New Year, New Semester

The New Year has begun, and with it so has my first spring semester at F&ES. I spent the holidays with my family in sunny southern California, and coming back to New Haven was a bit shocking, to say the least. Winter has settled in, and those of us on campus are hunkering down in preparation for the big blizzard, which has already arrived and is currently blanketing Kroon Hall and SageBoy in a chilly blanket of snow.

With the new year comes a slew of new classes to try, professors to meet, and things to do in New Haven, making this transition equal parts exciting and contemplative. In the first two weeks back, we shop classes, trying out different courses that we think we might like, and slowly…

A first-timer's take on the UN Climate Change Conference

COP20 in Lima, Peru, was chocked full of politics and tactics, activists and great minds, a mix of frustration and hope— it is hard to process everything that happened. I watched the negotiations as an official observer, a status that afforded me a spot in the negotiating room after extended waits under the baking equatorial sun. Amidst all the activity, viewing the negotiations live was a highlight of my week. The COP20 talks in Lima had two overarching goals:

  1. Get consensus on a draft text to be used in negotiations for a global climate agreement in 2015. This year was all about preparing for the new, legally binding global agreement which will be adopted in Paris in 2015 and implemented in 2020, when the second period of the Kyoto Protocol ends.
Getting Scale (and Context) Right

Imagine standing in a vast grassland, a gently undulating sea of grass underneath a cloudless blue sky. The only sound is the wind howling across the landscape, sending pale yellow stalks rippling in waves. You are tiny, no more significant than one of those blades of grass. This is the Daurian Steppe, the grasslands of eastern Mongolia.

It is the home of the Mongolian gazelle. They roam across an area of 250,000 square kilometers, approximately the size of Oregon. They move continuously across the landscape, following the greening of the grass. However, the location of the best grass changes from year to year, as rainfall patterns vary. A herd of gazelle might visit an area one summer, and not return for ten years. They are nomadic, not migratory. How…

No-Go at the WPC

The topic of no-go on industrial activity was salient at the 2014 World Parks Congress. It came up particularly in reference to conservation of World Heritage Sites, one of the conference’s cross-cutting themes. Natural World Heritage sites are internationally recognized as the world’s ecological jewels. They include the Galapagos Islands, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Barrier Reef, places so treasured they are recognized as having “Outstanding Universal Value” by the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, an international conservation framework ratified by 187 countries. Numbering only 200, they encompass less than 1 percent of the world’s surface and only 10 percent of all protected areas, yet, as one would reasonably expect, their immense ecological and cultural value earns them special designation among protected areas. The World Heritage Committee’s position has long…

Who's Gonna Stand Up?

The closing ceremony of the 2014 World Parks Congress capped a long week of discourse on the future of protected nature. It was a week of didactics, discussion, and occasional debate, impassioned at times but often fragmentary and frustrated. In the opening ceremony we’d been hit with over-the-top theatrics involving fog machines, cirque de solei acrobats, choreographed dancers, and one very distressed owl. The closing ceremony was notable less for its spectacle and more for its stifled political undertones, glimpses of an unspoken contentiousness underlying both the congress and conservation and sustainable development at large.

After warming up the audience with droning didgeridoos and chanting, the ceremony went promptly into high-ranking bureaucrats making wonderfully neutral speeches. Each began by acknowledging the “traditional owners of this land and elders past and present.” Manicured…

Why (do) We Fly

The total carbon footprint for my round trip flight to Australia – from New York JFK to Sydney via Beijing – amounts to 3.18 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. The 15 of us who went to Australia arrived on 7 different flights and left on 9, most with layovers. Conservatively estimated, each of those trips emitted 1.69 tons of CO2e. Our round trip flights to Australia emitted about 27 tons of carbon equivalent. According to the EPA, that’s equal to the total annual emissions from 5.7 passenger vehicles or the carbon sequestered by 22 acres of U.S. forest. Yikes.

Of the many experiences and reflections I have brought back with me from Sydney, I also return with inner conflict about the air miles we just logged…

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like . . . Exam Time

With my first F&ES semester coming to an end and finals just around the corner, I thought I would take a moment to answer one of the most common questions I get from visiting students: What are the exams like? As a joint MEM/law student who has spent the last two years in law school, the F&ES exam season is like a breath of fresh air! Current and former law students know the law school routine: at the end of each semester, you sit for three or four essay-based exams, where you write (or type) furiously for four hours in an attempt to convey all you have learned over the semester. Occasionally, there might be some multiple choice questions or short answers thrown in, and in upper level electives, you…

Rights to Nature vs Rights of Nature

During the World Parks Congress, I was fortunate enough to both present in and help organize a session on Green Justice. The session was meant to provide a forum for discourse about environmental justice issues, and we organized it around the idea of rights to nature. The session had a nice balance between theoretical policy interventions and more grounded local actions, both designed to bring about a more environmentally just world.

Leading environmental lawyers and academics presented information about how some countries have created laws explicitly stating their citizens right to a clean and healthy environment. I tried to balance that high-level discussion by presenting a tangible way that a more equitable and healthy world can be created, and my FES classmate Dana Baker added to the down-to-earth…

Credit: Screenshot from Twitter.com

After seven marathon days of projects, narratives, and figures, the World Parks Congress was winding down. The lessons from each stream were summarized, and a few master plenaries offered closure. One was dedicated to storytelling, a theme previously discussed by Clara Rowe in an earlier post. Panelists on this plenary were leaders in their respective communication fields: Beth Foster (Vice President of Communications for National Geographic Society), Thomas Friedman (award-winning journalist and author in the New York Times), Adrian Steirn (award-winning wildlife photographer), and Jeff Koinange (a host on the Kenya Television Network).

Their brief presentations under the heading “Inspiring Solutions – Communicating the Message and Stories for Protected Areas” were beyond refreshing, punctuated by stunning photography and fantastic anecdotes. Steirn used the example of…