Voyage to the Fragile Beauty of Antarctica

”The purpose of our project is to educate and to protect the environment. We want to document the beauty and the fragility of our planet.”
Ms. Plentz produced, drafted, and copy-edited international policy articles, reports to donors and press releases, ensuring that content followed UN’s editorial style, consistency, and accuracy standards.  
She served as primary liaison for the specialized news media and public information divisions of agencies in the UN system, disseminating information to regional stakeholders about UNEP and Agenda 21.  
Ms. Plentz also executed special projects as requested by UNEP External Affairs Manager for Europe and the UN Department of Public Information, in New York, contributing to communications campaigns’ success of Tara Expedition in South America and Europe.
See coverage received and exchanges with news organizations below:

Voyage to the Fragile Beauty of Antarctica

Julio Godoy* – Tierramérica

PARIS, Jan 29 2005 (IPS) – “They are some of the most beautiful images I have seen in my life,” says Sebastiao Salgado, renowned Brazilian photographer, about the natural landscapes he captured on film during the first days aboard the French scientific research sailboat ”Tara” as it travels through Antarctic waters.”  We have been very fortunate because the weather has been magnificent” for photographing the wonders of Cape Horn, at the far southern tip of South America, the Drake Passage, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Islands, and the South Shetland, Arturo Pratt and Hope islands, Salgado told Tierramérica in a telephone interview via satellite from the ”Tara”.

The two-masted ship set sail Jan. 5 from Chile’s Port Williams, some 2,400 km south of Santiago, and its journey is serving as part of the project Genesis, which Salgado launched in 2004 with the backing of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The aim of Genesis is to photograph, over a period of eight years, ”the pure and virginal face and nature and of humanity,” summarised the photographer.

The project has four chapters, and the first, ”Creation”, seeks to record the remnants of the natural pristine state of isolated areas, with a focus on ”air, water and fire, which gave life.”

This phase is already under way, begun last year in Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, the jungles of Virungas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Argentina’s Peninsula Valdez, 1,000 km south of Buenos Aires, a breeding ground that draws thousands of whales every September.

The subsequent chapters will be “Noah’s Ark”, about animal species that have resisted domestication; ”The First Men”, about remote tribes who maintain their ancestral ways of life; and finally, ”The First Civilisations”, about the oldest remnants of human settlements.

”The purpose of our project is to educate and to protect the environment. We want simultaneously to document the beauty and the fragility of our planet,” explained Salgado, who plans to wrap up this effort in 2011 with the publication of a book and an international travelling exhibit of his photographic work.

The ”Tara” has two masts that stand 27 metres tall, and the vessel itself is 26 metres long and 10 metres wide. The sails are more than 400 square metres. The hull is reinforced with aluminium to protect the boat as it sails amongst icebergs.

Fifteen years ago the vessel carried environmental teams. With the name ”Seamaster”, it served the legendary New Zealand seaman Peter Blake, special U.N. representative, who was murdered by pirates in December 2001 during an expedition in the Amazon. After Blake’s death, it was acquired by Frenchman Etienne Bourgois, who re-baptized the boat ”Tara” and is serving as the current expedition’s coordinator.

Thus the story comes full circle. Before the boat was sailed by Blake, it was owned by another French ecologist, Jean-Louis Etienne, veteran of scientific expeditions to Antarctica and the Arctic Ocean. And some of the people who took part in those endeavours are now serving as the Tara’s crew.

Etienne Bourgois told Tierramérica that this voyage with Salgado is also preparation for another expedition to the Arctic, slated for two years beginning in late 2006, to study the effects of climate change on the glaciers of the far north. The project has been dubbed ”Arctic Drift” and also commemorates the International Polar Year 2007.

But on the current expedition in Antarctica, ”we still must resolve some technical problems. For example, improve efficiency in the use of fuel and heating to withstand temperatures that are dozens of degrees below zero,” he explained.

Accompanying Bourgois and Salgado are several scientists, who are taking advantage of this adventurous opportunity to classify the Antarctic’s marine plants and animals. One of these experts is marine biologist Laurent Ballesta, who dove into the icy waters of the Drake Passage.

”At around 30 meters deep, the swale is still,” wrote Ballesta in the Tara Logbook on Jan. 5.

”You realise how the wildlife, fauna and flora, adapt itself to survive in these moving waters. The kelp is attached to the rocks by a trunk even bigger than the leaves themselves,” he wrote.

The Tara made a stop in the Diego Ramírez archipelago, home to penguins, pelicans, albatross and the remarkable rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome).

Over the next few weeks the scientific vessel will carry the research team to the Argentine Islands, the former Chilean base Videla, now overtaken by gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) and chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica). (See infograph)

Also inhabiting the area are whales and seals, especially the Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii), which can dive to depths of 600 metres and survive below water for more than an hour.

The ship will then head to the Weddell Sea of the Antarctic, reaching Deception Island, where the Chilean research station was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1967.

Press Release by Maya Plentz Fagundes

Impact of Land Use on the Marine Environment: UNEP monitoring body will evaluate progress made by stakeholders on Marine Environment protection

The Hague, April 6, 2004 –  The Global Programme of Action (GPA), a UNEP office that is responsible for providing guidance and oversee implementation of the goals established by the international community regarding environmental protection of coastal and marine resources, will have its Intergovernmental Review Meeting in The Hague in January of 2005. Approximately 100 governments will be present at the meeting, with delegations being led at the ministerial level.

With more than a billion people living in coastal zones the mandate of the GPA is at a critical juncture.  After the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg, in 2002, underlined the importance of watersheds and the sound management of water resources, key constituents are still grappling with the recommendations contained in the final report.

Poor land usage – agricultural practices that abuse of pesticides are just one example – that is not conforming to UNEP guidelines, creates serious watershed contamination and pollution. That, coupled with the lack of adequate sewage systems, has contributed to problems that have complex ramifications.  It is not only that the coastal and marine environments became a threat to human health, the population living in the areas affected face increased economic hardship due to the impact on the tourism industry, the fisheries and their economies of subsistence.

Apart from a few success stories that will certainly be good news for all attending the meeting, the question of financing community-based programmes remains central. GPA acts also as a facilitator of interagency action. Cooperation between UN agencies, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the World Bank and academic institutions are to be highlighted in the meeting. The presence of key policy makers, and the executive branch of 100 countries, should provide a solid platform for further action.

In a recent interview, the Brazilian Minister of Environment, Ms. Marina Silva, urged stakeholders to embrace action, “or they risk their credibility”.  Brazil has an extensive coastline and is home to 12% of the worlds’ surface water resources. It is clearly an issue of global and national interest for the environment minister.

For more information

Contact:  UNEP GPA Media Outreach Officer Maya Plentz

From: Fagundes, M. UNEP-GPA

To:  Elisabeth Waechter,  Eric Falt, Robert Bisset

Nov 22, 2005 at 2:55 PM

Dear Elisabeth,

Many thanks for your email.  Here below is a list of some of the journalists and news media outlets that I have reached out for directly and disseminated press releases by DCPI in March, April, May, June, August, and September of 2005.

As you will see they are all over the map, literally, since the work of the GPA Office is global, regional in scope.  I have supported the work of ROLAC during the visit of the Tara Expedition boat to Rio de Janeiro, taking the opportunity to advance part of the GPA’s agenda on the contacts established with the news media, to promote the work of UNEP on Oceans and in particular the work of the GPA Coordination Office. Rody can give you more details.

Press Release distribution in the past few months was followed up with direct phone calls to journalists I have worked with in the past, during my tenure at the News Media Division of DPI  in New York, as well as in my previous work for Bloomberg Television in New York, UN Radio in New York, RFI in France, National Broadcast Network of Brasil RADIOBRAS, Globo TV in Sao Paulo and Brasilia,  and with various print publications in Latin America*, including financial news publications in Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro* and the national broadcast network of Portugal RDP, in the EU, and for national radio broadcast networks in Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa*.

I have also answered queries in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese – as I am fluent in all these languages.  These are efforts that have been initiated by me, as the focal point, and the only Public Awareness and Outreach Officer here in the GPA Coordination Office,  in The Hague.

In March/April, journalist Camila Antunes, from the Veja Magazine, of Brazil, has made inquiries about eutrophication and some studies released by NASA and disseminated by the UNEP Office in New York.  She mentioned that she will be writing more about the environment in the future and I have spoken to her on the phone a couple of times as well as emailed her with details and names to contact within UNEP (Mr. Nick Nuttal, Mr. James Sniffen).

Bloomberg Television, RFI, and Globo contacted me in March about the TARA Expedition.

Other releases that were forwarded by DCPI were also distributed to our Media List (compiled by me since mid-february at the request of Mr. Robert Bisset).

Jornal Valor Economico, journalist’s name is Assis Moreira, whom I emailed directly alerting about the CSD, Tara Expedition stop in Rio and UNICPOLOS. Based in Geneva. Always aproaching them directly from the angle of GPA’s issues and agenda.

Jornal O Globo, journalist’s name is Helena Celestino. Based in New York. Story onTara Expedition.

Globo TV News, producer Helio Alvarez, in Sao Paulo. About IGR-2 and UNICPOLOS as well as the many reports, publications such as UNEP’s Annual Report and One Planet, Many People  that were published in early 2005. Discussions were initiated to do a special series/documentary on issues related to Integrated Coastal Management – one of GPA’s programmes – with  the division of Globo TV that is engaged in Corporate Responsibility issues.

Jornal Estado de Sao Paulo – Same as above.

BBC News – Portuguese Language Radio in London. Same as above.

Radio France International, RFI – in Paris – for their Portuguese language programming. An interview was given to journalist Gisela Heymann. The interview was aired to estimated audiences of 3 million on RFI’s satellite transmission to the entire Brazilian territory (conservative figures) and the audio of the interview was posted on their website for the entire week end of the opening celebrations of WED in San Francisco.

Tara Expedition, focus on GPA’s issues. Contacted directly journalist who is a correspondent to, among other publications, the Wall Street Journal. Eloise, the press relations of Tara followed up. His name is Scott Billquist.

Called Stephane Dujarric in May, of the Office of the Spokesperson for the SG in New York,  to get his support to announce IGR-2 to the international media, during the Noon briefing, in June, during UNICPOLOS.  That announcement was followed up and received the full support of the NY UNEP Office as well as from Mr. Nick Nuttal.

An Iraq news outlet on the marshlands programme contacted me in August. I have referred him to Michael Williams since the journalist was based in Geneva.

There is more, but that is what I recall of the top of my head, and these are the news media organisations that have greater impact on public opinion in their geographic area, as well as the journalists that have demonstrated an interest on environmental issues and have, as professionals, a track record of credibility.

Mayara Plentz Fagundes
Programme Officer
Public Awareness and Outreach
United Nations Environment Programme
Global Programme of Action Coordination Office

Proposal for Media Strategy

Author: Maya Plentz Fagundes

Intergovernmental Review Meeting of the GPA, The Hague

Timeline of activities to implement and monitor Media Strategy

Targeted Media: Radio, TV, Internet, Print

May/June 2004

Preparation of press releases: gathering pertinent information, interviewing UNEP officials and members of delegations – that have confirmed attendance – to obtain quotes. Identify sources within GPA that can be interviewed for print publications, radio and TV.  Notify news media of availability of sources. Electronic distribution of press releases to news media: use media distribution lists available and develop lists for international and local media. Prepare media accreditation forms with security. Set deadline. Post on website. Establish telephone contact with broadcasters and print journalists.

July 2004

Compile technical requirements for pressroom that will be available for international media during event, i.e. Internet connection for laptops, computers, printers, fax machines, telephones. Seek sponsors? Make sure adequate software is installed. Tentative schedule of press conferences. For live transmission of events: see possible partnership with national broadcasters and European Broadcasters Union.

August, September, October, November, December 2004

In addition to the media outreach and preparation in the months preceding the event seek exposure with the following constituents. Delegations: with national press agencies and national broadcast networks. Governments’ environment agencies and their promotional campaigns, request links on their web page to GPA’s website. Private sector: through their Communications and Social Responsibility Programs.

December 2004 and January 2005/ During Event

Support the Pressroom and Broadcasters for timely transmission of news stories.

Schedule interviews with the media.

Make available to the international media members of the delegations in all languages.

Coordinate press conferences with ministers’ media relations officers.

December 2004/ January 2005 – Measuring impact of Media Strategy

Daily monitoring of international media coverage. Brief senior officials on media coverage received. Fine-tune media strategy accordingly. Prepare report on the content of the media coverage: analysis of messages, officials quoted, media outlets where coverage was received.

GPA Website

The GPA website should be user friendly to journalists.  A list of UNEP officials, with their respective language abilities and field of expertise, who are available to speak with the media should be posted on the website with photos and short bio. Pertinent information and releases should be updated weekly.

From: Roni Lima
Sent: Domingo, 20 de Marzo de 2005
To: Rody Onate
Subject: Nota do Brasil 


Aqui é o jornalista Roni Lima, do Rio de Janeiro, que organizará a coletiva sobre a expedição Tara.  Gostaria também de um pouco mais de informação sobre o que a expedição Tara conseguiu reunir nesta última ida à Antártica, em termos científicos. Nos dois releases em inglês que você enviou, li a respeito de um animal branco ainda não catalogado. Existe mais alguma informação sobre este animal? Existe também mais informação sobre mudanças na geografia e na fauna local devido às mudanças climáticas no planeta?  Uma notícia nova sobre a Antártica ajudará a aumentar o interesse da mídia para participar da coletiva.

De qualquer forma, a editora de Ciência do jornal O Globo já está trabalhando numa reportagem sobre a expedição Tara, que deverá publicar nesta semana, o que, acredito, aumentará o interesse sobre a coletiva de imprensa.

Aguardo retorno seu.

Um abraço

Roni Lima

From: Rody Oñate Zuñiga
Sent: 21 March 2005
To: Fagundes, M. (UNEP-GPA)
Subject: FW: Nota do Brasil


No se si puedes responder algunas de sus inquietudes.

(Nos dois releases em inglês que você enviou, li a respeito de um animal branco ainda não catalogado. Existe mais alguma informação sobre este animal? Existe também mais informação sobre mudanças na geografia e na fauna local devido às mudanças climáticas no planeta?) Nosotros aqui en ROLAC no tenemos información sobre esto.



From: Fagundes, M. (UNEP-GPA) 

To: Rody Onate PNUMA 

Cc: Roni Lima, Robert Bisset

Mar 21, 2005 at 10:30 AM

Rody e Roni,

Penso ser algo interessante enfocar o aspecto de poluição dos mares. Ninguém melhor para ver isso do que a equipe de pesquisadores do Tara.

Já com relação a questões de espécies em extinção, devem contactar UNEP Nairobi.

Aqui no Global Programme of Action, GPA, tratamos da poluição oriunda das atividades terrestres que afetam, escoam, para os oceanos – como por exemplo fertilizantes, redes de saneamento municipais, poluentes químicos industriais que devem ser reciclados, e como integrar o conhecimento e gerenciamento das zonas costeiras e ribeirinhas, e a preservação de mangueirais, aquíferos subterrâneos, e corais – que protegem a costa de catástrofes naturais, como no caso do Asian Tsunami.

O GPA engloba este portfolio, mas trata de cada tema em parceria com governos, auxiliando estes a implementarem os desejos da comunidade internacional de acordo com os objetivos delineados durante Cúpula Mundial para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável, que teve lugar em 2002 em Johanesburgo.

Mando aqui em anexo novamente informações sobre o mandato do GPA e suas implicações para a saúde e preservação do ecossistema marinho. Agenda 21 portanto um dado de referência importante, em particular o paragrafo 17, com respeito aos mecanismos de MEA’s etc., etc. e toda a forma de cooperação cientifica como a que esta expedição leva adiante. A GPA se insere também no contexto das PPPs, Parcerias Publico-Privada, que são centrais ao que foi acordado na Cúpula de Johanesburgo.

Por aí. Mas imagino que vocês devem querer incluir também os detalhes específicos do trajeto pelo Cone Sul, e a presença do fotografo brasileiro Sebastiao Salgado?  Espero que isto ajude. Qualquer coisa entre em contato, sim?

Maya Plentz Fagundes

Media Outreach Officer