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GEP News and Notes

September, 2014


Professor Paul Wapner wrote a letter to the editor of The Chronicle in response to a recent article about fossil-fuel divestment, written by Pomona College President David Oxtoby. His response was published on September 24, with links to the original article.

On September 16, Judith Shapiro was quoted in the McClatchyDC article, Chinese increasingly protest projects that threaten environment

Eric Abitbol and Ken Conca, traveled with seven students to Israel and the Palestinian West Bank for a research project evaluating the environmental peacebuilding significance of cooperative household-level wastewater treatment systems. Kristine Smith wrote in SIS News about the team and their work, Students Explore Water and Cooperation in the Middle East 

Judith Shapiro spoke on September 11 in Tampa, Florida, at the Museum of Fine Arts, in conjunction with an art exhibition My Generation: Young Chinese Artists. Prof. Shapiro spoke on environmental degradation and the role of the visual image in environmental activism in China:

On September 5, Judith Shapiro spoke at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars on Environmental Filmmaking in China as part of the DC Chinese Film Festival. The event was recorded for broadcast on Voice of America's Mandarin service.



August, 2014

On August 8, Professor Judith Shapiro (GEP) gave the keynote address to the Mid-Maine Global Forum, a community-based foreign policy group, at Colby College. She spoke on China's Environmental Challenges. Her talk was recorded for broadcast to Maine Public Radio.

July, 2014

On July 25, Professor Judith Shapiro joined Voice of America's "China Focus" roundtable discussion on water scarcity in China. Listen to the entire episode here on Voice of America

June, 2014

USFP alumnus and Judith Shapiro advisee Charles Kilby published his Boren fellowship research on China's rare earths minerals in the Summer 2014 issue of China Quarterly. Read the full article here

May, 2014

SIS Student Awards

Joe Thwaites (GEP '14) received the School of International Service's Mahmoud Hamid award for Excellence in Global Environmental Politics

SIS Faculty Awards

Congratulations to Assistant Professor Sikina Jinnah for receiving the William Cromwell Award for Outstanding Teaching! 

All SIS Faculty Awards are listed here

International Financial Flows and the Environment

Team Shougang in Marcona

Team Shougang in Marcona

In the spring of 2014, twelve Master’s students traveled to Peru to conduct field research and interviews on mining by Chinese corporations. This practicum project was sponsored by the GEP program in collaboration with the World Resources Institute’s “International Financial Flows and the Environment” program with the intention of encouraging China to adopt stronger environmental and social policies in its overseas investments.

The students researched case studies of best and worst examples of Chinese investments in Peru's mining sector. The team presented its findings to the World Resources Institute on May 5th. You can see the full report here.

Congratulations to the Class of 2014!


On May 10, the Global Environmental Policy and International Affairs/Natural Resources and Sustainable Development classes received their diplomas. Oh, the places you'll go!


Student Research Presentations

This has been a busy month for student research! GEP's Practicum Research Teams, which conduct a semester-long research project in partnership with a professional organization active in the environmental field, presented their research findings to their client organizations. Students develop the focus of the research in consultation with the partner, design and execute the work, and write an integrated, publication-quality report. Some projects involve local or international field research and/or travel. Students presented on the following topics this month:

Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility: Extractive Industries in Latin America. The team presented its findings to client organization World Resources Institute on May 5th. The project is intended to encourage China to adopt stronger environmental and social policies in its overseas investments. Students research on case studies of best and worst examples of Chinese investments in Peru's mining sector.

The Environmental and Social Implications of AU's Carbon Offsets Purchases. As part of AU’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2020, the university has entered into a carbon-offset agreement with the non-profit organization Pax Natura, involving forest preservation and carbon sequestration in Costa Rica. Students assessed the environmental and social impacts of AU’s carbon offsets investment, and presented their findings to the American University Office of Sustainability.

U.S. Farm Bill: Agricultural Policy for (Inter)-National Social and Ecological Resilience. In partnership with the Rural Coalition and National Family Farm Coalition, students created an online toolkit to assist efforts by grassroots organizations to reform the next farm bill in the direction of equitable and sustainable agriculture, and identified, evaluated, and compared different policy options related to land access for small and beginning farmers, food aid reform, and crop insurance. 

Individual Substantial Research Papers: Several students conducted independent research, which they presented at the School of International Service on April 29th:

  • Sam Goodman (NRSD '14) presented his research on The Role of NGOs in Mitigating the Impact of the Interoceanic Highway in the Peruvian Amazon.
  • Greg Alvarez (GEP '14) presented his theoretical work on Communicating Climate Change: Convincing the Skeptics and Motivating the Lackadaisical Believers. 
  • Akosua Dosu (GEP '14) presented her work on Assessing State Level Preparedness for Energy Conservation Building Code: Implementation in India. 
  • Hari Swaminathan (NRSD '14) presented his research on Marine Protected Areas in Maio, Cape Verde: Challenges and Opportunities.



April, 2014

Dr. Shapiro Lectures at Harvard's Center for Chinese Studies

Prof. Judith Shapiro lectured on China's environmental challenges at Harvard University's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies on Friday, April 4, 2014. This was the final lecture of a series on China and the environment.

Prof. Nicholson on HuffPost Live

Can we reverse the damage done to the earth? Professor Simon Nicholson spoke on a panel segment discussing the topic of geoengineering on HuffPost Live this week. Dr. Nicholson is a co-founder of the Washington Geoengineering Consortium.  Watch the segment here.

Alumni News

GEP alum Tim Kovach ('13) has published an article entitled "Not There Yet: Burma’s Fragile Ecosystems Show Challenges for Continued Progress" in the online news site New Security Beat. The article discusses the potential threats that peace and international engagement pose to the environment in Burma. Read the full article here.


Dr. Graddy-Lovelace to Present Research in International Forum

Dr. Garrett Graddy-Lovelace will present her research and analysis of the US Farm Bill at the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy's transatlantic meeting in Bellagio, Italy this month. The meeting, which is a gathering of ag-policy scholars from the United States and Europe, will culminate in a peer-reviewed article, a public-audience article, and a white paper for agricultural policy-makers.

Dr. Shapiro: Citizen Participation in Water Quality Monitoring "Powerful"

Professor Judith Shapiro was quoted in a story from Bloomberg News this week.

Bloomberg reported that China's fourth-richest man, Jack Ma, has asked the public to help map water quality across China by purchasing water quality kits from his company for "as little as 65 yuan ($10)" and uploading the data via smartphone.

The environmental problems in China are well-known, and are estimated to have cost the country 1.5 trillion yuan, or 3.5% of GNP in 2010, and are the largest source of unrest in China. It is estimated that 10% of China's biggest river basins are severely polluted.

Dr. Shapiro sees the plan as indicative of prior government approval: "They must have some kind of confidence from the central government that this is going to be OK for them to do,” she said.

“The message that it gets out to the Chinese people is, ‘Yes, you can measure this stuff, you have the right to find out what’s in your water, what’s in your air,’ and that you have the right to ask your government to do something about it,” said Dr. Shapiro, author of “China’s Environmental Challenges." "That’s a very powerful message.”

Read the whole story here.

GEP Represents at Int'l Studies Conference

GEP was well represented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association in Toronto. Paper presentations and other activities included the following:

Dr. Garret Graddy presented the paper “Seeds, Space, and Power: Geographies of Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation and the Politics of Scale.”

Dr. Simon Nicholson presented the paper “Food Sovereignty: Tracking a Narrative from South to North” and chaired a pair of panels on “New Earth Politics,” featuring several authors contributing to a book being co-edited by Simon Nicholson and Sikina Jinnah. The panels included presentations by Paul Wapner and Ken Conca.

Dr. Paul Wapner participated in roundtables on “How, then, Shall We Live in the Anthropocene?” and “Intergenerational Global Ethics.” He also chaired the panel “Reimagining Climate Change.”

Dr. Eric Abitbol participated in the roundtable on “Paradigms for Knowledge Creation and Action in Peacebuilding.”

Dr. Ken Conca participated in a roundtable on the work of Peter Haas, who is best known for his work on the concept of “epistemic communities.” Ken also presented Haas with the Distinguished Scholar Award of ISA’s Environmental Studies Section, and served as discussant for the panel “Environmental Security Revisited: New Theoretical and Empirical Challenges.”

Doctoral student Abby Lindsay presented a paper co-authored with Dr.Sikina Jinnah entitled “Evaluating NAFTA’s Environmental Impact at 20.”

Doctoral student Anne Kantel presented the paper “Beyond Cooperation? Institutional Interplay in International Rivers.”

March, 2014

Alternative Spring Break: AU Students head for the Cornbelt!

AU Dominates Sustainability Rankings

American University has been ranked a top green campus by, which provides reviews and rankings of colleges and universities globally. The study ranked AU third out of 1,366 institutions based on indicators including the number of LEED-certified facilities and sustainability initiatives, as well as reviews, polls and statistics on the subject. Find the complete list here. 

AU has also been listed on the Princeton Review’s 2014 Green Honor Roll, which tallied green ratings scores for 832 universities. AU, with 22 other universities, achieved the highest possible score for sustainability indicators. 

The School of International Service is a particular standout on campus, boasting a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification. Learn more about the building specs here.

These achievements have been made possible through policies coordinated by the AU Office of Sustainability, which strives to reduce AU’s environmental impact in a variety of areas, including waste reduction, greenhouse gas emissions, and others. You can learn more about AU’s sustainability initiatives here.

Geoengineering: Coming Soon to a Planet Near You

On March 12, Dr. Simon Nicholson gave a talk entitled "Climate Geoengineering: Coming Soon to a Planet Near You" at Yale-NUS in Singapore. 

Dr. Nicholson is one of the founding members of the Washington Geoengineering Consortium, which is analyzing the  growing pressure for, and costs and benefits of, massive technological interventions to deal with climate change.  These interventions include space mirrors, seeding the stratosphere with sulfur particles, and “Albedo yachts.”

Dr. Shapiro Gives Talk in Peru


Dr. Shapiro speaks in Lima, Peru on China's Environmental Challenges

Dr. Judith Shapiro delivered a talk on China's Environmental Challenges in Lima, Peru, on March 12, 2014. The co-sponsors for the talk were WWF-Peru and the Ministry of the Environment. Also on the panel were Tao Hu, head of WWF-China, Ernesto Raez, advisor to the Minister of the Environment, and Juan Carlos Rivera, Director of Conservation for WWF-Peru.

AU Team Squashes the Boss, Competes for Prize Money

GEP alumna Josephine Chu ('13) is working with a team of current AU undergraduate students, including Griffin Tanner (SIS '17), Meagan Lyle (SIS '14), Sam Bellavance (Kogod '16), as well as DC community member John Brittell to establish a food enterprise ecosystem where farmers, food preparers, and eaters can communicate and collaborate together. Using the knowledge and research they have gathered from diverse academic backgrounds and work experiences, the group identified unsettling inequalities that fragment our food system, causing environmental degradation, excessive waste, poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

In response, the group is proposing a new model that allows for transparency, collaboration and communication between food actors. Squash the Boss Kitchen (SBK) aims to develop local economies and communities around local food. SBK is a cooperatively-owned shared commercial kitchen located in Washington D.C.. For a monthly fee, business startups become member-owners, receiving access to a licensed commercial kitchen and a vote in the decision making process of SBK. Bridging the gap between small business and local farmers, SBK provides reliable year-long access to local and healthy produce to each member. By centralizing businesses to one location (SBK), a large demand is concentrated, allowing farmers to supply a greater quantity of goods per trip, creating more cost-effective distribution and allowing the farmer to sell at lower wholesale prices. Auxiliary services provided by SBK, such as cooking and educational classes, instill value in local agriculture and business throughout surrounding communities. Thus, SBK connects all aspects of the industry - the producer, preparer, and consumer - creating a food enterprise ecosystem that fosters strong relationships and responsible outgrowth.

Squash the Boss has made it to the final round of the Agricultural Innovation Prize Competition. They will compete with 30 other teams for a $100,000 start-up prize. In addition, they have the opportunity to win the "Audience Choice" award for $15,000 just by receiving the most Facebook Votes. Support AU's team by clicking here!

Drones for Conservation?

Professor Ken Conca was quoted in a recent Smithsonian article which explores the use of drones for monitoring conservation areas. 

"Using militarized means to lock down the perimeters of parks and escalate firefights with poachers will do little good by itself," says Ken Conca, director of the global environmental politics program at American University. "It may also divert emphasis and funding from the most important tasks, and deepen tensions with local communities that are already skeptical about the benefits of conservation."

The full article can be found here.

February, 2014

Need a China air-pollution expert? Call Dr. Judith Shapiro

Professor Judith Shapiro, an expert on China, particularly with regard to environmental issues, has been interviewed multiple times this month on the subject of air pollution. First, she was interviewed on WBEZ Chicago's Worldview about China's intense air pollution on February 17; this week she was quoted in a article on the subject. "This is a global crisis," Shapiro said. "China needs all the help it can get to deal with this problem, rather than being blamed...This is a tremendously sad situation. China is a beautiful country beneath that smog."

January, 2014

Alumni News:

GEP Alumni Promoted

Global Environmental Policy MA alumnus Tianjie (Steven) Ma ('09) has been promoted to Program Director of Greenpeace-Asia's mainland China operation, overseeing five campaign issues including Food & Agriculture, Toxics, Forests, Oceans and Climate Change. He is quoted (twice) in a December 31 New York Times front page article:

NRSD Alum Publication

NRSD Alumnus Aaron Sutch ('11) has co-authored a report for the Mountain Institute. The report, "Using Solar PV to Create Economic Opportunity and Energy Diversity in West Virginia," outlines potential economic and energy diversity benefits a thriving solar industry would bring the state of West Virginia and gives policy recommendations to facilitate industry growth. The report is the first to address the policy and perception barriers holding back the solar industry in the Mountain State.

West Virginia has a disproportionately large effect on national climate change efforts (due to the coal industry and representatives in Washington who block climate change action), but also a great potential to influence change; a recent Carnegie Mellon study shows that solar panels utilized in West Virginia have greater public health and environmental benefits via the displacement of dirty energy than in nearly any other state. The paper suggests that structural changes are required to address corporate ability to privatize profits while socializing costs, and outlines the potential for renewable energy technologies to create jobs in extraction-based economies.

Publication by GEP Alumni

GEP Alumnus Jonathan Ludwig ('13) has published an article on the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. His article, "Is Effective Governance Still Possible? How LEED is Maintaining its Authority and Influence in the Market--For Now" appears in the December issue of Environmental Design + Construction Magazine. The article explores the influence of the LEED system on the building industry. Click here to view the article.

Faculty Book Release: Secretariat Influence in Global Environmental Governance

Dr. Sikina Jinnah's new book to be released in Fall 2014 by MIT Press

The book, Secretariat Influence in Global Environmental Governance, by GEP Professor Dr. Sikina Jinnah, explains how and when international bureaucracies, or secretariats, influence international environmental politics and discusses the positive and negative implications of such influence. It builds a theory of secretariat influence and demonstrates, through four case studies, that secretariats influence politics when they shape power relations between states. Specifically, the book argues that secretariats change power relations by defining governance architectures/institutions, altering relationships by redistributing capabilities, and shaping shared norms and ideas. The book argues that such influence matters to the extent that it impacts equity dynamics in international affairs, and results in a path-dependent dynamic that guides state behavior over time, even after secretariat influence has waned.

The book explores secretariat influence through the lens of overlap between international regimes, and the role of secretariats in managing this overlap. Overlap management is nowhere more visible than in the environmental realm, where treaty congestion is high and institutional processes are relatively transparent. Because overlap management requires cooperation across otherwise unconnected international regimes, it demands cross-regime knowledge and networks to work effectively. Yet, overlap management is a relative new issue, and this type of knowledge and network building is just beginning to take shape institutionally for many actors. This book shows that in the messy world of overlapping environmental regimes, secretariats are well-positioned, skilled, and willing to work through the challenges of overlap management. Centrally, this book argues that in drawing from their unique networks and knowledge, secretariats emerge not simply as state functionaries or appendages, but as actors in their own right.

Faculty Publication: Environmental Provisions in US and EU Trade Agreements

Professor Sikina Jinnah and Elisa Morgera recently published the article "Environmental Provisions in US and EU Trade Agreements: A Preliminary Comparison and Research Agenda" in the Review of European Comparative and International Environmental Law.

In comparison to other areas of international law, international environmental law may be considered toothless. For example, unlike international trade law, which can leverage sanctions for enforcement, enforcement power is generally weak in international environmental law. The latter rather secures compliance by leveraging reputational and normative force, and relying heavily on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) for monitoring and ‘naming and shaming’. With over 1,000 international environmental agreements currently in force, there is an impressive level of international cooperation on these issues. Yet, global environmental problems continue to worsen. As a result, those seeking to achieve more robust environmental goals have long attempted to link environmental objectives to other areas of international law where the sticks are bigger and the carrots are tastier.

Despite a strong scholarly focus on trade-environment linkages in the context of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the growing importance of these linkages is currently nowhere better illustrated than in recent bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs). Indeed, due in part to stalled negotiations within the WTO, bilateral trade policy and law have grown dramatically in the last decade, with at least 546 such agreements negotiated to date, many of which contain environmental provisions. In particular, most FTAs concluded by the United States and the European Union (EU) contain environmental provisions that have become increasingly far reaching over time.

This article offers an initial exploration of the policy and legal dimensions of environmental provisions included in recent bilateral trade agreements concluded by the United States and by the European Union. Based primarily on a coding analysis of the environmental provisions contained in American and EU trade agreements since the mid-2000s, the article illuminates the variable characteristics of these environmental provisions, including the different approaches of the United States and the EU (punitive versus cooperative) to their implementation. The article pays particular attention to the unprecedented links that these treaties create with multilateral environmental agreements. It concludes with a discussion of avenues for future research, including approaches that are comparative and interdisciplinary in nature.

Rural Coalition Winter Forum according to Leah

-Leah Germer, NRSD '15

On December 5th and 6th 2013, American University’s (AU) School of International Service hosted the Rural Coalition’s Annual Winter Forum. The Rural Coalition, which is the North American Branch of the international peasant movement “La Via Campesina,” defines itself as a national organization formed “to help shape and influence public policies and processes affecting rural America.” The annual Winter Forums serve both to engage current members and welcome new ones, as well as to produce “action items” for members to take back to their communities. AU Chaplain Reverend Joe Eldridge opened the Forum with a welcome address, pointing out that while President Obama would speak on AU’s campus later that same day, the highest honor for the University continues to be hosting groups like the Rural Coalition.

The December 5th program included panels on strategies for cooperative Farm Bill advocacy between Rural Coalition members and allies, managing risk in agricultural systems, and equity and inclusion in agriculture worldwide. In the discussions following the panels, Rural Coalition members strongly framed these issues as civil rights issues, citing in particular the United States Department of Agriculture’s failure to reach out to and include producers of color in loan programs and risk management tools. Another strong current throughout the forum was the involvement of young people in farming; youth activities ran parallel to the panels, and a session on “Next Generation Leaders” invited youth members to share their perspectives on the future for rural America that they envision. AU students and faculty supplemented the day’s panels with tours of the campus Community Garden and bee hives, as well as an Agri-Food Studies Research Symposium showcasing student and faculty research.

The December 6th program included panels on the relationship between human health and healthy land, the use of loans and credit to advance community food sovereignty, and producer research on forest and land conservation. This last panel featured representatives from:- EarthReports Demonstration Farm, which reflected on the positive outcomes for human health, the environment, and productivity of transitioning from conventional to organic farming: “If we don’t eat vegetables, we’ll get sick and have health issues...I’m glad that Rural Coalition is pushing for organic agriculture because it’s the best way to do it.”- Rural Coalition Farm and Ranch Team, which reported on the increasing frequency and intensity of forest fires in the West and Southwest, attributing these trends in part to turning forested areas into protected wilderness: “And that is absolutely the worst thing you can do to these lands, because then the management of those lands goes away, and the resources will erode and die.”- A New Mexico law firm, which recommended that all producers inform themselves about HR 1526, or the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, which could serve as a platform to lobby for “multiple use” of forests: “...studies found that over the colonial period, the forest was very healthy and one of the practices that contributed to its health were native grazing practices...Everyone can benefit from forests and there’s enough room for all activities.”- Mvskoke Creek Nation in Oklahoma, which is working with a food sovereignty initiative to improve food and health among the Mvskoke people, including production of a new corn-based drink, “Safi.”

The Forum closed with a unique proposal for continued partnership between AU and the Rural Coalition: AU faculty invited Rural Coalition members to brainstorm about gaps in food- and agriculture-related research, which they and their students would then endeavor to incorporate into their own research agendas. Aimed at advancing community-academic partnerships in food and agriculture, the discussion included requests for research on the impacts of corporate consolidation on producers, the definition of an American “small farm,” and the avenues of dissemination for existing and future research.


GEP Welcomes Bob Dixon to Faculty
We are pleased to welcome Bob Dixon to our GEP faculty this spring. Bob will be teaching the graduate course on policy analysis. Below is his full bio:

Dr. Robert K. Dixon is currently Leader of the Climate Change and Chemicals Team, the Global Environment Facility (GEF). Since 1991 the GEF has provided over $10 billion in financial assistance to 160 countries.

In 2007-2008 he was Senior Coordinator, White House Task Force on Energy Security and Climate Change, National Security Council, Executive Office of the U.S. President, in 2007-2008. Dr. Dixon was responsible for the Major Economies Climate Change Negotiation Process and contributor to the 2007 Energy Security Act.

He was Head, Energy Technology Policy Division, International Energy Agency, Paris, France, in 2005-2007.

In 2007, Dr. Dixon and other members of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

He served as Associate Director for International Affairs, Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the U.S. President in 2004-2005. Dr. Dixon addressed a range of international energy, natural resources, health and environment issues at the White House.

He was Executive Director, International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, Washington, DC, in 2003-2004. . In 2004 the U.S. President honored Dixon with the U.S. government Senior Executive Service Gold Award for service to the nation.  

Dr. Dixon served as U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Power Technologies, 1999-2002. Prior to serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary he was appointed to several other leadership positions at DoE.

He led two U.S. Presidential Initiatives from 1992-1998: the U.S. Country Studies Program and the U.S. Initiative on Joint Implementation to advance the strategic goals of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). Dixon has been a member of the U.S. negotiating team for the U.N. FCCC since 1990-2008. He has also served in a variety of senior U.S. diplomatic assignments and lived in seven countries during his career.

In 1989, Dixon joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development as a Senior Scientist to support the Clean Air Act and Amendments. In 1991, Dixon was seconded to the EPA Policy Office to support the Administrator and the Executive Office of the U.S. President in preparation for the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit). He was awarded the EPA bronze medal for his contributions. The U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) employed Dixon in 1986 to manage energy science and policy programs in Asia. During this period Dr. Dixon led energy policy reform efforts in 11 countries. Dixon has led or developed energy and environment projects for bilateral (e.g., USDA, NASA) and multilateral (e.g., UNDP, World Bank, UNEP) organizations in over 180 countries worldwide (1982 to present).

Dr. Dixon is co-founder Plant Health Care, Inc. (1987). Plant Health Care, Inc., a biotechnology research and development firm, markets or licenses processes and products in all 50 U.S. states and more than 30 foreign countries. Dixon started his career in the early 1980s with the Allied Corporation and managed a large-scale research, development and technology deployment program for four years. He is the co-author of two U.S. patents.

Dr. Dixon earned his B.S, M.S. (1979) and Ph.D. (1982) degrees from the University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri. He was a tenured faculty member at the University of Minnesota and Auburn University from 1982 to 1989. Dr. Dixon was awarded an Exxon Fellowship in 1984 and a Smithsonian Fellowship in 1985. He also served as a Visiting Professor at Oxford University, United Kingdom, Humboldt University, Germany, Delhi University, India, and Kasetsart University, Thailand. Dixon is editor, author or co-author of over a dozen books and over 125 scholarly journal articles on energy and environment science and policy topics.  

Dr. Dixon lectures at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS), Columbia University and Georgetown University. He has been an advisor to the International Foundation for Science, CARE and other philanthropic organizations. He also has been a consultant and contributor to the U.S. National Academy of Science and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering activities during the past 10 years. He was a consultant to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Executive Office of the US President, during the mid 1980s.

December, 2013

GEP Blog on 2013 Farm Bill & Winter Forum

T Garrett GRADDY

This week, AU’s School of International Service and Global Environmental Politics program are hosting a two-day forum on the US Farm Bill—from the perspective of social and ecological justice.

Every five to seven years since the Dust Bowl the US Congress has approved a massive piece of legislation short-handed as ‘the Farm Bill.’ This omnibus, thousand-page law authorizes a range of programs that regulate and support US agricultural production and food consumption, including: subsidies for staple commodities, specialty crops and organic certification; soil conservation; forest management; nutrition assistance and food aid; agricultural research; farmers markets; food trade; and rural economic development—among many other related issues.

To analyze the striking national and international impact of this policy, American University’s School of International Service, led by the Global Environmental Politics program, hosted two dozen local Farm Bill experts for a dynamic, informative, multi-stakeholder symposium called US Farm Bill 2012: Policy & Potential

But the House and Senate were not able to reconcile their respective drafts, and at midnight of the New Year, a nine-month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill was passed. Last month, this extension expired, leaving a host of important agricultural policies and supports stranded and unfunded. It happened alongside the government shutdown, and so garnered little public attention, but GEP was able to host a prominent young grower and farm policy analyst (Andrew Pittz) for an insider discussion on the debates underway in congressional agricultural committee conferences. And I gave an overview of Farm Bill fault-lines at a public panel on Food Day (video here of Chefs As Catalysts for Change).

These fault-lines lead to gridlock, but they also have the potential to open up overdue conversations on direct payments and potential WTO lawsuits, commodity crop insurance caps, agrofuel quotas, conservation compliance, agribiotechnology, the lack of agroecology research, and agribusiness monopolies. However, the most intense Farm Bill debate centers around the Nutrition Title, which accounts for more than 2/3 of Department of Agriculture spending. Anti-hunger advocates decried the Senate’s 2013 Farm Bill proposal to cut $4.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP, formerly known as food-stamps) over the next decade. Then, the Senate proposed to cut $20 billion over the next decade, in large part by contracting eligibility for unemployed adults (in areas of high unemployment). Pediatricians warn of serious public health impacts from such cuts, since 25% of US youth and children depend upon SNAP benefits. This fierce Nutrition Title debate continues to divide Congress and stall the Farm Bill negotiations (as I discuss in this SIS Minute video and on WPFW 89.3 last week).

In 2013, the Global Environmental Politics program initiated and implemented an SIS Graduate Student Practicum to explore the US Farm Bill from the perspective of equity. Practicum team members worked with Rural Coalition and National Family Farm Coalition to conduct original, cutting edge research on key aspects of the Farm Bill—from land tenure to farmers markets. They produced a multi-media online toolkit (, complete with five documentaries, a series of researched reports, GIS maps, and compilations of resources on the subject.

In 2014, SIS builds upon this success with an expanded Farm Bill Practicum, led by SIS professor Adam Diamond.

Meanwhile, the School of International Service is hosting Rural Coalition’s annual Winter Forum this Thursday (December 5th) and Friday (December 6th). Rural Coalition is a grassroots alliance of farmers, farm-workers, indigenous groups, and immigrants working to bring justice and equity to food and farm policy. During the Winter Forum, all 60+ of their member groups will come to DC to strategize agricultural policy reforms with sustainability and social equity in mind. These member groups represent diverse communities of African American, American Indian, Latino, and Asian America and other family farmers and ranchers, and farm-workers in the US and Mexico. The two-day event is co-sponsored by AU’s Center for Food Studies and will include panels, workshops, breakout sessions, presentations, and a neo-agrarian campus tour. Winter Forum participants will be live tweeting throughout the event using #AURURALCO.

Alongside this Winter Forum, please join us for the inaugural School of International Service Agri-Food Research Symposium on Thursday December 5th night in the SIS Atrium from 5:30-6:30pm. Graduate and undergraduate students will be sharing their original research on a wide array of food and agricultural policy and politics. Topics range from food insecurity, soil erosion, food waste & recovery, international fisheries, and farm subsidies to intellectual property rights, land grabbing, water conservation, gender, labor--and much more. This symposium will be presented using multimedia and includes posters, documentaries, photo essays and digital infographics.

From 7-8:30pm, the 2013 and 2014 Practicum teams will share their research projects and plans over a gourmet dinner catered by Zenful Bites—a novel profit/nonprofit, worker-owned company that uses earnings for urban nutrition/food justice education in the District (co-founded by GEP alum).

Throughout this Forum, as Rural Coalition growers and community leaders debate and brainstorm strategies for reforming and transforming the Farm Bill, they will also be debating and brainstorming what research is needed in this ambitious endeavor. How can scholars help inform US agricultural policy: what needs to be known? At the end of the Forum, participants will reconvene on this question to come up with a working list of agricultural policy “participant-action-research-action-items.”

The intention of this Forum and Research Symposium is to provide a place for multi-dimensional, multi-stakeholder dialogue about the US Farm Bill—about what has worked, what is inadequate, and how it can be improved to best foster viable, bountiful, resilient, and just agri-food systems in the US and beyond. Throughout Thursday and Friday, students and scholars from AU and the surrounding academic communities will get the chance to meet, learn, and dialogue with a diverse array of growers, ranchers, and agricultural policy experts and advocates. Join us!


Stop Cove Point!

- by Arielle Conti

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) recently finished an unprecedented 9 stop barnstorming tour informing people of the proposed fracked gas export facility. Dominion power is slated to build a $3.8 billion dollar export facility at Cove Point directly on the Chesapeake Bay. The facility would liquefy fracked natural gas being piped from Pennsylvania through the state of Maryland. This export facility would be the 4th largest carbon producer in the state of Maryland, just behind the three largest coal fired power plants. The liquefied natural gas would then be put on tankers and shipped to India and Japan. This is the Keystone XL of Maryland, Cove Point is the lynchpin in a plan that would dramatically increase fracking all across the region. Instead of fracked natural gas, CCAN has proposed a doubling of Maryland’s renewable portfolio standard from to 40% by 2025. This would give incentive for increased investment in solar and wind energy.

Mike Tidwell, the director and founder of CCAN was informed of the Cove Point proposal over the summer and immediately realized the enormity of the issue. CCAN moved swiftly to organize resources and energies towards stopping Cove Point from being built. The idea for a barnstorming event stemmed from the success of 350.orgs Do-the-Math Tour; and so it was born. Nine stops all over Maryland in one month. Each event featured a musical guest, supportive words from Bill McKibben (via prerecorded Skype interview), acknowledgment of site specific local climate heroes, a presentation of the facts about Cove Point from Mike Tidwell, a panel question and answer session and finally action items including a letter writing campaign and hand written petitions.

Support CCANs efforts to move Maryland on a path of clean energy. Stop Cove Point!

For more information check out the website, sign the petition to stop cove point and support an increase in Maryland’s RPS.

November, 2013

  • Professor Judy Shapiro was published in the November/December edition of The World Financial Review. The article, "China's Environmental Challenges," comes on the heels of Professor Shapiro's recently released book of the same name. The article focuses on the forces of globalization, economic growth, politics, and environmental degradation in shaping China's future. You can find a copies of Professor Shapiro's article in print or online.

  • Stephen Ritz, a South Bronx educator and urban farmer, recently came to speak at AU. Ritz's experiment with urban farming began in his own classroom and quickly spread to the schoolyard. Eventually his students were hired to build gardens across New York City and even in the Hamptons. Ritz spoke about the transformative impact urban farming has had on his students. He credits urban farming projects with providing healthy, nutritional alternatives to the community, while also building job skills and improving student engagement. To read more about Ritz's visit, click here.
  • GEP alum Tim Kovach wrote a recent article in New Security Beat. In Kovach's article, he details the important role natural resources play in environmental peacebuilding and conflict.
  • In November 2013, Professors Ken Conca and Judith Shapiro conducted Webinars with prospective GEP and NRSD students. Click here for a link to the Webinars
  • On November 11th, students from GEP and NRSD presented their original research at the SIS Summer Abroad Research Symposium. Led by Professor Garrett Graddy and joined by 5 guests from the US-Cuban Interests-Section, students reflected on their experiences in Cuba studying at the University of Havana. The diverse group of research topics ranged from Agroecology to the Cuban revolution in Africa. Click here to read a detailed account of the students' experiences while in Cuba.

  • Professor Ken Conca participated in the "Green Exchange" workshop held at the Environmental Law Institute, November 5-6, 2013. The meeting brought together members of the international humanitarian community and the US military, to discuss ways to lesson the environmental footprint and improve the environmental sensitivity of relief operations in the wake of war and disaster. Also participating were GEP Masters students Courtney Greenley and Joe Thwaites, who work on Conca's research project on Green Recovery in post-conflict/post-disaster settings, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund.
  • Kat Diersen and Sherwood Elder, two students from Professor Judy Shapiro's Environment & Politics course, were recently published in the Washington Post. Read Kat's letter on climate change and Sherwood's letter on corporate social responsibility online.
  • Recent NRSD graduate Chelsea Burns's SRP was published on the website of the Costa Brava, Spain, water agency. Chelsea's paper, "Important Water-Energy Nexus Considerations: A Sustainability Assessment of Water Supply in Two Municipalities of Costa Brava, Spain" can be viewed here.

October, 2013

  • Professor Ken Conca moderated a panel discussion on water and peacebuilding in the Middle East with representatives of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME). The panel, held at AU’s Washington College of Law, featured Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli directors of FOEME and highlighted links between water initiatives and the ongoing Israeli-Palenstinian peace talks.

  • GEP alumna Rachael Callahan, executive director of Common Good City Farm, is featured in the Washington Post as one of nine millennials influencing the Washington DC food scene. Read the article here.

Jim Nyamu speaking to GEP students

On October 1st, the Global Environmental Politics program hosted Kenyan conservationist Jim Justus Nyamu. Mr. Nyamu, a World Wildlife Fund grantee, was accompanied by SIS alumna and current Director of the WWF Education for Nature program, Andrea Santy.

Mr. Nyamu recently completed a walk from Boston to Washington DC, raising awareness about elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade. Long walks are nothing new for Mr. Nyamu. He has trekked over 2,000 miles across Kenya to raise awareness about the plight of elephant populations in Africa, which at the current rate could become extinct by 2025.

Mr. Nyamu's talk at SIS focused on the critical role elephants have within the ecosystem and how their disappearance could have devastating effects. He stressed the importance of addressing not only the elephant poachers, but also the global demand for ivory that fuels this practice. Having spent over 15 years as a grassroots conservationist, Mr. Nyamu espoused the need for community based conservation and education. He hopes that through education, future generations will value elephants for their ecological importance rather than economic worth, and refuse to participate in a global trade that is depriving Kenyans of their heritage and identity.

The talk at SIS, including more information about Mr. Nyamu's mission and the illegal ivory trade, was reported on by Voice of America:

  • Judith Shapiro is quoted in the November-December issue of Mother Jones Magazine in an article by Tom Philpott, "Are We Becoming China's Factory Farm?" She notes that she "expects Smithfield pork to command quite a premium in China, because it's perceived as safer and better than the domestic stuff."
  • Professor Simon Nicholson spoke on a panel titled "Biomimicry and Biophilic Cities: What Can Nature Teach Us About Sustainability?" at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

    Professor Nicholson was photographed at the conference with the Volkswagen XL1, billed as the world's most fuel efficient production car.

  • Professor Sikina Jinnah presented a paper "Why Govern the Climate?" at the "Why Govern?" conference held at American University 3-5 October 2013. A paper will be forthcoming in an edited volume based on the event.
  • This month, Professor Garrett Graddy will be presenting “Seeds that Free the Bounty: Agricultural Biodiversity As Policy & Potential” at the Yale Food System Symposium in New Haven, CT. In addition, Professor Graddy has recently been selected for the Bridging the Gap Project’s International Policy Summer Institute.

September, 2013

Introduction to International Environmental Law, with David Hunter

  • Professor Garrett Graddy's paper, “Situating In Situ: A Critical Geography of Agricultural Biodiversity Conservation in the Peruvian Andes and Beyond,” was recently published in Antipode.
  • GEP alum Olimar Maisonet-Guzmán (2012) participated in the Opening Plenary at World Water Week, representing World Youth Parliamentarians for Water. She delivered an address on “A Youth Vision for Water Cooperation.” Hosted annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute, World Water Week is a key summit meeting for water experts, advocates and policy makers from around the world.
  • The New York Times published Professor Paul Wapner's letter to the editor regarding divestment from fossil fuels:

Universities like Harvard claim that divesting from fossil fuel companies will both lower returns and fail to reduce climate change. In failing to reduce climate change, they are right. Their individual actions won’t decisively influence companies or stop global warming. No one’s will.

Climate change is a collective challenge. But unless individual institutions start committing to clean energy, no momentum will build for collective action.

Divestment may not be the best route to stopping climate change, and it certainly is not the only one. But it is a start. Universities that want to teach students about civic-mindedness and engaging the great issues of the day can divest as both an investment in a livable future and an opportunity to embrace a pedagogical moment.

Professor Simon Nicholson speaking for Leland Fellows
  • Professor Simon Nicholson spoke to the new class of Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows. Professor Nicholson's talk, titled "The Hungry Billion: Why the World is Stuffed and Starved," was attended by current Leland Fellow and SIS alum Hunter Michelsen (NRSD '10).

  • Anne Joncheray (GEP) was selected as one of 50 laureates to attend the 2013 Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Philadelphia, PA. Greenbuild brings together professionals and experts dedicated to green building and design.
  • This month, Sierra Magazine chose American University as one of the top ten coolest schools in the nation. This means that AU is among the universities most committed to reducing carbon emissions and addressing global warming. AU won this accolade because of its efforts to decrease energy use and generate electricity though non-fossil fuel sources. AU has 30 buildings on track for silver LEED certification, has installed a 27-kilowatt photovoltaic system, heats much of its water with solar radiation, and converts most of its vegetable oil to electricity. These actions are enabling the university to meet its commitment to carbon neutrality by 2020, no small feat and an essential step forward as society struggles to address climate change.

    Global Environmental Policy and Natural Resources/Sustainable Development students have been active in pushing the environmental envelope on campus. GEP students played a central role in designing the SIS building, the largest LEED-certified silver building on campus (which houses a roof that collects rain water used to flush toilets and supports the largest solar array in the District of Columbia). This involved taking courses in “Sustainable Design,” “International Environmental Politics,” and a set of practicum classes that focus on how to translate theoretical knowledge into actual solutions. Students were also essential in implementing a “Green Offices” program that reduced energy and resource use in all campus administrative and instructional spaces and in creating a “Green Certificate” program aimed at ensuring that classes are taught in ways that enhance environmental health. These kinds of efforts typify the pedagogical orientation of the GEP program—one committed to linking scholarship and action in the direction of service.

    AU’s cool status, then, is not simply about the administration, faculty, and buildings and maintenance personnel. It is fundamentally about students. In the words of the Sierra Club, they’re, well, cool.

August, 2013

  • Judith Shapiro wrote an opinion piece for the August issue of MODUS Magazine, titled Pollution: The Greatest Challenge (p22).

July, 2013

  • Jeanine Finley (GEP '13) featured in SIS News-Achievements discussing her research and work plans after receiving both a Boren Fellowship and a Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship (FPPF).
  • Michelle Slavin (NRSD '07), director of the UNITE for the Environment Program at the North Carolina Zoo, was recently interviewed by about a new film series focusing on efforts to protect the great apes of Uganda. The interview can be found here:

June, 2013









  • Class of 2013 Commencement Ceremony - On Sunday, May 12, the Global Environmental Politics program celebrated the graduation of this year's Global Environmental Policy and Natural Resources & Sustainable Development MA students. The celebration began with welcoming remarks from Judith Shapiro, NRSD Program Director; James Goldgeier, Dean of the School of International Service; and SIS Professor Garret Graddy. Keynote speakers were Amr Abdalla, Vice Rector of UPEACE and Ken Conca, GEP Program Director. Student speeches were given by Adam Jadhav (GEP '13) and
    Adele Billups (NRSD '13). Congratulations to the entire graduating class of 2013!
  • Perspectives on Politics (June 2013) reviews Judith Shapiro's China's Environmental Challenges: The book presents a comprehensive analysis of China's environmental plight and should be of interest not only to China specialists, but also to those interested in understanding the environmental implications of China's rapid industrialization and the prospects for sustainable economic growth in China....Shapiro should be applauded for leveraging her unusual sensitivity to and superb knowledge of China's historical and cultural complexities to generate a fascinating account of the monumental environmental changes currently under way in that country. The discussion questions listed at the end of each chapter should further increase the value of the book as a main textbook for students of environmental politics and contemporary China."


  • Jes Walton (NRSD) was recently awarded the National Garden Club Scholarship at both the Colorado and National levels. The application includes an essay about past, present and future commitments to connecting with the natural world through gardening, farming and other environmental work. "I believe my essay stood out, because I was able to write about working in the garden at the University for Peace in Costa Rica," said Jes. More information on the National Garden Clubs, their mission, and the scholarships, can be found at:

May, 2013

  • Recent GEP graduate Adam Jadhav was quoted in a Washington Post article about the growing importance of master's degree programs nationwide. According to Adam, his master’s degree at SIS "has opened a whole bunch of doors," such as helping him receive a Fulbright research grant and preparing him to pursue a future working in the field he is passionate about. Read the entire article here.
  • Recent GEP graduate Tim Kovach's research paper on Cyclone Nargis' impact on the Burmese government has been published on the website of Disaster Diplomacy. Tim also recently won second place in the Center for International Policy's Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions blog contest for his post on climate change and food aid policy.
  • Boren Fellows 2013

    The Global Environmental Politics program would like to congratulate Jeanine Finley, Olivia Gilmore, Sierra Ramirez, and Jes Walton for receiving the prestigious Boren Fellowship. 

    The David L. Boren Fellowship, funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP) provides up to $30,000 to graduate students for research and language study in areas of the world critical to U.S. interests. This highly competitive, national competition seeks out distinguished and motivated students with a strong commitment to public service for research and study overseas, ranging from 12 weeks to one year. Upon their return to the U.S., award recipients will work in qualifying national security positions for a minimum of one year.
  • Jeanine Finley

    For her Boren Fellowship, Jeanine will study Swahili and undertake an independent research project in Kenya and Uganda for over 10 months. Her project will be a comparative study investigating the effectiveness of policies and processes meant to enable civil society and community participation in the projects of the Nile Basin Initiative.

    Jeanine explains that Stakeholder participation in the Nile Basin Initiative is a very under-researched topic which she wishes to bring more attention to. She hopes that her work can help the field gain a better understanding of how regional institutions impact national policy and can provide lessons for transboundary water cooperation in other parts of Africa. She looks forward to researching equitable stakeholder participation in large scale water infrastructure since it is a vital mechanism that enables good governance and reduces conflict around water resources.

    Before joining the GEP program, Jeanine participated in the Peace Corps and worked for an NGO. After gaining these practical experiences, Jeanine joined the GEP program to help contextualize her previous working in development. She says that the GEP program’s interdisciplinary nature helped strengthened her analytical and research skills, and that she looks forward to applying these skills to the complex challenges of water governance.  

    Currently, Jeanine is considering applying for a Doctoral program and she sees herself working towards strengthening equity and cooperation among institutions that manage water at multiple scales in Africa.



  • Olivia Gilmore

    Olivia’s Boren project will focus on the effectiveness of water governance institutions in Brazil for mitigating conflict. In addition to Portugese language training, She plans to conduct a comparative study of river basin committees in two key regions: the Guandu river basin in the State of Rio de Janeiro and the Paraguaçu watershed in the Northeastern state of Bahia.

    Olivia points to the importance of such research, stating that, “at both global and local scales, the link between water and security is becoming ever more relevant in the wake of growing populations, widening development, and greater variability in terms of quantity and quality of water resources. The destabilizing factors of climate change are predicted to further exacerbate water tensions, thus knowledge of effective management tools that can prevent or resolve water-related conflicts is highly valuable.”

    Olivia credits the School of International Service NRSD program for providing her with the opportunity to better understand environmental issues from the perspectives of both the global north and global south. “A year of study in Latin America helped to strengthen my focus in the region, leading me to Brazil, and the fantastic support I received from faculty members, both in SIS and at the University for Peace, made this project possible.”

    After her research abroad, Olivia plans to use the skills acquired from both in her master’s research and Boren Fellowship to continue to work internationally, either with a conservation NGO or as a career Foreign Service Officer.

  • Sierra Ramirez

    As a Boren Fellow, Sierra will go to the West Bank area of Israel/Palestine to study Arabic and the role of water in regional conflict and peacebuilding. Sierra believes that a better U.S. understanding of current infrastructural development in Palesinian communities could provide far-reaching security benefits. "It is vital that the world of international politics become more intersectional. Conflict and governance have drastically different impacts if you look through lenses of class, gender, and ethnicity, and an environmental perspective needs to be one more lens that we integrate. Without it we cannot hope to come to an authentic understanding of what is occurring and why."

    Sierra credits the NRSD program for helping her develop an understanding of the role environmental and natural resources play within the international political economy. After her fellowship, she hopes to work within the Middle East regional programs at the EPA. Her "overarching goal," she says, "is to write about issues that connect to international political economy, especially when it comes to the Middle East, hopefully influencing policy in a more and more just direction."

  • Jes Walton

    With the Boren Fellowship, Jes will study Hindi domestically during the summer, and in Rajasthan, India during the fall semester. Following her studies, she will culminate her fellowship with a six month internship in Navdanya. There, Jes will conduct research in cooperation with local seed sovereignty advocates, as well as learn from alternative agriculture movements. 

    Jes explains that her research holds important implications since, “the global food system is built on the backs of small-scale farmers, who are increasingly marginalized by powerful transnational corporations, and international patent laws”.

    Jes says that the School of International Service helped prepare her for her winning fellowship. Through the GEP program she says that she was able to be exposed to the implications of US policy on international agriculture in one class, while learning how to write project proposals in another.

    In the future, Jes aspires to be working internationally with a variety of agriculture communities promoting ecoagricultural methods, and work to oppose policies that undervalue and undercut family farms.  


  • Judith Shapiro (GEP) spoke in May about China's Environmental Challenges at Notre Dame's Kellogg Institute and at the Foreign Service Institute in DC. Her book was mentioned in Dissent Magazine.


April, 2013

  • On April 30, Judith Shapiro spoke at the Woodrow Wilson Center's China Environment Forum about the Green Revolution in China. She shared the presentation with Liu Jianqiang, the Chinese environmental journalist. Shapiro drew on her book, China's Environmental Challenges, to talk about civil society and environmental justice trends in China, with a special focus on the role of the media and investigative journalism.









  • Congratulations to GEP Director Ken Conca on being awarded the SIS Scholar/Teacher of the Year and Adam Jadhav (GEP/MA '13) for receiving the Global Environmental Politics Award at this year's SIS Staff, Faculty, and Student Award Ceremony.

March, 2013

  • Prof. Judith Shapiro spoke on March 27 at Arizona State University's Center for Asian Research symposium "Water in Asia." Her topic: "China's Environmental Activism."
  • Professor. Judith Shapiro traveled to China during spring break to give a keynote address at Shantou University for International Women's Day, "China's Environmental Challenges: A Special Role for Women?" She also addressed the School of Business at Central South University in Changsha. In Beijing, she met with SIS graduate students who had traveled to Beijing Normal University as part of their Practicum for the World Resources Institute.
  • GEP professor Garrett Graddy and GEP second-year MA Adam Jadhav represented American University at the annual Dimensions of Political Ecology conference held at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington. In addition to moderating and facilitating other panels, Graddy presented her paper "Scales of Reference Reckoning and Justice" on the language and implications of scale politics. Jadhav presented his paper "Urban Permaculture: A New Food Geography for the Global North," a study of three radical DC community food projects.

February, 2013

  •  Judith Shapiro was interviewed by Voice of America China Branch on the revival of plans to dam the Nu River in China's Southwest. (February 12)

January, 2013

  • Olivia Gilmore (GEP MA class of 2013) recently published a policy report entitled Fueling Conflict in Colombia: Land rights and the political ecology of oil palm in the Peace and Conflict Monitor, a United Nations University for Peace online forum.
    Olivia also worked for Earth Charter International at the United Nations "Rio+20" Conference on Sustainable Development in June, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Recent NRSD grad Nik Steinberg ('13) and current second-year GEP student Adam Jadhav both had research published in the Journal of International Service. Steinberg's piece focused on potential water development strategies for Israel and Palestine in the Lower Jordan Valley; Jadhav's article reviewed implications of for sustainability in India's free trade regime since the 1991 economic liberalization.
  • Eric Abitbol (2012) had a chapter published on water and security in the textbook, ‘On Adaptive Water Governance: Producing an Equitable and Reflexive Hydro-Politics of Security and Peace’ in Kemp, Graham and Tom Rippon (eds.) Governance and Security as a Unitary Concept, Victoria, British Columbia: Agio Publishing House in collaboration with Avalon Institute Inc.

December, 2012

  • Professor Judith Shapiro continues to tour following the publication of her new book China's Environmental Challenges (Polity 2012). She recently gave a lecture on Chinese environmental history at The New School's India China Institute. Also, in November, she lectured at Christopher Newport University on the global implications of her new book's subject.
  • SIS 660 students published in Washington Post:
    our students in Professor Judy Shapiro's SIS 660 classes had letters to the editor published by the Washington Post this semester.

Howard Weir's response to the Nov. 11 article "Montgomery County considers giving more of the road to buses" was published on Nov. 15.

It is heartening to see conversations about adding dedicated bus lanes in Montgomery County. A stronger commitment to public transportation is the only way to combat the ever-worsening traffic that plagues the region. But I was dismayed that the article did not mention the environmental benefits of removing so many cars from the road. Carbon dioxide is being released into our atmosphere at an alarming rate, and yet, even in the wake of dramatic climactic events such as Hurricane Sandy, scant attention is being paid to climate change. The primary benefit of creating dedicated bus lanes is not the reduction in traffic congestion; it is the reduction in carbon dioxide output.
Until a concerted effort is made to reduce carbon emissions, climate change will continue to accelerate. Adding more bus lanes not only has the potential to enhance peoples’ lives, it can help protect our environment as well.

Rebecca Schroeder's response to the Nov. 17 article "BP settlement a boon to conservation group" was published Nov. 20.
The Nov. 17 news article “BP settlement a boon to conservation group” reported the good news that $2.4 billion of the settlement stemming from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. While this historic sum may partially avenge the animals and ecosystems ravaged by the spill, it is not enough. Reparations for the damage will not be achieved unless we ensure that the same thing will not happen again. This involves directing money into renewable energy to work toward eliminating the need for fossil fuels.

Christina Kehoe's response to the Nov. 14 column "Throwing Ivy City under the bus" was published Nov. 23.
All too often, marginalized communities are the direct recipients of environmental burdens but receive little benefit from the placement of these harmful facilities. The decision by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) to relocate a bus depot to Ivy City might have been the path of least economic and political resistance, but it failed to consider the social distress that the community faces. With 20 percent of residents already diagnosed with respiratory problems, increased air pollution will lead to severe health risks and potentially premature death.
Moreover, increased noise pollution and traffic will degrade the quality of life and reduce opportunities for sustainable development. Residents of Ivy City were promised a “green and sustainable” plan to improve their neighborhood. All that is green about Mr. Gray’s plan are the financial flows to be received for relocating the depot in Ivy City.

Allison King's response to the Nov. 16 article "BP settles criminal charges for $4 billion in spill; supervisors indicted on manslaughter" was published Nov. 24.
It is a relief to see BP finally agreeing to plead guilty to its crimes [front page, Nov. 16], but we mustn’t forget the millions of people who should also be held accountable. In the United States, the consumer receives what the consumer desires, and BP and other major drilling companies will continue their search for oil as long as the public demands the product.
The charges against BP are a step in the right direction in terms of industry regulation and prevention of oil spills. However, true progress must come from the bottom up. Demand controls production in a market-based economy; therefore, we as oil consumers must also take responsibility for the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and do our part to limit our demand for oil.

Shapiro requires students in her classes each fall to write letters to editors at newspapers as a way to practice public commentary, writing and engagement.

November, 2012

  • Recent GEP graduate, Olimar Maisonet-Guzmán, contributed to the Journal of International Service with a compelling piece called "The Evolution of Water Privatization: Moving Forward with Public-Private Partnerships in Puerto Rico". She also recently contributed to the United Nations Development Programme's publication Powerful Synergies, in the chapter "Gender, Water, Sanitation."

October, 2012

  • The Hindustan Times recently published an op-ed written by Adam Jadhav (GEP) about marine conservation in India, titled "All hands on deck, please."
  • Ken Conca published an article on "Decoupling Water and Violent Conflict" in the Fall 2012 issue of Issues in Science and Technology, a publication of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Ken Conca spoke on water and climate justice for a plenary panel of the conference "Anticipating Climate Disruption: Sustaining Justice, Greening Peace" held at Tufts University, October 5, 2012. The conference was part of the annual meeting of the Peace and Justice Studies Association.


VOYAGE AROUND THE NORTH POLE: exploration and climate change

Thorleif Thorleifsson

With a meager breeze hardly enough to fill the sails of their 31-foot trimaran, Norwegian polar explorer Thorleif Thorleifsson and his fellow sailors found themselves adrift at the desolate front lines of global climate change.

North of Siberia, ten days behind schedule, beset by fog, Thorleifsson remembers the shock of encountering nothingness where he had expected grand polar vistas.

“This was the closest I’ve come to nihilism, to the absence of everything. No seabirds, no life, no ice, just muddy brown water,” Thorleifsson told an audience Oct. 4 at the School of International Service. “It was like sailing through an arctic desert.”

In August 2010, Thorleifsson and his team were on a historic mission with the goal of circumnavigating the Arctic in a single season. From Norway they had set out eastward, following the long shores of Russia before crossing the Bering Strait to Alaska. From there, they sailed through the Northwest Passage in Canadian waters and across Greenland’s Baffin Bay before turning into the North Atlantic. In 80 days, they made the journey that decades ago had taken the first successful explorers some six years.

Their journey was only possible because rising temperatures and increasing climate volatility have melted huge amounts of the polar ice cap in recent summers. Just this September, scientists declared that the extent of Arctic sea ice reached a historic low.

One worrisome consequence of the dwindling ice that Thorleifsson witnessed: the exposed sea reflects less sunlight back into the atmosphere. The earth absorbs more heat, thereby intensifying climate change.

Speaking as part of a speaker series offered by the Embassy of Norway and hosted by the SIS Global Environmental Politics Program (GEP), Thorleifsson noted another challenge that confronts the world with the advent of Arctic melt. Arctic nations — with Exclusive Economic Zones that stretch into the once permanently frozen seas — are now in a geopolitical struggle to carve up ocean territory and stake claims to potential resources.

“There are a lot of questions popping up. Who owns the Arctic? It’s not at all clear and we need to sort that out,” Thorleifsson said. “Now we have the race for resources — oil and shipping lanes.”

Thorleifsson and crew were reminded of the human quest for resources when, after passing the natural wonders of Baffin Bay, they crossed the North Atlantic to be greeted by mammoth deep-sea oilrigs.

“It’s the nature of human beings to see the possibility and opportunity in this environmental change.”

Thorleifsson offered a prescription for nations grappling with the altered geopolitics of the Arctic. His time at sea in tense situations with sailors of different nationalities, personalities and interests has taught him the importance of collective action and shared goals.

“We have no capacity, no capability to be ready for this kind of political change brought on by climate change. We need to establish the basic ability to work together, before we simply open this race for short-term profits.”

Narrated with a dry humor, Thorleifsson’s videos and photos also provided a sense of the drama of an $800,000 expedition in sailing a 2,000-kilogram yacht through perilous seas. To mitigate risks, the team established basic rules — never multitask, concentrate on a singular duty, trust your fellow sailors, sleep when you’re supposed to sleep, always stay attached to the boat. Thorleifsson added that though they had prepped extensively they were prepared to improvise and work “live.”

“His lecture offered a number of insights from his adventures that also seem relevant for the new politics of the Arctic,” said Tim Kovach, a second-year GEP MA student.

His narrative was also littered with facts and tidbits from the days at sea. For example, pepper spray is uniquely useful for warding off curious polar bears, provided you don’t spray into the wind.

The lecture was part of an ongoing collaboration between the SIS GEP program and the Embassy of Norway. Thorleifsson was not the first polar explorer to visit SIS with tales of adventure and the partnership has also yielded faculty and student exchanges between the U.S. and Norway.

“We look forward to this event every year,” said Professor Judith Shapiro. “These dramatic eye-witness accounts of the radical changes taking place on the poles convey the challenges of climate change like nothing else. The relationship between SIS and Norway is very special.” 

Re-Engineering Cultures to Save Human Civilization

By Isabelle Rodas

To kick off the month of October, the Global Environmental Politics program held the fascinating event “Re-Engineering Cultures to Save Human Civilization”. Led by Erik Assadourian, a Senior Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute, the conversation centered around how the age of consumerism in the world has severely deteriorated the environment. “When people hear the words ‘blackberry’, ‘amazon’, or ‘apple’, they are more likely to think of the product than the fruit or the river,” explained Assadourian. Indeed, based on the global average, at our current rate of consumption the planet can only support five billion people. Assadourian argued that in order to reverse the damage that consumption has fueled, we must take it upon ourselves to entirely re-engineer our way of living and acting. Painting the picture of an ideal society and promoting “economic de-growth”, Assadourian said that for the planet to become environmentally sustainable it must: have few to no private cars, minimal flying, small or multigenerational homes, a food based economy, smaller families, and even fewer family pets. Doing so would combat not only environmental problems, but also global health issues such as obesity.
Assadourian argued that the six essential institutions for cultural change are: business, government, education, social movements, traditions, and the media. From the blockbuster movie Avatar to Earth Day, institutional change is vital. Indeed, Assadourian even used the Washington, D.C. bag tax as an example of positive change. According to Washington City Paper, the five cent bag tax has successfully cleared 60% of bag litter in D.C. rivers and, in its first year alone, raised $2.5 million to create sewer grates and help local cleanup organizations. This sort of cultural change and institutional implication is inspirational, but Assadourian made it clear that we need to witness such actions on a global scale in order for our planet to move towards sustainable prosperity.

Pesticides, politics...and progress?

Silent Spring Panel

By Isabelle Rodas


On September 27th, American University’s Global Environmental Politics program celebrated the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring, with their eye-opening panel discussion “Pesticides, politics...and progress?” The panelists included Heather White of the Environmental Working Group, Virginia Ruiz of Farmworker Justice, Jay Feldman of Beyond Pesticides, Joe Parker of the Student/Farmworker Alliance, and Gerardo Reyes-Chavez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Discussing the use, abuse, and reforms of pesticides, the panel went beyond the realm of Carson’s book and truly analyzed the amount of work that is still ahead of us.
 The panelists particularly focused on the deep struggles and injustices experienced by migrant farm workers across the United States. “We must start looking at the life cycle of the inputs that are associated with the food production system,” implored Jay Feldman, referencing both our health and the health of the migrant workers. While the panel discussed the positive impact of both the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, they also made it perfectly clear that there is an overwhelming amount of work and implementation still left to be done. This was emphasized by Gerardo Reyes-Chavez who gave the audience a heart-wrenching first hand account of the abuses he suffered as a migrant farm worker. Additionally, Mr. Chavez elaborated on his work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to promote the Fair Food Program initiative which protects the rights and health of migrant farm workers. The panel concluded with a call to arms to students, reflecting that although the struggles undertaken by students and farmworkers are different, they converge, and together we can achieve collective liberation.  

September, 2012

Casey Harrison in Costa Rica

Casey Harrison with Ana Isabel Quiros in Costa Rica

  • UPeace Sustainability Initiatives and Garden
    With NRSD student Casey Harrison spearheading projects as an intern,
    UPeace this summer (2012) has upped its commitment to sustainability
    through a number of initiatives, including a "back-to-tap" program,
    upgraded recycling facilities and awareness, a solar oven, membership
    in AASHE International (with STARS assessment/certification underway)
    and a "permaculture" demonstration garden that has the potential to
    supplement up to 50% of the University food.

    Casey and the UPeace Sustainability Club are now working to transition
    from a "student/staff club" to an official Sustainability Office at
    UPeace for fundraising and sustainability administration (a two- to
    three-year goal). Casey hopes the energy and excitement among new NRSD
    students can continue to support UPeace’s efforts at a sustainable
    campus in the coming months and years. For more information, contact
    Casey Harrison. Also, see Casey’s PowerPoint
    presentation on the permaculture garden

August, 2012

  • Eric Abitbol joins GEP as a visiting instructor for 2012-13. His teaching and research focus on environment, conflict transformation, peacebuilding, and community development. Eric has taught previously at Concordia University (Montreal) and Saint-Paul University (Ottawa), and is an associate fellow of York University’s Institute in Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS). He was the co-coordinator of the AVOW research project (Adaptive Visions of Water in the Middle East) and the founding coordinator of the University of the Streets Café, a public conversation initiative of Concordia University's Institute in Community Development. He has also worked for International Alert (UK), the Minority Rights Group (UK), WaterAid (UK) and other INGOs.
  • Sikina Jinnah, Paul Wapner, and Ken Conca each contributed essays to the new edition of The Handbook of Global Environmental Politics (Edward Elgar, 2012), which brings together leading scholars in the field. Jinnah's essay was on the politics of trade and the environment; Wapner's focused on environmental politics in a postmodern age; and Conca wrote on environmental human rights. Also featured was SIS faculty member Tamar Gutner, whose essay covered the World Bank's environmental performance.
  • Ken Conca was a Fulbright Fellow at the Peace Research Institute Oslo during June 2012. While in Norway, he lectured at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO), the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, and PRIO. He also visited GEP's new graduate student exchange partner, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB).
  • Ken Conca recently lectured on water, conflict, and international cooperation at the Foreign Service Institute. FSI runs training courses for State Department foreign service officers. Conca's lecture took place in a class for staff heading out to environmental attache postings around the world.
  • Ken Conca's article "The Rise of the Regional in Global Environmental Politics" appeared in the August 2012 edition of Global Environmental Politics.


June, 2012

Judy Shapiro reunion with SIS students in China
  • Judy Shapiro and SIS Alumni in China:
    n June, Professor Judith Shapiro held a mini-reunion in Beijing for GEP and other SIS alumni. Front row, left to right: Han Chen (SIS Honors BA), Prof. Shapiro, a friend of the GEP program, Rong (Judy) Zhu, Tianjie (Steven) Ma. Back row: Xingni Liang (ID), Charlie Kilby (USFP), Nick Houshower (IP), and a friend of Nick's. Han has finished her MA at Qinghua University, Rong is working for the Global Environmental Institute, Tianjie is head of Greenpeace's toxics campaign, Xingni works on waste gasification technology for a consulting company, Charlie is finishing his Boren on rare earths, and Nick is working for Thomson Reuters and planning to get an MBA soon.

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