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…

20 New and Powerful Conservation Tools

The IUCN World Parks Congress (WPC) is a landmark global forum on protected areas. This year, in Sydney, Australia, from Nov 12 – Nov 19, the Congress convened with a goal of sharing knowledge and innovation, setting the agenda for protected area conservation for the next decade. One category in particular received unanimous agreement for its role in conservation: Technology.

Through the seven days of WPC presentations and showcases, we, two tech-geeks and enthusiastic delegates, explored innovative technologies relevant to the conservation sector. We made a list of the top 20 new and powerful conservation tools that we believe will benefit this sector, now and in the future.

Source: Biodiversity A-Z

Source: Biodiversity A-Z

Post World Parks Congress Reflections: Thinking Outside the Box of Protected Areas

The establishment of protected areas has been one of the great achievements of the modern conservation movement. The Protected Planet Pavilion at the World Parks Congress (WPC) in Sydney highlighted its World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) that displays over 9,612 marine and 200,589 terrestrial areas under some protection designation. As shown by these large numbers, protected areas have become the mainstream conservation action and they are still proliferating around the world.

 At the WPC, the governments of Gabon, Madagascar, South Africa and Russia among others, pledged to substantially increase the quantity and coverage of their national protected areas. One of thereasons for this proliferation, as explained by Dr. Nicholas Robinson of the Pace Law School to our International Organizations and Conferences class at Yale F&ES, is that the…

Penan community, Sarawak. Toponyms are added to maps as they are recorded (Photo by Bruno Manser Fonds)

An indigenous leader walks around the land, stopping at sites used for hunting, collecting nuts, and worship. The points are recorded using a handheld GPS device and then transferred to a computer. These points are overlaid with other land uses in the territory, and a map is produced. The map shows where oil-drilling sites are located on the same place as the community’s ancient burial ground, and where pollution from the oil operations runs through their main water source. The community now has evidence to make a case against the company. This scene was a novelty just a few years ago, but today, it is a reality for many communities around the world.

Can technology and the way it lets us understand the world help indigenous and traditional communities…

What is the extractive sector doing at a conservation congress?

Mining that transforms a rainforest into a moonscape, habitat into toxic tailing ponds. Oil exploration that leaves rivers polluted. Banks that finance these operations, cashing in while pristine areas bear the cost. For a long time, the private sector was the antagonist of conservation. Environmentalists only knew to confront corporations through protest and opposition.

That story has taken a slight turn, at least evidenced at the World Parks Congress. Businesses were explicitly recognized as an important stakeholder in preserving the integrity of protected areas. Several extractive sector representatives from Rio Tinto, Shell, BHP Biliton and DeBeers, to name a few, were actively engaged in the Congress, and discussions on the intersection of business and biodiversity were well-attended by those working in conservation. Rio Tinto had a strong presence…

Basking in the afterglow of a lovely Thanksgiving spent at home with my family in Pennsylvania, I thought it appropriate to take a moment and consider what I am most thankful for about F&ES! It’s been such a blessing to even have the opportunity to study here in the first place. But there are so many things about the school that make it an amazing, unique place to study the environment.

I’m thankful for the classes I’ve taken this semester and professors I’ve had, especially my land use and planning seminars. The professors have so much practical experience and expertise in their areas, and are so eager to share with students and really engage with the class. I’m also thankful that this semester, for the first time in two…