Our People.  Our Ocean.  Our Climate.  A Call to Action.

“First I would like to first recognize the traditional owners of this land—the Eora people—and their ancestral leaders past and present.” So begins almost every talk at the World Park’s Congress—a nod to the way things once were. I too nod to the traditional owners of this land. And to the traditional voyagers of the sea.

On Wednesday morning, four beautiful Vaka’s—traditional Polynesian canoes—sailed into Darling Harbor in Sydney, Australia to kick off the World Parks Congress. They have been sailing for months now, navigating by the stars as they traverse the globe, carrying a message, a call to action—

—our climate is changing, seas are rising, oceans are warming and acidifying, the world is netting too many fish, storms are intensifying and eroding coasts as they crash…

Musings from Week One of the World Parks Congress

1. Australia’s declared War on Feral Cats

A war was declared this week on Australia’s booming feral cat population.  It is believed that there are more than 15 million feral cats in the country killing an estimated 75 million native animals each night across the country.  Australia’s new declaration shows the governments commitment towards keeping nature and wildlife safe from the proclaimed invaders. Mr. Gregory Andrews, Australian Threatened Species Commissioner, spoke with conviction at Friday morning’s opening plenary on Parks about his government’s new financial commitments to challenge this problem.  He hopes this new commitment will restore native bird populations across the country.  It was nice to hear tangible commitments and achievable actions from a government agency.  I believe it’s the small, doable actions that have a far greater…

Why All the Waste?

Welcome to day three of the 2014 World Parks Congress, a paperless event. Online schedules and phone apps have replaced paper schedules and delegates can rest easy knowing that their discarded paper wont contribute to the 30% – 40% of municipal waste that is paper.

Thirsty you say? Well, hope you remembered your water bottle. Refill stations dot Olympic park, but you wont find a water bottle for sale. Which considering it takes over 1,000 years for a plastic water bottle to degrade is a great thing for landfills and planets alike.

Didn’t finish your lunch or just enjoyed a delicious banana? Throw your rubbish in a bin conveniently labeled compost and replenish the soil with your waste.

Have some garbage that is neither compostable nor recyclable?…

World Parks Congress: Day Two

“I wanted to on the one hand give you a sense of confidence and … to end with an outlook that hopefully gives you a sense of opportunity and the enormous expectation that the world holds when it comes to you as a community.” – Achim Steiner

Day two of the World Parks Congress and the pressure is on. Today’s opening plenary shifted in tone from the welcome addresses of last night. While celebratory, the speeches also served as a call to action, touching on current environmental issues and challenges.

Australian Conservationist Professor Robert Dodson opened the plenary with a call to remember the interconnectedness of humanity and nature and that that connection should drive our problem solving. He also acknowledged that achieving harmony with nature will require a…

The Forest Dialogue Week at Yale

Every morning at 9:00, the administration emails students the calendar of events at the school for the next seven days.  A steady stream of guest speakers, informational interviews, and networking lunches vie for students’ attention.  This week’s Forest Dialogue Week is a prime example of the embarrassment of riches we constantly face when sorting out our daily schedules.

The Forest Dialogue (TFD) is an organization that facilitates discussion and collaboration across stakeholders on the most pressing local and global issues facing forests and people.  TFD Week at Yale brings together international leaders from the forest sector to address current issues in forest management and to build shared understanding and work towards collaborative solutions.  Participants in TFD include activists, industry representatives, community leaders, academic researchers, and of course students…

Seeing the Forest from the Trees: Yale at the Global Gathering

Technology is not a silver bullet. These words of caution are oft repeated but hard to abide by, especially when we are constantly bombarded with new devices promising to improve how we eat, live and even how we think. The promise of “technology for good” is increasingly prominent in the environmental movement, which is seeking momentum to break the stalemate over international climate change negotiations and worsening environmental degradation.

The challenge then is how to embrace new technology with cautious optimism. One emerging tool for consideration is Global Forest Watch, a satellite-based tool to monitor deforestation in near real time, managed by the World Resources Institute. For three days (October 29-31), civil society experts from around the world are meeting in Bogota, Colombia to…

Gender Equality through Disaster & Climate Change Readiness: from Policy to Practice

Right now marks the middle of the 58th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York City, the annual taking-stock of Millennium Development Goals as they relate to successes, challenges, and progress for women and girls around the globe. Like many UN events, the annual CSW is two weeks of prepared statements, panel discussions, and working group meetings packed with lofty and generalized language, seemingly perfectly designed to simultaneously aggravate and bore participants.

Last Thursday I was a participant in that process. I spoke at a CSW parallel event put on by the Tzu Chi Foundation, a humanitarian disaster relief organization. I presented on the state of gender equality through a climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction lens, from my perspective as a junior researcher…

A week’s conference just passed. Five days of presentations, discussions, proposals, planning, and relationship building. All in the name of eventually designing a new framework for international forest policy. How did we do?

Where are the trees that we saved from falling? Where the communities whose tenure rights were secured? Did we contribute to increased carbon sequestration and storage? How about clean water provision? Have we helped conserve biodiversity? These are some of the questions floating through my head after a week that—given the format as UN conference—was surprisingly exciting, dynamic, and personal.

The United Nations Forum on Forests is the world’s authoritative platform to develop and decide international forest policy frameworks. Comprised by 197 Member States and situated directly under the Economic and Social Council, the multi-lateral…