INTERVIEW: Dr Nancy Mackin

   1. What is your name, where are you based and what do you “do”?

I am Nancy Mackin, and architect, landscape ecologist, and professor

 

  1. What was your involvement in this conference?

I made 2 presentations

 

  1. What is your involvement in climate change?

I am worried about climate change, particularly on behalf of the northern communities I work with

 

  1. Do you feel that the public perception on climate change is making a move in the right direction?

I don’t think policy makers and governments are taking climate change seriously enough

 

  1. Are you aware of any impacts/consequences and/or initiatives of climate change in your home country?

Yes: changes in fish (streams too warm for salmon), changes in arctic berry harvests (willow and other invasives are becoming larger and more abundant as the arctic climate warms)

 

  1. Do you have anything you would like to tell/ask/inform young people about climate change?

This is your world: make sure older people hear that you are concerned and that there are ways to make a difference

 

  1. How have you found Iceland? 

I love Iceland and want to come back! 

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The Final Day

This morning we woke up to a sky with speckled bits of blue! Yipee!! To make the most of the good weather we made brekky inside our campervan, Glenda, for the last time and ran up Skogafoss waterfall. This view, as well as our view of the valley further upstream was extraordinary and one of the best waterfalls yet. We were even lucky enough to spot a couple of rainbows.

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Our main mission for today was to make it to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most talked about attractions and so we thought we’d save the best for last. The pictures portray only a portion of what it really was like in there. What we can add is that it was luxurious, warm, muddy, comfy and put us right to sleep. Half the fun was the futuristic bathrooms and the fact that you could order totally over priced cocktails to drink while you floated around!

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The geothermal power at the Blue Lagoon

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These pools are formed and heated naturally by geothermal energy. The power plant nearby shows just how much energy Iceland can produce in this small area of the south west. Because the Blue Lagoon is such a tourist hot spot, some of the effluent energy from the power plant is used to keep the pools at the perfect temperature. It is a prime example of how overflows or ‘extra’ energy can be put to use in a great way.

Our final thing to tick off on our great adventure was to meet members of the Icelandic band Arstidir! We were lucky enough to meet Ragnar Olafasson and Gunnar Mar Jakobsson, the pianist and guitarist of the group. Arstidir formed in Reykjavik five years ago and have since then released two full-length records and had two number one hits on Icelandic radio.

What was interesting for us is that Arstidir records in an old power station.

Toppstodin, the name of the powerhouse, was used for producing coal after the Second World War. The Marshall plan, a funded initiative supported by the US government, to kick start European economies post-war time, is the reason Toppstodin stands today. This was greatly appreciated by the people of Iceland as it produced much needed jobs and generated economic growth. The only problem was that this power station produced coal and Iceland is a country with the most potential to harness geothermal energy… didn’t really think that through.

So in 1984 Iceland gave up on coal as they had now harnessed virtually 100% clean energy from natural geothermal sources. And now Toppstodin is an empty, old and eerie building which houses grassroot campaigns, artists and musicians.

Cool hey?!

Arstidir was lucky enough to secure a huge recording space, which is a rarity in Iceland, considering how many bands there are and how little settlement there actually is. Their studio is so effortlessly cool, with clocks, dials and thermometers already plugged onto walls from the coal burning days.

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As well as having a cool rehearsal space Arstidir is made up of really cool, down to earth people. Hopefully, through their kickstarter campaign and other funding projects their mystical and atmospheric music hits Australian shores and maybe even Woodford Folk Festival one day!!

We’d like to extend our thanks to Ragnar and Gunnar, for giving us so much of their precious time and for the tour of the whole power station.

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Check out their kickstarter campaign! We promise you, you will not be disappointed!!!

Enjoy!!

INTERVIEW: Alexander Frantzen, Denmark and USA

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  1. What is your name, where are you based and what do you “do”?

Alexander Frantzen, analyst at the Durst Organization in New York City. Creator of ENERGY WE NEED.

 

  1. What was your involvement in this conference?

Poster presentor.

 

  1. What is your involvement in climate change?

Trying to encourage/educate public change.

 

  1. Do you feel that the public perception on climate change is making a move in the right direction?

It is becoming more commonly or widely recognised as an issue, but knowledge and practical political or economic understanding is perhaps hard to gain.

 

  1. Are you aware of any impacts/consequences and/or initiatives of climate change in your home country?

Yes, in the US:

  • Droughts, extreme rain, fires
  • Mixture of predominantly adaptive rather than mitigating initiatives

o   Like building a “wall” around the lower part of Manhattan (like a big U around the island to keep water from flooding the island).

 

  1. Do you have anything you would like to tell/ask/inform young people about climate change?

That they need to be optimistic and confident as they educate themselves about the issues and try to create mitigating initiatives. They should learn the science of the carbon cycle, the CO2 intensity of energy generation, and know the energy intensity of all our lifestyle choices. Also developing a collective awareness by first setting an example ourselves – “practice what you teach, teach only what you practice” – and then being supportive to educate people who are doubtful or cynical.

 

  1. How have you found Iceland?

Online, by searching climate conferences. Iceland is peaceful and charming. The landscape is stunning. The event had some very good speakers.

INTERVIEW: Megan Marks, Australia

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  1. What is your name, where are you based and what do you “do”?

Megan Marks, Arts worker and PhD student at University of the Sunshine Coast.

 

  1. What was your involvement in this conference?

Presented on environmental art and how it can help people become interested in the environment.

 

  1. What is your involvement in climate change?

I drive a car

 

  1. Do you feel that the public perception on climate change is making a move in the right direction?

Since the Liberals got in I think it’s quite obvious that it’s gone backwards. But it has prompted people to become more engaged again because we can’t believe the Government’s stance. Everyday people like me are going to protests eve,. I wanted to make a placard – “Tony Abbott, just because we’re down under doesn’t mean we have to be backwards.” Cool heh!

 

  1. Are you aware of any impacts/consequences and/or initiatives of climate change in your home country?

I’m pretty aware compared to others I think, but I’ve always lived by the Precautionary Principle anyway. We might as well act environmental, just in case!

 

  1. Do you have anything you would like to tell/ask/inform young people about climate change?

Big time! Forget worrying or feeling guilty about what we’ve done to the environment. Really we can do some great things really easily. Go with a bunch of friends for a day volunteering planting and then go for beers afterwards.  Being environmental can be fun!

 

  1. How have you found Iceland?

The plane just dumped me here.

 

  1. Any other comments?

Go camping! If you have a great experience in natures you’ll look after it! Oh and check out the Floating Land environmental art festival that happens every 2 years at Noosa here (https://www.facebook.com/floatingland2013). Enjoy the environment!

Amazing Yet Terrifying: Glaciers are Melting

Today we had one of the most incredible experiences of our whole lives. We went to Jokulsarlon, an area of the Vatnajokull glacier that stands between volcanoes and a lake filled with icebergs that flows to the sea through a short channel. This place was out of this world, yet also the hugest reminder that climate change is very very real. In places Vatnajokull glacier is 1km thick (no way!), goes for 80km (wow!) and is tens of thousands of years old (crazy!). As we all know glaciers gradually move forward but this one is receding 200-300m a year. As we stood there we saw icebergs break apart, in a boat we saw parts of the glacier crash into the water, the constant dripping of water off every ice surface.

Our guide for a boat trip out on the lagoon told us of his childhood winters in thick snow, which now is only a thin layer. He made a valid point that many Icelanders are in some ways looking forwards to global warming… milder winters would be a treat. But nevertheless, working on the lagoon every summer even for only the last 3 years he has watched the lake get bigger and bigger and he feels sadder every time a chunk breaks off (daily).

Although it was the most extraordinarily beautiful and awe inspiring thing we’ve ever done you can’t help but think you aren’t meant to be there. It’s so beautiful and so untouched that you feel you aren’t supposed to be able to experience it. Maybe that’s why the funny little seals popped their heads above water and stared after the zodiac boat like we were impostors.

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Icebergs flowing to the sea

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Into the Wild

This morning we picked up Glenda our trusty campervan and left the city for the big outdoors! Leaving Reykjavik we saw small houses scattered over the hillside and steam rising from the sides of hills. This steam marked geothermal hotspots (there are SO many in Iceland) and we saw a huge geothermal electricity plant with a long zig zagging pipeline and powerlines transporting heat and electricity away and to the plant and city. Iceland gets 87% (apparently) of its power from geothermal energy, which sounds very impressive but now we have seen the huge amount of activity happening it would be a huge waste not to harness it.

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A geothermal plant

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The Pipeline

We travelled to a valley where we hiked for 45mins to a stream that runs hot, heated by the earth. These rivers and waterfalls we have seen, swum in and crossed throughout Iceland so far run from sources such as springs and glaciers. Iceland is a hardy yet fragile country and it is so obvious to everyone here that climate change is and will completely change the entire country. With glaciers melting river’s volume and courses will change, impacting on farms, animals and the landscape. Iceland will experience even more erratic weather patterns than it currently does (they’re already ridiculously up and down and extreme).

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The hot stream

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Geothermal hotspot

In saying this, we tried to capture with our eyes and remember the extraordinary landscape as much as we could, knowing that if we ever came back to see this part of the world, it wouldn’t look the same. To say the least, we were speechless. The 45 minutes walk to the hot streams was one of the most memorable moments of our lives. We couldn’t fathom that these sweeping hills, covered with bright green creeping moss, were so untouched and perfect. Black, ashy volcanic rock covers most of the slopes, which makes for amazing colour contrast.

Fluoro green against stark charcoal = insane.

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Black and green, black and green

It was like we were on another planet. We hiked through steam clouds that emanated from bright blue acidic boiling pools just metres from the path. As you can imagine, after we finally reached the hot springs we were in need of a break, to cool off our bodies and our minds. 

The hot springs were a whole new experience in themselves. I wish I could describe it to you, and even the photos don’t do it justice. You’ll just have to imagine us, lying on warm stones, submerged in clear trickling water. If fairies existed they’d live in the banks of the creek, amongst the bright yellow daisies and soft moss.

Refreshed and ready for more we did a sneaky and innovative towel change (very Mooloolaba beach inspired) and started our hike back down to good old Glenda. Our way back somehow seemed to be even more amazing. We got different views and angles than we did before and it was much easier because it was all down hill from now. We found an edge of a mountain ledge and sat in silence for a while – looking in awe at the other side of the crevasse where numerous waterfalls cascaded down the opposite mountains.

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GLENDA!

 

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In the campervan

We had tea and biscuits outside Glenda on some table and chairs. It looked ridiculous, four small bodies with a huge foreboding mountain as a backdrop. 

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Tea break

Next stop: Pingvellir National Park

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Entering the National Park

Glenda got us to marshy, shrubby parklands and we jumped out, ready for more but knowing that it couldn’t really get much better than Hveragerdi.

Oh but it did…

A stroll around the national park meant visiting these seriously significant natural and historical sights all in the vicinity of 1km of each other: 

  • The rock on which the first parliament was held
  • The first Christian church in Iceland
  • The diverging tectonic Eurasian and North American plates
  • One of most magnificent waterfalls we’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something

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Lava flow turned rock

 

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The tiny church

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The super cool waterfall

We lay in a field of daisies (we aren’t telling lies, there are really fields of daisies dotted everywhere) and giggled at the absurdity of our lives and the number of life memories we had made in just one day exploring this wild part of Iceland.

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We returned to Glenda, warm toasty Glenda, who looked beautiful in the midnight sun, might we add. We cooked pesto pasta and sat feeling super cosy inside while the clouds came in. Today was absolutely incredible and we have extremely high expectations of Iceland, though knowing this phenomenal country it will somehow manage to exceed them.  

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The Conference – Day 2

Hello again! Maia and Tess here from Reykjavik, Iceland!! Getting sick of that yet?!

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Today was the second and final day of the 6th International Conference on Climate Change: Impacts & Responses which was held at the university, here in Iceland’s capital city.

At midday we were due to present our presentation on climate change certification alongside Rosemary and Simon from the EIANZ. Until then though we attended the morning plenary session, one which focused on educating on climate change and the thought processes which are most effective combined with different learning styles.

After a tea and coffee break (this would have to be number 20 for sure) we gathered again to attend a documentary by Dr Nancy Mackin, the lady which we took particular interest in yesterday. Her presentation on Moss Houses continued into a documentary about the elders of Circumpolar North Canada. We had a conversation with Nancy after the conclusion of her film and we drew significant parallels with Indigenous Australian’s back home. We all agreed on the necessity to facilitate meetings between the elders and young people of Australia, so to engage a new way of thinking by adapting old ways for a futuristic climate.

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We scoffed down some incrediblyyyy delicious falafels and quickly headed back to prep for our presentation. As midday approached people started filing into the room, which was really encouraging. Simon got the ball rolling and soon enough recommendations and question were flying around the room. Maia and I helped answer questions during the workshop time. Our main role was to enter data that we received from delegates so we could present and project graphs right then and there. In the end our presentation went overwhelmingly well and we were so glad for the positive and constructive feedback we received on the professional proficiencies.  The hard part was done, kaput and out of the way!!

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The rest of the day featured cool presentations of environmental art and how their messages, consciously and subliminally, send messages about the urgency of climate change. Megan Marks, our good pal from down under, spoke about Floating Land, an art installation festival held at Lake Cootharaba, Boreen Point, which is near Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. Floating Land festival is a seriously effective way of attracting a whole different audience by art and then exposes them to climate change and its impacts on these natural art installations.

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Megan’s presentation

And that’s it! After that round of presentations the conference wrapped itself up and people slowing left. All in all this conference has been an amazing experience, not just a learning and educational one but it’s given us an opportunity to meet people and make connections , all over the globe. We would both like to extend our thanks to the EIANZ, EnviroPartners and the Cavendish family. Without their generosity this conference and this once in a lifetime trip to Iceland would never have happened. Thankyou – times a trillion.

Tomorrow we hire a campervan and travel the South of Iceland. To say the least we are extremely excited – stay tuned!!

Love, Mess and Taia (Tess and Maia)

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blog11Taken at 11.30pm…. the sun looks like it’s going down but it really isn’t.

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The Conference – Day 1

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We woke up wide eyed for our first official day in Iceland. Our 15 minute walk to the University of Iceland, where the conference was held, was a nice crisp morning walk – just what we needed after 12ish hours sleep over three long days.

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The university is a landmark in its self, way way cooler than any buildings from uni back in Brisbane. We entered a huge glass building and from then onwards the networking began. A plenary quick started the conference where the other 143 delegates from 42 countries introduced themselves to one another. It’s something about people that are passionate about climate change which makes for great and endless conversation.

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Within this initial meet and greet most of the Australians met each other – which was a surprisingly high amount (go us!).

We all got along really well and agreed all too well on Australia’s current stance on climate change.

The next few hours was full of 20 minute presentations, based around different topics surrounding climate change and its impact on all parts of the world.

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The presentations we found most interesting and relevant to our work with AYCC was probably those talks presented by Professor Nick Harvey, Dr Nancy Mackin and Dr Stephen Sheppard.

Professor Harvey spoke about politics and its responses to climate change along the coasts of Australia. His talk was particularly interesting and relevant to us because he spoke of the important of the ‘Combination Lock’, a concept that enables more movement and climate action to happen when both the Federal and State government are of the same ideologies (AKA the same party is in power). He put us in contact with this resource which is very interesting, particularly from an AYCC point of view: http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/verve/_resources/ClimateoftheNation_final_file_20June.pdf. Excerpts can be seen below:

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He provided us with a graphic he had found in the web and used in his presentation which is below.

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Dr Nancy Mackin, was another speaker in the same session as Professor Harvey. She spoke about the necessity to work with indigenous elders (in her case native American peoples) to understand and appreciate the natural land, in order to avoid and mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Her study of moss and its versatility to be used as building materials when constructing igloo sort of huts was seriously cool. While in -35 degree temperatures, Dr Mackin worked with young kids from Circumpolar North Canada and native elders to construct a modern day ‘Moss House’ using only materials they’d sourced from nature.

Out of the 10 or so presentations we listened to today, Stephen’s Sheppard presentation was one of the most intriguing. Doctor Sheppard’s talk focused around presenting climate change visually. He believes that bringing meaning to the numbers and scientific graphs we use through visual learning and local engagement was a much more effective way of spreading the message. Sheppard, alongside Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP) produces interactive images that show exactly what the graphs are trying to say but in a personal, engaging way. We wish we could show you some of the awesome slides he showed us, let’s just say they were muchhhh more advanced than Microsoft Power Point 2010.

However the same points are still relevant for all us that are trying to get the message out there:

  • Convert graphs to graphics
  • Put it into personal perspective
  • Pin point exactly what will happen and how it will affect your audience and their daily lives.

Last but not least we met some incredible people along the way.

Megan – who likes to advocate and raise awareness through art installations and positive vibezzzz. Megan isn’t about doom and gloom. We like Megan.

Ricardo, a crazy Brazilian. We just nod and smile half the time because we don’t understand much of what he says, but we’re sure it’s important and valid opinions are offered.

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Oh, and Alexander…Alexander created a website that calculates your energy usage to the exact wattage by analysing the petrol of your specific type of car. Alexander’s website can calculate how much energy we need right down to the very last detail. He knows exactly how much energy each country spends on defence and has somehow integrated these into each person’s personal calculation. Oh and we forgot to mention…he did this all in his spare time..for fun…. Impressive right?!

http://www.energyweneed.com/ Check it out!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (he would love some more data from other countries other than the US).

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Finally, we arrived…

We FINALLY arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland (Iceland is the green one, Greenland is the icy one) after three flights, four airports and 40 hours of travel! Stepping off the plane felt like walking on a flowery, mossy, windy planet… it is out of this world.

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Street Art

We came to Iceland to attend the 6th International Conference on Climate Change: Impacts and Responses to help present and run a workshop for the EIANZ (Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand) who are introducing a certification scheme for climate change and other (eg. Anyone involved in climate change such as paramedics, engineers, doctors, etc.) professionals. We aim to put forward the proposed proficiencies for the certification to the conference delegates so that they can give feedback and perhaps take the idea back to their home countries. We will talk about this later, however.

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Our first impressions of Iceland were (and continue to be) only good things. This is a land of widespread wifi (even on the bus!), very expensive food and accommodation, street art, moss, tiny yet adorable houses, funky urban design, ridiculous weather, cool culture and music (think Bjork, Sigur Ros and many more – what else do they have to do when there’s no daylight for six months a year??), environmental awareness, renewables and geothermal activity, workplace gender equality, Vikings, 24 hours of daylight (we are not even kidding, it hasn’t got dark once), dried fish and a language that sounds like gibberish.

We are so excited to be here and to learn as much as we can to share with you!

ImageGreen, mossy walls and exciting architecture

ImageThe Harbour

ImageA Typical Street

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ImageView of Reykjavik from our hostel

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