Blogging from Morocco!

Ride along with us and see the sights on our trip to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Morocco. 

Headed to the UN convention on climate change Sunday 11/13

Royal Air Maroc -  the official airline if the conference.   The plane from JFK is full of people from the United nations....and many Moroccans. No sleep. Coffee smells terrible but actually tastes pretty good. When our plane lands, we have to stop half way through taxiing to airport to let dignitaries from our flight disembark. There is a red carpet for them and a ceremony.  No idea who they are!

On the Road Monday 11/14

We chose to rent a car and drive from Casablanca to Marrakech. (Husband Bob is taking this adventure with me.) The landscape and climate are similar to southern California or Arizona.  Dry desert,  hot in the sun., mid 50's at night.  As we approach Marrakech, we pass through the foothills of the Atlas Mountains which then appear and are always in the back ground.   White capped, climber parlance.   It takes about 3 hours to get to our destination.  We had to pull off in a town on the way to get gas and shawarma!

 Awards Ceremony Monday 11/14

Our first night in Marrakesh. We head to the awards ceremony! It is held in a beautiful hi-end hotel. everyone speaks French but we get by.   The award ceremony is held by Construction 21 which we guess is sort of an international version of NESEA . ...or maybe like the USGBC without the rating system.

Construction 21 ideas Monday 11/14

Construction 21 opens the ceremony with many ideas and goals.  Among them are the ideas of encouraging youth and the trades to get involved and thoughts on how to make that happen .  (This of course reminds me immediately of our latest NESEA Bottom Lines conference at which we had the same exact conversation!)  

Next they speak of achieving the mass dissemination of sustainable building knowledge for the bottom up advancement of all builders in all countries.  Very cool!  I love this. it gives me hope in the face of the recent election.   Actually, this turns out to be a theme for the whole conference  - that we can still achieve our goals by simply continuing to do our thing...regardless of policy .  

Lastly, construction 21 welcomes China as their most recent member branch! Everyone is VERY excited to have China in board. 

 After this Construction 21 will work on making the USA a member branch. perhaps--through NESEA.

 Sylvain- Monday 11/14

The guy in the middle is Sylvain. our French escort (that sounds so wrong! : )

Anyway, he was a very fine host and announced our award.  We came in third in our category which was an Innovation in small buildings award.   We met the Belgian architect who came in first place for a small office building.   He was very nice and brilliant of course like all architects, lol. ( I will try to get a picture of all of us on stage...) 

There were so many awards and categories for large buildings and city planning and funding.  It was a very international evening.   The whole thing was in french.  We had headphones and there was a good translator but every so often it was like he found the subject matter too boring and just got up and took a break.   It was a construction industry event after all .   They did have excellent food and very nice Moroccan wine afterwards though!

Outdoor Event -  Monday 11/14

As part of the UN event, the entire city is alive!  There are (we are told) thousands of extra 'National Guard ' type police.  they are on every corner. 

 Thus is a photo from a huge outdoor event.  On the middle of the big field is a giant globe with projection of images.   All around the globe are 100's of bicycles.   People are lined up for a chance to ride the bikes which power the globe.  The images on the globe show natural scenes of beauty and then morph into scenes of devastation due to climate change and eventually the world globe with all of the countries setting on fire.   Very dramatic !   Music pumping. The people cheer! 

Chaos in the Streets - Monday 11/15

This image does not even come close to capturing how insane and chaotic the streets of Marrakech are! Crossing the street is a terrifying experience.   There are cars, taxis,buses, motorbikes, mopeds, bicycles,  horse carriages and donkey carts,  then guys running with carts in front .   All are together sharing the vague lanes of the road.  There seems to be no order, neither rhyme nor reason as to who goes where and who has right of way.   It all just happens.   Everyone just goes and it works out. We have not seen an accident yet.

But, when we want to cross the street we can barely do it.   We wait for locals and walk with them.   They just start weaving thru the whole mess. It is crazy!!!   One waiter told me that actually it is never this sane.  Everyone is  being good because of all of the visitors in town for the convention ...and yes probably  because of all of the National Guard . ..

    Riad at night – Monday 11/15

A picture of our beautiful riad (small hotel) at night.  All rooms are in a square around a courtyard with a pool.  Lovely, but very loud when the Germans stay up all night drinking in the courtyard ! 

And in the Morning - Tuesday 11/15

The brick and tile and door patterns in Morocco are so beautiful!   I want to take them all home and design them into my next houses!  Watch out future clients!

       On the road to the conference – Tuesday 11/15

The streets are all decorated with flags and it is clear they planted miles and miles of road side plants to make everything more beautiful.   Taxis and horse carriages all have the COP 22 emblem. COP 22 is how everyone refers to this conference.  Conference of Parties #22.  Meaning the 22nd annual gathering of UN delegates who are working out the logistics of how to save the world from climate change.

Walls of Medina – Tuesday 11/15

These are the walls of the Medina or the original City from the year 1120.  The city has grown around the Medina.   The conference is in a new area outside of the walls but everyone is staying in the Medina.   All the fun happens inside the walls!

The King of Morocco - King Mohammed VI - Tuesday 11/15

This is the king.   He is at the conference this week.  We had to pull over to let his motorcade pass when we were driving from Casablanca to Marrakech yesterday.   His local palace is at the edge of the Medina and heavily guarded.   But from what we can tell everyone loves the king.  I have asked 6 people if they like him and each smiled, faces lit up and said 'oh yes! we love him very much!'  They say this with soooo much sincerity.   It is adorable.   They along all seem to understand our 'presidential' problem and they all seem to love Obama

Arriving at COP 22 - Tuesday 11/15

There are thousands of people here.  There are 2 zones.  The blue zone and the green zone.  Only delegates and press are allowed on the blue zone.  The public is welcome in the green zone.  Everything is free. Parking.  buses. Entry.  All are welcome. 

Electric Vehicles - Tuesday 11/15

 There are EVS everywhere including this bus. Marrakech is pretty proud of how advanced they are on the climate change front.  We are too!

   My Leaf - Tuesday 11/15

And here is a cross section of my own car...the Nissan LEAF.   The orange is the batteries. (70).   Some people worry about EMF exposure but they say the steel plate between batteries and passenger block them.   Not sure,  but I never feel ill in my car. But who knows, it is possible that I am insensitive : )

Moroccan goals - Tuesday 11/15

This map shows Morocco and it's solar, wind and hydro power.   Right now those 3 provide over 32 percent of the countries power.   By 2020 they vow to have that percentage up to 45%.  Impressive!  Imagine if the US got about half of their power from renewables? 

USA Renewables  - Tuesday 11/15

By the way the US utilizes approximately 13.5% renewables as of the end of 2015...up from about 10% in the year 2000. most renewable power in US comes from hydro

The Sea Cleaner - Tuesday 11/15

This boat is a prototype that is setting sail this year for the first trial.   It is a plastic catching triple hull sail boat.  It travels slowly enough that most small fish get out of the way easily.  On the front there is the equivalent of a cow catcher to divert whales and such and in the back there is a sort of giant rake that catches plastic from the ocean and loads it on board. Eventually, the boat hoes to shore and off loads all of its cargo to recyclers.   They hope to have 100 in the water in the next 5 years.

New Solar Modules - Tuesday 11/15

These are new solar modules invented in Morocco .   There is a prism at the top and the insides are lined with square panels. It is estimated to produce ten times the power per square foot (or meter) as a flat panel.   PV seems  a bit less prevalent than solar thermal is here; and that seems on pat with the rest of the developing world fro.   What we learn here:  Morocco has vowed to bring PV from 2% of the electric grid to 14% by 2020.

The Moroccan Tesla - Tuesday 11/15

Prototype.  Super cool!!  What else is there to say?  Where do I buy one??  (Did I mention everything is pretty darn inexpensive here compared to US?)

Prototype.  Super cool!!  What else is there to say?  Where do I buy one??  (Did I mention everything is pretty darn inexpensive here compared to US?)

Cloud Fisher - Tuesday 11/15

This is called the Cloud Fisher.   It is a water collector for areas with drought.  It collects water out of the air through the process of condensation in the closet to dribble down into a collector or directly into the ground.   There are lots of cool things in the convention trade show

Norway - Tuesday 11/15

Norway spoke of the challenges of getting the funding commitments given to municipalities to merge with or cooperate with the private vendors and agencies that actually have the knowledge and do the work. I see this problem very directly in America as well.  There is no familiar, tried and true system for making the money that had been granted for green projects to actually get used, and used well...efficiently and in a high quality way.   There is a lack of trust for vendors and it's true, some vendors do not really know how to do super sustainable well.  This is a big challenge.  

 Entrepreneur Showdown! -  Tuesday 11/15

They had a cool area in the middle of the floor.   It was sort of like 'Shark Tank' for saving the world.  There is a team of judges and a countdown clock set for 5 minutes.  Each entrepreneur presents his or her idea...generally some innovative tool or method to help the planet.  The judges then ask questions and rate their idea.  We could not figure out if the winners got anything other than kudos. Fun to watch!

 The Blue Zone -  Tuesday 11/15

blog 23 The Blue Zone.jpg

We could not go into the blue zone, delegates only.  I did find an American coming out (I spotted him by his carefree smile and a name tag that simply said 'Jake' ...too easy!)

He said he used to be with the United Nations but this year he was here to make a documentary.  I asked him what it was like inside? (Huge endless white tents...bigger than the Javits Center). He said it is sort of mysterious because there are just thousands of small meeting rooms and you have no idea what is going in in each one.   But he can peak in as  the doors open and randomly interview willing  participants as he is member if the approved press.  I asked if there was much arguing.  He said 'let's call it debate, there is lots of debate' . 

Flags of 200 Nations -  Tuesday 11/15

Well, there is some debate over the exact count, but approximately.  We searched and searched for the American flag but couldn't find it.  I have no idea what that means.   Also,  inside the green zone there were not any Americans -as represented by company or by country..I am sure there were Americans visiting.   We also found this odd .  I mean obviously we are not the center of the universe, but we are also ahead of a lot of countries in many ways sustainably speaking.  For example, when we heard the Germans talk they were discussing 'thinking about' solar subsidies, funding and battery back up in ways that are 'old news' to the US. but of course in general Germany is way ahead of us in all things sustainable.  So back to the main question: Why is the USA such slouches in representing here....?

Sunset -  Tuesday 11/15

Sunset at the end of a very long conference day.  Thousands of people walking out and heading to the medina for food and drink.  Did I mention that morocco makes very nice wine? 


Day 2 -  Wednesday 11/15

On the second morning we realize we could have borrowed bikes instead of walking the 25 minutes from our Riad.   Oh well, probably safer walking anyway.  Apparently these are brought in for the convention.   Morocco really did go all out.  It is like a minor version of hosting the Olympics.

 Inspirational Photos -  Wednesday 11/15

We found a photo exhibit by a Dutch architect Kasper Brenjholt Bak.   It is a beautiful collection of Google map images with descriptions below. The descriptions point out the pros and cons of each subject and its effects on the planet.  This one is a picture of uranium mining

The dutch architect Kasper Brejnholt Bak 

The dutch architect Kasper Brejnholt Bak 


Local Entertainment -  Wednesday 11/15

Outside of the huge tents that house the conference,  there is some local entertainment.  Beautiful singing and some dancing.

Civilization vs. Innovation -  Wednesday 11/15

There are two sides to the green zone.  Yesterday was all innovation.  Technologies that are being developed to transform the environment.  Civilization is more about how we work together as humans and adapt culturally.   There is overlap of course...these are not at odds... but the vibe of each side is different .  

This is a conversation pit. I love this!! They are scattered throughout this side.  People really seem to be using them and having fun.  This group was having a fairly serious meeting but every so often they would look at each other and start giggling.

Hydro Power -  Wednesday 11/15

The huge, 1000 meter Ouzoud waterfall is in the mountains between Marrakech and Fes.  It provides power to the biggest Hydro plant in Morocco.  The weird thing is that when we tried to see this waterfall later in the trip none of the locals seemed to have heard of it.  They sent us on a wild goose chase that landed us at a 15 foot tall man made waterfall in a manicured park.  We searched on but could never find it. (Our cell phone map only has street names in Arabic ! perhaps we should have hired a guide....) We never did see it but it looks very beautiful in the pictures !  It is possible that the locals were messing with us.  As one waiter said 'Moroccans just want to have fun!' (They play a lot of American music from the 80's here too.)

Waste to Energy -  Wednesday 11/15

There is a lot on the civilization side about infrastructure and changing habits.   There are many ideas about turning waste into energy.   There is one plant in Morocco so far, and they are hoping for 5-6 more in the coming years.  It's a very interning chart. 

Art Gallery -  Wednesday 11/15

There is an art gallery of things made from found objects, recycled and repurchased.  I did not really see the point in this plastic bottle wardrobe... but

  Nigerian Refrigerator -Wednesday 11/15

 This is an ancient technique that is in use in much of Africa today.  It made me feel nostalgic to see it because it is what my friend Colin Beaman aka "No Impact Man" used when he and his family lived 'off the grid' in Manhattan 5(?) years ago.  This was his apartment refrigerator for a year! You can Google No Impact Man to learn more. Hi Colin!

Power to the people - Wednesday 11/15

These are examples of small portable solar panels for people in the developing world who have no access to the grid.  They are inexpensive and often donated.  Who needs help from government or big corporations?   There are work arounds.   My whole mind set is here as we walk through the convention.   Maybe it will be sort of like the 60's all over again?  Power to the people!

  Leave No Man Woman or Child BehindWednesday 11/15

Most of the speakers today speak about the disenfranchised. ...minorities, women, LGBT, the poor.   How do we help these communities but also how do we welcome them and get them involved?

Communication Wednesday 11/15

blog 37 communication.jpg

A good deal of the messaging today is about sharing knowledge.  The whole world seems a lot less proprietary than the US does.  Joe Lstiburek opened his knowledge trove to all -for free -  last year.   I found this move great and progressive.   Seems Joe got the memo that the rest of the world got as well.   Anyway,  much of the mass dissemination would happen through the Web of course, so there are talks today about how to make this happen.

Back to Medina Wednesday 11/15

There is so much to take in at the convention, we are pretty exhausted.   That is all of the convention that we will get while we are here.  We feel we have seen a lot and feel very encouraged by the work everyone us doing.  This is a world problem and people are taking it seriously.   They say if the USA does not do its part then there is no way the world can make its 2030 goal of keeping the temperature rise less than 2 degrees Celsius  (ideally 1.5).   They say if Trump backs out of the Paris talks then India will probably as well and maybe China.  We heard chatter from people of both countries that this is not true.  But remember everyone here is like us US greenies -  optimistic that their government will do the right thing.   We would never have predicted Trump.  All we can do is hope and pray that Trump won't kill the deal, and know that even if he does we have boots on the ground and power to the people and we can change the world.