One month with NO (ok very little) plastic!

Well, I did just about a month without plastic. Mostly. HA. Actually it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and it was A LOT cheaper!!! Like A LOT. I didn’t lose any real weight to speak of but I also didn’t gain any and I didn’t track what I was eating at all. And I ate bread so that was amazing. Here’s my biggest wins and losses and lessons.

WINS

So right after I started this challenge, a very close friend of mine passed away and I had a little celebration after the memorial at my house. Normally I just go to Costco for this and there’s allllll kinds of plastic involved. So this time I went to Ralphs, I got a salami wrapped in paper, which turned out to have plastic underneath (I was SO mad!), I got some cheese from the counter also wrapped in plastic, although just cling film. Then I cut up a pineapple, made a tomato and cucumber salad, and bought a few fresh hoagie rolls in a paper bag from the deli section.  I also had some salsa in the house and I bought a bag of Chips in a Terracycle bag, so it should be recyclable. So in the end it was very little plastic for a party that normally would have had a full trash can of stuff. And it wasn’t hard, so that’s a good lesson.

Also did I mention how cheap the month was??? Around $200 in groceries for 2 people for the month. Beat that! We did eat a lot of Rice and Beans.

My Significant Other (SO) goes to Starbucks every day, it’s his office basically. So on weekends he brings me coffee, after the first weekend of me yelling at him about the plastic lid, he started taking one of my reusable cups and getting my coffee in that. Men can be trained after all 😛

Losses

I went on a work trip last week and I broke down and bought protein bars for the trip, which I ended up really needing. My co-worker doesn’t like to stop for lunch! So there was plastic but it was necessary.

Also I kept forgetting to ask at restaurants for NO STRAW!!

Lessons

This week is my SO’s birthday so we bought a few things in the regular store like cheese and tortillas. There seems to be no way to get a tortilla not in a bag, I am still searching. So while my main lesson is that I still made trash, my plastic was so so so much less. We used to fill a pick up can like 50 gallons a week with recyclables. In this month we did about ONE can in the MONTH. That is progress.  Ultimately this wasn’t that hard after I got used to it and it made a huge difference.  I think many times we get so caught up in perfect we miss out on progress. We don’t have to be perfect on our journey to saving the planet, but truly every bit helps.

Honestly this was a lot less work then people think it is or the blogs say. Maybe it’s the cooking thing. I made lots of pots of beans and then we ate them for the week. Want a recipe here goes:

At night before bed:

Beans, however much you want to make, rinse if you want, in the crock pot and drain, don’t soak.

Add water or broth to cover the beans plus a little bit.

Add whatever seasoning you like. I add half an onion, a few roma tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. One time I had a ham bone in the freezer. Have some beef bones throw those in.

Turn the crock pot on low. Leave until you wake up in the AM.

SUPER HARD right??? Gosh I just don’t know how I made it. Lol. Beans are an amazing food, good for you, full of fiber, cheap, easy to make, and have a low carbon footprint. You can add them to meat to make it go longer, you can make a chili, you can add rice, add quinoa, put them on chips for nachos, eat them with eggs, in salad, mush them for refried. We ate beans in all these ways. And I have more in the fridge, still not tired of them. There are black beans, pinto beans, my fave are pink beans. I bought this ten bean medley with lentils which we love. In the crock pot the lentils break down but the bigger beans don’t, so it’s a cross between mushy and regular beans. So yummy.

Biggest take aways:

You can truly ask for anything:

Ask your waiter for no straw. If you really love straws get a reusable collapsible one on amazon and bring it with you.

Ask for the deli counter to wrap your cheese in paper not bags

I asked for meat at the meat counter in paper and they did it.

Buying fresh produce is better for you, cheaper and makes no waste. Why have we forgotten this?

Bulk is your friend. It is so cheap!!

The crock pot is your best friend.

Latin people know what’s up, eat more beans.

Love, peace and light! Do a little for a big difference. You can do it!!!

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Earth Day 2018, and the No Plastic Challenge

Happy Earth Day, two days late. Why was the last time I blogged last Earth Day 2017?!

Ok so this year the global theme is Ending Plastic Pollution.  At my (new) job I have already joined the Social Responsibility Team (are you surprised?! No, didn’t think so) and have planned this week as Earth Week. So, we are hosting a bunch of events at work to raise awareness about using less plastic.

First let me back up, about a month ago, our controller told me she was doing no meat March. No meat for the entire month of March, hmm I said, that’s interesting. So then I started planning Earth Week and thought, could I do a month without plastic??? Can’t hurt to try right?

So my challenge is to go at least two weeks, up to a month without using plastic. I shopped last Tuesday April 17th at Sprouts, armed with my reusable produce bags. It was hard I am not going to lie. EVERYTHING is wrapped in plastic. I mean EVERYTHING!!!!! I did find a Kefir in a cardboard box which even though it has a plastic spout I bought, because LA says it recycles those. I did buy one goal milk yogurt in a little container. THAT’S IT!! I got meat at the butcher counter and asked them to wrap it in paper instead of plastic. The butcher wouldn’t give me chicken in paper (he said it would leak), only the in-house made sausages and the bulk chicken chorizo. The deli guy looked at me crazy when I asked him to cut me a hunk of cheese but he did it. Everything else was produce and bulk items like granola and beans.

And actually the living with it hasn’t been terrible. I have had to plan and cook. I made a spicy Italian sausage ratatouille type stew with eggplant, zucchini, tomato, and asparagus. That lasted quite a few days. Then this week I made the chorizo, which btw is amazing. I also made a side of tomato, mushrooms, and zucchini. Fruit and veggies have been my snack, along with some left over baked chickpeas.

But, it’s been almost a week and my recycle is almost full of plastic. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?!?!?! And if after a week I have so much how much more is there normally. I have kept paper and glass in a separate bin since I want to track my plastic. I am also using paper bags instead of plastic trash bags in my regular garbage, of which there is very little.

Part of it is I had a get together this weekend, post funeral. So when you think about it, a party with 8 – 10 people and not having a full can from just that is pretty good, relatively. The only plastic we generated was salami wrap, which made me mad because it was wrapped in paper and fooled me! The plastic film from a deli cheese, and two chip bags although those are Teracycle capable and should be recyclable.

Some of the plastic is left over from old things we had in the house.  Some of it is take-out boxes, our favorite Chinese restaurant went out of business so I wanted to support them one last time. I did wash them really well, so could be ok, according to my trash can. And some of it is crap other people brought in. That’s the bit that’s hard to control.

However, I am learning this is not THAT hard. It’s like anything, it takes some planning, some tools, like reusable zip locks, bee’s wrap and produce bags, glass jars for bulk things you buy. But once you have those tools it’s not terrible.

Actually it might be a bit cheaper, I only spent $65 at Sprouts and that food is still going.  The thing that has struck me the most, other than EVERYTHING is wrapped in plastic, is about is what’s in the plastic. I probably don’t need to eat that stuff anyways – potato chips, chicken nuggets, wrapped candy. Think about that, a star mint IS WRAPPED IN PLASTIC!!!! I do get to eat bread though, fresh from the deli. YAY!

So here’s my lesson, you need to buy reusable baggies (I like re-zip), bee’s wax wrap (the organic kind), and produce bags. Think of how many baggies, how much plastic wrap, and how many produce bags you use. If you can just replace this, it’s actually quite a lot. You can search all these things on Amazon.

Once you have the tools, and you get your head around not eating regular meat, and maybe eating more veggies and beans, which is good for you anyways, it’s not bad at all. I think I can go a month.

In the meantime you should watch this movie on Netflix. Let me know what you think!

https://plasticoceans.org

Love, Peace, and Light

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Happy Earth Day (late)

I wrote this yesterday but I had technical problems, so here it is!

Happy Earth Day! I debated what to blog today, but while in the shower, which is where I do my best thinking, it came to me. I think everyone (mostly) agrees that “giving back” often benefits the giver more even than the receiver. Evidenced by the mandatory volunteer hours required in many high schools. So we volunteer and give to others, and in that giving, we receive.

Then why do we only take from the Earth? We receive air, food ,water, and everything we need to exist comes from the planet.  So we take from the Earth but we do not give? We don’t protect the atmosphere, the water, or the soil? This is what Earth day is all about. When we give back to the Earth through buying organic or sustainable food, using less water, producing less carbon, or planting a tree the Earth gives more to us in return.

The best example I have of this is the dust bowl.  Humans cleared the native grasses between 1900 – 1920, for farming, taking only and not giving. It wasn’t until around 1937 that the Civilian Conservation Corps planted more than 200 million trees and started educating farmers on natural soil conservation.  Once we started working in harmony with the land the dust bowl effect ceased. (I’m simplifying the issue, put you get the point.)

But there are personal examples too, less big picture and more every day. I have met some amazing people volunteering through Fair Trade LA, working for better conditions for the most vulnerable populations and our planet.  People who have profoundly impacted my life and still continue to. Working to improve the state of our planet has benefited me immensely. One of the biggest impacts has been my hair! With regular shampoo and conditioner my hair was just not as well nourished, dry and frizzy. Now its so much healthier and happier using Shea Moisture, good for me and good for the planet.

So today, perhaps we can all think about giving back to Mother Earth a little more every day.

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Why is buying clothes so hard!?

It’s been too long since I posted! Syreeta sent me a text this week saying, why haven’t you been blogging. If you look at some of my older posts I mention how much I love my crew. They keep me honest, ha. Today let’s talk a little about a very complicated topic, clothes.

Buying ethical clothes is really hard, I am not going to lie. There are lots of little Fair Trade or Eco-friendly boutiques, but I don’t always like the designs, half the time the clothes don’t even fit me. I ordered an XL once off Amazon.com and it wouldn’t fit the girls. So I get it. But living an ethical life doesn’t mean we are always perfect, it means we always try.

Any clothing store the first step is to look into the About Us section of the website or ask when you walk in. Important questions are: Where do you source your textiles? What is your supply chain like? Where are clothes manufactured/sewn and by whom? All of these things matter. If there is no information available, I tend not to buy anything because transparency is an important part of ethical shopping. Not everything has to be Fair Trade, the certification is a useful tool so you don’t have to do research, but it doesn’t mean other companies aren’t doing the right thing.

For example, I came across this brand Nadaam Cashmere, they put all their pricing, pictures of the herders and their story all online. This is one of the best examples of ethical clothing I have found.

https://www.naadamcashmere.com/pages/aboutus

In the writing of this post I discovered they are having a sale, and found something I actually could use. A white caftan that I know I can wear at a Zeta event.  Its my first purchase, mostly because I live in LA and rarely wear the cashmere I already own. The first rule of ethical shipping is don’t buy stuff you don’t need. This however, because its a Caftan and not a sweater I don’t think I will be too hot. Plus Naadam has free shipping and free returns, so if it doesn’t work out it’s safe. AND for you, here’s a link for $20 off!

http://naadamcashmere.refr.cc/elizabetho

For International Women’s Day (IWD) I went on strike and stayed home all day, I did not go to any rally mostly because I don’t like traffic or crowds. But what I did do was shop online at an Ethical Woman owned boutique called Bead & Reel. From their website, in the “About Us” section:

“Founded in 2014 based on the belief that fashion and ethics aren’t mutually exclusive, we offer over 60 independent designers and 15 different searchable ethics focused on eco-friendly, cruelty-free, sweatshop-free styles for conscientious women. Everything we sell meets the criteria of being thoughtful to animals, people, and the world through our carefully curated selection of hand-picked designers and products…”

https://www.beadandreel.com/pages/about-us

What’s awesome about Bead & Reel is you can select your ethics, and they carry multiple brands I like. I have ordered Pact leggings (on a super sale I might add), and on IWD I ordered a Mata Trader’s skirt, a used People Tree shirt, and these adorable fully recycled shoes. There’s a photo on my Instagram

Until the day that we force major corporations to be fully ethical, there won’t be an easy answer. But for now, we should be demanding the major corporations change and supporting the companies that give us the values we want.

Most ethical sites so have a sale section, so it doesn’t have to fully break the bank. From Naadam my Caftan was on sale for $115, but its a huge piece of cashmere, and that’s a good price, even in Macy’s. From Bead & Reel, $30 for a pair of shoes? That’s cheaper than Tom’s and let me tell you those shoes work even in the rain.

And if you are only buying items you need, you might find yourself buying less, and that’s better for everyone.

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Try a Farm Share, you’ll love it!

As I write this, it’s raining in California – heavy, storming, windy rain. Rain always makes me think of food and farms. Because – having studied water, it’s the critical component in food production, and we are managing it so poorly throughout our country. So I thought today I would talk about getting healthy food, reasonably priced. I also got my veggie box delivery yesterday. A perfect blog storm as it were.

For a number of years I have participated in a Farm Share or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This is a program where you get organic, fresh, fruits and vegetables straight from the farmer, cutting out the grocery store all together. They operate differently in different places throughout the country.

Here in LA its super convenient, they deliver, and you can customize your box. In New York City you have to go pick up your veggies and there is only what there is.

Either way, subscribing is usually a very affordable way to get fresh healthy food for less. This week I spent $34 and got:

1 lb purple potatoes
1 lb murcott mandarin
1 lb parsnips
5 lbs juicing oranges
1 bunch golden beets
1 lunch rainbow chard
1 bunch rainbow carrots
1 bunch cilantro

Farm Fresh to You (that’s my CSA) shows you the prices, so I pick what I know is a good price.  $1.50 for Kale or $1.99/lb for the potatoes etc.

The things I like about a farm share are:

1. Supporting local organic farmers, which is ethical and important for the environment
2. Saving money, by buying organic at lower prices
3. In this case, I didn’t have to go to the store (extra points!!)
4. I have learned about so many new veggies/fruits – Watermelon Radish, Kohlrabi, finger limes. I LOVE Kohlrabi and I never would have known about it had we not gotten it in our CSA when I lived in New York.

So what do you do with these strange new foods? A google search helps figure out easy recipes. I love to roast my beets. Parsnips are also delicious roasted. Actually when I lived in England, they were readily available in winter and I used to make them often. Now I have discovered the art of the Parsnip mash. Using like mashed potatoes. Boil them (I leave the skins on), then drain, mash well and add what you like. I made Bangers and Mash last box with parsnips instead of potatoes, YUM! If you have any questions, just ask me.

If you live in the greater LA area you can get $15 off your first delivery by using my referral code (more savings!!) Click here for a coupon ELIZ9877. Or Sign up at https://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/ and use referral code ELIZ9877.

Sending you with love, light, and curiosity to find new paths.

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A new day…

This weekend was the beginning a new era for the United States. However you might feel about it, good or bad, a new beginning can always be a time for reflection. I am renewing and strengthening my own commitment to living a fully ethical life.  So today’s post will be on how I kept my commitments while also spending as little as possible.

This weekend was also the start of my budget for this month. My budget runs the 17th to the 16th of each month. (More on budgeting soon) I had waited to buy a number of things until a new budget, since last month I had to spend a lot of home repairs. (i.e. I had no heat for three weeks!) One of those things I was waiting to buy was shampoo/conditioner since I have enough, but I am on my last bottles. So this month I planned/budgeted to spend $50 on beauty supplies and then I checked the ads.

For most of January, at Ulta, Shea Moisture was on sale, buy one get one 50% off and there was a coupon for $3.50 off $15 purchase. It was buy one get one 25% at Target and the prices were a little less, so I thought I would combine my errands Friday night and get Shampoo at Target. But when I went into Target, they said that deal was only online, and there was nothing on the clearance end caps. Ulta is right next to Target near where I work, so I thought I would go in and see if there was any clearance at Ulta.

And am I glad I went into Ulta! When I got there, there was a buy one get one free of conditioner in a special pack. So I got all this for $33. All of these are Fair Trade, Sustainable and have a community impact on the lowest levels of the supply chain. This is about $6.50 per bottle, and the Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo is 16.3 ounces so its a larger bottle for the same price. Regular price on these bottles is $10.99 at Ulta and around the same for these particular lines at Target (there is a less expensive shampoo for $7.50 a bottle).

Now I bought a lot of shampoo because they had the Rose in stock which I have been wanting to try, so I went ahead and bought it. But on a tight budget I could have just gotten the two pack of conditioner, the Black Castor Oil Shampoo and paid only $5.50 per bottle. I also could have come back a different day a bought the second two bottles of Rose Shampoo with a new coupon and saved another $3.50 total on this purchase. Now for me because of my busy schedule, it was worth the $3.50 to not have to come back again or use another trip for deep conditioning mask, but there was a time when I would have made multiple trip OR asked the cashier to run me multiple transactions.

Basically the buy one get one free was a super find! I always check the racks at Ulta for ethical choices, on clearance. Particularly since they also carry items from The Body Shop. Once I got a tin of solid Argan oil, which I use on my hair or as lotion for $0.o1 on clearance.

These  kind of steals making buying ethical a lot easier and more affordable. And needless to say I won’t be buying shampoo or conditioner for likely another six months! I will have to buy some masque sometime soon but I will keep an eye out for a good sale like this one. Once I found masque on clearance at Ralphs for $5. The key to this life is budgeting so you have funds to take advantage of these sales when you see them.

Let me know what amazing deals on ethical goods you have found!

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Starting fresh in 2017. New blog focus.

Well I haven’t blogged in a VERY long time, really, since Jan 2014. But over the holiday break, my bestie Syreeta was here and challenged me to start writing again about living an ethical lifestyle on any budget. It all came up as we were discussion the state of the USA and how we can make a change in the world. How sometimes where you come from does matter – it impacts what you see the world, how you shop, and what matters to you. Sustainability, Fair Trade, Organic Produce – these seem like things reserved for the wealthy or at least well off. After all who pays $20 for ONE pair of underwear? So, I accept your challenge. I will try to tackle a few main points:

  • Our collective social responsibilitysocial responsibilit in general i.e. why should I care!?
  • Shopping on a budget for
    1. Ethically made Clothes
    2. Organic or Healthy Fresh Food
    3. Safe Beauty/Household items
  • Cooking healthy for less
  • Of course, TRAVEL!

Recently I had someone ask me how she can help her children be extraordinary. I answered give them exposure and financial literacy. I really believe without these two things, it’s really hard to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. I had a girlfriend tell me just the other day “I live paycheck to paycheck, but my mom lived paycheck to paycheck, that’s all I’ve seen, that’s what I know. How to I change that?” So she came over, we are both on a budget so I cooked food, and we did her budget. We figured out how she can pay herself and not the credit card company and we made a plan for what she wants in her life.

I believe the more one can be exposed – the more you see this world, this country – the more you see life is bigger than a $2 T-shirt.  The more exposure one gets, the more one wants to make sure what we buy is not enslaving another. Yet, as hard as I try, I still have 29 slaves.  So I pledge to work harder and to blog. YOU can figure out how many slaves you own and leave the number in the comments. Then come back next time to start the discussion on how we can live our values.  Find your slave number here:

slaveryfootprint.org

Until then, loving each other, even our enemy, is a good place to start.

Blessing and light. – E

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2015 musing and more travel to come!

So 2014 was a very strange year for me. Clearly I didn’t blog at all, but there wasn’t a lot going on, then there was, then there wasn’t. But what matters is not a lot of travel, for the Traveling Elizabeth. But to summarize in 2014, I was unemployed, then I got a great job. I was in love, and then I wasn’t. I was “homeless” then I got a great apartment. In all, I am doing very well. I never haven’t appreciated all that I have – my life, what I’ve been able to do, all that I am. But 2014 made me truly realize all of the things I have done.
And 2015 is the year where the travel is back, so far I have already booked my trip to Abu Dhabi in April, we have a layover in Paris for 14 hours on the way there and Manchester for 12 on the way back. It looks to be epic already. This year my brother is getting married, and my sister is graduating from college. YAY!
So I thought in this year of 2015 when the travel is BACK I would write down all of the “bucket list” type things I have done so far in my life, because when I think about it it’s pretty amazing.

I have:

Kissed the Barney Stone
Jumped off the cliffs at Ricks Café in Negril, Jamaica (50 feet into the ocean)
Gone parasailing
Toured the Guinness Factory
Rock climbed an actual rock (outside)
Seen the Perito Moreno glacier calving (pieces breaking off) then held a piece
Seen the sun rise over the Taj Mahal
Seen the sun rise over Uluru in Australia
Been to a show at the Sydney Opera House
Seen American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, in NYC
Seen the Royal Ballet of England in the Royal Opera House in London
Practiced Yoga in India
Been to the festival of lights in Montreal (shortest day of the year)
Went to Made in America Music Festival
I’ve seen of course Tori Amos, Price, Tina Turner, Beyoncé, The Roots and Dave Matthews Band live
Touched Hadrian’s wall
Stood in the room where Mary Queen of Scots was born
Visited Hiroshima
Shopped in Kyoto
Salsa danced in Tokyo
Shopped in the Souk in Marrakesh
Sailed on Loch Ness
I have seen more shows than I can count, including Diana Vishneva and Cirque du Soleil.
I am sure there is more, I will just have to remember and update,HA.

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2014….A new year

So its been almost two years since I left for England. Since then, I have lived in Bath, finished my graduate degree and sold my home. WHEW! Escrow closed to today officially. It feels weird to not have a home anymore, but it leaves me free to live wherever I find the best job.

This is actually the first time, even since 2012, that I am not sure where exactly I will end up. It feels very strange. At least two years ago I knew a general idea of where I would or could end up. Now, I could literally be anywhere.

Life is a funny thing. I will keep you posted 🙂

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An interview on water :)

Latest homework.

Scientists generally have a look about them. Their offices reflect juxtaposition between the apparently drab and the beautiful. Michael Puma is no exception. Engineers and scientists often have the worst office spaces, with industrial carpet, starkly white walls, grey bookshelves and in this case even an exposed steam pipe.

But they find what matters in this drab space. Puma’s office is brightened by his children’s art, an eight sided Rubik’s cube, old play bills, paintings, and even a New York Knicks hat.

An adjunct profession at Columbia University in the Masters of Science in Sustainability Management Program, and head of the Water and Society Lab at Columbia University / NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Puma is a water guru.

Yet, he is completely down to earth, in jeans and a polo, all ease and comfort. With a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering, a master’s in Environmental Science and Policy and a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering, his background is more diverse than many working in his field.

We sat down to chat in the middle of a July heat wave in his office on Broadway in New York City. Below is the edited and condensed version of our conversation.

How did you come to love hydrology, was it through physics? Or how did you start out?

Yeah, it’s not a standard deal. Basically in high school I enjoyed physics. It was a challenge for me in the beginning, especially because I never thought in those terms of math, and linking the math with physical systems.

I took physics, when I decided I wanted to do civil engineering and build bridges. Then you quickly realized there’s plenty of bridges built already. So a lot of the civil engineering work is maintenance of bridges, reconstruction of bridges and that wasn’t so interesting. Fortunately, in the civil engineering, part of that department traditionally is water, water supply and waste water engineering. So I decided I didn’t want to do civil engineering in the second year of engineering school, but I was able to switch to environmental engineering. From there I focused on hydrology.

I did that environmental policy masters at the School of International Public Affairs (at Columbia University) right after my bachelor’s degree, so I got the masters in Environmental Science and Policy but at that point then I realized I wanted to be more of a technical expert as well and then work on policy. Because just having bachelors in engineering is not going to really cut it.

I got a job in an environmental engineering company but the work was very tedious, boring. You know it’s more like a business, you’re a project manager, it’s a different type of feel, and they are just applying standard methods to their problems. I worked for two companies and then I went back to graduate school for Hydrology, PhD.

How do you decide what to study? What to model and what to write papers on?

I have been looking for interesting questions on irrigation and its impacts on climate, how humans modify the land, which then has implication for regional climate. I have also been interested in links between water, agriculture and food security. This is sort of my pet project, looking at global food trade and its resilience to disturbance.

So if you have, say, a severe drought over say Asia, how that will impact global food trade? The way I’ve been looking at it is through a network approach. Where each country that’s involved in rice trade is a node in your network and then you keep track of the flows of rice between every single country in the network.

Now, say a severe drought occurs in Asia what happens if you remove all those countries affected by the drought from the global network of rice trade. Will we be in a situation where if you have a severe enough disturbance that global trade might collapse? And that’s the paper I’m trying to get done this summer. To look at how fragile global trade is to these types of climate disturbances.

Is that the paper you are working on with Bose, Chon and Cook?

Yes.

So how do you think that your research will affect the poorest people on our planet, or do you think it will even affect them?

Ultimately, I think the link between water and food security is, well, if I had sufficient funding for that, that’s what I would spend all my time on.

I think that work is very specifically geared towards finding ways to design our water policy, our food policy, such that you would protect your vulnerable populations within a country. I mean, indeed protect the entire population, but of course the poorest portions of each country are going to be more susceptible.

So, I’m working on trying to find funding to focus on linking water to climate and agriculture. And that’s where I see the possibility of informing, of providing information that will help those who are very poor.

What are your thoughts on the indigenous knowledge of water systems? How do we most effectively blend local or indigenous knowledge and technology?

I think indigenous knowledge at the local level can be quite useful. One of the drawbacks of modern approaches is that they build very, very large systems. While they smooth out fluctuations from year to year, or decade to decade, they are very large and therefore prone to failure.

So I think indigenous technologies/approaches are by definition maybe smaller scale technologies or approaches that I think do or could play a significant role. There’s been a big push with rain water harvesting. This is moving toward more distributed type water supply system. I think that has an important role together with some modern approaches.

The good thing is if you adopt some of these technologies, it gives the people a bit more control over their circumstance, and a bit more freedom to solve their own problems and I think that’s nice.

How do you find teaching at Columbia University?

Teaching Water Governance was great, working with the students and it was great teaching the topic because it really opened my eyes to all the social issues for water.
The political and economic issues, issues of privatization of water, how those link to peoples political beliefs, and how you need to bring together people from all different sectors and political persuasions to discuss water issues.

The science of water or hydrology is only one component that contributes to the knowledge that’s accessible to the different stake holders in a discussion and that’s very important but it is only one piece of the puzzle.

The governmental policies and how you approach those are becoming to me more important as we move forward. That you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re using climate change and or water shortages as a justification for a policy that may or may not be equitable, may infringe on people’s rights.

Teaching Water Governance was a really great experience, so I’ll be doing that in the fall again. It was helpful for me to broaden my background, so I really enjoyed that class.

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