By Kate Yeater
During our first team meeting in Hawai’i, it was mentioned that the World Conservation Congress (WCC) is more than just some meetings about the environment; it’s a space where thousands of different people, ideas, and experiences can intersect and be shared. Our experiences walking to and from the Convention Center, eating lunch in the middle of the bustling Congress, and talking with fellow participants, including indigenous leaders, can all contribute to our research project and data collection.
Today marked the first full day of our team attending events at the Hawai’i Convention Center. Prior to our brisk walk to the Center, we had a team meeting to discuss our schedules for the day and highlight any issues or questions team members had before embarking on the day’s adventures. I spent the majority of the day in the United Nations Development Programme and the Equator Initiative’s “Community Kauhale ʻŌiwi,” a room intended to be a hub for indigenous peoples at the Congress. It will also be a host of events “for indigenous peoples and local communities to exchange knowledge and best practices in sustainable environmental management,” according to the pamphlet I picked up inside the door. I’m sure our team will be seeing a lot of this room over the next few days as many of the events held here center around topics like the Sustainable Development Goals, conservation and protected areas, partnerships, and the rights of indigenous peoples; all topics directly related to the analytics of our research project, Presence 2 Influence.
While I spent time in the Kauhale Room hearing from indigenous peoples and their partners, my team members were also in their own scheduled events, participating in frustrating and redundant discussions about gender and mainstreaming or exploring the variety of Pavilions located on the first floor. In between events, with the intention of catching up on my field notes, I found an area overlooking the cityscape and the Hawaiian mountains in the distance. Distracted by social media and texts from friends, a quick Google search of Jane Goodall’s schedule at the WCC led me to realize that she was just a few rooms away and speaking at that moment! Without hesitation I rushed to Room 320, hoping that participants could still enter and knowing nothing about the event I was going to enter. The door supervisor approved my entrance, although he encouraged me to be quiet as I entered. Just a few yards away, Jane Goodall sat with Jeff Horowitz of Avoided Deforestation Partners as they discussed the role of forests in climate change and what young people can do to help protect the planet. It’s necessary to note that prior to coming to the WCC I joked with my friends that it was my life goal to share the same breathing space with Jane Goodall. Her career working with great apes, fighting for forest conservation, and encouraging community activism and partnerships inspire my own career interests. I was fortunate to have been in the right place and at the right time to see my lifelong hero in real life!
With projections of up to 9,000 people in attendance and 1,300 different events over the ten-day Congress, the WCC is full of informative sessions and spontaneous opportunities. In this first full day at the Convention Center I took on the roles of photographer, field researcher, super fan, and colleague. After a long day at the Congress, processing our notes and these experiences can be cumbersome. However, as I walked back to our hotel after catching up with colleagues from my internship with Amazon Watch, I could not help but be inspired and eager for the next several days ahead. Far from being just a meeting about conservation, the World Conservation Congress has hidden surprises and opportunities that make data collection and our own personal experiences both overwhelming and extremely exciting!
COP21 Paris 2015 & WCC 2016
Follow our team as we cover international environmental policy making meetings.
Dr. Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
Dr. Laura Zanotti, Department of Anthropology, Purdue University
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