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I Have Some Ideas For You IUCN, Where Do I Share!?

Following the IUCN World Parks Congress from the opposite side of the world poses some challenges. I look at the program, get excited about my favorite topics and the option of live streaming and even the option of Google Hangout and then realize that even though it’s 10:59 am my time, it’s 4:59 am at the Congress in Sydney, Australia. Hmm, how do I find a way to still feel like I am participating in the Congress? And what about all the side sessions, where the real discussions and the heated debates happen? Do I miss out on those too?

So I look at my options: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube.. That’s an overwhelming list of outlets – especially when you don’t have an account with any. YouTube seems like the obvious choice considering that the Congress consists of a lot of talking and pictures of people talking probably won’t tell me much about the content – as a fellow blogger has already implied regarding Instagram. The YouTube page is fairly straightforward, with a video for each key speaker as well as daily highlights and some promotional ads. But I still feel like I am missing out on the gritty details and discussions, where the real ideas surface and progress is made. I can comment on the YouTube page but no one else has so that seems like a dead end since connecting with other opinionated conservationists is my goal.

With a few videos now digested about recognizing indigenous voices and traditional knowledge, I head over to Google+ to see if there are any sort of discussion forums and click Google Hangout under one stream topic, but basically nothing happens – probably because it’s around 5:00 am over there. Am I missing out on everyone’s thoughts and ideas because I have no Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook account? And if that’s the case, what about low-income stakeholders of these protected area issues who don’t even have access to a computer or the internet?! I decide to return to square one:

I’m in the “Respecting Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge and Culture” Stream Session and see a “Join the Conversation” option. Click. I get a page long summary of Sydney’s Promise and then a comment box. But there are no other posted comments. I backtrack to the top of the home page and go to “Get Involved” and then, literally, “How can I be a part of the Congress”. They suggest attending the actual congress, creating an event, or following social media. I’m about to give up when I happen upon the Panorama section of the website, where people have been sharing solutions and ideas and I can add my own as well. FINALLY! I found something. But, you have to navigate through 5 different pages to get to it: Home page > Promise of Sydney: Have your say > Solutions > > Explore Solutions.

But why did take me so long to find a means of participating? I spent much more time and effort than the average person to navigate the social media and website and still am not entirely sure I found a way to participate, share, or at least hear from others. It seems there may be too many media outlets. In order to streamline this, it would have been helpful to funnel each social media site back to the website, where you don’t need an account to comment and all comments can merge and be seen together, rather than spread out among Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Instagram. Speaking for those of us who don’t have the plane ticket to get to Sydney, can we please have a central media outlet or forum for discussion?!

Imagery and making it stick.

I cringed when I heard I was going to have to blog about the World Parks Congress (WPC) and their use of multi-medias. I’m not very adverse with anything technological and social media is no exception. I’m thoroughly convinced my phone hates me, my computer thinks I’m stupid and my GPS messes with me by making me travel 7 miles in the opposite direction before re-routing me. So how am I to follow the various ways on how the WPC disseminates there information to inspire and educate to the rest of us who can’t be in Australia?

Well, after navigating through their website and looking over their facebook page, I noticed a trend in the things that were captivating my attention. It was through their imagery. Photos of nature, various types of species, and people immersed in the environment that seemed untouched by human influences. It got me thinking, even though I love the stories of conservation, hearing about experiences of innovative conservation engagement and practices and how the interactions of scientists, government leaders, and community members and groups of all ages do come together to protect the worlds special areas, it was the images about what we all love that I looked at and studied first. Imagery can be so powerful. They used it during the opening ceremonies and it was a common theme in the the promotional youtube videos. It all started with an image, followed by another image with heartfelt music. These images allowed anybody watching to make a personal connection, whether it is from the colors themselves, the animals pictured or the places they were taken. Every picture made me either remember an experience of my own or made me feel emotion. That connection is what I held onto; it made me want to see and learn more. I suppose that is how it is for others out there too? Noticing that the WPC website is only translatable in three languages (English, Spanish and French), it’s possible that the images shown will allow other website visitors to understand and make connections of their own through the photographs. The values I associate with one picture may resonate completely different with someone else, but the idea that it could have equally as much impact to make us go out and be better stewards within our environment makes that image invaluable.

WPC even held a photo contest so that any individual from around the world could express how they view nature and share their appreciation and love of it with others. That inclusiveness allows people like me who can’t be directly involved be a part of something special to be heard. It reinforces that this is an open event to anyone who wants to participate in protecting what is in our world, from the smallest little snail to the health of a large urban area.

So how do I stay captured in wanting to delve deeper into the “nitty-gritty” of the World Parks Congress and not get lost in so many conservation topics? It all started with images. Those images became imprinted. They make me observe, wonder and push me beyond where I may not have gone before.

A Big Week Down Under

Australia took the global stage this week with the assembly of delegates and leaders from around the world for the annual G20 summit in Brisbane and the once-a-decade World Parks Congress being held in the capitol city of Sydney. It seems ironic that an assembly of world powers is meeting to discuss the future of the global economy right down the road from the congress set to discuss the future of protected areas and parks worldwide.

The symbolism and parallels between these two meetings are uncanny despite differences in their constituencies. In case you aren’t familiar the G20 or ‘Group of 20’ (which is entirely justified), it is exactly as the name implies; a group of nineteen powerhouse countries plus the European Union who meet annually in an international forum to discuss the state of the global economy. Here’s what’s on the agenda this year:

  • Promoting stronger economic growth and employment outcomes
  • Making the global economy more resilient to deal with future shocks
  • Strengthening global institutions to ensure they reflect the new realities of the global economy.

Surprisingly, discussions on climate change were not on the docket; a point protesters emphasize by burying their heads in the sand of a local Sydney beach. Just down the road is the sixth meeting of the World Parks Congress which assembles once every ten years to discuss the future of protected areas and parks around the globe. In attendance are over 5,000 delegates from 160 countries. This year’s theme is Parks, People, Planet: Inspiring Solutions.

I can’t help but feel that sustaining biodiversity and cultural and natural history and heritage plays an important role in the long-term viability of the global economy while allowing for more sustainable conservation based development and growth models. Unlike at the G20, climate change is a challenge delegates at the Parks Congress have been actively discussing. It remains to be seen how solutions fleshed out by the congress will take shape, though one thing’s for sure; it’s been a symbolic week Down Under for the future of the world economy and the environment.

The Value of Media

One of the things that caught my eye from the World Park’s Congress feed thus far was the report by the IUCN and the Ranger Federation dedicated to the world’s park rangers that have lost their lives or have been severely injured in the field. This hit home in an impactful way since watching the newly released Netflix documentary “Virunga,” directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. This story is about the gorillas of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the rangers that protect them. SOCO, a British oil company was discovered by journalists to be supporting a rebel faction known as M23 to force the DRC army out of Virunga. This was done so that SOCO could move in to drill for oil in one of the world’s last sanctuaries for the wild Mountain Gorilla, a World Heritage Site and National Park. This movie reveals the day-to-day dangers that park Rangers face and why they continue to risk their lives. This movie struck me for a number of reasons; not only was the cinematography incredible and the story telling powerful, it gave a voice to the rangers and journalists that put their lives on the line for their moral beliefs in an intimate and emotional way.

This brings me to my long-winded point… the importance of underrepresented storytelling and the complacency of media in our society. The world over contains people that risk their lives everyday for a greater cause, whether that’s for gorillas in Virunga National Park, the rights and safety of sex slaves in Nepal or for those that lack a political voice in Tibet. And most go unrecognized. We live in a country and in a time with the amazing opportunity to freely share our stories, our political opinions, even our most vulnerable and sensitive thoughts across the world whenever we feel inclined to do so. It is in this opportunity that I ask our generation to take a moment, step back and really try to understand what that means. Why do we waste countless hours and millions of dollars on reality TV shows like “the Jersey Shore?” Even Discovery Channel and National Geographic, channels that have traditionally supported education and exploration, have shifted their foundations in order to jump on the lucrative reality show bandwagon. These meaningless and shameful dramas take up valuable airspace, too much money and portray a culture that values surface interactions, un-empowering judgments, and complacency. Why is it that “Toddlers and Tiaras” get their own reality show and Emmanuel de Merode (director of Virunga National Park shot multiple times trying to expose SOCO’s exploitation story), and Andre Bauma (caretaker for gorillas at the rehabilitation center in Virunga) are given so little attention?

If we do not witness and share these valuable and empowering stories, we are wasting an opportunity to make this world a better place. Today, please, turn off “the Kardashians,” and take ninety minutes to watch “Virunga.” Share this story with those around you. We all don’t need to drop everything, get up and move to the DRC in order to risk our lives to protect Mountain Gorillas to make a difference. But, spend some time today thinking about someone that inspires you through their voice or work, ask yourself why they do what they do, and consider how you may exemplify similar traits to the people and things around you in a way that matters. Post a comment, share your underrepresented heroes with us! We want to hear their story!

Falling snow, a warm blanket and the WPC live stream

Winter has officially hit Fort Collins. Snow has been steadily falling and temperatures don’t seem to want to rise above 30 degrees. It’s a prime time for me to curl up on my couch, boil some tea and binge watch Netflix. But instead of watching episodes of The Office for the 1 millionth time, I discovered that the Congress has set up live streams of discussion panels!

Here’s what I’m tuning into:
1. World leaders’ dialogue: Stand up for your rights- parks and social equality. In one of our classes we recently completed a protected area simulation where we worked in groups to set up a system of protected areas for a fictional country. A major theme throughout our discussions was how to include local communities within this new system of protected areas. This panel is going to look at social equality and how the integration of local knowledge and traditions can play a role in achieving conservation goals.
2. World leaders’ dialogue: Health, naturally. I’m really excited/intrigued about the connection between human health and the environment. This discussion panel is going to explore how parks and protected areas can be better managed to promote healthy environments that can be beneficial for human populations (hellllooo ecosystem services!).

To explore other topics and tune in yourself, check out the WPC live stream schedule:

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? 

What is a blog?

“Blog” is an abbreviated version of “weblog,” which is a term used to describe websites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other websites, usually presented as a list of entries in reverse chronological order. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects.

Many blogs focus on a particular topic, such as web design, home staging, sports, or mobile technology. Some are more eclectic, presenting links to all types of other sites. And others are more like personal journals, presenting the author’s daily life and thoughts.