Beaches with powdery white sand and crystal clear water … rich mangrove forests and vibrant coral reefs…  all of this stunning beauty was the perfect backdrop for the 11th Annual International Convention on the Environment & Development, held this year from July 3 – 7 in Havana, Cuba. The conference brought together 1,300 global scientists, policy experts, environmentalists and academics from 39 countries to share best practices and ensure continued protection of the world’s vast natural resources.

United and Integrated for Prosperous and Sustainable Development

Cuba and its Caribbean neighbor, the Dominican Republic (DR), are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Shrinking coastlines, reduced biodiversity and depleted fisheries threaten the viability of coastal communities. Counterpart International has been working with the government, private sector and civil society to promote climate resiliency in the Dominican Republic for more than 10 years. At the conference, Counterpart highlighted our partnerships with Dominican community groups and the national government, and shared the success of the program in coral restoration, groundbreaking blue carbon research, and the development of local and national strategies that balance economic need with conservation efforts,

“Counterpart has consistently used a comprehensive approach to tackling climate change and development issues in the Dominican Republic. Success requires collaboration with government, the private and public sector. The urgency of climate change means that it is more important than ever that Counterpart shares our knowledge and we continue to build partnerships that advance sustainable solutions to climate change in the DR and beyond,” said Joan Parker, Counterpart’s President and CEO.

“Our efforts in the Dominican Republic have also included a commitment to building the next generation of environmental leaders by working closely with education leaders in the DR.  Today’s efforts must be backed up by building the capacity of future leaders to carry forward climate resiliency strategies,” added Parker.

Today’s Youth Becoming Tomorrow’s Conservation Leaders

In partnership with Hiram College, Counterpart is training Caribbean youth to be prepared to step up as leaders in conservation and climate resiliency.  The Dominican Environmental Education Program (DEEP) engages young Dominican students in hands-on monitoring and evaluation of coastal ecosystems in the Dominican Republic and around the world.

At the same time as the conference in Cuba, Counterpart International, Learning Streams International, and Hiram College were simultaneously hosting Dominican and American students on the Barrier Islands of Virginia. Eighteen students visited a range of sites and organizations at the forefront of coastal resiliency in Virginia. Getting their hands dirty and their feet muddy, they spent time with scientists and local community members analyzing the impact of rising sea levels and increased storm surges on the islands. Each night after their excursions, they reflected on what they saw and were encouraged to think about how they can apply this knowledge to their own communities.

Students gathering samples for water quality testing

Daniel Rinehart of Cuyahoga Falls High School in the USA and Maria Henriques of Babeque Secundaría looking at stream health through water chemistry. Photo: Learning Streams International

According to Learning Streams International, “By fully engaging international high school students in this real world learning environment, they more accurately understand science in the real world. The result is an enriched learning experience for all and a world of collaboration between all parties.”

Taking scientific measurements in the Chesapeake Bay

Students taking measurements to evaluate the health of Chesapeake Bay waters off the coast of Virginia. Photo: Learning Streams International.

While Virginia is a long way from the Dominican Republic and Cuba, climate change is an issue that impacts us all. By engaging in scientific experiments and discussions with community members, Dominican students now have a deeper understanding of how climate change is affecting their country and more around the world.

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