pirmdiena, 2013. gada 11. novembris

In praise of Slow- review

It was couple of years ago when my friend gave me a great present on my birthday-  a book 
"in praise of Slow. How a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed" by Carl Honoré. He is an award- winning London living Canadian journalist and TED speaker, and mainly, he is a world's ambassador for the  Slow Movement.
So what really is a Slow Movement? By his words:

"It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting."

Even though I preach several aspects of Slow Movement in my daily life, I still have loads of areas to improve. This book was insightful. I believe readers on green carpet might find it interesting too.

He starts by examining our need for speed, compulsion to accelerate and hurry in everything we do. Why do we do everything faster? Author questions the (in)sanity of speeding up everything in our lives. Meanwhile he goes through the history of how clock became to control our lives.

In the chapter Two he shows that "Slow is Beautiful" by introducing cities and communities that choose to defy te speeding up industry and have become The Decelerators.

In the chapter Three "Food: Turning the tables on speed" he is taking you to a tasty and nice smelling journey, introducing the Slow Food idea, advocates and activists. I particularly love the part when he tells about Rome and how Carlo Petrini launched Slow Food there. "As the name suggests, the movement stands for everything that McDonald's does not: fresh, local, seasonal produce; recipes handed down through the generations; sustainable farming; artisanal production; leisurely dining with family and friends." Carl is also reminding that Slow Food is an "eco-gastronomy", it means eating well not only for your pleasure, mind and body, but also for the environment.

I think chapter Four "Cities: Blending old and new" is one of my favorites. Even though apart from very few areas our  cities look a lot like his vicious examples, I enjoyed the virtual tour through Citta Slow and seeing how New Urbanism principles are applied elsewhere turning it to "Slow Urbanism". When you take a closer look on the infrastructure details of how the city or suburbs should be built according to their ideas, it is very close to the eco-village ideas.The book is also giving a good thought on Speed Awareness- how we drive our cars and how we should do that not only for Slow living idea, but for our own and others safety and opportunity to enjoy the life in living areas.

Chapter Five "Mind/Body: Mens sana in corpore sana" leads you to slow thinking and reminds of such important practices as meditation, taking time to reflect and calm your mind from the frantic jumping of thoughts. Also physical excersise is very important part of living quality life, especially slow life. Since yoga is big thing here on green carpet, I like him emphasizing the importance of it in the book too. Some interesting aspects of Eastern Chi Kung traditions appear in lives of ordinary and very dynamic sports. Slow doesn't mean that every movement has to be at a snails pace. What was totally new to me was this SuperSlow gym. I would not be ready to try it since I, just like the author, like to enjoy my practices, but I definitely understand the people who like it- it's slow in dynamics, but "fast" in terms of time saving, and it clears the mind too.

Next chapter "Medicine: Doctors and Patience" talks about the issue probably every one of us has encountered- fast paced visits in the doctors office. Although author shows some examples where Western doctors are taking more time for their patients and talk more, in reality it is still a huge problem. Therefore he goes on to discuss various CAM techniques. Most of the readers will probably already know such treatments as massage, chiropractic, osteopathy, aroma therapy, acupuncture, yoga, meditation and power of a simple relaxation. What is a nice touch in the book is introducing Reiki as a medical treatment, and I was actually amazed to read about how developed that is in London, for example. If I just knew that when I was living there! I believe this chapter would encourage more people to try out herbalists, Reiki masters and other now called "unconventional" in my opinion, the true traditional doctors, because true health is most often very little linked to medicine.

A little delicate chapter seven "Sex:A Lover With a Slow Hand" moves Slow movement to your bedroom, introducing slow foreplay, movements and surprising or not- Tantra. Important are the ways to communicate such a delicate idea as slow sex. We all do it, we all know it, but we still don't really feel very encouraged to talk about it, especially in terms of "how to do it better" rather than "look what I can do!".. What I really enjoy about the author that he goes through all the experiences himself, so he can really tell what's in it. Thanks to this book I've had few thoughtful moments about my own relationships.

Chapter eight "Work: The Benefits of Working Less Hard" probably is the most difficult part of the Slow movement and provides many examples how being slow at work and working less can be good for both life and business. Not always the reduced hours or extra time off works for everybody, of course. But the trend to slow down and take more time for the life outside of work has been set and proven to have many benefits. I really enjoyed seeing various examples on how to create work-life balance and to slow the often frantic working environments- from reduced hours to job sharing, to choosing the pace and time when you work, to yoga and meditation on the job, and even snoozing in the middle of the working day. I think we have lot to learn from those examples to find what works for us. I also believe this is the most complex area where slowness can be achieved as it is not depending only on ourselves but also many other people- colleagues, CEOs, bosses, managers and other businesses that all have their own expectations of their colleagues, employees and partners. This chapter now has been one of the most important ones since I started working.. recommendation to everyone who is tired of hectic office rush.

The next chapter "Leisure: The Importance of Being at Rest" shows how our leisure can and should become more slow. Various hobbies from knitting to gardening (believe me, not women only activities) can have immense effect on you slowing down and therefore improve your concentration abilities when you need to be active. It kind of takes your mind off the jumping thoughts, tested and proven. While reading all that I thought- I should read this book even slower.. and then the author said that another leisure revolution is a slow reading! Some music lovers might find the continuation of the chapter captivating, however, I, being also a music lover, think that the section on playing music slower was a little too long (slow?). However, the idea of endless or at least way over our lifetimes long concert was something new and kind of exciting!

Following chapter "Children: Raising an Unhurried Child" covers how the Slow lifestyle could and should (!) be applied to our family lives, especially to how we rise our children. Nowadays parents try to pack their children's days with as many activities as they can to provide best start in life. But it is crucial to give them time to develop at their own pace, to enjoy the free play. Author is also describing alternative education methods and homeschooling as a trend that complies with Slow movement. Now I'm even more and more attracted to the idea of homeschooling, but since I'm not sure whether our family could be able to do that, I still have my little one signed up for Waldorf kindergaden when the time comes and have some other alternative schooling institutions in mind..

Those thinking of applying slow movement into their own lives have probably already gone to book store to grab a copy of this piece, but what I have to say to skeptics- many of us  like our busy lives, but this book just shows how to improve the quality of life too!

P.S.- This was the slowest book I've ever read- and I enjoyed reading it page by page for many, many months before bedtime. I am now thinking of which next slow book to read!

trešdiena, 2013. gada 25. septembris

Stockholm, Sweden- learned and experienced

It is not just because of some distant ancestoral Swedish blood in me that I fell in love with this city..
Yesterday morning I arrived here for the IPCC Twelfth Session of Working Group I. While all the day I was in the room with many people discussing Climate Change data, and I am continuing it today and for the next couple of days too, I have got to know many very inspiring and also in some sense satisfying things about Sweden and Stockholm in particular.

Some learned information: 

  • Stockholm was the EU Green Capital 2010: 

  • Stockholm has done plenty to become sustainable, and it has a plan to do much more: 

The Environment Program contains six key priorities:
1. Environmentally efficient transport
2. Goods and buildings free of dangerous substances
3. Sustainable energy use
4. Sustainable use of land and water
5. Waste treatment with minimal environmental impact
6. A healthy indoor environment
Other priorities of the Environment Program are to encourage cycling and walking, reduce out and indoor noise levels, increase the amount of ecological food products purchased by the city to at least 25 percent, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to less than 3,0 tons per Stockholmer, develop and strengthen land and water areas with particular importance for biological diversity and reduce incorrectly recycled waste.

  • Sweden has 16 Environmental Quality Objectives:

  • Reduced Climate Impact
  • Clean Air
  • Natural Acidification Only
  • A Non-Toxic Environment
  • A Protective Ozone Layer
  • A Safe Radiation Environment
  • Zero Eutrophication
  • Flourishing Lakes and Streams
  • Good-Quality Groundwater
  • A Balanced Marine Environment, Flourishing Coastal Areas and Archipelagos
  • Thriving Wetlands
  • Sustainable Forests
  • A Varied Agricultural Landscape
  • A Magnificent Mountain Landscape
  • A Good Built Environment
  • A Rich Diversity of Plant and Animal Life

  • Some experienced things: 

    • Stockholm takes care of its citizens and families by caring and developing green common spaces between the residential buildings, where you can see people actually coming together for BBQs and chats, and by designing the city with good access to public services like shops, busstops, daycare centers, common gardens, eat out places etc. 

    • At least one hotel in Stockholm has a wonderful environmental and 'health' standard apart from not changing the towels- Clarion Hotel in Stockholm serves plenty of fresh and organic food for breakfast, which makes me very, very happy. And my towels really were not changed during these 3 nights of stay as I left them on the hanger (which many other hotels in my experience ignore no matter the signs in the bathroom saying- we won't change them, we care for nature). 

    • People cycle, walk, run to the places they have to be- daycare for children can be found on the first floor of one of the residential buildings of the cluster, bycicles are everywhere - parked near apartments, being cycled on the streets etc, dogs are walked around the green areas that are quite common in my 30min walk to the venue I have to be, and plenty of dads are running with kids in strollers to get where they have to be.. leaves a warming impression of people-friendly city.

    • And what I probably love the most of these- Swedish people has this Scandinavian sustainable consumers pattern- they use things up, they wear them out. I see smart looking people pushing strollers that they have been probably pushed around themselves (or even their own moms and dads were the ones riding them). They don't ride oldschool bykes, they ride old bykes. They seemingly dress for quality and convenience, and they are not stuck up with superlarge wardrobes of incredible variety of rags from the latest trends. Simplicity really describes what I see around, and I love it. There is no pressure to artificially make you more good looking, the way of appearance is natural, and I miss this Scandinavian trait in my own country. No wonder they got all the above points set up.
    While this pic was taken from treehugger about Iceland, I've seen the same ones and similar here in Sweden, but I did not want take my camera out to take a photo of a bypassing toddler in a stroller or baby in a pram..

    These are just few I've encountered on my short visit here with a very, very limited time outside of the meeting room. I can only hear even better stories of other cities of Sweden that are even better by not losing the all the good standards but adding to them by being more relaxed, friendly and good looking. I hope I would have some time to visit Uppsala and Gothenburg to find it out one day.

    It almost feels like I would want to take the easy route and move to work to some place like this (and for curiosity- one of the positions I was attracted to when thinking of starting working was really based in Stockholm). 
    However, I love my family, my country and my own environment a lot. And I find this experience incredibly inspiring to do some improvements in my own city surroundings. I hope that ultimately I will live in the countryside, but while part of my life is spent at our city apartment block, there are several things I've already discussed with my husband that we could do for our neighbourhood. 
    Which me luck! 

    otrdiena, 2013. gada 24. septembris


    Whow, it's been a while.. Family + work + studies (and exams approaching next week), makes me really, really busy. But today I feel inspired to post on something else..

    Even though I love my job, I feel really frustrated by the very, very slow progress and slow bureaucratic processes there. And while I believe in what I do and I wish to have more impact, I can also become really tired of that. Sitting here, in the wonderful city of Stockholm at the IPCC event and discussing the newest data of Climate Change in also a quite slow process, makes me think of what else I could to to speed things up in terms of slowing the Climate Change and saving our Planet from various non-environmentally friendly practices?
    Join the activities of Greenpeace!
    I've "run into them" virtually several times before, but now I've been also moved a lot by what their Arctic Sunrise crew is going through in Russia. And I am very inspired by international action! So I checked, what else we - me and you all - could do:


    trešdiena, 2013. gada 17. jūlijs

    Raw dinner

    For a while now there has been a constant debate on green carpet about maybe going raw or at least trying to add more raw to our daily food consumption and we tried some recipes several times..

    With all the wonderful berries and fruits available now in season it has been fairly easy and pleasant to keep our raw food levels up on daily basis. However, during our National XXV Song and XV Dance Festival week where I had to dance all day and sometimes night long, and during the "recovery week" I managed to indulge in more of those foods I'd never eat otherwise. Looking for excuses? Maybe.. But as much as I tried to keep a healthy diet (bringing health snacks and smoothies to the stadium, carrying almonds in all my pockets), the "other" foods kept creeping up on me..
    So this week I felt already fully recovered from the amazing experience of dancing, and decided- time to get back to proper moonphase detox days and add more raw. After trying some soups and smoothies mostly a while ago, this time I dared myself into "cooking" raw dinner maincourse.
    I have to say- it was fantastic!!!
    So here's the recipe I used:

    Picture from www.asimplyrawlife.blogspot.com whose recipe I used for with little alteration

    Cauliflower rice with raw pesto

    For rice:
    2small heads of cauliflower
    1 red bell pepper
    4 stalks of celery
    2 handfuls of mushrooms
    1/2 large courgette

    For pesto:

    2 handfuls of basil leaves (from my windowsill)
    pine nuts and walnuts as much as you prefer
    2-3 cloves of garlic
    olive oil
    pinch of pink himalaya salt

    Chop the cauliflower in a food processor until rice-like consistence (small grains). I used a tip to pulse 10times and do it by small portions not to turn it into a paste.
    Dice the bell pepper, celery and courgette, chop the mushrooms. Mix it all in the cauliflower rice.

    Blend basil leaves, garlic and nuts all in a thick paste, add a pinch of salt and drizzle in olive oil to gain the perfect substance. My suggestion is to 'stretch' it a little with more olive oil to make it really a sauce for the 'rice'.

    And voila! Enjoy your healthy raw meal!

    piektdiena, 2013. gada 28. jūnijs

    Life that amazes you

    There are so many things in this world that can amaze you.. let them!
    Live your life to the fullest and love!
    There is no meantime, there is only the real time. The only time that truly exists is now. We don't own the past to return to it and relive it. We can never live in the future, as it is always in tomorrow. All we have is now, this day, this moment. And only we can fill it with light, love and life. Love and true connections are all around us.
    The love that we share and build in our families is sacred and not to be shared further. But only having this sacred love within me I can be open to the world around me and love every bit of it and have the honoring love for human beings I meet on my way. And that's sacred too.
    Be true to yourself, to what you cherish, and as open you are to the world, as open arms it will take you in to share the blissfulness of the unity of being all and one at the same time. Let the world amaze you!
    Every heart is a string that brings the sound of joy to the world around it. Find the strings you can sound with in harmony to play the music of life!

    otrdiena, 2013. gada 11. jūnijs

    Decluttering, cleaning and making our home

    My dear husband has been asking if there's something itching in me in last few days or what? I've been using every free second to clean, shrub, unpack old boxes and take empty ones away, even tidying up my little ones toy shelves.. So what's about cleaning, reorganizing and decluttering on green carpet?

    Well, it started probably with three major motivators:
    • Since I have been away from our apartment for almost a week (and last I was there I was busy with my daughter after work, so I paid no attention to surroundings), I just noticed that our wonderful 4week cleaning schedule has not been ticked for.. emm.. not gonna even say how long.. and with that I also noticed that my bathroom sink looks like it needs more washing than my face or feet..
    • We bought a blender with two 750ml take away 'cups' so we could take our juices, smoothies and raw soups to work too.. so I had to place it somewhere in our kitchen..and I realised that I have way too much stuff in there, some of which I hardly use, so it really was the time for rearranging our appliances, getting rid of what's unneccessary (too many boxes, glass jars, packaging to reuse someday) and putting deep in kitchen cupboards appliances that I use very, very rarely, but still want to keep for occasions (like an electric sandwich maker)..
    • Psychological need for some order and prioritizing (reorganizing stuff and things in my mind) and clearing away unnecessary thoughts (cleaning and decluttering our home from stuff and chatoic things in my mind)..
    Of course, one has to keep in mind the greenness of cleaning processes too. Ruleas are simple as always:
    • Use only health and environment friendly cleaning materials and substances (soda, vinegar, lemons, microfiber cloths, upcycled torn rugs, eco-friendly liquids if really necessary). Clean your home keeping the planet clean too!
    • Donate or re-gift all unneccessary stuff you're not gonna need (sometimes also broken things can be given to people who can fix them..)
    • Repurpose or keep for reusing or repurposing later (like cardboard boxes for Christmas gift packaging etc.)
    Now, after my bathroom sink is now shining with all bottles nicely organized, my daughters toy shelf looking like a toddlers toy shelf instead of a colourful mess, more clear space in our small kitchen with easy access to the appliances we actually use everyday, and many other tasks, my head has become clearer, my mind more peaceful and I now again I can feel a little restless and happy, but also energized to do a little more every now and then.

    But what I was also reminded of by this "cleaning spree" was that home is not just a space to live in. It is like a living organism, you have to take attentive care of it for you it to take care of you. Your daily tasks should not be put behind just because you are busy and getting rid of old boxes is not on your priority list right now. Your daily care of your house is what actually creates the feeling of home, not just a house.

    I know that most of the people were doing all the decluttering in spring cleaning, we did some too, but apparently it's something we, people and our homes, need once in a while, not just once a year.
    I am not gonna share the decluttering tips here on green carpet, just because there are like millions of those on the web and blogosphere, and everyone has their own approach to that. I just go with my guts.. Take a look around and see what you can do today to make your home feel lighter, airier, giving your family and your home a clean and fresh space to breath and space to fill with warmth of a family home.

    I might be mis-quoting the actual Chinese proverb, but I love the idea of it:
    No matter how tired you are, always find a minute in the evening to tidy up your home.
    Added value to a nice place to wake up in the morning? You will go to bed with your head tidied up too, will have better sleep and refreshed mind in the morning!

    What more added value could you get? Maybe try to involve rest of the family members too and make cleaning and decluttering fun? It may take longer if your toddler is jumping in the boxes you are trying to put away, or squashing the bubble wrappers, but if it is also your family quality time together? I'm looking forward to our next shared attempts of making our home.

    trešdiena, 2013. gada 5. jūnijs

    World Environment Day

    Today is the World Environment Day, and we are going to celebrate it on green carpet too!

    I was thinking of what activity would be the best for our family and our planet..
    And I realized that I just simply have to address the two concepts of what UNEP has also suggested- Sustainable consumption and Food waste!

    So this is what I registered at UNEP as my activity:

    The change starts at the grassroots level right? So I am starting there- with myself and my family. I am discussing how food production impacts the Environment and what we can do, especially discussing food waste. Even though my mom assures we don't have much food waste since we have pets and grandmom nearby has also hens and ducks, and my mom has a worm compost "farm" too.. but still- I am on the path of finding the ways to show my family how every scrap of food can be used and how leftowers can be incorporated in further meals.. In addition I am talking with them about reducing store bought produce, reducing bread, meat and ready made items, and even reducing cooking and benefits of eating more raw food! It might not help saving hungry children in developing countries, but what we must change is the overall eating patterns of our whole planet, especially "the West".. 

    Copyrights BERAS
    Additional motivation for this I also found in Tallinn last week where I attended Policy forum on BaltAdapt project, and one of the participants was presenting the BERAS- Baltic Ecologycal Recycling Agriculture and Society and the concept of a Diet for a Clean Baltic:
    As a consumer changing what you eat is the most important action you can take to save the environment. The following criteria can guide your choice of food weather you are an individual consumer, a professional responsible for purchases in the public sector, or running a restaurant.

    First of all the food should taste good and be healthy. Organic food is good both for us and the environment. Local food and food according to season minimise transports and support our local producers. Most likely seasonal food will also cost less and give us the opportunity to stay more connected with our natural environment. Leftover food is a waste of energy and we should try to reduce it. Producing vegetables and grains is much more energy efficient than producing meat. Therefore reducing our meat consumption is the most important thing we do.

    We call it Diet for a Clean Baltic.

    In short, Diet for a Clean Baltic means choosing food that is produced within the natural boundaries of our ecosystem.

    I'm in!!!
    So- eat organic, eat local, eat seasonal, eat vegetarian and I would also like to add- eat raw!
    I don't mean that you have to go 100% on any of these at once, but just start replacing step by step, introduce the good things and you'll see how the bad ones fall away real quick ;)

    Let's eat food that's good for yourself, your family and your planet!

    piektdiena, 2013. gada 31. maijs

    Ups and downs of a green working mom..

    Sorry for leaving the blogspace for so long, during this time I've had millions of ideas of what should appear on green carpet.. but in the end they somehow got buried under the workload, delayed study load and trying to have the best quality family time one can have at the moment.

    So to finish later on a positive note, I'll probably start with downs..

    • Being away from my little one- she's growing so fast and I just wish I could be there all the time to be supportive, available when she needs me and facilitating her learning everything that interests her.. this is the biggest thing, but since she's still happy to give me bye bye kisses in the morning and waving out the windows, I feel that she's ok with that. Even though we are having the very normal "mommy is only mine!" moments in the mornings in bed or evenings when I come home, and during the night with very long extended nursing or just sleeping at the breast. And these moments are actually really important for both of us, so we continue as long as we need..
    • My greenies suffer- I have totally failed on the "In and out"  project since I was not prepared technically to do the notes when not at home, but I'll re-make all that starting tomorrow (June) and I since I sense some support in that from my dear husband too, that will give the necessary encouragement.. and I hope I can make a comeback to blogosphere too.. the same goes for all of other green crafts, gardening etc- time is limited there, but I try to get back to it now and then since it is what makes green mom happy.. 
    • I totally miss cooking all the meals properly, taking my time, so now we're trying to find quick and healthy solutions, but it's really not the same..great that summer is here and I can rely more on salads..
    • Incredible lack of fresh air- I was so used to be a big part of the week at the countryside and going outside a lot, and now I'm stuck in the office. So I try to get as much out of the weekends or evenings that I commute back to countryside as possible.. 
    • Health issues- sitting long hours at the computer has its impacts too.. I know yoga helps, but then again- I often feel guilty for thinking of going to another yoga class instead of being home with my family.. That's a difficult decision often.. 
    • Stresses- ones at work, ones that come out of you feeling a little guilty for not having enough time for everything, ones that come up just of being tired, ones that come up if someone thinks your child is too needy and high spirited when she finally gets me etc.. breathing, yoga, positive thinking and most of all- prioritizing is what helps, but it's a work on yourself, not a holiday always.. 
    • Falling behind at my studies- I miss studying, I so wanted to this properly, but now with job everyday and the natural need to be a mom too, the studies are a little left on the side bench. I'm trying to find a way to do it, but currently quite unsuccessful. Should probably take some vacation from work just to study..
    • Business trips- as a greenie, it just makes me cringe to think how much I have to travel, and how big is the slice of air travel there.. umf.. nothing really I can do about it now, except creating my "green business trip rules", which I will share some time hopefully soon.. 
    And now, finally - ups!!! 

    • Having a job you like is a big thing- a greenie that can work at the Climate Change department with Adaptation issues? You kidding? I'm happy to be able to give an input, to have an opportunity to provide my effort towards saving the planet!
    • Financially- even though almost all of my salary goes to nanny and commuting to work and back (since many days I drive my car to countryside), there's some extra flow of money in our family and some times a little left over from my salary too, and that's great!
    • Discovering ways to be greener employee- in the office, going to work by bicycle (especially cool if together with my husband!), taking my home made meals to work, putting out some green initiatives at work, exploring options of car pooling when traveling to/from countryside etc. It just enlarges my green vision at times, and also allows to spot the problems in our society..
    • Appreciation- of what you have, what you can do, your health, your hobbies, your interests and most of all- family. Prioritization is a key to feeling great about what you are doing, and that only has become that clear since I started working. And that's a fantastic way to have all your cups filled to be in harmony with your true nature..
    • New visions for future- every step you take makes you realize what you want to be and how you want to live your life. Some new, some would even say extreme future visions have come up in our family, and I will be happy to share them here too. Not going into detail yet, but I can tell that it's about new levels of our family health, greenness in the lifestyle and family activities, educating our child and ourselves and even business. So I hope for your support when it all comes into light!
    • Business trips- they have a bright side too- networking with Climate Change people, seeing new places, meeting also some friends that live on those locations, and learning to use the time wisely (both for work and pursuit of my own interests in "after work hours", doing yoga in the morning when no one is crying for you to stay in bed or climbing on you being at upward dog, etc..), which makes me tired, but also very happy and harmonized when I return!
    There are probably some more, but these were the first ones that come in mind when someone asks me whether it's worth to work currently and whether I like my job.. I do, and I will continue working as long as I like my job and as long as my priority list stays in the right order for me and our family to feel in harmony.. 

    What are your ups and downs of being a greenie at work and being green working mom? 

    trešdiena, 2013. gada 10. aprīlis

    New green job

    It's been awfully quiet on green carpet lately. I wish I could say that I've been losing myself in my green endeavours or studying hard the sustainable development program. But it's neither.
    It's all because (congratulations to myself) I have got a job!
    So now I am a Senior Official at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, at the Climate Change and Adaptation Policy Division.
    Sounds fantastic, doesn't it?

    It's been hard for the first 3 weeks to be at work again and to encounter everything that working mom has to. But my little one is taking it all right at the moment and she's cared for my mom or our long term helper at the family, so she's doing good now. Since I still brestfeed her during days and nights, at least she still gets all the usual goodies.

    Since I'm now totally consumed in learning everything that my job requires and getting ready to first business trips that will be a challenge (I've never been away from my baby for the whole day+night), my brain capacity has not been quick enough to build up for continuing studying or writing. I'm hoping I'll do better on my time (and brain) management very soon not to fall behind in any area of my life.

    Working with climate change issues and even more, adaptation to climate change, has been kind of a dream job. I am very happy to have this opportunity now and I'll do my best while not compromising my family life.

    Even though I'm glad to be in the middle of such significant processes as project to develop national adaptation strategy etc, I'm jaw dropping suprised how low importance is payed to the green lifestyle in between my colleagues. And how the international, European and national bureaucratic systems are contributing to the climate change just in their own business (huge amounts of paper printing, incredibly large amounts of business travel etc.). I aim to change what I can and keep hoping that with time what Europe is planning (low carbon economy by 2050 with emissions reduction by 80-95%, for example) will also change how the system works.

    Commuting to the work and back has also increased my personal car use, shared car use and public transport use, I'm scared to think of the numbers. I really do hope that the Spring will soon be here (doesn't look like if I glance through my window) so I can ride my bicycle again!

    I hope I get to post some study notes and other info soon again!

    ceturtdiena, 2013. gada 21. marts

    Shampoo bar!

    Since I made a commitment to buy all the natural face and body cosmetics and care products that are made here in Latvia (unless they are not produced here at all), I had my fair share of doubt and dilemma on green carpet. Many of my inspiration providing people were talking about bar shampoo that would be less waste producing since it has no plastic bottle/tube packaging etc.
    So when I ran out of shampoo I started searching- maybe there is someone making those in Latvia after all? And it appeared there is someone, to be precise- Kazas laukos makes 2 versions of shampoo bars (one with silk protein, another one anti-.
    I just tried it- it seems it washed my hair well, will see about the real results tomorrow morning..

    About the shampoo bars- Kazas laukos claims to use only natural and eco friendly products, even though they do not have any certification of organic cosmetics. This is probably the only time that I trusted the word of the producer just to try it out. It came in a nice brown paper bag. Unfortunately the bar itself was wrapped in a cling film before put in a paper bag. I think I'll email them suggesting they skip that part, it really isn't neccessary if there's a paper around it! Or they could replace the film with additional piece of wrapping paper?
    About the ingredients. The description says the following:

    • coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil, bees wax, hemp oil, castor oil, goat milk, silk protein. 

    Plus they say they use goat milk from local country goats in all their products, which is also a nice touch. Plus it's all handwork. And compared to imported products, this has almost zero transportation.

    I also indulged in some consumption moment and bought a shaving soap called "Black Velvet" for my husband in the same purchase, since he ran out of that one too. So with his product we also saved our planet from one more plastic bottle. I'll post a comment of whether he liked it!

    piektdiena, 2013. gada 15. marts

    Climate Change and Development - Study Notes 1

    This is going to be the first posting with my study notes. As I previously mentioned, it may lack some figures that I'm not sure the copyrights would allow me to publish from my tutors. I also cannot comment on how the notes are going to look like in future, since this is just a beginning and I think I am taking more time than I should to do all the readings and stuff. What I'm saying is that the notes may shrink in future. But I'm giving it a try, please, be nice in attitudes when reading them, since I'm not yet academically familiar with these concepts. However, be critical, add comments, thoughts and suggestions when read these!
    The notes will include textual notes and incorporated questions that I am asked as a student during the study process. I'll try to keep postings as structural as possible so you can retrace various articles if want to.

    Climate Change and Development: the challenges of our time

    <!--[if !supportLists]-->1.0  <!--[endif]-->Climate change and development: challenges of our time.
    Climate change and development are arguably the two most important challenges facing the world. This section outlines the context, nature, and scale of these two challenges and introduces some important parallels and interactions between them.
    <!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->define the terms 'climate change' and 'development'
    <!--[if !supportLists]-->1.1.         <!--[endif]-->Climate change challenges are depending on the particular location and its various characteristics (economic, social, current climate issues etc.). Climate change is a long term alterations in the behaviour patterns of the atmosphere, caused by millennia of natural, and more recently, by human causes. Climate consists of many variables- temperature, precipitation (rainfall, hail, snow) and its patterns, wind direction and speed, atmospheric pressure, humidity, nature and extent of clouds, hours and intensity of sunlight. It varies spatially also depending on distance from the sea (altitude) or equator (latitude), and temporally by variations of seasons or even days. Due to this amount of various factors that make up the climate change, it should not be confused with global warming, since global warming is only one contributing factor. This factor, however, should not be diminished either, since very small increase in global average temperature can have adverse effects on the climate or some of its other „components”. One should also acknowledge that global warming as a trend can be accompanied by local or temporary falls of temperature.
    Climate change definitions also differ by the organisation that uses it. Climate change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. Therefore this definition differs from use of climate change term in the UNFCCC, where it refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.  
    It is recognized that anthropological climate change main factors are burning fossil fuels for transport, energy and industry, vegetation (forest) clearance, and livestock keeping.  All of these increase the global temperature and affect the natural cycles of climate change that lead into a kind of a vicious circle – the larger the temperature, sea level and climate change scale rise, the more it increases. IPCC has clearly explaining figures that show how a very small change in temperature can have major adverse effects on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, economics and production, and even basic human needs like accessibility of water, food and health, and change the territories like coastlines. There are two approaches in calculating the rise of temperature. First one is the rise from the average pre-industrial conditions (around 1850), and it is mostly used in various policies and policy discussions about global warming. The second is rise from the average of period1980-1999 that is used in IPCC materials. One should remember that 2C above pre-industrial temperature is about 1.5C above period 1980-1999, and about 1.2 C above 2007 since there was rather rapid growth of temperature from the middle of the period IPCC uses as a baseline.
    IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (FAR) predicted that world will experience rise of a little under 1C already by 2020, and rise above 1.5C by 2050. The continuing increase of temperature will depend on socio-economic pathways, world’s capabilities of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Some models and present facts show that some climate indicators are already approaching the upper end of the predicted range or even growing at greater rates like sea level rise, for example. The nearest projection of the temperature rise of 1C can seam little, but the effects expected are large- it will increase water availability in moist tropics and high latitudes, but will decrease water availability and increase drought in mid-latitudes and semi-arid low latitudes, that will lead to hundreds of millions of people exposed to increased water stress. 1C increase will lead to increased coral bleaching; increasing species range shifts and wildfire risk, increasing amphibian extinction. It will also affect food production by having complex, localised negative impacts on small holders, subsistence farmers and fishers, depending on the location it will increase or decrease the crop productivity. Coasts will experience increased damage from floods and storms that will put more and more people under flood risk every year. Temperature rise of 1C will affect the health of people, increasing burden from malnutrition, diarrhoeal, cardio-respiratory, and infectious diseases. Even sooner increased morbidity and mortality from heat waves, floods and droughts is expected, and so is the change in distribution of some disease vectors. There will be also singular events like local retreat of ice of Greenland and West Antarctic. With every degree of temperature rising there will be more and increasing severe impacts on already mentioned areas, and one can expect structural and irreversible changes in behaviour of the aquatic and climate system that will in turn have adverse effect on climate.
    Most of the affected people will be at the developing countries, and it is billions in numbers. These are the countries that have the least capability to mitigate or adapt to the coming changes or already present climate change impacts. Already complex development issues of these countries are becoming threatened by the new challenges of adaptation to the climate change. There are also many issues of development that are obstacles of the adaptation.

    Q- Given the scale and severity of the impacts discussed above, are there other natural, social, and political impacts that might be expected to result from climate change? What do you think these might be?
    Few important natural impacts should be mentioned. One of them is the variety of tipping points that our planet has that are relevant to the climate change. One of such is the natural storage of methane that is located in permafrost and deep ocean crystals. Once the permafrost starts to melt, and latest data shows that it has begun already, it will release huge amounts of methane in the atmosphere, and even though its life span is shorter, methane is the one GHG that has about 20 times larger warming effect than the CO2. If more methane gets into the atmosphere, the faster increase of global temperature will happen, and if this process reaches the tipping point that will in turn accelerate further melting of permafrost, turning it into a vicious circle.
    Since climate change will lead to mass migration that will start at smaller levels in nearer periods but will grow with time, there will be unresolved question what to do with the climate refugees from developing countries that are not capable to take care of them. At more technologically and financially well adapt areas there will be a discussion of social and economic costs of relocation of people in coastal or low laying areas vs. adaptation measures. Currently there are discussions about funding clean development, adaptation and mitigation measures and technologies, continuous aid to developing nations, however, with time the matter will become more and more pressing, increasing number of people and countries will occur in need of help, and then the political question whether to fund the aid will become more daunting, especially if climate change impacts will need attention at home too.
    There are also several security issues that will rise. One of how to deal with climate refugees that will increase in number and will look forward to other countries to take them in. Will they open or close their borders and access to their resources? Current rate of arms race makes one think that many countries will not be willing to share their resources but rather try to use the ones of others. Many countries that are already civil or international war torn will experience increasing competition in attempts to control the resources in their territories. Many new military conflicts are expected to break out in resource scarce areas. That will add the regular war and post-war effects to the ones of climate change.
    The ethical and emotional aspects should also be included in the discussions. People not only physically need the food, water, shelter, health, but also are emotionally attached to all that. Relocation of climate affected inhabitants will also need psychological help. Educating every individual and preparing them for the issues of climate change should be on policies and development plans. Ethical questions of whose responsibility is the climate change will also be a difficult one. Developing nations are rightfully blaming the industrialised nations for past emissions, but developed countries are not only unwilling to give up their „business as usual” is not the only issue here. Their people feel they also should not pay for their predecessors. They as individuals feel they should have the same weight of responsibility as any other person on the planet, but that is unreachable since there are large differences on people’s willingness to change their behavioural patterns at the nearest future.
    Behavioural questions will also matter with increasing climate change. Currently some people live on nothing and wish to earn at whatever cost for the planet, some people consume and pollute unreasonably not willing to change. Some people are leaders of changing the behaviour to mitigate climate change and promote sustainable development, and then there’s part of people willing to change their behaviour only if all of the others will do. Social movements and unity of people have had immense power in history, will people be able to act in union with climate change impacts increasing by years is the question that will be answered only when the time comes. They might as well go for the “strongest will survive” option disregarding morals and higher human values when the extinction, famine, thirst and loss of homes start.
    If we look at the opportunities to reduce the impacts of climate change and how they would affect various people, various scenarios can be built. Development of clean technologies, localised organic food production, green urban development, education of society at all levels, alternative energy, alternative transport and home redevelopment, cradle to cradle production, etc. If these things would become a common way of life in few places, they would become also more available for others too and therefore spread. Taking the opportunity to mitigate the climate change and limit the global warming at the temperature increase that does not cause irreversible and existential changes in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems would have immense impact on all of the people. Depending on timing it could not only spare people the worst of the above impacts of climate change, but could also contribute in development.  

    Development is a rather difficult term to define. There are two main approaches that have defined the development. First, it is the economic dimension of development that looks for improvement in economies; income based living conditions, consumption and production, savings and investments, food security, poverty reduction, wealth and income distribution, and environmental protection. Usually the processes that could lead to the above mentioned goals are economic policies, infrastructural and market development, investment, economic and social structural changes, technical change, efficiency. Second is the human or social dimension of development that looks for improvement in capabilities, access to health and education, gender equality, human rights, equity, freedom, empowerment, particular focus on minority and marginalized groups, security, dignity. Processes that are supposed to lead to the above goals are equitable economic growth, empowerment, governance, change in formal and informal rights and social and economic relations. Such distinction between goals and processes is not really reflecting the true nature of development since many goals are parts of the processes as well and they are very complex and interrelating systems. Also interactions between economic and social development processes and goals is important, they are not so separated in reality. Greater economic wealth is needed to invest in education, health and social services. In turn education is needed for improved economic growth, and so on.
    When one speaks about development it must be understood that the way we see it depend on our cultural and educational background. Throughout the history development in many parts has been an export of Western values and lifestyle. Since the Enlightenment civilization vs. barbarism ideas have been on the minds of “developed” nations, and so they have continued to be until now.
    One other development has been missing on the above categorizing though; it is the Sustainable development that is a whole new approach. Even though there is no one set definition of sustainable development, most common one is the Brundtland Report definition- “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. As for sustainability definition, there are three pathways of it. Environmental sustainability means the ability of environmental resources to support an activity or set of activities. Economic sustainability describes the ability of an activity or set of activities to yield economic benefits greater than economic costs. Social sustainability is the ability of social structures and behaviour to support an activity without being undermined by it.
    There are six defined properties of sustainable system (viability (or productivity), acceptability (or equity), persistence, stability, resilience, resistance) that are needed for all- economic, social, environmental- stability, however, one should assess and measure them with proper analyses and boundaries of particular system, but with a space to evolve. These six properties are usually divided in two aspects of sustainability. First viability and acceptability: a system must be both viable and acceptable for those who work it, since something that’s not acceptable, will not work in long term, and that should include both physical and ethical boundaries. Second is how particular system is sustained over time (persistence), how it survives various turbulences and responds to stresses maintaining its structure and functions (stability), how it recovers from adverse changes caused by above (resilience) and how it evolves to maintain its functions at slow onset and predictable stresses (resistance).

    There is a set of goals that sums up current development trends, and it is Millennium Development Goals, provided by the UN. It has been agreed that the most important development problem is poverty or in other words “underdevelopment” and that should be internationally dealt with. MDGs provide a framework to act. For each goal there has been set one or several targets, most for 2015. It is an interesting period of time since the talks of post-2015 have already begun.

    <!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->describe the scale of problems posed by climate change and development
    <!--[if !supportLists]-->1.2.      <!--[endif]-->Since the climate change is a challenge per se it is then described already above and one should now move on to see the basic challenges of the development.
    One of the main challenges of the development is the difficulty to predict, how various processes will actually affect the particular group, for example, will one or other kind of economic growth really increase the income, and will the income be distributed evenly or maybe exclude the marginalized groups or even destroy traditional livelyhoods? Often due to the „development” local societies, livelihoods, traditions are destroyed, and so is the access to natural resources or degradation and pollution of them.
    If one thinks about sustainable development, there are many challenges there in all areas- environmental, economic and social and all combined.

    Q- Pause for a moment and try to think of examples of different activities that are environmentally, economically, and socially unsustainable.
    One of the most explicit examples of activity that is all environmentally, economically and socially unsustainable is the current consumerism and “designed to dump” production. When people are having shopping as one of their hobbies and buy things they do not actually need and throw them out very soon just to replace with newer model, it is unreasonable consumption. Our economies have been built on consumerism as a model of society. It is environmentally unsustainable as it uses incredible amounts of resources in production and logistics, and then pollutes the environment. It is economically unsustainable for many societies with the largest impact on the developing nations where the unsustainable production takes place- they don’t receive fair wages, health care, education; they are often exposed to harmful substances, long working hours and work conditions that would never be accepted in Western countries; the economies of the consumers are also failing in long term, since there cannot be unlimited economic growth. Such practices are also socially unsustainable as they enlarge the gaps in society between rich and poor, if they replace other hobbies, they are not healthy social activities, and all the above economic effects have a direct impact on social sustainability of people. Failure in one set of conditions often is caused and/ or leads to impacts in other two. Any activity that will in time cause the loss of the favourable conditions of current situation is unsustainable. For example, large exploitation of non-renewable resources will lead to a crisis in all areas that depend on them. Similar effects will have over exploitation of renewable resources if they cannot renew on time.
    The last decade has shown that eradicating poverty and reaching MDGs is not an easy task. Also the success of the efforts to achieve MDGs has been a little ambiguous due to rise of China and India as economies that were seen as developing when the goals were set. Percentage data used in MDGs are not reflecting the true numbers yet. There may be less per cent people in poverty, but there are more people in poverty than there were before in actual numbers. It is not really a misrepresentation of mathematical data, but it is a worrying issue. And the overall knowledge is that development has not made enough progress to deal with either MDGs or basic economic, human or sustainable development concepts.

    Q- Review the Millennium Development Goals and their targets above and consider whether these are primarily concerned with development goals or processes, and with economic or human development.
    MDG 1, Targets 1 and 2 are both economic development goals by previously mentioned categories; however, I think they look more like processes rather than goals.
    MDG 2, Target 3 is human development goal.
    MDG 3 is human development process, but the Target 4 is more about the goal.
    MDG 4, Target 5 - MDG5, Target 6 are human development goals.
    MDG 6, Targets 7-8 are human development processes.
    MDG 7, Target 9 is economic development process, however
    Targets 10-11 are economic development goals.
    MDG 8, Target 12 is mixed economic and human development process.
    Targets 13-15 are more likely to be economic development processes.
    Targets 16-17 are more likely to be human development processes.
    Target 18 is again mixed economic and human development process.
    <!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->discuss some of the interactions between climate change and development
    <!--[if !supportLists]-->1.3.      <!--[endif]-->One of the most important interactions between climate change and development clearly is that climate change affects first and most severely the poor people and vulnerable areas that have low or zero capacity to adapt. That in turn can compromise already achieved goals in development and slow the progress.
    Climate change is also one of the most important threats to sustainable development and should be addressed as one of the core issues of the sustainable development.

    Act- Look back at the figure in 1.1.2 which sets out IPCC FAR estimates of the likely impacts of climate changes associated with increases in global temperature. For each 'system' listed (water, ecosystems, food, coast, health, singular events) consider and write down the implications for MDGs 1 to 7. Also consider if there are other aspects of development (not included in the MDGs) which will be affected. 

    MDG1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger- will be undermined by decreasing water availability and increasing drought. Millions of people will be exposed to increasing water stress that is already one of the most difficult problems of MDG1. Increasing species range shifts will affect local and traditional food availability. Negative impacts on small holders, subsistence farmers and fishers, and fall of the productivity of crops in dry and semi-arid areas will further decrease food security and threat by increasing hunger and poverty.  Flood and storm damage will affect housing in coastal risk areas. Health problems imposed by climate change will affect ability to work and therefore will shrivel the potential incomes of low income families. 
    MDG2 Achieve universal primary education- once the first goal is affected there will be fewer resources to dedicate to schooling from the government and children also may become more involved in working and food gathering. Increased damage from floods and storms will affect also school buildings and other infrastructure. Since children are one of the risk groups of climate change health impacts, the attendance may fall and lower the educational progress.
    MDG3 Promote gender equality and empower women- women currently are more vulnerable to the climate change impacts since they create the largest part of the poor, and in many places where they are the ones to take care of homes, farming and family, their empowerment may decrease. If they have to take care of increasingly sick children, they cannot work and that creates larger gap between genders too.
    MDG4 Reduce child mortality- will become difficult in situation where increased morbidity and mortality from heatwaves, floods and droughts are affecting a nation. If the mothers are suffering from increasing malnutrition, diarrhoeal, cardio-respiratory and infectious diseases, that also increases risk of child mortality. So does the water stress. Loss of infrastructure by extreme weather events will also affect the morbidity and mortality of all. MDG5 Improve maternal health- same problems that affect child mortality are present to maternal health. Additionally, if a woman must work harder in water and food stressed environment, it decreases her maternal health and the foetus. If the child mortality increases due to above reasons, women will most likely have more pregnancies to have children and in certain numbers that will deteriorate maternal health too. Women and children are also the most vulnerable to the storms, cyclones, floods and other extreme weather events.
    MDG6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases- IPCC predicts that there will be changed distribution of some disease vectors. Infectious diseases may spread more easily in warmer climate. Malnutrition and lack of clean water lowers immunity and carries increasing risk of getting ill.
    MDG7 Ensure environmental sustainability- climate change itself is a threat to environmental sustainability and may lead the planet to a tipping point and then there is no talk about environmental sustainability. As for the nearer future and less catastrophic scenarios, every degree of temperature rise will severely affect all ecosystems. Ones of the first most affected will be corals bleaching and amphibian extinction. Increasing species range shifts and wildfire risk is also increasing and affecting environmental sustainability. Also increased damage from floods and storms in coastal areas cannot be regarded as sustainable. Climate change also alters the national resources – water, energy and vegetation, and rapid reduction of any of those is not environmentally sustainable (like loss of water in mountain glacier fed rivers or drying lakes in Africa, etc.)
    Other aspect of development that is not covered in MDGs is security. Even though development does not usually talk about other than basic economic and social security like food, shelter, water, health, rights, I believe the military issues might become more apparent in case of more severe climate change impacts. Poverty is often accompanied with civil force combat and military actions. When there is reduction in important resources, development might be put to a backseat by “security measures” and competition to rule over those resources and population by force.
     It is difficult to predict the range of how various climate change impacts like global warming, sea level rise, water resource scarcity and others will affect spatially and temporally different areas and their climate systems and what exact effects will that have on human social and economic development in particular areas. The various data can lead to a risk that policy makers, investors and aid agencies can choose the less harmful scenarios where they should take into the account the most serious and severely affecting scenarios for the developing areas. One should take into account the risk of both underestimating and overestimating such impacts. Uncertainty is a part of the science itself, but when it comes to those writing adaptation strategies and development agendas, they should secure the potential risks on human basic needs- food, water, shelter, health, security and income to live on that all will be affected by rising temperature, sea level and extreme weather events even in present or near future, and these risks are predicted to increase with time.

    Act- Given the uncertainties about climate change and its impacts, and the very nature of climate change in increasing weather variability, it is immensely difficult to quantify historical, current, or future human impacts of climate change. The Economist (2009) comments that 'the trend looks plausible, but there seems little basis for the exact numbers' regarding the Global Humanitarian Forum estimate that 40% of increased weather-related disasters can be attributed to climate change. Most statements in the figure in 1.3.2 are either vague or illustrative. What is the value of information like this, and what are its dangers? You might like to post your comment on this on the online learning environment for discussion, and if you are interested you could also read more of the Global Humanitarian Forum report (2009) Human Impact Report: Climate Change - The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis.

    It is now scientifically proven and recognized that the climate change we are experiencing now is human caused. While uncertainty is a “part of the game” in science, vague data or data that are appropriately chosen to show only one side of the coin is undermining the seriousness of the problem. The dangers of illustrative or vague data are at both ends. Those who lack political will and those wishing to continue business as usual will hold on to the low impact data, use terminology stating that some modelled future scenarios are in “low confidence” category to happen, and by that try to create a loop to justify their emissions, pollution etc. Extremists on their part will use the worst possible scenarios and choose appropriate data and while sometimes such are great to make an emotional impact on masses to change their behaviour, they also can seem too extreme and ordinary people will discredit them or perceive them as too scary to do something about it.
    Climate change being globally recognized as a problem does not offer a solution within it yet. What matters is how we proceed with mitigation and adaptation. Underestimating the problem will worsen the situation in future and will put more weight on adaptation later. Overestimating climate change impacts and acting accordingly might only benefit the future situation in terms of sustainable environment; however, it might put a strain on development issues to redistribute resources towards mitigation and adaptation issues.
     I think IPCC with its role to assess the sources and their reports and findings is working towards the solution of the obscurity to provide with information which data are reliable and giving the degree of confidence in particular predictions being correct. Even though when one reads a projected event and then sees it’s marked “medium confidence”, one might lose the feeling of importance of such data and in one’s mind bin it as irrelevant in argument about climate change. So the value of the information is still dependent on the reader’s educational and behavioural background.
    Out of the academic context largely such educational background relies on media coverage. While media likes to exploit screaming sensational data, people who will deal with climate change issues professionally or voluntarily usually choose more subtle and professional media approach like The Economist that I myself particularly enjoyed in how it displayed both the GHF report and The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis- without undermining the climate change issues.