Category Archives: Global Problems

Remote learning difficulties in low-income countries like Indonesia

When Learning Is Really Remote: Students Climb Trees and Travel Miles for a Cell Signal

By Richard C. Paddock and Dera Menra Sijabat

Across the Indonesian archipelago officials have shuttered schools and implemented remote learning, but internet and cellphone service is limited and many students lack smartphones and computers.

In North Sumatra, students climb to the tops of tall trees a mile from their mountain village. Perched on branches high above the ground, they hope for a cell signal strong enough to complete their assignments.

Around the globe, including in some of the world’s wealthiest countries, educators are struggling with how to best make distance learning viable during the pandemic. But in poorer countries like Indonesia, the challenge is particularly difficult.

More than a third of Indonesian students have limited or no internet access, according to the Education Ministry, and experts fear many students will fall far behind, especially in remote areas where online study remains a novelty.

millions of Latin American university students dropping out

Over the past two decades, millions of young people in Latin America became the first in their families to head to college, a historic expansion that promised to propel a generation into the professional class and transform the region.

But as the pandemic grips the region, killing hundreds of thousands and devastating economies, an alarming reversal is underway: Millions of university students are leaving their studies, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

racism in the classroom

No internet for distance learning? Use TV

In wealthy countries, the debates over how to deliver education remotely have focused on how to make online classes engaging and interactive. But such talk is sheer fantasy for many of the world’s students, including millions in affluent nations, who do not have broadband connections or computers.

After decades of declining relevance in the face of heavy investment in internet learning, educational television is again having its moment. Educators and governments scattered around the world, desperate to avoid a long-term setback for an entire generation of children, are turning to the older technology.

And they are calling on the charm and glamour of locally known actors and news hosts, as well as teachers, to try to hold the attention of students from preschool to high school. They say they are heeding the cardinal lesson of the YouTube era — the shorter and snazzier, the better.

“Ideally, one would have, like, laptops and all these super fancy things at home,” said Raissa Fabregas, a professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, who has studied educational television in Mexico. “But if you don’t have them, this is better than nothing.”

Credit…Marco Garro for The New York Times

While television lessons are not as valuable as online interactions with teachers and other students, experts say, educational broadcasts do pay dividends for children’s academic progress, their success in the job market and even their social development.

To make lessons less passive and more effective, many of the lessons being broadcast now use all the tools of professional studios, like eye-pleasing sets, script writers, 3-D animation, multicamera shoots, graphics and even related smartphone apps.

In the United States, where education varies widely because it is handled at the local level, some places have paid little attention to developing remote learning, focused instead on an ill-fated effort to reopen schools. Others have worked hard to develop robust online programs. But that is of no use to the four million schoolchildren who do not have internet access at home, a difficulty especially prevalent among Black, Latino and Indigenous students.

Television holds promise as a low-cost complement to online schooling and a lifeline for students with few other resources. A vast catalog of educational programming exists, but analysts say policymakers have mostly missed an opportunity to make use of it.

“How many parents right now are just trying to figure out how to get through the day while their kids are just watching TV or on the iPad?” said Melissa S. Kearney, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland, who has published research about “Sesame Street.” “We could do a lot of good if people who are in a position of trust with those families could point them to some of that positive content.”

Since March, many parts of the world have resorted to televised schooling, with an array of strategies. The programs range from recordings of classroom lessons to educational cartoons, and from local efforts to national ones. Some focus on one age group, while others, like Peru, have adapted the national curriculum for all grades.

Many parts of China offered a blend of online and televised classes, but Sichuan Province chose to broadcast all of its lessons on television because the government said it worried about students spending too long on their computers

In Tanzania, Ubongo, an organization that makes popular educational cartoons aimed at younger children as well as parents, decided to offer its programs for free to television stations across Africa.



Credit…Marco Garro for The New York Times

“Outside of Africa, there’s been a push for internet-based learning,” said Cliodhna Ryan, the head of education at Ubongo. “But in most African countries, the majority of children just do not have that access. At the end of the day, the best educational tool someone has is the one they already have in their possession.”

New Jersey’s public television station, NJTV, began working with the state’s teachers’ union to produce school programs after learning that 300,000 of the state’s children had no internet access, said John Servidio, the station’s general manager.

In the end, more than 200 teachers recorded lessons out of their own homes. Some were decidedly low-tech, but one teacher used his cat’s blanket to build a green-screen studio. From April until the school year ended, grades three through six each had an hour of programming on the station every morning.

“A commercial station would never be able to support this,” Mr. Servidio said.

In Indonesia, too, the pandemic has helped revive a state-owned television network that had been hemorrhaging viewers to private stations and Netflix. In a country where nearly a third of people are not connected to the internet, the state-owned network, TVRI, began broadcasting ‘Belajar Dari Rumah’ — Studying from Home — in April to children of all ages.

Parents have not been entirely receptive. Many Indonesians, for example, say they do not have enough education themselves — or enough time — to take on teaching responsibilities at home. Many are demanding that more schools reopen, despite only a portion of the country having been deemed safe for in-person classes.


Credit…Marco Garro for The New York Times

In Brazil, officials capitalized on the work of the Amazonas Media Center, which was founded in 2007 to provide televised lessons to 300,000 students in remote areas. Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the programs have expanded to several Brazilian states, with educators adapting them to different cultures and teaching styles. More than 4.5 million children have watched, according to the center.

“This tool became stronger out of a necessity to reach a greater number of people and have a bigger outreach, but it’s not going to stop there,” said Wilmara Messa, the director of the Amazonas Media Center, which has a 60-person production team.

Analysts say it is too early to know how effective televised schooling has been during lockdown, but there is scattered evidence that past efforts have been effective.

In Mexico, a long-running program of broadcasting lessons to students in rural areas led children to stay in school for longer and earn more as adults. Professor Kearney and a colleague found that children in the United States with access to “Sesame Street” programming were more likely to be at an age-appropriate grade level.

To solve the biggest drawback of televised learning — the lack of interaction and feedback from teachers — some places have designed ways for teachers to monitor students’ progress. Many of them rely on cellphones, which are far more common in poor regions of the world than broadband hookups, though even access to a phone can be a barrier.


Climate Change Solutions: Please add

Climate Change Solutions Draft for

 “Climate Girls Change Our Future,” for your additions and critique

Individual Actions

Calculate your household’s energy and food consumption impacts.[1]

See Rob Hopkin’s From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2019.



Reduce consumption of beef (cows release more methane than countries like Brazil and Germany[2] and forests are cut down to create pasture for livestock.) University of Chicago researchers estimate that each meat-eating American produces 1.5 tons more greenhouse gases through their food choice than do their vegetarian peers. End the billions of dollars of US government subsidies of the beef and dairy industries and develop climate-smart agriculture.[3] Project Drawdown reports this is the most important contribution an individual can make.


A study of Blue Zone areas with the most long-lived people found the majority of their food is plants—including legumes (as well as social connection and physical activity).[4]


Buy Rainforest Alliance Certified products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and bananas.

Grow vegetables, perhaps in pots on rooftops or window ledges.


Fridays for Future Europe proposed 10 measures to change the Common Agricultural Policy to capture carbon in the soil; reduce meat consumption; reduce pollution from farming chemicals, antibiotics and GMOs–in alignment with the Biodiversity Strategy and Farm to Fork Strategy.


Compost food scraps (this can include egg shells, tea bags, paper, wool rags, yard clippings, leaves, etc.). About 40% of US food ends up in landfills and release gases. Worldwide, food waste cause around 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Love Food Hate Waste

South Korean banned dumping food in landfill and requires food waste is recycled in biodegradable bags or in home composting, leading to 95% recycling of food waste.


Buy food in bulk to reduce packaging.


Avoid palm oil, grown in deforested areas.[5]


Shop at farmers’ markets, buy local. See Eric Holt-Gimenez’ A Foodie’s Guide to Capitalism


Change Consumption

Consume less: Read The Story of Stuff The Impact of Overconsumption on the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health—And How We Can Make it Better by Annie Leonard.


Avoid products with tiny plastic pellets call nurdles.


Recycle clothes (the average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothes a year.) Follow “slow fashion” and make old clothes into new ones, called upcycling and repurposing. Make a mask from an old T-shirt. Shop in thrift stores.


Recycle toys in a toy library (


Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose

Ride a bike, walk, use public transportation rather than personal vehicles, ride-share.


Reuse glass or metal water bottles, bring your own straws, bamboo utensils, and take-out food containers.


Recycle cut hair to make into boons to absorb oil spills ( or for wigs.


Recyclable menstrual products, such as those made out of banana leaves.


Recycle paper, buy used wood furniture, or wood certified sustainably harvested. Avoid palm oil grown where rainforest were cut down.



Plant trees in your community ( like Shahzad Qureshi started Urban Forest to plant native trees in Pakistani cities such as in Karachi.


Plant flowers for bees and other pollinators ([6]


Reduce Energy and Fuel Use

Turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use since “idle load” uses energy even when not charging—or plug them into power strips. Americans spend more on electricity to power devices when they’re off than when on.


Buy Energy Star label appliances and products, which have kept tons of carbon dioxide out of the air since 1987. Use electric rather than gas stoves. Use WaterSense label fixtures and appliances to sav water and electricity. LED lightbulbs use less energy than incandescent bulbs and save money. Get an energy audit to see how your home can become more energy efficient.


The Drawdown campaign reduced the use of chemicals used in refrigerators and air conditioners, much more warming than CO2.


Shower for 5 minutes or less to save water.


Ride a bike or walk.


Wash clothes on cold and dry them on racks outdoor when sunny or indoor when not.


Don’t Pollute

Use organic cleaning products such as vinegar and baking soda or buy products labeled Safer choice, Green Seal Certified, Ecologo or Cradle to Cradle.



Inform your network and government officials (Environmental


Educate others: the David Suzuki Foundation offers a chatbot to teach how to talk about the climate.


Vote for politicians with climate plans. As Barack Obama says, “Don’t boo—vote.” For example, the Sunrise Movement pressured candidate Joe Biden to commit to a $2 trillion climate plan, including creating green jobs, renewable energy by 2035, weatherizing and upgrading homes and buildings, and “climate smart” agriculture. The Frontlines Climate Justice Executive Action Platform also outlined climate policies.[7]



The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy includes about 170 cities in the US, such as Minneapolis. They agreed to transition to renewable energy and develop an action plan. The global Green Economy index of greenest cities.[8]  See the report on green cities around the world. Mayors announced their support of the Global Green New Deal in 2019, along with youth climate activists, labor unions, etc.[9]


Michael Bloomberg Philanthropies is giving technical assistance funding to 25 cities with plans for innovative green building and transportation systems.[10]


Charged Up assists Canadian cities to develop renewable energy.[11]


The greenest cities are Vienna, Munich, Berlin, Madrid, and Sao Paulo.[12]


Vancouver, Canada was one of the first North American cities to develop the Clouds of Change climate crisis report in 1990 and in 2011 committed to the Greenest City Action Plan including green jobs, green buildings, additional bike lanes, recycling cigarette bins, tree planting, ban on Styrofoam containers, increase the amount of locally grown food, and 100% renewable energy by 2050. (See my photographs.) it has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per person of any major North American city.


Minneapolis is developing clusters of solar panels to reduce nearby energy bills and has electric vehicles.


Boston is first in the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s ranking of cities.


People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo turned abandoned school buildings into apartments for low-income seniors, created green spaces, etc.


New York City banned and plastic on city property.



California’s 2017 program requires the Air Resources Board to focus its clean-air efforts on communities with the most air pollution and consult environmental justice groups. (See the Indigenous Principles of a Just Transition). In 2018, it committed $35 million to creating high quality new clean-energy jobs.


New York, 2019: the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050. More than one-third of the program focuses on disadvantaged communities as by reducing pollution and developing jobs. The state also developed offshore wind projects.


Washington’s 2019 legislation committed the state to be carbon free by 2045, including incentives for businesses.


Colorado’s 2019 bills created an Office of Just Transition, such as to assist former miners and compensate cities for tax revenues lost to coal plant closures.


Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020 mandated shutting down most coal plants by 2030 and fossil fuel electric and gas plants by 2045.



The five greenest economics are in the Nordic counties and Switzerland. [13]


21 youth sued the government in Juliana vs. United States in 2015, represented by Our Children’s Trust. Youth in Quebec filed a class action lawsuit led by ENvironnement Jeunesse.


Petition your government to reduce carbon pollution and a just recovery after the pandemic, such as in Canada’s #BuildBackBetter petition to Ottawa.[14] Green New Deal for Canada was proposed by MP in December 2019.[15] Lobby for an effective climate plan.[16]


Carbon pricing is practiced by over 43 countries, which results in lower emissions.[17] Ban fracking.


15 youth sued 5 countries (Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey) through UNESCO in 2019.


Green New Deal is proposed in Europe, the US (the bill was introduced in February 2019 by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey) and Canada.


School walkouts, strikes demanding declaration of the climate emergency.

Demonstrations like Jane Fonda’s Fire Drill Fridays in multiple cities later led by Greenpeace.[18]


The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns reduced carbon emissions globally, including about 25% in China.[19]


End subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuel companies. Alternatives include ethanol derived from camps and hydrogen derived from water, but they take energy to produce.


Carbon regulations require polluters to pay for their emissions.



The Global Green New Deal launched in 2020 (@GlobalGNDeal, Naomi Klein explained it grew out their critique of Green New Deals in the UK and US and of the capitalist system. Arundhati Roy said, “If people think coronavirus is a problem, it’s a stuffed toy compared to the climate crisis that’s coming. The main thing is to change our imagination. Once you understand that you just can’t extract everything, that things are fine,” to shape a new, more just vision.


The European Green Deal commits to zero emissions by 2050. Greta Thunberg said the target should be 2030, otherwise it gives up on the Paris Agreement to limit emissions.


UN Paris Accord 2015 agreed on pledges to reduce emissions; they need to be cut almost in half.

COP UN climate meetings, with the 26th scheduled in Scotland in 2020. Finland’s goal is to make the country carbon-neutral by 2035.


Make ecocide an international crime at the International Criminal Court.


Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy includes over 9,000 cities in 138 countries.[20]


Build on the Covid-19 pandemic to not return to “normal” and create a “just recovery,” and #BuildBackBetter. Global emissions dropped by 17% in April, 2020, due to pandemic shutdowns, with an average peak of 26% reduction.[21] Over 150 international groups called for a new and improved normal in summer of 2020 in “Open Letter on Covid-19 and Humanitarian Disarmament,” including international humanitarian cooperation.[22]


Infrastructure with green jobs providing employment

Project Drawdown lists the major sources of heat-trapping greenhouse gases:

25%: electricity production

24%: food, agriculture, and land use

21%: industry

14%: transportation

6%: buildings

10%: other

Over half of the emissions stay in the atmosphere, 24% are absorbed by plants, and 17% by the oceans.[23]


Buildings worldwide contribute around one third of all greenhouse gas emissions (43% in the U.S., compared to 32% industry, and 28% transportation), even though using better insulation and other temperature-regulating steps can save money. Buildings (see my photos of the building in Seattle) use alternates to concrete such as strawbale and adobe. Bacteria and other “engineered living materials” can grow building bricks instead of burning limestone to make cement for concrete.[24] The goal is Zero Energy Building.


Villages within a city are created in “communitarian” buildings with shared spaces including a rooftop farm and big kitchen and meeting space. In a Seattle five-story building, the families in nine units cook for each other every other day. Hundreds of cohousing communities around the world are listed by the Foundation for Intentional Community.[25]

About half of home energy use comes from heating and cooling buildings, so weatherize: insulate and seal drafts. The US government gives tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements.[26] Cement is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions as it requires heating limestone and other ingredients to 1,450 degrees Celsius (2,642 degrees Fahrenheit). Mining copper and other elements needed for electrical wiring and transmission also cause globe-warming pollution. District heating is used in Europe and some US colleges with a central plant that burns natural gas to heat water, circulated to nearby buildings. An ambient temperature loop efficiently heats and cools the buildings, as in Whistler Olympic Village in British Columbia.[27] A pump circulates water through pipes buried below the frost line.


Use a heat pump rather than a furnace; it extracts heat from one area and moves it to another. Use a programmable thermostat. Keep heaters and boilers clean in order to be more efficient.


Use composting toilets.


Green public housing and public gardens, including urban rooftop gardens in urban areas.


Environmental justice projects such as cleaning up toxic waste sites and lead in pipelines.


Renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biomass).


Community owned energy companies or Green-e Energy certifies North American utility companies that get at least half their power from wind or solar.[28]


The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative joined 12 northeastern states in a cap-and-trade market


Install solar panels in schools.[29]


University model green programs[30]



Burning a gallon of gasoline produces 20 pounds of CO2, the second leading source of emissions in the US. Check out the smog level in US cities.[31]


Light rail, electric and hybrid vehicles. Check their fuel use.[32] Proper tire inflation and clean air filters save gas, as do good roads.


Public bikes to rent or no charge.

Build bike lanes: Copenhagen is a model with “super cycle highways.”


Hybrid-electric buses and light rail, as in San Francisco.


Reduce airplane travel (about 2.5% of global emissions). Buy carbon offsets if you do fly.[33]



Greta Thunberg aid in July, 2020, “Our current system is not ‘broken’–the system is doing exactly what its designed to be doing. It can no longer be ‘fixed.’ We need a new system.” Models are provided by: Green circular economies,[34] Green Growth Knowledge Platform, Global Green Economy Index (Nordic counties and Switzerland[35]), and UN Partnership for Action on Green Economy.


Invest in green , sustainable, socially responsible businesses and mutual funds.[36] If your pension or university endowment funds invest in fossil fuels, start or join a divestment campaign.[37]

Devest pension, central bank, and university funds from fossil fuel corporations.


Climate Action 100+ includes hundreds of global investors committed to the goals of the 2016 Paris Climate Accord.


UN’s Business and Investor Working Group on Carbon Pricing


Amazon’s sustainability plan includes 100% renewable energy by 2025, 100,000 electric delivery vehicles, net zero carbon by 2040, $2 billion in research to new technologies, $100 million in climate fund such as reforestation, and ecological packaging.[38]


Telecommute, reduce work week. Twitter allowed employees to work from home after the pandemic.


Green Tree Plastics makes plastic lids and caps into benches, picnic tables, and trash bins.[39]


Climate Bonds Initiative-certified bonds issued worldwide, including municipal bonds



Scientists proposed a “Global Deal for Nature” in April, 2019, a plan to save biodiversity.[40] Carbon sinks include forests, grasslands, peatlands, and mangrove trees; they pull the most carbon from the air so they need to be enlarged. Every year, 33 million acres of forests are cut down.[41] Timber harvesting in the tropics alone contributes 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere, 20% of human-made greenhouse gas emissions.


Reforestation—plant trees, and preserve wetlands that remove CO2.


Organic farming keeps carbon in the soil and avoids plowing (the 2018 US Farm Bill includes incentives), grown diverse crops including high-nitrogen legumes. The New Deal of the 1930s paid farmers to adopt conservation policies and set price floors for crops.


Develop local farmers’ markets.


Bioremediation uses microorganisms (microbes, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae) to repair toxic wastes such as oil spills or repair burn areas.


Replace lawns with native (see the National Wildlife Foundation native plant finder and or water-saving plants, called Xeriscaping, or plants that capture rain. Food Not Lawns  by Heather Jo Flores is a free book and organization. [42]


Put “seed bombs” on abandoned properties.


Ban single-use plastics, use plant-derived plastics.


Engineering to reduce carbon, such as inject C02 into cooled volcanic rocks under the ocean to form solid minerals like limestone. Bioengineering ideas include partially deflecting sun rays, sequestering CO2 in the ocean, large scale reforestation,[43] releasing sulfate particles in the air to mimic the cooling effects of a massive volcanic eruption; placing millions of small mirrors or lenses in space to deflect sunlight; covering portions of the planet with reflective films to bounce sunlight back into space; fertilizing the oceans with iron or other nutrients to enable plankton to absorb more carbon; and increasing cloud cover or the reflectivity of clouds that already form. All may have unintended consequences, making the solution worse than the original problem.


Rocks cycle CO2; rock weathering removes CO2 and transforms it into minerals, which can be accelerated by grinding up volcanic silicate rocks, such ad basalt,  and adding the dust to the soil.[44] This also increased cereal grain crop yields.


Bio-char from biomass in soil.


Climate Advocacy Groups

Climate Justice Alliance

Earth Alliance

Extinction Rebellion


Indigenous Environmental Network

Natural Resources Defense Council

Earth Day

Rainforest Foundation


Progressive International (includes Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, Yanis Varoufakis, etc.)

Project Drawdown

Rainforest Action Network


Youth-led Climate Advocacy Groups

Defend Our Future

Earth Guardians

Earth Uprising

Fridays for Future International

Hip Hop Caucus

International Youth Climate Movement

Climate Strike, Canada

Our Time, Canada

Our Children’s Trust

Polluters Out

Sunrise Movement, US

Youth Climate Network in various countries


Zero Hour, US





Jonathan Safran Foer, “The End of Meat I Here,” New York Times, May 21, 2020.














[17] Paul Burke, Frank Jotzo, Rohan Best, “Carbon Pricing Works,” The Conversation, July 13, 2020.


[19] Meehan Crist, “What the Coronavirus Means for Climate Change,” New York Times, March 27, 2020.


[21] “After Coronavirus Triggers 17% Emissions Drop,” Common Dreams, May 20, 2020.


[23] “The World’s Leading Resource for Climate Solutions,”  Drawdown Framework,safely%2C%20and%20equitably%20as%20possible.

[24] Wil Srubar, “Buildings Grown by Bacteria,” The Conversation, March 23, 2020.



[27] Charles Kutscher, “Buildings Consume Lots of Energy—Here’s How to Design Whole Communities that Give Back as Much as they Take,” The Conversation, May 26, 2020.
















[43] Nikhil Swaminathan, “If Cutting Carbon Isn’t Enough, Can Climate Intervention Turn Down the Heat,” Scientific American, June 5, 2007.

[44] Benjamin Houlton, “An Effective Climate Change Solution May Lie in Rocks Beneath Our Feet,” The Conversation, July 16, 2020.