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A new wave coming?

So now that the world parks congress has ended, we can see how beneficial it is to get representatives from all over the world concerned about areas that are protected and areas that should be protected through communicating and sharing ideas. I can only imagine how inspiring it was for those attending a congress like this for the first time!

However, since I was not able to attend in person, I did my best to follow the various news feeds; facebook, youtube, and some blogs (I’m inept at twitter). Intense navigation of the World Parks Congress website had to be done to try and find discussions and upcoming talks. In the end I felt there was a dearth of knowledge on how new agreements are determined, or how much influence and participation attendees (that are not world leaders or experts) have on outcomes of panels. In addition of the difficulties of figuring out what was going on through the social media, I noticed not many people were following the social outlets. With just under 13,000 facebook “likes” and 2,600 youtube hits to their WPC promotional video (that had been out for a YEAR!) I can’t help wonder how it came about that there was a lack of expanding and promoting the WPC to be inclusive to a larger audience. With world renowned speakers such as Sally Jewel, the Secretary to the Interior, and Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and huge marine conservation advocate, it seems only to appeal and gain attention to those who know and are interested in their fields. I couldn’t help but think what better way to promote such an event that only occurs once every ten years by getting supporting players such as celebrities involved… without turning it into a “red carpet” event. Some celebrities are very passionate about the same issues as WPC attendees. Their name can assist increasing awareness to the event itself. If achieving more recognition of the congress led to quicker global acceptance, participation and results, is it not worth it? “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”…has been quoted primarily for the job market, but could it not be applied to getting associations made about the worlds issues too? I’m sure there are many individuals out there who identify much quicker to a actor/actress than a world leader, scientific expert or top business person.

In a world of immediate correspondence and communication abilities, I was incredibly surprised to discover only through my graduate class that the World Parks Congress was occurring. How is it that an entire country like the US, knows when the third movie of the Hunger Games is coming to theater, but we don’t know about an international meeting on the worlds’ protected areas for the betterment of people and the environment? Are people as a whole genuinely disinterested in these issues? Do they feel that it is beyond the scope of what they think they are capable of making a difference or are they just in denial? As a conservationist, I hope it is the second, and expect to see adjustments to get those currently disengaged to an engaged level. This will lead to a new wave of creative and positive conservation actions in the upcoming years!

The Green List

The Green List of protected areas puts a positive spin on conservation, contrasting the Red List, which is an enormously lengthy and depressing list of threatened species throughout the world. (For example, the Red List identifies 4635 species listed as critically endangered.)  The Green List, while sadly not nearly as long, identifies well managed protected areas.  Its goal is to “celebrate the success of effective protected areas” and encourage other parks to reach the same standards.

The list is made up of 24 sites in 8 countries.  China, France, Korea and Columbia top the list with at least three areas each.  Notably none are in North America, but just as notably, none are in South America besides Columbia, Africa besides Kenya, or a huge expanse of land between Italy and Eastern China.  Many are national parks, but some are reserves or natural areas.  In Kenya, Ol Pejeta and Lewa are privately owned conservancies, which poses some interesting questions about the most effective management style of natural areas.

So what is required to be on the Green List?  The answer is not readily available on IUCN’s website, but further digging revealed the following five criteria:

  1. Values stated, objectives declared and being met
  2. Protected area legally defined, boundaries clear and secure
  3. Management capacity, policies and actions to achieve objectives
  4. Governance, participation, equity and benefits fulfill standards
  5. Visitor management and communication meet standards

It also appears as though the Green List, like many certification programs, requires an application process.  So did those that didn’t make the cut simply not apply?  Granted, the Green List is a newly revealed list that will continue to grow.  The IUCN is next looking at protected areas in Croatia, North Africa, Micronesia and Mexico.  The idea behind the Green List is to reward effective protected areas with a hopeful increase in tourism.  Most of these protected areas I have never heard of and would not be at the top of my list were I to visit a country.  But now they might be.  Conservancies in Kenya are far less visited than National Parks, but maybe now more people will visit Ol Pejeta.  I certainly will.

Post World Parks Congress: Inspiring Others to Act

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.


The WPC Whirlpool Spits Out Some Inspiration

It’s been an interesting week: following this Congress, searching for access to participate in discussions, learning how to use social media.. I’d compare it to swimming through a messy whirlpool of ideological conservation hopes and dreams. And the breaths of air that I’ve found have mainly come from this Conservation Leadership blogger group I’ve been following… But today, the whirlpool finally spit me out – spit all of us out really – as the World Parks Congress came to a close with some inspiring stuff and the CLTL brown bag event at CSU painted a more complete picture of the Congress, from the history behind IUCN to what really was accomplished.

Reading about the major accomplishments of the Congress was a final breath of fresh air. My personal favorites were the commitments from countries around the world to implement the goals identified throughout the Congress. Bangladesh committed to create their first Marine Protected Area, The Republic of Kiribati and the US agreed to conserve 490,000 square nautical miles in the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument, and the Elion Foundation and The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification partnered to plant 1.3 billion trees along the historic Silk Road. It is these kinds of commitments that warm the heart and inspire me to believe that progress has been made. Of course, whether these goals are reached has yet to be seen, but the sentiment is still there.

Another refreshing announcement from the Congress was the Green List of Protected Areas, highlighted as Areas with best management practices – such a relief to see positivity and recognition of what’s going right in conversation in comparison to the doom and gloom of extinction statistics and the Red List of Threatened Species.

Overall, I came into this Congress with preconceived ideas about what accomplishments would come out of it and how accessible ideas from the Congress might be. But looking back, it is important to consider the organizations and individuals who have flocked to this event. It is not a meeting of delegates, bent on creating legislation or treaties. It is a gigantic group of passionate, conservation-minded individuals trying to share ideas and gain further understanding of one another’s efforts throughout the world. Perhaps the messages heard at the WPC will influence more concrete decision in the UN climate change conference coming up in a few weeks. But for now, we’ve just witnessed – or tried to witness – a beautiful collaboration of 6,000 conservationists from 170 countries. Who could be disappointed about that!

Post-Conference High

Imagine returning home from a convention such as the World Parks Congress. You have been surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals for a week straight, listening to inspiring speakers, laughing, crying, and engaging in thought-provoking conversations about global socio-ecological solutions. You return to your 9-5 cubicle and find yourself lecturing co-workers for not recycling their staples and shouting, “Don’t you know how many PPM of CO2 is emitted by taking the elevator to the top floor??” (as you stomp up 37 flights of stairs). – – Okay it isn’t this bad, but you know what I mean right?

The conference high. Commitments are made, hands are shaken and lofty goals are declared. But after the excitement from the World Parks Conference fades away, what will happen? Who will follow through? Will this momentum continue to bring us toward solutions to our social/ecological predicaments? Considering the copious hours of discussion and negotiation surrounding the Kyoto Protocol, it seems as if little action has actually been taken (especially in the US).

However, I am an optimist and I would like to believe that conventions like the WPC are very important to engage conversations, promote cross-cultural understanding, and create movement in the global conservation community.

Let’s check out some products of the congress:

The IUCN Green List of Protected Areas

  • A global standard of excellent protected areas awarded to 23 sites (none in the US)
  • Countries were encouraged to determine protected areas that prevented further species extinction by addressing the IUCN Red List
  • Here are some examples of country commitments (click here to see more):
    • China committed to increase its protected areas territory by at least 20% and its forest area by 40 million hectares.
    • Gabon committed to protecting 23% of its marine waters.
    • Canada committed to protect 600,000 square km from industrial activity to conserve biodiversity.

US and Kiribati Sign Historic Cooperative Arrangement

  • Agreeing to support research and conservation actions for 490,000 square nautical miles in the Pacific Remote Islands
  • Activities include scientific research, law enforcement, the removal of shipwrecks, conservation of seabirds, and eradication of non-native species.
  • Click here for more information about collaborative work on this protected area.

 The Durban Accord

  • Discusses desired outcomes and related targets that reflect the main themes of the WPC
  • Specifically addresses commitments to protect biodiversity through protected areas, secure the rights of indigenous people, and empower youth
  • Outlines targets, goals and an implementation plan.
  • Click here for a full report on the Durban Accord and the WPC outcomes and recommendations

As you can see, important conversations, negotiations and commitments were made at the World Parks Congress. Hopefully global nations will hold each other socially accountable to follow through with their public commitments. The WPC was important to facilitate understanding and a common vision to align goals and encourage collaboration. I am excited to continue to follow reports that are released after the congress to see the fruit of these inspiring discussions.

Parks, people, planet: inspiring solutions

With more than 6.000 participants from 170 countries the VI World Park Congress, Sydney 2004 has finalized. The event was the opportunity to encourage the WPC participants try to achieve the Aichi biodiversity targets, that says: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.

First of all, the number of Protected areas has increased during the last years, as the number of communities settled around them. In addition of this, we have to consider that communities depend of the natural resources to overcome poverty and increase their economic development.

The increase of Protected areas is enough to achieve the Aichi target? . Well, the latest available information shows that, protected areas cover around 12.5% of land and 3% of oceans. These are no optimistic rates. We could take these percentages as an indicator the lack of compromise that several countries demonstrate until now regarding this compromise or we could analyze in detail this situation. A new approach about Protected areas says: Protected areas are now created not only to conserve iconic landscapes and seascapes and to provide habitat for endangered wildlife, but also to contribute to the livelihood of local communities, to bolster national economies through tourism revenues, to replenish fisheries and to play a key part in the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change, among many other functions (Watson, J., et al. 2014).

The only way to achieve these objectives is through an effective of the Protected areas. However, preserve natural resources and be effective in the mission require important funds. According a recent research by WWF and Credit Suisse has shown that investment in biodiversity conservation needs to be around $200- $300 billion globally per year, 20-30 times the current level. The only way to ensure that Protected areas hold the ecosystems and species into of them is convincing the decision makers that in addition of the not tangible value the Protected areas, healthy and biodiversity ecosystem offer economic benefits to countries and their people (The solution of this dilemma could be recognizing “nature capital” as a financial tool in favor to the Protected areas).

The time that we have for do something in favor to the conservation and restoration of the natural resources could be not enough, is necessary the diversification of the financial sources in favor of the administration the Protected areas. It is time that the nature advocates talk the same language that decision makers understood: money.

They have to understand that the cost of return (opportunity cost) on investment that well managed protected areas provide by conserving natural heritage and increasing the social and economic wellbeing of their citizens. Countries need to start quantifying the services provided by protected areas and recognizing the costs of protected-area degradation it should be. Estimations of the annual cost of adequately managing an expanded network of marine and terrestrial protected areas range from $45 billion to $76 billion, the lower of which is just 2.5% of the global military expenditure.

Finally, we have to recognize that protected areas are essential to the future of life on our planet. The WPC provided us a good new in this context the creation of the Green List of Protected Areas as an attempt to encourage the best-practice examples of equitable governance into them.

Santiago G.

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


Technology, conservation and armchair travel

NASA is at the World Parks Congress promoting a new book and Google is swimming around Sydney Harbor taking pictures.  It seems that these are just two examples of technology driven initiatives to connect people with nature.

NASA’s new book is made explicitly to commemorate the World Parks Congress with satellite images of some of the world’s protected areas.  Naturally, the images are stunning.  The book, appropriately titled “Sanctuary,” aims to deliver a new perspective on parks and also highlight the uses of satellite imaging in conservation efforts.  It makes sense.  The stark contrast between developed and protected areas stresses just how much we convert the land unless it is explicitly within park boundaries.  Maybe these images are enough to inspire support for conservation.  The image of Earth from space sparked the green revolution, after all.

Google has maintained a steady presence at the congress, possibly just to remind you that Google is everywhere, but also to promote the benefits of technology and mapping.  Their new underwater streetview aims to connect people stuck at home with fantastical places around the world, such as the Great Barrier Reef.  The goal is to increase awareness of fragile marine ecosystems, but the project hopes to also help researchers to monitor changes to coral reefs and other systems.

Partnering with SkyTruth and Oceana, Google is also involved with Global Fishing Watch, a new technology being used to monitor illegal fishing.  Using satellite images, the project tracks fishing fleets around the world and can determine whether or not vessels are operating within marine protected areas, giving the fishing industry more transparency.

Finally, The Map of Life, supported by Google Earth, is an ambitious project that maps almost a million species to their current geographies.  For the World Parks Congress, they are announcing a new resource for monitoring species and measuring the effectiveness of protected areas in species conservation.

Whether for science, aesthetics or just because they can, some exciting things are happening in the world of mapping that can be of great benefit to conservationists, and if you’re still reading this I urge you to stop immediately and go read this instead.

I’ll take a Super Sized Protected Area please


Preparing to write my blog post, I dive deep into my lukewarm gelatinous minestrone soup. Bouncing off the walls of the cardboard cup, I find carrots that are much too orange, unidentified translucent vegetables, and artificial flavors that leave me yearning for the earth. As the worker at Spoons throws plastic silverware (wrapped in plastic) and twenty napkins in my bag I ask where the soup was made – – she has no idea.

Among many other issues surrounding food security, the disconnect from our food is addressed in the streaming video “Food for Thought” on day 6 of the World Parks Conference in Sydney, Australia.

The crisis: as the global population races toward nine billion, how do we provide nutrition for this many people while protecting the biodiversity of the ecosystems upon which we depend? The ‘Food for Thought’ panelists discussed many possible solutions that need to be explored soon in order to address this pressing issue.

Some solutions discussed by panelists:

1) Efficiency – The statistics concerning wasted food are staggering.

  • 3 billion tons of food are wasted every year
  • Amount of land needed to produce this wasted food 1.4 Billion hectares (twice the size of Australia)
  • Amount of water needed to produce this wasted food is 3 times the volume of Lake Geneva

 2) Eat less animal products

  • Extensive cattle ranching accounts for 80% of current deforestation
  • Concentrated amounts of waste, hormones and antibiotics severely harms river and stream ecosystems.
  • Carbon emissions from livestock, transportation, and grain production to support the demand for meat are enormous
  • Often in developed countries, eating animal product is a choice and a luxury

3) Agroforestry

  • The conservation of biological diversity on agricultural lands can be supported while farmers simultaneously benefit.
  • Farmers can have a diversity products, creating financial stability
  • Agroforestry can be implemented within protected areas, acting as a solution to the social/ecological issue of food security and biodiversity loss.


As the global population and demand for food soars, the degradation of biological diversity continues to be compromised. New and innovative solutions need to be explored to work toward supporting both of these issues concurrently. Speakers at the World Parks Congress are taking steps toward solutions by discussing efficiency and the need to reconnect with our food sources. Protected areas may be a large part of the solution by acting as a managed source of food while simultaneously providing economic resilience to local communities.







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.