A Busy Week

It was a very busy week at Columbia… kicked off with Jeff Sachs and John Legend teaming up for the “Show Me” poverty action tour on Monday night.

Somewhat inspired by my first assignment making the front of last Friday’s paper, I took all my photographic equipment to the event and snap snap snapped away. This is John Legend, having a quiet moment to himself just before the doors of the auditorium were thrown open to the general public.

And the Sachs man himself arrives on the scene… and was good enough to do a little round of all the tables and have a brief chat with everyone there.

Entry to the event was by online registration. Registration filled up within about 20 minutes of it being opened… so there was a standby queue. I’ve never known an event to get the message out about ending poverty… featuring one musican and an economics professor… having a standby queue.

I have never heard a crowd cheer so loudly for a university professor… it almost makes me want to be an academic. Jeff said many things… among my favourites was his suggestion that the Pentagon takes Thursday off… which would provide enough money to buy everyone in sub-saharan Africa a bed net to fend off malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. See that face? I have to put up with that between the hours of 11am and 1pm every Monday and Wednesday… I don’t know how he does it.

….but the real treat of the night was that they opened it up to questions from the audience.

…and some audience members had some pretty pressing questions to ask.

Between Jeff and John, I think they answered the questions pretty well… I mean, c’mon, Jeff’s a freak. Tenured professor at Harvard at age 28… that’s crazy. It shows – he really knows his stuff inside-out and back-to-front.

Another treat – John Legend played a few songs…

He ain’t bad at playing that piano, nor is he a slouch when it comes to singing… I guess those grammy award awarders know what they’re doing.

After the event itself, the crowd spilled out of Roone Arledge Auditorium and… into the tabling area… where there was an amnesty table.

On Tuesday, we had the anti-Sachs event with some critical perspectives.

One of the speakers, and the main drawcard, was Mary Robinson – former president of Ireland, former United Nations High Commisioner for Human Rights and now the Executive Director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative… phwoar…

But she wasn’t the only one who had something to say… there were some deep criticisms of the aid industry and the framework of capitalism in general.

…although they did go a bit over time, many people still stayed afterwards to ask questions of the speakers… who were only too happy to answer (the ones who didn’t have to leave early anyway).

Wednesday started very early for me… a public meeting in Harlem concerning the 125th Street rezoning proposal. I was only able to stay for a short while, but I did manage to snap this shot… which made the papers the next day.

A rather smaller event, early on Wednesday night… a small tabling and speaking gig featuring a rather diverse group of presenters.

Geoff Aung tells us about his experiences in Mongolia and how he crossed paths with the Milennium Road.

The big event of Wednesday though was later in the night when a panel convened to present on “How the Nobel was won” – they were referring, of course, to the Nobel Peace Prize which was awarded to Al Gore and the IPCC. This event was so important that Columbia University President Lee Bollinger (or PrezBo, as we like to call him) came to introduce the speakers. Here he is having a friendly chat with everyone’s favourite Nobel Laureate – Joseph Stiglitz.

Also on the panel – R. K. Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, James Hansen, and Cynthia Rosenzweig – two scientists who were prominent on the IPCC (the IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

It was almost more interesting observing the expressions on the other panel members while someone else was speaking.

Though not quite packed to the rafters… the place was still pretty full.

The Stiggmeister himself told a few jokes… two planets meet each other in the course of their travels around the cosmos and one says to the other “hey, I’ve got this problem”, “oh yeah, what’s the problem?”, “Oh, humans”, “don’t worry, it won’t last long”. Ha Ha Ha!

I guess winning a Nobel in economics must make you good at telling jokes… John Nash is also allegedly meant to have a very well-developed sense of humour.

…such a busy week it was, I was up in the office of the “Columbia Daily Spectator” filling out caption sheets for my photos almost every night.

Thursday night was the main event for “Focus the nation” a nation-wide climate science teach-in. Luckily, here at Columbia, we have one or two pretty decent climate scientists at our disposal (which is partly why I’m here).

Gang He, from the MA in Climate and Society program… looks on, enthralled by the proceedings of the night.

I can never remember this guy’s name, but he’s like this in my Human Ecology and Sustainable Development class as well. Here he’s complaining about the heating and cooling inefficiencies in campus housing.

Questions came from all angles… partly because we didn’t have an extra mic in the centre aisle for people to queue behind like we did in some of the other events.

The panelists came from very diverse backgrounds… good thing too – the questions were probably just as, if not more diverse than even the ecclectic backgrounds of these folk.

…and we managed to get two photographers on the job. Which is pretty good… except at awkward moments like these (this would’ve been an awesome shot if that other photographer hadn’t gotten in the way… (the photographer in question is Angela, the news editor… who knows I’m joking))

Casey Brown (my research advisor) and Lisa Goddard (one of my lecturers from last semester) answer some of the more technical questions about water management and climate prediction respectively.

Finally, on Friday, there was a blogging event, sponsored by the Roosevelt institute.

Which, desite the geeky name, was actually a very fun and interactive workshop…

Where we learned about the powerful new media methods of blogging… in fact… they called it “powerblogging”

I took some “time off” so to speak, and went to shoot a small art exhibition on campus.

…which featured a fridge and a smoke machine!

…and what better way to finish off a Friday night than to attend a Muslim Students Association dinner to celebrate Eid and the Islamic new year. (which was technically in early December… so it was a bit of a belated celebration). I was quite proud of my appearence because it was raining very heavily and I had my big blue jacket on and was thoroughly soaked when I arrived. I took my jacket off, brushed myself off a bit, took my bow tie out of my pocket and did it up (around my neck and without the help of a mirror). It was very James Bond… it’s a pity girls don’t dig me in quite the same way that they dig James Bond…

Oh… and did I mention that I took my camera along? (this photo made the front of Monday’s newspaper)

All of the tables had these wonderfully ornate lamps on them. And the diversity of the attendees was quite impressive… but I suppose it makes sense. You can hardly say all Christians or Jews look alike any more than you can say that all Muslims look alike.

The food… oh, the food was great. Unfortunately, not present in adequate quantities to satisfy an appetite such as mine.

Zafer Tawil gets groovy on the oud…

Azhar Usman – stand up comedian who tours with the show “Allah Made Me Funny”… “thank you very much, I would just like to thank the organisers for giving me this opportunity to perform. this is the first stand up comedy gig I’ve ever done in a planetarium”.

A very fun evening with everyone really enjoying themselves (I think).

The last shoot of the week – Sunday night… on my way to the site where it was to take place… someone spotted this, and I shot it. It seemed somewhat appropriate, considering the happenings of the week… and the next photo…

The sun was setting… the traffic was building… the bridge over the highway had a very annoying mesh fence. Totally inappropriate to take photos through that, thinks I. So I climed the fence, reached over and snapped away. Then I was chased away by a security guard who took is job far too seriously for his own good.

…and on Monday morning… seeing not one, but TWO photos that I had taken on the front… wow. (and they even got my name right!). For the record, this was much more satisfying than the Norm Siegel lead because the main photo is actually quite good (and surprisingly artsy photo for the front of a daily newspaper).

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