How Bob Brown taught Australians to talk about, and care for, the ‘wilderness’



AAP/supplied

Libby Lester, University of Tasmania

The Conversation is running a series of explainers on key figures in Australian political history, looking at the way they changed the nature of debate, its impact then, and its relevance to politics today. You can also read the rest of our pieces here.


To understand Bob Brown’s impact on Australian political debate, watch Tasmanian commercial television and stay on the couch during the ad breaks.

Here’s an advertisement for “wilderness tours”, another for small businesses on the “Tarkine coast”. Few of the audience, let alone the businesses paying for the ads, would know these terms came into common use because of the way Bob Brown does politics.

Anywhere known as “wilderness” was best avoided before the late 1970s when Brown, then leader of the campaign to save Tasmania’s Franklin River from damming, started deliberately including the term in almost every public statement he made about the threatened area. He understood the symbolic power of the term.

His political and media opponents quickly learned also. The Hobart Mercury – a strong supporter of the Hydro Electric Commission and its political masters – rarely let the word onto its pages. This was different from, for example, the Melbourne Age, which opposed the damming.

NO DAM headline on The Launceston Examiner in 1983.
The High Court decision to block the Franklin River dam was very significant and divisive.
Tasmanian Electoral Commission

The Tasmanian media’s approach changed shortly after the High Court decision to block the damming in July 1983, when the commercial potential of “wilderness” began to emerge. Even the Mercury was promoting a calendar of “wilderness” images by the end of 1983.

Beginning in the 1990s, Brown applied the same patient strategy to the campaign to protect the area between the Arthur and Pieman rivers in north-west Tasmania. The Tarkine, with its forest and mineral resources, might still not be fully protected – earlier this year there were more arrests of members of the Bob Brown Foundation. But it is probably a lot closer than it would be if Brown had stuck to calling it the Arthur-Pieman.

Originally from regional New South Wales, Brown moved to Tasmania during the ultimately failed Lake Pedder campaign of the early 1970s. On the advice of Richard Jones, president of what is now recognised as the world’s first Green party, the United Tasmania Group, the openly gay young GP in ill-fitting suits started standing for Tasmanian parliament in 1972. After a decade of trying, he won the lower house seat of Denison (now renamed Clark; Brown might have come up with something less predictable) in 1983.

The shift from protest camps to the formal political arena proved challenging to Brown’s way of doing politics. As a young journalist covering Tasmanian parliament in the mid-1980s, I watched as the ever-polite-if-firm Brown inadvertently almost outlawed lesbianism as he tried to make Tasmania’s appalling anti-homosexuality laws symbolically nonsensical.

Ironically, the notoriously conservative members of the Legislative Council rejected his amendment, saving Tasmania’s lesbians from becoming criminals. While the mistake was memorable, more so was Brown’s willingness to acknowledge what he still describes as the worst moment of his political career.

However, some members of the Australian Greens, the party Brown was instrumental in forming in 1992, might suggest his worst political moment was publicly supporting the partial sale of Telstra in return for environmental gains before the party had debated the move internally.

Brown’s occasional failure to respect his party’s way of coming to decisions is forgivable. After all, consensus politics only really works when a strong leader guides the way, and Brown – as is increasingly obvious for the Greens – was exactly that.

Brown was elected to the Senate in 1996, after ten years in the lower house of Tasmania’s state parliament. He was re-elected to the Senate twice, in 2001 and again in 2007 when he won the highest personal vote of any Tasmanian senator.

The 2010 election resulted in nine Greens in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives. Negotiations with Brown and the Greens led to Julia Gillard and the ALP forming government in return for an ever-elusive carbon plan.

As a senator, Brown continued his play with the symbolic that he had learned so well as a protester. He made international headlines in 2003, not only for interjecting during US President George W. Bush’s speech to the Australian parliament, but for shaking the president’s hand afterwards. Bush responded to the heckling by saying: “I love free speech.”

Woodchip giant Gunns expressed exactly the opposite sentiment the following year when it launched a A$6.3 million law suit against Brown and 19 other activists just before Christmas to silence them over its pulp mill plans. Gunns should have known Brown was always going to out-survive it. The company collapsed in 2012, taking with it one of the worst reputations in Australian corporate history.

Brown stepped down as leader of the Australian Greens and retired from the Senate in 2012. After forming the Bob Brown Foundation, he has sparked more recent debate over whether the Adani convoy in 2019 was in fact his worst political moment, turning Queensland voters and thus the most recent federal election to the LNP.

For some critics, the convoy led by Brown was a misguided attempt to redeploy old tactics and relive past glories. Given the protest involved a convoy of fossil-fuelled vehicles travelling to oppose fossil fuel extraction, it does seem on the surface, at least, that Brown’s ability to harness the symbolic deserted him in this case.

However, a deeper play with the symbolic was under way, one I suspect Brown knows will be recognised with time, if it hasn’t been already. Brown is not afraid of being seen as an outsider – perhaps he has had no choice in a country where blokiness is a common character trait of political insiders. Nor has he ever pandered to the small-town politics that puts local rights over what he considers the greater good.

The Adani convoy was meant to be seen exactly as it was – an invasion by outsiders. If it contributed to the election loss for the ALP, so be it. Brown is playing a long game.

Brown may have affected the way politics is debated in Australia, but he has not yet changed that politics.

As Brown’s career has highlighted, ours is a politics where economic growth and environmental protection are still largely in conflict: jobs versus conservation, social needs versus ecological futures, left versus right. These tensions remain as evident in the political party Brown formed as in the responses of his political opponents, in media commentary and in voter choices.

Australia’s inability to act on carbon emissions exemplifies both the enduring nature of this politics and how long a game Brown has always been willing to play. In Brown’s maiden speech in the Senate in 1996, he said:

One has only to look again at the reality that if we do not rein in the greenhouse gas phenomenon one billion people on this planet will be displaced if the oceans rise by a metre at the end of the next century. This for a planet on which the wealthy ones who fly between here and London put, on average per passenger, five tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Thirteen years later, when the Greens led by Brown voted against Labor’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – and hence still carry the blame for Kevin Rudd’s failure to respond to “the greatest moral challenge of our time” – Brown’s argument for his party’s opposition to the scheme was “that it locked in failure” by “providing polluters billions of dollars and setting targets way too low”.

Like Gunns, the major parties can’t say they weren’t warned. Another thing Brown had said in his first speech in the Senate, quoting British environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, was: “the future will either be green or not at all”.

Brown is indeed playing a long game, and we can only guess what name he will give politics if he wins.The Conversation

Libby Lester, Director, Institute for Social Change, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We know contact with nature makes you feel better. Can virtual contact do the same?



There is a link between exposure to natural settings and better psychological well-being.
Shutterstock

Navjot Bhullar, University of New England

You might have noticed that being in nature can improve your mood. Whether it’s walking in a beautiful rainforest, swimming in the ocean or a moment of wonder at the plants and animals around you, nature offers a respite from daily routines and demands.

In 1984, the sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson described this innate desire to connect with natural environments – and the positive experiences we derive from this connection – as the “biophilia hypothesis”:

Biophilia, if it exists, and I believe it exists, is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms.

There is evidence to back up the link between exposure to natural settings and better psychological well-being.

And my own research suggests that virtual exposure to nature via film (videos) or virtual reality can mimic this effect.




Read more:
Why a walk in the woods really does help your body and your soul


Why being in nature makes us feel better

Studies on the psychological benefits of exposure to nature show spending time in natural settings can result in:

Two major theories help us understand how exposure to nature increases mood and psychological well-being.

First, Attention Restoration Theory is the idea that natural environments restore attention. We can only focus our attention for a certain period of time before feeling mentally fatigued. A short break in natural environments helps restore it.

This sense of “restorativeness” improves our sense of well-being, and breaks the routine of our every day life. Restorativeness explains some of the association between nature experience and psychological well-being.

Then there is Stress Reduction Theory. This suggests that natural environments promote recovery from stress, which is different from attention fatigue.

Non-threatening, natural environments would have increased the chances of survival for our ancestors because they provided opportunities for reproduction, food and shelter. As a result, we’ve evolved to respond positively to such settings.

Emotional responses to aesthetically pleasing stimuli, such as green spaces, also tend to decrease physiological arousal, thus making us feel relaxed.




Read more:
Virtual reality adds to tourism through touch, smell and real people’s experiences


Virtual contact with nature mimics this effect

In a meta-analysis of 32 studies, researchers compared the effects of exposure to both natural and urban environments. Results showed that exposure to natural environments showed a moderate association with higher positive mood.

This exposure doesn’t have to take place in-person. Research I conducted with my colleagues at the University of New England’s Applied Psychology Lab showed that while people got the most psychological benefit from physical exposure to nature, exposure to simulated natural environments – such as film or virtual reality – had a comparable effect.

One study showed that taking part in a virtual reality experience of a natural environment resulted in higher levels of positive affect and greater attention restoration compared to a virtual reality experience of an urban environment.

Psychological benefits seem to be dependent on the type of nature experience. Another study found that a virtual experience of wild nature (defined as natural settings, such as wilderness with little human interference) improved positive mood. By contrast, a virtual experience of urban nature (such as parks in urbanised areas) exerted its beneficial effect by reducing negative mood.

The studies also showed that simulated natural environments providing realistic representations of nature, such as interactive virtual reality, resulted in greater psychological benefits than less immersive mediums such as photographs of natural settings.




Read more:
Inspired, magical, connected: How virtual reality can make you well


Increasing our daily contact with nature

In a modern world increasingly characterised by built environments, it’s not always possible to spend time in nature every day. Promoting exposure to virtual natural environments seems like an effective way of improving psychological well-being.

Simulated representations of nature can help improve urban and indoor environments where access to nature is limited, such as hospitals, urban offices, apartments, and inner city schools.

That might mean displaying photographs and moving videos of natural colours and patterns, installing living green walls, or placing potted plants in areas people move through everyday.The Conversation

Navjot Bhullar, Associate Professor – Faculty of Medicine and Health; School of Psychology, University of New England

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why daily doses of nature in the city matter for people and the planet



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Brisbane’s South Bank parkland isn’t exactly getting out in the wild, but experiences of urban nature are important for building people’s connection to all living things.
Anne Cleary, Author provided

Anne Cleary, Griffith University

The environmental movement is shifting away from focusing solely on raising awareness about environmental issues. Many environmental agencies and organisations now also aim to connect people with nature, and our new research suggests daily doses of urban nature may be the key to this for the majority who live in cities.

Every year in the United Kingdom the Wildlife Trusts run the 30 Days Wild campaign. This encourages people to carry out a daily “random act of wildness” for the month of June. The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently launched its #NatureForAll program, which aims to inspire a love of nature.

This shift in focus is starting to appear in environmental policy. For example, the UK’s recent 25-year environment plan identifies connecting people with the environment as one of its six key areas. Similarly, in Australia, the state of Victoria’s Biodiversity 2037 plan aims to connect all Victorians to nature as one of two overarching objectives.

The thinking behind such efforts is simple: connecting people to nature will motivate them to act in ways that protect and care for nature. Evidence does suggest that people who have a high nature connection are likely to display pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours.

Looking beyond the park

What is less clear is how to enhance an individual’s nature connection – that is feeling that they are a part of nature. Over half of all people globally, and nine out of ten people in Australia, live in urban environments. This reduces their opportunities to experience and connect with nature.

Our new study may offer some answers. A survey of Brisbane residents showed that people who experienced nature during childhood or had regular contact with nature in their home and suburb were more likely to report feeling connected with nature.

The study used a broad definition of urban nature to include all the plants and animals that live in a city. When looking to connect urban residents with local nature we need to take a broad view and look “beyond the park”. All aspects of nature in the city offer a potential opportunity for people to experience nature and develop their sense of connection to it.

Raffles Place, Singapore – all urban nature should be seen as an opportunity for nature connection.
Anne Cleary, Author provided

The study also looked at the relationship between childhood and adult nature experiences. Results suggest that people who lack childhood experience of nature can still come to have a high sense of nature connection by experiencing nature as an adult.

There have been focused efforts on connecting children to nature, such as the Forest Schools and Nature Play programs. Equal effort should be given to promoting adult nature experiences and nature connection, particularly for people who lack such experiences.

The benefits of nature experience

We still have much to discover about how an individual’s nature connection is shaped. We need a better understanding of how people from diverse cultural and social contexts experience and connect to different types of nature. That said, we are starting to understand the important role that frequent local experiences of nature may play.

In addition to boosting people’s sense of nature connection, daily doses of urban nature deliver the benefits of improved physical, mental and social wellbeing. A growing evidence base is showing that exposure to nature, particularly in urban environments, can lead to healthier and happier city dwellers.

Robert Dunn and colleagues have already advocated for the importance of urban nature experiences as a way to bolster city residents’ support for conservation. They described the “pigeon paradox” whereby experiencing urban nature, which is often of low ecological value – such as interactions with non-native species – may have wider environmental benefits through people behaving in more environmentally conscious ways. They proposed that the future of conservation depended on city residents’ ability to experience urban nature.

As new evidence emerges we need to build on this thinking. It would seem that the future of our very connection to nature, our wellbeing and conservation depend on urban people’s ability to experience urban nature.The Conversation

The pigeon paradox: interactions with urban nature – here in London’s Hyde Park – may help make city dwellers more environmentally conscious.
Anne Cleary, Author provided

Anne Cleary, Research Fellow, School of Medicine, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Earth’s wilderness is vanishing, and just a handful of nations can save it


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Brazil, home to the Amazon, is one of just five ‘mega-wilderness’ countries.
CIFOR, Author provided

James Allan, The University of Queensland; James Watson, The University of Queensland; Jasmine Lee, The University of Queensland, and Kendall Jones, The University of Queensland

Just 20 countries are home to 94% of the world’s remaining wilderness, excluding the high seas and Antarctica, according to our new global wilderness map, published today in Nature.

A century ago, wilderness extended over most of the planet. Today, only 23% of land – excluding Antarctica – and 13% of the ocean remains free from the harmful impacts of human activities.

More than 70% of remaining wilderness is in just five countries: Australia, Russia, Canada, the United States (Alaska), and Brazil.

The last of the wild. Remaining marine wilderness is shown in blue; terrestrial wilderness in green.
Watson et al. 2018

We argue that wilderness can still be saved. But success will depend on the steps these “mega-wilderness nations” take, or fail to take, to secure the future of Earth’s last remaining wild places.

Mega-wilderness countries.
James Allan, Author provided

Wilderness areas are vast tracts of untamed and unmodified land and sea. Regardless of where they are – from the lowland rainforests of Papua New Guinea, to the high taiga forests of Russia’s Arctic, to the vast deserts of inland Australia, to the great mixing zones of the Pacific, Antarctic and Indian Oceans – these areas are the last strongholds for endangered species, and perform vital functions such as storing carbon, and buffering us against the effects of climate change. In many wilderness areas, indigenous peoples, who are often the most politically and economically marginalised of all peoples, depend on them for their livelihoods and cultures.

Yet despite being important and highly threatened, wilderness areas and their values are completely overlooked in international environmental policy. In most countries, wilderness is not formally defined, mapped or protected. This means there is nothing to hold nations, industry, society and community to account for wilderness conservation.

Beyond boundaries

Almost two-thirds of marine wilderness is in the high seas, beyond nations’ immediate control. This effectively makes it a marine wild west, where fishing fleets have a free-for-all. There are some laws to manage high-seas fishing, but there is no legally binding agreement governing high-seas conservation, although the United Nations is currently negotiating such a treaty. Ensuring marine wilderness is off-limits to exploitation will be crucial.




Read more:
New map shows that only 13% of the oceans are still truly wild


And we cannot forget Antarctica, arguably Earth’s greatest remaining wilderness and one of the last places on the planet where vast regions have never experienced a human footfall.

Antarctica, the (almost) untouched continent.
Author provided

While Antarctica’s isolation and extreme climate have helped protect it from the degradation experienced elsewhere, climate change, human activity, pollution, and invasive species increasingly threaten the continent’s wildlife and wilderness.

Parties to the Antarctic Treaty must act on their commitments to help reduce human impacts, and we need to urgently curb global carbon emissions before it is too late to save Antarctica.




Read more:
Earth’s wildernesses are disappearing, and not enough of them are World Heritage-listed


Our maps show how little wilderness is left, and how much has been lost in the past few decades. It is hard to believe, but between 1993 and 2009 a staggering 3.3 million square kilometres of terrestrial wilderness – an area larger than India – was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures. In the ocean, the only regions free of industrial fishing, pollution and shipping are confined to the poles or remote Pacific island nations.

Saving wilderness

Almost every nation has signed international environmental agreements that aim to end the biodiversity crisis, halt dangerous climate change, and achieve global
sustainable development goals. We believe Earth’s remaining wilderness can only be
secured if its importance is immediately recognised within these agreements.

At a summit in Egypt later this month, the 196 signatory nations to the Convention on Biological Diversity will work alongside scientists on developing a strategic plan for conservation beyond 2020. This is a unique opportunity for all nations to recognise that Earth’s wilderness are dwindling, and to mandate a global target for wilderness conservation.

A global target of retaining 100% of all remaining wilderness is achievable, although it would require stopping industrial activities like mining, logging, and fishing from expanding to new places. But committing explicitly to such a target would make it easier for governments and non-governmental organisations to leverage funding and mobilise action on the ground in nations that are still developing economically.

Similarly, the role of wilderness in guarding against climate change – such as by storing huge amounts of carbon – could also be formally documented in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which holds its annual conference in Poland next month. This would incentivise nations to make wilderness protection central to their climate strategies.

Mechanisms such as REDD+, which allows developing nations to claim compensation for conserving tropical forests they had planned to clear, could be extended to other carbon-rich wilderness areas such as intact seagrasses, and even to wildernesses in rich countries that do not receive climate aid, such as the Canadian tundra.

The Boreal/Taiga Forest holds one third of the world’s terrestrial carbon.
Keith Williams, Author provided

Nations have ample opportunities, through legislation and rewarding good behaviour, to prevent road and shipping lane expansion, and enforcing limits on large-scale developments and industrial fishing in their wilderness areas. They can also establish protected areas to slow the spread of industrial activity into wilderness.




Read more:
The moral value of wilderness


A diverse set of approaches must be embraced, and the private sector must work with governments so that industry protects, rather than harms, wilderness areas. Key to this will be lenders’ investment and performance standards, particularly for organisations such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and the regional development banks.

Our planet faces not just a species extinction crisis, but also a wilderness extinction crisis. Once lost, our wild places are gone forever. This may be our last opportunity to save the last of the wild, we cannot afford to miss it.The Conversation

James Allan, Postdoctoral research fellow, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland; James Watson, Professor, The University of Queensland; Jasmine Lee, PhD candidate, biodiversity conservation and climate change, The University of Queensland, and Kendall Jones, PhD candidate, Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The moral value of wilderness



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Pause and reflect on what really makes wilderness valuable.
John O’Neill/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Janna Thompson, La Trobe University

Let us imagine that humanity has almost died out and only a few people remain. Out of resentment or despair, the survivors cater to their destructive urges by destroying as much of the natural world as they can. They poison rivers and lakes, drop napalm on forests, set off a few nuclear warheads. They are at ease with their conscience because no one will ever be in the position to use or appreciate the nature they are destroying.

They are harming no one. But surely what they are doing is wrong.




Read more:
Explainer: wilderness, and why it matters


The Australian environmental philosopher Richard Sylvan used this story to try to persuade us that nature has a value that is independent of our needs and desires, even our existence.

The predicament he imagines is a fiction. But the ethical problem is very real. Experts tell us that human activity is causing the world’s wilderness areas to disappear at an alarming rate. In 100 years there may be no wilderness left.

Those who deplore this development usually focus on the negative implications for human well-being: increasing environmental dysfunction, loss of species diversity and of the unknown benefits that wilderness areas might contain.

But Sylvan’s thought experiment – involving the last people alive, and therefore removing the consideration of humans’ future well-being – shows us that much more is at stake. It is morally wrong to destroy ecosystems because they have value in their own right.

Questions of value

Some philosophers deny that something can have value if no one is around to value it. They think that ethical values exist only in our minds. Like most philosophical propositions, this position is debatable. Sylvan and many others believe that value is as much a part of the world as matter and energy.

But let us assume that those who deny the independent existence of values are right. How then can we condemn the destructive activities of the last people or deplore the loss of wilderness and species for any other reason than loss of something useful to humans?

The kind of experiences that something provides can be a reason for regarding it as valuable for what it is, and not merely for its utility. Those who appreciate wilderness areas are inclined to believe that they have this kind of value. Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden: “We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life posturing freely where we never wander.”

The Great Barrier Reef “is the closest most people will come to Eden”, said the poet Judith Wright, who helped to lead a protest movement in the 1960s and 1970s against the plans of the Bjelke-Petersen Queensland government to drill for oil on the reef.

Thoreau and Wright value wilderness not merely because it the source of enjoyment and recreational pleasure, but also because it can teach us something profound – either through its astonishing beauty or by putting our own human lives in perspective. In this way, wild nature is valuable for much the same reasons that many people value great works of art.

If the last people had set about destroying all the artworks in all the great museums of the world, we would call them vandals. Objects of great spiritual or aesthetic value deserve respect and should be treated accordingly. To destroy them is wrong, regardless of whether anyone will be here to appreciate them in the future.

Like nowhere else on Earth

Wright and her fellow protesters aimed to make Australians realise that they possessed something remarkable that existed nowhere else on the face of the planet. They wanted Australians to recognise the Great Barrier Reef as a national treasure. They were successful. It was given World Heritage status in 1981 and was listed as national heritage in 2007.

The Great Barrier Reef is also recognised as the heritage of more than 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups. Much of what Westerners think of as wilderness is in fact the ancestral territory of indigenous people – the land that they have cared for and treasured for many generations.

Recognising a wilderness area as heritage gives us another reason for thinking that its value transcends utility.

Heritage consists of objects, practices and sites that connect people with a past that is significant to them because of what their predecessors did, suffered or valued. Our heritage helps to define us as a community. To identify something as heritage is to accept a responsibility to protect it and to pass it on to further generations.




Read more:
Earth’s wildernesses are disappearing, and not enough of them are World Heritage-listed


We have many reasons to recognise wilderness areas like the Great Barrier Reef as heritage. They are special and unique. They play a role in a history of how people learned to understand and appreciate their land. They provide a link between the culture of Aboriginal people – their attachment to their land – and the increasing willingness of non-Aboriginal Australians to value their beauty and irreplaceability.

The last people cannot pass on their heritage to future generations. But valuing something as heritage makes it an object of concern and respect. If people cherish and feel connected to wild environments and the creatures that live in them, they should want them to thrive long after we are gone.

The ConversationWe, who do not share the predicament of the last people, have a duty to pass on our heritage to future generations. This gives us an even stronger moral reason to ensure the survival of our remaining wilderness areas.

Janna Thompson, Professor of Philosophy, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Earth’s wildernesses are disappearing, and not enough of them are World Heritage-listed


James Allan, The University of Queensland and James Watson, The University of Queensland

Earth’s last intact wilderness areas are being rapidly destroyed. More than 5 million square km of wilderness (around 10% of the total area) have been lost in the past two decades. If this continues, the consequences for both people and nature will be catastrophic.

Predominantly free of human activity, especially industrial-scale activities, large wilderness areas host a huge range of environmental values, including endangered species and ecosystems, and critical functions such as storing carbon and providing fresh water. Many indigenous people and local communities, who are often politically and economically marginalised, depend on wilderness areas and have deep cultural connections to them.

Yet despite being important and highly threatened, wilderness areas have been almost completely ignored in international environmental policy. Immediate proactive action is required to save them. The question is where such action could come from.

In a paper published in Conservation Biology, we argue that the United Nations’ World Heritage Convention should expand the amount of wilderness included in its list of Natural World Heritage Sites (NWHS).

Wilderness areas are underrepresented among the 203 sites currently on the list. The World Heritage Committee’s meeting in Poland this week offers a good opportunity to redress the balance.

Whither wilderness?

The World Heritage Convention was adopted in 1972 by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to conserve the world’s most valuable natural and cultural sites – places of exceptional importance to all of humanity and future generations. Each one is unique and irreplaceable. Currently, 193 countries (almost the entire world) are parties to the convention, which has inscribed 203 natural sites around the world.

World Heritage Status is granted to places with “Outstanding Universal Value”, which is defined based on three pillars. First, a site must meet one of the four criteria for listing as natural World Heritage (aesthetic value, geological value, biological processes, and biodiversity conservation). Second, a site must have “integrity” and “intactness” of its values (in other words, it must be in excellent condition). Finally, a site must be officially protected by the national or subnational government under whose jurisdiction it falls.

Wilderness areas can be associated with all four of the natural criteria, as well as the integrity and intactness requirements. What’s more, a wilderness by definition cannot be recreated once it is lost. The argument for protecting wilderness areas by adding them to the NWHS list is therefore compelling.

We created the most up-to-date maps of terrestrial wilderness using recent maps of human pressure and assessed the World Heritage Convention’s current coverage of wilderness areas. We found that some 777,000 square km (around 2% of the total) are already protected in 52 Natural World Heritage Sites.

Very little of the world’s wilderness (green) is within natural World Heritage Sites (pink).
Author provided

For example, more than 90% of the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park in the Kimberley region of Western Australia can be defined as a wilderness area. Similarly, the Okavango Delta in Botswana features more than 18,000 square km of wilderness, containing many of the world’s most endangered large mammals.

Wilderness boosts heritage value

In these cases, wilderness areas are likely contributing to the Oustanding Universal Value of of these World Heritage Areas – which as explained above is a key consideration in how they are managed and protected.

One way to strengthen this protection further would be to redraw the boundaries of natural World Heritage Areas to include more wilderness. This would help to preserve the conditions that allow ecosystems and other heritage values to thrive.

Our study identified broad gaps in wilderness coverage by the World Heritage Convention. Some places are already protected by national governments and could therefore be added to UNESCO’s list, such as the Hukaung Valley Tiger Reserve in Myanmar, which contains 4,000 square km of wilderness, and the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna Reserve in Bolivia, which has 9,000 square km.

The places we have identified, and others, could potentially be designated as new Natural World Heritage Sites if they meet the other strict criteria for Outstanding Universal Values and integrity.

The World Heritage Convention could better achieve its objectives and make a substantial contribution to the conservation of wilderness areas by doing these four things:

  1. formally acknowledge the Outstanding Universal Values of wilderness areas

  2. strengthen the current protection of wilderness within NWHS

  3. expand or reconfigure current NWHS to include more wilderness, and

  4. designate new NWHS in wilderness areas.

It’s up to national governments to submit sites for inscription as NWHS, and we urge them to consider wilderness when doing so. This will strengthen their applications, and provide wilderness areas with the extra protection they need.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s meeting in Poland this week will consider two sites with significant wilderness areas for World Heritage status: Qinghai Hoh Xil Nature Reserve in China and Los Alerces National Park in Argentina. We urge the committee to approve these sites, and use this to spur further opportunities to raise the profile of wilderness conservation worldwide. It is an obvious win-win.

The ConversationThe clock is ticking fast for our last wilderness areas and the biodiversity they protect. Immediate action is needed.

James Allan, PhD candidate, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, The University of Queensland and James Watson, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Peru: Uncontacted Amazon Tribe Under Threat


The Peruvian government is planning to abolish a reserve that protects the territory of an as yet uncontacted Amazon tribe in Peru. Thankfully the tribes territory extends into Brazil and this section of their territory appears safe for the time being.

For more visit:
http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0601-survival_murunahua.html

 

Chile – Patagonia: Wilderness Threatened by Massive Dam


The Patagonian wilderness is truly an amazing place. I have never been there, but have been fascinated by it for years. It captures my imagination and wonder anytime I see pictures or footage of it. Now I have discovered that this wilderness is under threat.

The article below reports on plans to construct a massive dam that has the potential to cause massive destruction of the Patagonian wilderness. It would seem that the planned dam is incredibly foolish and will destroy a large section of one of the world’s last remaining wild places.

For more visit:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/chile-favors-7-billion-hydroelectric-dams-on-remote-patagonian-rivers-despite-opposition/2011/05/09/AFcA2aaG_story.html

 

Australian Wilderness Adventures: Episode 001 – Cathedral Rock National Park


Today I have uploaded the first episode in what will be a growing series of documentary-like videos for my YouTube channel (Kevin’s Wilderness Journeys). This series of videos will focus on national parks and reserves in Australia (especially New South Wales), with a view to providing useful information for people who may be interested in visiting the national park being considered in any particular episode. I am hoping to provide a preview of the main attractions in each national park and the facilities available for visitors. Hopefully these will whet the appetite for those who view the videos and provoke a desire to actually visit the national parks under consideration.

This first episode focuses on the Cathedral Rock National Park, with a look at the Cathedral Rock Track and the Woolpack Rocks Track. There will be more episodes to come, including episodes on Dorrigo National Park, Bongil Bongil National Park and Myall Lakes National Park – among others. Hopefully in time better equipment will improve the quality of videos available – but none-the-less, I do think the videos are useful to some degree as they are.

The actual size of the video I have in my archives for the first video is 2.85 GB, so there is a fair reduction in file size (and therefore quality) to get the videos online and within the limits of YouTube file sizes and length.

 

Check In: Day 3 of Holiday


Today was spent chiefly at Dorrigo National Park, where I spent nearly 5 hours on a bushwalk through the wilderness surrounding the Never Never Picnic Area. This is a spectacular area within the Dorrigo National Park. I could quite easily have spent far more time there trekking up both Sassafras Creek and Rosewood Creek. These are some wild streams that cut there way through the heart of the national park. Given all of the recent rain in the region, they were truly at their best today.

The new camera got a work out today, but I am not completely sold on it – though as a camera for panoramic photos it is fantastic and well worth buying for that function alone. The photo I have included with this post is of Rosewood Creek directly above Coachwood Falls. It is a brilliant place and very wild indeed.

I did pick up several leeches throughout the day, with one attaching itself to me just below the left knee. It wasn’t found for some time and had a good feed and I a good bleed after it was removed. Several more were found in my socks but they weren’t able to force their way through.

I’ll be working on the various photos and videos over the next week or so and putting together various packages for the website, Flickr, YouTube, the Blog, etc. There are some really terrific photos and videos among them. Hopefully today’s shot will whet the appetite for the rest of them.