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All work and play, Day 5

2016 March 17

It was gloriously sunny, the perfect day to explore the town of Mostar on my own.  I got lost and then found again, crossed five bridges (in both directions), read a book and composed several post cards.  I did not, however, consume my required 3 espresso-based drinks.

James fastidiously programmed away save a lunch and dinner break where we enjoyed waterfront dining and fantastic Italian-inspired food, respectively.

In the hours between sunset and pitch black, we explored Počitelj, an Ottoman Empire fortress with an incredible amphitheater, sizable mosques and steep staircases. Attempting photos in the dark proved fruitless, so we ventured back to Mostar and enjoyed a very good dinner at Restaurant Schumann. I suggest if you in town, you take the mile plus walk to this harbor of home-made pasta, breads and local charm.  No tourists.

One culinary observation: we always get the “basic” bread when we sit down (part of the 2 euro per person cover charge). Other diners get some version of a grilled thick pita bread.  I’ve asked for the local bread, and then received a side of cold, deflated pita.  Moreover, when I request garlic (another of my daily requirements), I get whole, raw cloves, which I do my best to macerate with a butter knife. More words to learn.

Tomorrow, we will mobilize to Dubrovnik, where our plans and expectations of Croatia await.

I ❤ small towns, Day 4

2016 March 16

Today, we decided to go to Bosnia. The drive from Montenegro to Bosnia provided stunning views of the bay, snowcapped mountains, vocal yacks, and sacks of potatoes for sale by the side of the road. We took the long way ‘round, with the prettiest of views (cue song lyrics), following the serpentine shore of the Bay of Kotor. The bay narrows into a strait, flowing into an upper bay, with an island monastery sitting at its mouth. All around the bay are jutting cliffs, with terracotta roofs in isolated hamlets. We climbed through strings of tunnels and Old-Western style homesteads, before coming to the vineyards of Bosnia.

Crossing the border was pretty easy, with no bribes needed. The green card we purchased through the rental car agency seemed to do the trick. We approached the tiny town of Mostar (which I still want to call monster…) three hours later.

Mostar pulls at heart strings with its picturesque bridges and stone-lined streets.  To seal the deal on its delights, our boutique hotels provides unlimited cookies for James.  By driving through the vertical and tiny streets—as we saw on a sign earlier— “you risk your life”. But now settled, we plan to stay two nights so that tomorrow can be spent with my purchasing of hand painted decorative items (Turkish style) and James making climate models (computer style).  We are both helping the world, I reckon.

This evening we strolled along the dividing river, where locals were watching football and filling time during the “low” season.  Observation: men and women seem to run in separate groups.  Not in the forcibly gender segregated way we saw in Egypt, but far from the coed peer groups you get in the US.

I love that wifi is available virtually everywhere here, so if any on you darling readers have an iPhone, it’s free to message and facetime me, and I would love that tomorrow (Note the 5 hour time difference ahead of EST).

2016 March 15

Chiseled features, Day 3

2016 March 15

It’s Wednesday so we must be in another country…

We flew to Tivat, Montenegro and rented a car (with limited challenge but moderate wait for the car to arrive) from now through Sunday. Our first stop is the picturesque Bay of Kotor. It was drizzly and cold when we arrived, but we left the car safely (if expensively) at a car park and ventured into the walled city on foot to find our centrally-located hotel in the winding streets.

Kotor is a city covered in beautiful white and tan stone: the streets are tiled, the water drains are carved, the churches and homes are built of huge, sturdy blocks. Shops and caffes sprout shingle signs, carefully branded for the onrush of tourists that will arrive by yacht in May. The mountain rises with water-sculpted towers, looming imposingly behind the city, with the city wall snaking along its highest ridges.   Montenegro feels like a more cloistered Greece; they also use the Euro but seem to resent it.

As the light waned, James thought it would be a great idea to explore the step mountain—on foot. When I protested, he conceded that we could drive. At a 70 degree slope, we were greeted by 25 hair pin turns. I backed down—from several cars—and then out–when it became pitch black and the Bay sneered bellow, reflecting the schizophrenic headlights of cars that took the curves at 100 kph.

We decided to find our way back on safer roads, and selected the Stari Mlini (http://www.starimlini.com/) for dinner. Named for the working water wheel on the far side of the Bay, we enjoyed stunning salads, clay-oven-prepared eggplant and local octopus. The dining room was warmed by a fire and we were the sole “seasonal” dinners at 8pm. The chardonnay made 50 km away was not unpleasant.

Back in the car, we zoomed to the hotel so James could do some calls (translate: be on the computer for the next 4 hours) while I explored the night life in town. I sampled the local rose and red wines, and for young grapes, they outshine VA productions. I happened upon a Bollywood style music video production underway, where the singers were dressed as jesters and Princess Jasmine. The taping concluded with some well positioned fireworks that illuminated the fortress walls. I also passed the youth hostel, where I head a smattering of German and a sole American voice complaining about Adweek and LA.

Tomorrow, we plan to enjoy the free breakfast and then head to Mostar, Bosnia, and perhaps reconsider the treacherous drive into the hills of the Adriatic coast.

NB: A note on the format of these blogs: I write steam of conscious observations then James edits for accuracy (i.e. spelling of locations) and adds alliterative adages (self-explanatory and excruciating). Please submit your comments, c/o the Internet to us.

 

Sad to leave Novi Sad, Day 2

2016 March 15

Happy Pi Day!

Goal: consume as many Serbian pies as possible today.

We started at a lovely coffee shop providing extensive chemistry lessons on coffee composition and bean varietal. James had a Nutella croissant, which he counts as pie number one of the day.

Took a bus 1.5 hours to the northwest of Belgrade to the darling town of Novi Sad where we had a fantastic meal at Fish & Zelenish (http://www.fishizelenis.com/), feasting on baked feta, sizable salads and salmon tar-tar above an open kitchen. They gifted us a cookbook/menu and regional salt. No pie was consumed, but we somehow were not feeling deprived. It was definitely the best meal we’ve had so far.

We wandered the dense old town, of tiled streets and artist resalers. Found a swanky hotel to take some work meetings/calls and make arrangements for tomorrow. Amended plan includes flying into Tivat, Montenegro and renting a car to explore the coast. Why Tivat? Oh, tickets are only €60, compared to €250 flights or 12 hour buses to go half the distance.

Dinner was a very late, with an overpriced excursion to the Opera/restaurant. Sitting in a plush overhead booth, with a silent bell tassel to call the waiter, we order ambergine with raw garlic and baked goats (cheese). Alas, after hours, the music was recorded and the kitchen too early shuttered.

The day in numbers:

  • Pies consumed: 0.314
  • Ratio of time on train to time on bus to cover the dame distance: 1.8 to 1
  • (Took the bus to Novi Sad, and the train back. The price was the same, time spent was not).
  • Jewish historical sites visited: 2
  • Post cards sent: 3
  • Bread products sampled: 6
  • Churches seen: 14
  • Enclosed spaces with smoking: 100% minus Fish & Zelenish.

Balkan Bash 2016, Day 1

2016 March 13

First day in Belgrade, Serbia, and visually it’s a Kiev-Budapest mashup: soviet buildings next ionic columns, next to burnt out structures along cobblestone streets. I love the green areas, open spaces populated by off-leash dogs, often in brightly color sweaters, meters away from owners smoking cigarettes in jogging suits. Roller blades are also popular here, along the wide pedestrian-only stretches of Stari Grad, lined by excessive bookshops, hair salons and coffee shops, all of which provide a long list of alcoholic beverages.

From 2-10pm, we explored on foot, checking the “largest temple (actually a church) in the Balkans” off our list, as well as the national buildings, which evoked DC in their proximity to each other and disproportionate number of phallic sculptures surrounding. Also cheeked out the Nikola Tesla Museum (www.tesla-museum.org) where his genius was referenced in every sentence and the museum was conquerable in the 30 minutes we had before closing. In case you were wondering, there were no cars.

Lunch was at Smokvica (Kralja Petra 73) and for dinner we were serenaded by a traditional Roma band of fiddle, accordion and base at Sesir Moj (MY Hat, Skarska 21). The best food, ‘salads’, are really dips. Roasted red pepper and feta; zucchini and yogurt; maybe something mayo based with garlic? We had a trout that was smoked and then seared providing a profoundly savory flavor that only James cared for.

Feeling like we have totally “won” the city, tomorrow we will take a day trip to Novi Sad to bite into the Po’Boy of Serbia at the Index House, explore what is described as a “chipper” and “less smoky” town, about an hour away by bus. Dinner plans include seeing the opera while enjoying smoked salmon (no one calls it lox here) at Little Bay (little-bay.co.uk).

New work of the day: Hvalah “thank you” pronounced like “hell-of-a”.

From there, the 10 days ahead look like this:

  • Sunday and Monday in Belgrade (nights of 3/13 and 3/14)
  • Tuesday travel to Mostar, Bosnia to visit the “most beautiful bridge in the Balkans” and explore some vineyards (nights of 3/15 and 3/16–unless we think that country can also be consumed in less time…)
  • Thursday travel to Dubruvnick, Croatia (nights of 3/17 and 3/18)
  • Saturday make our way to Kotar, Montenegro (nights of 3/19 and 3/20)
  • Sunday, explore Pristina, Kosovo or Skopje, Macedonia (spending 3/21 and 3/22 in whichever we select –coin toss likely involved)
  • On Tuesday the 22nd we will find ourselves in Sofia, Bulgaria where we fly out of on the 23rd and back to NYC.

This itinerary will absolutely change–check back daily for country updates.

First round of postcards to be sent out on Monday 3/14, photos to be posted whenever wifi is available (on Instagram first @johannaisgreat).

Food policy for breakfast

2014 September 10

Worker loading apples at the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center (Photo: NYC SIRR)

 

“One of the least-known but most impor­tant rit­u­als in New York takes place every night in the South Bronx at the Hunts Point Food Dis­tri­b­u­tion Cen­ter. There, in strik­ing abun­dance, del­i­ca­cies from around the state, coun­try, and the world are bought and sold—cabbage from New York, oranges from Cal­i­for­nia, blue­ber­ries from Chile, bell pep­pers from the Nether­lands, beef from Aus­tralia, and fish from Nova Sco­tia.” –– Open­ing descrip­tion in the ‘Crit­i­cal Net­works’ Chap­ter of the NYC Spe­cial Ini­tia­tive on Rebuild­ing and Resiliency report.

Food secu­rity and pub­lic health are at the heart of the issue of cli­mate change. Johanna Goet­zel fol­lows the sub­ject with a recent talk held at the CUNY Grad­u­ate Center.

Cli­mate change impacts the food sys­tem, glob­ally and locally. Tues­day morn­ing, at the City Uni­ver­sity of New York (CUNY) Grad­u­ate Cen­ter, a panel of aca­d­e­mics and busi­ness lead­ers explored the impacts of food acces­si­bil­ity and deliv­ery in NYC in a far reach­ing ses­sion called Cli­mate Change, Food and Health: From Analy­sis to Action to Pro­tect Our Futures.

Mod­er­ated by Nicholas Freuden­berg, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Pub­lic Health, CUNY School of Pub­lic Health & Hunter Col­lege, and Fac­ulty Direc­tor, NYC Food Pol­icy Cen­ter at Hunter Col­lege, the dis­tin­guished pan­elists included Nevin Cohen, Asst. Pro­fes­sor, Envi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies, The New School; Mia Mac­Don­ald, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Brighter Green; Mark Ize­man, Direc­tor, New York Urban Pro­gram and Senior Attor­ney, Urban Pro­gram, National Resource Defense Coun­cil (NRDC)

Mia Mac­Don­ald began by speak­ing about the eco­log­i­cal and pub­lic health reper­cus­sions of the “global spread of US-style con­sump­tion.” One solu­tion she offered was ‘cool foods,’ those that are less energy inten­sive to grow and transport.

Mark Ize­man spoke about the dan­gers of sea level rise on the Hunts Point food dis­tri­b­u­tion hub. As the largest food dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ter in the world, the increas­ing fre­quency and inten­sity of cli­mate change events like Hur­ri­cane Sandy will have sig­nif­i­cant impacts on the population’s well being. Address­ing these con­cerns and other resilience efforts, the Hunts Point Life­line project pro­posal offers an avenue for sus­tain­able future developments.

Pan­elists also dis­cussed trans­porta­tion strat­egy for the 5–7 mil­lion tonnes of food that enter NYC, 95% over the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge.  Nevin Cohen empha­sized the impor­tance of inter­de­part­men­tal coor­di­na­tion (trans­porta­tion, san­i­ta­tion, health) to address the entire ecosys­tem of food.

Since the bench­mark recy­cling law of 1989, mak­ing New York the first state to enact a pol­icy,  only min­i­mal progress has been made in state-wide com­post­ing pro­grams. This pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity to ele­vate Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Food Print” pro­pos­als to reduce waste at mul­ti­ple points in the food sys­tem. Local efforts can be made in sup­port­ing farm­ers mar­kets, the major­ity of which accept EBT/food stamps.

Atten­dance at the talk was high and the dis­cus­sion was robust, offer­ing numer­ous solu­tions for greater involve­ment. One mes­sage that res­onated was the need to update meth­ods of advo­cacy. All were invited to par­tic­i­pate in the Peo­ples Cli­mate March Sep­tem­ber 21. The next dis­cus­sion in the Food Pol­icy for Break­fast series will be held Octo­ber 14, about food pro­vided in New York uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges. The rip­ple effects of local con­ser­va­tion efforts and per­sonal com­mit­ments to eat­ing bet­ter can have global impacts on the resources threat­ened by cli­mate change.

 

CliMates trains student climate negotiators in NYC

2014 September 2

CliMates participants meet French climate diplomat Adrien Pinelli at the French Mission to the UN (Ph: CliMates)

Born out of exas­per­a­tion at the slow pace of inter­na­tional progress on cli­mate change, the French-based group Cli­Mates pro­vides par­tic­i­pa­tion and train­ing to young peo­ple who want to help push for­ward for solutions.

This Fri­day, August 29th con­cluded the Sec­ond Cli­Mates Inter­na­tional Sum­mit, hosted at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity. Orga­nized by vol­un­teers and peer lead­ers, this gath­er­ing of stu­dents and young pro­fes­sion­als from over 15 nations focused on build­ing skills and train­ing atten­dees to dis­cuss the impacts of cli­mate change in var­i­ous sec­tors. Their mis­sion is to inspire and empower youth all around the world to find answers together.

Co-founder Mar­got Le Guen shared how the net­work has evolved since 2011 from a “group of peers at Sci­ence Po, in France, where we were reach­ing out to our friends to join to what is now a group of over 150 actively involved.”

Last year, Cli­Mates held a Latin American-focused gath­er­ing in Bogota, Colum­bia. This year’s events took the form of a ‘sum­mer school’ in New York City, where par­tic­i­pants attended sem­i­nars and engaged in dis­cus­sions on every­thing from entre­pre­neur­ship for social inno­va­tion, to craft­ing per­for­mance art, to the impacts of heat on health. A spe­cial dis­cus­sion lead by Ahmad Alhen­dawi, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, empha­sized the need to think about what moti­vates poten­tial part­ners to engage. The team also met with French cli­mate diplo­mat Adrien Pinelli, who spoke about the role of youth engage­ment in the upcom­ing COP 21 con­fer­ence held in Paris in 2015.

I had the plea­sure of speak­ing on a panel about cli­mate and health with Kim Knowl­ton, Senior Sci­en­tist, Health & Envi­ron­ment Pro­gram and Co-Deputy Direc­tor of the Nat­ural Resources Defense Coun­cil.  Dr. Knowl­ton and I pre­sented on how ris­ing tem­per­a­tures will impact poor­est pop­u­la­tionsmost dra­mat­i­cally and explored eco­nomic and social solu­tions for prevention.

The over­all tone of the sum­mit was one of excite­ment and col­lab­o­ra­tion. Atten­dees shared ideas for research col­lab­o­ra­tion, expand­ing part­ner­ships and plan­ning for next year, when the sum­mit will be held in France, gear­ing up for the world’s crit­i­cal test: the 2015 United Nations Cli­mate Change Con­fer­ence in Paris. The announced aims of the 2015 UN con­fer­ence are noth­ing less than a bind­ing, world­wide agree­ment to limit green­house gases.

In the next month, UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki Moon will host a pre­lude to the 2015 con­fer­ence, at the United Nations in New York City on Sep­tem­ber 23rd. This pre­lim­i­nary meet­ing of world lead­ers is the focus of the People’s Cli­mate March, sched­uled for Sep­tem­ber 21st, which is draw­ing an increas­ing amount of media and insti­tu­tional attention.

For more infor­ma­tion on Cli­Mates and their social media pres­ence, fol­low them on Twit­ter and see their YouTube chan­nel. Below, watch Austin Mor­ton of the New Cli­mate Econ­omy project in his video for the Cli­Mates summit.

Book Review: Environmental Debt

2014 August 2

 

Untitled 

Reviewed by Johanna Goetzel, Lead Researcher for Environmental Debt.

 

Environmental Debt: The Hidden Costs of a Changing Global Economy connects the financial and environmental crises – both causes and solutions. Author Amy Larkin shows how the costs of climate change, extreme weather and pollution combine to wreak havoc on the economy, as well as the earth, creating what she calls, “environmental debt”. Larkin proposes a new framework for 21st century commerce to empower profitable business that coexists with the environment. As she succinctly states: “No nature, no business.”

Intended for business leaders as well as those who acknowledge that ’business as usual’ cannot continue, Environmental Debt presents complex and provocative ideas in easy-to-read prose and includes numerous cultural touchstones to help ground the reader. Larkin artistically combines her expertise as an entrepreneur, producer and environmental activist, to deliver an approach for business to succeed without compromising nature.

Larkin introduces the “The Nature Means Business Framework”, comprised of three tenants: (1) Pollution can no longer be free and can no longer be subsidized; (2) The long view must guide all decision-making and accounting and (3) Government plays a vital role in catalyzing clean technology and growth while preventing environmental destruction.

Pollution can no longer be free and can no longer be subsidized.

In this first section, Larkin focuses on the example of externalities from coal production. A study developed by Greenpeace and researchers at Harvard showed that in just the United States, the full cost of coal extraction and combustion to society on top of the coal companies’ costs is $350 – 500 billion a year. These hundreds of billions of dollars, called externalities in economics, represent actual bills paid by fisheries, businesses, schools, municipal water systems, and unwitting families and their healthcare providers. Despite conventional wisdom, coal is not a cheap energy. Its price is cheap only because it is subsidized by its own victims. Larkin included two similar studies that estimate the externalities of oil in the United States at over $800 billion annually. In total the external costs of coal and oil is well over $1.1 trillion, the annual 2012 United States deficit. The section concludes that environmental debt is a serious contributor to fiscal instability. Larkin and her team at Greenpeace, where she worked as the Solutions Campaign director for six years, decided to take their names off the Harvard report so that it would have more salience in the business community.   As an environmental activist and businesswoman, Larkin and her book navigate this space expertly, drawing on personal anecdotes and peer-reviewed publications.

The long view must guide all decision-making and accounting.

This section recounts the catastrophic 2011 floods in Thailand and the historic land degradation that compounded the impact. These intense storms became catastrophic because of massive deforestation, much of which occurred in the 20th century. Without enough trees, the ground was unable to soak up the floodwater.   Local Thai factories that produced car parts were closed for months. These closures caused shortages for Toyota and Honda, and both companies were forced to suspend manufacturing in Kentucky, Singapore and the Philippines. Toyota alone suspended production of 260,000 vehicles (3.4% of its previous annual output) and tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs. Larkin explains how the logging in 20th century Thailand caused financial havoc around the world in 2011 — a good 20 years after it occurred. The people of Thailand, several governments, numerous companies and shareholders from around the world all paid the logging’s environmental debt. This section stresses the importance of long term planning with regard to business decision-making. Larkin commends Unilever, the first multinational corporation to do away with quarterly earning reports. Taking the long view requires a more holistic view of business success, focusing on the means to justify the ends.

Government plays a vital role in catalyzing clean technology and growth while preventing environmental destruction.

Calling on government to help support changes to the business world, Larkin focuses on how funding infrastructure has benefits for businesses and individuals. She provides the example of the Internet, one of the pieces of government-funded infrastructure we most take for granted today. The Department of Defense began work in the 1960s and 70s, and it was later catapulted to its full potential by the High Performance Computing Act of 1991, and is now used by everyone, thanks to government support. With regard to the role the government can play for energy transformation, Larkin suggests that it will inevitably end up spending billions of dollars to keep the lights on, as “this is government’s job.” The choice is whether to pay now for clean technology or pay later with environmental debt.   Larkin re-frames the current energy debate with this in mind.

Conclusion

Environmental Debt is Not Doom and Gloom

One of the book’s surprising revelations is that large numbers of multinational corporations are pushing for smart regulation in concert with activist non-profits and are implementing environmental changes in their own operations ahead of regulation. Environmental Debt showcases the courageous work of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Tiffany’s, Unilever, Walmart and others as well as the frontier of innovation in design, financial reporting, and biomimicry to name a few. The emphasis on leaders within corporations helping to transform the Consumer Goods sector (a consortium of 400 of the world’s leading consumer brands and retailers) is inspiring. Larkin’s personal experience with these senior leaders allows her to draw on numerous examples of ‘revolutionaries in suits’ changing the world of business practice.

The book resonates with readers of all ages and no mater where they are in their professional careers by localizing examples of how transformations are possible. She concludes, “Today, wherever you are, there is a sense that the ground is moving, both financially and environmentally. We need to reboot a crashing system. There is a real hunger to build a foundation so that the twenty-first century doesn’t feel so bloody scary. Look around your office, your home, your school, your government. We are all facing very difficult choices. It is time to work together.”

Johanna Goetzel worked with Amy Larkin developing the content for the book, providing editorial support and guidance. Previously Goetzel and Larkin worked together on the Greenpeace Solutions campaign, helping transforming the business sector in the US and abroad. Goetzel now works on environmental health policy, focusing on the ROI for population and planetary health. She eared her Masters in Climate and Society at Columbia University and a Bachelors of Arts from Wesleyan University. She can be reached at jgoetzel@gmail.com

 

 

 

Weighing in on Waste: Leveraging Markets for Health

2014 June 13

By Johanna Goetzel and Jody Dean

It would come as no surprise to most that what we eat has impacts on the plant and population health, however what we don’t eat also matters. When we discard food we lose valuable energy in the form of calories, waste the energy that went into production and transport and increase food costs through lost value.  In continued support for last week’s World Environment Day, we can link our food and consumer markets to improve health.

In the US we discard approximately 40% of the total food produced. This is equivalent to 20 lbs of food each month, or $2,275 a year of unconsumed food for a family of four.  Additionally, food waste now accounts for more than 25% of total freshwater consumption and about 4% of total US oil consumption.  The climate impacts of food waste were acknowledged by New York City Mayor de Blasio, who signed a resolution to reduce the City’s climate “foodprint.”

In parallel with the trends in waste, 46.2 million people are currently living in poverty, which is the leading cause of hunger.  This makes wasted food an even greater problem, as discarded food could have been used to meet food demand. Addressing hunger in the United States can therefore become part of larger program to reduce wasted food, energy consumption and dollars.

This connection between waste and hunger creates opportunities to tackle both issues from an entrepreneurial standpoint. One such Boston based initiative, Spoiler Alert, attempts to leverage this connection through a mobile software platform that provides real-time information on supply and demand for excess, expiring and spoiled food. This venture not only has the ability to reduce waste and address food insecurity, but also to create new revenue streams by bringing together all stakeholders in the food-supply chain.

Multinational corporations such as Walmart have also found creative ways to turn waste into value. In line with their zero waste program, Walmart has expanded their waste reduction initiatives to include not just recycling and food donations, but also a waste diversion program that transforms used cooking oil into biofuel.

These innovative cross-sector collaborations can stimulate markets to favor healthier lifestyles, improve the environment and foster sustainable practices, effectively creating a “win-win”approach to health promotion.