Author Archives: ebone

My streams led to the ocean

As a social scientist focused on marine conservation and governance my streams led to the ocean at the World Parks Congress in Sydney. While the discourse has been wide-ranging, two relatively new developments have stood out in events and discussions: new technologies for science and surveillance, and very large marine protected areas. For example, in an event I attended this morning called “Global Fishing Watch: the first global view of high seas fishing through big data analysis by Google, Oceana & Skytruth” a rapt audience looked on as a Google representative showcased technology and analytics for tracking, analyzing, and mapping commercial fishing activity at a global scale. Using satellites and vessel monitoring systems, the program, Skytruth, displays the movement of individual fishing vessels on a visually stunning and interactive map that will soon be publicly available. Oceana, a marine conservation organization, is already looking for opportunities to integrate this kind of ‘big data’ into conservation governance, such as certification schemes for sustainable fishing.

Very large marine protected areas – often defined as those greater than 100,000km2 – also received lots of air time at the World Parks Congress. We heard most notably from the leaders of Palau, Kiribati, and Cook Islands, who described plans, opportunities, and challenges for designating, monitoring, and financing enormous marine protected areas in their exclusive economic zones. The question of how these areas would be enforced was perhaps the most frequent, and the answers tied to technologies such as drones. Historically relatively neglected in global conservation governance processes, the oceans are now a major focus of attention.

Rebecca Gruby


More Musings from Sydney

We’re on day 5 of 8, and there’s two things that stand out to me today as I reflect about WPC so far.

One is the focus on youth, which I mentioned before in a previous blog.  That topic still seems to have the edge over a multitude of topics here as far as what seems to have some grounding and traction day to day.  Almost 50% of the world’s population is below the age of 35, so it’s all making sense that many of us see that as an important conservation issue.  A few years ago in remote northern Kenya I had a project in which we asked community leaders to identify the conservation priorities of the region, a place in which rangeland is in poor condition for a pastoral-based community, clean water is hard to come by, trees provide the primary source of fuel and heat….and one of the top findings was youth and how to empower them to help sustain and improve the landscape there.  So, what I’m hearing here at the most global of discussions is consistent with what I heard a few years ago in the remoteness of northern Kenya by a group of about 20 Samburu.

Second, there’s a lot of buzz and talk about health and parks, a “healthy parks, healthy people” agenda. This runs the gamut from people needing wild places for spiritual health and renewal, to protected areas conserving forests that keep our air clean, and so on.  There’s aA lot of talk about this, and a lot of thoughts, theories, approaches and disagreements about how to quantify such benefits.  I can’t get my head around how you begin to value some of this stuff, like spiritual benefits. Some use approaches in which visitors are asked how much they would have paid for the experience they just had (this approach was used to measure value of spiritual benefits to visitors who reported spiritual renewal as a benefit of their experience), to calculating the costs of respiratory disease in an area (ER visits, pharmaceuticals for asthmas, etc.) to estimate how much value trees provide in air quality improvement, etc. I’m over-simplifying the examples, but hopefully you get the point.  Where my mind can’t go is this: we don’t pay for spiritual benefits (to go with that example for that moment) and asking me how much I WOULD pay, well, how do I know? I’ve never had to buy spiritual benefits, and the question is hypothetical so who knows if my monetary estimate is accurate,  and so on. I usually settle with a thought that some of this stuff just isn’t monetarily quantifiable.  But there’s where my colleague Kelly Jones comes in; she studies this stuff and maybe she can figure it out J

Australians, as an entire population, appear to have settled on aerosols for meetings their deoderant needs. I cannot find a roll-on deoderant around here to save my life.

WPC first impressions by Brett Bruyere

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? 

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