Category Archives: Uncategorized

Treading Lightly/Responsible Consumerism

As part of the 2018 Earth Action Initiative at UC Berkeley I was invited by the event organizers (and good friends of mine) to lead a brief workshop discussion about “responsible consumerism”. I am not, by any means, an expert on the matter – but I constantly try to put a few of these principles in practice so I agreed, and it was fun. It was a great discussion and a lot of us  learned a lot from it (I think).

I summarized some of the things for the workshop in this link, and I’m sharing it with you now. Many are obvious or I’m sure you do them already!

Treading Lightly

It begins with a set of a few truly inspiring characters who have gone above and beyond to tread lightly. Daniel Suelo. Peter Kalmus. Bea Johson. Pancho Ramos. Now, we’re not perfect – but we can do the best we can! The rest of the sheet is a list of daily actions you can take to reduce your footprint. You can see what a huge impact we could have if we all contributed even a little bit to any of these actions. The actions range from personal divestment (your bank contributes a whole lot to our climate and equity crisis), to food, energy, and waste. The weakest portion in this list are offsets. In part, it is because how confusing they are, and partly because I hold the opinion that a lot of people/companies get away with not changing their behavior by buying themselves out of the problem. At the same time, offsets can have a very meaningful impact! The importance is to do your due diligence and put your money where it matters.

If you want to add to this list or contribute, please let me known and I’ll make you an “editor”!

A Letter to the UC Berkeley Chancellor, asking for debate, community and respect.

This letter was handed in person to the UC Berkeley Chancellor (Carol T. Christ) on Tuesday September 19th 2017. There had been several violent and racist attacks at UC Berkeley, and a lot of contention without dialogue, compassion and dialogue. The school was lacking critical thought and thinking and was mired in debate, without listening. We wanted our leadership to step up and create a safe space for listening and dialogue to all voices.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Tuesday September 19th 2017

Dear Chancellor,

We would like to thank you for all the incredible work you have done so far in our community. It’s refreshing to have someone like you communicating with us with such honesty and kindness with what we are currently facing around the country. UC Berkeley has the opportunity to lead the country in the creation of safe spaces for discussion, inclusive of all spaces and points of view. So far, UC Berkeley hasn’t taken this leadership forward, being re-active rather than pro-active to recent events on our campus.

Below we offer six suggestions to foster constructive campus community and dialogue. Conflict, we think, is essential for growth and learning and we should foster constructive discussion so we can all learn, challenge our assumptions, and grow as a community:

  1. Monthly UC Berkeley town halls around topics related to justice, race and good living: Once a month UC Berkeley staff could organize a town hall where students could come and listen to each other’s diverse viewpoints about societal change, debate, and share ideas about how to move forward (or backward). A professor or school counselor could moderate the discussion, and volunteers could take notes. The debate/discussion could be YouTubed or streamed so that an audience around the country can chime in. We should set an example that UC Berkeley cherishes and values all view points, and fosters an inclusive space for discussion.
  2. A bi-weekly two-column “debate” on the UC Berkeley Newspaper: UC Berkeley could announce a list of topics for all weeks in the semester that are open for debate. Then, it would send a request for proposals (100 words max) for two people (or two groups) with opposing viewpoints to each write a column on the selected topic. After being published on paper, the column could be posted online to foster more debate online (moderating for hate speech). Later, this online discussion could be brought to a town hall if there was enough material and interest.
  3. De-scalate contentious speakers: Contentious speakers that come to UC Berkeley (regardless of their political leanings) should have their points of view respectfully challenged. UC Berkeley staff could ask for questions ahead of time and make sure that the speaker sets aside some time to answer difficult questions. We could all learn from having our viewpoints challenged constructively.
  4. Reflection day at UC Berkeley: We, as a community, have not come together to process the events around the country. There are academic lectures and discussions, but no soul searching. A reflection day at UC Berkeley would involve breakout panels to process feelings in the morning, engage in lively structured debates on contentious topic and opportunities in the afternoon, and opportunities for conviviality in the evening where people with disjointed points of view could get to know each other as human beings. The media could be invited to such an event, where UC Berkeley can demonstrate the values of what it truly stands for.
  5. Space for peaceful gatherings at UC Berkeley: Cordoning the campus to create a safe space for one particular group of people is demoralizing and restrictive. When a contentious speaker arrives, UC students should be allowed to peacefully gather in public spaces as long as they can show their student ID to police or administrative staff that is guarding the cordoned area. Just as speakers have a right to express themselves, we as students have the right to peacefully gather on our campus. Making preparations and space for peaceful gatherings is a powerful message of respect towards others, and to free speech.
  6. Symbols Matter: To avoid racist graffiti on campus, UC Berkeley can use symbols as preemptive tactic. Putting banners across campus highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion to Berkeley sends a message of what we stand for, even if every once in a while our walls are painted with Hate.

Datos Masivos, Ambiente y Justicia

Reposted from Uncode Cafe:

Vivimos en la época y el furor de los datos masivos y la inteligencia artificial. Los datos crecen exponencialmente, y la nube – y su capacidad de análisis – se incrementa cada vez más, expandiendo sus capacidades hasta áreas que anteriormente permanecían ignoradas. Aunque tenemos hoy una muy clara noción de cómo utilizar eficazmente los datos masivos para influenciar elecciones o modificar nuestras decisiones como consumidores, todavía falta por demostrarse como los datos masivos y la inteligencia artificial se pueden utilizar efectivamente para mejorar nuestra sociedad.

Continue reading

Whose Hacks? Our Hacks!

Reposted from the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative:

This year Cleanweb Berkeley hosted it’s 5th annual hackathon, entitled ‘Whose Hacks? Our Hacks!’.  With previous awardees having been in information technology for flexible demand and shared solar services (and drought visualizations during the drought), we wanted to challenge participants to explore usually untouched subjects at the intersection of IT + energy and resources: environmental justice and the politics of climate change. The politics of climate change in the U.S. appear unsurmountable, and after a long slow boil, environmental justice has now reached the status of a civil rights emergency. These issues are relevant to the US and elsewhere, and we were excited to see new ideas emerge. Continue reading

Death and Garbage

Progress – what is it? Last summer I started thinking about garbage, and since then I see it everywhere, with the same story being repeated over and over again. While walking through a remote, seemingly untouched, tropical beach of Costa Rica we were awe struck to find plastic debris everywhere. Hermit crabs crawled in and around bags of chips, beer bottles, gasoline containers, plastic dolls, and styrofoam blocks. Washed down the river, thrown on the side of the road, or washed up on shore. Progress, everywhere. Heartbreaking stories ensued. In Ethiopia, gentrification and more expensive living has pushed the poor to unlivable city edges, with a garbage landslide killing 113 dump dwellers in March. In April, a methane explosion collapsed a garbage dump in Sri Lanka, burying a residential neighborhood and killing 28 people. Guatemala, China, and Lebanon have recently seen heaps of trash, plastic, and construction debris killing people, and burying homes Continue reading

SWITCHing to a Low-Carbon Future


By Diego Ponce de Leon Barido and Josiah Johnston

Re-Post from National Geographic: 

Rolling black outs and high electricity prices were a common ritual in Nicaragua a decade ago. Schools and shops often languished for hours without power. Hotels and restaurants relied on kerosene, candles and expensive generators to keep businesses open. From a financial and health perspective, this was not sustainable. Continue reading

IDB Ideas Winners 2015

Our research project “Cool Joule: Design and implementation of a wireless sensor network to enable flexible energy loads to provide cost-effective wind energy grid integration and societal co-benefits in Nicaragua” was one of 6 winners of over 280 applications all throughout Latin America. The research partnership is between the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab, Niuera, Pelican, SA and the National Engineering University. The research and implementation leads were myself (Diego), Stephen Suffian (Villanova University), and Javier Rosa (Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions, TIER – UC Berkeley). The videos below feature Lâl Marandin (Co-CEO of Pelican, SA – our implementation partner) and I on Canal 12, and the second video shows myself, Allan Cruz (Co-CEO of Pelican, SA), Carlos Melo (director of the Inter-American Bank in Nicaragua), and the Mexican ambassador to Nicaragua Miguel Díaz Reynoso.

Continue reading