The Miracle and the Horror of it

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In the two weeks since seeing James Balog’s film Chasing Ice for the first time, and getting the special experience of interacting with him in class, I have been struggling with and mulling over his words and images. My aunt had suggested the documentary to me when it was first released but I was hesitant to watch it, to the point where I blatantly avoided the film. At one point in the film Balog said that in his work he finds, “the miracle and the horror of it.” Before watching his film, I could only find the horror of it. I refused to watch his film originally because I knew it would terrify me, I knew the possibility of his work creating hope for a “negligible” impact was none, and that it would force some realizations about my future I was not ready for.

Yet, in watching in and interacting with him, my experience was different than what I anticipated. His images were shocking, and alarming, but they also contained an unexpected beauty and emotion that is hard to place. At times the images were difficult to see but impossible not to be gripped by. Even now thinking back to it, or looking at the small exhibit in the library, I find it challenging to cope with both the miracle and the horror, as Balog aptly put words to. Fully understanding climate change as a concept, as well as its impacts are naturally hard to grapple with. However, Balog’s work provides important insight that would be impossible to get elsewhere. It shows the speed of the system, the desperate need for action and the role of the individual in coping with it.

In talking with Balog he said that before the Extreme Ice Survey he was a pessimist about climate change but since the experience his attitude has changed. I feel my perception on climate change as changing in a similar way. The magnitude of the problem is almost beyond a comprehensible scale but that does not mean nothing can be done. He said that in taking action on climate change each person has to do what they are capable of, for him it was his pictures, but each person is is something unique. For me, this means there are an unlimited number actions to be taken individually and collectively to confront climate change. The power locked within this, I am hopeful, has the potential to create a miracle.

Transnational Network: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance

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The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) is a transnational network involved in climate change governance through an intersectional approach involving a diverse range of actors. Conservation International and a collection of five non-governmental organizations comprising its membership, including CARE and the Rainforest Alliance, founded the network in 2003.[i] In addition to these members the CCBA has an advising group of international research institutions (three in total, including the World Agroforestry Center) and the donors to the network (including philanthropic foundations and corporations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and British Petroleum).[ii],[iii] The goal of this alliance is to validate and verify projects that attempt to mitigate climate change through land management while positively serving the native population of that area, from the project’s conception throughout its implementation.[iv] CCBA does this through creating a set of Climate Community and Biodiversity (CCB) standards that generates reliable carbon credits. The CCBA acts as a transnational governing force rather effectively by setting a reputable and premium standard to assist in the regulation of the global carbon market.

In the international climate change discussion, ideas of equity and justice are often raised, and so is the case when discussing issues of land use. The way land is used has huge implications for global climate change; it can be a large contributing factor to emissions through activities such as deforestation or can aid in mitigation through activities such as conservation of biodiversity. Plans of mitigation through “carbon forestry” raised concerns that these projects would inevitably be unjust to native communities because of the high potential of consequences such as displacement of communities.[v] The foundation of CCBA and the CCB standards was to address these concerns in a meaningful way. The creation of CCBA dealt with this issue by not only creating a set of standards that would prohibit adverse effects of land use mitigation projects on native peoples but would also promote and require positive gains or, “co-benefits” for both the community and the environment in projects they validated.[vi]

The CCBA is able to promote and instigate these net positive projects through its CCB label. This is a process that involves a certification of “validation” that is an acknowledgment that the project has been heavily analyzed, reviewed and decidedly fulfills the CCB standards.[vii] Validation builds support for the project that then makes implementation and success of the project more likely. After a project has been validated it is then “verified,” which enforces accountability to follow through on promises for co-benefits.[viii] When carbon credits have the CCB label, it signifies they have passed validation and verification and is a high quality credit to the buyer.[ix] A study by the Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Forest Carbon Market showed that the investors and offset buyers were more likely to pay extra for the CCB label due to its multilateral approach and diverse range of benefits.[x] This positive reputation has gone hand in hard with increasing number of projects voluntarily seeking approval of CCB standards. In 2010 there were 19 validated projects and 21 in the process, however, over the course of the next three years there 70 projects total were validated, 19 undergoing validation, and 12 projects receiving the CCB label.[xi],[xii] The success of this process of transnational governance is illustrated by the estimated 8 million hectares of land conserved, 180,000 hectares of land restored, totaling roughly 40 million tons of CO2 emissions sequestered.[xiii] Presently, the number of CCB standards approved projects is, in the global picture, minimal. However, the fact these numbers have been increasing rapidly over the past few years eludes to a growing capacity of governing global climate change


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Overall, the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance and the resulting standards appears to be quite effective in achieving its goal of filling a governance function to regulate land use projects that claim to be equitable to communities, have net positive mitigation benefits for the climate and increase the biodiversity and ecology of the land. It has done so by establishing its network and certifications as a reputable marker of governance through its enforcement of accountability and transparency, while engaging market based solutions to global climate change.


This video is an example of the types of projects CCBA deals with.

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Work Cited:

“About the CCBA” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.                        Web. 30 Sept. 2014.


Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell. Governing climate change. London: Routledge,             2010. Print.


“CCBA Fact Sheet” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.             Web. 30 Sept. 2014.                                                                                                              


“CCBA Standards.” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.                        Web. 30 Sept. 2014.


Melo, Isabel, Esther Turnhout, and Bas Arts. “Integrating multiple benefits in             market-based climate mitigation schemes: The case of the Climate, Community             and Biodiversity certification scheme.” Environmental Science & Policy 35 (2014):             49-56. Web.


Wood, Rachel Godfrey. Carbon finance and pro-poor co-benefits: the gold standard                        and climate, community and biodiversity standards. London: Sustainable Markets             Group, International Institute for Environment and Development, 2011. Web.



[i] Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell. Governing climate change. London: Routledge,             2010. Print. Pg 65.

[ii] Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell.

[iii] “About the CCBA” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.                        Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

[iv] “CCBA Standards.” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.                        Web. 30 Sept. 2014.

[v] Wood, Rachel Godfrey. Carbon finance and pro-poor co-benefits: the gold standard                        and climate, community and biodiversity standards. London: Sustainable Markets             Group, International Institute for Environment and Development, 2011. Web.

[vi] Wood, Rachel Godfrey.

[vii] “CCBA Standards.”

[viii] “CCBA Standards.”

[ix] “CCBA Fact Sheet” CCBA: The Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance. N.p., n.d.             Web. 30 Sept. 2014.                                                                                                              

[x] “CCBA Fact Sheet”

[xi] Wood, Rachel Godfrey.

[xii] “CCBA Fact Sheet”

[xiii] “CCBA Fact Sheet”

The Solution in Livestock

Brown Cow Face Images

Meat production is a well know contributing factor to climate change. Livestock is a major source of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a large factor behind deforestation. Many have argued that a necessary step in mitigating climate change is a change in diet to eat less meat (O’Callahahan). However, Allen Savory offers a comprehensive solution to climate change by doing just the opposite. In his research, he has found that it is possible to safely sequester large amounts of carbon, and reverse desertification though the use of livestock. The approach is a plan to mimic nature through what he calls “holistic planned grazing.” The livestock (usually cattle) are bunched tightly together to till and fertilize the soil, turning the dry land into productive grasslands (Savory).

Each acre of land is able to sequester one ton of carbon per year through the increased bio-productivity, and there are 12 billion acres of land worldwide available for holistic planned grazing (Sacks).That means that it is possible to sequester 12 billion tons of carbon each year (the equivalent of 6ppm) (Sacks). According to his calculations this process has the potential to return the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels (280ppm) within thirty years (Sacks). That rapid of a change is astounding.

The process of all nations reducing their emissions enough to make an impact on climate change will be a slow one, even if aggressive action is taken. The possibility of this radicle mitigation approach through livestock is incredibly astounding and hopeful to me.

You can watch his ted talk below:

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Work Cited:

O’Callahahan ,Jonathan. “Eating meat is causing ‘dangerous climate change’, claim scientists.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 1 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.

Sacks, Adam D.. “The Fight Against Global Warming: A Failure and A Fix.” Savory Institute . N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2014. <>.

Savory, Allan . “How to fight desertification and reverses climate change.” TED2013. TED. Sustain!, Long Beach. 27 Feb. 2013. Speech.





Realism or Liberalism?

world flag travelling couple holding hands

It is undeniable that the current global climate crisis is unprecedented in international relations. It is an issue of critical importance as it affects each nation at varying degrees and each nation contributes to the problem, in extremely varying degrees. Global climate change, by its nature, necessitates strong, unified global action. However, there is a difference in international relations theory that attempts to understand how and if this transnational cooperation will happen. Realism is a paradigm that asserts that all international relations are based on a struggle for power between sovereign states in an anarchical world. This approach believes that nation states are only interested in their own security and so all actions are defined by the notions of “self- help” and the “security dilemma;” thus cooperation between states to create a system of global governance is impossible. However, liberalism is a paradigm that suggests that perhaps the opposite is true with a different set of international norms and institutions that would facilitate international relations based on cooperation not military might and power insecurities. According to Russell Bova, liberalism holds that, “as long as your state is better off as a result of cooperating with others, the gains of others should not matter” (Bova 19). Certainly, in the issue of climate change each nation would be better off by addressing the tragedy of the commons and cooperating to mitigate the problem. Actions and cooperation already in affect by the international community intend to deal with how to mitigate and govern global climate change, follow the paradigm of liberalism.


Global climate change has forced international cooperation on a smaller but quickly growing scale. There is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international scientific community to inform the policy makers on the science behind the problem. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a treaty created and being implemented by many sovereign nations attempting to cooperate to confront climate change. They also continuously further their cooperation to create better governance through the Conference of the Parties (COP). Out of this international process, the Kyoto Protocol was created in attempt to legally require international participation and cooperation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. There is much speculation on whether or not the Kyoto Protocol was “successful”, however, it is an example of a potential base line for future legally mandated international cooperation. There has also been further and more voluntary cooperation on global climate change, specifically by developing counties, attempting reduce greenhouse gas emission, through the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMA). The fact that these actions were all voluntary and were not based on power play between nations implies that there is reasonable evidence that climate change can be regulated globally through continued mutual support and cooperation.

The efforts to govern climate change mitigation through a liberalist mentality have certainly been present in the last couple of decades. While the results have largely been nominal in actually preventing or lessening climate change, the fact that it is happening at all, and is building off of itself to continuously create better cooperation is promising. The prisoner’s dilemma for realists is a way of explaining how parties will inevitably act in their own self-interest, to assume the least consequences. However, the liberal interpretation ends in a scenario that is already playing out in the global action and negotiation of climate change. In this prisoners dilemma the results and ability to cooperate improve after each round of conversation and negotiation. The level of trust increases and the relationships strengthen; the process is one that builds off of itself to create improved cooperation each time. The evidence of the various international organizations and agreements suggest that this process of the prisoner’s dilemma is currently taking place. Realism is perhaps a more appropriate response when dealing with the consequences of climate change, while liberalism is better suited to create insights in how nations are attempting to solve climate change through international relations.


Work Cited:

Bova, Russell. How the world works a brief survey of international relations. New             York: Pearson Longman, 2010. Print.

Bulkeley, Harriet, and Peter Newell. Governing climate change. London: Routledge,             2010. Print.

Held, David, Charles Roger, and Eva-Maria Nag. Climate governance in the developing             world. Cambridge: Policy Press, 2013. Print.


A Change at Home

Over winter break last year I was on a hike in the hills around my home in San Rafael, California with my two siblings. It was in that space of time between Christmas and New Years and it was an incredible day; not a cloud in the sky and perfectly warm sunshine was hitting us. I have spent long mornings and afternoons throughout my life running and hiking in them, surrounded on either side by tall grasses and oak trees. When you get to the top you are guaranteed a particularly beautiful view of the Bay Area. You can see the Golden Gate Bridge and all the way to the financial district of San Francisco, the East Bay, the Headlands, and the beginnings of Napa.

We were taking a break near the top, gazing at our stunning surroundings. But instead of being comforted by the familiar sights I was on edge looking around. The grass should have be green this time of year but it was the color of straw, we hadn’t needed to jump the creek as we normally did in December; this was the landscape I knew as summertime not winter.

California is in the middle of the worst drought it has ever had on record. In parts of the state the ground has raised up to half an inch because water is no longer weighing it down. Just in the last few years the landscape of my home is being completely altered because of climate change.

I do not consider my self a scientist or even a scientist in the making. Nor have I ever really attempted to delve into the world of science aside from the mandatory classes in elementary through high school. However, in The Discovery of Global Warming, Spencer Weart lead his audience not just through the scientific milestones behind our current understanding of climate change but how other major historical events interacted and informed the blunt science. From the 1896 calculation that asserted global warming was possible through human emissions to the media coverage informing the public in the 80s. The fact is the weather has been changing since the beginning of the industrial revolution and it has been swift. However, we are reaching a point where the consequences are dire if action is not taken just as rapidly.

While reading this book I thought back to that moment with my siblings when I fully understood for the first time that climate change is not in the future, it is here. I also thought back to a poem by Donald Marquis entitled “What the Ants are Saying.” For me, one stanza sums up all the science I know and the personal experiences I have with climate change:

what man calls civilization

always results in deserts

man is never on the square

he uses up the fat and greenery of the earth

each generation wastes a little more

of the future with greed and lust for riches


Before And After: Statewide Drought Takes Toll On California's Lake Oroville Water Level

A New Narrative of Change

I come from an incredibly liberal household in a very progressive area of the country. So, growing up I was always very aware of climate change and what it might mean for my future. I was raised to care about environmental issues and taught to make the connections between them and other issues in society, politics and the economy from an early age. Coming from this background I was always shocked and put off to hear how the issue of climate change challenged by unbelieving Americans. Until reading Merchants of Doubt, my first reaction was to blame their own ignorance and be angry with what I perceived as their apathy. However, I have come to see a different side of the story, one in which they were instead misguided by people they trusted to have the facts. I am still stunned and outraged by the people who spread misinformation as a tool for their own personal agenda but it is unfair to always accuse the listener.

Earlier this summer I read a booklet entitled Organizing Cools the Planet: Tools and Reflections to Navigate the Climate Crisis, and in it I found a quote that resonated. It said that too often, “Activists assume that because something is true, it will be meaningful to the people [they are] trying to reach. But In fact, the opposite is often the case: if something is meaningful, people believe it to be true” (26).  The merchants of doubt in otherwise settled scientific matters were successful because they could tell a story that was easy to listen to and believe. However, going forward it is important for us, who know the facts, to give meaning to them in an accessible way. Climate change clearly cannot be tackled with only a handful of people and a few simple cures. The importance of giving the crisis a face and a narrative is crucial to create positive change, especially going forward into COP20.


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Seeds of Change: Sustainable Agriculture

Often when we hear the phrases “eat your greens” or “eating healthy” we do not make the connection with creating a “greener” planet or a healthy climate. Yet, in Diet for a Hot Planet, Anna Lappe makes it clear that our food is inextricably linked with climate change. So often in hearing and learning about the climate crisis on our doorstep (although perhaps now the metaphor should be in our kitchen) I am left with a poignant feeling of despair. I get the sense that the forces perpetuating climate change are too great, and the opposition too meager. However, this book illuminated the incredible potential of sustainable agriculture locked within an otherwise bleak portrait of the future. According to her the current food system is responsible for roughly one third of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. It is to blame for most of the nitrous oxide and methane emissions (two of the most damaging greenhouse gasses). Yet, through changing the way we farm, eat, and dispose of our food, agriculture could sequester roughly forty percent of all current emissions. Rarely, if ever, have I discovered such an obvious change that could make a significant impact on our future.

Personally, these are some of the most hopeful facts I have heard. Not only that, but it is a solution that I, and others within the Dickinson community, are already taking part in directly at the College Farm. Though the farm I have attended the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture conference where I saw the backstage of a movement that has been growing throughout America and abroad. It has been popping up in the form of local farmers markets, cooking in popular restaurants, and taking seed in the grocery aisles now dedicated to “organics.” There are websites devoted to grassroots fundraising for “green” farms, and organizations created to cultivate a herd of young farmers. Just in the past year at Dickinson I have had a direct relationship with sustainable farming, learning its possibilities, successes and promise.


Personally, what is most exciting about sustainable agriculture are it’s many intersections with so many other crucial issues in our society, offering solutions to them as well. What we eat and where it comes from crosses the field to impact many of the systemic health problems and issues of social justice we as a society face. Industrial agriculture relies on petroleum-based, toxic chemicals, synthetic fertilizers and is generally heavily processed (think corn syrup). Two of the leading causes of death in America, heart disease and diabetes, are directly correlated with eating poorly. The process of industrial agriculture also requires farm workers. These workers are habitually some of the most marginalized Americans, often immigrants, at incredibly high risk for cancers and other serious health threats because of the toxins they encounter daily.

Sustainability is not always accessible to Americans, but we have to eat food everyday. For many people it is hard to see the benefits of turning off the lights, taking shorter showers or riding public transportation but our relationship with food is crucial on a primal level, it literally comprises what we are. Sustainable agriculture is one of several key solutions necessary to slow and prevent climate change and it is one we can feel good about doing.