Archive for the ‘Blog’ category

Île de Gorée

Gorée Island is a small but strategic former colonial bastion and slave island, belonging variously to the Dutch, Portugese and French, and finally the Senegalese. Gorée is infamous for being one of the slave shipping ports, though it is disputed how many slaves passed through the island. The red building in the picture is called the House of Slaves, and is supposed to have been where the slaves where jailed and shipped from (through the “door of no return”), though whether this house was actually used for that purpose is also disputed. It was hard to find reliable information on this topic. Slaves do appear to haved passed through the island, however, which was an important node in the colonial trade network in which slave trafficking was an important component.

Does it matter how many slaves passed through here? It still stands as a symbol of the triangular trade and the actions of its colonial masters. Today, however, the low and colourful colonial brick houses, surrounded by plants, trees and flowers, appears utterly idyllic and charming. With lots of bright and colourful art canvases hanging everywhere (in another picture, following soon) — for sale, of course — it was easy to forget this island’s sinister past. Unfortunately, I only had two hours on the island, and although it’s a very small place, it was not enough. I wish I had had more time there, but the guide was hustling and I had to get back to the city and more prosaic requirements (souvenir shopping) than pondering the juxtaposition between the tranquil beauty of Gorée Island today and it’s less than savioury past.


I travelled with work (IISD) to Dakar, Senegal, to attend a meeting in the West Africa Internet Governance Forum (I think I’ll write more about that later). I was there for seven days and eight nights, and I also had some time for sightseeing.

Dakar is a bustling place, teeming with people, not rich but not gratingly poor either. The picture is from a downtown shopping district with upscale stores, although you wouldn’t think so from the picture. The street was lined with vendors selling everything from used consumer electronics for locals to souvenirs and colourful fabrics for tourists, and the place was packed with people. Walking down the street, I came under a barrage of soliciting from eager hustlers and hawkers. In no place have I seen as persistent hustlers as in Dakar; on two occasions, I had a hanger-on for about an hour. Finally I learned the trick to avoiding that (a firm and curt no thank you, followed by complete disinterest — no point in being rude). Safety was never an issue — pickpocketing may exist but robberies do not, at least as such, though I did overpay for a couple of souvenirs.

Dakar was an extremely fascinating place to visit, full of contrasts, not least in the dresses worn by local women (they dressed so beautifully), and between the dirt of the city and the palmy shores of the ocean. I chose this picture because in a way it sums up Dakar — bustling and dynamic.

More pictures and reflections to follow shortly.

Graduation Photo

Here’s a photo from my most recent convocation. I graduated with an M.A. in Global Governance from the Balsillie School of International Affairs (University of Waterloo) in June (2010).

As an interesting side-story, the president of the university, David Johnston, handed me my diploma and we had a little conversation about IISD on stage, since he asked me what my plans were and I said I was going to work for IISD for the summer. He had been involved with the organization, but I forget how. Then a few of weeks later he was appointed the new governor-general of Canada!


A simple title for a simple motif: me.

Jenna took this picture of me in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Fort Niagara in the United States is in the background.

Abrupt climate change and geoengineering

Catastrophic or abrupt climate change

We tend to think of climate change as something that happens very slowly, over a very long time. We further tend to think that its more serious effects are still decades away. We are learning now that both assumptions are wrong. While scientists are getting a firmer understanding of how the climate works and how sudden and self-sustaining climatic changes can be triggered, it is becoming clear that climate change is in fact not decades away. For many, it is already here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Storm on Lake Ontario

We had a windstorm the other day, with 80-100kmh wind speeds. I went down to Port Dalhousie to feel the wind in my face and take some pictures. It’s been a long time since I’ve experienced winds like that. There are few things better than being by the sea in bad weather.

There was a sandstorm on the beach — not good for the camera. I ran through it, to the edge of the water, and took this picture of the breakwater.

Geoengineering under a climate emergency

Geoengineering under a climate emergency:
Exploring governance pathways and pitfalls

Master research paper. Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo, 2010.

After receiving feedback for my master research paper (MRP) in January, 2010, I wrapped up my Master of Arts degree in Global Governance. The only thing left is to actually receive it, which will happen on 17 June.

Here is my MRP, then, finally. The MRP was the major accomplishment of the master, and though it is shorter than a thesis, it still ended up at 70 pages (of text — 92 pages altogether). I wrote about what I was planning to cover in my MRP a year ago, and the final paper isn’t far off the mark, though I chose to de-emphasise securitisation and write more about governance.

I will blog about this topic shortly–give a condensed version of the MRP–but here is the abstract. The paper is available for download in its entirety on the right.


Geoengineering has been advanced as a possible emergency option to sudden and disruptive climate change—a climate emergency. This paper advances the nascent geoengineering governance discourse, looking specifically on issues and challenges relating to how geoengineering can be used as a remedial option in case of a climate emergency.

The main contribution of this paper is the examination of six potential governance alternatives for geoengineering, assessed according to three fundamental characteristics that the paper argues any geoengineering regime must evince, to wit, holism, adaptability and legitimacy. Using path-dependency theory, it further explores how the current parochialism and fragmentation in global governance could affect the long-term development of the geoengineering discourse, before finally looking at how unilateral geoengineering could result from a global discourse on catastrophic climate change gone astray.

High levels of complexity, risk and uncertainty are inherent in both climate change and geoengineering and present substantial obstacles in the development of geoengineering governance. The fundamental question of this paper is how we can foster robust and resilient governance and responses for climate change and other environmental problems.

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in 2006. I should have posted more of my pictures from DC before. The ceiling in the vestibule of the LoC is one of the most stunning I have ever seen. Here’s a great tip: beat the crowds and go early, early in the morning. You won’t regret it, the tranquility and beauty of the place is fantastic.

Prairie weather

Leaving Riding Mountain National Park, looking back at the weather we left behind.

Wish I had a graduated ND filter there or at least a tripod so I could capture the dynamic range of the scene in two pictures. I wanted to capture the dramatic sky, which necessarily meant I had to underexpose the rest of the picture quite severely.

Riding Mountain

Scene from Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. I travelled there with a colleague at IISD to go hiking over a weekend when I was in Winnipeg last summer. It rained virtually the entire time! We had the worst luck with the weather; I did not actually bring my camera on the hike, it was too wet. In the afternoon the following day it stopped raining and we stopped to see buffalo and take in the scenery.