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June 2020 Newsletter

Why we’re flipping our Program Model on its Head

 

I love this photo. It shows an abundance of diversity and depicts a healthy and holistic landscape. It is what I hope for our world.
 
Since our last newsletter, a new virus called SARS-COVID-2 has rapidly spread and is causing a disease called COVID-19 - turning our world upside down and inside out. Now we must navigate this new reality while trying to address the threats of an increasingly warming world.
 
Absorbing the cascading shocks of COVID-19 certainly presents some challenges for TRI. We are a new charity with limited reserves, but thankfully we have a good foundation to build from due to our responsible fiducial approach and good operating practices. We are also a distributed organization which makes us nimble and therefore in a good position to respond to uncertain times - like now.
 
During this time of unprecedented change and unpredictability we will focus on strengthening existing partnerships and developing new collaborations so that TRI can meet the growing needs of communities seeking to build resilience. We are also carefully reviewing our program model to make sure it is relevant as new local and global contexts emerge.

What we do know is that we no longer have the luxury of addressing climate challenges sequentially. We need an interconnected approach. For example, going forward we are exploring a program model that is much more hands-on - “learning while doing” so that our initiatives have an immediate impact on energy, food, and water security to help avoid the worst possible scenarios and mass scale suffering.
 
An area of great concern is food security. In Canada, for example, approximately 8.8 million people are expected to experience food insecurity by the end of this year (Food Secure Canada, 2020). One of the recommendations from Food Secure Canada is to “support Indigenous food sovereignty where First Nations, Métis and Inuit determine their own place-based food systems, advancing policies that will best support self-determined resilient futures” which is exactly what TRI’s new program model intends to do. A recent blog by Krystyna Swiderska (2020) published by the International Institute for Environment and Development (iied) rightly points out that COVID-19 has exposed huge vulnerabilities in food systems around the world. Some of our partner communities experienced this firsthand in the early stages of shutdowns. Check out Krystyna’s blog to read more on some of the lessons we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to help inform a Just Transition in food systems. Resilient food systems and COVID-19: lessons for a Just Transition.
 
With the Pandemic we have witnessed a great deal of solidarity - people can take collective action to avoid worst case scenarios. The challenge with collective action on climate change though is that unlike the sudden onset of a threatening virus, the global impacts of climate change are seemingly slow and sporadic. A flood doesn’t hit the entire world at once, it comes in waves. Just as I was working on this update it was reported that Siberia is experiencing a prolonged heatwave which is pushing 2020 towards being the hottest on record. A harsh reminder that the challenges of accelerated climate change remain - despite the recent reprieve from a rise in global emissions.
 
I hope that this short update finds you and yours doing as well as possible in this terribly challenging time. I am filled with gratitude for our small but dedicated team and supporters. It is because of them that we can continue serving communities in their efforts to develop resilience to extreme weather events and other global stressors. There is nothing more that I’d rather be doing. Our volunteer board members, financial contributors, initiative partners, community collaborators – you are all struggling right now in one way or another and I am deeply grateful for your efforts in keeping our critical going.
 
Onwards and upwards – even if everything seems upside down!
 
 
Laura S. Lynes
President, The Resilience Institute

100 People Giving $100

Help boost TRIs ability to absorb the on-going
shocks of the COVID-19 Pandemic. 
Our goal is simple – for those who can –

100 people donating $100 to TRI’s 2020 Annual Fund

To support this goal visit TRI's secure Canada Helps page HERE

News & Views

Resilience and Covid-19

By Andy Dobson, Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University and TRI board member. Professor Dobson’s research is concerned with the ecology of infectious diseases and the conservation of endangered and threatened species. Twitter: @Andy2Dobson


Resilience is the ability of a system to recover from perturbation. The current global pandemic of Covid-19 has created the greatest perturbation to the global economy and human society in living memory, perhaps longer. The epidemic will not go on forever. While it does, we should gather more information on how to treat people who are sick, and on how to interact socially, and at work, in ways that minimize transmission. We will then be given an opportunity to regrow the economy and create jobs for the millions of people who have been left unemployed, or who have been working from home during this crisis. The economy and human society will not operate in the way they did before Covid, so we have to slowly redevelop the economy and our day-to-day lives in ways that minimize disease risk, and in ways that make our worlds more resilient to future perturbations. Welcome to the Covidocene! 
 

If we are to build a resilient world that protects the planet and it’s human population from the twin threats of climate change and another global pandemic, then we need to restructure our economy in ways that move away from a short-term dependence on fossil fuels and cheap global transportation.


There is an old Chinese proverb that states that “Crisis is another word for opportunity.” The Covid-19 pandemic provides us with a major opportunity to reorganize the human economy in ways that are more sustainable for the long-term welfare of the planet. This will be our last chance to re-organize things before climate change has an even bigger, more long lasting, impact on the global economy. Covid-19 will not be the last virus to emerge in human populations, we have seen pathogens almost establish at least four times already this century and there are lot more viruses out there. So how can we reorganize economies and societies in ways that make us better able to detect and control novel pathogens and concomitantly more resilient to future environmental shocks, particularly climate change? Moreover, how can we do this in ways that are more equitable for all members of society, and in resilient ways that allow us to realize our dependence on the economic goods and services provided by the natural world?

Central to the economic recovery will be the creation of many jobs, millions of these should be focused on the new infrastructure we will need to move people to and from work and between and within continents in ways that facilitate social distancing and minimize the use of fossil fuels. It seems unlikely that many people will want to revisit the huge risks associated with flying in the cramped conditions that increase disease risk and mandatory incubation at the beginning and end of each airline trip. Instead, high-speed electric rail will need to develop rapidly, with highly partitioned, efficiently ventilated railcars, that minimize risk of social contact. Europe and China have already shown how to begin doing this, but train carriages and engines must now be redesigned to minimize the risk of respiratory disease and maximize fuel efficiency by reducing fossil fuel usage. Similar practices need to be adopted throughout the world, so this will be a big market for those who can break this design barrier and build and run these networks. Similarly, the movement of freight must move from road to rail. The Panama Canal Railroad, which for nearly two decades was the highest rated company on the New York Stock Exchange, still has the capacity to unload a huge shipping container vessel, transport it contents by rail 50 miles across the Isthmus of Panama and reload it onto a sister ship in under 24 hours. The rail tracks and bridges were laid over a century ago, it should not be beyond the modern skillset to replicate this feat. Re-building transportation infrastructure will create jobs and integrating this down to local levels will boost local economies. This has to be done in ways that minimize damage to local wild areas and key areas for agricultural production, perhaps by rail development in parallel to current major highway networks. Or even on top of current systems as the need for road and truck travel declines. 

Covid has taught people the delights of clean air and locally grown food produce, the pollution and cost of international supply chains for food is now more of a frivolous luxury, than a vital necessity. Certainly, economic subsidies to these types or transport and food distribution networks should be the first thing to be dropped as the bills for stopping the Covid pandemic become due. The Covid epidemic has already provided city dwellers with a taste of what city life could be like in the absence of pollution created by noxious gases. There is increasing evidence that this pollution is a significant co-mortality factor for Covid-19. Jobs can be created constructing car and truck free zones within cities and modifying the deliveries of goods and services from centralized container hubs at their peripheries. Cities such as Paris have hugely reduced access to motor vehicles and replaced with bicycle and pedestrian only areas.  This has increased the attraction of the city as a place to live and work and helped to offset an increased desire of many to move away from cities as sub-optimal places to live when faced with lockdown in small apartments with limited facilities for cooking and recreation. 

Agriculture will also have to enter a period of significant modification. This is already started prior to Covid with local farms supplying food locally, but the pandemic has accelerated the need for this as long specialized supply chains have broken down and vital food supplies have either spoiled or used as fertilizer in the absence of restaurants that are the primary customers of many farms and specialist producers and foragers.

Stop destruction of tropical forests – these are still are greatest buffer against climate change and concomitantly the source of current and future viral pandemic threats. As well as sources for potential drugs with which to treat these pathogens. It is easy for politicians to say we will have a vaccine within a year, but this is a hope, not a strategy. Vaccine development is never a foregone conclusion, we still do not have an HIV vaccine, forty years after it emerged, nor a vaccine for malaria; it has consistently been five years in the future for the last fifty years. If we start to produce a steady stream of potential vaccines, then human trials will require us to have viable treatments for volunteers who agree to have the efficacy of any potential vaccine tested on them followed by exposure to live virus. It may ultimately prove more effective to massively scale up the production of treatments to a level where they are more cost-effective than any potential vaccine. This will again create many manufacturing and drug distribution jobs. Appreciating tropical and temperate forests as potential sources for new drugs with which to treat emerging pathogens and many other health care problems will add another layer of protection to the most effective barrier we have against further increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Reorganizing national and international perceptions about economic necessities will produce screams of rage from the heavily subsidized oil and gas industry and those who exploit tropical forests for gold, timber, and land on which to grow cattle. But they have had a front seat at the trough of government subsidies for a long time. The fossil fuel industries in particular, now have the financial and intellectual resources to put themselves at the front of the research and engineering developments needed to replace the current transport economy. The economic benefits of taking the lead with this will help allay the legal hammer that will eventually fall when the legal compensation bills created by climate change mitigation become due.    

The hallmark of a true democracy is that people should be allowed to make their own decisions and vote for people who espouse a vision for a world that they and their children would like to live in. In contrast, democracy is not designed for innovative creativity.  Its strength lies in different people voting for a variety of options that on aggregate prevent bad decisions becoming policy. For too long the democratic wishes of the many have been abused by the financial contributions of the few to the political campaigns of the self-serving. When democracy is abused, it becomes a too easy for egoists to retrospectively develop ideological or self-serving policies that forward their own agenda at the expense of those that voted for them. Innovation and creativity arise in environments where free thought is encouraged and widely supported by those whose industries have profited from previous periods of innovation. Competition may help refine products, but rarely stimulates original creativity. 

If we are to build a resilient world that protects the planet and it’s human population from the twin threats of climate change and another global pandemic, then we need to restructure our economy in ways that move away from a short-term dependence on fossil fuels and cheap global transportation.  The risks are too high and the benefits accrued by far too few.

Kainai Prairie Grasslands

Phase I of the Prairie Grasslands Restoration work with the Kainai First Nation, in Southern Alberta is wrapping up with phenomenal success! Through this work the community was able to begin restoring degraded grasslands and unsustainable agricultural fields to diverse native prairie and traditional plant populations. Seen here, seeding with William Singer IIi, his 4-legged friend Ross and Steve Tannas of Tannas Conservation.

New Partnership with the Canadian Red Cross

Since our last newsletter we have confirmed a partnership with the Canadian Red Cross. The first initiative in this forming relationship is called Building Resilience to Climate Impacts with a focus on Floods in Southern Alberta First Nations. This initiative will help create Nation-to-Nation learning opportunities and foster new collaborations to help build capacity to plan and respond to future extreme weather events such as flooding. Activities include cultural asset mapping in flood zones, assessing riverbank health, and good practices in flood adaptation.

Adaptation Planning with Willow Lake Métis

In Northern Alberta we are continuing to collaborate with the Willow Lake Métis on a multi-year adaptation planning initiative. The Willow Lake Métis are located in the ecologically rich Canadian Boreal Forest where over 150 bird species can be found! Being a distributed and virtual organization has really helped TRI be able to maintain momentum in the North.

Keeping the Fire Burning

The summary report from the first Fire with Fire Multi-Partner Workshop is now available on TRI's Website HERE.  Fire with Fire is a multi-year, multi-partner initiative aimed at building capacity for climate adaptation by braiding Indigenous, local and scientific knowledges. 
Over the next six months we will be facilitating a number of webinars to keep the fire burning on capacity building and knowledge sharing related to Indigenous and scientific knowledge on wildland fire.

Piikani Adaptation Work Continues

Fortunately, the adaptation activities planned with the Piikani Nation are moving forward with some adjustments due to COVID-19. Over the summer Piikani youth will be engaged in virtual learning about climate change and how to develop a Local Early Action Plan (LEAP).The revised plan has been possible thanks to the flexibility of the Calgary Foundation – a key supporter of the multi-year initiative.
We are also thrilled to share that the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation is supporting a new partner activity to engage students in learning about environmental stewardship and food responsibility by developing a comprehensive Greenhouse program. The Piikani School Greenhouse initiative will exemplify TRI's new program model of "learning while doing" as it will also help build capacity for food security using renewable energy and retention of traditional knowledge.
Though early stages, we are forming a new program area called Stories of Resilience. What are the stories of positive change? Stories about that which makes us resilient? Everyday we’re bombarded with terrible news. It can be paralyzing. How can we shine light on our strengths and inspire others to be their best?Let’s combat the bad news with stories that build our personal and collective resilience. To further develop this concept TRI is working with partners such as Dr. Phil Loring, the Arrell Chair in Food, Policy and Society at the Arrell Food Institute, Guelph University. Stay tuned for more!

Virtual Presentations

TRI's president spoke at the Global Goals 2020 Research Symposium – Inclusiveness Stream on Weaving Indigenous Knowledge into Local Early Action Plans, June 9, 2020, Utrecht University, Netherlands (via Zoom). "In 2015, the international community adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 targets as part of a global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The ambition expressed in these goals is unprecedented; the Agenda aims at nothing less than ‘Transforming Our World’. But can this prominent example of global goal-setting, as a new central approach in global governance, help resolve the pressing challenges of economic development, poverty eradication, social justice, and global environmental protection? Nobody knows at this stage..there is little scientific knowledge on whether such global goals can live up to exceedingly high expectations. How can ‘global governance through goals’ be effective – and under which conditions?"

The 2020 SDG Research Symposium provided a forum for the exchange of cutting-edge research and policy studies on this question. The Symposium brought together a broad group of leading social scientists from universities and prominent think tanks for a first stocktaking of what we know about the actual impact of ‘governance through goals.’


Climate Law & LItigation: American Society of International Law Virtual Conference June 24, 2020, Washington DC. The panel discussed two approaches for climate action: international law through the implementation of the Paris Agreement and transnational and domestic litigation. Panel members:
  • Jolene Lin, National University of Singapore
  • Laura Shay Lynes, The Resilience Institute (TRI)
  • Francesco Sindico, University of Strathclyde Law School (Moderator)
  • Daniel Magraw, President Emeritus of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  • Hari Osofsky, Penn State Law and School of International Affairs
Meeting in new ways. Like many of you, the TRI Team has been meeting virtually. Here's a snapshot from one of our team meetings.

Starting at the top L: Eli Panning-Osendarp, Project Coordinator, Sarah Louise Roberts, Advisor – international fund raising, Jennifer Feikes, VP Finance & Operations, Elliot Fox, Indigenous Community Liaison and down in the corner, TRI's President, Laura S. Lynes
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