science and society. Though the process is complex per say, if well designed and managed, it can make a tangible progress and lead to a cumulative positive outcome or, in other words a win-win solution.

 

Ahmed Said Sulaiman is EM40 participant from Ethiopia

Mapping and planning carbon reduction – an exercise on life cycle assessment

In a world under the growing effects of climate change, the importance of knowing the sources of emissions is key for finding solutions the mitigate them and find the ways to adapt. This generally applies for businesses and organisations, but it is also very useful to map the carbon footprint for every citizen.

In early March, the CIPSEM EM40 class had a workshop on life cycle assessment (LCA) with Helena Ponstein MSc, where we learned about the context for the rise of carbon emissions, the unpredictable consequences of climate change and the significant sustainability constraints we face nowadays. As an example and reminder of these constraints, there is an Earth Overshoot Day, which indicates the exhaustion of replenishable Earth resources that arrives, year after year, in an earlier date than the previous one (last year the date was 8 August 2016).

When the classroom discussed about the effects of climate change in the home countries, some of the consequences mentioned were the increase of floods and coastal erosion, shortages of water or having unpredictable weather trends. Another concern in class was how to make understand with figures the consequences of climate change to decision makers to avoid misconceptions and wrong budget allocations.

After the discussions and the showing of a video on sustainability, we proceeded to learn the details about LCA. In a short explanation, LCA is a methodology that helps understand the effects and impact of product and services from its originated source to its final outcome and post treatment within a boundary, with the aim of mapping the overall impacts and projecting how to manage environmental issues.  Amongst its benefits are the possibility for an improved environmental performance and, ideally, life cycle thinking.

Then, why do companies apply LCA? Some companies do it for internal sustainability goals, green marketing or brand enhancement, but the number of industries that are required by regulation authorities to report carbon footprint is increasing.

For the afternoon, we got involved into the practical part of the day: make our own LCA for an industry and suggesting possible measures to reduce the impact, calculating the equivalent CO2 emissions that fall under the global warming potential. Grouped into teams of four people, we explored with precise figures the amount of emissions and the different costs depending on the country chosen. The exercise was successful as all groups where able to arrive to similar results, and later we discussed the possible mitigation actions.

 

Text: Adrián Lauer with the support of Augusto Mosqueda, EM40 participants

Photos: Adrián Lauer

A glimpse in to the history and future of e-mobility

While sustainable mobility must include a wide range of approaches, using electric drives instead of combustion engines must be an important component.

Therefore, we started exploring the issue during a tour through the e-mobility exhibition in the Volkswagen transparent factory. Highlights were the e-bikes or pedelecs – there are already millions on the road… and also the electric scooters on show.

Later on, we will explore other ingredients for more sustainable mobility during lectures and excursions with Prof. Udo Becker and his colleagues from the chair of transport ecology at TU Dresden.

Plastic all over the world

At the end of a week mostly dedicated to resource efficiency and recycling stood a visit to the gallery at artspace „Alte Feuerwache Loschwitz“ in Dresden.

Quotes by six participants:

We were very pleased to get the possibility to have a short look in the expedition „Plastics of the world“. There posters are shown which have the topic of plastic in art.

Even thinking that was a small exposition, I liked the idea of the expositors had, many deeps thoughts and especial meanings of each poster.

Is plastic a problem or a solution¿ The exposition have highlighted differents point of views about this material around the world and made me think we don´t have only one truth about this issue.

I was impressed by the different concepts that eveyone has about plastics and this was reflected in every poster, especially the quote „plastic save us“. Could this material become more popular even though we are globally trying to reduce and banned its use?

It is a great idea that I wish we could see more in biger scale. We surronded by plastic in a world and art is the most effective tools to rais our awarness.

It was great to see the different views of the plastic world in terms of materials and the ‘philosophy’.
My thought is actually broadened with these different views in the world of plastic.

 

 

Authored by:

Harald Schluttig, Andrea Vera, Jaya Upadhyay, Fernanda Silva Martinelli, Ramshid Rashidpour, Natalia Jimenez