Deep immersion. Building relationships. Bringing climate to life.
All FOCUS cohorts will experience a combination of both group and solo travel, as well as deep cultural immersion and community engagement that GYA-accredited gap year programs have become known for. In addition, participants will engage with local experts working on real-world climate issues that are unique to each country. When you apply, please select which country where you are most interested in taking your FOCUS Climate Gap Year.
Our Fall 2019 program will take place in Chile and Argentina. Our Spring 2020 programs will take place in India and China.
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.
We will visit with experts from Chile's rapidly growing wind energy sector in the Biobio region south of Santiago where we will learn about how the country has been so successful in attracting renewable energy development. In the south, we will spend time with organizations that have been working to expand the national park system—deep, complicated efforts at the nexus of conservation, climate mitigation and public-private partnerships.
Our 10-week program will culminate at The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25), an exciting opportunity for the cohort to engage with both leading climate experts and youth from across the globe. The preliminary portion of the program will emphasize language study and set the context for the experience by exploring the tensions between the demands of natural resources and conservation efforts. Participants will volunteer on a reforestation project in Torres del Paine National Park working with the Legacy Fund to understand the role forests play in balancing our climate systems. The cohort will get to visit with pioneers of Chile’s wind energy industry and work with scientists that have been designing agricultural systems to meet both local and global food production demand in the face historic droughts.
We have selected ARCC as our official GYA-accredited program partner for our Chile/Argentina Fall 2019 Program.
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.
Our 10-week program in India is a collaboration with Winterline. The cohort spends the first 4 weeks in Auroville near the tropical coast of Tamil Nadu learning about smaller scale climate systems, erosion, forestry and organic farming. In week five, the cohort begins moving north to Chennai for language immersion and volunteering with urban planning experts, learning how about how the 2015 floods have reshaped the city’s relationship with water. In Delhi, the cohort spends time with large national NGO’s like WWF-India and the Rocky Mountain Institute, learning about different approaches to policy, research and economics. When we finally arrive in the northern Uttarakhand region, we spend time working with local scientists helping rural communities manage water supplies, seed banks and crops in the face of increased drought and resource demand.
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.