Monday, February 23, 2009

MIC members discuss climate change

The 11th MIC Retreat took place about a month ago. A version of this press release edited for the CNMI appeared in the Saipan Tribune and Marianas Variety a few weeks ago. I was supposed to send out this version a while ago, but only got around to it this morning.

Micronesia is going to be one of the regions to first feel the effects of climate change. I'm sure it will become one of the most discussed environmental topics over the next few years.
February 23, 2009

Angelo Villagomez,
Mae Bruton Adams, madams@tn

Environmental leaders take part in region-wide retreat, Discuss Climate Change

Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia - Local conservation strategies and community involvement were on full display last month in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, as environmental leaders from across the region participated in the 11th Micronesians in Island Conservation (MIC) Retreat.

The retreat, which lasted from January 26-30, was held at the former Pohnpei Agricultual & Trade School in the Madolenihmw municipality of Pohnpei. The purposes of having the retreat in a remote site were so that the participants could become immersed in the local culture & community and develop closer ties with one another.

Environmental leaders from across the Micronesia region participated in the retreat. Representing government and non-government, managers and advocates, local and national levels, up-and-coming and veteran conservationists, the 20 participants hailed from CNMI, Guam, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands.

During the retreat members set short and long term personal, professional, and institutional goals. Many of the members have similar goals, or set goals that other members have already attained. Members learn from one another and collaborate together on meeting their goals.

“As a young conservationist I can look at some of the members who have been doing this for 30 years and learn from them,” said Angelo Villagomez of Beautify CNMI.

Members also discuss common institutional and conservation challenges during the retreats. These sessions are “break-out” sessions. Members “break-out” into small groups to discuss challenges, recommend ways forward and determine next steps. After meeting in the small groups members bring their findings back to the group at large for more discussion.

One of the conservation challenges discussed by members this year was surviving climate change. Marine protected areas, like the recently established Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, were identified as a buffer to the effects of climate change.

According to Marshall Islands Conservation Society Executive Director Steve Why, “Our contributions to climate change are small compared to what larger nations contribute, but due to our number of low-lying atolls, the effects of climate change will arrive sooner and be more severe in Micronesia than elsewhere on the globe.”

Micronesian Conservation Trust Executive Director, Willy Kostka, also addressed the group concerning climate change. Kostka said that Pacific Islanders should not point fingers at the larger nations without “taking a look in their own back yard.” Kostka asked the question, “What kind of credibility do we have when we are still using fossil fuels, driving SUVs, and importing food from thousands of miles away?” He added that Pacific Island nations should strive to be models for combating climate change.

The members also had time to become immersed in the local culture and community. On the first night of the retreat they were welcomed by the Kepirohi Village of Madolenihmw Municipality and participated in a sakau ceremony.

On Wednesday they visited the Soamwoai Village in Kitti Municipality and their local marine protected area. They toured the bamboo raft the community uses for monitoring and surveillance of the Enpein Marine Protected Area and were treated to a feast and another sakau ceremony in the village.

On the last night of the retreat, members of the Tamworohi Parish prepared an uhmw dinner of pig and breadfruit roasted in a local underground oven.

“I was really impressed by the amount of community buy-in. I would love to follow their model to get our community more involved in conservation,” commented Fran Castro of Saipan.

The purpose of MIC is to strengthen the collaborative, organizational, technical, and policy skills of leaders and organizations so that, together with communities, they can advance the conservation and management of important natural areas in Micronesia.

The 12th MIC Retreat will take place in October on Palau.

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