Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Picture of the Day: Urban Transportation

Desperate needs call for desperate measures. This picture is both amusing and very disturbing. I don't know how authentic it is (i.e. whether that poor baby in the bucket has been photoshop'd in, for example). But I have seen scenes like this play out before me multiple times in the developing world.

Photo credit: Unknown. Someone emailed it to me w/o the credits. I can't find anything inspite of scouring the internet. Do email me if you have anymore information.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Starting a recycling program on my Singaporean campus

I work on this nameless campus in Singapore. Its supposedly one of the best universities in the world.

For all of Singapore's advancement, the idea of environmental consciousness and responsibility have still not made it here. People still eat shark fin soup everywhere, for example, and everything is overpackaged (I've been told its because of the rain...but seriously...
I've lived in some rainy, snowy places, and my stuff remains dry without the overpackaging). Not to mention the waste of paper, plastic and other resources out here.

Among other things, I'm trying hard to start a recycling program at our campus. No one knows what recycling here is. While this is NOT a third world nation, people here just don't get it. Everything goes into the same trash bin and it all ends up in the Singaporean incinerator. What's the big deal, people always ask me!

So I was thrilled when I found out that the University has an Office for Environmental Sustainability (OES). Apparently they do recycling and other stuff. So I wrote them last week, offering to drop by (its a drive away to get between the campuses). There was no phone number, so I emailed. This is what I wrote.

"Hi there,

we are water researchers at XXX at XXX campus. We have been extremely frustrated by the lack of recycling facilities on the campus and would like to start implementing one ASAP.

We'll be on your campus on tuesday, Aug 17 morning. Would you be available for a meeting after 11:30 AM?? We would love to hear your thoughts on how we can work with you to make XXX a greener, cleaner campus.


Two weeks later (and WAY after my first request for scheduled appointment), I got this email from them:

Dear XXXX,

Thank you for writing in to us!

A list of recycling locations on campus can be found at : ------ website

Do you find that it is insufficient for XXX campus? Perhaps you can suggest to us additional locations and we can forward your request to XXX Campus Management Office(XXCMO). OES will support with recycling bins if XXCMO agrees.

Thank you!

Yours Sincerely,

Office of Environmental Sustainability

Wow. Two weeks later I get nowhere. No sorry. No explanation. No "let's meet up so we can figure this out together." So I went to the website. As an afterthought, somewhere at the end of a badly designed excel spreadsheet, our campus of over 2000 folks has four little recycling bins. I went hunting for them in the rain today. It took me a while to locate one of them. It was sitting as an afterthought behind the canteen. And inside the bin, I found one soft drink can (I know the person who threw it in there). Back inside, at the canteen dustbin where I went to dispose off my food remains, there were about 200 aluminum cans sitting under the little food scraps I threw in.

That says it all.

I have a LOT of work ahead of me...

OES has a great website, twitter feed, Facebook profile and godknowswhatelse. My little office has none of those. Not that that means anything.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why I've been quiet

A lot of people have been bugging me about my lack of writing on my blog. This is for two reasons:
  • I am in Singapore
  • I am supposed to start a blog around water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues where I work now. Since there was going to be this overlap, I've focused on the other one.

Singapore (where I am at the moment) is a very difficult place to write from...particularly if you like the idea of freedom and have an independent mind (as I do). Say something people don't like, and you get put on a watch list; sometimes punished severely. If you 'google' around, I'm sure you'll find more interesting information on the subject. Essentially, i don't know what will tick someone off and then I end up with my head on a cross bridge (they have a few here!).

On the second, things are moving slowly where I work. There are many reasons for this. They are restructuring, and there is a war about what we can and cannot post, and the process we have to use. And then there is a war about the name, because it has to represent several different institutions at once.

And while these two issues resolve themselves, I'm working feverishly on keeping the rest of my work going. So I've been quiet.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Check out GSBI in Santa Clara University, Aug 26, 2010!!

The folks at Santa Clara University asked me if I would post this on my blog. I fully support this initiative (have already blogged about them before) so I'm doing so:


Global Social Benefit Incubator

Please join Santa Clara University's Center for Science, Technology, and Society for business plan presentations by the 2010 Global Social Benefit Incubator entrepreneurs from around the world.

Thursday, August 26, 2010
Locatelli Center at Santa Clara University

7:15-8:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast
8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Business Plan Presentations
12:00 p.m.-1:15 p.m. Lunch 1:15 p.m-6:15 p.m. Business Plan Presentations
6:15 p.m.-7:45 p.m. Reception

The Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBITM) program at Santa Clara University enables proof of concept social ventures that serve the base of the pyramid to become sustainable at scale. It combines classroom instruction in finance, marketing creation, organizational development, and business planning with case studies, best practices and, most importantly, carefully matched Silicon Valley mentors.
The invited entrepreneurs have demonstrated that their innovations can have a significant impact on alleviating poverty and empowering human development in the most adverse circumstances around the world.

In 2010, the STS Center launched a three-year initiative to focus on “Renewable Energy for the Underserved.” This initiative will explore several segments of the clean energy field including off-grid power and light , second generation bio-fuels, energy saving devices , and related value chain organizations such as technology providers, financial services, and distribution. This year, we have 12 social entrepreneurs that are representing the Renewable Energy Sector in the GSBI class of 2010.
Living and learning together, GSBI participants develop practical know-how and a true sense of community. At the August 26th summary business plan presentations, you will see how the unique GSBI learning environment contribute to the innovative adaptation of technology and models of social change, in combination with validated business plans, to accelerate the potential for social entrepreneurship. We know you will be inspired by the work of the 2010 Global Social Benefit Incubator class and the promise of their innovative business plans.
To RSVP: visit http://www.scu.edu/sts/PublicEngagement/Events.cfm?event=15869 or email us at gsbi2010@scu.edu. For further information call the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, Santa Clara University, (408) 551-6027, or email sdale@scu.edu.

If you have a disability and require a reasonable accommodation, please call the Center or 1-800-735-2929 (TTY-California Relay) at least 48 hours prior to the event.