November 23, 2017
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17 COA Delegates at Rio+20 UN Conference

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BAR HARBOR, ME—College of the Atlantic has sent 15 students and two faculty members to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, a 20-year follow-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The conference, which runs through June 25, is organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Having studied the issues intensively, COA’s students have created an informed media team has been offering informed, passionate responses to the events on their website, Their analyses is informed by genuine understanding and their perspective as youth—the very people who will be most impacted by the Rio outcome.

They have also been effective organizers while in Rio. One member of the delegation gave a speech representing Youth and Children. Others have organized youth workshops, and demonstrations.

The discussions at the conference are geared toward creating “The Future We Want,” in matters of social equity, environmental protection and the reduction of poverty. On Earth in Brackets, COA students are asking two basic questions: “What is the future we really want?” and “What will it take to get it?”

Earth in Brackets achieved significant recognition at the recent UN climate change meetings in Durban, South Africa, where it was deemed one of the five best sites to follow to understand the proceedings. Influential in youth mobilization throughout the meetings, EIB’s impact culminated in an elegant and impassioned speech by COA student Anjali Appadurai to government negotiators. That speech went viral. The team has already started posting analyses of the preparatory meetings.

“Our work at the UN is but one front of a much larger struggle for environmental and social justice that spans decades, continents and movements,” says second-year COA student Nathan Thanki, from Belfast, Northern Ireland. After returning from the Durban climate change meetings last December, he has developed Earth in Brackets into a larger forum for discussions of international policy meetings. He is particularly interested in how ordinary people—not governments or others in positions of official power—use (or feel excluded from) existing structures to obtain a just future. It is essential to understand nuances of global environmental politics, he says: “Real decisions are being made in how we should approach crises, and they are not the right ones!”

The students bring a variety of interests ranging from ecological economics to climate change, to biodiversity and sustainable cities. In Rio, however, they plan to focus on three issues: water justice, food sovereignty, and the green economy. In addition to their Earth in Brackets reports, the students expect to connect with other committed youth, learn how to navigate international meetings, and create space for greater youth involvement in future events. Much of the COA delegation also will attend the associated youth gatherings before the UN conference convenes, and the parallel Rio-based People’s Summit.

Members of COA’s delegation hail from Bolivia, Colombia, Croatia, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, and the United Kingdom; four come from the United States. They are joined by COA faculty members Ken Cline, who teaches law and environmental policy, and Gray Cox, political philosopher. For the Rio conference, some posts will be written in Spanish.

To contact the media group of Earth in Brackets email Follow it at on Facebook at, Twitter @earthinbrackets, or visit the site,