IPY 2012 Montréal: From Knowledge to Action

Note: This week The Arctic Institute will feature a number of guest contributions from the IPY 2012 Conference in Montréal by Daniel Fox and Extreme and Polar Islands Conservation (E.P.I.C.), a conservation office based in Brussels, Europe, that campaigns and works for the creation of Marine & Nature Reserves on and around remote and polar islands. You can find Daniel on Twitter and follow his updates from the conference on E.P.I.C.'s website. You can find his photos from IPY 2012 here. The Arctic Institute will collect his contributions on our stand-alone IPY 2012 page.

By Daniel Fox Yesterday was the registration and the opening cocktail for the International Polar Year 2012 Conference. After picking up the badge and meeting people, it was time to head over to one of the main rooms and break the ice with all the other attendees - more than 3,000 of them, from 47 countries. 
The arrival at the Palais des Congres this morning was marked by heavy security around the building, following a weekend of intense unrelated demonstrations. Once inside though, the feeling was much aligned to one of community and camaraderie and it was obvious that everyone was in the mood to make the best of this unique and special conference. 

While we were munching nice food and drinking Canadian beers, Martin Fortier, executive director of ArcticNet, welcomed everyone before introducing a duo of Inuit performing throat singing. Looking up on Wikipedia, this cultural treasure is described as:

“Two women face each other usually in a standing position and holding each other's arms. Sometimes they will do some kind of dance movements while singing (e.g., balancing from right to left). One singer leads by setting a short rhythmic pattern, which she repeats leaving brief silent intervals between each repetition. The other singer fills in the gap with another rhythmic pattern. The sounds used include voiced sounds as well as unvoiced ones, both through inhalation or exhalation. The first to run out of breath or be unable to maintain the pace of the other singer will start to laugh or simply stop and will thus lose the game. It generally lasts between one and three minutes. The winner is the singer who beats the largest number of people. At one time, the lips of the two women almost touched, so that one singer used the mouth cavity of the other as a resonator, but this is less common in present day. Often, the singing is accompanied by a shuffling in rhythm from one foot to the other. The sounds may be actual words or nonsense syllables created during exhalation.”

The performance was incredible and apparently, in the Inuit culture, it is used often as a lullaby for children. These events at the beginning of any conference are always a great place for people to loosen up and set the groundwork for a successful week of productive work and priceless new connections.

After much preparation, the main conference room was ready for the big show. Professor Peter Harrison, Chair of the IPY 2012 and Director of the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University came on stage and declared the conference opened. His introduction was followed by the Honorable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development at the Government of Canada. Jean Charest, Quebec’s Prime Minister, came on talking about Quebec’s Plan Nord. Ms. Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami focused on showing the importance of the indigenous people and pointed to the fact that over 100 Inuit were present this week. More people took the stage,  Ms. Kyla Kakfwi Scott, Jane Glassco Arctic Fellow, Dr. Yuan-Tseh Lee, President, International Council for Science and Mr. David Grimes, President, World Meteorological Organization. At the end, we were treated with more throat singing and great native dance.

The ceremony was followed by the opening Keynote speaker Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Norwegian Prime Minister and sustainability guru!

I then hooked up with Milbry Polk - Wings Quest Founder and Moki Kokoris - contributing writer for The Arctic Institute, liaison for the UN and founder of the educational program 90-North. The morning was followed with a meeting with Aqqaluk Lynge, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council and a lunch with Canadian hero Geoff Green, founder of Students on Ice. The afternoon started with a panel moderated by David Grimes and featuring Dr. Jane Lubchenco - Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Administration, Dr. Karin Lochte - Director Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Dr. Huigen Yang - Director Polar Research Institute of China & H.E. Ronny Jumeau - Ambassador to the United Nations & United States. Followed by a meeting with Mike Gill, Chair of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program at Environment Canada, Tom Barry Executive Secretary of the Conservation of Arctic Flora & Fauna (CAFF) and Dr. Evgeny Syroechkovskiy, CAFF Chair. By the time 5pm rang my clock, it was time to head over to the Arctic Council booth for a quick chat with Linnea Nordstrom, the Information Officer. Just about ready to leave, I had to stop just a bit more to watch a great display of Inuit fashion and craft with amazing seal skin outerwear.

Judging from the first day at IPY 2012, I can assure you that the conference will be a huge success. Stay tuned for more updates. Don’t forget to check the live Twitter updates with the hashtag #IPY2012, and don’t miss the conference’s live webcast

More tomorrow!!