Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tuesday run

Late Tuesday afternoon,
walking down Mahogany Road,
beads of sunscreen and sweat collecting dirt and car exhaust, I mull over the day's work.

It was a long day of interviews in barangay Carmen:
- the city police department
- the regional fire department
- sari-sari owners whose shops sport new renovations and fresh red and white paint courtesy of Coca Cola - a drunk trisikad (pedicab) driver trying to score a free ticket to Canada
- a thoughtful young trisikad driver
(The latter two, survivors of Typhoon Sendong)

A lunchtime discussion with my translator about the confused reactions of the trisikad drivers when asked the pros and cons of their livelihood:
"Why ask such a question? It's a job. If we don't work, we don't eat. There's nothing to like or complain about."

And one interview in the downtown hub of Divisoria
There was a late start to the interview with the director of the Xavier Ecoville Resettlement Site;
A visit from Philippine President P'noy to the resettlement site takes precedence.

Back at the house, there is a request for roasted manok (chicken) for dinner ...
It is Tuesday after all and we only buy rotisserie chicken on Tuesdays
It just happened that way, and is now an unofficial house rule.

The chicken is on the other side of the highway.
I volunteer to buy it on the way back from a run.

It's my first run in a few days.
The summer heat, a persistent cough, fatigue from nighttime nursing, and long days of interviews and note-writing have dampened by enthusiasm for early morning jogs.

I turn left onto the national highway, away from the city and towards barangays of Agusan and Puerto.
The shoulder is uneven, a mixture of broken asphalt, rocks and litter.
It is shared,
- by overloaded transport trucks waiting for the magical hour of 5 PM when the traffic cops call it a day and stop issuing tickets
- by jeepneys, motorellas, trisikads dropping off passengers and picking up new ones
- by roadside vendors selling everything from mosquito repellent and bananas to fresh fish and hair ties
- by schoolchildren and workers returning home
But no other runners.

A few K later I dash across to the road leading up to a new housing development.
The road is paved all the way up to Teakwood Hills;
A project of Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, according to the billboards.
The pavement ends less than one hundred metres past the gate.
There are residential roads inside, but only two houses.
But lots of vacant lots.

Not unexpectedly, the road to Teakwood Hills is hilly, steep in some parts and only a slight incline in others.
The road is marked with stations of the cross.
(Many roads branching off the highway and into the mountainous hinterlands are pilgrimage routes.)
By the time I pass Station III, my calf and hamstring muscles are burning.

A brief reprieve on some flats, where a group of children play.
Three boys and one girl are wearing only one slipper (flip flop);
The mates are on the road at varying distances from the children.
They play a version of bowling, in which the object of the game is to knock over a can with a pitched slipper. Another dozen or so children watch.

"Americano, Americano"

One of the boys abandons the game and joins me, matches me stride for stride.
We run one station of the cross together, then he stops.

On the way down, I spot the kids again.
They have been climbing up the hill.
All wear two slippers.
The boy rushes out in front, I slip in behind, and the rest of the kids behind me:
A parade, a posse of runners.
The laughter is louder than the footfalls.

A "whoooooshing" sound interrupts, then clippity-clop, clippity-clop, clippity-clop.
A tall chestnut mare gallops into the fray.
Luckily for us, she stays on the opposite side of the road.
She carries no rider, only a frayed rope tied around her neck.
The rope undulates at the same rhythm as her captive.
The equine gracefully exits the run.
The children follow.

The return trip is quick.
I feel lighter, even laden with manok.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Youth Guide to Biodiversity

Here's some shameless self-promotion on one of the projects I helped produce for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

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The Youth Guide to Biodiversity is finally here!

Discover the wonders of the world’s plants and animals in this brand-new, colourful, information-packed publication. Learn about biodiversity and what it does for us, and let the Youth Guide inspire you to help protect the marvelous natural world around us.

Enjoy it, share it, get involved! Follow this link. 

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Biodiversity Challenge BadgeThe biodiversity challenge badge, published back in 2010, is the complement to the youth guide.

The challenge badge is a tool to allow teachers and youth leaders to guide young people in learning about biodiversity and developing action-oriented projects. The activities encourage participants to get to know the natural world in their community, to find out why certain species and habitats are struggling to survive, and to understand the links between biodiversity and the well-being of people around the world.

Try it out. Follow this link.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Academic publications, or Ada's first lecture

Publishing in peer-reviewed journals is a critical component of academic life. The old adage of publish or perish rings true for many university lifers. Your credibility, reputation and ability to garner scholarships, research grant money, tenure and promotions all depend, in part, having your research evaluated by your peers. There is a seemingly endless list of journals publishing research on an equally impressive array of topics. These journals are ranked in terms of their impact factor. For example, getting published in a journal like Nature or Science is akin to winning an Olympic medal. Scholars typically aim to publish in both very specialized journals read only by their peers and high impact journals with an extensive readership. In addition to publishing in peer reviewed journals, academics must also share their work orally - at conferences and workshops, guest lectures, in undergraduate and graduate courses. 

During my doctoral studies I need to buoy up the academic publication and presentation section of my curriculum vitae. This post is a brief account of one such foray.

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Part I: The article

Last year, I co-authored a paper with Dr. James Ford, one of my profs at McGill University. It investigates one part of the climate migration puzzle, specifically how to provide protection for the people displaced by climate change. The following abstract summarizes the main arguments of the paper.

Climate change is expected to increase migration flows, especially from socially and environmentally vulnerable populations. These 'climate migrants' do not have any official protection under international law, which has implications for the human security of migrants. This work argues that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) can and should recognize climate migrants, and is the most relevant international framework for doing so. While not legally binding, the acknowledgment of climate displacement, migration and planned relocation issues in the UNFCCC's Cancun Adaptation Framework indicates a willingness to address the issue through an adaptation lens. Herein, the paper proposes a framework for setting the institutional groundwork for recognizing climate migrants, focusing on the most vulnerable, promoting targeted research and policy agendas, and situating policies within a comprehensive strategy.

If you want to read the full article, it's available on the Environmental Research Letters (ERL) website. ERL is an open access journal, which means that you can read and download articles for free. An added perk of open access journals (to academics) is that your research is more likely to be disseminated outside the academic community. 

For a short synopsis, try reading Liz Kalaugher's article on the website. This online magazine targets a non-academic audience so the writing style is much less academic and reader-friendly. 

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Part II: The presentation

One of my key informants at Ateneo de Manila University kindly invited me to present this paper as part of their social sciences guest lecture series. I jumped at the opportunity. But it didn't unfold exactly as planned.

The lecture was set for Friday January 25 at 4:30 pm. As luck would have it, Frank received a text message from the MSI service center earlier that week, informing him that the long-awaited hard drive for our beleaguered laptop was finally ready for pick-up. We were in Manila for only a few days; Friday was the only available day for pick-up. Because the trek to the MSI office entails a short stint on the body-crushing MRT (Metro Rail Transit), bringing Ada was not an option. So Ada spent the day with me.

After a delicious lunch of bulalo (Filipino beef marrow soup) at Jek's Kubo (including a complimentary bowl of the broth and vegetables for "the cute baby with blue eyes"), Ada and I set off for Ateneo. We arrived early, with lots of time to peruse library resources and to photograph the outdoor art installation of quirky giant animals made of wire and coloured cans. I orated an abridged version of the presentation to a pair of giraffes.

Ada sandwiched between two giant giraffes at Ateneo de Manila University
Shortly before the scheduled start time I asked a fellow student if he'd hold the baby during the presentation. He replied that it would be his pleasure. As the lecture hall filled up, Ada started to fuss. She was getting into one of those moods, the one in which she refuses to be held by anyone except mom and papa. 

I sent a frantic text to Frank.

When I was introduced, the remarks included the usual info - name, degrees, country of origin, research interests, etc. The remarks also included some commentary about changing gender relations (in which the father takes time off work to care for the children), work-life balance, parental leave in Quebec, and conducting research with a baby. 

I walked up to the podium, notes in one hand, baby in the other. I don't remember much about the words alternately flowing and stumbling from my lips. I do remember bouncing my daughter up and down on my hip, listening to her babble into the microphone, watching her make eyes at the audience. I remember feeling mortified and guilty; the guilt comes from wondering whether or not I am exerting white privilege by bringing my baby to work and expecting others to ignore the inconvenience. I remember stealing frequent glances at the door, willing Frank to enter the room.

A half hour later he does. Waltzes down the stairs to the podium, picks up the baby and exits the room. 

My knight in shining armor is also my yaya (Filipino term for nanny).

Despite (or perhaps because of) the distraction of my co-presenter, the lecture was well-received. I am very grateful that everyone I have met here in the Philippines, without exception, has been extremely understanding and receptive to accommodating a baby. Even when it entails listening to a lecture delivered (in part) by a seven and a half month old.

Reference: Christine Gibb and James Ford (2012) Should the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recognize climate migrants? Environ. Res. Lett. 7 doi: 045601