State of the Planet

Every year, there’s a conference organized by the earth institute called “State of the Planet”. It has (apparently) grown every year, and is a fairly big deal these days. The question? What is the state of the planet? The answer: not great.

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger (or PrezBo, as we like to call him) gave the opening welcome.

Did I mention that this was a fairly big deal. This guy – Kofi Annan (pronounced to rhyme with “canon”) gave a little speech, and he even told a joke.

As is expected with any large evet at Columbia, the press were all over it (how do you think I got front row seats anyway?)

Others would try to get even closer, sneaking up on guest speakers from the sides.

…and no earth institute event is complete without the appearence of the director – Jeffrey Sachs. Here he signs a book for a fan (who isn’t me for once).

He also spoke a little bit… which, in Jeff-Sachs-land translates to a few hours, because he does rather like to talk. (this picture made the front of the paper)

If there’s anyone around here who’s doing something about the state of the planet, it is the Scandinavians. The minister for foreign affairs from Norway, Jonas Gahr Store, gives the low down on global health and their foreign policy agenda.

Speaking of Norwegians, Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian institute of international affairs, tells us a bit about addressing areas of conflict in the developing world.

Of course, lots of the panelists had to be flown in, and many came from far and wide and had literally just stepped off planes following 20-hour transits. Or maybe they just didn’t find the other speakers on their panel terribly exciting.

The Sachs man takes the stage again to wake everyone up…

Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran chairs the debate for the evening… which was actually lots of fun, although due to timing, somewhat sparsely attended.

The topic of the debate was interesting, and timely.

…and the speakers were endlessly amusing. Vinod went so far as to say that all innovation happens in America and that Europe was largely useless (I’m not exaggerating)

This lady spoke about nuclear energy… and France. Did you know that most of France’s energy is nuclear?

But all I could think about were her huge glasses.

Ok, so I managed to get a front-row seat… but some front row seats are more… *front* than others.

There were even tables at the front for VIPs and certain media to sit and blog.

It was not only the panelists who occasionally tuned out of proceedings. Even among the audience, some distractions proved too distracting.

Each of the many panels included time for questions. This questioner’s name was “Summer Rayne Oakes”, which I thought was a joke-name (like “Biggus Dickus”) until I googled it.

Even the Sachs-man had a question or two for the panelists.

The second day of panels was very informative, with many slides detailing just how bad the situation is with regard to climate change.

…looks like I wasn’t the only media presence there. The whole conference was videoed and can be watched here.

Friend and classmate Cathy Vaughan carries out her essential role as timekeeper for the speakers. It was joked later that these signs might be more effective if they said “shut up” on them instead of “2 minutes”

Discussion on climate change issues obviously didn’t appeal to everyone. This, I can only assume was one of the children of the speakers, keeping herself busy at the back of the lecture hall.

Each of the panels was chaired by a person from the Economist magazine. These guys were surprisingly good at it.

Me, being the geek that I am, shot a grey card, so that I could synchronize my white balance in all the photos that I took. (If you don’t understand any of that, don’t worry). You will notice, also that the image is only in focus for a narrow band of the picture. That’s what you get for shooting f/2.8 aperture.

Hey, you… yeah, you… no, not you, the person I’m pointing my pen at… yeah… you.

Jeff concludes the conference with a look of concern.

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