Back in 2014 I did an internship at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Asia Centre, in Bangkok. Though it was a communications internship, I got to help out with a variety of other assignments too, including assisting the deputy director with administrative tasks, and help organize a workshop. It was a great experience overall, and I made lasting connections. Thus, 3 years later, when I heard about the SEI Science Forum 2017, organized by the Asia Centre and Chulalongkorn University, I immediately volunteered to help out at the event.
I was very lucky, because not only did SEI accept my offer, but they also told me that they would take care of all travel and accommodation expenses. I had not really expected this, as I saw it as a capacity building opportunity, and thus was willing to pay for the trip myself if it meant that I could be part of this very important event. Needless to say, I was much obliged for their generosity and assistance.
I arrived in Bangkok early Monday morning, 29 May 2017. The event was to take place on the following two days. Today was about meeting with the coordinator and help prepare for tomorrow and the day after. I was part of the notetaking and timekeeping team, 4 of us altogether. We were divided up into pairs, and assigned the sessions where we would take notes and when we would record the time.
The two following days were very busy indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed my assignments, and learnt a great deal about social and environmental policies, climate change, and sustainable development. The main message that I took from the talks was that science is about identifying challenges that we have, and then solving them. But at the same time, science by itself will not be able to deal with the issues alone, for local knowledge is also important. In other words, context matters; and there is no panacea. My favorite quote from the forum comes from Johan Kuylenstierna, Executive Director for SEI.
“Science tells us that the world is hopeless; policymakers agree.”
Overall, the forum was very well organized and rich in content. During breaks I got to meet new people and make many connections; both face to face and on social media like LinkedIn. The attendees, experts in their fields, were very interesting and passionate about their work; and so it was a pleasure to talk and learn from them in person.
In conclusion, I would like to say a very big thank you to SEI for giving me the opportunity to participate in this very important event. I gained a lot from the experience, and hope to be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to help out again at other SEI events in the future.