Thursday, December 30, 2010

Finding the Harlequin

A few days ago, I checked the Pennsylvania Birding Listserv and saw that a Harlequin Duck had been reported from northern Northampton County. After a day or two, birders began posting photos of this beautiful male Harlequin Duck which represented the first documented record for the county. Today, my dad and I traveled to the Delaware River near the Belvidere bridge in order to see this duck.

Harlequin Duck
The beautiful, unique pattern and dark color of the Harlequin Duck distinguished it from the Common Goldeneyes

When we arrived at the location, we saw the bird down the river with a small group of Common Goldeneyes. We thought that a spot down the road would have a better vantage point, so we headed back the car. As we were about to leave, we ran into local birder Dave DeReamus who was also looking for the duck (although he had already seen it the day before). We talked with Dave for a while and decided to try the New Jersey side, since the Harlequin had been hanging out primarily on that side of the river.

We drove across the bridge and walked down the railroad bed until we got a clearing where we spotted the group of ducks. As we watched and photographed the rare bird, the group flew off. We walked back to the car, which was also the direction that ducks flew. When we got to where the ducks were, we were able to take several photographs before the birds swam towards the middle of the river.

The Harlequin Duck with a group of Common Goldeneyes

This beautiful bird was a lifer for my dad and only the second that I had ever seen (the first was during the World Series of Birding).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Early during the morning of Tuesday, December 21, I witnessed a lunar eclipse. The combination of the eclipse and the solstice is a very rare coincidence and was a beautiful sight.

Lunar Eclipse

Friday, December 3, 2010

More on the Youth Involvement at COP16

This morning started off with another early meeting of the youth organizations. The meeting got off to a quicker start than the day before, as the issue of language had been solved and the translators were ready in the back of the room. The meeting began with announcements and went into discussions about presenting a report to the Secretariat of the UNFCCC. Announcements about the upcoming YOUNGO focal point elections were also given at the meeting. The meeting was going to be long (for the second day in a row), but students were began heading to the meeting for the contact group on Article 6 of the Convention. This article focuses on public awareness and youth involvement in the UNFCCC process which made it an important event for YOUNGO members to attend.

Contact Group on Article 6 of the Convention with party members and observers

There was a very good turnout at the contact meeting. Many of the non-negotiating attendees were members of youth organizations that showed up to remind those making the decisions why these negotiations were being held in the first place. To me, it felt as though little came out of this contact group meeting. Much of the time was spent discussing the wording of the document rather than content. However, mention of youth was included into the Article 6 document.

Young people are now included in the treaty document

When Section 6: Paragraph (e) was being discussed, the chair of the committee decided that this section should be deleted, despite the recommendations of the United States and the European Union. This section is the portion of the convention treaty that suggests that the Secretariat of the UNFCCC consider the integration of youth delegates into the negotiation process. The chair decided that this paragraph was inappropriate for Article 6 of the document and therefore was placed aside to be discussed at another time by a separate committee. Although some people that I talked to were disappointed as a result of the deletion, some were still hopeful that something good will eventually come out of this COP meeting.

I attended various side events for the remainder of the day including panels on urbanization, indigenous peoples, and impacts of climate change on human health. Also, I met the rest of the Moravian College delegation, many of which arrived yesterday. I have one more day to attend COP16, so I am hoping that I will make the best of tomorrow with my final YOUNGO meeting of the conference. I also plan on attending more side events and hopefully getting in contact with another Inconvenient Youth member who is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

Red Cross/Red Crescent panel

I added this photo to highlight some the technology being used at the COP16 meeting. This display is an eight-screen interactive Google Earth exhibit.

Moravian College students, professors, and alumni in Cancun

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day of Youth and Future Generations

Today was the Day of Youth and Future Generations at COP16, a day dedicated to the youth that are involved in the UNFCCC process and the delegations of young people in Cancun. The day started with a meeting of the Youth Non-governmental Observers (YOUNGO). Although an hour and a half of the meeting was spent deciding what language the meeting should be in, several good discussions came out of the YOUNGO meeting. Members of the group gave policy reports from the UNFCCC negotiations that occurred the day before and these members of the YOUNGO policy working group gave responses to what had been decided in the negotiations. The group also discussed the various youth-related activities that would be taking place during the day.

Members of the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition

Although there were many young people in the room, I was shocked at how few were from the United States. I had hoped that there would be many youth from the US involved with UNFCCC, but unfortunately that did not happen. The only others from the United States were from the organization SustainUS. The majority of the people in the room were from Europe, primarily the United Kingdom, but other continents and countries were represented as well. While the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition only included members from their own county, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts had representatives from several countries.

In order to make the meetings fair to different delegations around the world, a survey was taken as to how many of the young people in the room were from global north versus global south countries. These are socio-economic classifications given to each country. The global north countries are developed countries including the United States and many countries in Europe. Unfortunately for the diversity aspect of the meeting, very few delegates were from countries in the global south.

After the meeting, I attended a side event on the ways youth organizations are reaching out to youth in the community to help fight climate change. The panel members focused primarily on encouraging people to vote in order to bring change through politicians—“change politicians, not climate”. Rather than spending time on educating people about the issue of climate change, the organizations that spoke were focused primarily on electing “green” representatives.

These groups are indeed able to make a difference through the politicians they elect to office, but their actions do nothing to educate people about the issue. The fact that they can get people to vote for the politician that agrees with clean energy does not ensure that the voter fully understands why voting for such a person is important nor does it ensure that the voters comprehend the severity of the impacts of climate change.

From here, I headed to the “Youth Market”, a demonstration organized by the various youth groups attending the conference as non-governmental observers. The youth involved had a mock “sale” of various natural resources and vulnerable places. The “action”, as it is called at the COP meetings, attracted the attention of many people in Cancunmesse including a good number of reporters. Although I was there to watch, I was somehow dragged into the “market” since I was a youth in the area. I ended up holding a sign that read “Home and Future”, signifying the fact that these two important aspects of life are being “sold” as a result of climate change.

This demonstration was a success in many ways. Although it did not have a specific “cause” (since many separate organizations were involved), it showed that the planet cannot wait much longer for an agreement before all of the Earth’s natural resources are “sold”. Perhaps the most important part of the action was to highlight the presence of the youth at COP16. The youth are often forgotten about since they cannot take part in the official negotiations, however, they serve an important part in education and outreach for the issue.

Time is on sale at the Youth Market; unfortunately, it appears that time is running out

This day, filled with youth panels, meetings, and actions, successfully brought the youth of UNFCCC to the front of the climate conference. Hopefully through future events, similar to those that happened today, the youth will gain higher status and members of the YOUNGO will be allowed into the climate negotiations.

I cannot post all of the photos here, so please visit to view more images from today and the rest of COP16 in Cancun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

COP16: Building the Foundation

While attending events at the Moon Palace, I had several chances to hear the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres. Although she talked to very different audiences throughout the day (ranging from the Associated Press to a large group of non-governmental observers and party members), Ms. Figueres had a few main points regarding the climate negotiations taking place. The first of these is that COP15 in Copenhagen was not a failure. Many say that COP15 was a “failure” due to the fact that nothing major came out of the meeting that was hoped to result in an agreement. Secretariat Figueres believes that Copenhagen was important as it brought international attention to the issue of climate change. Although no major agreements came out of the conference in 2009, the media attention brought the issue to the public, who may have ignored the issue of climate change.

Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres

The second major issue according to the Secretariat is the fact that a major, perfect agreement will not come out of COP16. No one can expect an agreement when three countries have decided that they will not agree to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. According to Ms. Figueres, we should not be aiming for an ultimate agreement this year, as “the perfect is the enemy of the good”. Secretariat Figueres also warned that we should aim for the "good" and not complain if Cancun indeed leads to an imperfect agreement. Cancun is merely building a foundation on which a fuller, better agreement can be built. If the world sees what comes out of COP16 in Cancun as a failure, we will get nowhere on our goal of reaching a better planet. Although we cannot save the planet overnight (or even the course of the COP meeting), we can hope that a plan to save our planet will be reached within the next few years.