Maintenance of community micro-hydro electricity generation project, Sabah, Borneo. Andy Luck photo and copyright.

Maintenance of community micro-hydro electricity generation project, Sabah, Borneo. Andy Luck photo and copyright.

Wildopeneye is watching The World Parks Congress 2014, currently under way and ongoing until Nov.19, in Sydney as an important event. A milestone in human progress. I used to judge the quality of a civilization by the standard of its public toilets, now I think that a rather better measure of worth is the state of its protected areas. According to a News release from United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) “The world is on track to meet a 2020 target on the expansion of protected areas, (15.4 % of terrestrial areas, 3.4 % of oceans are protected) but more work is needed to ensure areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services are prioritized for protection under equitably managed conditions. (

Degrees of protection for land and marine areas vary across the world and even within nations.  See the WPC webpage What are protected areas? for clarification on their accepted definition and importance. Without protected areas we’d lose much of the natural and cultural heritage on planet Earth that is of true value. Just compare the quality of that which is protected and that which isn’t in your part of the world to see the stark difference.

Any nature photographer, fisherman, hunter, or skin diver will tell you that there’s an enormous difference between the quantity and quality of encounters within, and without, protected areas. In photography there’s just no comparison between the experiences – whether you’re looking at aesthetics of landscape quality, the diversity and splendour of photographic subjects or the taste of the local water and freshness of the air, protected areas will win hands down, every time. Adequate protection has life or death consequences for many.

As stewards of the biodiversity that supports our lives, representatives of people from all around the world need to get together, agree upon reasonable common values and goals, share their respective experiential knowledge and apply it within their own spheres of influence. That appears to be what’s happening.

The Sydney WPC has declared three principal aims and rather than paraphrase and degrade, I’ll blockquote them, because they are succinct  (View source):

  • Articulate the vital role of protected areas in conserving nature while delivering essential ecosystem services
  • Position protected areas within goals of economic and community well-being, and
  • Demonstrate how this can be achieved in practice.

For parks, it will strengthen conservation targets whilst engaging a varied audience from government to general members of society who care about the health of our planet.

For people, it will engage with development sectors and inspire citizens to connect with nature.

For the planet, it will demonstrate nature-based solutions to global challenges such as climate change, health, and supporting human life.

For the first time, the Congress will collate and communicate the most compelling and inspiring solutions to global challenges. It will help create new sustainable commitments for protected areas across the conservation, development and business sectors. This will be the promise of Sydney.”

Powerful stuff, I think you’ll agree, and as welcome an agenda as it is ambitious. Yes, that’s exactly what we want to see being done. A lot of people are meeting the grim global challenges face on, and improving their lives and livelihoods. A lot of them are winning in their local contexts. Let’s focus on that inspiring news, rejoice at the accomplishments and explore avenues for local imitation and innovation where we can. The WPC Panorama site has a fine online showcase featuring successful case studies Inspiring Protected Area Solutions


Intelligent, contextually sensitive responses to ecological crisis?  It feels like humanity is coming of age and thanks to digital technology, it has never before been easier to spread the word. Thank God!



A cheetah with message, Keep the cheezeburger Can I haz protected habitat

Click the LOL Cheetah to visit the World Parks Congress website