Back in 2010, when I applied for the Kinship Fellows program, I was working as a marine ecologist with the Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC). I had only read about carbon markets, but I was curious about how they could be applied to marine conservation.
I read a report published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which said that conserving coastal vegetation could sequester carbon up to 100 times faster and more permanently than forest carbon projects. I was trying to make this link between blue carbon to carbon markets and to my own work, but it wasn’t part of my job description. So that’s when I applied to Kinship. I was eager to get in and meet people doing market-based work instead of trying to learn on my own through books.
The Kinship Fellows program introduced me to all of these new tools, concepts, ideas as well as the people who were implementing them. After the program, I had all of these new tools that I wanted to put to use. An opportunity came along to join GRID-Arendal as a marine ecosystem services project manager. GRID is a non-profit organization based in Norway that supports the work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Our work focuses on building capacity by raising awareness, creating knowledge, and most importantly for me: inspiring people to take action. I applied and got the job. So now I have a professional role in the blue carbon field, and I’m working at the international level. And in my mind, it all started with my Kinship project.
I spend half of my time on marine ecosystem services work and the other half on blue carbon projects. One of my major focuses has been on the development of the Blue Solutions projects, which, among other topics, looks to raise awareness about blue carbon and other sustainable finance mechanisms. We gather success stories from around the world on marine and coastal problems that have had solutions. Then we break these solutions into building blocks and show people how to mix and match to create a solution that’s relevant to their needs. It’s kind of like Legos: you might use a block from Brazil and pair it with one from Australia and then one from Micronesia to build a solution to a problem that you’re having in Brazil. We hold regional forums in different areas of the world that are aimed at two audiences: those who have solutions that can be captured, and the broader public and policy makers who may want to use or modify the solutions or building blocks. What I’m really enthused about is that up until now, GRID has been primarily focused on capacity building and partnerships in developing countries. But I’m helping to introduce market-based approaches, which hasn’t really been their focus.
I continue to cultivate resources as a way to expand my projects. And a big part of my work is promoting the successes of blue carbon and other market-based marine initiatives. For example, sometimes social outcomes can be more important in terms of measuring and reporting success. If you have a community with a successful blue carbon project and that means they get $10,000 more a year that they can use towards their community school, that’s an achievement.
I hope to build the Blue Solutions database and bring people together at targeted events with the goal to foster a stronger professional network for marine conservation. One of the biggest lessons from the program that I still apply today is the knowledge that there are solutions out there being developed by other professionals. It has inspired me to continue to not only be innovative within my own projects but also to reach out to others, through the Fellows Community and beyond. Kinship is not only about providing tools, it’s also about showcasing solutions.
“It’s kind of like Legos: you might use a block from Brazil and pair it with one from Australia and then one from Micronesia to build a solution to a problem that you’re having in Brazil.”