Reflections on my Summer Placement, Muhammad Ishtiaq Afridi (Graduate Student)

Back in Canada, cold wind, autumn leaves and constant academic deadlines brings to an end the amazing summer that I spent as a summer research intern for the Urban Climate Resilience Southeast Asia Partnership (UCRSEA). At the end of my internship, I was excited to share my experiences with fellow classmates and our new junior class. Earlier this fall, I also presented my internship experience at a poster presentation event that led to great discussions about climate change and the challenges that Southeast Asian countries need to address.

Muhammad Ishtiaq Afridi

In this respect, the UCRSEA project is a timely effort that engages local researchers, academics, government officials and civil society representatives to better understand the complex interactions between urbanization and climate change in the context of emerging secondary cities in Southeast Asia, and to mobilize knowledge that helps the region to address these challenges.

I spent my summer working with two UCRSEA partner organizations: Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) and the Institute of Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), based in Bangkok. The Institutes have strong links across Southeast Asia and work on numerous research projects to enhance urban climate change resilience in the Mekong region. As part of my internship, I had the opportunity to work on exciting tasks alongside Co-Director Pakamas Thinphanga, Richard Friend, their local teams and two fellow summer research interns.

As the research project was in its initial phase, many of the tasks focused on building foundations before the project activities of the next phase were rolled out. Initially, seminars were conducted to engage with local academics, researchers and partner organization representatives to develop a common understanding of the conceptual framework, research questions and key project activities. I developed an annotated bibliography of the current state of thinking on climate change vulnerability assessments. I also contributed to the UCRSEA Vulnerability Assessment Methods and Steps document for conducting vulnerability assessments. I drafted the project’s Milestone Report, which was an experience that improved my understanding of the UCRSEA project as well as my report writing skills. I was also involved in outreach activities including promoting the UCRSEA doctoral scholarship opportunity and managing the UCRSEA’s social media platforms.

One of the most interesting elements of the internship was the opportunity to attend workshops and seminar at local institutes that provided me an insight into local issues related to urbanization and climate change impacts. While attending seminars at Mahasarakham University, Khon Kaen University and Udon Thani municipality in the northeastern Issan region, discussions with fellow researchers and provincial government officials interested in developing a “low carbon society” inspired me to relate my major Academic Research Paper to the region.

Khon Kaen, Thailand

My research paper will analyze the socio-technical transition towards a low carbon society by using a multi-level perspective in Thailand in an attempt to understand the existing building sector, specifically the transition from conventional buildings towards designing and adopting green buildings that aim to improve social, environmental and economic impacts. Using Khon Kaen City as case study, my research aims to identify the key actors in these processes and how they define green buildings. My research will also explore whether initiatives such as the “Low Carbon Society Plan” currently being implemented by local government can play a catalyst role in developing niche innovation as well as challenge the existing socio-technical regime of conventional buildings. I will also examine the role that central and provincial governments can play to encourage innovation and drive change towards green buildings.

I greatly enjoyed my MSc summer placement and learned a lot about the region and the challenges it faces. Thailand is a fabulous country with great people, smiles, food and nature, among others. The local team was amazing and lunch breaks were a good time to learn about life in Thailand, which added to my experience. This summer was intellectually stimulating, professionally motivating and emotionally revitalizing.

Muhammad Ishtiaq Afridi is a postgraduate student in Sustainability Management Program (MScSM) at the University of Toronto. His research interests lie in urbanization and climate change, environmental risks, valuation of ecosystem services, municipal water delivery and urban storm water systems, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Click here to access a PDF copy of Ishtiaq’s article.