Ugochi Anyaka's Blog

Day 11


I'm downstairs in my hotel lobby to meet Steve and Irene for my Denver trip. The kindness and care Steve and Irene showed from the first day we met was overwhelming. Steve and Irene have been volunteer hosts for US State Department visitors from 5 continents in Colorado. Irene's professional focus is Sustainability in Interior/Architectural design and Steve is a Professor at Spring International, which prepares visiting Korean Government Officials to enter the University of Colorado's Graduate School of Public Affairs. Today is fully packed, and we start with a visit to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Denver office.

USEPA has 10 regions, and the Denver office is in region 8. In today's meeting, I learnt so much about US environmental management, from water, to oil exploration, pollution, and fracking. USEPA is also working in Africa to help address the growing urban and industrial pollution issues, and to strengthen capacity for the enforcement of, and compliance with, environmental laws, inspections, and impact assessments. USEPA promotes public participation and supports the development of improved management approaches in African environmental agencies. I met with Laura Farris, Acting Director, State Partnerships and Sustainable Practices program, Jim Eppers, Legal Enforcement program, Lisa McClain-Vanderpool, Public Affairs, Anthony DeLoach, Environmental Engineer, and the proudest moment for me was being in same room with super intelligent Christopher Ajayi, Underground Injection Control Program, from Nigeria.

Nigeria has lots of great citizens in the diaspora, who we hope might come back home to support development in the country. I asked Christopher when he would return home to bring his knowledge and expertise to support Nigeria's development. "Soon" he said, "but not now". If you had a good job and feel secure where you are, it's going to be difficult coming home to Nigeria considering all our very many imperfections. EPA Denver has such an eco-friendly building, with LEED Gold certification. The building lets in lots of daylight, uses renewable energy, has a green roof for agriculture, water conservation technology, and waste recycling facilities. It is a good place to go on a breath-taking and modern eco-building tour.

Next we arrived at the Colorado Energy Office for our second meeting for the day with Denise Stepto, Communication Director and Chris Worley, Regulatory Analyst. The office promotes sustainable economic development in Colorado through advancing the state's energy market and industry to create jobs, increase energy security, lower long term consumer costs and protect the environment. For the office, conservation is key. If Nigeria (government and individuals) could manage energy in a sustainable manner, wastage would be reduced and there would be more electricity for all.


Colorado Energy office

Next call was to meet the Chief Sustainability Officer Gerri Tinianow. Ever heard of a city sustainability officer? Well, Denver has one. The Mayor of Denver, Michael B. Hancock, has sustainability as top priority, so he conducted a nationwide search for someone who could lead Denver's sustainability mission. Gerri Tinianow came all the way from Ohio to take this office. He is someone really great to meet. Simple, smart and sustainable. He let me into what his office does, and shared with me Denver's 2020 sustainability goals. These goals are already being met, unlike our vision 202020 in Nigeria. The resources to be managed include materials, mobility, water quantity, water quality, air quality, climate change, energy, food, health, housing, land use and work force. Yes! Workforce. The goal is to provide workforce training and mobility improvement that allow Denver employers to fill at least 90 percent of job openings with workers located within a 90 minute pubic transit commute of the employer.

I conducted a video interview with Gerri and said bye bye. On our way out, we got a chance to visit Mayor Hancock’s office. He wasn't on his seat, but I tried it out, and Steve took some photos. All hail Mayor Ugochi!

Our last appointment was with Lynn Schofield Clark, associate professor of the Estlow International Center. It was interesting to chat about traditional media and new media. Are newspapers going away? Do you still buy newspapers and magazines? Lynn was such a great resource.

It was such a long day, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Steve and Irene made it much more fun. Can't wait for tomorrow!

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yeja.africa@unep.org