Category Archives: Lisa Johnston (Washington D.C.)

Finishing up at IUCN

My internship has come to an end, sadly, and I feel like i left DC all too soon, just when I was just starting to get into the groove of things.  I have been working on contributing to a report for IUCN analyzing how mangroves could fit into REDD+ policy in the UNFCCC, and the process has been a huge learning experience, not just for what I’ve learned about climate change policy, but also the process of working collaboratively.  This piece probably won’t be finished until mid November and will need input from scientists, but I hope to continue working on it in some capacity throughout the fall semester.  So while I had originally expected to have a finished project as the outcome of my summer, I’m hoping there will be benefits to staying involved in this project a little longer.

During my last week, I had the opportunity to go to a ‘speed mentoring’ event run by the Women’s Aquatic Network in DC.  This was basically the same idea as speed dating, except with senior marine professionals as the mentors, and men-tees like me seeking career advice.  We had 5 minutes with each of the 20 or so mentors. I was intimidated by the idea at first, but it turned out to be a lot of fun!  I also got a lot of practice giving my elevator pitch, and I learned I still need a lot of improvement!

Before I left I had lunch with my boss, and got some great feedback on my work.  Overall, it’s been a very satisfying experience, and could only be better if I had planned in advance to stay a few weeks longer.  D.C. is truly the best place to be get into an international policy profession, and while the D.C. lifestyle isn’t something I’d want for the long run, I wouldn’t hesitate to come back here for a year or two if there was an opportunity.

Blue Carbon Policy Workshop

Last week the big event that I’ve been helping my boss prepare for finally  arrived: the first workshop of the Blue Carbon Policy Working Group.  Leading up to this workshop, I had been busy preparing some background documents on the current state of international climate change negotiations with respect to blue carbon, compiling the participant bios, and other odd jobs.

Blue carbon policy is an emerging field that stems from the idea that effective management of coastal ‘blue carbon’ systems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass,  requires development and implementation of strategic policy and financing mechanisms that create  incentives  for coastal conservation and restoration activities and disincentives to drain or damage these systems.  The Blue Carbon Policy Working Group was formed to support development and implementation of blue carbon policy in the international arena.   This group, along with the Blue Carbon Science Working Group, are part of the Blue Carbon Initiative, a consortium led by IUCN, Conservation International, and the International Oceanic Commission-UNESCO, working with partners from national governments, research institutions, NGOs, coastal communities, intergovernmental and international bodies and other relevant stakeholders.

This 3-day workshop, held at the CI headquarters, involved top wetland and mangrove scientists, directors of marine and climate change programs at a variety of multilateral
institutions and NGOs, and experts in wetland carbon accounting who work closely with the IPCC and UNFCCC.  I had the rare opportunity to observe this group as they worked to form a strategy to include blue carbon in international climate change policy, and outlined an agenda of activities to work on in the next six months, including involvement in the upcoming COP 17 in Durban.  This was an amazing networking opportunity as well, as I had the chance to talk with many of the participants in between sessions and over dinner.

Fun times in DC

These are a few of the highlights of living in DC for the summer, outside of working at IUCN (which has been pretty fantastic so far):

Indonesian festivals:

One of the highlights of living in DC so far has been discovering the large Indonesian community here in DC and in nearby Philadelphia.  My husband is Indonesian, and I spent several years living in Indonesia before coming to MIIS, so this is especially exciting for us.  A few weeks ago, we were invited by a lady we met on the metro to an Indonesian festival in Maryland, where we were shocked to find an authentic Indonesian street fair set up in the backyard of a house in the suburbs!  Probably a couple hundred people were there.

We had an eye-opening experience when we visited an Indonesian family friend in Philadelphia the other weekend.  She lives in South Philly in an area known as “Little Surabaya”, where there is estimated to be over 5,000 Indonesians, mostly undocumented workers, who provide much of the labor for the factories in the surrounding industrial area. Overall we had a great visit,  got stuffed silly with amazing Indonesian food, and learned a lot about the history of Indonesian immigrants in the US.

The Indonesian Embassy organized a big festival on the mall with the highlight of the event being an attempt to break a world record for largest angklung ensemble.  The angklung is a traditional Indonesian instrument made from bamboo.  We broke the record on the second attempt, with a total of 5,100 people.

Forth of July:

We were warned that the national mall would be complete chaos, but decided we had to try to watch the fireworks there anyway.  You may have seen “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS – we were there, watching that concert on the lawn of the capitol building.  I have to say, it was a lot of fun, and the musical lineup was very impressive.  It wasn’t the best spot for actually watching the fireworks though, since the wind was blowing towards us and the view was partially obscured by smoke.  But it was a memorable night nonetheless, and not nearly as chaotic as I had feared.

Free concerts:

Summer in DC is awash with free concerts going on all over the city.  A few of my favorite events have been Jazz in the national sculpture garden every Friday, the blues tent at the Folk life Festival, and the free nightly free concerts on the Kennedy center’ millennium stage.  We also won free tickets to see OkGo at the Kennedy center!  Not bad DC.

Office Life

Some shots of the office:

The IUCN office sits on the 3rd floor of a building in Dupont Circle. sharing a floor with a think tank called Eco Logic, and an NGO focused on arctic conservation.  The other floors of the building are occupied by the Embassy of Gabon, the Iraqi cultural center, and Human Rights Watch – an interesting mix!  There’s only about 10-15  people from IUCN in the office on any given day. Most of the program officers travel very frequently, and a lot of people work as consultants rather than  full-time staff, so it’s often very quiet.

Being an intern in a small office has its perks though, since it’s easier to get to know people and I can easily drop by anyone’s office and ask them if they can spare a minute to chat with me about their program.  I hope to do more of that in the coming month!

A great thing about D.C. is the plethora of marine related conferences, seminars, and lectures taking place nearly everyday, and luckily my boss always encourages me to go to anything I’m interested in.  I’ve been to a dozen events already, and going to another later this week at the World Bank.

Next post, I’ll write more about the work I’m doing here, and other cool stuff going on in D.C.!

Lisa at IUCN’s Blue Carbon Initiative, Washington DC

I spent the past 4 years before coming to MIIS in Indonesia, working with several NGO’s in the field of sustainable development.   After seeing first hand the extent that Indonesia’s marine and forest resources are being destroyed and degraded, I wanted to learn about policies that can incentive their conservation.    I am thrilled to have the opportunity to intern with IUCN’s Blue Carbon Initiative this summer, where I will be researching how mangrove forests can fit into the international REDD+ policy framework.  I’m hoping this internship will be a building block to a future career working on climate change policy and sustainable development in Indonesia.

Blue Carbon:   Mangroves in Indonesia

I arrived in DC last weekend in the midst of a shockingly hot heatwave.  Now that it’s cooled off a little and I’ve spent a few days getting oriented in the office, things are looking good.   Earlier this week I attended a lecture on forestry modeling at WWF headquarters with Alyssum.  Next week is Capitol Hill Ocean Week, so I’ll be attending lectures and events related to ocean policy issues all week.  Should be a great networking opportunity!  DC has so much going on, two months is going to fly by!