Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Apply to become a CC-IUCN Youth Ambassador and join us in Hawai'i for the World Conservation Congress!

CC-IUCN is looking for two youth volunteers (18-30 years old) to become the 2016-2017 CC-IUCN Youth Ambassadors. The successful Youth Ambassadors will work with the committee to connect youth to nature before, during and after the IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC) through online engagement, and connecting and working with other Canadian and international organizations and events. The CC-IUCN will provide up to $2500 in funding for each chosen Youth Ambassador to register and attend the WCC. 

This is a volunteer position and will require a commitment of approximately 10 hours a month for a one-year term (with an increased commitment level expected directly before, during and after the WCC).

Apply here by April 17th: 

About the World Conservation Congress:

Held once every four years, the IUCN World Conservation Congress brings together thousands of leaders and decision-makers from government, civil society, Indigenous Peoples, youth, business, and academia, with the goal of conserving the environment and harnessing the solutions nature offers to global challenges.

The Congress aims to improve how we manage our natural environment for human, social and economic development, but this cannot be achieved by conservationists alone. The IUCN Congress is the place to put aside differences and work together to create good environmental governance, engaging all parts of society to share both the responsibilities and the benefits of conservation.

The next WCC will take place September 1-10, 2016.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Back in Canada with a renewed passion for collaboration (...and a tan) - By Elyse

It's been just over a week since I returned from Australia... I miss it.

After the World Parks Congress, I spent 3 days near Noosa National Park to soak up some rays and debrief on my time at the Congress. After my return, and a much-needed recovery period from jet lag, I am still trying to process all of the learnings and inspiring conversations that I was able to have at the Congress. It's difficult. There were so many amazing experiences and so many incredible people that it's hard to write it all down, let alone process it in my busy brain.

And my brain hasn't stopped, despite the whirlwind of a trip coming to an end. And oh it was a whirlwind. My itinerary looked something like this (and the other CC-IUCN youths' itinerary was similiar!):

Nov 5 - Left Vancouver at 11:40 pm for a fun flight ahead
November 7 - Arrived in Sydney, headed directly to the Blue Mountains for a WCPA Young Professionals Pre-Congress gathering with 30 inspiring conservation professionals from around the world. This is where we began drafting our "Young People's Pact" to present at the Congress. I took advantage of every free moment to head for a trail run or hike in the nearby park with new friends - this place was magical!

WCPA Young Professionals feeling inspired and connected in the Blue Mountains. 
Committed to walking the talk, we planted over 200 trees to create a natural bio filtration system.  
Where my trail runs led me. How gorgeous is this?!
November 11 - Back to Sydney for a tour and workshop at Google (where we all left scheming how we could convince Google that they need 30 international conservationists working for them... I mean, there's endless fun on Google Earth, bouldering and napping pods).
November 12 - 19 - Jam-packed, inspiring, motivating, exciting, sleepless week at the Congress. Presentations, events, and way too many impromptu meetings with people doing amazing conservation work around the world.
The awesome CC-IUCN Youth team at the World Parks Congress! Myself and Shailyn (Board Members) on either side and Claire and Mila (our 2 Youth Ambassadors) in the middle.
My presentation on the benefits of collaboration between the conservation sector and the outdoor retailer industry at the Congress. 
November 19 - Off to the Sunshine Coast for some beach time to attempt to process the amazing week and a half that just took place.
Me debriefing on my experiences at the Congress while in Noosa (and getting distracted by way too much beauty).
November 23 - Left Sydney just after 12:00 pm and arrived in Vancouver, the same day, at 8:00 am. I love time travel.
November 24 - Groggily headed into work. It's amazing how you can be so tired but so excited to put your new-found inspiration to work.
My coastal Australian view at work. :)
I learned a ton, I met so many amazing people, but I think the overall message I'm taking away is the ever-important concept of collaboration. Collaboration between young people in Canada and all over the world, between different generations of conservation leaders, between organizations working within the conservation movement itself - whether it be government organizations, non profits, or passionate individuals...

Perhaps most importantly, I learned the true benefit and need for collaboration with groups outside the typical walls of the conservation movement.

If we are going to overcome the large issues we are currently facing (and the issues that are yet to come) -- issues like climate change, young peoples' disconnect from nature, massive global biodiversity loss -- we need people to care. We need to reach people across the globe, in diverse communities, and in differing ways to really meet them at their level. I believe that in order to reach these people, we need to work with partners that have the ability to reach different groups than us, who can help us grow our impact. I am excited to see how I can work with the business community, with the arts community, with who-knows-what-other-types-of-communities-we-haven't-thought-to-work-with-yet, to work specifically towards connecting young people in Canada to the outdoors.

Collaboration for the win!

Excited to keep the energy from the Congress alive (and growing) back in Canada.
Stay tuned for more updates from the team! 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Young People's Legacy - by Mila

The Global Youth Ambassadors worked with another group called the Young Professionals to come up with a Young People’s Legacy that would be presented during the closing ceremonies.  The team in total consisted of around 100 Congress participants aged 20-35 from all around the world.  As a group of like-minded individuals all working towards the same goal, I was incredibly surprised by the challenges and conflicts that arose in the process.  Many strong voices with differing opinions were involved that batted heads over what was most important to include in the legacy piece and what should be articulated in its presentation.  Eventually, the Young People’s Pact emerged.  The pact is a document outlining the concerns and commitments of young people as well as actions that organizations and agencies around the world can take to ensure the participation of young people in their processes.  I fully supported the document, but couldn’t help not to see it just as another report full of fancy words to add to the mix of reports that already exist.  I didn’t quite see how it would result in on-the-ground action and change.   

A large contingent of the young people (including myself) wanted our presentation at the closing ceremony to be noticed, and we knew that in order to do this, we had to make it as different as possible from the typical politicians’ speeches discussed above.  One of the major things I learned from the Congress was that, in order for presenters to connect with an audience, they need two things- creativity and emotion.  Creativity sparks the initial interest and pulls people away from their iPhones and tablets, while emotion gets through to the audience and evokes a response.  Much of the conflict amongst the young people coming up with the legacy revolved around finding a balance between creativity and professionalism.  We wanted to grab attention but also be taken seriously.  I ended up focusing my efforts on the creative side because I really believed that without it, the pact and presentation would just be another document and speech of nice-sounding words to add to the rest.  In order to accomplish this, a song was written by George Woodhouse called "Unleash the Heart (Unlock the Mind)" that essentially turned the pact into music- we performed it at Congress sessions, the closing plenary, and on a radio show.  We also organized a flash mob following the closing ceremony that got many of the Congress participants (including high-level politicians) dancing and laughing. 

It is difficult to articulate through written words the impact that a simple song and some dance moves had upon the Congress, but it really was profound.  Energy was infused into all 6000 participants and the hopeful optimism yet practical realism of the “next generation” was showcased.  Our display differed so drastically from the other presentations during the Congress that it caused an overwhelming amount of positive, emotional feedback to roll in.    

Here's a link to our radio broadcast! 

  Practicing dance moves on the train 
 George Woodhouse opening for Baba Brinkman with "Unleash the Heart (Unlock the Mind)"
Flash mob action shot!

Empowering Discussions – By Shailyn Drukis

During the World Parks Congress, I was actively involved in a variety of inspiring discussions, including some that shed light on the tremendous work that individuals are doing to connect people with parks and nature, as well as the need for intergenerational dialogues.

Last week I was invited to present a case study during the Stream 8 Intergenerational Dialogues for Protected Areas Management session. As a founder of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, I outlined the role that intergenerational dialogues have played in its establishment, continued growth, and its success as the main youth constituency at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. I found this session to be particularly inspiring because the majority of the individuals who attended were adults who were quite keen to integrate youth into their organizations and decision making processes. 

Later that afternoon I co-facilitated the ‘Empowering Young People to be Agents of Change’ session. Thirteen individuals from around the world (U.S., Australia, Vietnam, Papa New Guinea and Guinea Bissau) shared the work that they are doing in their schools and communities to connect youth to nature and parks. The room was packed, the stories being shared were inspiring, and people were so motivated and intrigued by what they heard that many of them stayed afterwards to chat with each other and the speakers (what I consider to be a huge success!).  Overall, I was left with a lot of hope for the future of parks, and the role that youth will play in the conservation of these important areas. 

Apart from the sessions that I was directly involved in, I also attended many sessions that I felt would contribute to my academic research, including workshops on landscape connectivity, capacity building, citizen science, protected area climate change adaptability, and those related to the recent Convention on Biological Diversity outcomes.  These conversations, although frustrating at times (because some people do not always recognize the spatial variability of systems and processes), were generally very intriguing, and contributed greatly to my personal research of these topics. 

I also had the opportunity to attend a couple different networking evening events, including the Canadian Delegates dinner, as well as the Mountain Stream dinner. It was at the mountain dinner that I got to meet and talk to Harvey Locke, an individual that I find incredibly inspiring (founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative). He was very interested in the research that I am doing in the Kluane National Park region, and was full of positive support and encouragement.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

It's A Small World After All - Claire

Wow! What a week! My brain is buzzing and my heart is full. On Wednesday the World Parks Congress came to a close. The week was a whirlwind of thought provoking speakers, sessions, inspiring conversations and exceptional company. I learned more about areas of interest such as environmental education, sustainable tourism practices and the health benefits of being immersed in nature. In addition I exposed myself to concepts which I’d had little knowledge of prior to the congress. A non-stop supply of interesting facts, people and learning opportunities came full throttle in 8 short days. Now that the week has come to a wrap it’s time to sit back and digest.

Something that has really resonated with me during my time at the congress are the unexpected connections. One evening taking a late train after a long day, I started conversation with a fellow congress attendee. As it turned out he was also from Canada and spent time living in my current place of residence. We soon discovered he worked on the steering committee for the conservation area I had worked in during the summer. The following day I attended a session related to a peoples’ sense of place in nature. I had actually cited this researcher’s work in my master’s thesis. Throughout the week I came across a number of people whose research I admired. These connections made the world seem a little smaller and my contributions more meaningful in the big picture.

Equally as important as hearing from inspirational leaders were the conversations shared with my fellow youth delegates. In taking time getting to know many of them, I realized I was surrounded by a group of thought provoking people doing amazing things. These people give me hope for the future of the planet because these individuals ARE and will CONTINUE to make a difference.

This past week was not just an opportunity to feel an increased sense of connection to the planet but also an increased connection with the people who are making it a better place. Stories inspire. They are also capable of reaching people of all ages and cultures. There is a certain electric energy that comes when people that are passionate about a cause get together, and I was fortunate to hear so many unforgettable stories in the last several days. After a high-energy week we needed a plan for moving forward, so that the excitement didn’t end with the closing ceremonies. In the Inspiring a New Generation stream we were asked to make a short-term commitment of how we could better the future through our actions.  I committed to taking young people who haven’t had many opportunities to spend time in nature, outside.

What will your commitment be?

Parks Canada staff past and present with Parks Canada CEO Alan Latourelle

Mila and I after closing ceremonies 

Stream 8 'Inspiring a New Generation' Commitment Wall

Global Youth Ambassadors post Congress, enjoying the scenery at Blue Mountains National Park  

….Stay tuned as I will provide an update of my post-congress adventures touring  around the national parks of Australia!

Yours in Camping,


Friday, 21 November 2014

A Very Friendly Cockatoo- By Mila

After the Congress, I had one final day in Australia before heading home to the rain, exams and assignments that await in Vancouver.  I embarked upon a journey to the Blue Mountains National Park with a group of about 10 young people from Canada, Australia, the US and the Netherlands.  We stayed in the town of Katoomba, which is only about a two-hour train ride from Sydney.  My main desire for the trip was to go on a hike and experience some real Australian wilderness.  The day ended up being exactly the refresher we all needed after eight days straight of intense thinking, listening and discussing. 

We started our hike at Echo Point and the Three Sisters, which were both beautiful spots but swarming with tourists.  However, as I usually find is the case with popular park areas, it only took about ten minutes of hiking to escape the crowds.  The Blue Mountains National Park is a vast landscape of dense, rolling forest surrounded by dramatic outcrops and sheer cliffs.  The view extended as far as the eye could see and reminded me of the immense size of protected areas and how integral they really are for the health of our planet.  We descended a set of steep stairs to the valley bottom, constantly listening to the loud squawks produced by nearby birds.  Having two Australian Scout leaders along was very handy because they were able to tell us about all of the wildlife, plants and sounds we encountered along the way.  We saw two Lyre birds, which were brown and white with long tail feathers (to the Scout leaders’ dismay, us Canadians mistakenly thought they were peacocks at first).   Lyre birds are an iconic species of the New South Wales region and can be seen on their Parks & Wildlife emblem, so we felt pretty lucky to stumble across them in the wild.  We also saw a blue-tongued water dragon and many, many colourful birds.  One thing that was immediately obvious about the forest of the Blue Mountains was that it is host to an immense level of biological diversity; we came across countless types of vegetation, birds and insects during just a few hours in the bush. 

At one point, we found a large boulder and all climbed it.  After being there for just a few moments, a cockatoo flew over and spent about the next 15 minutes hanging out with us.  It came within inches of each of us and was repeating the word “hello!” We were completely in awe and took a number of cockatoo selfies and videos.  This was an experience that even the Australian Scout leaders had never had.  On the hike back out of the valley, we crossed many streams and small waterfalls with microclimates that were much wetter and more rainforest-like than the rest of the hike.  They also felt a lot cooler and provided a nice break from the hot temperatures everywhere else.  

Australian hospitality was ever-present that night because the Aussies in the group put on a barbeque for the rest of us in a local park.  They cooked all the works- sausages, veggie burgers, and kangaroo meat, and showed us that it’s only a real Australian burger if it has beetroots and pineapple on it.  I tried a small piece of kangaroo meat (the first time I’d eaten meat in quite some time), because with my vegetarianism I have always told myself that if it’s something I’ve never tried before, I’ll try it.  Kangaroos are only hunted in Australia if their populations are too high and they need to be culled, so it is considered to be sustainable eco-friendly meat.  Our hosts topped off the night with Tim Tams and eucalyptus sweets that we ate under the stars and reflected upon the day.  I really can’t imagine a more perfect final day in Australia!   

 Blue Mountains National Park 
 View from Echo Point 
 The Three Sisters
 Blue-tongued water dragon
 Selfie with a cockatoo

 Friendly cockatoo
 Waterfall along the trail
 Partners in crime

 Sheer cliffs of the park