Category Archives: World Parks Congress

Sustainability at WPC

Sustainability, what a #buzzword.

I was recently eating lunch with a fellow CLTLer when she looked down at her food and stared at it for a couple of seconds before announcing-“everything I’m eating from is disposable.” We’re conservation students- we bring our own coffee mugs and water bottles, shop primarily from thrift stores, and scold people for not recycling. Needless to say, eating lunch out of containers that would eventually end up in a landfill did not sit well with either of us. It did however, lead to a discussion about how large environmental conferences (like the WPC) implement Earth-friendly practices.

So I did a little sleuthing. Connecting to the WPC website showed me that event organizers took many steps towards sustainability. They hired outside event consultants that specialize in sustainable practices, specifically chose the Sydney Olympic Park because it was sustainably built and run, and created a ton of initiatives (like using only renewable energy and using water more efficiently). The website also advises delegates on best practices-check into a WPC approved hotel, carbon off-set (another #buzzword!) flights, bring a reusable coffee cup and water bottle, and turn down the swag unless you’ll actually use it.

While the WPC seems to provide an exhaustive list, there is always the argument against holding huge environmental conferences. We’re trying to talk about saving the world’s biodiversity yet thousands of people are flying across the world, arguably helping to contribute to climate change which is an underlying factor in biodiversity loss. With increasing technological advancements it seems like everyone could just connect to a google hangout and solve the world’s problems from the comfort of their own homes.

But as someone who just attempted to tune into the WPC from afar, I can tell you this is easier said than done. I struggled to follow the intricacies of such a large event no matter the number of social media outlets the IUCN ran. It’s also been mentioned that a lot of the wheeling and dealing that goes on at these conferences happens after the big presentations have ended. Networking and making connections would be a thing of the past. Not to mention the variability of access to technology that exists throughout stakeholders (another #buzzword!). There was a lot of mention of engaging local communities at this years congress and not allowing them in-person representation would certainly take away from this.

We’ll have to wait for the IUCN report on their sustainability targets from the WPC, but to me, improving conference practices seems like a way better solution than just getting rid of them all together.

Our Relationship Status with the WPC: It’s Complicated

There’s an apparent focus at the World Parks Congress (WPC) to inspire the new generation, and perhaps this is why they decided to post information across so many social media platforms. So, is it working? Well, their YouTube channel only has 120 subscribers, and LinkedIn has a mere 500 followers. Facebook has achieved 12,500 likes, but there is little interaction (by way of likes, comments, and shares). Despite opportunities to comment and the WPC’s encouragement to “join the conversation”, this doesn’t appear to be happening.

  • Maybe it’s us. Perhaps people see that no one has commented on a post, so they are afraid to be the first/maybe only comment? Or maybe we’re just not a socially savvy bunch. I think if there was a survey done at campus, environmental majors would be shown as less “connected” in the social media world. Maybe we just want to be outside more!
  • Maybe it’s them. Maybe people just don’t talk about this kind of event. For comparison, I looked at the Facebook page containing info on the G20 Summit (which also occurred in Australia November 15th-16th). This page has 22,500 likes (almost double), and people are interacting. Their last post was liked by 840 people and has numerous comments. But in all fairness, the WPC is fairly academic in nature, and likely to mainly attract academic folks.
  • Or maybe it’s the presentation. Some of the photos posted on Facebook are underwhelming, as mentioned in an earlier post. The “Daily Highlights” videos are nice, but most of the content seems to be about the benefits people actually attending are gaining (rub it in, why don’t you!). And finally, most of the video posts of actual dialogues and speeches are over an hour long, and the audio quality is a bit painful.

The WPC can hardly be blamed for failing to put out revolutionary or even catchy clips in such a short time period, especially with so many things going on at a time. The crucial parts will happen after the WPC, when the IUCN has had time to sort through the immense amount of information and draw out the key points. It can then be presented in an engaging and useful format…in a way that will inspire the next generation!

(This entry posted on behalf of Anna Kellogg.)

The People behind the Congress

Sydney is far away from Fort Collins, and the general consensus of CLTL seems to be that social media doesn’t bring it much closer.  Amid the tweets, the hashtags and the many, many photos of people in suits with microphones on, how can those of us who aren’t there find human connections around this issue?

Turns out the World Parks Congress had a photo competition about People, Parks and Planet, each of which has a story with it. Here are some of them – people in nature from around the world.


“Sri Lanka’s indigenous inhabitants, the Veddas or “forest-dwellers” as they call themselves — preserve a direct line of descent from the island’s original Neolithic community. Even today, the surviving Veddas community retains much of its own distinctive cyclic worldview, prehistoric cultural memory, and time-tested knowledge of their monsoon forest habitat that has enabled their ancestor-revering culture to meet the diverse challenges to their collective identity and survival.” – Mili K


“K’Bel Krajan, aged 76, is a traditional Gong player. She is K’Ho and lives in Lach Village which is nestled below Mount Langbiang, in the Central Highlands of Vietnam…K’Bel Krajan teaches the younger generation how to play the Gongs and in this sense she is saving an age-old tradition that has been passed down through generations.” – happyfishfotos

blog1“This photo was taken in the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia early one morning when we woke up and decided to go for a walk. With no electricity, no phones and no distractions, it forces you to escape and be free from any thought or worry and just allows you to enjoy yourself, the company you are with and the nature around you.” – frawley33

And the winner of the Youth category, ‘Entranced’ by Kalani Gacon, whose description is so beautiful I’m going to quote all of it.

“A run through the Blue Mountains bush on a cold winter’s day brings a feeling of ecstasy unlike any other. A beautiful, fragile habitat at our fingertips is something I will never take for granted. Our home, the home of the Darug and Gundungurra for millennia, has been under attack by schemes of Coal Seam Gas which we have protested against time and time again in an ongoing battle that will not die. One glance at the scenery will tell you that this is a truly sacred place, a harmoniously delicate land that cannot risk being manipulated. The beautiful local plants and animals have adapted to the most challenging conditions and have lived peacefully with the first Australians for many thousands of years before the pursuit of Greed corrupted the equilibrium. An unusually high concentration of aboriginal art found in the area is fitting with many stories of the Blue Mountains as a sacred site, a place of healing, abundant in spiritual riches as an important ceremonial site. Today we try to acknowledge it as such and will continue to listen and learn from it. The hearts of my friends and I lie within this land and we will die protecting it.”

Pumping Positive Possibilities

What does 1 week, 5,000 + attendees, world leaders, several social media platforms and a fun city drenched in conservation energy add up to?  Whatever your response may be, I am sure it is has been happening in Sydney this week.  There has been a lot of chatter over particular social media outlets and how they may fall short of keeping people informed.  Whether it has been clinking and drinking beers with friends or a proper dialogue with a business partner, people agree that despite our ability to connect, we are more disconnected then ever.  Interesting that as this globally recognized conference evolves that there is a feeling of disconnect.  I think there is a lot to be said for that.

Social media is powerful.  You can see a picture that someone snapped from the other side of the world on your smart phone in less then 10 seconds.  Twitter, Facebook, blogging and many others keep text and pictures flowing into your media devices constantly.  So why do we not feel like we are intimately involved with this conference?    I would like to highlight the fact that despite it being almost 2015, our incredible technological advancements, and our ease of sharing information, there is something novel about being present.  Even the small example of Brett and a CLTL student Skyping in from Sydney to Fort Collins, CO today – it gave us a tiny glimpse into what it is like over there.

The variety of participants at this conference must be providing some incredible ideas.  The workshops, seminars, presentations, and festive events are the perfect outlet for networking, idea-sharing, and information swapping.  The diversity alone within the people attending is an eye-opening and mind-expanding experience for thousands.  The possibilities and opportunities that will erupt from this week long conference will be exciting to follow.  Change takes time, more often then not a lot longer then we would like it to.  Right now there are students talking to business professionals, world leaders talking to tribes people and businesses connecting with non-profit groups.  How can nothing shy of awesome come from this?!

There is innovative energy swirling around Sydney right now and it is festering like a science experiment in a petri dish.  Lets exercise our patience and see what sort of dazzling delights form in the months and years to come.

IUCN Report Card

Five thousand people from 160 countries gathered in Sydney to set the agenda for protected areas for the next decade – sounds great, but what results are actually coming from it? From social media, it’s hard to find out what’s really going on (or, as Kaylin pointed out, how to participate!). After a lengthy search of the eight social media pages set up for the WPC, a keyword search on Google News, and a trawl through the Guardian website, I turned at last to the Press Releases page of the World Parks Congress – where I found that in the first two days they’ve released five major reports on the state of protected areas.

Day 1: World Heritage Outlook and Protected Planet

IUCN starts the Congress with good news: two thirds of World Heritage Sites are in a good conservation state (more or less), and over half are well managed. Admittedly 19 of the 228 sites are in critical conditions – including that Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico – but since this report is the first time all 228 sites have been assessed together, it can at least offer guidance for ways forward. The second report on Thursday is also positive. It says the world is on track to protect 17% of the planet’s land and 10% of its oceans by 2020. But – surprise surprise – there’s lots of work to do to make sure protected areas are managed better.

Day 2: Tourism, the Mediterranean, and the IUCN Green List

We start getting down to the nitty gritty on day two. Turns out where tourism is thriving, protected areas receive not just direct revenue but political support and funding – and where it’s failing the parks struggle too. Is ecotourism the future of protected areas? Even well funded protected areas are not enough, though, in the Mediterranean Basin. Seventy-five percent of freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas are outside protected areas there.

My favorite publication so far is the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas – the most successful 23 protected areas in the world, eh? Can we visit? Wait, why isn’t there one in North America?

All this gives me confidence that, despite the poor performance on social media, the wheels of international governance are still churning out oodles of official documents. I wonder what fascinating reports will come out this week?