the blog posts

a wellbeing report card for bermuda

There were four shootings in Bermuda last week. Four. This is a miniscule number for South Central LA. It is a huge number for Bermuda. 

It made me think about our wellbeing as a community. More than an index of national happiness, which seems all the rage at present; a wellbeing index touches on all facets of our life, crosses all sections of governance and appears to build on the tenets of the healthy communities movement, which I've touched on before.

Santa Monica, CA, is working on this already. According to Jessica Leber's article, How a Well-Being Index for Cities is Taking Shape in California, for Fast Company, city officials of this affluent LA 'burb were dismayed by the public gang shooting of a local resident and the public suicide of a 9th-grader, and now are working with experts around the world to develop the metric for a Wellbeing Index. It is not a small task but with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, The Wellbeing Project is well underway. The work involves using economics, social science, public policy, public health, technology, environment, and behavioral science to tell city officials how people are doing.

As outlined in the white paper, A City of Wellbeing by  Karen Warner and Margaret Kern for the City of Santa Monica, wellbeing indexes can have several different goals. It depends on what challenge you are seeking to address. Basically, though, as the white paper states, the purpose of a Wellbeing Index is threefold:

  • to understand the initial state of wellbeing for a community,
  • to identify disparities and domains where wellbeing falls short, and,
  • to identify areas to strengthen or adjust policies and programs to sustain existing levels of wellbeing and build additional wellbeing.

This is more enriching and comprehensive in scope than a Happiness Index or a State of the Environment Report; it has the benefit of involving and combining all aspects of our lives. Santa Monica hopes its efforts will result in a Wellbeing Index that can be adapted for use by others. Let's hope this happens and that it works. Bermuda needs a helping hand.

climate change is here for real, folks.

Climate change is real and it's here. This can't be said enough times. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued its latest and final report on climate change, which is in a series of reports on the topic that date back to September 2013. (I mentioned the first one last year in the post "it's us, stupid.")

This is the synthesis report and it confirms what the sensible folk among us know already: the earth's climate is most definitely changing and we humans are the cause.

Once again, Grist has summarised the report in an article by John Light, The 10 things you need to know from the new IPCC report on climate. A couple of points struck a cord in me and should ring alarm bells in Bermuda.

First, the sea surface temperature is rising (see graph below) and this will mean "...extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions." Also, a "warmer, expanding ocean...fuels stronger storms." Last month's Tropical Storm Fay, followed six days later by Hurricane Gonzalo, serves as a reminder of this reality.

Second, the ocean has absorbed so much carbon dioxide since the industrial revolution hey day that it is now 26% more acidic. This will have an impact on marine life, though scientists may not be sure, yet, what that impact will be. One can't help but consider Bermuda's coral reefs, however. The reefs protect us and must be healthy to do so.

The main point? It is imperative that we switch to mostly renewables by 2050 to mitigate this situation, and phase out fossil fuels by 2100. Think about it: 2050 is in my lifetime, assuming a long life, and 2100 is in the lifetime of today's young children.

The truly scary part is that scientists posit the IPCC is being conservative. It is worth reading the summary, Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Approved Summary for Policymakers.

Fortunately, Bermuda is at least thinking about this. The Bermuda Energy Summit, held last week, is the beginning of a conversation, leading to action, that will settle what our renewables future will be. Just in time.

not your usual urban planning work

It's a good idea, generally speaking, to look outside your usual environment to see what others are doing.

Mitchell Sipus is someone who is working in a realm that is quite foreign to us here in Bermuda. With graduate degrees in architecture, urban planning and refugee/migration studies, he has served as an advisor in Afghanistan and Somalia, both places in a pretty constant state of (re)construction. 

The range and depth of the challenges is quite something to even contemplate for those of us living and working on a coral reef-ringed island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

His blog, Humanitarian Space, provides insightful learning opportunities for planners and is well worth checking regularly. As he describes it, "In the humanitarian aid industry, a humanitarian space is a defined, politically neutral space within an area of conflict that allows humanitarian actors to assist populations in need with decreased levels of danger." The blog is a "...virtual space committed to ideas and dialogue on issues of conflict, stabilization, displacement, aid, and development."

The blog post, Archive: 9 Posts from HSpace that you wish you had read, links to a number of blog posts Sipus views as well worth a first/second look. I would agree.

image - sutika sipus