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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 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.


  1. MOM says:

    OMG Donovan, you never cease to amaze me. You and the SOI Alumni Delegation are doing an amazing job of trying to protect and pass on the importance of the Polar regions. You make us all very proud, and I’m sure that Students on Ice are so very proud of all of you. Protect the Poles Protect the Planet.

  2. Scott Clarke says:

    Hi Donovan,

    You continue to make your hometown, Province and Country proud. Keep up the great work! You are indeed “paying it forward” as I knew you would. :)


  3. Tammie Taplin says:

    Amazing job ‘D’. You and the rest of the SOI Alumni Delegation are doing an awesome job representing the poles at Rio+20 Earth Summit. Enjoy, and be safe.

  4. Gail Sweeney says:

    Keep up the good work. Enjoy your time in Rio.

  5. tonya kearley says:

    I love to hear the newsy reports. They are so positive in the very midst of a dismal reality. Keep them coming!!!!

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