Wed 27 Jun 2012
OK folks, yesterday I pointed to my friend Keith Bratton’s kickstarter effort to fund a photodocumentary study of the impacts of climate change on life in Ghana’s Central Region. Please go to the page and check it out – Keith is a great photographer, and will produce really stunning stuff (some of which you can have, for a very low pledge!). He’s crawling toward what he needs for the project, so all donations are important.
But to up the ante, I want to point out another “reward” option that Keith is now putting up. The case he wants to document is a fantastic example of the complex challenge that climate change presents to the achievement of development goals – it raises issues of cross-sectoral work, the connections between people and the natural world, and how climate change creates unexpected challenges that, if unaddressed, can compromise the things you are focusing on. It is, in short, a perfect case from which we can learn about why we must integrate climate sensitivity into development work, and the ways in which such sensitivity makes us “think differently” about development.
To whet your appetite, an example from my own work in Ghana that I talk about in my public speaking on the book: in 2005, I suddenly noticed that there were flocks of toucans flying around the villages in which I had been working from some 8 years. I had never seen toucans before, and their sudden presence puzzled me. It took me a while to piece together what was going on – you see, the Gulf of Guinea large marine ecosystem has been collapsing due to an intersection of overfishing (itself driven by a combination of local overfishing to feed a growing population, and the presence of large international trawlers overfishing the territorial waters of Ghana and other countries, largely with impunity) and climate change (which has changed the upwellings of cold water in July-September and December such that there are fewer fish riding those upwellings into the local fisheries). With less fish to eat, communities in the coastal hinterland had started hunting aggressively, wiping out most terrestrial animals in the process – along with them, rodents…who must have eaten toucan eggs. Hence the explosion of toucans, who are likely wiping out some other species they like to eat, etc., etc.. The toucan is just a manifestation of a complex ecological change taking place along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea that is poorly understood, but presenting real challenges for people’s food security and incomes. Achieving development goals in this region, then, requires understanding climate change and its impacts, as well as the complex and seemingly-distant outcomes of these impacts.
That is a remarkably simplified version of what I see happening in Ghana – and it can be told more eloquently, and with more grounding in the human experience of these changes, in the work Keith proposes. So, beyond seeing him work toward publishing this important story, I have suggested to him that he offer, at the $1000 pledge level, to put together a training module for your organization, using his pictures and findings, to help train your people up on the importance of climate change to development, and on how to think about climate change in the context of development. Further, because I believe in Keith’s project but lack the wherewithal to back it out of my own pocket, I have offered to work with Keith to build this module should anyone order it. So, in return for supporting Keith’s work, you get his photos and experiences, as well as my expertise – 14 years in university classrooms, over two years of living in villages in sub-Saharan Africa, lots of refereed publications addressing the climate change/development connection, and work on the donor side examining the climate change/development connection – all wrapped up in a training module that you can plug in to your own training program.
For those of you outside the development implementation world, this might seem like an insanely high price – but everyone in that world knows that this is a steal. Were I a training consultant, I would be charging an order of magnitude more for such a service, at least. And my illustrations would not be as nice as what you will get from Keith. Again, Keith will produce the module, and I will help him do it – but I will not be paid to do this. I have no financial stake in this project at all. This is my in-kind backing of what I think is a significant project. So if your organization needs the training, here is a great opportunity.