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.