IUCN WCC 2016 – Did you see Obama?

1 September 2016, Hawaii: The IUCN World Conservation Congress has begun. And I know this is what everybody wants to know – did you see Obama? Well… what can I say? We must have met in our spirit because his plane was landing from DC around the same time as mine. His motorcade was taking the fast lane while I was taking a parallel one to avoid him. He came over to the Waikiki at night for a dinner around Waikiki while I was staying at the Sheraton. And finally I should have listened to Pratim – who told me, “Forget this Sheraton and all go back and stay in your dorm. That’s the real Hawaii!”

If I had stayed at the dorms then I would have surely met him because finally Obama delivered a talk at the East West Center for the heads of state who had gathered for the IUCN opening and sent his Secretary of State for Interior Affairs, Susan Jewell (also Head of the National Parks and a gem of a person) for the opening of the Congress. Here’s a link to his talk which was delivered the previous evening and I think it was written for the Congress but for some reason he didn’t come. Everybody is all praise for him for declaring the world’s largest marine park close to Hawaii. And for the first time in the history of parks and conservation, this marine park will be co-managed by the Department of Hawaiian Affairs which means cultural issues will also be prioritised.

Anita Varghese

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