IUCN WCC 2016 Intern Blog
I arrived to the Ala Moana Hotel at 8:30 a.m. I ran into Cate while crossing the street, then was introduced to Lorena Aguilar, Global Senior Gender Advisor for the IUCN Global Gender Office. She is powerful and determined, but also kind and warm. After our team assembled, we headed on a shuttle to the opening ceremony at the Blaisdell Arena. The atmosphere around us was teeming with excitement over the rumors of President Obama’s appearance. Would he be there?
The Stadium seemed massive! Unfortunately there was no Obama, but his absence did not take away from the inspiring speeches from higher ups such as Hawai’i Governor David Ige, President of Palau Tommy Remengesau, and US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. Their talks set an engaging tone of change and hope that kicked off the WCC.
After the ceremony, Maggie, Cate, and Lorena left for a meeting and I went home to prepare myself for the next day.
We started early with a Women’s Caucus at 8:30 a.m. This caucus of women ambassadors from all across the globe gathered each morning to discuss gendered issues that they’ve personally witnessed, those happening within the IUCN, what they do to help, and actions they will be taking to improve themselves or their organizations in the future. This was a group of ladies not to be messed with.
I sat next to Cate and my fellow intern, Jasmine, as they laid down the logistics of the day. They welcomed us into the meeting with open arms, but I felt very intimidated. Here were incredible people with amazing stories of triumph and the will to fight against injustice. It reminded me so much of Maria Gunnoe and her fight for justice against the coal industries terrorizing her home.
It was truly incredible to be surrounded by such driven women. It was inspiring to see the acknowledgment of climate issues affecting gender, class, and ethnicity so differently.
Each time we attended a session or event, we were asked to fill out event summary templates. Here’s an example below:
The very first event I attended was called, The Smallest Biggest Plastic Pollution Event in the World. It consisted of multiple presenters showing their experiences in trying to alleviate the plastic waste on our planet. I was inspired. The entire stage was made out of recycled cardboard! Even the chairs and benches we sat on were entirely made from recycled cardboard. I couldn’t believe I was in a place so environmentally aware. After getting over the awe of the arena, I realized something a little upsetting. Only two of the presenting groups featured a woman, and one was in a team with a male, yet all but one host was female. There was even a man presenting a woman’s research and work.
I was filling out my survey with this information when another man took the stage. Coincidentally, he was who I had been sitting next to the entire time. He discussed the absurd amounts of plastic in our seas and ways we could reduce our usage of plastic water bottles entering our waters in general. He then pulled out 3-4 prototypes of potential plastic solvers. I was extremely intrigued by these inventions. The audience asked questions, and when he was done I felt like his suggestions could turn into real possibilities. Then it happened. He left the stage, sat down next to me, and started drinking from a plastic water bottle. I was shocked. How can someone fighting so hard against plastic, someone who even showed prototypes to one day banish the use of plastic water bottles give that speech then sit down and use what they’ve been fighting for the whole time? How can they be part of the problem?
Sylvia Earle is a marine biologist, author, explorer, first female chief scientist at NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), National Geographic Explorer-in-residence, and the hero to many marine activists/explorers (including myself).
She has paved the way for women scientists. She lead the first all women team of aquanauts in the 1970’s, and even won the Hubbard Medal, National Geographic’s highest honor.
Not only did I have the amazing opportunity to listen to the incredible speeches by Her Deepness (a nickname bestowed upon her in the science world) but also the chance to meet with and talk to her about what it was like being a woman in an all male field at the time. She didn’t even have to think about it. “All the attention was on me!” she exclaimed. Her Deepness went on to tell me about how since there weren’t many females in the marine sciences, there was a constant light shone upon her and a general curiosity on what she was up to. Of course there were and still are gender biases in the math and science world, but it was refreshing to hear from someone who embraced that stereotype and used it to their advantage.
She is one of the many incredible & powerful women I met at this convention, and meeting her rejuvenated my ambition after feeling let down from the plastic bottle fiasco.
Before the IUCN started, Maggie had talked to me about doing a project with her called HERstory. It was a presentation by her and other story telling advocates discussing the importance of narrative. I was immediately invested being a journalism major interested in videography. The instructions were simple and gave me a ton of leeway for creativity. Make a video about what climate change means to you.
I went with the idea full throttle and created my story.
Presenting at such an important and prestigious event was nerve wracking, but ultimately I was excited to show my work. I got to stand up talk a little about the video beforehand; it was such a surreal feeling. After, more presenters took their turns n presenting their interpretations of narrative story telling. There was a powerpoint and even a Facebook montage. It was very interesting to see everyone’s own individual style.
At the end of the talk, we were challenged to create our own similar videos on the spot. I was thrilled. I told Maggie we should use iMovie Mobile and it turned out to me a huge success, I even got to show others around the room how to use iMovie and edit videos. It made me realize how much I love video story telling and that I definitely want it to be a part of my future career.