Deep immersion. Building relationships. Bringing climate to life.
All cohorts will travel together throughout the fall and experience the deep cultural immersion and community engagement that GYA gap year programs have become known for. In addition, participants will engage with local experts working on real-world climate impacts and solutions that are unique to each country. Final curriculum design will occur in June after we learn more about our cohorts' interests, but the following information will help paint a picture of each country's unique climate story to help you select which country you are most interested in taking your FOCUS Climate Gap Year.
Major climate impacts are already hitting China with its densely populated coastlines and urban centers. 20% of the country is a desert and those deserts are rapidly growing due to droughts, encroaching on the urban centers that are simultaneously expanding due to population growth. As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, participants will get to learn about unique challenges and innovations related to transportation, air quality and the built urban environment, and how utilities are racing to meet energy demands while also trying to hit their climate targets in a very different political and NGO environment than North America. Since China is also one the largest suppliers of wind turbine and solar manufacturing, participants will get to see first-hand what some of these production facilities look like, and how major brands with supply chain operations in China are dramatically reducing their carbon footprints to improve the health of local communities.
An almost identical mirror to the North American West Coast between Baja California and Alaska, Chile has been experiencing a 7-year drought. Lakes have dried up, wild fires have exploded, famous wine and agricultural regions are suffering, floods, lands slides, etc. Nearly three quarters of their population live near coastal towns at risk of sea level rise and the southern regions are experiencing significant glacier melt. Unlike its South American neighbors, Chile has virtually zero oil and gas deposits, so it has invested heavily in new technology recently to provide cheap local energy to its communities and now meets nearly 50% of its electricity needs through renewable energy. The Chilean government just recently set a goal of hitting 80% renewable energy by 2050. FOCUS cohorts will get to visit solar facilities in the Atacama desert, wind farms in the central regions and the brand new 10 million-acre Patagonia National Park to learn about the connection between conservation, climate mitigation and public-private partnerships.
Similar to its neighbor to the west, Argentina has experienced major impacts to its agricultural communities due to drought as well as glacier melt in the far south and changes to its coastlines near Buenos Aires. Argentina has also experienced significant deforestation trends, emitting vast amounts of CO2 to clear land in its role as one of the world's top soybean exporters. Unlike Chile though, Argentina is sitting on two major fossil fuel reserves that if developed, could profoundly change our global carbon footprint. If the Vaca Muerta fracking project in Northern Patagonia moves forward, Argentina would become the second largest exporter of natural gas outside of North America. And in the Mendoza province, the country is sitting on a tar sands deposit that is attracting major investment and is comparable to the Canadian Tar Sands issue that continues to spark controversy in North America. While it's renewable energy targets aren't as aggressive as Chile, the government recently increased their targets from 2% to 20% by 2050 and there is a strong community of social entrepreneurs in Argentina working on climate and energy related issues. Similar to Chile, Argentina is also engaged in similar climate conservation partnerships with the Tompkins Conservation team and their efforts to grow the national park systems in the region.
India is projected to be the world's fastest growing economy over the next 10 years in addition to being the most populated. More than 50% of their population lives in areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters and severe weather-related events like extreme monsoons, flooding, drought and heatwaves. Because of the rapid growth in technology and the lack of large electrical grids found in more developed nations, Indian communities are able to adapt to cheaper, small-scale clean electricity much faster. There is a strong culture of innovation and adaptability in India that is contagious and inspiring. With a new national goal of producing 175gw of renewable energy by 2022, rural electrification projects near the base of the Himalayas experiencing glacier melt, farming communities fighting to balance crop production and preserving elephant habitats due to shifting weather patterns, India is on the front lines of growth, innovation and adaptation.