I have not written in a while. Rather have not written here in a while. Life has become about meetings, editing documents, and occasional columns. Putting words together has not been a regular venture of late, and I can’t say I missed it a lot. Maybe I did, without realising it. Maybe the heightened sense of being anxious, sort of claustrophobic within my own being had something to do with not typing things out, not yelling at those I wanted to every time they repeated the same thing over and over again. Well, I can safely say that what surrounds on a daily basis has not helped me to lose the sense of anxiety, the uncertainty of what would come next however much we strive to do our best, and trying to control situations which are not necessarily within our ability to control. Then again, what is ever within our power of control? This could easily get me on an existential crisis, where I end up deep diving with all the fear I possess of deep-dives: be is emotional ones or real dives into a pool.
What can I say? I just wish most of us could see the bigger picture in life. I wish certain people make smart decisions, which are not ad hoc or driven by self interest, but for the collective good. Well, I wish for world peace too, but I presume that is a given.
And as I said before, I don’t write a lot. Not of self-expression, at least.
I had the opportunity to be in Niger, a few months back, before COVID-19 limited our travels.
It is a beautiful land with amazing humans. I left the land with few memories, and also a decision to expand work in the country, on climate change, sustainable development, law and policy.
While I struggle to finish the research paper that I am working on, which focuses on identifying the entry points for developing a National Adaptation Plan for Niger, I wanted to write a these few thoughts to remind myself of the beauty that the country holds.
Niger is a country in the Africa, which consists of 17.7 millions inhabitants. 80% of the population live in the rural areas while 20% in the urban. As per national data, the country has a population growth rate: 3,9% and a GDP of US$6,303.5 million (as of 2015,).
Niger is a Sahelian country, and 75% of the country’s area is situated in the desert zone. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries, and remains ranked low in the Human Development Index.(Niger was ranked 189th out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index in 2017.)
Agriculture accounts for 43.4% of the country’s gross domestic product (2018) and is the most important sector of Niger’s economy. It remains the main source of livelihood for rural communities, with 85% of employment depending on it. Due to this reason, country is highly vulnerable to climate impacts, and has suffered losses worth millions of dollars due to droughts and floods.
Now to a few unforgettable aspects of Niger:
Meet two of my favourites from Niger, Issa and Sani (and me of course, struggling to take a photo of all of us in the frame,) two individuals working on climate change and sustainable development.
It would not be wrong to say that Issa was my window to Niger, providing me an introduction to his country, over a decade ago. I have always been interested in the work he and his colleagues do with the aim of achieving climate resilience, engaging youth in decision making processes, and also working towards achieving sustainable development participatory and inclusive processes.
Issa and Sani work with many stakeholders, including the policy makers, civil society organisations, communities, youth and children, to make change possible.
The country holds amazing beauty. In the 24 hours I spent there, which consisted mostly at a workshop, then a ministry getting my passport which was handed over at the airport to the authorities, as well as travelling from hotel to meeting venues, I was still able to see a few amazing locations. What blew me away the most was the beauty of the sand dunes, situated about one hour away from Niamey, and the warmth of the local communities I met.
Evidently, I could not separate the beauty from its people. The children who engaged with me, and welcomed me as one of their own. The sand dunes that are mesmerising, and made me out of breath (not only due to all the walking) especially at sunset.
Building Climate Resilience & Achieving Sustainable Development
One more reason that I feel connected to the country, is the work that I do focusing on, and in Niger.
As a Least Developed Country (LDC) that is highly vulnerable to climate change, Niger is also among the countries that are in the process of developing their National Adaptation Plan. Focusing on building resilience of the country’s peoples and ecosystems to climate threats, inclusive and participatory sustainable development remains vital for Niger. And, it has been eye-opening to meet those who work on these processes, as well as to contribute through technical expertise to their work, and to share experiences and lessons learnt in our work, with them.
As I sign off, I am sharing this photo of me in Niamey, (since my attempt to upload a video on the same rooftop turned out to be futile).
I do not get to write much, most of the time. Or, I just end up typing reports that I do not publish often on the blog regularly. But, I try.
I don’t remember the reason for this guessing game. I believe the whole conversation started when I mentioned to him that his father wanted to triple check my age, when I went in for a medical check. I had thought that his son might have had something to do with this question being repeated one “three” many times.
The kid thought I was 45 years old. A good decade older than I actually am.
I am not usually bothered about my age. But this time, I obviously was. I was also annoyed that I could no longer pride myself in not being bothered about how old I looked, or bothering about how I looked in general.
(I grew up thinking I was an ugly kid which continued to my late 20s, where I believed I was not physically. From 28 to this date, I was content not bothering about how my face looked, until of course the guessing game happened.)
Anyways, conclusion for the day being:
I discover about myself on a daily basis
I need to stop analysing what a 21 year old says.
I could (maybe) refer the kid to get his specs checked. (But, I won’t.)
I was typing on Women’s Day when someone decided to interrupt, which changed the focus of what I wanted to write.
As usual, something that someone needed clarified at 12.30am (thank you very much!) because someone said, something (another thank you!) which needed to be double checked with me, on whether I said something like that, at midnight (thank you again!)
(And I did write a few more things, and erased. I have learnt that I should not publish things which I might regret later.And of course, changed the title a few times, based on what I was typing/ not typing/ should have been typing. According to me of course.)
I shall move back to the gist of what I wanted to say, as part of the Women’s Day Post. What I was hoping to type in a bit more detailed manner. Which I won’t now, cz I am starting to get sleepy (something strange for me, but much appreciated).
So here goes, a few things I have learnt in life, in the last 10 years:
Being divorced is not the end of life. You could restart your life on getting a divorce, than live a life of misery with a wrong person.
Being a single mother is not something to be ashamed of. If you are a single parent, due to a divorce, being unmarried, because your spouse is not alive, if you are doing what is best for your child, then you are doing things right. Your child will love you for it.
What people say about you, what they think of you do not matter. What matters is what makes you happy, keeps you healthy, and successful. Focus on you, and not other people’s opinions. You cannot make everyone happy.
Getting raped is not your fault. A no is a NO. You have the right to say no. Rape does not demean you. You should not blame yourself for another’s behavior.
You should not tolerate domestic violence – be it physical or verbal. No one has the right to subject you to violence, and there is no justifiable reason for it.
Educate yourself, gather knowledge through out life. We learn things on a daily basis. And it helps improve ourselves, as well as those around us.
Be able to stand on your own feet. Be financially independent.
Be able to say no to money – even millions. Sometimes, money is not everything. But also be able to be afford what you need in life. (Back to point 7 when in doubt)
End of a relationship, a marriage is not the end of life. Nor is failing an exam, something you tried to achieve and did not.
You will find love, meet interesting people. Be able to be happy with where you are in life, what you have become. Be able to look at yourself and be proud, for all that you are.
We are not perfect humans, but we can be happy ones, in spite of it. And more for later. For when I am not sleepy.
Oh and smile! (Easier to do so in life, than not to. At least what I think).
Divorcee, single parent, smiling me. Evidence that every day is a new beginning, and that we can always change life’s course with our choices, you we really want to.
I am going to type this post on my phone, too lazy to open my laptop over a black coffee, and the sound of a man chuckling, potentially suffocating on the same chuckles a bit later
At least that is what I think I hear. My mind remains in its darker corners, after dealing with an immigration officer who kept scratching my visa for a good 10 minutes in an effort (I believe in his mind) to prove its authenticity (or not) till I interrupted him by asking whay was wrong with it.
Loud people do not add to improving my mood, especially not at 1.41am. (I like silence, at most times.)
Brain keeps shifting on changing time zones. The last 2 weeks been quite crazy with 2 travels back to back, and 2 workshops during the days I was at home. The 10 days covered 3 national workshops in Africa, and 2 in Sri Lanka. And end of it, I stand/sit a very exhausted human.
And now I sit exhausted and sleep deprived heading out for then 2 more weeks, which will hopefully be followed by no travels for a while.
I like my home, my bed, my time with the kid. And nothing more comforting in life than the comfort of one’s “home,” where ever it may be. Especially for tired souls who have over-run their quota of travel.
Note: Downside of posting using my phone is that I am bad at adding a suitable photo for this. Maybe in a few hours…
Sometimes the only time I get to listen to Alanis Morissette, and watch a soldier-boy in a hat is when I am in dilemma mode at airports, trying to figure out whether I should continue typing to complete the research, or whether I should be a normal human at 1.38am.
What do I end up doing? I clean the screen of the laptop with wet-tissues (have no clue on the technological implications of my actions). A screen that has not been most likely not wiped for like a year (maybe, or longer. Not very sure).
It’s one of those days when I can only think of the next 3 weeks and wonder when I am going to sleep, eat, or just be seated in peace. And as usual, it all ends up with “when I get the work done”.
Resolutions before I board this flight: Try to get a month away from planes, and maybe longer. And I run off to find my boarding gate, and potentially not miss this flight.
Of late I have been thinking about how life has changed over the last decade, or rather over the last 3 decades.
I certainly do not remember much of my childhood, or the teenage years. Come to think of it, not even my early twenties for that matter. It might be strange, but then again, I hardly remember what I ate for breakfast most of the days (this is on days I do actually eat something, that is).
In my search to remember the person I was as a kid, a teenager, and a younger version of myself, I asked a former student of mine whether she remembers me as a bubbly person. A more chirpy, and happy-go-lucky human that is.
After a few minutes of thinking, she shook her head and said, “Nah, not really. You were pretty much the same.”
I guess I was serious/ morose back then too (most likely). Now, I take myself at the moment to be a cynical, occasionally witty, workaholic, easily irritable, one-track minded (when focused on work, or analysing something in my head while eating) human with very limited patience for nonsense. (I guess a few of the adjectives might match my younger version too. But I was definitely more naive, and more believing of others’ words than today).
Many years of my life from the years 0 to 30 are a blur to me. Present is more with facts, laws, analysis and then trying to fit in work, kid, and dogs to the 24 hours of the day, while responding to all the messages and calls received.
I have come to terms of moving on from different things, and not looking back to a past where I do not feel at home, and did not truly feel to be my true self in some ways.
Today, I try to live in the present, and build the moments I want to live, and be surrounded by those who I choose to be with. Life is too short and I would like to live it with those whom I cherish, and doing what I love most.
It’s been quite a while since I last wrote, but I am hoping I will make it a habit to write more frequently in 2020. (Here’s to hope!)
On 2019, the year was good in many ways and kind to me in general. Work was good, life was good. Drama in life if there was, revolved mostly around work budgets, research deadlines, reviews and other related things.
(Note: I try to avoid considering drama related to humans, attempts at understanding their behavior and then failing as a constant of life, and to ignore it)
(Ryan being his skeptical self, as Dylan holds his leash for 30 seconds)
2019 saw also our house-hold multiply with the addition of two (rescue) dogs – Ryan (not a name that I chose) and Yuki (a tiny puppy that decided to make our home, hers as well). Both dogs abandoned at some point in their lives, seem to settle in with us – to the point of taking over our beds, sofas and pretty much all the furniture in the house.
(Yuki, being lazy to wake up)
Me, I have not changed much. I still have trouble sleeping, a workaholic as usual,continue to love my space an increased amount each year, and have seriously limited patience for bullshit.
(Documenting myself as of 1st January for comparisons in 2021)
Things I hope I will be able to keep to/ learn to do in 2020
Avoid pretentious people at all costs.
Learn to say “no”
Sleep more (much more)
Avoid toxic behaviour and people at all fronts – especially at work
Work less – if possible. (Make it try to work less, and try to keep sane.)
Be good, even if others are not to you
And yes, hopefully write on this blog more frequently (when possible, if possible).
It’s been a week since the Easter Sunday Attacks. People ask me how things are. I usually tell out of reflect, “we are trying to regain normalcy”. The next moment I wonder what normalcy is. Anymore.
On Saturday, I had been working on assignments focusing on peace building till quite late, to wake up to calls from those checking if I had gone to church. Those who know me would know how strange that question would ring in my ears, even when wide awake. But, it was only a few minutes later that reality shook me awake with the violence that had spread across Colombo.
The first thought to cross my mind: “It could have been us”.
I had slept hoping to take my family out on Sunday for breakfast. Then true to myself, overslept due to sleep-deprivation caused by writing for hours on peace-building , until 6am to be precise. The previous night, my curious mind had wondered to anlayse the potential conflicts which Sri Lanka could face, mostly related to resource management, and whether we are ready to address these situations. I also wondered how we as a community would react if we were to face a conflict again. Later at work, my colleague tells me “Vosi, you should not hypothesize!”
Last few weeks have been probably the scariest days of my whole life, even though I had lived through a few memories that haunt me. As a child my first memories are of dead bodies floating in a river. I must have been 4 or 5 at that time. I am not entirely sure. Then, I have memories of the war, the constant security checks. But those images seem distant, I think I had blurred them out of my mind.
I also remember the tsunami, and the many loved ones taken away, our usual Sunday market washed away, my favourite aunt growing up, getting washed away with it as well.
But the memory the memory that I hold close is how Sri Lanka came together during the hard times. Rebuilding and helping in solidarity.
21st April was different. It was difficult to focus. It was hard to think straight. I blamed it on my sleep deprived brain, or maybe the slightly old brain. We all closed down for a week, maybe even longer. I read stories of those affected, the children left alone, families dead and many in need of support.
I also read posters on guidance to boycott shops, the general hatred towards certain groups in our communities, reminding me of the 2nd World War. Do we truly believe what we are messaging?
Tomorrow, we will all wake up and try to go about our daily lives. And I shall return to my question “what is normalcy?”
Throughout history, natural resources have been the cause of many conflicts. While scarcity of resources such as water has been the cause of conflict among communities for the remaining water supply, the abundance of expensive resources such as diamonds has also been a cause of conflict in countries such as Sierra Leone, Congo, Liberia, and Angola which have experienced decades of civil war over diamonds.  Other countries where natural resources are the cause of conflict are Guatemala, Nepal, and Yemen. 
While control over natural resources become a source of conflict, the conflicts that take place have been the cause of severe damage to countries’ environment as well. Research data indicates that 90 percent of the major armed conflicts from 1950 to 2000 occurred in countries which contain biodiversity hot-spots, heightening their impact on the environment.  While some damages to eco-systems and natural resources due to conflicts are intentional, others are indirect impacts. Irrespective of the manner in which the damages occur, their impacts remain over many years and increase the vulnerabilities of those affected by conflict. One of the many examples of conflicts creating grave impacts to the environment and natural resources could be the Persian Gulf War, in which over 500 oil wells were torched and destroyed.
Focusing on the important role that natural resources play in creation of conflicts and the impacts the environment endures due to them, many efforts at peace building in post war contexts turn to concepts that interlink resilience building in the post war/conflict areas with environmental protection. With impacts of phenomena such as climate change that affects the available resources, scientists project many conflicts to erupt in countries where natural resources are more vulnerable to such impacts, many of them in Asia and the Pacific.  And it is highly important that environmental management ensures that resource depletion does not lead to communal impacts which in turn lead to conflicts.
Initiatives which combine environmental protection with peace building include negotiations for resource sharing, as well as collective communal actions for resource utilization and protection. Good governance is key to avoiding conflicts due to unbalanced access to resources. And an increased awareness on ecosystems contributes to better protection of existing resources and a decrease in the scarcity of resources.
Many stakeholders in countries that have experienced civil wars and conflicts have engaged in practicing environmental peace building. This includes the United Nations as well as national governments and civil society organisations which have engaged in creating awareness, as well as taking active initiatives focusing on both environmental protection and peace building as a combined effort. Examples of such actions could be the development of the Forest Law and Policy in Liberia (2006) which aimed to prevent corruption and illegal logging.
Such efforts embrace the concept of environmental peacebuilding which focuses on integrating natural resource management in conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution, and recovery to build resilience in communities affected by conflict.  These efforts focus on how natural resources such as land use or control over water and ecosystems could be better structured in order to avoid conflicts, as well as how the supply of resources could be better governed in post conflict areas.
This article is an introduction on how environment and conflicts interlink, and aims for a better understanding of ways to address conflicts through environmental and ecosystem-based systems as well as through good governance. It is published as a first step to articles on different issues of focus for a better understanding of how natural resources can be the cause of conflicts, as well as how impacts and vulnerabilities increased through climate change and resource depletion can be addressed through strategic and well managed ways to ensure that conflicts based on resource distribution are avoided.