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…

Think Global, Act Local - Sydney's Parks

Greetings from outside of Sydney Olympic Park!

The event organizers, in their great wisdom, realized that even the most determined of us congress-goers  can’t spend eight straight days in windowless rooms without going stir-crazy. Therefore, on Sunday we had the opportunity to take a field trip and see how local parks are addressing the global themes of the congress, from ‘reaching conservation goals’ to ‘inspiring a new generation.’  Options ranged from whale-watching to cruising up the Hawkesbury River to visiting the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. While presenters and panelists at the congress had already discussed and debated many methods and strategies for conservation, here was our opportunity to see them being implemented on the ground. Four of us opted for the trip titled ‘Think Global, Act Local,’…

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…

Yale FES students Danielle Lehle, Tristanne Davis, and Julia Luthringer marching for climate through Times Square. Photo by Pilipp Arndt.

This past Sunday was a big day for environmentalists, as people gathered in city centers across the globe to raise awareness for the growing need for management and policy that accounts for anthropogenic climate change. I was lucky enough to be at the march in New York City, along with a handful of other F&ES students, and walked in solidarity with over 300,000 other people demanding action be taken on the climate crisis. The event has since been monikered “The Largest Climate March in History,” and has been covered by most of the world’s high-profile news agencies.

As I was standing at 70th Street, between skyscrapers and the park, singing and chanting with other F&ES students, and meeting Yale Alums (who upon seeing our large hand-painted signs, would come…

Spring Break on St. Thomas: A Look at Caribbean Coastal Development

Over spring break, Prof. Gaboury Benoit’s Coastal Caribbean Development class traveled to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to study firsthand the impacts and processes of coastal development. St. Thomas presents an interesting case study for tourism and development due to its high volume of tourists, limited resources, and vulnerability to hurricanes and climate change.

St. Thomas has an interesting history and culture. Originally owned by the English and then the Danish, it served as an important center for shipping and sugar cane production. After about 100 years as an independent port, the U.S. government purchased the island for strategic purposes during the First World War. Since then, it has remained a U.S. territory. However, the culture of the island is far from homogenous. From its time as…

F&ESers on the Ground: Sochi Style

Hello from Sochi! For the past 10 days, I’ve been in Russia working on an F&ES project with four other amazing graduate students, teammates, and friends. I’m here with Diana Madson, Taylor Rees, Bo Uuganbayar, and Tom Owens. You might remember this story from Bo’s blog post back in November, Winter is Coming to Westeros. For a quick recap, we all took a class together last semester, International Organizations & Conferences, and developed an amazing project idea to partner with Olympians to bring the climate change conversation to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Since September, the five of us have been working to do just that. We’ve been interviewing athletes, writing blog posts, connecting with mainstream media, and crafting a narrative to best deliver this story. From this…