My COP19 Experience

By: Charlie Nakashuk
December 2013

Hello All,

My name is Charlie Nakashuk. I recently came back from the Conference of Parties 19 (COP19) in Poland with a few SOI Alumni. I went on the SOI Arctic Expedition in the year of 2008. So I’m an old Alumnus. While I was at COP19, I went to the opening plenary, a gallery opening for Portraits of Resilience, I had a meeting with Canadian Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq and I attended some side events.

Listening to the opening plenary.

Listening to the opening plenary.

 

When the opening plenary was happening, I thought it was interesting, I thought it was going to be a good year for the negotiations. Well, I was wrong, I mean it was great to watch it but I was still adjusting to the time change and I almost fell asleep during the opening. After I got tired of almost falling asleep, I went to go get coffee. I ordered an espresso and it was my first time having one, so it was pretty strong. It was very bitter, I will never have that again, but it cured my tiredness….. I think the opening went great, but after that it all went downhill. Countries were blocking negotiations: Australia blocked a few, Canada blocked one (lost and damages), among others. Canada was really quiet in the negotiations. I think they were very secretive with the meetings that happened with the Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs). During one of the daily Canadian Delegation stakeholder meetings, I think someone asked if Canada was going to put money into the negotiations but she just changed the subject or said something else instead of saying they’ll help or saying they plan on doing something (Sorry, I was still adjusting to the time change so I was pretty tired during the first couple of days during the negotiations). I guess Canada wanted to be quiet because of all the criticism they get when they open their mouths. I can’t blame them, because what they say is sort of dumb in my opinion or bullsh*t.

 

At the opening of a gallery for Portraits of Resilience, I was invited to give a speech about climate change in the Arctic. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get nervous, but when I went there, I started feeling the nerves! I started shaking, afraid I’ll mess up! When it was nearing my turn to speak, that’s when the butterflies in my stomach started going crazy. When John Crump handed me the microphone, my hands started shaking crazily, my whole body was shaking, my voice was even worse, I really hated myself for being so nervous, I wanted to go find a hole and stay there for a while. Thankfully Christine went to my side and helped me with my notes for the speech. I was shaking so much I couldn’t even read my speech properly. When my speech ended I was soooooo happy that was all over…… Throughout the night I met some interesting people, like the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, Verner from Alaska, Seychelles negotiator Ronny Jumeau, and many more people. I was talking with Mary about my project with the programme. I found it interesting that she was interested in my work! Ahah. One of the kids who worked on the Portraits of Resilience project was Kendri Griffin from the small Island country of Barbuda. It was so cool meeting him. It was cool that even though we live in different parts of the world or similarities where uncanny: we both lived in a small Community, most of the small town stuff that comes from living in a small town and more. The melting of glaciers is affecting them because the more the glaciers melt their sea level rises. All in all I liked the opening and was thankful that I had a part in this with people from all over the world, from small island countries to the Arctic Regions of the World.

Portraits_of_Resilience_Charlie_2

Left: Talking to Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson. Right: Me with Kendri and Verner.

Meeting with Leona (Minister of Environment for Canada) was interesting and hopefully effective however I am not sure if the meeting was a success. I hope it was. Now when I look back at the meeting it felt pointless. I wish I had a bigger impact on it but I am not sure I did. I hope she took to heart what I said about climate change and social problems of Nunavut.

The SOI Delegation meeting with Minister Aglukkaq.

The SOI Delegation meeting with Minister Aglukkaq.

Over all I was disappointed in the UN climate negotiations. I think they could have gone better. It was sad that some countries were blocking negotiations including Canada. It was great meeting people from all over the world and from different organizations; people who are determined to decrease climate change, people who are passionate about the issue. It was great meeting my roommates at the hostel who were awesome people: Kai, Melissa, Mel, Anand, Puninda and last but not least Andrew. It was great meeting people from the week two group: Gerrit, Kristine and my same year SOI Alumnus Ted (aka Brenna). It was great to connect with all of you guys, and reconnect with the old. I hope that we all had an impact even if it just scratched the surface. Something small can grow into something bigger.

Over all feeling with the trip, I loved it, I learned so much, I made new friends, I loved Poland, there were some bumps but it was great to attend as an observer at the COP.

Help the world change so we can have it for more generations to come, so our children’s children and so on can experience the world as we did.

Yee,

Charlie.

Speaking in the Plenary of the COP19 UN Negotiations

On the opening day of the COP19 UN Climate Negotiations (November 11), I had the immense privilege of delivering a youth statement to the plenary at COP19. Present in the plenary were delegates representing all UN member states. I feel very humbled to have represented youth and future generations in speaking for the planet. I hope that the message I delivered resonated with party delegates and helped increase a sense of urgency here at the COP19 negotiations and beyond.

I strongly believe that it is our moral duty as humans to each other to do right on climate change because people’s lives are on the line and so much is at stake.  Just two days before I delivered the plenary speech, ten thousand people from the Philippines perished from the super typhoon Haiyan. It was the strongest typhoon ever recorded, a typhoon that made stronger and more deadly by climate change. What does it take for us to wake up to the devastating effects of climate change? More loss of life? To quote Yeb Saño (passionate lead negotiator for the Philippines): “If not us then who? If not nowthen when?” As a global family and as citizens of Planet Earth, let’s rise up to the occasion, work together and address the greatest issue of our time.

Here is the video of my speech: COP19 Youth Intervention Andrew Wong (Canada)

The full transcript of the speech is as follows:

CMP Plenary Intervention by YOUNGO
Delivered Monday November 11th, 2013, 3:00pm
Speaker: Andrew Wong (Canada)

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates,

My name is Andrew Wong and I speak on behalf of YOUNGO, the official Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC. I am from Canada but I will do my best to speak for all youth worldwide.

First, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the people of the Philippines who have lost loved ones to super typhoon Haiyan. Ten thousand lives were lost this weekend. Ten thousand loved ones. Ten thousand members of our global family. What does it take for us to wake up to the devastating effects of climate change?

One year ago, all 192 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol agreed to establish a second commitment period. Our message to you is simple: now is the time to translate the Doha Amendment into action. We need action, not empty words.

We as youth would like to congratulate Barbados, the United Arab Emirates and Mauritius. We congratulate them because they are the only countries that have ratified the Doha Amendment so far. Therefore at COP19, we call on all other countries to follow through on their commitment and ratify the Doha Amendment immediately.

The latest IPCC report re-emphasizes the inescapable fact that climate change is serious and worsening. And yet countries take climate change lightly, as reflected by their actions. I am sad to admit for instance that Japan, New Zealand and the Russian Federation failed to take on any commitment during the second commitment period. What’s more, some of the world’s largest absolute and per capita emitters such as my home country of Canada and the United States are not even part of the Kyoto Protocol. This is unacceptable. I am disappointed in my country. Due to their lack of participation, the second commitment period covers less than 15 per cent of global emissions, which is far short of the global emissions that must be cut. To stabilize at a 2 degree Celsius threshold, 80% of all emissions must be cut. How can we even be thinking of drilling for oil in the Arctic?

Looking to 2015, I strongly call on all countries, including my country Canada, to act in the spirit of international cooperation and become signatories of the next global climate agreement that replaces the Kyoto Protocol. The 2015 agreement needs to integrate critical themes including intergenerational equity and loss and damage for developing countries suffering from the effects of climate change. There is an urgent need for public financing for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and capacity building in developing countries. The consensus needs to be one of action and substance.

We, the youth of the world, believe that your generation holds the world’s atmosphere on trust for our generation. We in turn hold it on trust for future generations. You do not own it, but you have the responsibility to protect it. We must preserve our climate’s fundamental integrity so that we do not violate the fundamental rights of your children and your children’s children.

Here at COP19, I implore you to put politics aside, to unite in common purpose. I implore you to ratify the Doha Amendment. I implore your country to act in a spirit of international cooperation and become a signatory of the 2015 global climate agreement. I implore you to take responsibility for your emissions which are burdening the commons of which all life depends. I implore you to take to heart our voices as youth and future generations–your decisions will dictate the rest of our lives. At the end of the day, we are citizens of Planet Earth and we each have a responsibility to the Planet and to each other. Human to Human. It is our moral duty to do right on climate change. Let’s rise up to the occasion and do it here at COP19.

Thank you.

END

Author: Andrew Wong

The Meaning Behind the Policy: Learning to Create Change

 

 

Most seventeen year olds aren’t itching to jump into politics. In fact,  I know some seventeen year olds who know little more than the name of Canada’s Prime Minister. But about a year ago, while studying history, I started wondering if being in politics might be able to change the world more than I had given it credit for.

After I became an Alumni of Students on Ice this summer, I found my Arctic experience playing like a movie screen at the forefront of my brain. Whether it was the conversations I had, the people I met, or the places I saw, I felt I needed to do something with what I was given.  I’ll be honest: I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I joined my first Skype meeting with the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation. All I can say for sure was that the fit was practically immediate.  While meeting with other Alumni from SOI, I suddenly realized that the passion I had for the poles didn’t have to be confined sheer memories. I could use the power of politics, specifically the policy paper, to help bring the poles message to the COP19 Conference.

However, when I said, “Okay, Put me on the policy writing team!” I was secretly harboring this unease of writing in a format I had never previously attempted, as well as working alongside university students who had more experience with paper writing than me. But I was willing (and crazy) enough to try.

The first thing my fellow Alumni warned me about was the power of the citation.  “Whatever you say, you have to back up. We need to make sure we’re credible.”

Then of course, they gave me the not-so-secret secret to writing something credible: “Read climate assessment reports. Read this. Look into that. Look for something we haven’t found. Look at the Rio + 20 Recommendation paper. Really, just look everywhere.”

It was about 3 hours after working on the paper for the second night in a row that the true challenge of all the work started to sink in.  Late at night with the buzzing of my computer screen giving me a headache, whilst trying to wade through carefully constructed politically correct language, I was beginning to struggle find the most compelling content. Then of course, I still had to make all the little pieces fit together. I kept thinking that the leaders that end up reading this should never have the chance to say, “Aw. A student wrote this, clearly.”

But just before I slammed my laptop shut in sheer frustration, I opened another report, and feasted my eyes on not words, but a centre piece picture. Like a flashback, I looked at the picture of a toppling ice berg fronting a report, and I was no longer at my computer.  I was in a zodiac, reaching out to touch the glistening stuff as it creaked and groaned over the soft growling of the motor. The sound of our friend’s throat singing filled my mind, and the laughter from a long forgotten joke lingered in my ears. I shook my head, cleared my mind, and instead of throwing in the towel, returned silently to my work.

Ultimately as a seventeen year old I could not physically attend COP19. But the Policy paper that I have helped write will help influence the same politics which have changed our world, time and time again. And after getting over the initial hump of the citation hunt, I started to realize how much I personally liked writing the paper.  I like to think that when my peers read this, whether they are part of my Delegation, part of the greater Students on Ice team, or the peers I sit next to in class, that they will think,

“Aw.  Caitlin helped write this, clearly.”

_

Caitlin Jakobsen

Alum, Students on Ice 2013 Arctic Youth Expedition

From the West Coast of British Columbia, Caitlin grew up surrounded by the beauty of nature and the environment.  Learning about climate change and other environmental issues challenged her to make a difference, which eventually found her exploring the far reaches of Greenland and Baffin Island in the Eastern Arctic.  Through her passion for both nature and social issues, Caitlin has become very involved in her community.  She is the president of the Environmental club at her high school, which is currently working on a vertical Aquaponic Green Wall that has been well received in her community.   She is also the vice president of her student council and has run events through the organization Free the Children, including a penny drive called We Create Change that ended up raising $525 for clean water in developing countries.  She has recently joined the Youth Arctic Coalition (an organization aimed at giving youth a voice in the political issues facing the Arctic) as a communications lead.  Through presentations of her Arctic trip to high school and elementary classes, as well as other nature-inspired leadership roles with elementary students, Caitlin is trying to help young people connect with the natural world.

By being part of the COP19 Climate Change conference, Caitlin hopes to help influence the decision makers toward protecting the Polar Regions, as well as other wild spaces.  She also is hoping that through her actions, other youth in her community will be understand that you do in fact have the power to help change the world.

 

 

Climate & Politics: Staying Positive During a Critical Time

From November 13 to 24th, 2013 I will be in Poland at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP19. I am travelling to Krakow for two nights at the beginning of my trip to see the historical city and visit the Auschwitz memorial site. Starting Monday the 18th I will attend COP19 as a member of the Students On Ice Alumni Delegation.

I travelled to the Canadian Arctic with Gatineau-based organization Students On Ice in August 2008 at the age of 15. I returned from the trip with bittersweet feelings: I developed an enduring respect for the people and environment of the Canadian North, and I was heartened by the determination and passion of the like-minded students and educators I met. However, I returned to Southern Ontario to find that apathetic feelings prevailed. I was unable to relay the importance of the experience – both personally as a young student and in terms of the urgency with which we must treat climate issues – to my friends at school. For the next four years I struggled with the apathy I encountered so much that my interest in climate issues appeared to dwindle; I was so overwhelmed by the problems we face as a global community that I had to put them aside.

Inevitably, my concern for the environment, and particularly Arctic issues, resurfaced at a time when I was older and better equipped to contend with the overwhelming and urgent need to address human-caused climate change. Now in my fourth year studying Politics and History at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, attending COP19 is a unique opportunity for me to explore both my political and environmental interests.

Upon my return I will write a research paper for one of my fourth year seminar courses on international climate change governance. I am confident that my first hand experiences at COP19 will bring a unique perspective to the paper: I may come back disillusioned, confident, or indifferent to the UN system – which has been criticized as ineffective and incapable of addressing serious world issues and conflicts, notably the genocide in Rwanda and, more recently, the civil war and use of chemical weapons in Syria. As a leading international, intergovernmental body that has the power to place sanctions and other regulations on member countries, the UN has the potential to be a strong actor in global efforts combating climate change. If the UN is to step up into this potential role, the time to act is now.

I hope that in my research paper I am able to take a positive stance on the role of the UN, and that COP19 will be more successful than past international conferences and agreements at effectively and firmly addressing climate issues, particularly at the delicate and vulnerable poles.

Is Time Running out for Climate Negotiation Success?

Time is melting away for climate negotiators.

By: Kristine O’Rielly
In Kingston, Ontario
November 5, 2013

As a recently appointed graduate student I spend a good portion of my day conducting research for my thesis. While this might sound like a pain, and I’ll admit at times it is (even makes me want to CT, for any of my friends reading this entry!), but I quite enjoy it. I’m finally getting to focus my studies on an area I’m truly passionate about: sustainability.

My research area is focusing on ways to improve Canadian manufacturing energy efficiency, which is a rather broad but important topic. However, this also means I spend hours reading about how dire our environmental woes really are. If you’ve ever taken the time to read up on these sorts of topics you’ll know what I mean. When you read documents from environmental NGOs such as Climate Action Network, which are telling the world alarming statistics like we need to see a peak in global CO2 emissions by 2015 to prevent catastrophic climate change, (and for those of you who are looking at your calendars scratching your head saying ‘that can’t be right’. It is. It’s 2013 people! 2015 is a mere 2 years away!) it’s quite unsettling, unnerving even.

What’s even more unnerving is if you take the time to look at recent global emission trends. In case you aren’t aware, they’re still on the rise and at a rate faster than Miley Cyrus on the upswing of a wrecking ball ride (how’s that for context?). I’m reading reports each and every day telling me things that completely counteract what climate experts are telling us we should be doing, things like “worldwide industrial energy consumption is expected to increase 40% over 2006 levels by 2030.”

But how can that be? Can we be that blind? To continue down the path we’re on is a recipe for disaster and what’s more it’s selfish. As someone who has devoted a considerable amount of time to working on environmental issues and who intends to spend the rest of my career working in the field, it’s exhausting to have people (both friends and family) say ‘why even bother?’  What’s even more exhausting is to read about how no matter what we do we won’t be able to combat it… climate change is inevitable.

But despite all this I keep going. Why? Because I have faith in humanity. I always try to see the best in people and I know I shouldn’t get jaded now, not when positivity and optimism are needed most. I know that if we really band together and demand change from our governments we can elicit global change! Look at what the Montreal Protocol did for the O-zone layer and what the recently ratified Minimata Convention could do for mercury pollution! I think that considerable progress can be made at the UNFCCC negotiations inWarsaw. COP19 could be the positive change we’ve been waiting for in the fight against global climate change after a series of unsuccessful, stagnant climate conferences in recent years. As per my personality I have high hopes for COP19 and I don’t think this is going to be another case of me being let down. I hope it will restore my belief in the ability of world leaders to take control of their mistakes, to have the courage to stand up and say “we were wrong” and what’s more to put plans in place to fix it. Gaia might be running out of time, like Cinderella at mid-night, but while there’s still time on the clock there’s still a chance we might make it. There’s still a chance we’ll do what it takes to save the only planet we call home. I have to believe it.. it’s what keeps me going.  ◙

Kristine O’Rielly

Kristine is a native of Newfoundland & Labrador, born and raised in St. Brendan’s, a small island off the coast. Through her rural upbringing she quickly developed a love of nature and a passion for sustainability. This past summer she attended the SOI 2013 Arctic Expedition as a chaperone. While on the expedition her desire to help protect the planet grew exponentially and she was truly awed by the beauty of the Arctic environment. Since her return, Kristine has started her Masters of Applied Science in Mechanical & Materials Engineering at Queen’s University, where her thesis research will focus on energy efficiency improvements in key manufacturing sectors. Kristine believes in the power of youth to bring about important political change, which she hopes the Delegation will be able to demonstrate during its upcoming journey to COP19 in Warsaw, Poland.

 

 

The Moving Ocean

Atlantic Cod (Source: Pew Institute)

By: Nicholas Coertze
In Zug, Switzerland
Wednesday October 30, 2013

Could it be seen that the inhabitants of the ocean are moving along with the warming planet? In some respects this could well be happening.

In recent years the waters around the Arctic have seen a new visitor. The Atlantic cod are moving further north into the waters that were previously predominantly inhabited by Arctic cod. Scientists from the Alfred-Wegener-Institute (AWI) have found large shoals of Atlantic cod in the arctic waters just off the coast of Spitsbergen. Due to the warming climate  and an increase in ocean acidification the waters in these regions have warmed up to the extent that Atlantic cod, which inhabit warmer waters, have started moving north.

AWI scientists have noted that the water temperatures around Spitsbergen are around 4.5 degrees Celsius, which is too warm for polar cod which prefer temperatures of 0 degrees Celsius.

Having this change in water temperatures have caused the polar cod to move to colder waters, which has opened up space for the Atlantic cod.

Polar cod form an important role in the arctic food web as it is eaten by other fish, birds and other marine mammals such as whales and seals. Due to its importance in its environment it puts a question mark or whether the organisms that are dependent on the polar cod will be able to cope with either a change in diet or whether to migrate after their food source.

The main question to be asked now is whether there will be a clash between these two species of fish for resources or whether the polar cod, which has a very narrow diet of certain types of crustaceans, will ultimately be outcompeted. If the later were to occur, what would happen to the rest of the arctic inhabitants who rely on the polar cod as its main source of food? Only time will be able to tell. ◙

Nicholas Coertze

Nicholas is enthusiastic and always looks for the brighter side of whatever he does. Having lived in several countries has allowed him to get a better world understanding and also mature significantly. When it comes to sport he excels by being in many teams and clubs including rugby, swimming, track and field, kayaking, biking and hiking to name a few. Having partaken in the 2013 Arctic Expedition along with his studies in environmental science has given him the chance to see and experience how the world is changing and how individuals can also make an impact on the changing world. Currently studying Marine Ecology and Conservation at Sparsholt College Hampshire he will gain an even greater understanding of marine organisms and their environment. Being part of the SOI delegation will give Nick the opportunity to sit on the front seat of climate change discussions and get an understanding of the changing world in the different views of the world.

 

Students on Ice Alumni Delegation heads to Clinton Global Initiative University!


Exciting news! The Students on Ice Alumni Delegation is heading to the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) this Friday April 5-7 at Washington University in St. Louis, USA! At the conference, they will present the idea of an official Youth Arctic Council (YAC) to world leaders and university students passionate about creating change.

President Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative University (http://www.cgiu.org/) in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders from university campuses around the world. CGIU brings together some 1200 students and experts every year to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. Furthermore, CGIU participants develop unique Commitments to Action to follow through to their goals. The Students on Ice Alumni Delegation’s Commitment to Action is to establish the Youth Arctic Council.

YAC aims to provide a heightened forum for youth to voice their opinions, propose ideas and collaborate to address the lack of accessibility for youth to provide input & influence Arctic decision-making. YAC will include diverse youth participation from all Arctic Council states, Permanent Participants, & Observer states with an emphasis on the leadership and involvement of circumpolar aboriginal youth. CGIU is a unique opportunity to work on YAC with international experts who can provide critical feedback and connections to help bring it to fruition.

SOI Delegation leads Andrew Wong and Fatin Chowdhury will be attending CGIU and will bring back everything they learn to share with the delegation network and continue working on this exciting project in the upcoming year.

Exciting news! The Students on Ice Alumni Delegation is heading to the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) this Friday April 5-7 at Washington University in St. Louis, USA! At the conference, they will present the idea of an official Youth Arctic Council (YAC) to world leaders and university students passionate about creating change.

President Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative University (http://www.cgiu.org/) in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders from university campuses around the world. CGIU brings together some 1200 students and experts every year to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. Furthermore, CGIU participants develop unique Commitments to Action to follow through to their goals. The Students on Ice Alumni Delegation’s Commitment to Action is to establish the Youth Arctic Council.

YAC aims to provide a heightened forum for youth to voice their opinions, propose ideas and collaborate to address the lack of accessibility for youth to provide input & influence Arctic decision-making. YAC will include diverse youth participation from all Arctic Council states, Permanent Participants, & Observer states with an emphasis on the leadership and involvement of circumpolar aboriginal youth. CGIU is a unique opportunity to work on YAC with international experts who can provide critical feedback and connections to help bring it to fruition.

SOI Delegation leads Andrew Wong and Fatin Chowdhury will be attending CGIU and will bring back everything they learn to share with the delegation network and continue working on this exciting project in the upcoming year.

The conference runs from April 5 – 7, 2013. To learn more, visit www.soidelegation.com  and www.facebook.com/soidelegation. For live updates throughout the weekend, follow @SOIDelegation, @AndrewLFWong and @Fatinic on Twitter!

Struggling for Justice in the Arctic

The Inupiat Eskimo of Kivalina, Alaska are pretty gutsy.

This was the first thought that struck me as I read the Kivalina v ExxonMobil decision this week. In this case, a tiny native community in the Arctic sued twenty-two major greenhouse gas emitters in the United States for the cost of relocating their community. Kivalina is a costal community and climate change has put it in danger. The sea ice that once formed around the coast and protected the land from violent winter storms is melting. Exposed to strong winds and wave surges, Kivalina is experiencing massive damage and erosion. The cost of relocation is estimated at 95 million dollars.

The District Court of California dismissed the case in 2009. Kivalina launched an appeal, which was unfortunately also dismissed by the 9th Circuit last fall.

Kivalina lost the case “for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and standing”. That’s a fancy way of saying that the Court felt it was not its place to intervene. The Court explains that it cannot intervene because there are statutes “directly addressing the issue of domestic greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources”. The elected government of the United States, had, through the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency action that the Act authorizes, determined how the emission of greenhouse gases should be regulated. Their scheme did not include relief for victims of climate change like the people of Kivalina.

The final words of Justice Thomas’s judgment are quite chilling: “Our conclusion obviously does not aid Kivalina, which itself is being displaced by the rising sea. But the solution to Kivalina’s dire circumstance must rest in the hands of the legislative and executive branches of our government, not the federal common law.”

The legislative and executive branches of the American government have failed to effectively address climate change, leaving communities like Kivalina to bear the cost of inaction. If the Court can’t compel the government to act, who will?

Sources


Jessica Magonet 
Policy Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition
jessica@soidelegation.com
Hailing from Boston, Jessica currently lives in Montreal where she studies law and cognitive science at McGill University. She dreams of drafting mad environmental policy and writing dystopian novels. When she isn’t working at her local library or knitting snowflake slippers, Jessica keeps herself busy advocating for sustainable development and educating her community about pressing environmental issues. She is currently an Executive Editor for the McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy. During CEGEP, she chaired the Executive Committee of the Sierra Youth Coalition, Canada’s largest environmental organization. She was also a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation to Copenhagen and a volunteer for the Climate Project. In high school, Jessica co-chaired a youth conference that examined the link between climate change and poverty, featuring Elizabeth May and Ray Zahab. The conference was organized by the environmental club she founded. Jessica participated on the Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition and it was the best experience of her entire life.

Arctic not a priority at COP18 when it should be

The Arctic Council is made up of eight member countries (light blue) and many more observer countries and groups (dark blue). These are the same countries that make up a large portion of the countries in UNFCCC and at COP18.

Why not take the opportunity to talk Arctic climate change while all of you are gathered together at COP18?

By: Beatrice Yeung
COP18, Doha, Qatar
Dec. 6, 2012

Arctic Council statement at the COP18 was delivered in a Side Event Room… Sadly somewhat symbolic of how UNFCCC pays attention to warning signs.

Arctic Council at COP18:

“Effects of Arctic climate change have major and irreversible impacts on the livelihood and well-being of Indigenous Peoples and Arctic communities.”

“The Arctic Council will continue its work to observe climate change and improve our understanding of the regional and global effects of Arctic climate change on human development, adaptation and resilience in the Arctic, biodiversity and other relevant issues, and work collaboratively to find solutions.”However, Arctic Council stated “Arctic States will continue to spearhead these efforts (mitigation efforts)”. “Spearhead”?

-Beatrice

Civil Society, Youth Pushed to the Margins at Doha

Original Article: http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/12/civil-society-youth-pushed-to-the-margins-at-doha/

By Stephen Leahy

DOHA, Qatar, Dec 3 2012 (IPS) - Beatrice Yeung, a youth delegate at the United Nations climate talks, travelled all the way from Hong Kong to Doha, Qatar to bring her generation’s message that “we will live in the world you are creating for us.”


Youth delegate Beatrice Yeung is not allowed inside the Doha conference center. Credit: Stephen Leahy/IPS

But Yeung is not allowed inside. We met in a hallway outside the “security zone” at the Qatari National Conference Center (QNCC), where this reporter was ordered by U.N. police not to take any photographs.

For no obvious reason, security at the meeting known as COP 18 is very strict. Worse, the much smaller than usual contingent of participants from civil society is under a number of restrictions. No posters. No flyers. No demonstrations except in designated locations well away from the negotiations. When allowed to speak at official sessions, civil society organisations’ (CSO) speaking time has been cut in half to a single minute.

“I’m very frustrated and disillusioned,” Yeung told IPS. “I was at COP 15 in Copenhagen at the Children’s Climate Forum and was really moved by what I heard from children in the developing world who were living with climate change.”

She is one month shy of being 18 years old and that is the reason why she is barred from entry. “It was a complete surprise to me there is a ‘no minors’ rule,” Yeung said.

Yeung was an active participant at the much bigger U.N. Rio+20 conference last June. She was part of a student delegation called Students on Ice who are concerned about the Earth’s Polar Regions. They wrote a peer-reviewed position paper, held an official side event, and prepared a one-page summary of policy suggestions.

“In Rio, I was able to talk directly with country delegates,” Yeung said.

Some delegates in Rio welcomed youth involvement and the opportunity to meet knowledgeable and engaged young people, she said.

“Civil society is increasingly seen as inconvenient and is being phased out of this process,” said Trudi Zundel, a Canadian student at the College of the Atlantic in the U.S. state of Maine.

“It’s hard enough to participate here without an official role. Now civil society, along with the media, are shunted off into the furthest corners of this giant building,” Zundel told IPS.

The 1.4-billion-dollar Qatari National Conference Center spans 40,000 square metres (10 acres) on three levels with 57 meeting rooms, three auditoriums, a 2,300-seat theatre and more.

Zundel was initially barred from entry to COP 18 because she had participated in an “unsanctioned protest” on the final day of the previous conference of parties in Durban last year and was ejected. Despite signing a declaration promising not to participate in anything similar in Doha, she was required to undergo a one-on-one interview with the head of U.N. security.

“I had to convince him that I wouldn’t do it again,” Zundel told IPS.

She succeeded, but her fellow College of the Atlantic student Anjali Appadurai did not. Appadurai, who is also Canadian, delivered the viral “Get it Done!” speech at the close of COP 17 in Durban, garnering media attention from Al Jazeera, The New York Times, The Guardian and Democracy Now!, among others.

Appadurai had also participated in the Durban “unsanctioned protest” but signed a declaration promising not to protest. After a week of appeals and a “twitter storm” by CSOs, she was re-admitted Monday.

“CSOs and youth are being pushed to the margins here,” Appadurai told IPS.

Appadurai is apparently being monitored, and was forced by the UNFCCC Secretariat to amend a tweet thanking people for their support.

“My tweet thanked people for lobbying the secretariat on my behalf. They did not like the suggestion lobbying helped me get re-admitted,” she said.

The UNFCCC is United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an environmental treaty created to deal with climate change. The UNFCCC secretariat organizes and runs the annual COPs along with the host country.

Intimidation and punishment, combined with black and white enforcement of the rules, has badly damaged the relationship between the Secretariat and CSOs, said Appadurai who has been a youth delegate at the two previous COPs.

“We represent the broader public,” she said. “Our input should be valued, but it’s not at this COP.”

Youth had an opportunity to express their concerns with Christina Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), last week. Yeung was allowed to enter for this special Youth meeting.

“Christina Figueres did not give a clear answer on why those under 18 were not allowed to participate here,” she said. “We are just trying to inject the voice of youth into this process.”

The COP meetings are still important, but Yeung said she’s learned the “hard lesson that world leaders will not lead on this issue. We must create the solutions ourselves.”

Jane Nurse, a German-Canadian student at the College of the Atlantic, also attended the meeting where Figueres suggested that youth “be more creative and use the power of social media.”

“I thought that was very condescending,” Nurse told IPS. “We need to be here to meet face-to-face with country delegates.”

Youth delegates also met with Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland and former U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

“She asked us why youth weren’t angry about lack of progress and urgency here,” Nurse said. “We are angry, but if we show it we’ll get kicked out.”

Despite being deeply disappointed by the lack of progress, youth want to attend COPs to try and have some influence because their future is being shaped here, she said.

Protests and personal interactions with country delegates are important to empower some delegates and shake up some others. Delegates are inside a COP cocoon, completely insulated from reality and removed from any sense of urgency. They get completely wrapped up in their political games, Nurse said.

“I’m going to keep working to try to access for this under age 18. Climate is an issue of intergenerational justice,” said Yeung, a Hong Kong high school student. “Youth see the urgency. Our leaders don’t.”

An Evening with the Stars…

By Donovan Taplin

June 22, 2012

On June 21st members of the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation attended the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the three Rio Conventions and met with high profile dignitaries including Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent.

The events began with a series of panel statements.

“After all, the world has changed significantly since 1992. It is clear that UNFCCC must be a dynamic agreement that successfully adapts to changing global realties” said Kent during his remarks.

In the reception that followed, which included some delicious cake for the delegation to munch on, members of the delegation chatted with Kent about their stance on the Polar Regions in the context of global sustainability. Kent expressed his strong approval of the delegation’s policy recommendation to protect polar oceans. As Kent’s Chief of Staff ushered him out of the event to his waiting car, the delegation was left with many questions to ask about national Canadian environmental concerns.

The event also featured the presence of United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, and Hollywood film star, Edward Norton. Although one might best remember Norton for his intense battles with Brad Pitt in the 1990’s film “Fight Club”, Norton had some poignant comments on our contemporary efforts to develop sustainably.

“Now it moves into the really critical phase, hopefully in the next 20 years…really implementing the ideas.” said Norton in reference to the recommendations presented during the Rio Conventions.

As the delegation was leaving the Anniversary Celebrations they were able to catch-up with Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). During her statement that evening, Figueres discussed the importance of making sustainable development the norm. She summarized by saying, “Green is sexy!”. In the social that followed she urged the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation to “Keep kicking and pushing”.

Figueres is no stranger to the Polar Regions as she told the delegation of her recent journey to Antarctica and recounted her shock when she plunged into the cold Southern Ocean.

This kindly composed ‘evening with the stars’ is juxtaposed in the minds of the delegation against the more aggressive approach to generating dialogue as seen during the youth led action that morning. After the event, as members of the delegation walked in the rain to the shuttles that transport many delegates to their hotels, the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation was left wondering if they had made some small impact. They left wondering whether their polite conversations with these high profile figures had planted any seeds; seeds that derive from the goal to relate the urgent recommendations of the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation Policy Platform. It is their hope that perhaps the next time Christiana Figueres hears of the Polar Regions that she may recall the passion of the youth she met in Rio as alumni of the Students on Ice Expeditions. In this way, through positive interaction, the delegation is able to raise the awareness they want.


Donovan Taplin 
Communications Editor
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic and 2010 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
donovan@soidelegation.com
Donovan is from Bell Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and has partaken in two Students on Ice Expeditions. During these expeditions he facilitated public speaking workshops designed to foster the development of techniques for participants to better share their experiences after the expedition. Donovan has explored the field of communications through print, radio, television, and online platforms. He has been a writer for the provincial youth newspaper “BackBEAT”, and a blogger for Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada’s Energy Diet Challenge. Donovan is a Board Director, Host, Producer, and Program Coordinator of Radio Bell Island Inc., as well as a former volunteer with Roger’s TV. Donovan was a guest host and event adviser of Network 11; Newfoundland’s first provincial radio conference for community broadcasters. His national television debut was on CTV’s Canada AM alongside Students on Ice Founder Geoff Green. He has been lucky enough to network with some of Canada’s leading journalists. Donovan is the Founder of the Green Island Society, a local volunteer youth group whose members have been active in town-wide clean-ups, beach clean-ups, and initiated an environmental essay contest for elementary students. Donovan considers the upcoming Earth Summit to be an exciting and invaluable forum for which SOI Alumni can express their deep concern and passion for the Polar Regions.

SOI Alumni Delegate, Minnie Molly Snowball, speaks to Jean Charest about Plan Nord at Rio+20!

By Minnie Molly Snowball

Delivered the speech on Thursday June 21, 2012 – National Aboriginal Day

Minnie Molly speeks to Jean Charest at Rio+20

I did not know about Plan Nord until the end of last year.
& I absolutely do not support Plan Nord. Neither does most of the Inuit in Nunavik. Honestly, the probability of Inuit not supporting Plan Nord is very high. Considering the fact that I learned 70% of Inuit do not know about Plan Nord.
We, Inuit, are very concerned about how little we know and have our eyes wide open because what you want to do, includes harming our land we’ve lived and relied on for thousands of years. Because we do not know well about Plan Nord, we are afraid.
Here are several things what we do not know about: – If Inuit will be minority on the jobs – If the jobs created are mostly for foreigners – If Plan Nord will help Inuit financially
- If we, Inuit, are going to benefit from it – Why you have not given us a chance to share our voice/opinions – If you’re addressing the clean up efforts for after the mining is done – If you’re discussing the impacts on environment – If there will be any positive impacts for Inuit – Where have you been in the North for consultations? When? – If it will hurt more than the JBNQA – Who’ve bought which part of the land – If you’ve read Plan Nunavik – and many more…
We have our own, unique culture, our own language, and way of life. Our ancestors struggled living in our land, but they never gave up. They faced many difficulties and struggled to even find food. The only way they communicated is orally. They knew very little about governments, politics, wealth, agreements, land claims and more until 1950s. Although they still governed themselves.
However, today, we, Inuit, have better understanding of governments, politics, wealth, agreements, land claims and more. We’ve improved a lot and our way of life evolved for the better or worse. Today, Inuit, like myself, get more opportunities to learn, make a little more money and learned what is wrong and right in a political world. We have feelings, power, shelter and electricity in our communities, jobs and whatnot. We are as human as you. I am a 17 year old Inuk here whose in Brazil while there is a United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is happening. In fact, I am giving you this speech.
Do you get the sense of the feeling I am feeling? We, Inuit, just do not want to be stepped on like we’re less of a human. We do not want to be played, pushed around and just flown around. It is not. I apologize to say but, It does not mean you, Jean Charest, are bigger than us, Inuit, because you have an office job or because you have a lot of money on your banks. I am not trying to judge you, but I am trying to show you how I feel. Are you even concern about our land and about the migration routes of the caribou, the fish, birds, everything and of what will happen to us next?
Will we just be put aside?
We’re loosing out culture. We’re living in civilization. The only thing besides our language, that brings closure to our ancestors and us today, is our land. our land, makes or made our culture. We get our traditional from our land, we see what we hunt because of our land. Our land is our shelter. Our land is what identifies us, Inuit. We hunt, fish, camp on our land, our region. And you are here, in Brazil, promoting Plan Nord! You did not even yet, let Inuit have an opportunity to share our voices and opinions about Plan Nord. You are here speaking to the world as if you are the voice of Nunavik Quebec. You are showing positive commercials and advertises in Italy, Spain, Brazil, Canada, Southern Quebec, all around the world but nothing on the air, the FM Station or the region up there. When the place and the people in Nunavik will be most directly affected by Plan Nord. Why aren’t the leaders of Nunavik with you on this campaign? Why did you choose to promote Plan Nord without them present? To talk about our side of the story? How would you feel if we had plans for the south to exploit your backyard for our own benefit and promote it without your presence?
We, Inuit, hear things about Plan Nord outside of you. We hear it from rumours, not from you. Why?
One man overheard three men communicating about Plan Nord when he went to get coffee in the morning at the front desk of the hotel in the south. The men revealed they could not wait for the green light, the set to go for the jobs. “I can not wait to reap the benefits!” one of the men said! That comment makes us, Inuit, understand who will benefit from Plan Nord, the southern workers, whom will strip the land and erode and destroy our culture.
The other question is: – Will we, Inuit, benefit from it?
So seriously. Your plan will ruin our culture, our people! This will put a mark in our lives for a lifetime, for the rest of the living of the world! It will not hurt only the land, the ozone layers, the earth, but also us, Inuit, and the next generations to come.
We want to share our voice, our opinions, our thoughts to you. This is a big issue! We are not happy The rest of the world may be, but the land is ours too! So, we have to get our say!
There has been some suggestions as well: – If you want to plan more, you will have to redo some agreements in the JBNQA that was signed in the 1960s. We, Inuit, understand that we are not in the 1960s anymore. I agree with that. It is very true. We are 2012 today! We understand we have every right to deny what you want to do just because it has been signed and agreed to. However, it does not mean we have the same agreement as our ancestors, whom signed the agreement. We are getting more educated, learning more and gaining more knowledge, so understand! Listen to what we, Inuit, have to say for once!
We have so many questions! We need answers! Real answers!
If you have the time to research. If you have the time to plan. You must have the time to hear our voices!
Thank you.


Minnie Molly Snowball
Minnie Molly Snowball 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Minnie Molly is a high school student at Ulluriaq School, in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec. She is an accomplished young Inuk who has participated an placed in the Arctic Winter Games. She cares very much about fighting for what is better. Her vision is to personally try and get a recycling program in her region. Minnie Molly says, “nothing is recycled here, but pop cans. However, in my hometown only, I have been telling people to recycle some juice pouches and chocolate wrappers for recycling. The company ships the recycled boxes for free, so I am running the recycling program here myself, with the help from my Science teacher.  I am also interested to do some other proposals for sustainable development such as get better and more healthy food sent and have food secured well before being sent, and many more.” Minnie Molly is passionate about joining the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation to Rio+20 as she believes it is important for the Inuit voice to be heard. She wants to represent the Arctic, her region, and her fellow Inuit. In addition, she believes Rio+20 will be a great personal learning opportunity to learn how UN conferences work and how politicians, scientists, and world leaders work.

Where are we now with Rio+20?

By Fatin Chowdhury

June 20, 2012

Purpose of Rio+20

I have been grappling with trying to define the purpose of Rio+20. This wasn’t a question that has popped into my head my experience at Rio so far; it has been toying with my head for quite some time. I wondered, why should this thought even occur? It is quite simply an historic moment – an auspicious time to renew our commitments to protecting the environment since the 1992 Rio summits and the conferences that have followed after. Despite the courageous commitments made in the first Earth Summit, we still find ourselves with minimal successes to celebrate. In my first blog, I defined the conference by the themes of green economy and developing institutional frameworks for sustainable development. Of course, that is the case. This conference is attempting to revitalize our economy to address the emerging environmental, social, and economic challenge. It’s attempting to dissect the most complex problems our species has ever faced and world leaders are trying to propose, draft, negotiate, and reaffirm an outcome that will satisfy the needs of our world, its interconnected ecosystems, and the civil society. But this text is a compromise – it will not result in any concrete actions as it is not binding but rather a  political declaration. We will not be leaving the conference with the solution.

But that shouldn’t be the goal of this conference. Rather it is about committing to sustainable development at a personal and individual level. I continue to be amazed by the speakers and the organizations whose passion cannot be contained in the rooms – their words and actions compel me to view the world from their perspective. As I put on each lens, I stand in awe at the potential we have as humans to mobilize people to change our behaviour on a massive scale. Dialogues and conversation need to be encouraged and allow us to make informed decisions. As Jeffrey Sachs wrote yesterday, “the most important outcome in Rio … will be a global call to action.” Exposure of the root causes of the problems we face will help the public demand action on it.  He also calls for the conference to adopt a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) similar to the MDGs we currently have in order to “open the eyes of today’s youth”. I agree with him when he says that we can still achieve the Rio treaties “by putting people at the forefront of the effort.” Ultimately, we need to envision the world we want to live in and leave for future generations.

Sustainable Development Dialogues – Oceans

Yesterday morning, I attended the Sustainable Development Dialogues on Oceans where 10 experts spoke regarding the 10 recommendations under this theme. Panelists included Dr. Sylvia Earle, Dr. Jean-Michel Cousteau, Dr. Ussif Rashid Sumaila and Ms. Asha de Vos amongst others. 3 of these recommendations are going to be presented to the Heads of State but they will not have any impact on the text. In cases for all the themes, their overall impact is doubted and even their inclusion would not be sufficient for the actions necessary. Recommendation 4 – the demand for a global agreement on protecting high seas biodiversity – received 36% of the public and platform vote. Many of the speakers also mentioned this particular recommendation as among the necessary to move forward.  I find that there are two ways of looking at this situation.

Regardless of the recommendations that are put forth and their impact on the text, these dialogues highlight the threat and continue to educate people so “they can make informed decisions” as Ms. de Vos said. Alternately, public participation can be seen as insufficient as the public concerns are not being addressed by the negotiators. Benefits of participation include clear identification of problems and solutions as well as balanced decision making. However, we can see here that civil society is not acting as an equal stakeholder as the text continues to be finalized based on the political agendas of the states. The content in the dialogues and the outcome text are vastly different. Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo credits the failure of these negotiations to the “national parochialism” as the “proposals to protect the world’s oceans” are watered down to ambiguous terms and statements. So, while the public is being educated, it is not enough and these recommendations need to become actions to have any effect on our behaviour and the state of the oceans.

Throughout the dialogue, various ideas stood out. It was noted that science and technology would help expose the threats the marine ecosystems are facing. However, the excuse to wait for science to provide undeniable proof and statistics before policies are implemented is not valid – both need to be carried out simultaneously. Mechanisms need to be implemented to reduce water pollution and carbon emissions and as well mitigate the impacts of ocean acidification. Marine organisms and how they are being affected still continue to lack a comprehensive understanding because of the complexity of the systems in which they exist, which is even more reason to take action now before we do irreversible damage (which we have already in many areas). I was reminded of Alana Mitchell’s book Sea Sick where she talked about dead zones that had started appearing where no organisms lived because they had been depleted of all their nutrients and oxygen (she was one of the experts that was at my Arctic expedition in 2010). When looking at the 10 recommendations, I felt they all seemed intricately related and had a direct or indirect effect on the other – Dr. Cousteau suggested that “we need to take care of the ocean as a whole” which I strongly agree with.  Dr. Sylvia Earle’s words “the economy cannot succeed unless the environment succeeds” once again echoed the fact that there should not be a dichotomy between the economy and the environment. It is yet to be seen whether the concept of green economy can converge them successfully.

So where do we stand now ? We are heading into the plenary meetings where Heads of States will be presenting their concerns and the text will be refined and wait for approval at the end of this week. The outcome text has low expectations at this point by the public – it does not stand up to the commitments made in Rio 1992 and does not clearly work to addressing the problems with the environmental policies and  text that we continue to draft and sign without implementation.

To you, I would encourage you to continue to build your knowledge on these issues. An educated civil society can enable the public to push for change and demand their governments to change their priorities. As a Canadian, I am frustrated and shocked that the country who pioneered environmental changes is now barely audible and is repealing environmental laws to fast track economic development. As a Bangladeshi native, I am also displeased at the government’s lethargic pace of action  and worried about how the people will respond to the changes that will inevitably come their way.

Coming up: my thoughts on the Planet Ocean premier & thoughts about the side events we have been attending in addition to conference developments .


Fatin Chowdhury 
Polar Research Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition
fatin@soidelegation.com
Fatin Chowdhury currently resides in Mississauga, Ontario and is currently enrolled in his second year of Environmental Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He won the National Brita Eco-Challenge enabling him to participate in the Students On Ice Arctic 2010 Expedition. This opportunity helped him gain a deeper appreciation of the intricate factors that are contributing to current and future environmental problems. He is strongly passionate about environmental conservation and interested in finding pragmatic solutions to emerging problems. His summer internship at the Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) in Bangladesh in 2006 opened his eyes to the impact of climate change in developing nations and realize the need for international co-operation in the future. He has also served as an executive of the Peel Environemntal Youth Alliance, facilitating educational presentations and collaborating with youth on environmental initiatives.Fatin has gained valuable industry and government experience with Environment Canada developing Renewable Fuels Regulations and by working as a Project Manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore Company of Canada. From these experiences, he has acquired insight into the obligations and responsibilities of key stakeholders in influencing market decisions. As the Vice President for Research at Engineers Without Borders Waterloo, he is passionate about international development and believes systemic change is fundamental to solving complex problems. While he has an odd sense of humour, he also enjoys delving into photography and enjoys reading the National Geographic magazine. He is very excited to be a member of the SOI Delegation and impact change on international policies at the Earth Summit.

The Power of Words

By Carolyn Gibson

June 19, 2012

It has been said that the thing that is better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that can bring about change.

I have come to see this as over the past few days at the conference. As of this afternoon at 12:28 the Brazilian document was closed and will now go to Heads of States to negotiate. I wonder though, the power in this document will have. As of now it is 23,913 words. But do those words have any power; are they able to bring about the change that is so desperately needed in our world?

The zero-draft document will be poured over by many eyes and the changing of a single word has the power to change a whole section. I am still not convinced of the power this document will have though. Much of it talks about recognizing the issues. While I do not disagree this is a step that needs to be taken it is frustrating. We don’t need any more recognition. WE NEED ACTION! It is known that our oceans fisheries stocks are being depleted at accelerating rates and that our oceans are acidifying, so lets stop just recognizing them and start taking action towards conservation and sustainable development. The words on that document mean nothing if they cannot bring about change.

I do however know that words have the power to inspire, bring change and move people towards action. I have seen and felt it this week. When Ambassador Ronald Jumeau spoke at our side event his words moved every member of our delegation. I felt inspired to continue on this journey and continue fighting for what I know is necessary.

High level negotiations begin tomorrow. Myself, along with many others at the conference, encourage heads of state to use their words. Use them to take steps towards the conservation of our oceans. Use them to make development and poverty reduction go hand-in-hand. Use them so that future generations may live in a sustainable world.

Use them. Don’t waste them.

 Carolyn Gibson
Carolyn Gibson 
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition
Carolyn Gibson was a part of Arctic 2010 Expedition. It is this expedition that confirmed her love for the Polar Regions. Carolyn is from Bracebridge, Ontario and is currently studying Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph. At an early age Carolyn discovered her passion for the environment and has since gone on to be a part of numerous environmental related initiatives. She was a youth delegate for 2010 Youth Freshwater Summit and a home team leader for 2010 Canadian Youth Delegation. She has also carried out numerous initiatives within community in the hopes of inspiring others to make sustainable choices for the future.
In her free time Carolyn loves nothing more than heading out into the back to country to explore all that Mother Nature has to offer. From backing packing, to canoeing to winter camping, Carolyn loves it all.
For Carolyn the delegation means an opportunity for youth to be drivers of change. To say what they feel when it comes to sustainable development and to show the world their vision for the future. Carolyn is excited by all the potential this delegation has and cannot wait to see the impact of this delegation.

In the Corridors of Power

At the plenary discussions on Tuesday June 19

 

By Jessica Magonet

June 18, 2012

Bureaucrats are quite easy creatures to hate. Particularly those at the Rio+20 Earth Summit. As negotiations for the outcome document draw to a close, it seems more and more likely that the commitments made by world leaders will fall short of the sustainable development challenges facing our planet. While tracking the negotiations, I could not help but think: “Who are these negotiators? And why don’t they understand the urgency of the crises we are trying to address here? Why aren’t they being stronger, more ambitious leaders?“

Yesterday, I have the incredible opportunity to meet informally with several negotiators from different countries. It was a transformative experience. My primary objective in meeting with negotiators was to lobby them to add a section about the Polar Regions to the document being negotiated here in Rio.  As it is, this document contains no references to the Polar Regions, though many other regions facing sustainable development are explicitly identified. Our delegation knows that the first step to addressing the sustainable development challenges in the poles brought on by climate change and the possibility of new Northern resource development is to recognize that these challenges exist. For weeks, we have been lobbying negotiators via email. We were thrilled when, after an email exchange with us, Finland proposed text about the Polar Regions. The entire EU backed them up.  Unfortunately, their proposal was refused.

So I imagined that the negotiators I was meeting in Rio would not be that excited to see me. After all, I was meeting with them to say:  “Try harder! The polar regions matter and you and your country are failing them.”

Which is why I was so surprised that all the negotiators I met were so happy to meet with me and learn about our delegation. All of them understood the challenges facing the Polar Regions (sometimes better than I do) and genuinely cared about the future of the Arctic and Antarctica.

This was not exactly what I was expecting.

It was during these meetings that I realized that a negotiator is not its country. Negotiators are (shockingly) human. And while States may remain indifferent about the future of the poles, humans cannot.

All this made me wonder if the UN could be reformed by asking negotiators to meet in coffee shops instead of conference rooms, and to represent themselves instead of countries. The negotiations could look more like the meetings I had yesterday, meetings between people who respected each other and their planet. If the UN functioned as a conversation between people, instead of countries, I think the possibilities for change would be enormous.


Jessica Magonet 
Policy Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition
jessica@soidelegation.com
Hailing from Boston, Jessica currently lives in Montreal where she studies law at McGill University. She dreams of drafting mad environmental policy and writing dystopian novels. When she isn’t working at her local library or knitting snowflake slippers, Jessica keeps herself busy advocating for sustainable development and educating her community about pressing environmental issues. She is currently an associate editor for the McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy and a member of Environmental Law McGill. During CEGEP, she chaired the Executive Committee of the Sierra Youth Coalition, Canada’s largest environmental organization. She was also a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation to Copenhagen and a volunteer for the Climate Project. In high school, Jessica co-chaired a youth conference that examined the link between climate change and poverty, featuring Elizabeth May and Ray Zahab. The conference was organized by the environmental club she founded. Jessica participated on the Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition and it was the best experience of her entire life.

Connecting Rio+20 to Bell Island, Newfoundland

Donovan at Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

By Donovan Taplin

June 17, 2012

Bell Island is one of those quaint Canadian towns where everyone knows everyone. It is a town where community decision-making, in the spirit of social change, can be highly collaborative between the everyday resident and municipal government. A band of motivated volunteers, acting as agents of this social change, can cause very meaningful, significant, tangible steps forward. This same band of volunteers has the capacity to raise awareness at an astounding level in the local platform.

But what if this same band of volunteers shifted their efforts to an urban centre with a higher populace that is surrounded by even more political red tape? Or, even on a broader scope, what if this same band of highly motivated volunteers traveled to Rio + 20?

Rio + 20 is not a small town. Instead it is an international once per decade event with tens of thousands of participants on ground level and thousands, perhaps millions more, reached around the world through various networking tools.

The Students on Ice Alumni Delegation is a group of highly motivated volunteers driven by a unique bond of having travelled to the Polar Regions. We have spent months planning. Planning to leave an impact. Can we do so at such a high level? A level consisting of high government negotiators and Heads of State. Can we?

Bell Island is a 3 by 9 kilometer rock in Conception Bay Newfoundland. Here I have been able to make change. This urge to make change derives from my time with the Students on Ice organization which provided me with an enriching program in both the Arctic and Antarctica. I have tried to bring about awareness of these delicate regions which are critical to consider in the context of global sustainable development. By presenting to audiences of all ages and relating my story in the extreme north and south of the planet I have, in some small way, at least enlightened some people on the importance of the Polar Regions. While this may be was simple as a group of elementary students learning that Penguins do not hang out and drink Coca Cola with Polar Bears, at least some light has been shed on these critical yet often misunderstood regions.

And now I’m in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. This city is one which juxtaposes skyscrapers and industry against mountains and jungle. Here we, a delegation of youth, must try and promote change change for two regions so dear to our young hearts.

Can we do it at this level? Yes. Our message will work because it must. Our message of protecting the poles to protect the planet will be heeded. If not due consequently from our actions here in Rio, then in the future as world leaders truly appreciate the Arctic and Antarctic. It is with this hope of inevitable change in the spirit of moving forward that we begin our days in Rio de Janeiro.

 


Donovan Taplin 
Communications Editor
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic and 2010 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
donovan@soidelegation.com
Donovan is from Bell Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and has partaken in two Students on Ice Expeditions. During these expeditions he facilitated public speaking workshops designed to foster the development of techniques for participants to better share their experiences after the expedition. Donovan has explored the field of communications through print, radio, television, and online platforms. He has been a writer for the provincial youth newspaper “BackBEAT”, and a blogger for Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada’s Energy Diet Challenge. Donovan is a Board Director, Host, Producer, and Program Coordinator of Radio Bell Island Inc., as well as a former volunteer with Roger’s TV. Donovan was a guest host and event adviser of Network 11; Newfoundland’s first provincial radio conference for community broadcasters. His national television debut was on CTV’s Canada AM alongside Students on Ice Founder Geoff Green. He has been lucky enough to network with some of Canada’s leading journalists. Donovan is the Founder of the Green Island Society, a local volunteer youth group whose members have been active in town-wide clean-ups, beach clean-ups, and initiated an environmental essay contest for elementary students. Donovan considers the upcoming Earth Summit to be an exciting and invaluable forum for which SOI Alumni can express their deep concern and passion for the Polar Regions.

Le Plan Nord: modèle de développement durable?

Par Audrey Yank – Le 17 juin 2012

Des dizaines de citoyens à l’allure fière. Une ligne de carrées rouges. Réelle haie d’honneur pour accueillir le Premier Ministre du Québec.  Le mouvement social de la province a suivi Mr. Jean Charest jusque dans les couloirs du Rio Centro, centre de conférence du Somment de la Terre Rio+20 au Brésil. Avec notre accent familier qui se distingue facilement dans un tel événement international, il s’avance et nous serre la main un à un avant sa présentation. En personne, il est plus petit que je croyais.

L’accent québécois n’est plus la seule façon de reconnaître nos comparses dans le brouhaha de la conférence, les boutonnières de carrées rouges et de carrés noirs sont à la mode. Mais hier soir, nous ne les portions pas que pour rappeler la crise étudiante ou la loi 78, mais bien pour remettre les pendules à l’heure pour la communauté internationale en ce qui a trait au Plan Nord.

Le chef d’État a présenté le Plan Nord à cette conférence sur le développement durable comme un modèle exemplaire dont tous devraient s’inspirer. Comme il l’a dit lui-même, « le Québec est le numéro un en matière de conservation. Le Québec renferme un des plus grands espaces naturels au monde. » Effectivement, mais il n’en sera peut-être pas ainsi encore longtemps. Si j’étais étrangère à cet enjeu du grand nord québécois, les paroles prononcées m’auraient semblées épiques et inspirantes. Mais comme l’a si dit un représentant de la Nouvelle-Calédonie « nul n’est prophète en son propre pays. »

En effet, nous ne sommes pas dupes et nous savons que cette bannière de conservation donne une belle image à tous les projets d’exploitations du territoire. Je ne m’oppose pas entièrement à ces projets de minières, autrement, comment pourrais-je écrire et vous communiquer ce texte sans mon ordinateur? Mais si au moins ces projets étaient réellement issus d’une optique durable et développés en concertation étroite avec les peuples autochtones. Évidemment, aucun représentant des premières nations n’était à l’événement pour donner leur perspective. Mais Jean Charest souligne tout de même que ceux qui veulent le plus de ce plan sont ceux qui habitent dans le Nord. Et ce, tout en s’assurant de donner un petit cours d’histoire… « vous savez les Inuits, ceux qu’ont appelaient avant les Eskimos. » J’ai un doute, mais au moins, c’est vrai que dans le Sud on n’en veut peut-être pas tant que ça!

Voilà qu’on nous présente une petite vidéo de la promotion des espaces naturels dans le nord québécois. J’en avais des frissons en pensant au NY times qui décrivait comme ce projet de conservation comme étant le plus ambitieux de l’histoire. Le plus ambitieux? Cela fait peur. Je suis aussi restée abasourdie par le slogan de la fin : « L’opportunité de changer le cours de l’histoire! » Il y avait une photo de Nathalie Normandeau. En effet, son histoire ne s’est pas terminée comme prévue.

« C’est un des projet les plus visionnaires au monde en ce moment! » Applaudissement de la partie droite de la salle. Les carrées rouges dans la section de gauche laissent planer une atmosphère lourde de doute. « Il s’agit d’un projet de toute une génération! », la même génération qu’il veut hypothéquer?  C’est d’une réelle ironie de vanter ce projet qui à mon avis ne répond pas aux idées du développement durable qui sont portées de l’avant au cours de ce Somment de la Terre Rio+20. Le présentateur à ces côtés, représentant de PEW, une ONG américaine, boit les paroles de Jean Charest et hoche beaucoup trop la tête. Mr. Charest est allé chercher du support chez nos voisins du Sud. Quelle ONG Québécoise supporte encore le Plan Nord?

« Nous ferons du développement de la façon qu’il se doit d’être. Un développement de cohésion qui sera bénéfique pour tous les Québécois, et non seulement sur le plan économique, mais sur le plan social. » Check! Voilà, les mots clefs ont été prononcés et ça fait une belle phrase. En effet, j’ai pris la citation en note.

 


Audrey Yank
Communications Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Antarctic University Expedition
audrey@soidelegation.com
Born in Gatineau, Qc, Audrey Yank took part in the 2011 SOI University Antarctic expedition. Through her community involvements, Audrey developed a desire to make a difference. In 2007, she witnessed the impacts of climate change in the global south during a water conservation project in Niger. Two years later, she carried a research project on alternative energies in Benin. Audrey completed in 2011 her degree in Bioresource engineering from McGill University and she now works to implement improved cookstoves to reduce deforestation in The Gambia.
Last year, Audrey represented the youth voice at the UN Climate Change Conference and completed a 700 km walk against the shale gas in Quebec. In the meantime, Audrey developed an interest in journalism and collaborates with Gaïapresse, an environmental news outlet. Audrey enjoys outdoor activities and cooks delicious meals with vegetables from her garden!
RIO+20 is an opportunity to bring together the world leaders and the whole civil society to address global issues that requires global effort. The SOI delegation represents a group of passionate young people that decided to step up and take matters in their own hands. They will engage policy makers and sensitize the population towards greater sustainability.

What Rio+20 means to me – The promise of a global conversation on sustainable development

By: Fatin Chowdhury
June 16, 2012 from Houston International Airport, Texas

I’m currently writing from Houston airport, on a layover en route to Rio de Janeiro for the Rio+20 Earth Summit. I wanted to share a few thoughts:

The world should pay attention to the Rio+20 Earth Summit because it represents an international forum where dialogue and collaboration can allow us to achieve sustainable development globally. My name is Fatin Chowdhury and I am one of the delegates and core members extremely excited to be heading off to the conference with the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation. As youth who have had the amazing opportunity to visit the Arctic and/or Antarctic regions, it is our perspective that the Polar Regions are crucially important to global sustainable development. The Earth Summit will bring together decision-makers from around the world to focus on the themes of creating a green economy and establishing the institutional framework for sustainable development. The Polar Regions need to be integrated in these dialogues as the emerging challenges in these fragile ecosystems will have a global impact with environmental, social, and also economic impacts.

The trip to the Arctic definitely shaped my perspective on the world and how the Inuits living in regions such as Pangirtung or Cape Dorset are being impacted adversely by the impacts of climate change. The expedition, while words can’t describe it well enough, certainly opened my eyes to ways of thinking and perceiving the world around me I was oblivious to – the importance for the convergence between economic and environmental sustainability is mandatory and must become inevitable.

I see immense value in this conference as it will allow us to communicate the necessity for sustainable development with people from around the world. I believe that we are part of a movement where we can build communities of people whose voices continue to strengthen and help shape policies and change our governments’ priorities. This conference brings us another step closer to achieving such a society where we don’t disregard the negative externalities for short run economic profit and think about the long term implications of our actions and inactions. When we compare this event with the 1992 Earth Summit, we can note a few differences. We have become a lot more educated in our understanding of climate change and our mindsets about how we treat the world are changing. Still, we need to commit to making the changes we feel necessary – as individuals and as countries. I see individuals in my community, my friends, and family members who are making small changes to reflect a more sustainable lifestyle. These personal actions collectively can induce the conditions for behavioural change and help us achieve a state where we can live more meaningful lives. However, governments and decision-makers have been moving slowly to addressing the impacts of climate change. In the last 20 years, there have been notable achievements but such successes have been stunted as economic concerns undermine environmental policies. In our discussions about the green economy, we need to acknowledge and act on the understanding that the environment and the economy are not mutually exclusive but rather interdependent on each other.

The next 10 days will be an amazing opportunity to learn and experience how international negotiations work from the front lines. While there can be frustration about the pace of the dialogues, it is important to remember that youth provide an insurmountable voice to influencing decision-makers and we can have an impact. So, join us in this adventure and let’s try to join the conversation about sustainable development! To our future!

Here are some links to get you going:

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/05/2012525124410713933.html

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/04/201243844723773.html

http://www.uncsd2012.org/

http://www.ciel.org/HR_Envir/Rio20_Index.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/11/02/pol-environment-earth-summit-changes.html

 

Also, don’t forget to join our livestream of the Side Event we are hosting at www.soidelegation.com at 6:30 pm EST on Monday June 18.

Message me with your thoughts and questions about the conference or anything you want to learn more about. I ask you: how do you define sustainable development and how can we achieve it? Comment below or email me at fatin@soidelegation.com !


Fatin Chowdhury 
Polar Research Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition
fatin@soidelegation.com
Fatin Chowdhury currently resides in Mississauga, Ontario and is currently enrolled in his second year of Environmental Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He won the National Brita Eco-Challenge enabling him to participate in the Students On Ice Arctic 2010 Expedition. This opportunity helped him gain a deeper appreciation of the intricate factors that are contributing to current and future environmental problems. He is strongly passionate about environmental conservation and interested in finding pragmatic solutions to emerging problems. His summer internship at the Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) in Bangladesh in 2006 opened his eyes to the impact of climate change in developing nations and realize the need for international co-operation in the future. He has also served as an executive of the Peel Environemntal Youth Alliance, facilitating educational presentations and collaborating with youth on environmental initiatives.Fatin has gained valuable industry and government experience with Environment Canada developing Renewable Fuels Regulations and by working as a Project Manager at Rio Tinto Iron Ore Company of Canada. From these experiences, he has acquired insight into the obligations and responsibilities of key stakeholders in influencing market decisions. As the Vice President for Research at Engineers Without Borders Waterloo, he is passionate about international development and believes systemic change is fundamental to solving complex problems. While he has an odd sense of humour, he also enjoys delving into photography and enjoys reading the National Geographic magazine. He is very excited to be a member of the SOI Delegation and impact change on international policies at the Earth Summit.

 

From Banff to the Arctic; Making Connections!

Leah at Healy Pass, Banff National Park

By Leah Pangelly

I grew up in a community right outside Banff National Park and surrounded by Provincial Parks. Living with the wilderness in my backyard has provided me with amazing experiences and a unique outlook on the planet. I am currently working as an ecological monitoring student for Banff National Park and spending plenty of time outdoors. Nature brings me back to the basics. It reminds me why I spend five days a week sitting in a classroom, why I have devoted my life to studying the environment, and why I am so passionate about solving the problems that our planet faces. However, I wasn’t always in tune with environmental issues. While my surroundings brought me closer to nature they also brought me farther away from environmental issues. In fact it wasn’t until my trip with Students on Ice to the Arctic in 2008 that really began to connect the dots.

Sure I understood the planet was facing climate change and resources scarcities, but having what seemed an infinite amount of natural spaces right at my feet made me fell isolated from these problems. I heard about the issues, but I never saw them. When I traveled I was always visiting pristine ecosystems or other national parks. I rarely spent time in cities or in areas with environmental degradation.

The Arctic brought things up close and personal. I was no longer isolated from the social, economic, and environmental problems the planet was facing. It was as if everything I had heard about or read about clicked into place. The issues were no longer isolated events, but a complex web, filled with interactions we have yet to grasp. When I returned to the Bow Valley I realized I was never really isolated from the problems. The ecosystem I once saw as pristine was facing threats from human development, unsustainable lifestyles, and habitat fragmentation to name a few.

I came to realize that the planet does not have boundaries or borders. We cannot solve these problems by only acting in certain jurisdictions. We must act as a society, as a globe. That is why I have being working with the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation on our journey to Rio+20. We need portals like Rio+20 to discuss, to mobilize and to act.

I hope that one day I will once again be able to look at the mountains outside my window and know that the threats will subside, but more importantly I hope that I can do the same for ecosystems around the globe.

 


Leah Pengelly 
Logistics and Finance Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2008 Arctic Youth Expedition
leah@soidelegation.com
Leah Pengelly is from Canmore, Alberta and was a participant on the 2008 Arctic Expedition. After returning from the Arctic Leah moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study Marine Biology and Oceanography at Dalhousie University. Leah has worked as a student biologist in Banff National Park and with Students On Ice partners at the Mingan Island Cetacean Study, studying the distribution and behaviors of rorqual whales in the Saint Lawrence. In her spare time she coaches cross-country skiing and works with the Dalhousie Association of Marine Biology Students to fundraise and raise awareness for local marine issues and organizations. Currently she is working on her Honors on the CO2 flux in Hudson Bay and hopes to continue working in the polar regions of Canada. Leah is excited to be part of the delegation team to see how effective SOI alumni can be on a global scale and at the Earth Summit!

‘Sustainable Development’ means different things to different people!

A toilet in Nicaragua!

By Carolyn Gibson

In just a few short days our delegation is heading to Brazil for a conference on sustainable development. But what does sustainable development mean? The interesting thing when discussing it is that it means different things for different people.

This past May I had the privilege to travel to Nicaragua where I stayed with a local family and worked on an organic permaculture farm. It was here, immersed in their culture, that I saw and learned what sustainability means to them. For the farming community of about 500 that I lived in the quality of their soil could make or break their food supply. For them sustainable means using farming practices that won’t degrade their soil and allows for a constant cycling of nutrients. How do they achieve this? With the use of something so simple yet genius: a composting toilet.

Toilets waste over 90% of the water taken in. Composting toilets allow for less wasted water and fertile soil as an output. After one makes their deposit you simply add wood chips. This helps with carbon-nitrogen balance. In the tropical areas of the world after the tank is full it takes just 6 months to produce fertile soil. In developing communities these toilets are incredible as the provide soil for family gardens and they provide an easy way of waste management.

As negotiators head to Rio+20 they must remember that “sustainable development” is not a one size fits all concept. Sometimes the answer can be as simple as a toilet.

 Carolyn Gibson
Carolyn Gibson 
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition
Carolyn Gibson was a part of Arctic 2010 Expedition. It is this expedition that confirmed her love for the Polar Regions. Carolyn is from Bracebridge, Ontario and is currently studying Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph. At an early age Carolyn discovered her passion for the environment and has since gone on to be a part of numerous environmental related initiatives. She was a youth delegate for 2010 Youth Freshwater Summit and a home team leader for 2010 Canadian Youth Delegation. She has also carried out numerous initiatives within community in the hopes of inspiring others to make sustainable choices for the future.
In her free time Carolyn loves nothing more than heading out into the back to country to explore all that Mother Nature has to offer. From backing packing, to canoeing to winter camping, Carolyn loves it all.
For Carolyn the delegation means an opportunity for youth to be drivers of change. To say what they feel when it comes to sustainable development and to show the world their vision for the future. Carolyn is excited by all the potential this delegation has and cannot wait to see the impact of this delegation.

The Earth Since 1992

Danco Island, Antarctica 2009 - By Jenna Gall

June 7, 2012

This week there have been many articles published about what has happened since the Earth Summit in 1992. These articles have outlined how successful the Earth Summit was and how far we have come in creating and following through with policy and recommendations. As one article states, ‘the 1992 meeting was hailed as one of the best attempts by the global community to change the course of human development to a model that would be equitable and sustainable. 178 countries, most represented by their heads of government, unanimously agreed to adopt Agenda 21, a blueprint for sustainable development for the world, heading into the 21st century’.1 So now what? What is the 2012 Earth Summit; Rio+20? I have had the pleasure of reading many similar articles this week and all have concluded interesting points about how far sustainable development has come over the past 20 years. I am going to share with you a bit of my personal perspective on the changes since 1992 and how we must move forward in the next 20 years.

I am 20 years old. I was born in 1992, the same year as the Earth Summit and only a few months before it took place. When I think back to my childhood and the way things used to be, even I am shocked at the changes that the earth, society and people have overcome in the past 20 years. Some changes, for the better! Others, for the worse. The overwhelming increase in population, the changes in societal norms, the shift to a global world, the empowerment of women and youth, the viral spread of social media, the increasing global temperatures, the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps, the transference from rural to urban, a change from outdoors to in and the exhaustive stream of constant information are all changes that have occurred or accelerated since 1992, just to name a few. So now, 20 years later, in a more fast-paced, globalized and industrialized world, can you imagine the changes in the next 20 years? It’s hard to think about! And yet, unless we think about it and put a lot of time and money into planning ahead, the next 20 years could look quite bleak! But for a mere student, regular folk like myself, how can we really make an impact?

It doesn’t take being on a delegate heading to Rio to make a difference. It doesn’t take the president of the United States or the head of the UN Environment Programme (although it would be damn helpful if these folks would care to make a difference as well). But what is does take is global-minded, passionate and caring people who are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to make a difference on a local scale. My interest and passion towards sustainable development, environment and polar issues began when I was about 13 years old! Can you imagine if I had been educated about these issues when I was 5? Or if I had heard someone like myself come and speak to my 3rd grade class about going to the Earth Summit as a 20 year old student. Education in my opinion is what is going to inspire, motivate, create and change the world. If we can educate, we can inspire and if we can inspire, we can motivate and if we can motivate we can create! And that my friend is what will truly change this world!

I am heading to Rio with high hopes and strong goals to make a difference on a international policy scale! I want world leaders to listen to what we have to say about the Polar Regions, take it to heart and incorporate it into their future planning. But whether or not this is realistic, I am dedicated to it and no matter the outcome this June, I am still going to strive for it each day after Rio. And more importantly, when I come home I will focus on educating and inspiring others to make a difference for a sustainable development cause because educated, passionate people can change the world!

1. http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/01/spotlight-rio20-whats-happened-1992/


Jenna Gall 
Communications Co-Director/Polar Research Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2009 Arctic and 2009 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
jenna@soidelegation.com
Jenna Gall is originally from Montmartre, Saskatchewan. She currently resides in Kelowna, BC where she studies Earth and Environmental Science at the University of British Columbia. Jenna is also honored to be a 2010 Weston Loran Scholar. She has been heavily involved in environmental policy work through volunteering with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and being a part of the Canadian Youth Delegation as well as the goBeyond Campus Climate Network and UBC Sustainability Club. She has experience working as a Research and Policy Analyst with the Yukon Climate Change Secretariat where she worked on projects relating to carbon neutrality, carbon reporting, sustainable development in the Arctic, ecosystem conservation and energy issues. Her passion for the environment started at a very young age as Jenna grew up farming and was raised with a strong connection to the land and respect for nature. In her spare time, Jenna enjoys climbing mountains, snowshoeing, mountain biking, kayaking, educating youth on environmental issues and inspiring others to make a difference in their communities. Jenna is excited to be a part of the SOI Delegation because she believes a passionate group of youth can make a huge difference and she is excited to see the impact that the SOI program and SOI Alumni can have!

See you Later and Not Goodbye!

Photo by Jenna Gall

By Bridget Graham

June 4, 2012

I had the pleasure of meeting Niki last summer and I will always remember our first phone conversation. My mother had just called me to let me know that I had received my scholarship to go to the Arctic. I was sitting eating dinner at prom when I got the call. When my mom gave me Niki’s number, I quickly ran outside to call her. She told me that she was on her bike, and although I was slightly afraid for her safety, she told me that she would be okay. Niki hasn’t changed much but I am happy to report that today we were texting and she told me that she would not be able to respond because she would be biking. I am glad to see that she is now taking bike safety very seriously. There is no way to just how many lives that Niki has touched during her time at Students on Ice but all I know is that she will be greatly missed. Niki is probably the most selfless person that I have ever met and she is always there to offer support, motion sickness medicine or even just a hug. Even though her time at SOI is almost up, she is still giving up her time to help our delegation with preparation and with supplies. While one chapter of her life is ending, she will not be forgotten and speaking as a member of the Students on Ice family I can say that all students and staff are behind you 100%!  I have no doubt that Niki will find happiness in whatever she does, and that Students on Ice will always occupy a very precious spot way deep down in her heart.

 

Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

Networking with Negotiators!

http://jonmell.co.uk

By Jessica Magonet

June 4, 2012

As the Policy Director of the delegation, I have a pretty awesome job. For the first part of the year, my role was to oversee, with a a fantastic team, the development of our recommendation paper (if you haven’t check it out yet, here is the link: http://soidelegation.com/objectives/)

Now that the paper is done, my role has become even more glamorous: I send emails.

Sending emails might not sound that exciting to most of you. But that is because you don’t know who I`ve been emailing.

Over the past 2 weeks, I have spent hours emailing over 80 negotiators around the world who will be attending the Earth Summit. Negotiators are high-level politicians who will represent their countries at Rio. I emailed the negotiators to tell them about our delegation, to invite them to our side event (we want you to come too: http://soidelegation-sideevent.eventbrite.com/?ebtv=C), and to ask them to amend the zero draft. The zero draft is a draft of a resolution that we hope all countries will agree to at Rio. The UN developed the zero draft by compiling suggestions from countries and organizations from around the world (you can read it here: http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/mgzerodraft.html). Since this document came out, countries have been meeting at “informal-informal” negotiators to discuss changes that should be made to the zero draft. The last set of these negotiations before Rio is happening this week, and I emailed negotiators to ask that they add this to the zero draft:

Polar Regions 

We recognize that the changes now occurring in the Polar Regions present a special challenge for sustainable development. The Polar Regions are among the first regions in the world to be affected by climate change. In the Arctic, rapid melting will lead to new resource development, open new shipping routes, expose the region to potential new forms pollution and present challenges to the people who make the region their home. Changes in the Polar Regions will have a global impact, influencing other parts of the world through sea level rise and resource exploitation and development decisions

Right now, the zero draft does not mention the Polar Regions. Anywhere. When I sent off my initial emails, I I honestly wasn’t expecting any responses. I get too  many emails a day to read them all, so how could I possibly expect negotiators to find the time to read mine?

Which is why I was surprised when the messages starting coming in.

So far, I have been in contact with 11 negotiators. Many of the messages I received went something like this

Dear Jessica,

I am no longer working on Rio+20 but will forward your message to people who are. 

Yours,

Negotiator who is no longer a negotiator

These shouldn’t have made me excited, but I could help  but think SOMEONE READ MY EMAIL I DID NOT JUST EPICALLY WASTE MY TIME.

However, I also received some unbelievable messages. I got an email from Australia’s team, asking if they would meet with us in Rio. I received messages from Sweden and Finland, sharing our concern about the lack of polar text in the zero draft.

These messages reminded me that our delegation is not alone. We may be the only delegation raising polar issues at Rio+20, but we are not the only delegation that cares about polar issues.

We just need to find these delegations that care, and work with them.

 


Jessica Magonet 
Policy Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition
jessica@soidelegation.com
Hailing from Boston, Jessica currently lives in Montreal where she studies law at McGill University. She dreams of drafting mad environmental policy and writing dystopian novels. When she isn’t working at her local library or knitting snowflake slippers, Jessica keeps herself busy advocating for sustainable development and educating her community about pressing environmental issues. She is currently an associate editor for the McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy and a member of Environmental Law McGill. During CEGEP, she chaired the Executive Committee of the Sierra Youth Coalition, Canada’s largest environmental organization. She was also a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation to Copenhagen and a volunteer for the Climate Project. In high school, Jessica co-chaired a youth conference that examined the link between climate change and poverty, featuring Elizabeth May and Ray Zahab. The conference was organized by the environmental club she founded. Jessica participated on the Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition and it was the best experience of her entire life.

La Gambie : les défis du développement durable, une réalité quotidienne

La Gambie : les défis du développement durable, une réalité quotidienne

La Conférence des Nations-Unies sur le développement durable est à nos portes. D’ici deux semaines, la communauté internationale convergera vers le Brésil pour le Sommet de la Terre. Je reviens tout juste de la Gambie. Là-bas, la conférence passera sans doute inaperçue. Les changements climatiques et les enjeux du développement durable n’en font pas autant. Peu importe le résultat des négociations internationales de Rio+20, le quotidien gambien suivra son court avec la pression grandissante d’un environnement en transformation. Que ce soit dans les pôles ou sur le continent africain, la terre est aura besoin bien plus que des négociations pour retrouver son équilibres. Voici le constat environnemental du milieu gambien que j’ai côtoyé et les initiatives durables qui m’ont redonnées espoir.

Le continent africain n’émet que 2 à 3% des émissions mondiales de gaz à effets de serre. Ces pays sont pourtant parmi les plus affectés par les perturbations climatiques, y perdant jusqu’à 15% de leur PIB déjà faible. En Gambie, les agriculteurs sont les premiers à en subir les conséquences.

Changements climatiques : les impacts ressentis ici

  1. 1.    La grande variabilité des pluies

Tous s’entendent pour dire que la saison des pluies n’est plus ce qu’elle était. Les pluies tardent de plus en plus et débutent maintenant près de 30 jours plus tard qu’il y a 40 ans. Il n’est pas rare aussi de subir une période de sécheresse en pleine saison pluvieuse ou de recevoir une pluie isolée après la saison (se terminant habituellement en septembre), risquant dans les deux cas de compromettre les récoltes. Justement, une pluie en octobre dernier a fait plisser le front des fermiers. Cette grande variabilité est une source constante d’incertitudes pour les agriculteurs et pour une population entière ayant une sécurité alimentaire précaire.

  1. 2.    L’érosion et la compaction

Par contre, il ne pleut pas moins. Les pluies sont plus intenses, ce qui amène un autre lot de problématiques : 10 mm de pluie en une heure créé davantage de dommage que 10 mm en une journée. Cette eau qui tombe comme des clous gruge le sol sableux et sa mince couche fertile, lessivant les nutriments essentiels aux récoltes. Ce martellement compacte aussi les terres. Planter les semis dans ce sol dur devient un défi. Les graines ne réussissent pas toujours non plus à percer cette croute.

 

  1. 3.    La salinisation des sols

Le fleuve Gambie, avec une embouchure sur l’Atlantique, a une eau naturellement salée. Cette eau filtrée par les mangroves irrigue les champs de riz aux alentours. Par contre, les pluies intenses peuvent faire déborder le fleuve. Les cultures sont donc menacées par la salinité et l’intensification de l’érosion. De plus, lors de sécheresses durant les pluies, l’eau salée remonte le long du fleuve puisque l’eau douce y est moins abondante. La salinité des sols risque ainsi d’atteindre des niveaux trop élevés.

 

Adaptation : le passage à mode proactif

Les Gambiens ont donc développés leurs méthodes pour s’adapter à ces changements radicaux dont les impacts ne feront que continuer à s’intensifier.

Le Centre de formation agricole de Njawara (NATC) fait partie des organisations très actives dans le milieu. «Il s’agit de renforcer la capacité des agriculteurs à être résilients afin de réduire les risques, peu importe si c’est une année sèche ou pluvieuse», affirme Mr. Badara Jobe, directeur. «Ils incluent maintenant la gestion des risques liés aux changements climatiques dans la planification de leur ferme.» Il est donc question de diversifier les cultures. Certaines seront moins affectées. Des variétés de mil, de riz et d’arachide à la germination plus rapide ont aussi été développées afin de parvenir à maturité au cours d’une saison des pluies plus courte. Puis, d’autres variétés tardives bénéficient des pluies plus abondantes en fin de saison.

Afin d’enrayer la problématique de salinisation des terres, une digue de 1.5km a été construite le long du fleuve à la hauteur de Njawara. La digue permet de freiner l’eau salée et de retenir l’eau douce. Recouverte de plantes indigènes, elle réduit l’érosion et les arbres fruitiers contribuent à la sécurité alimentaire. Cette initiative s’inscrit aussi dans un effort régional de plantation d’arbres pour lutter contre la désertification.

 

Joindre l’effort global: réduire l’empreinte écologique

Des initiatives locales ont été mises en place pour réduire la déforestation et les émissions de gaz à effets de serre (aussi minimes soient-elles!). Les femmes ont adopté des foyers améliorés qui diminuent la consommation de bois lors de la cuisson. Le foyer Mayon Turbo utilise aussi directement des résidus agricoles tels que les écailles de riz.

Il y a 4 mois, Mr. Anthony Tabbal a mis sur pied l’entreprise Greentech. «Nous voulons réduire le rythme de la dégradation des sols et de la déforestation en produisant une nouvelle source d’énergie renouvelable » affirme-t-il. Greentech fabrique des briquettes à partir des coquilles d’arachides. Il s’agit d’utiliser un déchet disponible en grande quantité et d’en faire une ressource qui remplace le bois. NARI, l’institut national de recherche agricole, fait de même avec des plantes aquatiques envahissantes en les transformant en biocharbon pour remplacer le charbon de bois.

L’énergie solaire étant abondante à cette latitude, fait également partie de la solution. NATC produit son électricité entièrement à partir de panneaux solaires. Le puits du village voisin bénéficie aussi de cette technologie tout en réduisant l’effort physique des femmes. La pompe du jardin communautaire de Njawara, muni d’une éolienne, permet d’irriguer en utilisant les éléments de la nature. Ceci minimise l’utilisation du diesel, source d’énergie principale pour la production d’électricité au pays.

Conclusion : projets à venir?

Nous sommes impliqués sans cesse dans le développement de pratiques agricoles qui peuvent résister à un climat en transformation et participer à en réduire l’impact si adoptées à plus grande échelle» avance Mr. Jobe. Ce grand visionnaire à l’heure de la retraite n’a pas terminé d’avoir des idées plein la tête. Selon-lui, les programmes de compensations de carbone devraient non seulement supporter des projets de mitigation, mais aussi le renforcement des capacités et la formation pour que les populations locales continuent d’être outillées pour faire face aux changements climatiques.

Finalement, la Gambie fait preuve d’un lot d’initiatives qui témoigne d’une volonté d’agir et de faire sa part dans cette lutte globale. Agir pour survivre. Alors, qu’attendons-nous de notre côté?


Audrey Yank 
Communications Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Antarctic University Expedition
audrey@soidelegation.com
Born in Gatineau, Qc, Audrey Yank took part in the 2011 SOI University Antarctic expedition. Through her community involvements, Audrey developed a desire to make a difference. In 2007, she witnessed the impacts of climate change in the global south during a water conservation project in Niger. Two years later, she carried a research project on alternative energies in Benin. Audrey completed in 2011 her degree in Bioresource engineering from McGill University and she now works to implement improved cookstoves to reduce deforestation in The Gambia.
Last year, Audrey represented the youth voice at the UN Climate Change Conference and completed a 700 km walk against the shale gas in Quebec. In the meantime, Audrey developed an interest in journalism and collaborates with Gaïapresse, an environmental news outlet. Audrey enjoys outdoor activities and cooks delicious meals with vegetables from her garden!
RIO+20 is an opportunity to bring together the world leaders and the whole civil society to address global issues that requires global effort. The SOI delegation represents a group of passionate young people that decided to step up and take matters in their own hands. They will engage policy makers and sensitize the population towards greater sustainability.

One year later, we have a reason to attend the Earth Summit


By: Andrew Wong
May 30, 2012

I’m sitting by the window on a train heading to Toronto. My destination and purpose? I’m going to the Brazilian Consulate in Toronto to pick up my visa that will let me enter Brazil for the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

As I look out the window, gazing at the fleeting scenery, momentarily fixing my eyes upon suburban houses and trees as they pass by, I think about how far we have come as a team this past year, and how close we are to reaching some of our goals and how close we are to Rio. Around this time last year, as things were just getting started, our delegation was searching for its identity, and going to Rio for the Rio+20 Earth Summit was just a dream. After twelve months of consistent, impassioned effort by our team members, we have gained so much knowledge on polar issues and experience   with the United Nations system. We have given ourselves a reason to attend the Earth Summit.

Over the past year, our team has worked on so much together. Our team’s first collaborative effort resulted in an input document which was submitted to the United Nations for the Zero Draft Compilation Document, the initial text which served as a foundation for the Rio+20 negotiations happening today. Then, from January to May, more than a dozen of us from across Canada, the US, Norway, and Hong Kong worked together week after week to research, write, and publish a detailed, peer-reviewed recommendation paper entitled ‘Navigating from Rio+20 to Polar Sustainability’, which has been presented to Rio+20 negotiators and polar decision-makers. I believe it is a valuable document that will make a positive difference, and I am so proud of our team for having created it.

In addition to our written work, our delegates have made a visible impact in our local communities by educating others. Team members from Canada, the US, Norway, and Mexico have spoken to over 2200 youth and civil society in 20 presentations about the polar regions and the importance of polar sustainability. We hope we can inspire others to live every day more sustainably to protect the polar regions and this planet.

As an international youth delegation, we are concerned for the future of the polar regions due to climate change and the possibility of unsustainable resource development. Instead of sitting around talking about problems and doing nothing, we have taken meaningful action over the last year. Because of that, we have a reason to attend the Earth Summit. Yes, global issues are complex, but we hope our actions can inspire world leaders and decision-makers to do the same.

As I pick up my visa from an employee at the Brazilian Consulate, he gleefully says to me: “You’re going to Rio+20? Excellent! Go save the planet for us!!!”

I smile back at him. Sorry amigo, ‘saving the planet’ cannot be done alone. We all have a role on this planet, you and me. We all have a responsibility to the planet. And we all have it inside ourselves to act.


Andrew Wong 
Founder and Executive Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition
andrew@soidelegation.com
@AndrewLFWong (Twitter)
Andrew Wong is from Burlington, Ontario and is currently studying Urban Planning and Environmental Economics at the University of Waterloo. Andrew is a passionate defender of the environment and wants to improve the future for the planet and its people. In 2007, Andrew founded the Nelson Greenhouse Horticulture Society, a high school program that educates students about horticulture and immerses them in greenhouse management operations. Andrew has also worked with Earth Day Canada on corporate conservation practices, volunteered with the BurlingtonGreen Environmental Association on species restoration, and was Vice-Chair of TEDxUWO featuring notable speakers such as Wade Davis and Ray Zahab. Andrew is honoured to be the recipient of the 2010 Toyota Earth Day National Award, the 2011 ECO Canada Award, and the 2011 Canada’s Next Green Journalist by Environmental Defence. In his spare time, he enjoys getting outdoors for nature photography and enjoys playing the piano, painting wildlife, and tries to inspire others to care about the environment. Participating in the 2010 Arctic Expedition instilled in Andrew a deeper understanding of the environment and brought a new sense of urgency to protect the polar regions. Andrew founded and is leading the SOI Alumni Delegation because he believes the upcoming Earth Summit is the most significant opportunity to address the very real environmental, economic, and social sustainability issues in the polar regions. He is honoured to be working with very passionate Students on Ice alumni and supporters.

A Look Back at COP15; a Students on Ice Video!

Let’s take a ride back on memory lane! Here is a video that Students on Ice produced during the 2009 Arctic Expedition! The video was a project to get people from around the world to sign a petition, urging world leaders to ‘Seal the Deal’ during COP 15! What does this mean for Rio+20? What can we do to ‘Seal the Deal’ in Rio and ensure the future we want?

I was a part of the SOI Arctic 2009 expedition and it was truly what has made me who I am today! Throughout the making of this video, we worked in action groups, thought about what we wanted to see at COP15 and brainstormed a better future! Since my first SOI expedition, I have been doing this continuously; spending time thinking, planning and acting towards a better future. For all life and beyond on this big rock we call home! Take some time to watch this video and think about the Future We Want from Rio+20!



Video by: Students on Ice

 


Jenna Gall 
Communications Co-Director/Polar Research Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2009 Arctic and 2009 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
jenna@soidelegation.com
Jenna Gall is originally from Montmartre, Saskatchewan. She currently resides in Kelowna, BC where she studies Earth and Environmental Science at the University of British Columbia. Jenna is also honored to be a 2010 Weston Loran Scholar. She has been heavily involved in environmental policy work through volunteering with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and being a part of the Canadian Youth Delegation as well as the goBeyond Campus Climate Network and UBC Sustainability Club. She has experience working as a Research and Policy Analyst with the Yukon Climate Change Secretariat where she worked on projects relating to carbon neutrality, carbon reporting, sustainable development in the Arctic, ecosystem conservation and energy issues. Her passion for the environment started at a very young age as Jenna grew up farming and was raised with a strong connection to the land and respect for nature. In her spare time, Jenna enjoys climbing mountains, snowshoeing, mountain biking, kayaking, educating youth on environmental issues and inspiring others to make a difference in their communities. Jenna is excited to be a part of the SOI Delegation because she believes a passionate group of youth can make a huge difference and she is excited to see the impact that the SOI program and SOI Alumni can have!

 

Have you ever seen the rain?

By: Bridget Graham

Photo taken by: Kemmel Graham

The iconic song by Creedence Clearwater Revival has never truly spoken to me more so than it does today. Even though I saw John Forgety perform the classic hit last summer, it was not until I watched Water on the Table that I realized how truly powerful the words really were.

My hometown Beachburg, is along the Ottawa River and I never truly feel more at home than when I can sit and watch the rapids. People come from all over the world to go whitewater rafting, and international kayaking competitions are often held in my own backyard.

I must say that I should have watched Water on the Table a very long time ago. Maude Barlow is truly an inspiration woman, and I recently found out that she would also be attending the Rio+20 Earth Summit. Her courage is truly admirable, and it is wonderful to see a fellow Canadian so incredibly passionate about the environment.

The documentary mostly talked about water and the true value of it. As our delegation gets ready for our upcoming trip to Rio, one of the gaps that we have identified is that there is no mention whatsoever of Polar Oceans in the Zero draft. There is mention of oceans in the draft and they are a priority for the conference but it still worries me that people are overlooking the Polar Oceans.

Water is our most precious resource and without it there is no hope for us.  The members of our delegation understand this, as does Mrs. Barlow. We understand that through education and cooperation we can make a difference. We are speaking for all those being affected by climate change. We are speaking for those who cannot themselves be at Rio. Water is a gift, but it is one that must be protected for the generations yet to come.

 

Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

The Weekend to Ring in Our Summer!

Photo by Lee Narraway

By Bridget Graham

May 26, 2012

The Victoria daylong weekend is always a very special time for my family and this year was no exception. It is often said that this is the time of year to ring in the summer, and this year’s heat wave is no exception. We had beautiful weather all weekend to celebrate my parents’ 29th wedding anniversary as well as my 19th birthday. I was fortunate enough to spend my weekend with three of my very close friends from my Students on Ice expedition. They arrived on Friday, and we spent four great days together. It felt as though no time had passed since I saw them last even though it had been since last August. They were all very excited for me when we were discussing my up and coming trip to Rio with our delegation. It made me so happy to see that I had so much support from them. It was nice to hear about the projects that they were working on now, and to see that we all still had that incredible spark inside of us. For the next two months we will communicate by phone, e-mail and old school snail mail. On our last morning together we were even visited by Lee Narraway who took our picture so we would have lasting images to go along with our memories. I cannot express how truly happy I am to have been able to reconnect with my friends, and it is simply a constant reminder of the power that an organization like Students on Ice can have.

 

Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

Forum to Address Emerging Issues Related to Sustainable Development in Hall-Beach, Nunavut during the GAIAactivism Day of Gathering

Hall Beach, Nunavut

By Darcy Kuppaq and Cassandra Elphinstone

To focus attention on the changes affecting Inuit traditional subsistence lifestyle, Darcy Kuppaq organized a forum at her high school in her small community of Hall Beach, Nunavut during the GAIAactivism Day of Gathering. These initiatives by Inuit youth are an important step for communities to communicate locally as well as to help outsiders understand the Inuit viewpoint. Here are Darcy’s comments about what occurred during the forum:

I talked to my classmates about climate change, community development, and our habits that seem strange to white people. What has come up during the forum is that our culture became at risk when the first white people came here. When this happened we were not allowed to talk our language and they told us about our behaviors and that we had to change our behaviors. That’s not like our being ourselves. That was us having to be someone else. We have struggled to regain our power back from the white people. This has influenced our youth very badly. At the forum I was talking about how we could make a change because we have the power to. God said so. Youth here in this town of Hall Beach are still wandering and trying to belong. That’s how it is poor here in my town.
I said to them that when we were kids, we were pretending to be adults. We didn’t grow out of this and now we are still pretending to be someone else. We are still not being serious. I then yelled at them “You guys are capable of doing things that are Impossible to others. All you need to do is choose to be and to do things. Now our climate is going to change forever. We have to wake up and move on. Our community has seen little changes and that is good for us. Youth can progress with this. We don’t need modern changes. We need to be one with the nature.”
I asked them what they wanted for the future.
They replied a bigger arena, a theatre, and a swimming pool.
I asked what you can do about it. How can you make it happen?
They were silent for a while. I said to them “Don’t you know that you are the key to open every door that you want. Don’t you know what great power that you have as youth? Sure all of us have problems in our families. I have a brother that smokes up every day, my sister tells me the right things to do and I have alcoholic parents. I survived and I chose to have a better life. What about you? You have a special gift too.”
What we could do about these sorts of situations? We can talk about it, learn from our mistakes and get people to know about it. Inuit people today are humble and trying to live comfortably while facing the challenges of everyday life. We are not striving for survival anymore. It’s now about our need for money in order to live decently.

 


Cassandra Elphinstone
Cassandra Elphinstone 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Cassandra currently resides in Nanaimo, BC. Her greatest passion is nature and the outdoors. As founder of GAIAactivism, an international youth network spanning four continents, she has organized groups to take environmental action and strived to help youth become engaged in their community. As coauthor of an Arctic Youth Statement that was presented to the Senior Arctic Council, she has become part of a team working to create an Arctic Youth Advisory Council. With this new council, youth may get the opportunity to influence policies dealing with the Arctic region. As a wildlife-fish technician-in-training, she has worked to rehabilitate salmon-bearing streams and parks in Nanaimo. For her community she has helped fundraise for turtles in Cambodia, organized environmental rallies, engages youth in outdoor activities, and has given numerous talks on the environment. Cassandra helped establish the local flower, Lotus Pinnatus, as the new Nanaimo floral emblem. In her spare time she enjoys climbing, backpacking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, running, and hiking. Her love of the outdoors strongly motivates her to protect her beautiful natural surroundings.
For Cassandra, the Rio+20 summit is an opportunity to contribute ideas to a conference that could make a difference in the world. She believes that it is time for nations to implement policies that have been talked about for years and that youth can present a unique perspective about decisions that will determine the future.

Connecting Canada Wide Science Fair to Rio+20

Canada-wide Science Fair 2012

By Laurissa Christie

May 24, 2012

I just returned from the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Prince Edward Island.  I attended the fair as one of ten Youth Science Canada Ambassadors from across the country.  My job throughout the week was to help create a positive and fun experience for the participants.  These students (Grade 7-12) are the brightest minds in the country and without a doubt represent the future.  The innovative and unique projects they presented are helping and will continue to help preserve and protect our planet.  However, one project stands out.  A student in Grade 7 from Alberta was working on developing a more efficient way to clean up oil spills.  Her solution was to use human hair. And it worked. She was able to prove that human hair could be an effective way to clean up oil in the event of a spill even in Arctic temperatures.  Her idea is innovative, sustainable, and creative.  All of what I hope comes out of the RIO sustainability conference.

 

The participants were very excited to hear my story about my experiences in the Arctic and Antarctic. I was just as excited to talk to them about our planet.  What have they seen changed over their life? Do they feel that these changes are a good thing?  And how can we create more innovative and sustainable solutions to today’s current challenges and changes?  After talking to many students, I realized how bright the future is.  We as youth have hope and believe in the power of change.  We believe there are more sustainable ways…..so let’s go find them!

 


Laurissa Christie
Laurissa Christie 
Alum, Students on Ice 2009 Arctic Youth and 2011 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
Laurissa graduated from St. Mary’s High School as an Ontario Scholar, School Letter recipient, and the Lieutenant Governor’s Award winner. She has returned this year for a cooperative placement with the Ministry of the Environment.   Laurissa participated on the 2009 Arctic expedition and the 2011 Antarctic expedition. Laurissa was sponsored to go to the Arctic by Youth Science Canada, with her accomplishments at 3 Canada-Wide Science Fairs.  After returning home to her family’s farm in Tara, Ontario, Laurissa has been spreading the message of IPY and inspiring others through various initiatives and presentations. At school Laurissa is a peer leader, student council executive, and on the public speaking team.  Laurissa is an accomplished gold level figure skater, and enjoys helping the younger skaters.  Laurissa was the Arran Tara Ambassador, where she represented the Agriculture Society and community at various events. In 2010, Laurissa went on the United Nations Pilgrimage for Youth Tour in New York City where she discussed the protection of Haitian Children. Laurissa is very excited to be a member of RIO+20 Earth Summit.  She is looking forward to working with fellow alumni and advocating for the Polar Regions.  Next year Laurissa plans on attending university for environmental science.  She would then like to pursue a career in environmental law or education.

Currency Transaction Tax (ECTT) that includes an Environmental Reward Mechanism

http://www.futurity.org/earth-environment/can-carbon-tax-remove-gorilla-in-the-room/

By Cassandra Elphinstone

May 23, 2012

           A new global governance environmental organization that is currently being considered (Golmohammadi, 2012) requires a stable funding mechanism. A currency tax or CTT is now a feasible funding mechanism and appears to be the only funding mechanism of sufficient scope (Schmidt and Bhushan, 2011). The following simple modification to this tax would make environmental stewardship a desirable quality for nation states to acquire:

  • Include a reward system based on carbon reduction compliance of the country where the transaction originates from. The tax would be reduced based on the level of compliance by a nation. Investors in that nation would thereby benefit from the state being an environmental steward. Environmental stewardship would have the effect of reducing the CT taxes and inducing investors to move to the environmentally friendly state thereby further encouraging states (and companies within the state) to perform environmentally.

A clear problem with most solutions to global sustainable development is the lack of funding available from government sources. There is currently no large institute existing that deals directly with the environment with the exception perhaps of the UNEP. There recently has been discussion around (Golmohammadi, 2012) establishing a major environmental institution that would oversee the large number of (more than 500) Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) that exist currently. Resources must available for this as well as for more regional projects. The money involved is enormous when one considers that more than $9 billion dollars is given out by the Global Environmental Facility. The budget for the UNEP ($220 million) is tiny in comparison (Golmohammadi, 2012).

In current UN environmental agreements there is little incentive to change the behaviour of nations that add carbon to our environment. If a punishment system is put in place, participants can simply withdraw from treaties before they get punitive action (e.g. the Canadian government’s response to not meeting its Kyoto targets was to simply withdraw from the treaty). Also, it is difficult to put binding targets in place since no one wants to commit to changing their behaviour. Instead of this punitive method, a system could be put in place that rewarded good environmental behaviour while also funding ongoing sustainable development goals.
A possible solution is the idea of an Environmental Currency Transaction Tax or ECCT. Currency Transaction Taxes or CTTs (and a somewhat similar Financial Transaction Tax or FTT) are already being considered globally to help create funds to prevent financial crises and pay for social/environmental programs. FTTs at a level of 0.1% are actually being instituted in France (Neate, 2012). FTTs are generally considered less viable than CTTs and it is believed would lead to investors moving to different jurisdictions to avoid the tax. What appears to a disadvantage could be turned to advantage by rewarding countries that perform well environmentally.

The general proposal

Institute a currency transaction tax that is universal as has been suggested to the UN in 2000 (United Nations, 2000). A full model for its implementation has been outlined in 2001 (Round, 2001). Further Schmidt and Bhushan (2011) have demonstrated that such a tax has become quite practical in today’s marketplace. An extremely small tax (0.005%, or half of one hundredth of one percent! or about one half a basis point) on every currency transaction that takes place around the world would be introduced. Would this be sufficient fund poverty reduction and sustainable development? Global foreign exchange transactions were about 4000 billion USD per day by April 2010 (Schmidt and Bhushan, 2011). The sums involved are so enormous that extracting a tiny proportion from it would contribute revenues of $40 billion per year towards solving sustainability funding issues. Indeed political leaders have suggested using the tax as a solution to funding the UN Millennium Development Goals. Others using a 0.25 % tax come up with figures of $300 billion dollars per year compared with a UN annual budget for peace and sustainable development of about $10 billion (Canadian Social Research, 2012). Schmidt and Bhushan(2011) have convincingly countered arguments against the tax showing that it is now practical to implement and that under the correct implementation, the impact on the market would be minimal.
Coupled to this tax, institute a reward system based on carbon reduction compliance of the country where the transaction originates from. The tax is compulsory, and so every investor is taxed equally unless the nation they are associated with performs some environmental service to the global community. The tax would then be reduced based on the level of compliance by a nation. Investors in that nation would thereby benefit from the state being an environmental steward. Environmental stewardship would have the effect of reducing the CT taxes and inducing investors to move to the environmentally friendly state thereby further encouraging states (and companies within the state) to perform environmentally. Rather than punish environmental abusers, this system would reward environmentally friendly organizations. Nations who were environmental stewards would have the tax reduced commensurate with their degree of compliance with UN based targets. Once a tax is imposed and a reward program in place, there would be significant impetus to develop green initiatives on a national level in order to reduce the tax burden on their banking system. Corporate interests would also support environmental green activity since the reduced tax directly benefits them. As already suggested elsewhere, the tax itself helps fund issues such as sustainability and poverty reduction but the reward for governments that comply with treaties allows a mechanism that actually encourages investors to move their transactions into that state. Also, with the tax already in place, countries cannot withdraw from the process. They can only reduce their payment of the tax by instituting green policies.
One advantage to the Currency Transaction Tax is that it does not have to be exclusively an environmental tax. There is growing support for this tax being implemented to create a fund to provide economic stability in case of an economic crisis. The environmentalists would then only have to tap into a portion of an already existing tax and/or introduce a reward system into the pre-existing tax. Environmentalists should thus be working towards getting such a global tax implemented not just for themselves but for the benefit of the economic community.

The methods by which currency transactions take place imply that a global implementation of such a tax would not be technically difficult. Currency Transaction Tax

The Continuous Linked Settlement (CLS) Bank now deals with the majority of currency transactions. As well the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Communication (SWIFT) provides an overall communication system clearing payments etc (Schmidt and Bhushan, 2011). Currently there are three ways to settle trades and you are correct that that trade data must be available under all three in order to avoid shifts to systems that would avoid the tax. By 2009, 75% of all transaction went through the CLS bank (2500 billion dollars!) and this proportion is expanding. SWIFT records these settlements and those from other settlement institutions and so there would be no incentive to shift to different settlement institutions.

To make a global implementation happen would require a new oversight organization that could manage and hold funds as well as coordinate with SWIFT to implement the tax. Any local or region based implementation would be limited in scope and the environmental reward system would probably need to be quite complex.

The reward system would presumably have to be on a national level since that is the scale on which the transactions would be recorded (national currency exchanges). If there was a global oversight institution, then international treaties would govern who was eligible for a reward and compliance with the treaties themselves would determine the amounts. Implementing a CTT on a global scale is the first step and this would have to be done to support the world economy rather than directly as an environmental tax.


Cassandra Elphinstone
Cassandra Elphinstone 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Cassandra currently resides in Nanaimo, BC. Her greatest passion is nature and the outdoors. As founder of GAIAactivism, an international youth network spanning four continents, she has organized groups to take environmental action and strived to help youth become engaged in their community. As coauthor of an Arctic Youth Statement that was presented to the Senior Arctic Council, she has become part of a team working to create an Arctic Youth Advisory Council. With this new council, youth may get the opportunity to influence policies dealing with the Arctic region. As a wildlife-fish technician-in-training, she has worked to rehabilitate salmon-bearing streams and parks in Nanaimo. For her community she has helped fundraise for turtles in Cambodia, organized environmental rallies, engages youth in outdoor activities, and has given numerous talks on the environment. Cassandra helped establish the local flower, Lotus Pinnatus, as the new Nanaimo floral emblem. In her spare time she enjoys climbing, backpacking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, running, and hiking. Her love of the outdoors strongly motivates her to protect her beautiful natural surroundings.
For Cassandra, the Rio+20 summit is an opportunity to contribute ideas to a conference that could make a difference in the world. She believes that it is time for nations to implement policies that have been talked about for years and that youth can present a unique perspective about decisions that will determine the future.

Bibliography

Canadian Social Research, The Tobin Tax, Jan., 2012, http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/tobin.htm, Accessed Apr 2012.

Golmohammadi, Bonian,Why We Need A Global Environmental Organization (2012),Huffington Post, Jan. 4, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bonian-golmohammadi/climate-change-rio-20_b_1184260.html

Neate, Rupert, France plans Tobin tax on financial transactions,The Gaurdian, UK, Jan 30, 2012,  http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jan/30/france-tobin-tax-nicolas-sarkozy

Round, Robin, Currency Transactions Tax Implementation – A Proposed Model The Halifax Initiative, Vancouver, Canada.  http://www.halifaxinitiative.org/fr/node/380 , September, 2001, accessed Apr., 2012.

Schmidt, Rodney and Bhushan, Aniket The Currency Transactions Tax:

Feasibility, revenue estimates, and potential use of revenues, Human Development, Research Paper, 09/2011. http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2011/papers/HDRP_2011_09.pdf, accessed Apr 2012.

United Nations,  STATEMENT BY CITIZENS’ COALITION FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE (CCEJ) AND NGO CAUCUS ON CURRENCY TRANSACTION TAX , Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the General Assembly  entitled “World Summit for Social Development and beyond: achieving social development for all in a globalizing world”, New York, April 12, 2000, http://www.earthsummit2002.org/wssd/wssd5/wssd5r8m.html, accessed Apr 2012.

The Future of the Arctic Council

By John Crump
May 17, 2012

 

In the next few weeks the world will be looking south to Rio+20. Carl Bildt, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, reminds us that it needs to look north as well.

Bildt spoke on “Arctic Challenges and the Future Perspectives of the Arctic Council” Thursday night at Carleton University in Ottawa. Sweden currently chairs the eight-nation political forum.[1] Founded in 1996 the Arctic Council also includes six Indigenous Peoples’ organizations[2] and has traditionally focused on scientific assessments of pollution, climate change and other environmental challenges. Over the years it has brought a “human dimension” into its work as it has tried to grapple with the geopolitical implications of the rapid change taking place in the Arctic. http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/

The Council has been criticized for being too rigid, too exclusive and incapable of adapting to the new reality of a rapidly melting Arctic. It’s irrelevant, say its harshest critics.

The fact that the council is a political creation with no independent budget and has no legal identity has not helped. Neither has the fact that much of the Arctic falls within the jurisdiction of the countries that surround the Arctic Ocean. There has been fierce resistance within the council to admitting new observers (there are currently 26 states, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs that have positions) including the European Union and, especially, China.

Bildt offered a view from the top, so to speak. Sweden has one year left in its mandate before the rotating chairmanship moves back to Canada a year from now. It’s a good time to extend a diplomatic hand to Canada, which has not said what it plans to do during its mandate. The Foreign Minister had four main points he said are necessary for the future growth and stability of the council.

 

  1. Aim to make Arctic Council decisions concrete. “We have been very good at analyzing challenges, but we must do something about them.” He pointed to last year’s agreement on search and rescue, the first “legally binding” agreement developed through the council, and current moves towards dealing with oil spills as examples of the kind of evolution needed.

 

  1. Improve communications. Most people don’t know that the council exists, or if they do, what it does. The only way for the council to be seen as relevant is to talk about what it does. A new communications strategy has just been approved, he said.

 

  1. Focus on the human dimension. Four million people live in the Arctic, and many of these belong to indigenous cultures. “We must bring positive change in order to be legitimate.” Economic development opportunities must be improved but at the same time the environment and people’s particular social situations have to be respected.

 

  1. The “Arctic voice” needs to be heard on the international stage. Bildt said this means the council must “state a more common policy” on key issues. At a recent meeting of Deputy Ministers, the member states decided to negotiate such a statement.

“As we hand over to Canada we hope to be able to make a statement of a common mission in the Arctic region,” he said.

The idea of speaking with one voice has been discussed before but hasn’t gone very far. Despite the similarities that Bildt pointed to – the focus on sustainable development as key to the Arctic’s future, the need for a scientific understanding of change in the region, the right to a secure future of the people who call the Arctic home – there are many national priorities and state interests that could stand in the way of anything other than a weak position statement.

Time will tell. In 2002, the Arctic Council looked to Indigenous Peoples to carry its message to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. They did but none of the Arctic states would agree to mention the Arctic in the final political accord.

Ten years latter, we come to Rio+20. Given all the rapid and irreversible changes we are witnessing in the Arctic, will any Arctic state champion the links between sustainable development in the polar regions and the rest of the world?



[1] Canada, Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, United States, Russia

[2] Aleut International Association, Arctic Athabaskan Council, Gwitch’in Council International, Inuit Circumpolar Congress, Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), Saami Council

 


John Crump 
Expeditions: Antarctica 2011, Arctic 2009, 2010, 2011
John’s work looks at the rapid changes taking place at the poles and the implications for the rest of the planet. Currently living in Ottawa, Canada, he is Senior Climate Change Advisor for the Norway-based UNEP/GRID-Arendal Polar Centre. He focuses on climate change in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States and is co-director of the Many Strong Voices programme, among other things.
John’s academic background is in journalism, communications, history and political economy. He has a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Canadian Studies from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
He has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, been Cabinet Communications Advisor in the Yukon Premier’s office, done policy and research for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and was Government Relations Manager for the Nunavut Planning Commission. He was also Executive Director of the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee (CARC) and Executive Secretary of the Arctic Council Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat in Copenhagen, Denmark.
John has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in journalism, public administration and geography at Yukon College in Whitehorse, Carleton University and the University of Trier in Germany.

 

We Are Not Alone!

Working Together - http://www.actionhrm.com/blog/2011/08/16/entitlement-is-multi-generational-but-so-is-working-together/

By Jessica Magonet

In the months leading up to the Earth Summit, I’ve felt lonely sometimes.

As the delegation’s Policy Director, I read a lot about the Earth Summit. I’m subscribed to several Rio-related listservs and, every morning over breakfast, I read about global preparations for Rio+20. I learn about students advocating for the rights of future generations, scientists conducting new studies on ocean health, NGOs fighting to protect communities living in mountains, businesses implementing new corporate social responsibility standards…These listserv updates fill me with excitement for my trip to Rio, where I will get to see the global community converge in an attempt to understand and plan for sustainable development. But these updates also make me a bit sad. Why? Because I have never read about the Polar Regions in a Rio+20 update. And when I Google Rio+20 and the Polar Regions, our delegation’s webpage is the only hit.

We are the only organization raising awareness about sustainable development of the Polar Regions at the world’s largest conference on sustainable development.

It’s very hard for me to understand why no one else heading to Rio+20 is talking about the Polar Regions. How can the Earth Summit fail to address one of the biggest sustainable development challenges of our century? As the poles melt, massive reserves of unexploited resources will become accessible. Ì think the global community needs to discuss and reflect on about how we want to develop these resources. We are failing to plan for sustainable development of the Polar Regions. Our refusal to plan for the sustainable development of the poles will impact not only the people and animals who make their homes in the Poles, but also the world at large. Saying no to sustainable development in the Polar Regions is to delay a global transition to the green economy.

Sometimes, I feel like our delegation is a lone crusader, a sole advocate for a discussion of the Polar Regions at Rio+20. But recently, I discovered another voice making the Polar Regions-Rio+20 link. One other voice may not seem like a lot. But this voice happened to belong to Gro Brundtland, the woman who established and chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development.

At the keynote speech of April’s International Polar Year (IPY) conference, Ms Brundtland said: “The IPY should be seen as one of many stops on the road to Rio.”

She went on discuss sustainable development challenges in the Polar Regions: “Even if we manage to slow down or turn around the rising global greenhouse gas emissions in the coming two decades, reductions will not occur quickly enough to conserve the polar and alpine environments, as we know them today.”

Dr. Brundtland, like us, saw the importance of sustainable development of the Polar Regions. I hope other decision-makers at Rio+20 will share her vision.

 


Jessica Magonet 
Policy Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition
jessica@soidelegation.com
Hailing from Boston, Jessica currently lives in Montreal where she studies law at McGill University. She dreams of drafting mad environmental policy and writing dystopian novels. When she isn’t working at her local library or knitting snowflake slippers, Jessica keeps herself busy advocating for sustainable development and educating her community about pressing environmental issues. She is currently an associate editor for the McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy and a member of Environmental Law McGill. During CEGEP, she chaired the Executive Committee of the Sierra Youth Coalition, Canada’s largest environmental organization. She was also a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation to Copenhagen and a volunteer for the Climate Project. In high school, Jessica co-chaired a youth conference that examined the link between climate change and poverty, featuring Elizabeth May and Ray Zahab. The conference was organized by the environmental club she founded. Jessica participated on the Students on Ice 2010 Arctic Youth Expedition and it was the best experience of her entire life.

Need a Reminder?

Antarctica 2009 - tabular ice bergs in the Southern Ocean - By Alex Gustafson

By: Alex Gustafson
May 20, 2012 

I have been thinking a lot about what topics I wanted to write this blog on. As cliché as that may sound, I really have. I was trying to think of topics that relate to the poles. I searched my brain for any late breaking news on Polar Regions that I thought the polar community needed to know. I tried to come up with an interesting series I could maybe start now until Rio. None of these ideas were creating a strum on my internal brain guitar.

Like how many ideas happen, such as my potential tattoo and future bucket list ideas, it hit me like a ton of bricks. The members of this delegation are a committed, passionate, intelligent bunch. Not only that, but they are real students; real young adults making a huge change in a very big world.

It is at this thought that I realized what I really wanted to express in my blog. This delegation, and this huge dream was born just a year ago at the Students on Ice Alumni Conference. Since then, one person’s large (by large I mean LARGE and VERY ambitious) dream reached out to an audience that would be willing to commit their time to such an idea. That idea is now touching people across the world! Ladies and Gentlemen this is how change happens. Whether it is a policy change or a personal change, it all just begins with an idea.

There are a lot of people in this world working to make their dreams come true, and the reality is we sometimes let theirs overshadow ours. What I want to remind you of is that everything has to start with an idea. This delegation began as a large idea, but an idea non-the less. Now, it’s a reality. People lose sight of what they really want because they think it can’t be done. Right here is your little reminder.

I began this blog with a cliché and I’m going to finish with a cliché. Real environmental change comes from real peoples’ real ideas. I believe in what we are doing at the Rio Conference and I believe we can make an impact, because we already have. Now, just think what would happen in this world if everyone committed to his or her ideas. It’s your life, take charge of it, and take yours ideas and do something with them. We did. What can you do?


Alex Gustafson 
Alum, Students on Ice 2009 Antarctic Youth Expedition
My name is Alex Gustafson, my home is in Waukee Iowa, and I participated in the 2009 Expedition to Antarctica. Currently, I am a Division One athlete swimming for Iowa State University. Education wise, I am perusing a degree in Environmental Science and Political Science. My passion is the water, I love being in it, I think it is one of the most beautiful features on this planet, and with my college career I hope to protect it. I want to specifically protect the ocean; it provides so much for us. Without the ocean and its reefs life on Earth would not be possible; every second breathe we take comes from ocean corals. I would be perfectly content devoting my life to its preservation and its beauty. Aside from that, I love meeting new people and learning about other cultures. Traveling enriches the mind and the people we meet teach us so much. When I am not swimming and talking, I can be found enjoying many different genres of music. I have some form of music playing continuously throughout my day and my life. I love how music can bring out emotions and help you relive memories.

 

20 Years of Change!

By Bridget Graham

By: Bridget Graham

It seems crazy to think that in a month from today I will be making my way to Brazil. It is almost unbelievable, but there is still so much to do before we depart. The WWF, also know as the World Wildlife Fund released their 2012 Living Planet Report this week. In a special report released in conjunction with the upcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit, it is truly an inspiring piece and it outlines what has been done since the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992. In the past twenty years lots has been done in the field of sustainable development and it is almost incredible to think that at the time of the last conference in Rio I was not even born. Next week I will be celebrating my 19th birthday, and every year I cannot imagine how one year will  out do the last, but they always seem to. I am incredibly blessed, and I only wish these types of opportunities onto others. There is still an immense amount of work that needs to be done, but by working together we truly can make a difference. The world is not the same place as it was twenty years ago, and I am truly inspired when I think about the future, as I think of all the great things that are to come. I urge everyone to take a look at the WWF 2012 Living Planet Report, to brush up on your knowledge or to learn something new.

 

Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

Connecting the Poles and Costa Rica – a unique perspective!

The New York Times - Kate Stafford
May 16, 2012
By: Paige Olmsted
I write from La Selva Biological Research station in Costa Rica, where there are more bird species (like this one — check out 2:30-3:10 for the dance!) than there are in all of Canada!  Climatic and geological factors contribute to the incredible biodiversity here — Costa Rica has 0.03% of the world’s land mass and 4% of it’s biodiversity — as does its strategic location as a land bridge between North and South America.  It’s a highway for migrating animals, the conservation of which is especially critical as climate change will influence their habitat locations, the location of their food, and their ability to thrive in the future.
What does this have to do with the Arctic or Antarctic?  Changes in the poles will not only influence other parts of the world through sea level rise, resource exploitation and development decisions, how we manage and respond to accelerated changes in the poles will help inform other communities in their climate adaptation strategies.  Costa Rica is a country that has had many forward thinking environmental policies, and is a global success story with respect to conservation, and yet with an economy largely based in ecotourism and natural resource production, farmers, conservationists, and politicians are all are gravely concerned about how even small environmental changes will influence their way of life.  Of course, our world is not just connected ecologically, but politically and economically. Decisions today in Beijing  and New York will effect prices tomorrow in San Jose and Kampala.  The SOI delegation will be working to support decisions in Rio in June that will have environmental, economic, and social outcomes, decisions we hope will help put us all on track for a more sustainable future.


Paige Olmsted 
Expeditions: Antarctic 2004, Arctic 2009, 2010
Paige’s interest in the intersection between conservation and development issues have taken her to both polar regions and around the world.  Since attending the 2005 UNFCCC Kyoto protocol meetings in Montreal she has been particularly interested in how science and scientists influence policy, particularly at the international scale.  Her work with the United Nations Environment Program in Geneva, and most recently at the Earth Institute in New York City led to being a delegate at a variety of international meetings with teams ranging from the American Museum of Natural History, UNEP, the Earth Institute, and the Wildlife Conservation Society. She holds bachelors degrees from Queen’s University, a master’s in environmental science and policy from Columbia University, and is currently working on a PhD related to the science and economics behind ecological incentive programs at the Institute of Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia.

Spotlight: Growing the Green Economy

We are capable of growing the green economy that we need. (photo: Shirley Wong)

May 15, 2012
By Jenna Gall

The concept of a green economy is one that is going to be high on the list of topics being debated, negotiated and discussed in Rio at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. After reading an article today, called ‘Political shift will make or break Rio+20’ summit by Valerie Volcovici and Nina Chestney, Reuters, I am feeling as though the talks in Rio are going to need to first discuss what is meant by a ‘green economy’ before any solid decisions can be made. Currently, there is strong disagreement between developing nations and developed nations on the concept of a green economy and how it can be achieved. The United Nations Environment Programme defines a “green economy” as one that improves human well-being and social equity while reducing environmental risks and scarcities. The article shared that some developed countries are embracing the green economy in their future sustainable development goals while others are far from embracing and may even be repelling the idea. As for developing nations, there is fear that the green economy concept does not incorporate social justice and may result in trade disputes and unfair treatment towards countries that are trying to raise their standard of living. For any of you out there who read on this topic frequently, these subjects are not new. My ideas on these issues could be a book and I have yet to fully comprehend the arguments being debated, but I thought I would share my current interpretation of the issues and try to bring a youth perspective in the context of the polar regions and sustainable development.

The Polar Regions are of vital importance to the planet. The changes that happen in these regions affect the entire planet. From a sustainable development angle, the Arctic is going to continue to be developed. We see this from every Arctic country; Canada, Norway, Russia, and the list goes on. Oil and gas extractions, off shore drilling and land-based mining are all things that are currently being slated for the Arctic and are already occurring. If changes in these regions affect everyone on the planet, then it is time that everyone on the planet have an interest in protecting these areas. Stopping development is impossible, but developing sustainably and focusing on switching from our dependence on fossil fuels to renewables, is possible! So next time our governments are looking to invest in offshore oil, it’s important that we are there, encouraging them to invest in offshore wind. You cannot argue against development. Development increases the well-being of people, their standard of living, their education and their livelihood. One could argue that this is true all over the world, including the Arctic and so stopping development is not necessary and could be argued as counterproductive. But if development is to continue, it must be done sustainably and with future generations in mind.

To me, ‘green economy’ means creating a means of making a living where humans are a part of nature, rather than conquering it and where people live sustainably, play sustainably and work sustainably. This requires providing local food, green jobs and green living spaces. This is what sustainable development is all about! A green economy means a standard of living that satisfies the current generation without jeopardizing the standard of living of future generations. It means a world where the bottom line isn’t just money! Rather than a single bottom line, a triple bottom line is dominant, where environment, economy and social justice come into play. This is the future I see, I want and I will strive for at Rio+20 and beyond!

 


Jenna Gall 
Communications Co-Director/Polar Research Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2009 Arctic and 2009 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
jenna@soidelegation.com
Jenna Gall is originally from Montmartre, Saskatchewan. She currently resides in Kelowna, BC where she studies Earth and Environmental Science at the University of British Columbia. Jenna is also honored to be a 2010 Weston Loran Scholar. She has been heavily involved in environmental policy work through volunteering with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and being a part of the Canadian Youth Delegation as well as the goBeyond Campus Climate Network and UBC Sustainability Club. She has experience working as a Research and Policy Analyst with the Yukon Climate Change Secretariat where she worked on projects relating to carbon neutrality, carbon reporting, sustainable development in the Arctic, ecosystem conservation and energy issues. Her passion for the environment started at a very young age as Jenna grew up farming and was raised with a strong connection to the land and respect for nature. In her spare time, Jenna enjoys climbing mountains, snowshoeing, mountain biking, kayaking, educating youth on environmental issues and inspiring others to make a difference in their communities. Jenna is excited to be a part of the SOI Delegation because she believes a passionate group of youth can make a huge difference and she is excited to see the impact that the SOI program and SOI Alumni can have!
Spotlight: Growing the Green Economy by Jenna Gall

Close to My Heart

May 15, 2012

By: Bridget Graham

What do the poles and the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove have in common? In theory they do not have much in common but they are both places that I wish to protect. Lately there has been news that over 70 lighthouses in Nova Scotia might be destroyed, as the government does not wish to invest the money to keep them intact. This is devastating to me, as I have recently moved to the Maritimes. Just over a month ago I finished my first year of University at Dalhousie in Halifax, and over the past nine months I visited Peggy’s Cove three times. It is a beautiful place and just like the poles I believe that it must be protected. The lighthouses are Canadian icons and it would be devastating if they were to disappear. There are people rallying together to protect the lighthouses the same way that our delegation is working towards a more sustainable future for the Polar Regions. We all have passions and we all have things that we wish to protect. Take a second and reflect on what you want to protect and think of the limits that you will go to, to make that happen!

Photo taken by Ernie Chan

 

Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

Our common passion…youth energy for Rio!

By: Bridget Graham
May 11, 2012

Jenna Gall and Bridget Graham at the IPY Conference in Montreal (c) Olivia Rempel

How many times a day am I asked to explain our youth delegation? To family, to friends, coworkers and people I meet on the street. It brings me great joy, and each day I find myself getting more involved with the delegation, and closer to the people I am working with. In just over 40 days I will be blogging from Rio, it seems unreal. For nine days, all fourteen youth in our delegation will be working as hard as we possibly can to make our experience a success.

As Delegation Leader Andrew Wong told us recently, on June 23rd after the end of the Earth Summit we will all yell out that “We did it!” We will have achieved our goal and right now I believe that is what is fuelling all of us to continue. We are all being inspired by each other and by the youth around us. We are all passionate by the Polar Regions, but we are not the only ones. To be truly successful we must reach out to other and encourage them to get involved. So if you are interested please contact a member of our delegation, and help us on our road to Rio!

(c) Photo by Olivia Rempel

Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

 

Day #4 IPY Conference – Renewable Energy is the Future for the Arctic, for the Planet

By: Jenna Gall
April 26, 2012


This is not the path we should take: offshore oil platform flaring gas in the Arctic Ocean
© Stockbyte/Getty Images

Today was a day filled with fantastic conversations. I have met some amazing researchers and fellow early career scientists, with whom I have been able to chat about various issues related to the sustainable development in the Arctic and Antarctica. We spoke a lot about renewable energy and its challenges in the Polar Regions. This subject could be talked about for hours. There is lots of hope and excitement and it seems to be something feasible economically and socially, it’s just to get government and taxpayers to agree that it is worth the added initial investment. Credible sources such as the Pembina Institute have stated that “the potential for renewable energy in the North is vast (http://www.pembina.org/arctic/renewable-energy).”

On a more negative note, it was brought up that many of the existing renewable technologies are currently much less effective in cold climate regions simply due to lacking in technological development. Remembering that these are just my own interpretations of conversations being had, this was not a guided IPY session, but what fascinating conversations I was able to have! We need to prioritize the research and development of renewable energy solutions in the Polar Regions. In fact, we need to prioritize the R+D of renewable energy solutions for the entire world.

I would say it is more or less unanimous amongst scientists, researchers and educators that the Arctic and Antarctica need to be places of sustainable development and in fact they should be stewards in sustainable development! There are two incredible SOI Alumni who are working on a project called Carbon Neutral Antarctica (CNA) (http://www.carbonneutralantarctica.com/), which will hopefully work to create more awareness about making Antarctica carbon neutral and how it is possible (check them out on Facebook and their website)!

So, what we really need is for government and individuals to feel that investing in renewable energy is worthwhile; how do we do that? This is something I have been pondering for quite some time now and I think at UN Conference on Sustainable Development (http://www.uncsd2012.org) our delegation needs to be fully educated on the pros and cons of renewable energy in the Polar Regions, but most importantly, have an argument for why the pros outweigh the cons!

Well, we have a lot of work to do before Rio! But with a delegation of energetic, passionate, educated and engaged youth, I believe we can make meaningful change in Rio and have the opportunity to truly have an impact. We are a delegation representing countries around the world, with international delegates and we are the only delegation going to Rio that is solely focused on the Arctic and Antarctic regions! Thanks to the IPY Conference, I have been able to make connections, educate myself and gain support, now it is up to us to be sure the Polar Regions are a vital part of the talks at Rio in June! The countdown is on!

Jenna Gall 
Communications Co-Director/Polar Research Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2009 Arctic and 2009 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
jenna@soidelegation.com
Jenna Gall is originally from Montmartre, Saskatchewan. She currently resides in Kelowna, BC where she studies Earth and Environmental Science at the University of British Columbia. Jenna is also honored to be a 2010 Weston Loran Scholar. She has been heavily involved in environmental policy work through volunteering with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and being a part of the Canadian Youth Delegation as well as the goBeyond Campus Climate Network and UBC Sustainability Club. She has experience working as a Research and Policy Analyst with the Yukon Climate Change Secretariat where she worked on projects relating to carbon neutrality, carbon reporting, sustainable development in the Arctic, ecosystem conservation and energy issues. Her passion for the environment started at a very young age as Jenna grew up farming and was raised with a strong connection to the land and respect for nature. In her spare time, Jenna enjoys climbing mountains, snowshoeing, mountain biking, kayaking, educating youth on environmental issues and inspiring others to make a difference in their communities. Jenna is excited to be a part of the SOI Delegation because she believes a passionate group of youth can make a huge difference and she is excited to see the impact that the SOI program and SOI Alumni can have!

Day #3 IPY Conference – Successful Approaches to Management in the Arctic

By: Jenna Gall
April 25, 2012 

Dr. Louis Fortier speaking at the IPY 2012 Conference (source: IPY2012)

Never a dull moment here at the IPY Conference! Just when I think my brain can no longer hold any more information, a coffee and a good SOI conversation gets me right back in those sessions learning! This week has been an information overload; in a good way! This conference has allowed me to learn about policy and environmental planning, the science that suggests the issues and the education that is required to truly make people change and care!

There is nothing like listening to the incredibly intellectual thoughts and ideas of someone like Dr. Louis Fortier, Scientific Director at ArcticNet and winner of the W. Garfield Weston Family Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Northern Research. I have learned so much about the importance of taking an integrated approach to policy making. I think it is very interesting being in a room of over 2000 scientists, educators, Inuit and First Nations people who all feel that an integrated approach needs to be taken in order to make change most effectively. Where are our policy people on this one? There needs to be an agreement that an integrated approach is best, and that agreement must include those in policy development. The theme of this conference; From Knowledge to Action is apparent in each session I attend and each researcher I meet. It is clear and evident that all of this knowledge is meaningless if not used to make positive change. We as the SOI Alumni Delegation must make this evident at Rio! It is up to us (and you) to truly get this message across to those in government and it is something that needs to happen NOW!

Being the planning, policy and ecology geek that I am, I was very interested to learn of the IRIS (Integrated Regional Impact Studies) framework for planning. The IRIS, which was talked about in Dr. Fortier’s speech, is something that they are planning to use more widespread in Arctic politics. Here is a brief outline and the steps of the IRIS Framework:

  1. Engage stakeholders
  2. Identify knowledge gaps
  3. Obtain regional scenarios of climate change
  4. Plan and conduct research
  5. Write and produce the IRIS
  6. Review the assessment with partners and adapt/change

I am looking forward to researching more on this framework and being educated on it, so that it is something we can use to lobby government while at the Earth Summit in Rio!

It is hard to believe that this incredible conference is half way through! I am looking forward to taking what I have learned and making it reality in the coming months, at Rio and beyond! I have been inspired more than ever that action needs to happen and it must happen now!

Jenna Gall 
Communications Co-Director/Polar Research Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2009 Arctic and 2009 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
jenna@soidelegation.com
Jenna Gall is originally from Montmartre, Saskatchewan. She currently resides in Kelowna, BC where she studies Earth and Environmental Science at the University of British Columbia. Jenna is also honored to be a 2010 Weston Loran Scholar. She has been heavily involved in environmental policy work through volunteering with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and being a part of the Canadian Youth Delegation as well as the goBeyond Campus Climate Network and UBC Sustainability Club. She has experience working as a Research and Policy Analyst with the Yukon Climate Change Secretariat where she worked on projects relating to carbon neutrality, carbon reporting, sustainable development in the Arctic, ecosystem conservation and energy issues. Her passion for the environment started at a very young age as Jenna grew up farming and was raised with a strong connection to the land and respect for nature. In her spare time, Jenna enjoys climbing mountains, snowshoeing, mountain biking, kayaking, educating youth on environmental issues and inspiring others to make a difference in their communities. Jenna is excited to be a part of the SOI Delegation because she believes a passionate group of youth can make a huge difference and she is excited to see the impact that the SOI program and SOI Alumni can have!

 

DAY #4 IPY Conference – Making an Impact

By: Bridget Graham
April 26th 2012


Bridget on the land during the Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition.

On my second last day of the conference I spent most of my time at the Students on Ice (http://studentsonice.com/) booth in the exhibition hall of the International Polar Year conference. I spent hours speaking to new and very interested individuals who were in some cases familiar with Students on Ice and to some the organization was completely new.

After running through my elevator pitch, the same speech I’ve recited close to a thousand times this week I began to realize just how big of an impact Students on Ice has had on my life. It sparked my interest for all things northern, which previously was centered on polar bears, or sea bears as I used to call them as a child. I traveled with a group of people, who I now consider to be like family to me, and I continue to meet alumni and partners of the program everywhere I go. I gained so much confidence in myself and in youth as a whole and I truly believe that we will make positive change throughout the whole world and especially in the Polar Regions.

Through Students on Ice, I have become involved with the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation headed to Rio, as well as Carbon Neutral Antarctica and a youth forum initiative for the Arctic Council. Students on Ice changed my life and I will always be extremely grateful to Geoff Green (http://geoffgreen.ca/) and the whole team (http://www.studentsonice.com/index.php?content=team). I will continue to tell my story and hopefully the lives of many will be affected as a result.


Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

 

Day #3 IPY Conference – One Word, “Inspirational”

By: Bridget Graham
Wednesday, April 25th

Dr. Louis Fortier discusses how ecosystems are affected by human action (source: IPY2012)

Inspirational is the word I would use to describe my third day spent at the International Polar Year conference. My morning began with an honest and amusing talk by Dr. Louis Fortier, this year’s Garfield Weston award winner for Northern Research. Fortier told us that scientists tend to live in their ivory towers and overlook those who are perhaps not scientifically inclined as themselves. I am not a scientific person and although I do enjoy learning about it sometimes I do find myself getting lost. This is why I am a very strong supporter of cooperation and having experts and enthusiasts from varying fields working together for a common goal, just like Fortier. He strongly encouraged a multidisciplinary approach to dealing with climate change issues particularly those concerning the North.

I also believe that we should to looking towards our youth to gain inspiration. I was fortunate enough to meet two young activists who were a part of the poster project at the young ages of ten and twelve. They were dressed to the nines and incredibly excited to be a part of this experience.

We all have a lot to learn, and wouldn’t it be nice if we all radiated passion the same way that they did. There is something to be said for discovering one’s passion, but I must say that those boys made me appreciate my youth and made me want to continue to pursue environmentalism well beyond my time as part of the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation.


Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

Day #2 IPY Conference – The meetings we never expect

By: Bridget Graham
April 24, 2012

SOI Alumni Delegation delegate Bridget Graham with Gustaf Lind, Arctic Council Chair (Sweden) and Kim A.D., SOI Alumnus (photo credit: Kim A.D., Olivia Rempel).

To the meetings we never expect.

Yesterday was just as hectic as Monday, but after taking some time to explore the International Polar Year 2012 Conference (http://www.ipy2012montreal.ca/) on my own I met two wonderful ladies who both had passion that just radiated. Their names were Wendy Trusler and Carol Devine. Both women had a truly deep love for the Antarctic and were trying to rally people together using food. They are currently publishing a cookbook named The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning, which is set to be released in the fall.  I had seen them earlier in the day on stage trying to entice people which their cinnamon buns, and it was clearly working because I heard many times that they were wonderful. Later on in the afternoon they came by our booth and after agreeing to share their blog if they checked out our delegation page they moved on quickly trying to take everything in. I felt like there was more to say and so I asked them if they had a minute to talk.

We ended up chatting for a while and we realized that we actually had a common link. Geoff Green, of course they knew Geoff. It turns out that he had been on a ship that they had traveled on over 15 years ago.  It was a truly great feeling to know that these two women had been following their dreams and truly living wonderful lives. They urged me to jump before I was ready, and to never give up on myself. I hope to stay in contact with them and it just goes to show that if you do take a leap of faith you will meet truly incredible people.

Please go and visit Wendy and Carol’s website at http://www.theantarcticbookofcookingandcleaning.com/

 


Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

 

Day #2 IPY Conference – Going from Knowledge to Action for Meaningful Change

By: Jenna Gall
April 24, 2012

SOI Alumni Delegation delegate Bridget Graham with Gustaf Lind, Arctic Council Chair (Sweden) and Kim A.D., SOI Alumnus (photo credit: Kim A.D., Olivia Rempel).

Another great day here at the IPY Conference; From Knowledge to Action! Our delegation and the entire Students on Ice Alumni and Staff are having an amazing time reconnecting with old friends and making new ones! There is no better way to learn about the emerging issues in the Polar Regions than to be at an international research conference such as this, that is facilitating the exchange of knowledge between researchers, policy makers, students, educators and people in Arctic communities!

The day began with an opening address and keynote address, which began with Dr. David J Hayes, Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior (USA). Dr. Hayes was an incredible speaker and someone who spoke of the challenges and triumphs of polar research and the exchange of polar knowledge in a way that we very realistic and rang true to me. He talked a lot about issues of failure in governance to listen to scientists and researchers and the need for more exchange of knowledge. He also spoke of the necessity of the conference theme; From Knowledge to Action, as this is something that is crucial in our time! He outlined four important steps in making this a reality:

I.   Improving scientific knowledge of the Polar Regions – this he says, is where it all begins. If it wasn’t for science, little could be done to inform and change policies and the only way to make change is to have sound research to back it.

II.   All science research must be available to policy makers – the free exchange of research and scientific discoveries is crucial to allowing for the creation of sound, informed policy and international decisions.

III.   Integrated approach to management of these areas – taking an integrated approach means involving academics, the public, local communities, stakeholders and industry in the understanding and creation of policy and governance.

IV.    The use of Indigenous Traditional Knowledge – using ITK in all research and including ITK in policy and decision-making is crucial for successful and meaningful change.

His words above truly outline what we as the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation believe. We want to see all of these steps move forward and allow for meaningful change in the Polar Regions. We hope to facilitate this realization at Rio and making significant effort to change the way international governments view the importance of the Polar Regions!

We have the incredible pleasure of having the SOI Expeditions booth right across from that of the Arctic Council in the Exhibitor Hall here at IPY and today a few of us SOI Alumni had the pleasure of meeting Gustaf Lind, Swedish chair of Arctic Council’s Senior Arctic Officials! It has been an incredible day to say the least! Looking forward to the rest of the week; learning, connecting and making an impact here at the IPY Conference!

 

Jenna Gall 
Communications Co-Director/Polar Research Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2009 Arctic and 2009 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
jenna@soidelegation.com
Jenna Gall is originally from Montmartre, Saskatchewan. She currently resides in Kelowna, BC where she studies Earth and Environmental Science at the University of British Columbia. Jenna is also honored to be a 2010 Weston Loran Scholar. She has been heavily involved in environmental policy work through volunteering with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and being a part of the Canadian Youth Delegation as well as the goBeyond Campus Climate Network and UBC Sustainability Club. She has experience working as a Research and Policy Analyst with the Yukon Climate Change Secretariat where she worked on projects relating to carbon neutrality, carbon reporting, sustainable development in the Arctic, ecosystem conservation and energy issues. Her passion for the environment started at a very young age as Jenna grew up farming and was raised with a strong connection to the land and respect for nature. In her spare time, Jenna enjoys climbing mountains, snowshoeing, mountain biking, kayaking, educating youth on environmental issues and inspiring others to make a difference in their communities. Jenna is excited to be a part of the SOI Delegation because she believes a passionate group of youth can make a huge difference and she is excited to see the impact that the SOI program and SOI Alumni can have!

DAY 1 IPY 2012 Conference – “International Polar Year is but a stop on the Road to Rio”


By: Bridget Graham

April 23, 2012

On my first full day at the conference I realized that there is no other place for me. The North is where I want to be. I met so many people these past couple days, and I’ve had interactions which I feel will change my life.

The opening ceremonies of the International Polar Year 2012 Conference (http://www.ipy2012montreal.ca/) started quite early Monday morning and we heard from a very wide array of speakers. I was quite excited for Gro Harlem Brundtland to speak after studying the Brundtland report religiously this past year in my sustainability class. She was a very small woman but she definetly captivated her audience. She spoke very eloquently and told us “IPY is but a stop on the road to Rio”. As she spoke she reminded us that the Earth Summit is but two short months away. She told us that we must put science at the center of sustainability and urged the market prices to vary depending on their ecological footprint.

As the day went on we heard throat singing and we saw traditional dance. I helped out at the Students on Ice booth and I was able to happily talk about my experiences and the program all afternoon. In the evening I helped fellow 2011 Arctic alum Yashvi Shah with her poster presentation. Yashvi and Joey Loi created a poster demonstrating the distance that there is between students and the natural world. Pictures of the Arctic are incredible but I would give anything to go back and to see those landscapes and sights again. They did a wonderful job on their poster and I think that it really spoke to people!

There are no words to express how truly blessed I am to be at the International Polar Year 2012 Conference here in Montreal. I get to see old friends, make some new friends and of course get to know other delegation members a little bit better!

 


Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

 

Day #1 IPY Conference 2012 – Action without enough knowledge is foolish, but knowledge without any action is a waste of potential

Jenna Gall
April 23, 2012

Wow, what an incredible day here in Montreal at the International Polar Year (IPY) Conference; From Knowledge to Action (http://www.ipy2012montreal.ca/)! Today was the official opening day of the IPY Conference and I was honored and excited to be representing the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation at this event!

If you don’t know what the IPY Conference is, here is a description from the website:

“Occurring at a pivotal time for the environment of our planet, the International Polar Year (IPY) 2012 Conference draws international attention to the Polar Regions, global change, and related environmental, social and economic issues. From Knowledge to Action will bring together over 2,000 Arctic and Antarctic researchers, policy- and decision-makers, and a broad range of interested parties from academia, industry, non-government, education and circumpolar communities including indigenous peoples. The IPY 2012 Conference will contribute to the translation of new polar scientific findings into an evidence-based agenda for action that will influence global decisions, policies and outcomes over the coming years.”

The conference kick off began with speeches from many incredible Polar Research dignitaries and distinguished leaders from the North and across the globe! The conference began with a wonderful talk by this year’s conference chair Dr. Peter Harrison, an incredible man in Polar Science and one who has participated in Students on Ice Expeditions in the past!

The next to take the stage was the Honorable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAND), Government of Canada. Hon. Duncan’s words were quite interesting to me; he spoke of the Government of Canada’s investment in Polar Science and their plans to make the Canadian High Arctic research base a reality in the coming years as well as the plan for development in the north with the interests of the northern aboriginal people coming first. I was very interested in his choice of words. Not once did Hon. Duncan use the term ‘sustainable development’ when speaking about development in Canada’s Arctic and he spent a lot of time talking about the economic impacts of developing the Arctic and less about how that development would cause environmental and social change that can be negative and irreversible. I found that he spoke very little of the importance of using hard science in actual policymaking and decisions. I was very excited to hear about the Canadian High Arctic Research base and I was also pleased to hear that AAND has a plan moving forward and has committed themselves to investments in polar science and research. I plan to keep a close tab on the work of AAND and their goals in the coming years!

After John Duncan’s speech, we proceeded to hear from many other amazing speakers from the polar scientific community and the world scientific community at large. Dr. Yuan-Tseh Lee, President of the International Council for Science spoke during the opening ceremonies and talked briefly about upcoming funding campaigns for Polar and cryosphere research! My favorite speaker by far was most definitely the spectacular speech from Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability! Her words really rang true for me and I believe they are something that our delegation really needs to focus on! She spoke of the importance of Polar Science in every aspect of policy and decision-making. She also noted, agreeing with our policy platform, “the high Arctic is a vulnerable region that requires sustainable management”. She also shared fantastic news of the Declaration of Nordic Countries committing these countries ‘to reducing short-lived climate forces, which will buy back time that we have already lost’. And in her own words, ‘the world needs to put science at the forefront of sustainability’. I am honored to have stood in the same room as Dr. Brundtland and I have learned so much from her words. I believe going into Rio, we need to keep in mind that science is something that needs to be integrated into the development of policies and that it isn’t important to make a decision or create a policy if it is uninformed.

I leave you all with something to think about from today, two things we must never forget, “Action without enough knowledge is foolish, but knowledge without any action is a waste of potential”.

 

Jenna Gall 
Communications Co-Director/Polar Research Co-Director
Alum, Students on Ice 2009 Arctic and 2009 Antarctic Youth Expeditions
jenna@soidelegation.com
Jenna Gall is originally from Montmartre, Saskatchewan. She currently resides in Kelowna, BC where she studies Earth and Environmental Science at the University of British Columbia. Jenna is also honored to be a 2010 Weston Loran Scholar. She has been heavily involved in environmental policy work through volunteering with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and being a part of the Canadian Youth Delegation as well as the goBeyond Campus Climate Network and UBC Sustainability Club. She has experience working as a Research and Policy Analyst with the Yukon Climate Change Secretariat where she worked on projects relating to carbon neutrality, carbon reporting, sustainable development in the Arctic, ecosystem conservation and energy issues. Her passion for the environment started at a very young age as Jenna grew up farming and was raised with a strong connection to the land and respect for nature. In her spare time, Jenna enjoys climbing mountains, snowshoeing, mountain biking, kayaking, educating youth on environmental issues and inspiring others to make a difference in their communities. Jenna is excited to be a part of the SOI Delegation because she believes a passionate group of youth can make a huge difference and she is excited to see the impact that the SOI program and SOI Alumni can have!

An Arctic Experience to Remember and a Rio+20 to Look Forward to

By: Bridget Graham
Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Bridget with other participants on the Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition.

When I think back to the Arctic, my heart melts. No pun intended. I am still very grateful for the amazing opportunity I was given, and the trip that changed my life.

In June 2011, I was awarded the Leacross R. Bern Foundation Scholarship, a grant which awarded me a fully paid trip to the Arctic. My adventure began in late June and I spent the next 18 days travelling across Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. I met an incredible group of people and I realized my childhood dream of finally seeing a polar bear. I met an incredible group of people, which are more like family than friends. I was able to take everything in, and I learned in a whole new way. Everyday I think back to my experience, and I am continuously reminded of how truly blessed I am.

My first year of university is coming to its end, and this summer I have a new experience to be excited about. I have also been chosen to be a part of the Students on Ice Alumni delegation. This means that I will be attending the Rio +20 Earth Summit this coming June. But the experience is much more than that. I have and will continue to meet and make new friends. I will travel to a new and exciting place, and I will continue to expand my knowledge of the Polar Regions. There are not enough words to describe how happy I am to be a part of this experience, and I will continue to strive to make our delegation a success.


Bridget Graham
Bridget Graham 
Alum, Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition
Bridget is a first year sustainability student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is 18 years old and originally from Beachburg, Ontario. She is fluent in French and English and is currently attempting to learn German. She participated in the 2011 SOI Arctic Expedition, which traveled to Iceland, Greenland, Nunavik and Labrador. Bridget is a environmental youth group facilitator during the summer and is a provincial coach in Nova Scotia for Wheelchair-Basketball. She also coaches at a beginner level for sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball. In her first semester she pledged and joined the Alpha Eta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta women’s fraternity. She was named the most outstanding pledge and is currently the philanthropy chair for the chapter. She is very involved within her community and enjoys being a director of the Beachburg Fair Board, a 4H leader, a member of Junior Farmers and a past Queen of the Furrow. Bridget cannot wait for the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation and looks forward to meeting a new group of people with similar interests.

Believe in yourself and you can achieve anything

By: Jack Pong
Hong Kong
March 29, 2012

As the President of Iceland said to students from the Students on Ice 2011 Arctic Youth Expedition, “Believe in yourself and you can achieve anything.” This was one of the most important lessons I have learned throughout my teenage years. We are a generation who have no limits to what we can achieve, no barriers that may stop us and no ideas that are too big to carry out. We are currently at a critical point in earth’s history, when the fate of the planet is in our hands, we can choose either to continue to live our current lifestyles or we can change together and solve the greatest problem human civilization has ever faced. I believe that my generation has a obligation to set up and leaves it mark in history.

Whether I’m traveling through the glaciers of the Arctic, protesting against shark finning in Hong Kong or just working on an assignment in class, the power of youth always amazes me. Despite being known as immature and bratty, young people are the ones who produce innovative ideas, generate the passion to follow ideas through and are people who have no hidden agenda and will stand for anything they believe in.

Throughout history, changes in society are always pushed forwards by youth, from Kony 2012 to civil rights movements. It’s our turn to leave our mark in history and it is imperative that we do so. There is so much potential within each and everyone one of us that we just have to harness. Remember that animals are our friends, the land and forest is our home and the earth is our life. It’s time to stand up and be counted.

Jack Pong

 

Our Delegate does Polar Education at Iowa State University!

By: Alex Gustafson
Iowa State University

The green clubs at my college recently hosted an event called Sustainapalooza at the end of February. It was an afternoon showcasing and celebrating all of the green and sustainable efforts being done on Iowa State University’s campus. Seeing this as a great opportunity to get the word out about the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation.

I decided to make a poster about our delegation–check it out in the accompanying photo. The event went really well with a great showing of 200 to 300 people. I stood by my poster the whole time and explained to people about what our delegation is doing. I received great feedback!! People were excited to hear about our efforts and when I explained our project they sounded eager to express their moral support. I encouraged many to “like” us on Facebook and visit our website. You can like us on Facebook by clicking here: https://www.facebook.com/soidelegation.

The only challenge became initially explaining Students on Ice (SOI), the program, and how we were acquainted with each other as a team. It was difficult due to the fact that people had no context or previous knowledge about SOI to draw from. Without understanding SOI, the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation does not make much sense. It was imperative for me to brief the background mission of Students on Ice so that they could understand how that built, shaped, and contributed to the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation. All in all, I was so very satisfied with the feedback and enthusiasm I received and look forward to giving more presentations in the near future.

To all you Students on Ice Alumni, I encourage you to spread the word as well! It is fun, rewarding and makes an impact.

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