My Day At The World Forestry Center With Nobel Prize Climate Scientist Dr. Steven Running

There's no denying that climate change is one of the preeminent topics of our day, one of the biggest challenges the current generations have to face, one of the most hotly debated topics on the public stage that has the very very very very real potential of several affecting our lives and the way we approach the future of our species and the future of the planet as a whole. So when the leaders of our world get together to discuss solutions and formulate strategies for tackling this topic, everyone listens. The problem is, no one ever expects anything to come of it. Politics as usual.

But COP21 seems to be different. No doubt you've seen the countless hashtags go zipping through your Twitter streams, but for those of you that don't know, COP stands for Conference of the Parties, which is short for the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Essentially, it is an event in which every member nation of the United Nations, just under 200, gets together to come to a unanimous agreement on what their share needs to be in helping climate change from spiraling out of control.

For this iteration of the 'event', all eyes were on Paris. No one really expected much, as most just saw it as an extension of what happened in Copenhagen 6 years ago, when talks fell apart and an extremely lukewarm agreement was cobbled together, but something is different. And even Nobel Peace prize author and climate scientist Dr. Steven Running couldn't help but feel and express a bit of hope. As he puts it, "For the titans of industry to say we know this is real and we want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, is huge, and did not occur in Copenhagen in 2009 when negotiations really unraveled. Those are all preliminaries to the Paris conference that have been dramatically different than I've ever heard before."

And considering the outcome out of Paris, he seemed to be spot on! The unprecedented results of COP21 far exceeded what everyone expected, and left a sense of hope and positivity as to the commitments the entire world has made to finally accept the science as fact and move forward to mitigate what we can in curbing climate change. It was remarkable.

Image by Cooper Howard

Image by Cooper Howard

For a bit of background, Dr. Steven Running was the chapter lead author for the 4th Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a report that won a Nobel Prize, sharing the stage with Al Gore in 2007. He's also the current Regents Professor on Forest Ecology at the University of Montana, and his findings, science, and studies are all a major part of the discussions in Paris. Basically, he knows a thing or two about the topic...

So when the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon asked me to be involved by documenting through video and photographs a day full of events that involved Dr. Running, co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and The Pinchot Institute For Conservation, I was simultaneously excited and humbled at the opportunity, because, well, as most of you know the forces of nature are a topic I hold very dear to me. 

The day began with several interviews from the attendees before heading to a private luncheon and think tank discussion with representatives from industries and organizations that are all, one way or another, major players in the climate change space. We had representatives from the Sustainable Northwest, The Climate Trust, The City of Portland, The Society of American Foresters, The Nature Conservancy, The Pinchot Institute, and the University of Portland, among others. Following the luncheon, we conducted several more interviews before heading into the public lecture by Dr.Steven Running, which was given to an almost packed house. It says a lot when people head out to a scientific lecture in the midst of the wettest week in Oregon's history...

To be surrounded by some of the nation's preeminent minds surrounding the topic was a thrill and an honor, and to hear a tide switch towards a more positive and hopeful outlook and attitude on combating climate change was perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the experience. It's just very encouraging to see that a paradigm is shifting in a positive direction in the general attitude towards climate change and sustainability, and overall, it feels so good to be doing work in an arena that means so much to me, for despite all the labor, it doesn't seem like work at all, and results like the ones we saw the past couple days are what make it all worth it.

Well done humanoids! We gone done did a good thing in Paris 

Here's a recap of the day's events. All images and videos shot on the Samsung NX1.

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