The fifth World Parks Congress demonstrated the dedication of conservation and protected area management professionals worldwide. Complex and emotionally charged environmental problems involving social-ecological systems require partnerships, collaboration, a shared vision, and trust to ensure that solutions are developed, embraced, and executed. By deciphering Twitter feeds (as a non-Twitter-user), watching video streams, and following the flow of photographs, I could gain a filtered sense of the energy and excitement diffused through the Internet. Even if Internet user participation was lacking, the participation that occurred allowed the word to be spread to some corners of the global street.
A decade is an eternity for environmental problems that exponentially grow to compound complexities often beyond our scientific comprehension. The upcoming decade before the next WPC is intended for action, for the execution, and for the continuous improvement of achieving set conservation goals. As you are reading CLTL’s blog, the guiding document for the next decade, “The Promise of Sydney” is being drafted. By compiling and analyzing all of the ideas expressed and presented during the course of the congress, “The Promise of Sydney” will provide the framework for a conservation agenda for the next decade focusing on achieving Aichi Biodiversity Targets, improving food and water security, promoting human health, improving the quality of governance and management of protected areas, strengthening indigenous rights, and engaging a new generation.
Leaders and participants are on flights right now returning to where they began. The excitement of the past week’s events are mere memories flickering in their heads during naps in-between long legs of travel. The most critical moment of the WPC is now, the moment after, the moment when people decide to act, to inspire, to multiply the information across friendships, family connections, and professional networks, or not. This is when the spark, ignited and burning bright in the midst of a large, excited, and like-minded group has the greatest chance of extinguishing. Sydney was a different world, a world full of hope and potential. Home is reality. The solutions, although discussed, are faced with the hard realities and challenges that have remained present. These realities are waiting to greet inspired leaders and participants when they arrive home.
As conservation leaders, we have the opportunity and challenge to keep the spirit alive, push ourselves, our organizations, our connections to in the least be aware and spark conversation, and in the most strive towards the lofty goals that will shortly be set forth before us. During the Stand up For Your Rights stream which focused on indigenous rights, Sally Ranney, the cofounder of the Womens, Earth, and Climate Action Network (WECAN) related a story about a Lakota Sioux, Wallace Blackelk, from the Lakota Sioux who was hidden by his grandmother as a child when Native Americans were forced into Western schools. In a conversation she had with him, he shared his view on leadership: he said that the real leaders were the trees. The trees provide us with what we need to thrive. They in essence enable us to achieve the wonders, the accomplishments, the great acts of history, and the small moments with loved ones that all humans have partaken in since the beginning. As conservation leaders, we must take inspiration with the trees by enabling others to act, to become inspired by conservation and protected areas, to communicate the importance of nature’s services, and to dedicate our efforts to inviting new populations into the world forum. Doing this requires the ability to reach beyond our borders, to relate science to other spheres of our society, to serve as translators, shaping environmental themes to specific interests, and inspiring motivation through trans boundary connections. We must be like the trees for others, inspiring them to embrace, love, and protect that which gives us all life.