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.)

Wildlife Crime

One of the sessions that really grabbed my interest was focused on Wildlife Crime. On the Google+ hangout page, where I found this talk, the description mentioned that this would cover anything from illegal trade of animals to plants. However, as tends to happen in any conversation about wildlife, the focus was indeed animals; Big animals to be exact.


The panel of experts was composed of very interesting people who all had a huge stake in the matter. There were ministries of the environment, WWF director, NGO co-founders and even a representative from Rangers International. Upon conversation there were a couple of points of agreement that became very clear. Combating poaching and illegal wildlife trade is no longer a national problem. That industry has now turned to an international organized crime that has greater funds and better artillery than those fighting it in the front lines. Also, all of the panel member seemed to be in congruence about the need to involve local communities in this fight against poaching. Lastly, they all addressed to some point the need to respect and give greater appreciation to the rangers that are in the front lines of this battle.


What I liked most about this panel discussion was that they all seemed to recognize the need for international action, but more importantly, the need for that action to be translated on a local level through rangers and communities.

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.”

Connect to Disconnect

The IUCN World Parks Congress has integrated many different forms of social media into the congress this year. There is a Facebook site, a twitter full of tweets, down to a flicker account (that has nothing to do with the birds).  In partnership with these many social outlets, one of the WPC’s goals is to inspire youth.

Incorporating social media is one way to get youth more aware, but what can we do to get them INVOLVED! It’s one thing for youth to be more aware of the issues surrounding conservation and the environment but what can they do? The WPC is focusing on how youth can become more involved in their home countries, but what about here in the U.S. It seems more than ever that there is a disconnect between the youth here and the environment.

My question would be do these social media outlets encourage actual connections with the environment, or do they actually encourage a greater disconnect.  Will youth think it’s enough to just be aware of what’s going on. What will inspire them to put down their phones, tablets, computers etc and actually go out and get involved. This might be different for communities that are less dependent on these types of technology such as communities in developing countries, but what about the countries where the youth are so deeply rooted in social media and technology. Why go out to the forests when you can see a documentary of the forests from your couch?

What will inspire our youth in the future?


Tweeting about the WPC

I have been following the World Parks Congress almost exclusively through Twitter. This is a social media platform I have never had much interest in exploring. I previously considered it to be just another avenue for people to over share, or a method to keep track of their favorite celebrities. There is some of that, but in my limited experience I have found Twitter to be a really helpful networking tool. It’s a great way for like-minded people to connect over shared interests, and since it is now a staple in the media world, I’m glad I have an excuse to learn how these 140-character messages have revolutionized news and advertising.

I began my Twitter journey by following @WPCSydney, the official handle for the congress, so most of the tweets from the event are filtered here. Although there are fewer tweets and followers than I expected, following this page has given me a pretty clear overview of the structure, themes, and goals of the event this year. One thing I have found frustrating is the limited nature of the tweet. With only 140-characters I find myself wanting more context so I can interpret the meaning intended.

This lack of information sent me on search through other media sources to find more, but it was incredibly difficult. I wanted to learn more about the people who spent 2 months canoeing through the Pacific Ocean to get to Sydney prior to the congress, and the reception of Planet Fest by the attendees, but there is almost nothing about the World Parks Congress on mainstream media. I understand that we have some pretty intense news stories at the moment, but it’s crazy to me that unless someone is intentionally following the issue it is unlikely that they would know that the congress even exists.

SIDE NOTE: @WPCSydney tweeted about Brett!  Good job, Brett!  You’re basically famous!

How did we get to this point?

There was a dialogue about food and hunger yesterday. A sobering dialogue. A maddening dialogue. A dialogue which kept circling back to inequities that exist on the planet.

There’s two facts from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that are troubling because they BOTH exist on this planet:

1. 805 million people are chronically undernourished on the planet
2. An estimated one-third of all food in the world is throw away (though FAO also admits this number is hard to estimate).

Not that the one-third of the wasted food can be easily delivered to the 805 million people who are under-nourished, but if we could: THERE WOULD NO WORLD HUNGER.

I was caught up in that startling reality that there’s enough food on the planet for everyone yet nearly a billion of people who need it, can’t get it,and didn’t listen as closely as I probably should have. I was maddened, at myself, at people in the room talking about it at a catered discussion while those 805 million suffer today, at everyone except those 805 million.   I had no idea one-third of food is wasted (I trust FAO’s facts).

I realize the issue is complex — the discussion was all about those complexities — but when it comes down to it, it feels like a lack of will, a lack of empathy, a lack of drive to fix it.

Let’s say if I waste X-amount of food in a given week, why am I not more conscietious about how much I’m buying? If I buy $50 in food but waste $10 of it, how does “the system” get their hands on that $10 before I spend it, I buy the food I only will actually eat, and that $10 goes to alleviate hunger somehow.

How do we figure this out……



The World Park Congress and a model.

Here we are: The VI World Park Congress Sydney 2014- “Parks, people, inspiring solutions” is currently happening in Australia. Since the last WPC that was in South Africa, 11 years has passed. This period of time seems like a long pause to talk seriously about the future of the protected areas, especially if we think how many things have changed during this period.

During Durban 2003, I was in my last year of university. So, then as in now I couldn’t assist to the World Park Congress. Then, I tried to know more about the things that were happening in South Africa; just as I am trying it now, with the current congress in Australia. But with the difference of hours between South Africa and Ecuador, in addition of the chaotic Internet connection (DSL-Connection), all of my attempts failed.

Now, 11 years after, the manners to ccommunication between us have changed drastically. Now, thanks God we have high speed, Facebook (2004), Flickr (2004), Youtube (2005), Twitter (2007), Tumblr (2007), Instagram (2010) and all of the traditional media as newspapers or television. With all these tools, it may seem to be bit weird to spend time, money (create an significant ecological foot print (even for one person)) for to move to Sydney just to know on first hand about new advances in the context of protected areas that have been achieved.

I made a quickly review about the number of followers that the World Park Congress has had until now (November 17), but the number of followers between Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram less than 16,000 (This is not an impressive number if we think that a photo of a model on the internet in the same day of the of the WPC beginning had thousands of likes or retweets). Could it be that the people who are more concerned about the nature prefer use the traditional medias to access information. Under this assumption, I was looking for the impact of the WCP on the cover of the three most read newspapers around the world: Daily Mail (UK), The New York Times (USA) and The Guardian (UK). Surprisingly I couldn’t find any news regarding WPC on their front pages.


These results looks like nature is not so important to them. This short assessment about the diffusion of the event on medias have given a poor outcome and could have two meanings: first, a lack of interest by the people (medias) about these events or maybe the people behind WPC have not found a more efficient way to make viral the WPC congress among people and medias. I prefer to believe the second option because I don’t want to believe that some environmental issues that have been successful in the public eye such as global climate change are just a new fashion for them.


Santiago G.

Protected Areas and Keystone Pipeline ramblings

I find the discussion around respecting and integrating traditional knowledge from indigenous cultures at the World Parks Congress a fascinating topic for a number of reasons… Not only do I believe that in many parts of the world, indigenous populations continue to represent valuable stewards of protected areas, but time and again, many continue to fight for their land, culture and way of life. An example of this is the landmark opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline in the US Senate yesterday. The push for the Keystone XL Pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to the Southern US has been met with heavy opposition from the environmental world to the indigenous populations of Canada (Chipewyan) and the US (Sioux). For many tribes, its invasive proposed location directly divides culturally sacred and historically sensitive areas. I am proud to be an American today, to know that at this point, although potentially fleeting, there is still enough value and foresight to prevent a seemingly shortsighted and incredibly expensive product to create an “energy independent” nation. Is it not apparent that this is only a facade of energy independence? What happens when the oil runs out in this area? My interpretation is that we will have spent many billions of dollars to create massive infrastructure, once again violated numerous treaties with 1st Nations populations in the US and Canada, and have failed to gain enough moment to go “all in” on responsible, sustainable, health and environmentally minded energy options.

This poses some interesting questions… Do our voices have any clout against powerful financial forces such as those capable of continuing to push the Keystone Pipeline? How binding are the treaties our international governmental organizations have created and how many times will they be explicitly violated before people start to notice? Are protected areas safe once they have been created? How do we continue to gain support and funding to make sure that our protected areas stay protected? When will environmental and human health outweigh short term financial gain? When will we begin ACTUALLY listening to our underrepresented populations enough to start fighting for their rights?

It is apparent that a portion of our society has been disconnected from a way of life inextricably tied to nature, from a simple walk in the woods, to understanding the more complex migration patterns of animals that we once depended on or the location of valuable medicinal plants. To some, this disconnect may parallel progress. There is no denying our species has taken incredible leaps and bounds in the development of technology, energy, space exploration, or by connecting the world through the internet. This is the progression of humans as we know it, and in many ways provides populations across the world with incredible opportunities for improved quality of life. Yet, it is important to remember that some choose to maintain the way of life they have for centuries for a reason. To me, the book “Ishmael,” by Daniel Quinn, is especially relevant in this discussion. In an in-depth discussion about the role of humans in this world, he establishes a definition of the culture of “leavers” and of “takers” that I find interesting; Takers being defined as those of a “dominant culture,” who see humans as the final step of evolution, the end product destined to do with the earth and its other inhabitants as we see fit, because they are here to support us. Quinn defines the Leavers as a population that lives in accordance with the rest of the life on earth. They see themselves as a step in the evolutionary process that share a world with equally important beings and must act as responsible stewards in maintaining the diverse life systems that we exist with. I believe this concept transcends location, gender, race, socioeconomic status, religion and education level.

We all make day to day decisions that affect others, on scales both large and small. We live in a world with incredibly diverse religious, social, environmental, ethical, and educational groups. How can we continue to support these rich and diverse ways of life even though we don’t understand or agree with them all? It is in these decisions that I believe people need to take more responsibility for their actions and how these actions affect others around them. How can we gain more transparency and assure that the leaders we elect are representing the values of our nations’ people? Deborah White Plume, an Oglala Sioux from South Dakota, sums up a united opposition to the Keystone project; when 94 year old grandmothers and 10 year old kids are willing to blockade semi trucks with the risk of arrest in order to protest a shortsighted and unsustainable violation of land and culture, maybe its time we begin to listen. We are all stewards of this world we live in, and I believe it is of the utmost importance that we reconsider how we value its protected areas and the cultures and critters that live within them.

Hey, I know them!

As someone who fairly recently entered the environmental world, I would not call myself an expert on the “who’s who of conservation.” So after scrolling through the World Parks Congress (WPC) speakers, I was surprised to see some familiar faces. This made me think: (1) the world of conservation must be pretty small, and (2) I must watch a lot of videos.

First there was Jeff Horowitz, co-producer of a documentary on climate change titled Years of Living Dangerously. Then there was Thomas Friedman, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, who was featured in that film, and also appeared on The Colbert Report. Sylvia Alice Earle, an accomplished marine biologist, is a speaker (she was named Hero of the Planet in 1998 by Time Magazine). I, however, know her from the documentary Mission Blue. Speaker Emmanuel de Merode is the Chief Warden of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I know him from the new documentary Virunga. And finally, I learned about corporations and biodiversity through a TED Talk by Jason Clay, Senior Vice President for Markets and Food at WWF-US, before knowing he would be a WPC speaker.

Now there many, many people who contribute to conservation, so it may not fair to say the world of conservation is small. But I think the prominence of speakers involved in documentaries and other videos at the WPC tells us something. Many of these speakers may consider themselves conservationists, but their role is much larger than that: they are conservation communicators. The WPC’s mantra of “inspiring solutions” is achieved through these innovative speakers who understand the power and importance of communicating conservation issues to the public. It’s these speakers, whether through documentaries or television shows or TED Talks, who inspire and motivate their audience to make a difference. So props to the WPC for providing a forum for these prominent people in the world of conservation communication.

…or maybe it means I just stare at screens too much.

(This entry was posted on behalf of Anna Kellogg)

13 Year Old Stole the Show

At a session about indigenous knowledge, a 13-year named Ta’Kaya stole the show. She represents a Tribal Nation on the west coast of Canada, north of Vancouver (I didn’t pick up the tribe’s name). She was incredibly articulate, her insights were decades beyond her years, and she brought a number of people in the audience to tears, many who spoke afterward about the challenges they have has an indigenous person who had lost hope for the younger generation in their community.  One of the best moments I’ve seen so far at this Congress.

Another best-moment was at the same session when the moderator (also indigenous), noticing that we were 15 minutes past the published end-time (sticking to the time schedule has been tenaciously enforced here) said he would not let the arbitrary decisions of schedule-makers shorten a discussion that needed to continue for the sake of the planet’s biodiversity.  The “time enforcer” in the back of the room was disempowered by that moment. I loved it.

Ta’Kaya is on the left (sorry for the poor photo quality.