World Parks Congress: Day Two
“I wanted to on the one hand give you a sense of confidence and … to end with an outlook that hopefully gives you a sense of opportunity and the enormous expectation that the world holds when it comes to you as a community.” – Achim Steiner
Day two of the World Parks Congress and the pressure is on. Today’s opening plenary shifted in tone from the welcome addresses of last night. While celebratory, the speeches also served as a call to action, touching on current environmental issues and challenges.
Australian Conservationist Professor Robert Dodson opened the plenary with a call to remember the interconnectedness of humanity and nature and that that connection should drive our problem solving. He also acknowledged that achieving harmony with nature will require a shift in our own belief systems, values, and habits and that we must be “courageously truthful” about the current challenges we face.
UN Environmental Program Director Achim Steiner gave an eloquent speech reinforcing the need for protected areas and urging congress delegates to continue reframing the definition of what that means, valuing parks not just in ecological, but also in social, cultural, and economic terms. He acknowledged the self-critical nature of the conservation community and encouraged that we continue to be critical of programs that are not working, but to celebrate the successes of the last decade too, concluding that we must, “Document success stories but also speak truth to power when issues are not being tackled in the right ways.”
The Yale Forestry delegates also had the opportunity to meet with head of IUCN Asia Aban Marker-Kabraji, a former Yale McCluskey fellow, and some of her staff. Kabraji said that the biggest challenge facing conservation today is that demand is greater than resources allow.
Other than the plenaries, the main action of today’s congress happened in “the Dome.” The dome is actually comprised of two spaces. Under it’s vaulted ceiling, organizations have set up booths and pavilions replete with presentation screens, bean bags, false plants, and even some women in fuzzy leopard and tiger suits. The Dome also housed several trees suspended in the air, and an “indoor pop up park,” false green spaces to make us environmentalists feel more at home while we took care of business on our laptops.
Finally, Aldo Leopold fans should note that Rob Stokes, the Environmental Minister from New South Wales, ended his plenary speech by paraphrasing Aldo’s land ethic.