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Diplomacy During the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) Conference

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 – Thursday, January 25, 2018
Washington, DC


Many foreign service community members interested in the geosciences and the environment, including AAFSW President Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, PhD, were among the participants of this year’s Conference of the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) on “The Science, Business, and Education of Sustainable Infrastructure,” which took place in Washington DC from Tuesday, January 23, 2018 to Thursday, January 25, 2018.

The Ambassador of Costa Rica to the USA, Roman Macaya, PhD, was the keynote speaker during the first day of the conference analyzing “An International Perspective on Sustainable Infrastructure” and selecting “Costa Rica as a Case Study.” As Ambassador Macaya mentioned, Costa Rica has integrated economic, social, and environmental dimensions into reaffirming its commitment to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and especially to the SDG #9 which deals with industry innovation and infrastructure. Although by 1980, Costa Rica had lost 70% of its forests due to urbanization and agriculture, which placed its water at risk, by 2012, Costa Rica became the first tropical nation to reverse deforestation mainly due to the development of ecotourism (3 million visitors per year; 4 billion US dollars in revenue per year). As sustainable solutions require interdisciplinary approach, the electric companies of Costa Rica, for example, have joint forces with the Environmental Agency. Using Costa Rica as a case study, Ambassador Macaya concluded that environmental stewardship is good both for the economy and for greater social sense.

Later during the 2018 NCSE Conference, Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network, along with professional partners from the Department of State and the Wilson Center, introduced the idea of the Earth Day 2020 app. This initiative is designed to maximize the power and reach of Internet of Things devices to conduct a full-scale, citizen-led survey of the planet. Via this app, using smartphones and sensors, people worldwide can capture and send local environmental data to a central platform where it can be used for modeling, forecasting, and predicting health patterns of our planet. According to this initiative’s developers, the Earth Day 2020 application’s data will be made available to researchers and the science community to develop studies and share findings. Indeed, on Earth Day 2020, individual actions will elevate to global action as social media users will merge local environmental challenges to a single global awareness on the state of our planet’s environment.

Lastly, during this year’s NCSE Conference in Washington DC, under the leadership of Dr. Lovejoy as Chair, the National Council for Science and the Environment, together with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, invited scientists from across the country and around the world to provide input to the draft Declaration on the Integrity of the Earth’s Biosphere. The Declaration will be delivered to the Global Climate Summit hosted by California Governor Brown in September 2018.

Dr. Joanna Athanasopoulos Owen, AAFSW President
Geophysics and Environmental Management, PhD