1. The search for everyday solutions—with real impact

    February 20, 2015

    A woman in Ho Chi Minh Citys' Alley 162 shows the water line on building from recent flooding. Photo: Jesse Hardman

    A woman in Ho Chi Minh Citys’ Alley 162 shows the water line on building from recent flooding. Photo: Jesse Hardman

    When the most recent United Nations climate change talks concluded in Peru in December, the 194 countries in attendance agreed to a document that featured the line “common but differentiated responsibilities” in reference to the difference between the environmental burdens of industrialized countries and developing ones. The language reflected a recognition that the burden of climate change — who is responsible for it, and for paying for the consequences of it — is shifting a little as some countries traditionally thought of as developing are no longer so far behind in GDP measurements.

    Covering climate change at the global policy level is one thing, but to really understand it on the ground level is a very different experience. On a recent reporting trip to Vietnam, one of those developing countries on the rise, I took a look at how Ho Chi Minh City is dealing with some specific climate change-influenced outcomes, the confluence of flooding, subsidence, and sea-level rise. HCMC is one of ten coastal cities in the world at risk of being destroyed by floods and storm surge in the next century. New Orleans, where I live, is also on the list.

    I arrived in Vietnam with pages and pages of research and questions floating around in my head, but I was not sure how that might translate on the ground. I knew that Can Gio Mangrove preserve, one of my stops on the trip, was a natural barrier protecting Ho Chi Minh City from storm surge. But there was no massive storm to point to yet where it saved the city, although some are predicted. And sea-level rise could bring salt water into the mangrove area and kill the trees, dissolving that defense system, but it hasn’t yet. How do you cover a slow moving disaster that might not yet have materialized in more visible ways?

    This is the point where I (and, I’m guessing, is a lot of journalists) might have turned away from a climate change story, thinking it’s either too difficult to pitch and tell, or that without a big weather event, like Hurricane Katrina, there is no story. But this feeling of story stalemate is also a place where a more solutions oriented approach can develop and thrive. Waiting for an actual disaster, proof of climate change, to cover what’s happening in places like Vietnam and Louisiana means you miss documenting a lot of the small solutions people are testing all the time that could have real impact, not just in their backyards, but globally.

    [Read more…]


  2. “We don’t have all the solutions”

    February 20, 2015

    Photo: Eve Troeh

    Mekong Delta residents are used to canals and bridges criss-crossing their landscape. Photo: Eve Troeh

    It started with an offhanded comment by a local leader in South Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. With his weathered face and pitter-patter Louisiana accent, he said people he’d met from other parts of the world, other low-lying river deltas, often understood his community’s plight of coastal land loss better than state officials 100 miles north in Baton Rouge. They knew that plans for better infrastructure often hit up against a lack of political urgency for funding. They recognized the need to communicate and plan for climate change over time – versus knee-jerk responses to any singular disaster; the importance of designing flexible, fluid systems to respect varied needs for seafood, agriculture and industry; and the treacherous history and politics of the word “relocation.”

    Beyond knowing nods, we wondered what use these shared issues might be to people on opposite sides of the globe. We learned that in 2013 a delegation of Louisiana lawmakers, scholars and other hands-on water management experts traveled to Vietnam for something called the Deltas 2013 conference. It was an extension of an earlier conference, brokered by the Dutch. The Netherlands has long established itself as the go-to authority on flood-prone areas of the world, having reclaimed so much of its own land from the sea; its experts had consulted and done pilot projects in both Louisiana and Vietnam.

    But we were interested in the direct communication developing between the two places often seen as recipients of European knowledge, and the solutions they’ve been exploring on their own. In many ways, the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the two places, their more rural contexts, and populations shifting with a changing economy, made the Mekong delta and Mississippi River deltas more aligned in their challenges. [Read more…]


  3. The Solutions Three: How is Europe combatting the spread of radical Islam?

    February 19, 2015

    Solutions Three small logoLast week, the Solutions Journalism Network launched “The Solutions Three”: a weekly newsletter highlighting some of our favorite recent solutions stories across the media landscape. Our goal with the newsletter is to bring to you different takes on recent headlines–Where are community-police relations strong? Where is ebola being fought the most successfully? How are countries successfully preventing radicalization of their youth?–and to celebrate the journalists and publications doing fantastic reporting on responses to social problems. If you have recommendations for great solutions stories, send them our way. And to sign up to get The Solutions Three sent to your inbox every Wednesday, click here.


    rad islamHow is Europe countering radical Islam?

    Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 18
    Peter Ford

    How are parents, Muslim clerics, and European governments combatting the spread of radical Islam among the youth? Peter Ford looks at responses in three cities, and evaluates how well they’re working, where they fall short, and how unlikely allies are uniting to engage these at-risk youth. [3,413 words]


    this am lifeCops see it differently, Part two (Act Two-“Comey Don’t Play That”)

    This American Life on NPR, Feb. 13
    Robyn Semien & Sean Cole

    “Wouldn’t it be lovely for a change to hear a story about police and black residents that could give any small sense of hope?” Yes, Ira Glass, yes it would. In last week’s TAL, Robyn Semien & Sean Cole explore how Las Vegas Metro PD, once a leader in unjustified police shootings, aggressively confronted racial bias, and is now a “star pupil” in policing. [27 minutes] [Read more…]