WICKED PROBLEMS?…wicked cool responses.

World Environment Day, 2017…of nature, a changing climate, etc.

World Environment Day 2017 was observed June 5 and it was an especially poignant one especially with the decision of the US President to withdraw from the Paris Agreement…a decision which may or may not have deleterious consequences. The ultimate outcomes will be dependent on collective global and individual national actions. Some of the individual actions championed by UNEP were to use social media to share some of your favourite spots out in nature using #withnature and /or #worldenvironmentday as well as write poetry of the haiku format as well as to participate in collective actions such as running for a cause, demonstrations and marches. The UN Secretary General implores us in the WED speech to ‘cherish the planet that protects us.’  It is therefore important that we keep attention on the issues affecting our environment so that we may organize and holistically devise tangible and effective solutions. The changing climate is an ever present danger especially to small island developing states (SIDs). It is also of significance that the Ocean Conference is currently underway in UN New York HQ during June 5-9, 2017. The significance is not lost on this islander, being acutely aware that one of the deleterious impacts of a changing climate on SIDs is a rise in sea level which may result in the complete erosion of some small islands.

World Environment Day, 2017…The sky is burning!

When we are unable to pin point and directly, explicitly determine categories for a set of issues and situations that beset the society we have to formulate and conceptualize some form of categorization. WICKED PROBLEMS is one such that was coined and is used to describe problems for which no agreed upon solution is identifiable.  Environmental challenges (such as over-consumption, waste and climate change) are sometimes referred to as ‘wicked problems.’ These problems are complex and they have many causes and dependent factors influencing each other, making it difficult to target the linkages of the causal factors. In other words with wicked problems it is difficult to really know the exact problem. Subsequently, the attendant interventions will be, in the main, ever changing, meandering processes.

One of the wicked problems that impact me on both the personal and professional levels is the matter of air pollution. Air pollution is a major environmental problem. There is a comingling of factors which have contributed to this issue. Using my local context some factors are the indiscriminate burning of solid waste, the ever present combustion of waste at unsanitary landfills located in close proximity to many residential communities and the transfer of particulate matter in the air due to the burning of charcoal in and around the peri-urban areas. The above mentioned sources may not be conclusive and as such approaching the problem with a view to resolving the matter becomes a complex endeavour….What a wicked problem indeed!

Wicked, cool solutions!….Time to get innovative and think differently.

As a Sustainable Urban Development practitioner I see many opportunities and scope for mitigative strategies. As it pertains to solid waste management- within the context of small islands SWM must be addressed from the local (household) level with the separation of the waste at source. In addition, to bring about a behaviour change aimed at reducing the burning of SWM at the community level enforcement is needed for the prosecution of those who burn waste at the household level. There should be an accompanying reward system for those who inform on the community members who are involved in these activities. (The policing by community is one of the integral ways in which the protection of air quality at the local level can be achieved). However, as it pertains to the removal of trees and their use for the burning of charcoal, there is a viable alternative to this undertaking. Bamboo…

Considered ‘green gold’ this grass is such a versatile natural resource. This resource has many benefits among which are usefulness for environmental conservation and climate change mitigation. It is researched on so many levels and in fact what is revealed in the past days is that Jamaica has been integrally involved in the development of this sector in various ways. At the international level the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) which is headquartered in Beijing, China celebrates its 20th year of existence in 2017 having being established in 1997. Jamaica currently chairs this organization (2015-2017). We are also members of one of its task force. At the local level the national focal point is vested in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF). Several groupings of Jamaican government officials and technical personnel of various sectors have been and are also currently been trained in Beijing. The main objectives include, but are not limited to (a) to increase technical capacity; (b) reform knowledge and (c) institute methodological processes. The overall aim is to formalize a multi-stakeholder bamboo industry. It is to be noted that as it pertains to standards, Jamaica through the national standards entity- Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) has adapted the following standards pictured below.

Many uses of bamboo

This will be treated in some detail in a later post but in summary bamboo has many uses some of which include:

  • Edibles and pharmaceuticals,
  • Furniture making, and
  • Construction

Jamaica is exploring five (5) value chains:

  1. Bamboo charcoal
  2. Bamboo shoots
  3. Bamboo plywood
  4. Bamboo edible
  5. Bamboo Nutraceuticals

 

There is a push by the Government of Jamaica (GoJ) to develop a bamboo policy to help to improve (a) local economies; (b) alleviate poverty and (c) protect the environment. The long term vision is that there will be a strengthening of capacity to increase production in rural areas to bring to the urban areas and ultimately to contribute to the GDP as it is developed for the export market.

To achieve the development and in fact sustainable development of this sector will involve a cadre of sector personnel who will see the vision and who will commit to and fervently work to make it a reality. Wouldn’t that be wicked cool!

International day of Democracy…late post

September 15, 2016- International Day of Democracy.

This is an interesting commemoration….I tend to believe that certain things are to be intrinsically valued by all, such that there is no need for external reminders but oh well…

There will be a lot of reflections , I suppose, on this thing called democracy today. International agencies such as the UN, multi-laterals and nations on the local level and dare I say by individuals. I posit that fundamental to this reflection on democracy should be the whole notion of FREEDOM. On a point of order I want to just insert the following as a food for thought.

Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, [but are thought of as not] synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long, often tortuous history. In short, democracy is the institutionalization of freedom. For this reason, it is possible to identify the time-tested fundamentals of constitutional government, human rights, and equality before the law that any society must possess to be properly called democratic.

Source: https://www.ait.org.tw/infousa/zhtw/docs/whatsdem/whatdm2.htm

I want to use a recent event to examine the question- Are we free? Is there freedom of speech?Indeed are these not hallmarks of democracy?… If not what are some other cogent indicators …Are current systems, institutions and procedures democratically administered when questions can’t be asked and responses respectfully forthcoming?

The lens through which to make a brief examination – Resulting from a recent road accident, I have been without a personal mode of transit and instead have returned and taken to the public transportation…once again. You see I am totally all for public mass transit but that’s another entry. This day in particular I was travelling on an express, premium bus, en route home with my child…With such options as ‘express’ and ‘premium’ how can you not be impressed? Anyhoo, I digress…lol. At  a particular junction a very tall and stout woman boarded the bus and announced that she is here to inspect the tickets. She wore a bright yellow top with the clearly, identifying logo, etc. So for those who are not visually impaired and who are beyond functional literacy we could read and determine what she was about…mind you this was really what we had to do…because there was not much more by way of explanation.

I pause here because (1) I took offense to her entry and approach and (2) as a fairly new comer to the system I was, quite frankly, surprised and immediately mentally searched my mind as to where I would locate my ticket.I was not informed by anyone or saw said reminder anywhere that I should retain my ticket. I initially also panicked as based on her imposing stature I wondered what would happen if I did not find this daggone ticket before she got to me. However, whilst all this mental gymnastics was happening to me I heard a male voice to my rear right ask, ‘why do you want to see the ticket?’…good question right?…wellll here was the response…’well Sir you better make sure you have it.’….OMG….WTH!

I was looking quite spiffy that day, midnight black shades and all, but I was livid to the point where my words went ahead of my thoughts and out came, ‘but this woman is not professional, the man has a right to know.’ My son who almost always is embarrassed by me when I publicly defend anything nodged me with his knee (he was standing over me having previously risen and given his seat to a female). As I gave him the obligatory look, he in turn obliged with that warning look, which translated loudly into- DO.NOT.EMBARASS.ME. Well because he had to take the bus more than I, this time, I let it slide. But I was still steaming. So I made a public show of , where is MY ticket. I earned a brief stare of disgust from the [lady] Inspector and some side eyes from a few passenger standing in the immediate vicinity… by now the woman had ‘efficiently’ made her way to the back…no doubt spurred on by the thrill of the fight…saddling up and being ‘ready for this man.’

Of course she eventually got there and the man was insistent on why she needed to see the ticket, she demanded same, grudgingly reeling off the now obvious, ‘its part of my job’ line….The man (who by the way was still in his right) said ‘yes well its all well and good but answer me this- How would I get all the way into and way down the back of the bus, without first having paid at entry at the front door?’…another good question and if I may add a damn good one too!!!!…my son’s knee seemed to press harder into my shoulder here … Also by this time and in that split moment other passengers started to get angry but…at the man! especially when the lady Inspector, in her now booming voice directed the bus driver, to ‘stop the bus’ and let her call for the police to come and take this man off the bus. The man held his ground and even as the passenger next to him tried to placate him and explain that, ‘if he was travelling to the states’…I slapped my head and wondered mentally, ‘oh here we go.’…(the woman passenger continues)…’yes so when you travel and they ask you to show them your ticket, don’t you doit!?…well den is so it go ere so..same way, same thing!?’…as I thought out loud RUBBISH, my valiant male comrade lambasted her and shut her down with, ‘lady stop talk to me please because it is certainly not the same thing here, so stop telling me about when you travel!’

YEASSSSSSS!!!!!! Checkmate my good Sir!…..this post is getting too long so ‘to make a long story short’ ….always loved that phrase…the man eventually stated that he was going to show ‘dis ooman’ his ticket but it was not because of ‘giving up any right’ but as an example of bringing to an end what she did wrong. Quite so!…People the takeaways are obvious but the main thing I want to highlight is that the simple act of that man asking his question and reiterating his position..is a fundamental freedom and right. We should not be afraid to question anything or for that manner question those in authority because guess what that is what democracy is supposedly about. Individual rights. Reciprocal accountability, etc.The fact that the lady Inspector approached the matter in the way she did is not surprising and is indicative of how those in authority operate. Sadly too these simple infringements are manifested tenfold in other aspects of society. The violation of an individual’s right to ask questions becomes the violation of an individual’s  right to equal opportunities, etc. Small things have the ability to become bigger one. The violation of an individual’s right to ask questions of one public servant becomes the violation of an individual’s right to question the whole public service. The violation of an individual’s right to question simple unjust procedures becomes the violation of larger injustices…the more things change, the more they remain the same. The institutionalization of freedom(democracy) is the sum total and collective rights of citizens as governments and governing systems are,after all-  for the people and by the people.