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Bidding farewell to DEMENA YCA in Egypt

Written by Merna Ghaly – National Climate Ambassador

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Like all good things, the DEMENA Climate Ambassadors programme has recently come to an end. I have not been part of this programme for long; to be honest I have not even been a climate activist for long, but for the brief period I have worked with these beautiful people of the DEMENA Climate Ambassadors programme, I’ve had some of the best experiences of my entire life, starting with my very first climate leadership workshop in June 2012, up to being a DEMENA representative in COP18 in Doha, till the very last workshop organised by the DEMENA team in collaboration with 350.org last March. Over the three year period of the programme, it has recruited –what I presume to be- over a hundred climate activists in Egypt alone. There could have never been an appropriate end to the programme, there could never be a bang loud enough to echo the change DEMENA has created in our community. A festival is the only thing that seemed to be somehow befitting to bring an end to this, but it could not be just a festival, it could not be just music and food, it had to be something bigger, it had to represent what we stand for, why we’re doing this, it had to be something that adds more to whomever attends than just a good time and this is exactly what the DEMENA Closing Climate Festival was.

On 16th of March, 1 week before Earth Hour, the festival came to life in one of the greenest  places in grey Cairo; Al-Azhar park. Though there was no huge turnout, but to quote a dear friend ‘Whoever shows up is the right person’ and the people who did show up were in fact the right people. A small crowd of very different backgrounds, very different cultures, very different interests that eventually revolves around the environment or the climate in some way, it’s because this magical combination of the right people that none of us could have planned that the festival did not end up to be a mere party, it was more of a cultural exchange or skill and info sharing, the amount of different information that we each left with at the end of the day was unbelievable, the atmosphere throughout the day itself was unbelievable.

The day started out with learning circles and workshops, with topics ranging from sustainable architecture, to composting, to climate policy. It was absolutely beautiful. I was watching from afar how people flowed from one topic to the next, how the groups constantly grew, how more and more people kept on joining in. I guess I would have to say that what I loved the most was the number of passerbys who joined in, dropping whatever they had planned for the day and joined in the discussions. Then as night fell, the music started to play and I have to admit I wasn’t at all expecting the goose bumps that followed with the performance of one of Egypt’s finest ‘Zap Tharwat’ and that is when the true crowds started to rush in and then right there and then on stage for the big finale, one of Egypt’s few 90s bands reunited and the crowd went crazy.

To be perfectly honest, the festival was not what I had initially imagined it to be, it was something entirely different, it was something much better, it had the diversity it deserved, it had the exact number of people it needed, any more would have been too much, any less would have been too little. So in a weird unexpected way the festival was everything it needed to be, it was more than any of us could have imagined it to be. It was perfect.

 

 

 

 

The Big Splash!

Written by Amena Adel – International Youth Climate Ambassador

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We had the last DEMENA climate workshop in the beginning of March. The workshop was a compilation of all the experiences and the networks we had gained during out experience as DEMENA Climate Ambassadors, which is a lot. What was special about this one is that it had the best out of everything; the best venue, the best participants and the best facilitators.

Workshops would normally include sessions about Transportation, Agriculture, climate challenges, campaigning, leadership skills and solutions. The workshop was conducted in OASIS Community Club and Activity Center, which is a beautiful place, built using sustainable Architecture and building methods. It also experiments a lot with solar panels and –to my joy- some barn animals.

This workshop had two extra tracks, environmental justice and climate policy. Reem Labib and Mika Minio-Paluello from the Egyptian Initiative or Personal Rights (EIPR) delivered a session showing the social impacts of environmentally harmful practices on small local communities. They also discussed with the participants people’s rights to a clean Environment and a healthy way of living that would not result in today’s epidemics and global injustices.

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The second track is Policy, which was delivered by Isabel Bottoms, English researcher and environmentalist, and Mostafa Medhat, Egyptian Environmentalist and AYCM coordinator. They explained to the participants all about the UNFCCC process, adaptation, and mitigation, where Egypt stands, and what future steps we can take to change the decisions that are being made to a more favorable position.

All in all, it was a very beneficial workshop, to the organizers as much as the participants. Now, what really made this one special is the fact that it ended with a splash when Rana and Merna the climate ambassadors jumped in the pool fully dressed!

Climate Change Debate in Copenhagen

At the end of Climate Ambassador project I got invitation to give small Speech in Interesting Environmental debate in Copenhagen about my experience as Climate Ambassador and It was a great a chance to mention our achievements during the last  2 years and actually  We succeeded to Inspire many young people to join us and Act in a positive way to make A sustainable green Egypt .

I know It will take more time to make something big but we started from small idea and Now we are seeking to make the real Change

Watch the speech from here :
Climate Ambassador Speech in Denmark 

 

Thank you  Maja Giannoccaro

Coming home from COP18

Written by Merna Ghaly – National Youth Climate Ambassador

 

I come home from COP18 with utter disappointment, nothing achieved, nothing done.

A Doha fail if I might say, a text so ridiculous, might have been better off with no text at all. Islands endangered,millions threatened and lives at stake. USA, European Union, Russia, Canada and New Zealand have failed these negotiations, the Doha fail is on them. They have truly failed millions.

The text lacked ambition, science calls for 1.5° C while the text aims for 2°C, while in reality we’re heading towards 4°C. None of the high emitters put in realistic Carbon emission targets; some even put targets so ridiculous they could have simply not say anything at all (need I mention Australia’s 0.5% emission reduction target?). When it comes to finance, the Green Climate Fund is as empty as the bank account of a college student, filled with promises of money to come sometime in the distant future and
receipts of money already spent. Yet the Doha negotiations are being celebrated as a success by many,which still does not make any sense to me.

I have seen people cry because of the decisions made in Doha, I have seen people unsure if they would have a future, I have seen utter frustration, I have seen friends losing hope and that is not okay. I am not okay with that, in fact I am very angry, climate change has become personal now, I have to admit before COP I had never felt the impacts of climate change, but now I have seen firsthand what climate change can do, I now have to worry whether I will be seeing some of my friends again or not or whether they will be climate refugees or not.

I am comforted by one thought though, that I am not the only one, an entire generation has been angered and I can promise that the fight will be stronger, we will push harder, we will keep on going until we change climate change and we will not give up on our red lines. Political leaders might have lost the will, they might have lost their humanity, but we haven’t. We never will. We will change this world whether they chose to be part of the change or not. In fact, we already have. We have overthrown dictators, we have changed regimes, we have broken the barriers of fear, we have spoken out and we will continue to do so.

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You can watch Merna’s passionate defense for the climate cause during the “100 million youth in MENA” side event here and her speech on behalf of the Coalition of Youth NGOs (YOUNGO) here

 

“Auto-Peace” to the rescue!

Written by Omar Rabie – DEMENA Innovation Cup Winner

Four years ago I read an article about a critical issue we face in Egypt:  We have reached over 2.5 million cars just inside Cairo, in a city with roads designed to accommodate just 500,000 cars! The issues of resulting air pollution, traffic jams, wasted time, and inefficiency in all aspects of life have always concerned me, but I never knew where or how to start..

Until a couple of months ago I received an invitation from a friend of mine to apply for the DEMENA Innovation Cup, held in partnership with ICE Cairo. I applied and on the first day of the camp I was just amazed, I spent what I could call 3 days of changing perceptions, opening up my mind to whole new things, meeting diverse people, and attending workshops. Everything was just amazing; the camp was focused on overcoming challenges in three main sectors: environment, agriculture and transportation. And the innovation begun!

Brainstorming on innovative solutions to the top three challenges in Egypt was no easy task. Only when Innovation Cup mentor Jay Cousins surprised us with his magic question did my group and I start pitching ideas. “What do you hate the most?”, he asked us, “and make it more positive”. The answer was simply “wasting time in commutes”. And that was the spark for a Double-Decker bus idea. With this bus you can make use of your time efficiently, enjoy the travel with a good book or a newspaper from the small library, while having your coffee, listening to music, sitting in a very comfy seat, not to mention the option to charge your phone using a solar cell panel.

Our initiative is about changing a community perspective towards public transportation. Hence, instead of increasing the roads and tunnels, we can replace 60 private cars with only one Double Decker “Auto-Peace”. Not only will this solve the traffic jam and reduce wasted time, but also decrease carbon dioxide emissions of private cars-cutting down over 9480 gm/km of carbon dioxide. We’re also looking to cut expenditures, as with this bus one can spend just $1 on the bus ticket instead of spending an average of $3/day on fuel for cars regardless of the operational cost, so with this project will be increasing the air quality, finding a cost efficient solution, affecting the community socially, economically and environmentally

Our first step will be building a prototype for the bus. Eventually, this will lead us to apply all these features on the double-decker bus. Later on spreading it all over Egypt’s cities, increasing people efficiency, reaching a smooth traffic, and fresh air

Reviving agriculture, 10,000 gardens at a time!

Written by Amena Adel – International Youth Climate Ambassador

 

In late January 2013, Nawaya, DEMENA and 350 Cairo came together to restore the culture of agriculture in Egypt. With the river Nile streaming through its land, Egypt has been an agricultural land for centuries. Urbanization has taken a toll on the land, between building on agricultural land and farmers deserting their lands, Egypt has not only lost a huge part of its culture, but has also suffered from food insufficiency and economic crises.

Nawaya has been working on sustainable agriculture for a long time in Egypt and is now a part of the 10,000 gardens in Africa. The 10,000 gardens in Africa project is a Slow Food initiative which aims to revive the culture of agriculture as well as encourage food dependency and revitalizing the economy of small communities. Gardens have already started in schools around Africa, and it’s high time they start in Egypt.

Agriculture enthusiasts join Nawaya’s staff in an introduction to sustainable agriculture in Fagnoon. On the first day they learned about permaculture, its ethics and values and different techniques of garden design. They also practically experimented with various techniques like the 18-day compost, nurseries, herbal spirals and growing beds around the field. And on the second day, they experimented with the urban techniques of agriculture. They started out with making home composting like bucket composting, also using old plastic bottles for growing and bag gardening. Participants are excited about taking their knowledge and spreading them in schools around Egypt, and hopefully revive the long-lost culture of growing our own food.

Communicating Climate Change in Fayoum

Written by Amena Adel – International Youth Climate Ambassador

On January the 3rd 2013, 18 media enthusiasts from all over Egypt came together in Zad Al Musafer in Tunis- Fayoum to explore possibilities of communicating climate knowledge. From Sinai in the east to Alexandria in the west, and from governorates all over Egypt, they had each experienced the indirect and in some cases the direct impacts of climate change. With the help of Frank Thor Straten, Danish media and communication consultant, Mostafa Hussein, trainer in the field of Environmental professions, the Egyptian DEMENA team and 350.org volunteers, they went through a 3-day workshop to sculpt their skills and utilize them to encourage citizen journalism on Climate Change.
The global climatic crisis is the most demanding issue facing humanity in this era of environmental oblivion, and that’s why there’s a need for strong Media products communicating the issue, the ramifications, the consequences and the solutions.

Egypt is one of the countries most vulnerable to Climate Change, even though the river Nile passes through Egypt, in a lot of places water is an extremely scarce resource. Egypt’s share of the river Nile water has been 55 million cubic meters since 1995, which wasn’t enough for the entire population then, and it sure is not enough now that the population tripled. Add to that rising water levels of salty sea water submerging parts of the Nile Delta, and salinating massive parts of agricultural land and submerging parts of the coastal cities. Other than water issues, Egypt faces a lot of health challenges as a result of deteriorating air and water quality and escalating energy insufficiency issues.

The current political and economic scene in Egypt is very turbulent, which gives very little space for climate change and environmental issues in the public arena. But if we fail to draw the connection between environmental issues and economic issues then we fail to solve either problem, Egypt has recently changed from a gas exporting to a gas importing company, which will take an incredible toll on the national economy and clearly shows that our dependency on conventional energy resources no longer works.

There’s a grave need for localized climate solutions in Egypt including spreading environmental awareness, which pushed for having a Media workshop, and Fayoum was the best place to do it. Fayoum is an Agricultural governorate overlooking Qaroun Lake, a salt water lake. An extremely peaceful Tunis city in Fayoum was definitely an inspirational and resourceful place to hold a workshop to spread the word about environmental problems in Egypt. Participants went through a 3-day training and brainstorming to come up with the best topics to tackle and the methods to tackle them with, and here’s what they came up with!

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXyKx0QiGOLSUYGVDvvu1E0qZYGMkzFCj

The enormity of the problem makes it surprising how simple the solutions are. Mobilizing local communities towards a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways of living would soon enough change national tactics. And what is the world but a community?

1000 Gardens Workshop with DEMENA

Written by Nour Khalil – DEMENA Egyptian National Ambassadors

 This was a workshop I attended as a volunteer for DEMENA, it was hosted by Nawaya at the remote “Fagnoun”, however the area fit the bill exactly with its clean water and stretches of surrounding agricultural land. At the start of the workshop, everyone introduced themselves briefly and I was struck with how varied our backgrounds were. There were teachers and agricultural experts from Fayoum, members of other environmental organizations in Cairo and simply interested individuals with no special affiliations.

After the usual ice-breaker phase, we were introduced to Slow Food and the 1000 Gardens Project aiming “to create a thousand food gardens in schools, villages and on the outskirts of cities in 25 African countries.” As well as permaculture. I will be using a few quotes here to illustrate as well as humbly recognize that I am still “green” at all this stuff…see what I did there? Can’t blame me for trying. Slow Food, the organization that initiated the project is “a global, grassroots organization with supporters in 150 countries around the world who are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment” Needless to say; they had me at “pleasure of good food”.  Egypt is sadly the African country with the least gardens so far:http://www.slowfood.com/international/1/about-us?-session=query_session:29ED6F83189683665Ckt1D9889FA

Moving on to the elements of Permaculture:  “Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”Graham Bell, from The Permaculture Way. The way permaculture is often explained to me is the picture of a forest, the way layers upon layers of earth and canopy and organisms co-exist so that life naturally grows.

We discussed a basic permaculture plan: according to the following criteria

  • What is usable? what is biodegradable and what isn’t?
  • What is available on location?
  • What is the sunlight’s location and direction? What is the wind direction?
  • Are there any “plant buddies” that will help this plant grow? Like plants that can grow on top of each other: corn, mellon and green beans.

General notes to remember: careful that the soil contains essential nutrients, N, P, C and K by having the appropriate organic matter as fertilizer.

To test for soil type use this test: fill a jar with the soil with 2/3 water, shake it and let it precipitate into layers with sand being the heaviest type staying at the bottom of the jar

The rest of the workshop was devoted to rooftop garden methods, and composting methods

In boxes, padded with plastic with small drainage tubes, cloth under seeds, rocks to provide air between seeds and soil. Cover with organic matter to prevent excess evaporation.

The model my group worked on; I thought it was easy enough to do just about anywhere, vertical plastic bottles, can be strapped to wooden board in kitchen with wire.

  • Seeds and soil, cover with organic matter to prevent excess evaporation.
  • Plastic mineral water bottle growing: as in picture, strapped to wooden board with wire, holes made with cutter
  • Compost soil and rice straw for cover against evaporation. Seeds placed from top to bottom according to least needing water, to most needing water at bottom.

Directions for 18-day compost:

  • 18 day compost: tree leaves is the first layer to allow water, carbon on bottom: fallen leaves or rice straw,
  • Saplings, animal droppings, green plants. 3 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Covered with rice paper, the
  • measure temp in a few days 70 degrees Celsius, then the heart is brought up to the top in another 2 days,
  • Repeat each two days till 18 days completion.

There you have it! I went home sore but with a delicious smelling sapling of thyme and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Plus the packs of seeds we got in our packs should come in handy soon if I have anything to say about it. My neighborhood better be ready…or at least not slam the door in my face upon hearing prospects of more work.

 

Original post can be viewed here: http://puddleofcats.tumblr.com/post/33183424139/1000-gardens-workshop-with-demena

Crossing Borders Global Studies: An Experience

Written by Rana ElMeligy – DEMENA Youth Climate Ambassador

 

I am lying down on my back, eyes closed, breeze gently going back and forth.  I think to myself how I never imagined or planned on being in this place at this time, or ever really. I am on top of a green hill, by the sea, in Samso- the model island of renewable energy-Denmark.

Spending five months in Denmark attending the Crossing Borders Global Studies program in Krogerup Hojskole is an experience I will never forget. The combination of time-off from the conventional life, and being away in a little town in Denmark, mixed with a fantastic combination of diverse students and teachers, all resulted in me living a very memorable time. It was in Krogerup when I usually had the peace of mind to sit down and write down my thoughts, usually by a beautiful tree or in the cozy fireplace room. It was in Krogerup that I engaged in endless discussions about religion, politics, feminism, culture, and so much more. Why is that? Were the students luckily extremely well educated and sophisticated young minds? Well, they were, but this is not the reason. When a group of people are put together in one place, encouraged to interact, socialize, coexist, discover, bridge the gaps, party, study together, great things happen. For me, I found myself in a setting different than any other setting I have been in before. It was very international, yet very traditional Danish. I was so different, yet I had no trouble blending in at times, and showing my uniqueness at others. I reached a whole new level of tolerance and acceptance of differences, and I am happy that I made this happen for other people as well.

Something that strongly characterizes Krogerup is that nothing stays in the classroom, or just the classroom. While the classroom is a space for expression, creativity, debates and a constant exchange of thoughts and opinions, dreams and aspirations, plans and experiences, these can take place anywhere, anytime, with anyone.  It was quite normal for me to indulge in an interesting conversation about the Arab Spring at 2 a.m. in the Portuguese kitchen.

It is rare to find yourself in a place that is so busy, enriching, challenging, yet provides you the opportunity to grow, discover yourself, and pushes you to go crazy with your future plans! I still remember how odd the term ‘global citizen’ sounded to me the first day in the CB classroom, and I look at how much meaning has been added to it now as I write this. I hope I go back there one day, possibly for the reunion of my class of twenty different nationalities.


The meeting in Doha came across a sandstorm!

“The Doha COP caravan is lost in a sandstorm. There is not enough ambition here,” said Ronny Jumeau, ambassador on climate change for the Seychelles, representing the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).“We can’t be in a situation a few years from now where some countries say economic circumstances prevent them from meeting their pledges,” Jumeau said at a press briefing.


The long expected climate meeting in Doha did not bring any proper solution on how to lower the carbon footprint and how to assign finances to help the less developed economies to protect themselves against the rising sea levels, storms, droughts and other damaging climate change impacts.

It seems that many of the governments have a short-term memory loss. Only $23.6bn of the promised in 2009 $100bn for a Green Climate Fund has so far been delivered ahead of a deadline at the end of this year. This so-called “fast-start finance” was meant to kick-start global climate funding efforts. However, according to the International Institute for Environment and Development, the majority of fast-start finance has come in the form of loans, which poorer countries will have to repay with interest. This jeopardizes the whole idea of such a fund…

The UK committed a further £1.5bn of finance yesterday, and while more is expected to come from European countries, the UK’s pledge is currently the only formal post-2012 funding commitment to be made at the negotiations.

The US, which has mobilised about $7.5bn over the past three years, has yet to state what it will commit from next year, although senior officials have indicated new funding will be delivered. “We have every intention to continue pressing forward with funding of that same kind of level, to the greatest extent that we can,” Todd Stern, the senior State Department diplomat at the talks, said at a briefing.

So far, only the EU and Australia have agreed to new carbon commitments, leaving 85 per cent of the world’s emissions – including the planet’s biggest polluters, China and the US – outside a new deal aimed at keeping global average temperature rise below 2ºC. Russia is also thought to be backing away from the 25 per cent emissions reduction target it announced at the Rio +20 conference over the summer towards a range of 15 per cent and 25 per cent.

 

The finances were the core of the problem in the summit. The “rich” countries are in a self-inflicted monetary and fiscal mess, the “developing” countries are still developing and are not willing to share even a tiny bit of their GDP for a Green Climate Fund and the “poor” countries cannot change the status quo simply because they lack the finances…

Barbara Kux, a member of the Board at Siemens and its Chief Sustainability Officer, said, “Finance is not the bottleneck, technology is not the bottleneck, businesses are not the bottleneck. There is one bottleneck and that’s policy.”



THE BIG MISSING on the discussion table – food insecurity!

Qatar may be one of the richest countries in the world, but it has something in common with its African counterparts – food insecurity. This Middle-Eastern oil-producing nation imports 90 percent of its food because it is a dryland country.

Climate Analytics, along with Germany’s Pik Potsdam Institute, prepared the World Bank report “Turn Down the Heat” that warns many parts of the world won’t be able to grow food if global temperatures rise by four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

The report also warns humanity is on the path to a four-degree-C world, a world with unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods, with serious impacts on ecosystems and agriculture.

A four-degree-warmer C world means an average of four to 10 degrees warming over land, too warm for many crucial food crops. Large parts of Africa, China, India, Mexico and the southern United States will suffer declines for that reason, said Schaeffer. There will also be significant changes in rainfall patters and higher evaporation levels.

 

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