The WPC is in its third day here in clean and friendly Sydney, Australia! I’m finally getting my bearings around here. The event is on the grounds of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and there’s thousands of people from all over the world, so it took me a solid 48 hours to really get my head around things.
So, here are my first impressions:
Youth. Lots and lots of talking about youth, younger generations, young professionals, future generations, and so on. One of 8 guiding themes is about engaging future generations, but that topic or theme is showing up in a lot of other places too. I just came from a 2 hour session about the future of Africa’s protected areas, and there was 20-25 minutes of talk that emerged about how to engage young people in the discussion, how to encourage them to consider conservation in their lives, and so on. Karina Mullen, CSU alum and graphic recorder, told me about a great moment in a climate change session yesterday about youth and how inspiring it was.
Second topic I’ve noticed a lot of: Balancing science with traditional knowledge. Similar to the “youth” topic, one of the eight themes are devoted to indigenous communities and the interface of such communities with conservation, and a lot of that talk that I’ve seen has had something to do with traditional ecological knowledge. And, like the “youth” theme, it is showing up in a number of other sessions and discussions, and it seems like there has been a reasonable effort to bring people here representing indigenous populations. I’ve met a few who were sponsored by or brought in partnership with an NGO or ministry. I have moments where I wonder what might be going through their heads, as they see thousands of people walking around with their laptops and iPads yakking it up about conservation.
And that activates my cynical side that can get triggered in forums like this, when various entities tout their success in training X-number of local people in such-and-such, or when they bought a bunch of GPS units for monitoring by a local community……..and then the story ends, with little or no discussion about whether the trainings or the provision of equipment led to a desired conservation outcome. Ultimately, that’s what this is all about, right?