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Protecting People and Water in Mexico City

Water access is considered an issue of national security for Mexico, with water shortages in the capital only expected to increase in the coming decades. The aquifers that provide 70% of the water used in the region are already overexploited, and the unrelenting loss of forests and native grasslands is increasingly degrading watersheds and diminishing aquifer recharge. Protecting People and Water in Mexico City follows Conservation International and civil society efforts to protect the Water Forest, the main watersheds that recharge the aquifers that provide water to 23 million people.

The story of Mexico City and its Water Forest is one that has already been echoed and may be repeated in cities across the world. The piece brings attention to the importance of natural ecosystems in and around cities, and the grassroots stewards who aim to find a balance between the urban and rural. When we hear about climate resilience, so often there is a focus on engineered and city solutions. This radio documentary highlights the importance of ecosystem solutions and the vital, often under-discussed interdependence of rural and urban communities. 

Retaining Rondon: Creole Food in a Changing World

My interest in environmental advocacy and audio storytelling led me to pursue a long-form audio piece through the Stanford Storytelling Braden Grant during the summer of 2015. I conducted this project alongside my internship as a Solar Power Community Liaison with blueEnergy in Bluefields, Nicaragua.

 

Retaining Rondon: Creole Food in a Changing World is a piece that explores the social impacts of globalization and environmental degradation on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. On the coast, palm oil plantations, overfishing and poorly planned growth are negatively affecting Creole communities, from their food choices to how and where they live. To ensure the piece was relatable to a wide and general audience, I approached the topic of environmental degradation in the most personable way I could think of: through food. Whether your a farmer in Nicaragua or a teacher in Nebraska, everyone's got to eat. It's something we can all understand and relate to. Food is us.

 

Storytelling is powerful. In editing and packaging a story, a storyteller shapes their subject's narrative through their own perspective. This project helped me acknowledge some of my own biases, ignorance and the cultural lens with which I see the world. As I continue to explore storytelling and environmental advocacy I ask myself: Am I doing justice to the experiences of those who's story I am sharing?

 
 
River Roots

Almost fifty years ago, my grandfather Bob Doerr woke up before dawn and drove down a winding gravel road to the Gasconade River. He slid his dark green fiberglass canoe into the water and with a gentle push of his oar he was off, not to return for a month. With my grandfather's 1971 river log in hand, I head back to the Gasconade River in southern Missouri to retrace a portion of his month long canoe trip. 

 

River Roots is a sound rich, narrative audio diary about my trip on the Gasconade and my attempt to better understand my environmental heritage. Over the years, the Gasconade River helped shape my grandfather's land ethic and work as an environmentalist. I inherited his care for the Earth, pursuing Environmental Systems Engineering at Stanford University with the aim of protecting water systems. 

 

Local history and family stories have shaped us all. In pointing a light at my own family and

its connection to the Gasconade, I reflect on the beautiful complexity and importance of

building off of our heritage. In today's society, it's easy to let go of those roots that have

been laid down before us. By 'blooming where we are planted' we can go much further than

if we relied solely on the past or on ourselves alone.

 

Made possible by an Stanford Earth Systems Department Grant through a generous contribution from Mr. Bill Landreth. 

Reporting at COP21: The Paris Climate Conference

I was part of a delegation of Stanford students at the 2015 COP21 Paris Climate Conference. While at the Conference, I reported daily on the proceedings and interviewed subnational officials and local government leaders about the role of cities and states in addressing climate change. So often when engineers, scientists and policy-makers talk about climate change, they focus on what needs to happen at a national and international level. In reality, much of the action and potential is more localized: in cities, regions and states.

 

Through a short podcast series and a longer form audio piece entitled Cities Can: Subnational Action at the Paris Climate Conference, I attempted to demystify the complicated international negotiations and the policy frames through which local actors get involved. I tailored my audio pieces to an educated audience with the goal of informing them on localized climatic impacts and role of local governments in adaptation and mitigation. 

This project was my first time doing live reporting, a formational experience that piqued my interest in environmental reporting. Given more time to interview and assemble these podcasts, I would have structured them differently to more effectively communicate the potential and critiques of localized climate action. Making this series was an informative exploration into technical communication that later led me to attend and report at the Singapore World Cities Summit in 2016. 

Hosted by Human Cities, an Initiative of Stanford University.

Original Images by Maria Doerr © 2018