Recent stories

Going Beyond the Carbon Footprint Calculator

The World Resources Forum has officially opened and the student reporters are reporting live. This is reason enough to shed light on some of our activities from an ecological point of view. Since we’ll be sleeping, breathing, and talking resources for the next three days, we thought it’d be interesting to see the resource footprint of getting our team to Beijing. We’re only looking at the carbon footprint for now, and using an easily accessible online calculator, we came up with a quick calculation. 6.68 tonnes CO2e (4 people from Zürich to Beijing, return)
4.63 tonnes CO2e (2 people from Philadelphia to Beijing, return)
1.53 tonnes CO2e (1 person from Budapest to Beijing, return)
0.47 tonnes CO2e (1 person from Hong Kong to Beijing, return)
1.71 tonnes CO2e (1 person from London to Beijing, return)
1.72 tonnes CO2e (1 person from Geneva to Beijing, return)
1.80 tonnes CO2e (1 person from Zürich to Beijing via Helsinki, return)

This results in 18.54 tonnes CO2e for transporting 12 student reporters.

Clinton Global Initiative 2012 Draws Big Names, Focuses on Design

The Clinton Global Initiative’s 2012 Annual Meeting kicked off at noon on Sunday.  The event, which follows the highly publicized Rio+20 Conference held in Brazil two months earlier, holds an easy claim to the heavy weight champion title for all conferences focused on social and environmental challenges.  Taking place over three days, CGI 2012 includes plenary sessions complimented by smaller, issue-based breakout sessions with Heads of State, business leaders and nonprofit directors from around the world.  The roster of participants reads like a who’s who of world leaders and global change-makers and speaks volumes to former President Clinton’s continued influence.  Both Pres. Barak Obama and challenger, Mitt Romney are slated to speak.  The newly elected presidents of Libya and Egypt are in attendance as are media heavyweights Piers Morgan and Fareed Zakaria.  The ever-ebullient former New York governor-turned cable news anchor, Elliot Spitzer hustled through the pressroom early Sunday morning, shortly after the doors opened.  Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs is scheduled for a Monday panel. UN Sec. General, Ban Key Moon, World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, Walmart CEO, Michael Duke, and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan accompanied Clinton on an opening panel, which centered on the this year’s theme: “designing for impact.”  Topics related to health, scaling up good ideas to achieve meaningful impact, education and youth employment dominated the conversation. Clinton famously started CGI in 2005 “to help turn good intentions into real action and results.”  The Initiative’s aim is to convene global leaders for the purpose of implementing innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. According to CGI, their meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media.

The Loss Of Diversity at the Rio+20 Media Standard Factory

This article is co-written by Tim Lehmann. “We recognize the severity of the global loss of biodiversity…” says paragraph 197 in the The Future We Want declaration. The same can be said for media-diversity, particularly in print. “Breakthrough in Rio+20!“ is a headline you would not find in any mainstream news outlet. Indeed, the declaration more closely resembles a 50-page work of art, merely painting a picture of importance without actually making commitments characteristic of a historical document. Nevertheless, the general media missed the point of Rio+20 in various ways, arriving too late, as most of them arrived just for the last 3 days, and with headlines already prepared in mind to be filled with celebrity statements. Sorting through some of the mainstream news with similar dramaturgy, we extracted the following predictable key statements:

The final declaration is weak.  An article in the center-right newspaper Economist is titled “Many ‘mays’ but few ‘musts’ – a limp agreement at the UN’s vaunted environment summit”. There is no historical breakthrough.  Editors of the center-left German Sueddeutsche Zeitung justify the unnecessariness of Rio: “If all countries are satisfied with the lowest common denominator, if they no longer want to discuss what needs to be discussed …, then the dikes are open.  There is no need anymore for a conference of 50,000 attendees.  Resolutions that are so wishy-washy can be interpreted by every member state as they wish.

What to expect from Rio+20?

What is the value of Rio+20 beyond the negotiations? The true value of the Rio+20 conference does not consist of its political outcome. Discussing the political relevance of the outcome document only distracts from the true value of this conference. Conversations and Networking: Connecting the World
We all know Forest Gump. The great and extraordinary man sitting on the bench – alone.  I felt reminded of that situation when taking a break from the negotiations of the Rio+20 conference to have lunch at the park. Not far from me on a wooden bench was sitting a man, eating his sandwich – alone.

Updates: “Guys, it is finished, just relax and enjoy Rio”

It's finished

Here in RioCentro it’s the last day of the Four Days of Dialougue, which is meant to provide civil society with the opportunity to interact with the governments and participate in the negotiations process. However, the Brazilian government has been using these precious remaining days before the final Earth Summit to push for an agreement through informal negotiations, and thus neglecting the civil society. On Tuesday June 19th, the Government released a pre-finalised version which seems to be the final agreement to be handed over to the UN. The host country tried to avoid to carry over open negotiation points into the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, where heads of States, Government and high level representatives are supposed to finally approve it. Late night negotiation

In the past four days, the negotiator has had to cope with long, exhausting sessions and delayed meetings.

The Girl Who Silenced the World For Five Minutes

When Severn Cullis-Suzuki stepped on stage at the plenary session of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, she knew this was her one opportunity to speak to the world’s most influential decision-makers. Just twelve years old at the time, she seized her once-in-a-lifetime chance to tell every politician, businessman and journalist at the UN: “You are what you do, not what you say… I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words.”

The Complexity of Rio+20 in Figures

The complexity of the Rio+20 Conference is overwhelming. Just to give you an impression, some interesting figures:

Every morning when waking up, our outlook welcomes us with approximately 40 new Rio+20 announcements and event invitations. The entire Rio+20 conference will cover 500 on-side events and again as many off-side events. Selecting the events to attend takes 1 day of preparation. 50.000 people are expected to attend the Rio+20 conference.

Day 1 in Review: Let the Rio+20 Adventure Begin!

Excited to Wake Up! The wonderful thing about a first day is the inherent enthusiasm and curiosity you feel when you wake up in the morning. You know that something good will come from it, but what? Excitement! In this spirit, Anna, Sunserae, Nikolaj, Johannes, Ilke, Laura, Maciej and I woke up at 6.30am on June 15th, ready for our first day as student reporters at the 3rd Preparatory Committee Meeting of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Creative Heads-Up and Valuing the Priceless at TEDx Rio+20

TEDx Rio+20

A quick heads up about the TEDx Rio+20 conference prior to the Earth Summit Rio+20 and before the student reporter team arrives on the 12th of June. TED conferences are usually not associated with UN conference formats. Still some Cariocas thought it might be a smart move to organize a TEDx Rio+20 conference, taking place on the 11th and 12th of June, before the official Earth Summit events start on the 13th with the 3rd preparatory meeting. The x represents the independence from the two annual TED events taking place in San Francisco and Oxford. TED is among the most known event formats, and even academics strive to spread to shine on a TED stage.

Departing to Rio+20: Sustainability Discussions Back Home at the BBQ

Though, as one of our reporters wrote “scepticism ahead for Rio is rife”, many people – both close and in particular those distant to the topic of sustainable development – have lost any expectation of the outcome of Rio+20. Still there is lots of faith left and we will keep it up and running. Rio+20 is an event that the UN Secretary General (CEO) Ban Ki-moon himself labels as “one of the most important conferences in the history of the United Nations and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to gear the world on sustainable development path”. Those that are only jealous about us being in Rio can go immediately to the bottom of the post and enjoy listening to the song “Girl from Ipanema”. Why at all caring for an event, people believe, which already wasted thousands of working hours of ministry delegates to prepare and protect governments’ interests and distract more than hundred heads of state from more important duties in times of financial crises and geopolitical power shifts.

The Journalist’s Guide to Rio+20

Environmental journalists today have the formidable task of reporting on difficult topics such as climate change, an issue that is uncertain, scientifically and culturally complex, and politically charged. I recently met two who were at the University of Michigan as Knight-Wallace fellows: Roger Harrabin, BBC environmental analyst, and Marcelo Leite, editor of the Opinion pages at Folha, a major Brazilian newspaper. Their extensive experience in this field (both were at the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992) offers us some lessons to us for how to cover the upcoming Rio+20 summit. Know your audience
Harrabin has been reporting on the state of the environment since 1986 – seeing firsthand the tragic bleached coral reefs of the Maldives to the breaking icebergs of Greenland. Despite this, he is also deeply aware of the difference between his role as a BBC journalist reporting to a worldwide audience and that of an environmental activist.

University of Pennsylvania Delegates Present “Youth Solutions” at World Water Forum

The delegation from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) had 27 students from the Master of Environmental Studies (M.E.S.) and Master of Science in Applied Geoscience programs in attendance at the World Water Forum. At the end of the week, some of us from Penn were invited to present solutions emerging from our institution. On Friday morning, three classmates and I highlighted a few water-related sustainability initiatives currently in place at Penn. Rupal Prasad began with an overview of the University’s Green Campus Parternship and the structural layout of our nearly 200-year old campus. I then described our unique outreach programs and explained to the young audience how exactly we connect with our undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff. Since American college and university students generally move away from home and onto higher education campuses at the age of 18, it is important that they learn and engage in a sustainable lifestyle to carry forward after graduation.