Guest on The Infra Blog: Anita van Breda, Senior Director, Environment and Disaster Management, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Posted by Steve Anderson on Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Anita van Breda on The Infra Blog

Anita van Breda works with local and global humanitarian aid agencies, including the American Red Cross, to ensure that WWF’s conservation work is applied to disaster recovery and reconstruction in areas such as those impacted by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. “By applying environmental conservation to humanitarian agendas, we can rebuild together to preserve both livelihoods and natural resources.” Today, with a more scaled up team, Anita is working with humanitarian aid and government institutional policy to advance green disaster recovery from an integrated human and environmental standpoint.

The partnership with the American Red Cross has opened the eyes – and doors – of other agencies. “It’s a great day when you get that kind of acknowledgment – and when it creates more demand for a greener and more long lasting, disaster response,“ says Anita.

Building Infrastructure for Resiliency
We work on how to conceive and develop programs that minimize any negative environmental impacts from recovery and reconstruction, and maximize the benefits that a healthy environment can provide. For example, my work and my program is part of our adaptation and resilience team and so we are working on how do we live and grow and prosper under changing climatic conditions…The link between that work and infrastructure is that there’s a lot of infrastructure damage that takes place in disasters and it needs to be rebuilt, and so there are opportunities to rebuild using environmentally responsible practices.

How to Get Engaged in Climate Solutions
We need to all be engaged in the process of thinking about and managing an approach to a changing climate. Ways that we can look around our own backyard, and our own neighborhood, and think about if the climate is changing, and we recognize that it is, what can I do within my own home to make more informed decisions about purchases that I make, to think about how I manage my yard and the water that flows through it, to try to work towards adapting to a changing climate. Then we have opportunities to engage at the local level around leadership in our communities and in our government systems to encourage and facilitate and catalyze recognition in our policies and in our legislation around managing in a changing climate.

Optimistic About Climate Leadership
I feel like there’s momentum in the right direction to look for: how do we deal with this reality, how do we manage it. That thinking, that leadership comes from all different places and walks of life. If there is a change in the direction at the federal level, that means it’s all the more important that we at our individual and at our state and our county levels, make sure we are doing more to step up our engagement. We see examples from different mayors and different cities who are being quite proactive on the climate issue, and corporations are stepping forward, and so we have to focus on where there’s positive momentum and support that moving forward.

Optimizing Infrastructure: Smaller Footprint, Bigger Benefits
…infrastructure fits, in my view, right in the middle there of all of that because where roads go, how they’re built, where dams are placed—there is an impact on the environment. There is the immediate impact which often times can be managed and mitigated but then there are the longer-term changes that take place. We’re trying to take a systems approach to look at what is infrastructure, where does it go, how is it conceived, designed, developed and funded, and what are the environmental issues related to those intervention points and how can we support the aspirations that infrastructure presents for development, but at the same time minimize the environmental footprint and degradation while maximizing the benefits.


Download full transcript (PDF): Anita van Breda on The Infra Blog

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