Sustainability Requires Adaptability

David Zilberman

Sustainability requires adaptability, and that applies to the ELP.

The last year and a half were unexpected and challenging. I have worked on Avian Flu and worried about zoonotic diseases, but I never dreamt that one of these diseases would take over the world. But it happened, and the ELP needed to adapt. Last year, we didn’t hold the program even though we had a few webinars. I’m really looking forward to our virtual program this year and expansion of our alumni network with new participants.

When we started the ELP, the main challenge set by Dick Beahrs was to build a sustainable program that will survive deans and directors and will be able to contribute for the long run. I probably would stay around for another few years, but I’m sure that I’m replaceable. The key element in any sustainable program is that it adapts to the times and maintains its relevance. If you look at our curriculum, it has evolved. In the first few years, we emphasized science and economics, but then we realized that participants were professionals, who were interested in enhancing their personal and management skills, and therefore, we enhanced conflict resolution, marketing, and supply chain. In the beginning, our emphasis was more agricultural and rural, and now we have increased our emphasis on urban environmental challenges. We adapted the program to the evolving climate change agenda, and now we have much more emphasis on adaptation and implementation of the Paris Agreement. We attempt to modify our program to accommodate growing emphasis on data science, rigorous statistics, and randomized controlled trials. Understanding the impact of the pandemic and finding a way to prevent future pandemics will be a major emphasis of our program in the future. Furthermore, as new members join RCNR and Berkeley, we try to add them to our program.

Since I expect that social distancing will continue for a while, I’m looking forward for proposals for new webinars and other interactive actions among the ELP family.

This year we celebrate our 20th anniversary, and I’m looking forward beyond the pandemic and hope that we will meet many of you in-person in the post-pandemic world. We really have to think about how to renew and strengthen our network in 2022 and continue to be active and relevant.