Type of Presentation


This year’s global classroom series focuses on geodesign, or engineering the transition to sustainable water and energy management. Essentially, geodesign is a comprehensive approach that attempts to resolve a broad cost-benefit analysis of political, economic, technical, and environmental concerns. This first presentation provides a wide-angle view of the current situations in San Diego, Northern Baja, and Brazil.

San Diego

San Diego’s main economic engines are military and defense-related activities, tourism, international trade, and manufacturing. With a relatively low unemployment rate, advanced infrastructure and a growing GDP rate, San Diego is a major commercial hub. High levels of economic activity, unfortunately, incur proportional carbon pollution. Carbon emissions are growing predominantly due to excessive car usage. About ¾ of San Diego’s working population drives to work and transportation causes more than half of the CO2 emissions within the county. However, San Diego electricity generation is a well-diversified mix of renewables with more than 70% composed of wind and solar. 33% of San Diego’s total energy production is from renewable sources and has exceeded the target set by the state government. 

Another key issue in San Diego is drought. Due to lack of rain and repeatedly record-breaking high temperatures, the drought has dragged on for ten years (despite one good year of rain) and has led to depleted reservoirs and aquifers. Inevitably, San Diego’s consumption has outpaced recharge rates resulting in water shortages across the state.


Because we are directly affected by California’s drought and energy preferences, we are understandably focused on these immediately local issues. Of course, the demand for energy and water does not stop at the border.

Currently Baja California generates a majority of its energy from fossil fuels with tentative goals to further diversify into renewables. Additionally, Baja California is a production-based economy satiating demand for manufactured goods in the international market. As a developing industrial economy that depends on fossil fuels, Baja California is bound to endure a great deal of pollution in the near future.

Confronting drought with robust water management strategies is a priority in both San Diego and Baja, but access to running potable water in Baja is not yet universal. Therefore a water sanitation program must be implemented alongside renewable water infrastructure. Currently Baja draws from the Colorado River and local aquifers – neither of which can keep up with growing demand. 

Despite fundamental in political and economic differences, it is important to bear in mind that they are not ecologically distinct from Southern California and operate under similar resource constraints. This is especially true for the large cities like Tijuana, Rosarito, Tecate, and Mexicali that are clustered near the border.


Highly dependent on gasoline and personal vehicles, transportation accounts for 46.9% of all CO2 emissions in Brazil. One of the major contributing factors to this problem is the infrastructure itself. Roads and highways were built too quickly and without adequate planning: built-in bottlenecks combined with high volumes of traffic have lead to a frustrating and inefficient transportation system. This problem came about during a very rapid period of urbanization and population growth. The Global Competitiveness Index, which evaluates quality of roads, railroads and waterways, ranks Brazil 114th amongst 140 economies.

The main concern for Brazil is its ability to manage its energy and water in a long-term plan. In Brazil, energy and water are intrinsically linked as more than ¾ of energy production comes from hydroelectric systems. Brazil is the largest country in South America with approximately 3,287,000 square miles - equivalent to 87% percent of the United States area. Over the last 20 years Brazil rapidly developed into to the 8th largest economy in the world. However, in 2011 FIFA approached the government of Brazil and asked that they host the world cup. This supremely expensive event, in addition to lack of planning and other untimely circumstances like drought, stunted Brazil’s economic growth.