Recent Posts

Environmentally and Economically Sustainable Businesses

How can businesses develop products that are both environmentally and economically sustainable?  Many company executives see green initiatives as a financial burden that are only pursued out of good will.   Some environmental projects require large initial investments or involve changing the structure of an operation.  However, many initiatives that reduce the environmental impacts of products also reduce costs for businesses and improve their bottom line.  At the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) conference titled “Greening the Supply Chain: Best Business Practices and Future Trends” on Thursday, April 26, many strategies were presented by various companies that have improved both their environmental and economic sustainability. (more…)

Leading a Team of Student Reporters – Interview with Caroline D’Angelo

Rio +20 is coming soon, and with it, a great team of student reporters from around the world. Behind all the student reporters, there are outstanding team leaders (like Caroline D´Angelo) who edit their posts and interviews while guiding them through the hectic journey of live conference-blogging. Leading a team of student reporters is certainly not an easy task.  Funding, selection of students, training sessions, and much more has to be done before the start of the conference. In order to learn what it is like to be a team leader and a student reporter, I interviewed Caroline D’Angelo. Caroline D´Angelo is an editor for Student Reporter.

An Interview with Ms. Abby Onencan of the Nile Basin Discourse

The Nile Basin Discourse (NBD) is a civil society network with a membership of more than 750 organizations from 11 countries within the Nile Basin Region. It provides knowledge and builds capacity to strengthen the voice of civil society organizations within the Nile Basin Region. The NBD has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nile Basin Initiative, a coalition of  ten countries’ governments along the Nile, and participates in high level meetings. The NBD has developed a unique voice in the Initiative’s goal to advance  benefit sharing. “Benefit sharing,” as described by the NBD, aims to divert attention from contentious issues such as water allocation, thereby preventing futile competition in the region.

University of Pennsylvania Delegates Present “Youth Solutions” at World Water Forum

The delegation from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) had 27 students from the Master of Environmental Studies (M.E.S.) and Master of Science in Applied Geoscience programs in attendance at the World Water Forum. At the end of the week, some of us from Penn were invited to present solutions emerging from our institution. On Friday morning, three classmates and I highlighted a few water-related sustainability initiatives currently in place at Penn. Rupal Prasad began with an overview of the University’s Green Campus Parternship and the structural layout of our nearly 200-year old campus. I then described our unique outreach programs and explained to the young audience how exactly we connect with our undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff. Since American college and university students generally move away from home and onto higher education campuses at the age of 18, it is important that they learn and engage in a sustainable lifestyle to carry forward after graduation.

Roll On, Nile, Roll On!

The Nile is the world’s longest river. It is shared between Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (See map below). Except for South Sudan, all of the above countries are members of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) – a cooperative partnership formed in 1999. Six upstream members of the NBI signed a “Cooperative Framework Agreement” that includes Articles addressing issues such as water allocation. One can imagine that such a framework is needed to assist water management efforts between so many nations.

David Zetland is Brash, Outspoken and Unapologetic… and He’s Usually Right.

When I meet up with David Zetland, he’s chatting up two Forum attendees over complimentary drinks and light hors d’ouvres from the Brazilian Pavilion at Parc Chanot’s Palais Phoceen. Usually the center of attention by virtue of a lightning quick wit and polymathic knowledge, Zetland is skewering a newly-formed NGO designed to help investment banks and other financiers assess risks associated with climate change… “Which makes perfect sense,” proclaims a sardonic Zetland, “because NGO’s are so adept at evaluating investment risks and investment banks have no idea.” (more…)

Thinking Beyond Technology to Ensure Food Security

Food production uses large amounts of water.  To be more precise, agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global water use.  As the world’s population grows, increasing amounts of food, and therefore increasing amounts of water, are needed.  At the same time, there are growing concerns about global and regional water scarcity.  The question arises then: how can we use water optimally to help ensure food security?  There are a variety of technologies that can improve the situation and provide sufficient food for growing populations.  Chen Lei, from the Ministry of Water Resources in China, spoke at the WWF about some of the technological solutions that China has utilized.  These solutions have enabled his country to feed 21% of the population with only 6% of the world’s land.  China promotes the use of improved seeds, improved fertilizers, dry farming, and drip irrigation. While these are valuable technological tools, there are a multitude of other non-technological tools that can be used to address broader issues through institutional or political change. At the World Water Forum in Marseille France, a session on Wednesday, March 14 discussed this topic in a panel titled, “Contributing to food security by optimal use of water”.  Speakers from China, Mali, France, India, Nestle, among others, contributed their own experiences and ideas to the discussion. Growing Demand For Food

There is a growing demand for food globally.  Alexander Muller from the Natural Resources and Environment department at FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) set the scene for the discussion.  The global population is growing, he said.  It is expected that 60 percent more food will be needed to feed the additional three billion people that will exist by the end of the century.  In order to produce this food, increasing amounts of water will need to be consumed.  However, the barriers to producing greater amounts of food continue to grow. One barrier is decreasing resources in the face of a growing population.

Distinguishing different water qualities: Interview with Ger Bergkamp of IWA

Addressing the problem of water scarcity was the major concern during the World Water Forum 6. Many solutions were suggested, but it seems that the answer to this crucial problem can be found in the sustainable use of water resources. In the field of sustainability, innovation must be applied in every possible sense, in order for modern civilization to keep developing and flourishing. While attending several different discussion panels that focused on possible solutions such as desalination, replacement of malfunctioning infrastructure and filtration of rainwater, a certain proposal gained my attention. During the High Level Panel on Transboundary Waters, Mr Ger Bergkamp, Regional Group and Programmes of IWA, introduced the idea of the use of different water qualities.

Wars over Water: Do I Really Have to Share?

Student Reporters Iliana Sepulveda and Arjun Bhargava contributed equally to this post. Wars over water? Nowadays, this concept does not sound unfamiliar at all. Shared natural resources offer a challenge from the political standpoint, given that its management has implications for the autonomy and wealth of different countries and states. As the IUCN notes, of the two hundred and fourteen transboundary river basins in the world, one hundred and fifty-five of these are shared between two States, thirty-six between three States and twenty-three between four or more States.

The Beauty of Reclaiming Water

Since the beginning of days humans have always tried to imitate nature, both in real life and in mythology (e.g. Daedalus and Icarus trying to imitate the flying of the birds).  As technology advances, many advances return back to the concept of imitating nature in order to preserve a balance on earth. For example, the industrial and municipal water cycle are now being adapted to reuse wastewater. Water reclamation is a reflection of water’s value and increasing scarcity in many parts of the world – there simply isn’t enough fresh water to meet demands. In water reclamation, we emulate Mother Nature, where water is recylced and reused on a global scale. In fact, with the current technology we can do it faster and better. Water reclamation is the treatment of wastewater to make it reusable. The idea is that for some uses, like watering the lawn or some industrial uses, water does not need to be as clean as for others, such as drinking. Water reclamation can also mean that water is treated from toilet to tap, like in Singapore, where wastewater undergoes reverse osmosis and is immediately recycled. Further opportunity exists in reclaming minerals from wastewater, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which are valuable for agriculture.