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Masterpieces of the NatureMasterpieces of the Nature


The scope of the blog is to display the Masterpieces of the Nature: beautiful plants, interesting animals, astonishing landscapes, etc. Contains photos, drawings, short stories, interesting facts, anecdotes, and much more.
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NATURE’S TRICKSTER
Date: July 2015Place: Nesbyen, Norway





Isn’t this little guy the cuteness itself or what?As the heroes of the previous blog posts, I have encountered these adorable animals this summer when I visited Langedrag Nature Park in Nesbyen, Norway. But, in contrast to other inhabitants of the Park, who stayed obediently in their designated sites, these little mammals were practically everywhere.Indeed, rabbits are very common in Europe, although more than half of their global population inhabits North America. They are part of the Leporidae family and the Lagomorpha order that also includes hares and pikas. Rabbits are not rodents, whom they are often confused with, as they have two sets of incisor teeth instead of a single pair found in rodents.

The most obvious characteristic of rabbits is their long years. This is an adaptation for hearing and detecting predators, such as foxes and badgers. Eyes also play an important role here: these mammals have the overview of nearly 360 degrees. They even sleep with their eyes open in order to detect any sudden movement. When the threat is spotted, rabbits use their strong and springy hind legs to escape as fast as possible. When captured, it can also use its legs to deliver powerful kicks in the face of a predator.One curious feature of rabbits is related to their digestion. They are herbivores eating grass and weeds, which are rich in hard-to-digest cellulose. In order to thoroughly digest it and extract sufficient nutrients, these mammals practice the behavior known as coprophagy. It means that they eat certain kind of their own droppings, which allows cellulose to be processed much better in their hindguts.Rabbits occupy a notable place in human agriculture, culture, and literature. Since the times of the Roman Empire they have been domesticated and bred for meat, fur, and later as pets. In mythology and literature rabbit is often depicted as the symbol of fertility and rebirth. It is also given the image of a trickster, who uses his witty mind and great intellect to survive and come victorious from diverse challenges that life throws at him.
DESIGNED FOR RUN
Date: July 2015Place: Nesbyen, Norway

Aren’t they just beautiful?Such speed! Such agility! Such grace!Yes, as you might have already guessed, I admire horses. They are one of my favourite species of mammals. This couple of beauties, like all the animals described in the previous blog posts, I have met this summer in Langedrag Nature Park in Nesbyen, Norway.The horse (Equus ferus) comes from the family Equidae that includes also donkeys and zebras. In turn the species Equus ferus has 3 subspecies: the domestic horse (Equus ferus caballus), which you can see practically on all farms; the tarpan (Equus ferus ferus), which has unfortunately become extinct; and the Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii), which runs wild in Central Asia.

Horses have several quite interesting anatomical and behavioral characteristics that are related to the need of constantly escaping from predators. For example, they have very strong fight-or-flight response to potential threats that in many cases saves their life. Their eyes are one of the largest ones of any land mammal with approximately 65 percent binocular vision and 285 percent monocular vision. Thus, horses can see everything that happens all around them. Besides, they see very well both in day- and nighttime. In addition, horses can sleep while standing up, thus being constantly ready to make a run for their life. And during the run they make use of an extremely well developed sense of balance to help them control their position, direction, and speed.The whole skeleton-and-muscle system of the horse is designed for run. For instance, they do not have collarbones: their forelimbs are attached to the spinal column by a powerful combination of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The leg bones and hooves are also made in such way that they can carry a 500 kg horse body with high speed and agility. Technically speaking, horses walk and run always on their tiptoes.The horse was domesticated about 4000 BC in Central Asia. Now this beautiful and gracious animal has become an important member of our agricultural activities, transportation, sport, culture, and entertainment. Horses have been together with us throughout our history and even now, in the modern age of advanced technology and robots, continue to help us in our economic and social activities. They have truly earned all respect and admiration.
MIGHTY MOOSE
Date: July 2015Place: Nesbyen, Norway



These cute little guys are the calves of the moose, also called elk (Alces alces). Like the “predatory superstars” described in the previous blog post, I have met them this summer in Langedrag Nature Park in Nesbyen, Norway.Moose is considered to be the largest existing species of the deer family (Cervidae). An adult moose can reach up to 2 m high at the shoulder and weigh up to 700 kg. Its main distinguishing feature, the palmate antlers, can have a span of up to 1.5 m. These giant deer live in boreal and mixed deciduous forests across the Northern Hemisphere. You can meet them in Canada, Alaska and northern parts of the US, the Scandinavian and Baltic States, Poland, Czech Republic, Russia, and northern Ukraine. But in contrast to many other deer species, moose prefer solitude and do not live in herds.

Moose is an herbivore feeding mostly on forbs and fresh shoots from such trees as birch and willow. For grabbing tree branches and pulling forbs these mammals have very sensitive prehensile upper lip. They also like chewing on aquatic and underwater plants. In fact, moose are the only deer species capable of eating underwater. To make it possible, their nose has special pads and muscles that close the nostrils and prevent water from entering the nose.Moose is hunted for meat, and this has significantly reduced their original widespread population. However, due to some conservation and reintroduction programs their population is not threatened anymore. There are also a number of programs to domesticate these animals, but this is not a widespread phenomenon. So, moose continue to roam in the wild and be admired for their might and uniqueness.
PREDATORY SUPERSTARS
Date: July 2015Place: Nesbyen, Norway





I am sure you know a lot about these sexy guys. Indeed, they are said to be one of the best recognized, known, and researched animals in the world. And I have met them this summer in Langedrag Nature Park in Nesbyen, Norway.Yes, that’s right. This is the gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as western wolf, from the Canidae family. Most probably you have already met it in different legends and fairytales, as the wolf is a popular character there. Although in many of them it appears as the Big Bad Wolf, in some cultures, like in the Japanese mythology, this animal was worshipped as near deity. In Ancient Greece and Rome wolves were connected to the sun and the god Apollo. But most of the time these social predators are depicted as dangerous and evil. For example, in the Bible wolves serve as symbols of greed and destructiveness.

In spite of this dark image given to the gray wolf, it is rarely a threat to humans, as they are not part of his natural prey. Wolves feed on both small and large mammals, including hares, foxes, deer, moose, wild goats, wild boar, and others. They hunt mostly in packs, although single wolves or mated pairs were also observed hunting.Wolves are very social and territorial mammals. They also have complex expressive behavior, body language, and facial color patterns. Wolves also use howling to assemble the pack (something like “Avengers, assemble!”), send out an alarm, or locate each other across large distances.Wolves are hunted by people for their thick and durable fur, which is used for making scarves, jackets, rugs, etc.
A BETTER WORLD THROUGH KNOWLEDGE AND INFORMATION
What is the recipe for a 100% sustainable world?In my opinion, you need the following ingredients:+ 20 g of research and innovation+ 20 g of renewable energy and energy efficiency technology+ 50 g of environmentally friendly and resource-saving habits and behavior+ One “teaspoon” of spices of sustainability policies, economic incentives, and sound legislation…… and other ingredients depending on the vision of sustainable world you are “cooking” and where you are doing this.

Did I miss anything?Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the basis of our “cake”, the dough!This is to be prepared from an efficient and thorough mixture of economic, social, and environmental data and knowledge.Indeed, such data are very important for practically everything: goal setting, decision making, progress tracking, evaluation of results achieved, and their comparison to the goals and vision of a sustainable world. Without this information we would not be able to determine where we stand in sustainable development, measure our ecological footprint, assess the state of climate change, decide upon sustainability strategies, and implement them in an efficient way. Data is like “solar energy” charging the “photovoltaics” of sustainability research and action.These statements are based on numerous examples.Take climate change mitigation and adaptation, for example. The dominant majority of our knowledge about climate change comes from the Assessment Reports prepared and periodically updated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They serve as the information basis for education on climate change, development of climate policies and strategies, and even the global climate negotiations with the next one (COP 21) to take place this November – December in Paris, France. And what makes the IPCC Assessment Reports so valuable for such important and globally influencing things? The data. Concrete, comprehensive, analyzed, and verified data. Of course, there are still many gaps, as climate change is an enormously complex field of science. But without the data gathered through technology and research and made available to the broad public in an open way we wouldn’t have even considered this issue and would have continued to emit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions uncontrollably, thus aggravating the already serious problem.I use certain environmental data myself. For instance, when I was an activist within the global movement Let’s Do It!, which aims to reach the vision of a green, clean, and zero waste world, I had done research and education on waste pollution and management. My objective was to obtain the most up-to-date information on waste pollution and GHG emissions from it, communicate it to the broad public, and educate people about this issue. For this purpose Toomas, my coordinator at Let’s Do It!, and I have created the Waste Explorer – an on-line visualization tool for the waste data in all countries of the world. And now it is used for various research, raising awareness, and education activities on the topic of waste pollution and management in many other organizations worldwide.

Talking about environmental education and specifically eco-friendly habit formation, this is where data and knowledge have great potential. Nowadays there is a growing number of initiatives that try to explore it. And they are all based on daily collection and measurement of key environmental and behavioral data, display them to the beneficiary in an easily understandable and attractive manner, and then suggest information and solutions that are most effective both for well-being of the user and the protection of the environment. One example I got to know and interacted with recently is the smartphone app BreezoMeter claimed to be the first real time air quality data platform. What BreezoMeter does is that it gathers air quality and weather data and displays it in a simple and user-friendly way for people to be able to make informed decisions on choosing the least polluted areas of their residential areas to go to, thus minimizing health risks from air pollution.

We at the organization Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy (MEGA) also actively use environmental and social data to form eco-friendly habits and nurture sustainable behavior among both individuals and organizations. Our MEGA vision is a sustainable world, where every person contributes to sustainable development and creation of positive social/environmental impact in a collaborative and fun way anywhere in the world. In order to achieve this vision we apply gamification to educate people about environmental issues, offer them solutions to address these issues, and then showcase their real positive impact. All this is wrapped up into an innovation called MEGA Game: The Game with Impact, where data and knowledge are integrated into the game platform to assist in collaborative decision making for sustainable development.As you can see from these examples, data and knowledge and their open availability to decision makers and the broad public are the crucial components of a well-informed, effective, and equitable progress in sustainable development. Luckily, the attention to such data continues to increase, and the technology of gathering, processing, and displaying it continues to improve. Therefore, I envision that in the nearest future we will have open access to comprehensive information delivered in an easily understandable way through a number of technological means, which will guide our daily choices and policy making for a better and sustainable world. This will be the “delicious cake for everyone to enjoy in an equal, respectful, and knowledgeable way”.And it seems that such a vision is not far from being realized. Already such initiatives as Eye on Earth are focusing on ensuring open access to comprehensive environmental, social, and economic information for supporting citizen engagement and decision-making for sustainable development. If you are interested in this topic, you are welcome to attend or follow on-line the Eye on Earth Summit to take place during the 6th – 8th of October, 2015, in Abu Dhabi, UAE.Sources:1. Let’s Do It! (2013). Blog: Behold – The Waste Explorer!2. MEGA (2015). About MEGA.3. The House of Cakes (2015): Earth Cake 2.
VAST VICTORIA
Date: July 2015Place: Oslo, Norway

These broad leaves of about 3 meters in diameter floating on the surface of water on a submerged stalk belong to the plant called Victoria amazonica. It comes from the family of water lilies (Nyphaeaceae), the aquatic herbs that can be found mostly in temperate and tropical climatic conditions. Victoria amazonica specifically is a happy resident of the Amazon River basin. But the plant on the photo has actually been found by me in the Botanical Garden in Oslo, Norway, that I visited in July this year.

Besides the very large leaves, Victoria amazonica is also known for its big (up to 40 cm in diameter) flowers that change colour: the first night they are open the flowers are white, but the second night they become pink. With both of these features, the large leaves and flowers, Victoria amazonica is considered to be the biggest water lily in the world.
CARNIVOROUS “SMILES”
Date: July 2015Place: Oslo, Norway





I have met these cute but carnivorous little “smiles” in the Botanical Garden in Oslo, Norway. However, they are not native in this cold country, as their origins lie in the subtropical wetlands of the North America.These “smiles” are actually the leaves of a very peculiar carnivorous plant called the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). The leaves form clever snap traps that help the plant capture and then digest small insects and arachnids. The trap closes only when the trigger hairs inside are touched twice in rapid succession, thus avoiding unnecessary movements that could have been caused by dust and other particles falling on the lobes of the trap. The speed of closing of the lobes when triggered is about one-tenth of a second. When closed, the trap creates some sort of a hermetically sealed “stomach” that digests its prey for about ten days. After that the trap opens up again and is ready for the next unlucky bug.

Venus flytrap is the most popular cultivated carnivorous plant. It is being sold worldwide as houseplant. Sometimes it is also used in herbal medicine.
THE LOUDEST CALL FOR CHANGE IN HISTORY
September 21st, 2014 became one of the historical moments in the global action to raise awareness about climate change issue and mitigate it. On this very day the largest march on calling for climate change action in human history took place. More than 675 thousand people (around 0.01% of global population) marched on the streets of New York, Barcelona, Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, Istanbul, Jakarta, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Melbourne, Sydney… There were over 2800 climate-change-related events in 166 countries that day. This so-called People’s Climate March became the largest and loudest call for action to mitigate climate change and its negative consequences so far.

All that was organized to push the global leaders, who are gathering on September 23rd, 2014, at the UN Headquarters in New York City for the UN Climate Summit 2014 to discuss the state of climate change nowadays, what is currently being done, and what still needs to be done in order to reduce (as avoidance is already not feasible) the economically, socially and environmentally damaging consequences of global climate change caused by anthropogenic activities. The one-day programme of the Summit includes announcements of national action and ambitions from the participating countries, forum for private sector, and then announcements of multi-stakeholder initiatives agreed upon. All in all, it is expected to be a surprisingly short event with quick discussions on such a complex and crucial issue as global climate change.

As I am currently doing research at IÖW in Berlin, Germany, as one of the winners of the Green Talents competition, I managed to participate in the Climate March and Festival here. Approximately 10 000 Berlin residents marched in a Silent Climate Parade from the Neptune Fountain (Neptunbrunnen) towards the Brandenburg Gate, where the Parade transformed into a Festival with music, dances and climate-change-related exhibits. Different environmental organizations, both local and international, such as Avaaz and Greenpeace, put up their stands to inform people about the issue of climate change, what it leads to, and how can we mitigate it through common action.Indeed, such event attracted much attention of pedestrians, visitors, local residents, and mass-media. Still, did it succeed in communicating the whole complexity of the issue and the urgent need for action? This is the question I keep asking myself since the participation in the Berlin Climate March.Firstly, the general message was mostly about the problems related to climate change. Much less focus was on possible solutions for climate change mitigation. What can a person do to reduce his/her carbon footprint and at the same time maintain the same level of happiness and well-being (and perhaps increase it)? It would have been great to have more showcasing of solutions to climate change offered for the people by the people.

Secondly, although there were some solutions expressed, they were targeting dominantly the transport and energy sector. Indeed, these are the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting sectors (approximately 20% and 30% of the global emissions respectively), but they are not the only ones. Industrial processes (~15%), unsustainable agricultural practices (~10%), and commercial and residential activities (~10%) also contribute to the release of carbon dioxide, methane and other GHGs into the atmosphere. So, we also need to account for them in shaping up the global climate action. For instance, the Climate Festival in Berlin created quite a volume of paper and other waste that could have been avoided. Yes, much of it will probably be recycled. But that also means that energy will be used for the recycling process. And what have I pointed out about the energy sector above?

Thirdly, the way we communicate messages about climate change and environment protection should be improved. For instance, the Berlin Climate Festival ended up as an ordinary music festival with people around selling merchandise, dancing and getting drunk. Only those participants, who already knew about the importance of climate change, kept the interest and passion for climate action till the end.

Overall, the People’s Climate March became a significant historical moment within the global people’s movement to address and mitigate the climate change issue. People succeeded in coming together and raising their voice full of desire to reduce the negative effects of the issue now and in the future. Still, as the Berlin Climate Festival showed, the ways of communicating the climate-change-related messages need to be improved. Climate change is a multi-faceted issue that should be considered in all its complexity and from all its sides. Our call for climate action should reflect that. And I hope it will be so in the near future.

For now, we will see what outputs the UN Climate Summit 2014 produces and whether the People’s Climate March have had any effect on them. Then we should prepare for the next important event – the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP-20, that is going to happen in Lima, Peru, in the period of December 1st – 12th, 2014. It is there the global climate agreement is expected to be finally decided upon. And it is there that our loudest call for change in history is expected to be heard.
THE GROWTH OF DEGROWTH
At the beginning of September 2014 I participated in the Degrowth 2014 conference that took place in Leipzig, Germany. This became possible due to the support from IÖW, a Berlin-based research institution, where I am currently doing research on the Maker Movement and its connection to sustainable development.Degrowth is a global movement based on environmental economics and anti-consumption ideas that promote decoupling of human development, happiness, and sustainability from economic growth. Supporters of the degrowth concept argue that environmental issues can be resolved and social welfare can be achieved by downscaling production and consumption and shifting our behavior to non-consumptive means, such as collaboration, co-creation, sharing, creativity, art, music, etc. Of course, this concept meets certain criticism and disbelief in the “degrowth utopia”. And this is exactly what the Degrowth conference was all about.

The goal of my participation there was to find out about the latest developments on the Maker Movement scene in Germany, as well as determine its relation to the degrowth concept. And that goal was achieved. So, here are the most interesting outputs from Degrowth 2014 in relation to open-source eco-innovation and collaborative sustainable development:#1. Nowadays the means of manufacturing become more and more accessible to individuals, meaning that one is potentially less dependent on consuming products from large capitalist companies. If you want a piece of hardware, you can just produce one at home (this approach is called DIY, Do-It-Yourself). And if you cannot do it alone, you can use the collaborative power of the community, both virtual and real, to co-create the thing you need (this is what is called DIT, Do-It-Together). There is an increasing number of co-working spaces and open workshops popping up all around. There you can use the tools and machines available to create individually or with peers the things you need. In this way you produce them locally, thus avoiding transportation of stuff and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with it. Besides, as you are the one, who created the thing, it is likely that you will put more value on it and therefore will keep and use it as long as possible, minimizing waste in this way.#2. However, you may argue that more accessible manufacturing means can lead to more production and consumption, and thus more waste, GHG emissions, and other environmental damage. Indeed, this is a valid point to consider. And the conference provided part of the response for it. Certain open workshops with professional machines, so-called Fab Labs, have started to apply principles of circular / closed-loop flow of materials. This is how the concept of “Green Fab Lab”, an open workshop with complete resource sustainability and zero waste outputs, has been born. And there is technology allowing it to happen already. For instance, with an open-source device called FilaMaker you can shred plastic things and waste from your 3D printer into a new filament input for it. The device is still far from perfect, but you can imagine where this is going. Ideally we would be able to 3D print the things we need and then, at the end of their life cycle, recycle them into material for new things. Furthermore, you can expect no extra waste from this process, as the 3D printer software is already designed to calculate how to print an object with the least amount of material needed.#3. Such accessibility of manufacturing means combined with the power of collaboration and sharing allow the appearance of “degrowth businesses” – companies that rely on community engagement, collaboration, and open source rather than closed innovation and profit maximization. An example presented at the Degrowth 2014 conference was Premium Cola. Its business model is based on an open sharing of all product developments and collaborative construction of its business. The company does little marketing, allowing the community members to decide on whether to purchase and promote the product or not. Such businesses are extremely difficult to launch and run, but, as shown by Premium Cola, it is possible. However, they still need to prove whether they really contribute to the “degrowth utopia”.

The concept of degrowth and its connection to sustainability and environment protection is still full of knowledge gaps, like Swiss cheese is full of holes. This has been proven by the outcomes of the Degrowth 2014 conference. Still, there is also more and more research in this field happening nowadays. It should help closing the gaps and support the decision-making regarding the concept of degrowth. And I am excited to contribute to this research with my own study of the Maker Movement in Berlin. So, you can expect more interesting posts and articles on this topic coming soon from my side.
CLASH OF THE GEOENGINEERING TITANS
“…The planet is no longer a patient observer and victim of human intervention. It is now a raging beast that we continue to poke. And geoengineering might well be regarded as poking it even more…” – That was one of the conclusions of the first international Climate Engineering Conference (CEC 2014) that took place on October, 18 – 21, 2014, in Berlin under the topic “Critical Global Discussions”. The speakers and participants of the conference included such prominent scientists, economists, politicians, and writers, as Prof. Dr. Mark Lawrence, Dr. Georg Schütte, Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Klaus Töpfer, Dr. Harry Lehmann, Mr. Jamais Casico, Mr. Rene Röspel, Mr. Oliver Morton, and others. I managed to participate in it as ELP alumni with the generous support of IASS Potsdam.

The discussions at CEC 2014 were indeed critical considering the controversy around the topic of geoengineering. As the conference website explains, geoengineering, also known as climate engineering, is a combination of “technologies and techniques for intentionally manipulating the global climate, in order to moderate or forestall the (most severe) effects of climate change”. These technologies can be organized into two categories:1. Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) that aims to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and includes Carbon Capture and Storage underground facilities, aforestation, ocean fertilization, etc.2. Solar Radiation Management, or Sunlight Reflection Methods (SRM) are methods of minimizing the amount of solar energy and heat reaching the Earth atmosphere by either reflecting sunrays away from the planet by large space mirrors, or dispersing them in the planet’s atmosphere by creating artificial clouds or spreading sulfur dioxide particles in the atmosphere.As one can see, there are rather drastic methods that require enormous investments and influence the climate and hence life all over the globe. Moreover, we still know very little about such technologies and the climatic system they should have effect upon. So, there is much anxiety regarding the potential unforeseen negative consequences and risks associated with geoengineering. And last but not least, it raises a multitude of questions and heated discussions about ethics and equity of experimenting with these technologies, not to mention deploying them.And this is exactly what happened at CEC 2014. The questions discussed ranged from “What is so special about geoengineering and why should we put so much attention to it?” to “Will the global society be prepared for sudden rise of support for geoengineering due to governmental approval or, let’s say, Rupert Murdoch’s supportive tweet? And what consequences it will bring to the environment and society?”

Certainly, the participants of the conference included both active supporters of geoengineering and its active opponents. The “clashes of the geoengineering titans” happened mostly around three topics: the possible military use of climate engineering technologies; the potential of experiments with such technologies and their deployment to redirect attention from actual climate change mitigation (that is, prioritizing “treating symptoms” over “fighting the disease”); and the possible and currently unknown consequences of geoengineering on the developing countries (climate equity issue) and the planet as a whole.Right from the beginning of the conference there was even a document, the so-called Berlin Declaration, proposed for participants’ support and signature. This document called upon governments, research funding organizations and scientific and professional bodies to give approval or endorsement of any experiments on geoengineering (especially on SRM) ONLY in case of these experiments having open and transparent review process and the “social licence” necessary for them to operate. However, the conference organizers immediately communicated that the Berlin Declaration is not and will never be an official output of CEC 2014 and that its signing is the personal decision of each participant. During the conference the document had been renamed into A Framework for More Democratic Governance of Climate Engineering, also known as the Scandic Principles, and enriched with the list of risks the geoengineering experiments ought to take account of and a more detailed description of transparency, open governance and other principles to regulate geoengineering technologies. Still, the document remained as an unofficial individual initiative and not the official public output of the event.

All in all, the 5-days conference, including its open-for-public panel “The Anthropocene – An Engineered Age?” on October, 22, 2014, at the House of World Cultures in Berlin, concluded that geoengineering must not be a substitute for climate change mitigation and that much care and regulation is needed before we can move forward to large-scale experiments and implementation of these technologies. Still, many questions remained to be discussed and answered. And thus the true “clashes of geoengineering titans” are yet to come.
GAMIFICATION IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Gamification is a concept of applying game design and mechanics to a non-game context. This is a psychology- and motivation-based approach used in many areas (education, entrepreneurship, innovation, research, etc.) to increase the motivation, engagement and contribution of the target audience, as well as achievement of the necessary results through their active involvement. For instance, in this article you can read about how gamification is applied to research in various domains of science.

In the Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy (MEGA) we use the concept of gamification in education and research on environmental management and sustainable development. In details, we apply the game design and tools – principles of behavioral economics, PBL (points, badges and leaderboards), storyline, engagement and progression loops, etc. – to motivate young people to participate in learning about the environment and contribute to research on how to make our country, Moldova, a green, clean and sustainable place. Nowadays we test their application in environmental education for pupils in Moldovan schools within the project G.R.E.E.N. (Garbage Recycling and Environmental Education Nationwide). The first stage of this “education and learning experiment” has been completed in the capital city of Moldova, Chisinau. You can see how it was performed in the following video (in Romanian): The inputs and feedback from the tests within G.R.E.E.N. are going to be used to create the unique on-line experience in education and research on the topic of environmental management and sustainable development. This Game with Impact will be designed as a learning, connecting and impact-creating platform that offers “players” to complete special “missions” representing concrete case studies and research work offered by public and private institutions in need for research and impact results. The platform will also feature tools and opportunities for its users to learn about environmental entrepreneurship and launch their own green startups. You can see the initial draft design of the Game with Impact HERE.

In order to make this initiative happen, we have engaged in collaboration with UC Berkeley within its Master of Development Practice (MDP) program. Within this collaboration MEGA provides internships in Moldova for 4 MDP graduate students this year for them to contribute to creating and releasing the Game with Impact and in this way learning about gamification in sustainable development in a developing country in practice.If you are one of the MDP students interested in this opportunity, then do check the conditions and Job Description for each internship position HERE.And if you are just interested to apply the concept of gamification in your environmental management and sustainable development, then you are always welcome to contact us at mega.moldova@gmail.com.Let’s move towards sustainability! And let’s do it in a fun way!

Sources:1. Mashable, 2014. Topics: Gamification.2. The Guardian, 2014. How online gamers are solving science's biggest problems.
THE BEST WAY TO LEARN AND PLAY
The basis of all great initiatives, projects, organizations and their achievements is the sharing of knowledge, building up of skills and accumulation of experience. This is realized through education and learning, be it theoretical or practical, formal or informal. Such well-known relation is valid for all areas of human activity, including environmental science and management: before engaging into the elaboration and implementation of environmental policies, conducting environmental research work, establishment of environmental organization, starting of “green” business, etc. one needs to understand how ecosystems function, how the human activity affects them, what are the consequences of this influence now and in the future, and how can we mitigate them.

The ways to educate people are different. You can organize series of lectures with teacher reading the material from a book and students writing it down word by word. You can invite experienced speakers to present their research results and project achievements and share how they obtained them. You can organize excursions and internships to various environmental projects and organizations. Or you can provide the on-line or off-line platform for peer-to-peer education and self-learning.These ways differentiate on the basis of objectives of education and effectiveness of learning.

I am interested in the approaches to learning and ways of environmental education, because currently I contribute to the establishment of an environmental education institution called Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy, or briefly MEGA. This unique organization offers a hands-on learning experience – the MEGA Experience – in a form of a real-time game with creation of positive impact in society and environment during the whole “play”. In this way MEGA is the first educational institution on Environmental Management, Economics and Governance with the practical and gamified education and learning process.In order to make it happen in the way we, the MEGA Team, envision it, I joined the Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program offered by the University of California, Berkeley. Here I was able not only to receive valuable knowledge on Environmental Management, Economics and Leadership, but also observe the environmental education process in action and study how it is done in one of the top 10 universities in the world.

I also managed to interview a number of program participants to identify what kind of methods, tools and approaches to environmental education are needed in order to make it successful. Each interviewee was offered to answer two questions:1) What session / method / approach did you particularly like within the Environmental Leadership Program?2) What educational method, tool or approach would you like to be introduced in the Program?The interviews are presented in the following video: Judging by the responses, we can see that an effective and successful environmental learning experience can be achieved, if we incorporate the following elements in it:+ Diversity of participants, professors and trainers;+ Space and opportunities for networking and collaboration;+ Interactive trainings with practical methods and exercises;+ Time for common discussions, brainstorming, reflection, peer-to-peer learning and sharing of personal experiences of participants;+ Updated and practically applicable information;+ Knowledge related to personality, personal capabilities of participants and leadership;+ Real case studies adapted to the participants’ places of origin and communities;+ Good case practices from all over the world that are inspiring and useful for participants;+ Excursions to explore different projects and organizations that work both with high-tech and low-tech solutions;+ Multidisciplinary and holistic approach to learning;+ Various types of sessions organized in an integrated manner;+ Combination of theory, recent and relevant research results, examples and practice.All these inputs will be integrated in the MEGA Experience when MEGA is fully established and running.What do you think about the inputs? Do you agree with them?And how would YOU like to see environmental education taking place in your country and worldwide?Note: I thank all the ELP participants, who agreed to be interviewed and filmed for this study.Sources:1. Times Higher Education: World University Rankings 2012-2013.2. Townsend, J. 2000. The Trainer’s Pocketbook.
DID YOU KNOW THAT…


… having sex multiple times increases the viability of your children? At least this is what the observations on the fertility of insects and other animals and viability of their posterity tell us. Scientists have noticed that the denser is the population of insects on a given area, the more times they mate with each other, which leads to the lower amount of eggs laid per individual, but the higher is the viability and adaptability of these eggs, larvae and imago hatched and developed from them. Sometimes this interesting phenomenon can be observed not only in the first, but also in the second generation. And vice versa, the scarcer is the insects’ population, the less copulation they have. It results in weaker posterity, but the larger amount of it.So, there seems to be a certain natural mechanism of regulating populations. Scarce population with fewer opportunities of mating tends to have relatively weak posterity. In order to survive organisms there need to lay more eggs / give birth to more children. Dense population, on the contrary, offers more opportunities for copulating, which increases the viability of future generations. So, its members do not need to have high fertility to survive. And in fact it should be reduced to prevent overgrowth of the population beyond certain limits.But, of course, the Nature always has a number of exceptions to make life more diverse and interesting. For example, the fly Rhagoletis likes to have it all at once: to be in large numbers, to have “sex” many times, to lay highly viable eggs and in very large quantities. Basically, it lives by the principle “If to do anything, then do it a lot”.And we, humans, are subject to the same regulatory mechanism with some exceptions in our communities, aren’t we?Note: The post is based on the book by Marikovskii, P. I. “Insects Defending”.
FROM CLEAN TO GREEN
In the post “LA GRANDE FINALE” I wrote about my research project “Non-state Cooperation in Environment Protection Area in Developed and Developing Countries: The Case of Waste Management in Moldova” and the collaboration with the national cleanup campaign “Hai, Moldova!” in the Republic of Moldova. The collaboration appeared to be quite fruitful: nowadays there is the updated information on the state of the waste issue in Moldova, description of about 20 good case practices in waste prevention and management and the practically applicable model of non-state cooperation available for public. And “Hai, Moldova!” itself was successful in removing about 2,800 t of illegally disposed waste, recycling approximately 31 t of plastic waste and organizing the first Eco Fashion Show in the country.However, you can easily understand that this is not enough to solve the problems with waste in Moldova described HERE. This is why together with the NGO “Medium” that organizes “Hai, Moldova!” and some interested and very capable people - Daniela, Alexei and Anastasia - we have decided to go further from the simple cleanup activity to the education of young people about waste pollution and proper waste management, installation of waste sorting equipment in some schools in different regions of Moldova and offering the citizens of this country open access to the latest information on the waste issue here.Thus, the environmental project GREEN (Garbage Recycling and Environmental Education Nationwide) was born. Although it officially starts in January – February 2013, we have already made the first video explaining the reasons behind its organization and its concept. You can watch it HERE:Of course, this video is only our first piece of news about the project. More updates will be coming. So, stay tuned about the project GREEN in Moldova!And really, let’s make Moldova both clean and GREEN!
LONGER THAN THE BODY
Date: August 2012Place: Lahemaa, Estonia





This little fellow with antennae longer than its body exploring my hands is the flat-faced longhorn beetle (Lamiinae) from the Cerambycidae (Cipricornia) family within the Coleoptera order of insects. It came to me to see the amateur beach ball match we had been playing at the summer camp in the North-Eastern Estonia. As you see, I was quite happy about that surprise meeting.The longhorn beetles, or longicorns, as their name suggests, can be easily identified by the very long antennae. Some representatives, for instance the male of the timberman beetle (Acanthocinus aedilis), flaunt the antennae, which are four or five times longer than their body. However, not all longhorn beetles possess such distinguishing feature; some of them, like the blackspotted pliers support beetle (Rhagium mordax) have the antennae twice as short as their body length. In general, Cerambycidae is a quite large (more than 17000 species) and cosmopolitan family. This is why there are still some controversial opinions about certain members of it.

But what is known for sure is that certain species of longhorn beetles, for example Parandra caspia, are serious pests of forests and wooden objects: their larvae feed on wood, causing extensive damage to living trees and lumber. Still, there are other insects, reptiles and birds, who find the beetles and their larvae very tasty, in this way keeping their population at the acceptable level. This is how the natural balance is maintained… and it is better not to disturb it.
UNFRIEND HUMAN?
A lot of people know what social network is. A lot of people use such applications as Facebook. Nowadays one can even track the life of a person by using it.But what if our Earth had its own Facebook – the “Earthbook”? How would the past and present events on the planet look in such social network? And what would the Earth write us, Humans, there?These were the questions the makers of the video “Earthbook – Project Earth: Our Future 2.0” asked themselves. And here is what they came up with:What do you think, will the Earth “unfriend” us?Or it is possible to build up the economy that our planet will “like”?And if you used this “Earthbook”, what would you write and post to the Earth?
LA GRANDE FINALE
Waste and pollution by it are one of the most important environmental issues in a large number of developing countries, including the Republic of Moldova. They cause a variety of negative effects there ranging from local soil and water contamination and increase of morbidity to emissions of greenhouse gases and contribution to the global climate change. In addition, waste is an indicator of resource use inefficiency and high economic losses for the country.

In spite of these negative effects of the waste issue, the performance of waste management in Moldova is rather low. More than 90% of all waste is disposed to landfill sites, which in most cases are not managed properly and do not meet the basic environmental standards. Waste separation at the source and recycling are present only occasionally, and their efficiency is not at the desired level. The reasons of such inefficiency in waste management in the country include conservative top-down waste governance style, low administrative capacity to deal with the waste issue effectively, inefficient waste policies and legislation, weak monitoring and control over waste management, lack of source separation, small waste management market size, problem of free-riding by waste management entities, low stakeholder involvement and participation, insufficient awareness about the waste issue among the society, low demand for better waste management policies and practices, and others.

One of the ways to address the problem of inefficient waste management in such a country, as Moldova, is the involvement and synergetic cooperation of non-state actors – private companies, large CSR-oriented corporations and environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Certain research literature (for example, Coskeran et al., 2006; Falkner, 2003; Joseph, 2005) shows significant gains of such solution from the economic, social, and environmental points of view. However, it does not thoroughly explain how to manage non-state cooperation in an efficient manner and thus ensure its success in improving waste management in a developing state. Closing this gap of knowledge and elaborating a practically applicable model for organizations in Moldova to use became the focus of my research project entitled “Non-state Cooperation in Environment Protection Area in Developed and Developing Countries: The Case of Waste Management in Moldova”, which was introduced and described in the post “LET’S CLEAN UP MOLDOVA… IN A SCIENTIFIC WAY!”.

After a year (June 2011 – May 2012) of intense research, expeditions, field work, interviews, etc. the main modeling and key findings of the project were compiled in Master thesis submitted to the Faculty of Science of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark on the 27th of May, 2012. The thesis gave answer to the main research question, which was “How can one model the process of non-state cooperation development in waste management and apply the elaborated theoretic model in practice in order to improve waste management and governance in the Republic of Moldova?”, through analysis and discussions around the following seven questions:1) Why is waste an important issue to be addressed?2) How can waste be managed efficiently?3) Why is waste management and governance a problem in Moldova?4) Why should private companies and NGOs be involved in waste management?5) How can non-state actors work together to address the waste issue?6) How can the waste issue in Moldova be solved through non-state cooperation?7) What are the applications and limitations of the present work?All these questions were answered with the help of a large number of economic, business and political literature sources, different theories and research methods, existing good case practices of non-state cooperation in waste management in different countries and other resources that can be found in the specially created LinkedIn group "TripleR: Join the Waste Management Evolution!". The practical part of the thesis included the data from two expeditions and field work in Moldova, which were supported financially by the Explorers Club Exploration Fund. The model elaborated and described in the thesis was empirically applied to the 2012 edition of the national cleanup campaign “Hai, Moldova!”, thus identifying its successes and drawbacks and coming up with suggestions for capitalizing on the former and reducing the latter.Nowadays the complete Master thesis is publicly available and can be accessed and downloaded HERE:

Still, that was not all. “La Grande Finale” of this research work took place at the University of Copenhagen on the 19th of June, 2012, when I successfully defended my Master thesis. An episode from its presentation can be viewed HERE:Unfortunately, due to technical issues it was not possible to record the whole defence. Nevertheless, you have probably noticed that I tried to present my findings in the form of a poem. This was done in order to challenge myself in delivering a creative and innovative presentation and combining research work with one of my interests and hobbies, which is writing poetry. If you want to see how successful (or not) this idea was, you can watch the full version of the presentation HERE:Although the Master thesis has been defended, the research project is not finished yet. Some more work consisting of preparing summary reports for project beneficiaries, publishing the obtained results in articles and presenting them at various scientific conferences should still be done. Further updates about the progress here will be published in the LinkedIn group "TripleR: Join the Waste Management Evolution!" and on this blog.

Hopefully the results of this research project will be a useful contribution in mitigating waste pollution and improving waste management and governance in the Republic of Moldova and other developing countries.Note: There is still much research work needs to be done on the topic of non-state cooperation in environment protection area. If you are interested in cooperation within further research here, I would be glad if you contact me by e-mail: bsrcentre@gmail.com.
SOME HOT & HAIRY BABES
You probably expect to see here a number of photos of young Ladies in bikini or even without. Although female representatives of Homo sapiens are all indeed beautiful and truly masterpieces of the Nature, they are not the stars of this article. The “babes” I present here have eight hairy legs, eight dark eyes and a couple of poisonous fangs. You might have already guessed that these are spiders – really beautiful and amazing invertebrate creatures representing the Araneae order within the Arachnida class of animals.

 The reason for these “hot & hairy babes” being the focus here is that in June 2012 I managed to visit an interesting exhibition “Spiders” at the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was aimed at showing people how beautiful and fascinating spiders really are. And indeed they are.For example, these creatures do not have movement (extensor) muscles in their limbs and instead perform all movements by using hydraulic pressure of their inner liquids. This feature does not impede them from moving quite fast and even jumping several times their own body length. The latter ability is the characteristic of the cute jumping spiders (Salticidae), which are easily identified by four very large eyes.

A more well-known characteristic of spiders is the ability to produce silk from their spinnerets and to create wonderful, resilient and durable webs of different forms and sizes within a very short time (usually several hours). You might have heard that due to their resilience and durability spider silk and webs were used in producing clothes and tents. The exposition “Spiders” featured some examples of clothing and the golden shawl made from silk from 41000 spiders. Still, it may be a surprise for you to know that not all spiders make use of their silk-producing ability to weave webs. Some thrilled-for-hunt species use it as bolas, others, more patient ones – as fishing rods, while the most romantic “gentlemen” create a nice wrapping for gifts to their “girlfriends” from it (or even wrap the “girlfriends” themselves, if they misbehave).

Focusing on the spiders' romantic and sexual life in particular, there are some interesting features here also. For instance, their world is mostly a matriarchal one: here females are more powerful and larger than males. In some cases a male can be smaller than the cephalothorax of his “girlfriend” (such difference is called sexual dimorphism). This is why many males do not survive after copulation – they become eaten by their hungry partner, thus sacrificing themselves for organic material necessary for the development of eggs. In such circumstances spider males need to be real “gentlemen” if they wish to satisfy their “girlfriend” and stay alive after that. And in some species they are just that – always ready with a gift in form of a delicious meal or a gentle massage to make a Lady happy and relaxed. This is the spiders’ way of having a truly safe sex.

Of course, these amazing creatures have many more characteristics and features to be fascinated about. But you are probably waiting to see the photos of real living spiders to admire their beauty. So, here you have them – some “hot & hairy babes”:









To tell the truth, I have a “babe” of my own, which is shown on the photo below. This is Mashka, a cellar spider from the Pholcidae family. She lives in my bathroom and protects it from any mosquitoes or other unwanted visitors.

So, are you fascinated about spiders now? Do you want to see them with your own eyes? You still have the opportunity to do it by visiting the exhibition “Spiders”, as it is open until the 23rd of December, 2012. There you will be able to read more about these arachnids, watch some interesting videos about them, see some colourful glass sculptures of spiders, give a hug to a giant leather tarantula, and, of course, meet the “hot & hairy babes” in person. Thus, I wish you a pleasant date with them!Note: If you still wish to see some hot & sexy human Ladies, you can check my post about the Copenhagen Carnival “BEAUTIFUL, SEXY, FUN, COLORFUL…”.
SWIMMING WITH WASTE
There are many leisure opportunities in the ocean nowadays. You can swim with dolphins. You can dive in to see the wonders of a coral reef. You can do scuba-diving into an underwater crack. However, all of them usually cost money, and quite a lot.Still, thanks to the human inefficiency and carelessness there is now an opportunity to experience the ocean like never before. And it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE! Moreover, you can pick up some interesting and unexpected souvenirs while swimming. So, we proudly present you the marine attraction of the 21st century:SWIMMING WITH WASTE!

For the best experience we highly recommend you do the following:- Buy or rent a boat;- Sail to the North Pacific Gyre in the Pacific Ocean, between 135 W to 155 W and 35 N to 42 N;- Find the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch / Pacific Trash Vortex near the Hawaiian Archipelago (you cannot miss this enormous patch of waste);- Dive in and enjoy the swimming among colourful plastic and glass bottles, caps, aluminum cans, paper, metals, chemical sludge, and other s**t coming from our advanced and highly developed human society.And you do not need to hurry. You can do it again and again every year. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is likely to stay there and grow more for centuries ahead.Here is a presentation of this magnificent opportunity by one of the “customers”:Have fun swimming in your own s**t!And do keep polluting the environment! Or else such amazing opportunities will disappear.
Y U POLLUTE???
There is a very interesting question that whirls in my head very often. The question with a multitude of answers, but none of them satisfying my curiosity. The question so simple and logical to ask, but so difficult to find logic and rationale in its answers. The question:WHY DO WE, HUMANS, POLLUTE OUR ENVIRONMENT?

For instance, you… yes, you… why do you pollute? Why do you produce hazardous waste, why do you contaminate soil, why do you deplete supplies of freshwater, why do you cut down forests, why do you destroy ecosystems by converting them into agricultural and urban land, why do you emit greenhouse gases that enhance climate change…? WHY?- Because it is a natural and inevitable part of mankind’s survival, living, and development. We need food, water, shelter for survival… then technologies, transportation, infrastructure for development… then more food, water, shelter for supplying our constantly growing population… then more technologies, transportation, infrastructure for increasing our welfare and utility…, - you may reply.But all this is possible without so much damage to the environment. Around 25% of food from your table and 30% of all your consumed goods end up in a trash bin. With each person throwing out similar share of products, it accumulates into a huge amount of polluting waste. Moreover, before ending up as a pile of garbage, these items were produced with conversion of many hectares of natural land for agricultural purpose, with large emissions of greenhouse gases, with leaching of contaminating fertilizers into groundwater, with extraction of many nonrenewable resources… should I continue?- Well, yes, but this requires more efficient processes and technologies… And to develop them requires sufficient knowledge, innovation, time, need and demand for them…True. However, we have knowledge – there is a gigantic amount of books and articles written about sustainable and environmentally-friendly technologies. We have innovation – come on, nowadays we are more than 7 bln units of brainpower! We have time… still… if we start doing something nowadays. Need and demand… yes, but why we do not have them?- Because we do not experience the consequences of pollution... at least not much. We do not have enough economic and social incentives to make the environment our priority.In other words, we need someone to reward us for good behaviour and punish us for misbehaviour, right? But can’t we stop polluting our home planet and start caring about it without this “carrot and stick” approach? Can we do it just because we want a clean home, because we care about others, because we want future generations to have a nice place to live?- Here we talk about changing a worldview. And doing it of the whole mankind. Even if you are so eco-friendly, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to turn everyone in the eco-morale direction. Besides, why should we care about the future and our descendants, when there are many opportunities to live a happy carefree life nowadays? The descendants will find a way to deal with pollution, because they will be smarter and technologically more advanced.But is it right? Just think about it… Though we pollute the environment in order to develop and ensure future prosperity, but we put no value on our future… Isn’t it kind of controversial? And besides, we can live a happy life without degrading the environment along the way. It does not reduce our utility to do simple actions, such as reuse goods and share them among each other, thus reducing depletion of natural resources, waste generation, and pollution…- But who would share anything when he can own it and display it as confirmation of his welfare and power?... Ah, enough already! Stop worrying and start enjoying the life! Benefit from the so-called “Power of NOW”! And let someone else care and clean after you.

That was a shortened version of self-reflection and discussion with my other self. It was not very convincing and resultative, was it? So, I am still in search for the reasonable answer to my question.And what about you, dear Reader?WHY DO YOU POLLUTE?Sources:1. EEA, 2010. The European Environment: State and Outlook 2010. Consumption and the Environment.2. Government Office for Science, 2011. The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and Choices for Global Sustainability. Executive Summary. London.
DEER IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
Date: May 2011Place: Klampenborg, Denmark





These photos of free and happy as a sandboy deer were taken at the Jægersborg Dyrehave (“The Deer Park” in Danish) in Denmark. A former royal hunting ground, Dyrehaven now occupies around 11 square kilometers and has approximately 2000 deer with the largest populations being of red deer (Cervus elaphus), fallow deer (Dama dama), and sika deer (Cervus nippon). The park is very close to the Danish capital Copenhagen and other cities of the Eastern coast of Zealand.The deer (Cervidae) can be easily distinguished by the significant antlers that males (stags) grow and shed every year. The growth rate of these antlers is 2.5 cm per day. Deer are ruminant mammals, meaning that they have a four-section stomach, and the plants they eat are initially softened in the first section, then regurgitated into the mouth, rechewed there, and only then digested in other sections of the stomach. Deer are present in all continents, except Australia and Antarctica. They are hunted and grown by humans for food, clothing, and transportation. In former times the word “deer” meant any wild animal of any species, but then narrowed down to these particular mammals.

The red deer (Cervus elaphus) shown on the photos is one of the largest representatives of the Cervidae family, with stags being around 220 cm in length and 200 kg in weight. During the autumn the red deer gets a “free fur coat”: it grows a thicker coat of hair to help its body keep the heat during cold winter days. These mammals can live up to 20 years, but their average lifespan is only about 10 – 15 years. This is the only species of deer inhabiting Africa.Note: You can see more photos and read about the Jægersborg Dyrehave in “Copenhagen Pictures: Dyrehaven – The Royal Hunting Ground And Park”.
TRIPLER: JOIN THE WASTE MANAGEMENT EVOLUTION!
The previous post entitled “LET’S CLEAN UP MOLDOVA… IN A SCIENTIFIC WAY!” revealed some details of the international research project that is currently in progress. It bears the official name “Non-state Cooperation in Environment Protection Area in Developed and Developing Countries: The Case of Waste Management in Moldova” and is aimed at researching the possibilities of cooperation between corporate and non-corporate sector in the area of waste management and coming up with recommendations for its establishment and progress in the developed (Denmark) and developing (Moldova) countries. The project is planned to end in May 2012 with several research articles and the comprehensive final report.

The most recent achievement within the project activity is the finalized research work “Business Opportunities in the Waste Management Market in the Baltic States and the Example of TripleR: Join the Waste Management Evolution!”. Its output tells about the current situation with waste management in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and some opportunities of establishing business in this attractive market. It will be made publicly available in the nearest future.But the output document is not the only significant result of the above-mentioned research work. Its conclusions and recommendations, as well as the increasing number of persons interested in the research project and the issue of waste management in general became the inspiration for and push towards the creation of an on-line networking and sharing platform. In order to make it professional, the virtual social network LinkedIn was chosen to host this platform. So, nowadays one can find there the group called "TripleR: Join the Waste Management Evolution!".

The group includes updates about the research plans and progress of the project, recommendations for the literature used, released articles and other publications, good case practices from different countries, job positions, etc. You are able to join a discussion, start a new one, share your thoughts, promote opportunities, contact other interested people, contribute to the research project, and much more. Of course, all this is related to the issue of waste management.Thus, if you are interested in and willing to contribute to cleaning up our planet in a scientific way, then this group is for YOU.JOIN TRIPLER!JOIN THE WASTE MANAGEMENT EVOLUTION!Note: A recommendation is to also take part in the group “Waste Management & Recycling Professionals” that represents a good networking tool for people working in the waste management industry.
LET’S CLEAN UP MOLDOVA… IN A SCIENTIFIC WAY!
The general impression people have of scientists is of the ones sitting days and nights in their laboratories, “playing” with complex formulas, and releasing mind-twisting research works that end up collecting dust on the libraries’ shelves. Such impression is even stronger regarding researchers in Environmental Economics, for instance. The reason is that theoretical research does not go hand-in-hand with the applied one, i.e. the research process and results are not implemented in the “real world”.Yet, this can be changed and should be done for some fields of science. Theory can go along with its practical implementation if researchers work together with company managers, volunteers from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and policy makers. It is called synergetic cooperation, and it is precisely such cooperation the new research project targeting the Republic of Moldova is about.

The project entitled “Non-state Cooperation in Environment Protection Area in Developed and Developing Countries: The Case of Waste Management in Moldova” addresses the issue of how the experience of developed countries, such as Denmark and Germany, in non-state (companies and NGOs) cooperation in waste management can be applied to a developing state (in this case, Moldova) in order to construct and implement in practice an effective and efficient waste management development model there. In particular, the research project is focused on answering the following questions:1) What are the reasons of inefficiency in waste management in Moldova and which are the most important ones to focus on?2) What are the economic and social consequences of this inefficiency?3) How can companies and NGOs work together to establish and develop the waste management market based on the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) of the waste hierarchy?4) What are benefits and costs of such cooperation?5) What existing best case practices in developed countries can be used in constructing the waste management development model for Moldova?6) What waste management development model is suggested for Republic of Moldova and how can it be implemented there?7) How can this model be used in other developing states?The project has a one-year realization period (June 2011 – May 2012) and includes 2 intermediary and 1 final research articles to be released, as well as the final research report to be made public at the end of the period. Several seminars and workshops on non-state cooperation and waste management and an internship in a waste management company are also part of the project action plan.As the research project is all about synergetic cooperation, it will bring together companies involved in waste management and/or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, environmental NGOs, and policy makers. The research work will be conducted simultaneously with consultations, negotiations with, and surveying of the above-mentioned economic agents, so the cooperation of theory and practice will also be achieved. And the project will contribute to resolving one of the most severe environmental problems a developing country, such as the Republic of Moldova, faces nowadays – the problem of inefficient waste management.Thus, it is high time to clean up Moldova… in a scientific way!Note: If you want to join the project team, contribute to its success in any other way, or just receive more information about it, please contact the project coordinator by e-mail: bsrcentre@gmail.com.
“HAI, MOLDOVA!”: INTERNAL ASSESSMENT
On 16th of April, 2011 I participated in the national environmental initiative “Hai, Moldova!”, which consists mostly in activating citizens of my home country, the Republic of Moldova, for collecting waste in certain places. I had heard about this initiative a long time ago, and as an environmentalist became interested to see and analyze it from within. Anyway, I used to collect garbage during my walks in “The Roses Valley” park in Chisinau, as well as organizing such events as the “Green Picnic”.However, there were certain doubts about the efficiency and impact of “Hai, Moldova!” also. In particular, I was concerned about recycling of the collected waste, organization of such large crowd of volunteers, cooperation with corporate actors, etc.Thus, I joined in. I did not affiliate to any particular group of volunteers intentionally in order to be able to observe multiple groups and thus have a broader picture of the activities performed. It was an interesting and fun experience, I should say.Still, the basic principles of scientific analysis make me depart from my personal opinion and present the assessment of “Hai, Moldova!” on the basis of the observed facts. Here I should stress the point that this is NOT a critique. This post is an independent internal assessment of an environmental initiative as seen through eyes of a young researcher and trainer in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics. It is organized according to the well-known feedback principle of “STOP, CONTINUE, IMPROVE”.STOP:None observed.CONTINUE:+ Promotion and raising awareness about the issue of waste accumulation on the territory of Moldova among the society. The “Hai, Moldova!” message reached various economic agents: individual citizens, companies, non-governmental and governmental organizations.+ Recycling of plastic. The volunteers were instructed to separate all garbage into plastic and non-plastic one. I was told that all plastic waste would be transported to a recycling station at Ungheni. However, I received no information on where it is located and, most importantly, how the waste would be recycled. Therefore, refer to the IMPROVE section for further discussion.+ Equipment (protective clothing and bags) provided for all volunteers. The clothing allowed people to stay clean, while the bags were used to collect and store waste. Still, see the IMPROVE section for feedback about it.+ Aesthetical results. The activity of “Hai, Moldova!” contributed to the removal of waste on a large area. Many people enjoyed the view of the cleaned territory after performing the activity.+ Networking. The event on 16.04.2011 brought together many people from different sectors and places. There were even some foreigners.+ External promotion for companies as environmentally responsible agents.+ Team-building activity for representatives from corporate, non-corporate and governmental organizations.+ Fun. Many people enjoyed the activity in the fresh air, even though it was quite muddy after the rain.IMPROVE:! Achievement of the environmental goal. “Hai, Moldova!” claims to be the environmental initiative, but the environmental impact is dubious here. The initiative results in removing the waste from certain territories and transporting to other ones, but not in the reduction of the total amount of garbage on the territory of the country (for a discussion about the dangers of such approach see here). Therefore, “Hai, Moldova!” contributes mostly to resolving aesthetical and perhaps health issues related to waste, but less to the environmental one. A suggestion here is to pay much attention to the recycling aspect of waste management.! Control for further waste “way”. Talking about recycling, “Hai, Moldova!” seems to be not controlling the real elimination of waste from the ecosystem and, in general, have extremely little information about further “fate” of the collected garbage. The initiative encourages the behavior more of “yardmen” than of “environmentalists”. There is also danger of using the inappropriate ways of recycling. For example, simple burning of plastic bottles releases all their toxic components into the atmosphere and also contributes to carbon emission increase. Possible improvements can be represented in more active cooperation with the recycling stations, thorough tracking of the whole waste “way”, and more focus on waste destruction.! Coverage of the whole waste hierarchy. The focus of “Hai, Moldova!” is only on the lowest levels of it: disposal and recycling. But the real positive environmental impact is achieved by combining all levels, especially the “3 Rs”: REDUCE slows down the production and consumption of waste-generating goods, REUSE supports multiple use of the same goods, and RECYCLE eliminates the waste that has been impossible or extremely costly to reduce and reuse from the ecosystem. So, an evident proposal here concerns either the enriching of the “Hai, Moldova!” activities to cover all “3 Rs” or its cooperation with economic agents that focus on the REDUCE and REUSE campaigns. See for yourself: wouldn’t it be better if there is no need for such cleaning activities and people spend their time in more productive ways because there is simply no waste to collect – it is either reduced, or reused, or in the worst case recycled?! Dealing with “they will clean it anyway” attitude. The activity of “Hai, Moldova!” contributes to nurturing two opposite types of attitude and behavior in the society. The first one is represented by a more careful attention to the environment and less littering, while the second has the potential of producing even more waste. “I may litter as much as I can. Those guys from “Hai, Moldova!” will clean it anyway!” – such attitude deserves much attention and brainstorming for ideas on dealing with it.! Room for creativity and innovation. “Hai, Moldova!” uses volunteers as simple workforce with the approach “go there and do that”. There are few opportunities and specific environment for these volunteers and the whole society to express their ideas and come up with initiatives for resolving the pollution issue. There are simply no incentives to “think outside the box”. Some possible recommendations here are the following: creation of the “innovations” page on the website for users to post their ideas and initiatives; establishment of the virtual forum for creative discussions; organization of conferences, round tables, scenario workshops, etc. for networking and sharing of ideas among different economic agents.! Organization of volunteer groups. The beginning of the 16.04.2011 event was rather chaotic with many groups and individual volunteers seeking for some instructions and directions. It is possible to improve this by organizing separate “meeting areas” and “info-points” for individuals, companies, NGOs, etc.! Equipment, such as protective clothing and bags, distributed by “Hai, Moldova!” is waste in itself. After use it was thrown away, thus adding to the aggregate amount of garbage already available on the country’s territory. Additionally, the label on the clothing read “100% polyolefin”, which is a polymer containing such ingredients as dibutyl phthalate (30 – 40%) – a hazardous compound banned in the European Union and other countries. In the process of decomposing of such piece of clothing the compound is released into the environment, causing harm to plants, animals, and people. The recommendation for preventing such negative impact is either to reuse (do you remember the “3 Rs”?) clothing by collecting and washing it or to acquire more environmentally friendly protective clothing, or preferably both.

CONCLUSION:No doubt, such national environmental initiative as “Hai, Moldova!” is a valuable move towards the society’s friendlier attitude towards the environment. “Hai, Moldova!” managed to bring together many economic agents from all over the country and really “point their noses into” the problem of pollution by waste.Still, it stands in the infancy of environmental initiatives, where a lot of important connections and interactions between various areas and issues are not considered. And, most importantly, there is no science behind vision, mission, objectives, and all activities within the initiative, as shown by the assessment above.Anyway, I see (and I hope I see it correctly) that “Hai, Moldova!” is one of the first, but nevertheless important steps in addressing environmental problems. A baby needs to learn to crawl before one teaches him / her to walk. Therefore, if “Hai, Moldova!” learns to use science, to “see the Big Picture”, and to explore its own rich potential (and I see it rich indeed!), then it will have the strength to grow into a powerful organization producing REAL POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT.So, “HAI, MOLDOVA!” RISE UP AND START WALKING!
THE “PLASTIC BAGS WAR”: PRICES AND TAXES
Nowadays in my home country, the Republic of Moldova, there is a blogging campaign for reducing the use of plastic bags, more specifically the plastic shopping bags given for free at shops and supermarkets. The issue here is that these bags have a very large period of decomposing (up to 100 years), and during this process polyethylene (the plastic the bags are made of) splits into toxic chemicals that pollute the environment.

The most common solution to reduce consumption of plastic bags in Moldova suggested by various bloggers is a tax levied on such bags. So, a consumer would have to pay a specific tax when receiving a plastic bag in a shop. This idea was inspired by the experience of such developed countries as the USA and Ireland.However, though such plastic bag tax is appropriate for the developed world, it might cause the totally opposite effect in such developing states as Moldova. The reason is related to the states’ different position on the so-called Kuznets curve.

The developed countries are usually positioned after the tipping point, which indicates that they have enough resources and understanding to abate their pollution. This causes the reduction of environmental degradation. But the developing countries have “more important” problems to think of, for instance, GDP fall, external debt, technological drawback, poverty, hunger, etc. – there are many reasons not go care for the environment. So, such states allocate almost all of their resources to industry in order to catch up with other more developed countries at the expense of the clean environment. The pollution level here goes up.Turning back to the tax on plastic bags. While in the developed world it is treated as an externality-correcting instrument and thereby is set at the level to discourage plastic bag usage, the governments of the developing countries will likely see it as an additional source of revenue for their weak budget. So, in order to maximize the amount of money it gets, the government will be interested in setting the tax level in such way that it does not reduce the plastic bags consumption (or does only a little), but assures this supplementary money inflow. By introducing this tax you just take some money from the society and give it to the government. Such “perverse incentive” gets even more troublesome in the presence of high corruption level, a commonplace thing in these states.So, what can be done here?Let us look at the problem from the beginner environmental economist’s point of view.Firstly, a suggestion is to use the so-called “market-based incentives” instead of the tax. In other words, we need to create a market for the plastic bags, so that they become a separate good with their market price. In this way consumers will think twice before buying them, because it becomes more economically effective to carry your own bag or backpack when going shopping. Also economists argue that such market-based mechanisms are more flexible than the “once set and go” taxes, are more or less self-adjusting, and allow the obtaining of the desired effect in a relatively short time.However, the implementation of this suggestion alone will not lead to significant reduction of plastic bags consumption, because so far we have addressed only the demand side of the problem. We need to target the supply also.So, secondly, we can use the “so-many-talks-about” plastic bag tax, but levy it directly on the companies producing these bags. This suggestion is in line with the “polluter-pays” principle – in a way, these firms can be considered as polluters, can’t they? Of course, the companies will move the tax value into the product price, which seems to be the same as the tax levied on each plastic bag. So, what is the trick? The thing is that consumers already pay for the bag as proposed previously. Additional tax will hit hard on their pockets. And they will direct their complaints not to the government, but to the “original polluters” themselves. So, in order not to lose clients and to stay in the packaging business, firms will have 2 choices: either suffer from the significantly reduced demand for the plastic bags or innovate in direction of more ecologically friendly packaging, like the biodegradable bags. Taxes are said to be very difficult to set properly and require a long period of time to produce the desired effect. However, they are a very good motivation for the profit-maximizing firms to innovate.In conclusion, the campaign on reducing the plastic bags consumption is definitely an environmentally beneficial thing to push forward. However, it should be done wisely, with analysis of different options and their combinations and with “putting ourselves into other’s shoes”. Science is a very good and helpful ally in this respect. It allows us to prevent many mistakes and unpleasant effects even before the implementation of the campaign’s suggestions.So, it is high time to say “NO!” to plastic bags… in a scientific way.Note: For those interested in environmental taxes and market-based instruments a recommendation is to read Baumol, W.J., Oates, W.E. (1988): “Uncertainty and the Choice of Policy Instruments: Price or Quantity Controls?” in Baumol, W.J., Oates, W.E. The Theory of Environmental Policy, 2nd Edition.

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