This year at the World Conservation Congress you can be a part of a movement to end industrial activity in protected areas. Discover how you can help keep Earth’s natural wonders wild.
What humanity needs right now isn’t another incorrectly-placed oil drill or logging concern. What we need is protection for our designated, already ostensibly “protected” wild places.
Just in case anyone thought that environmentalists had agreed upon the urgency of ending industrial-scale mining, drilling, and logging in formally designated refuges of wild nature (protected areas such as national parks and forests), the controversy ignited by a recent WILD Foundation proposal should put to rest any premature stirrings of optimism.
In fact, the WILD Foundation’s “Motion 26 – a proposed resolution to be considered for adoption by the global membership of the international Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – calling for an end to all industrial extraction in protected areas, has proven to be surprisingly controversial given the venue and the timing (the middle of a global climate crisis). The IUCN, which is the “global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it,” has tremendous global influence with national level governments, inter-governmental organizations, universities and businesses. When the IUCN speaks, important people listen. Therefore, it goes without saying that adding the IUCN’s formidable weight to the growing support for the protection of “protected areas” seems to be a no-brainer. It is almost assuredly the next and necessary step in the struggle to preserve our planet’s essential wild places.
Still, for decades, factions within the IUCN have resisted calling for an end to industrial extraction in protected areas. Opponents of Motion 26 at the IUCN assert that the imperative of economic development continues to trump the imperative of human dependency on wild nature. They argue that the technological improvements of the last few years are enough to prevent damage to the environment or, at the very least, clean it up when accidents inevitably occur.
Arguments like these, at the IUCN especially, bluntly demonstrate why institutions with blind faith in the promise of “sustainable development” are so often inhospitable to wild nature. The destruction of irreplaceable wilderness is frequently put down to the choices of a few bad actors or the systemic short-sightedness of national level governments. Nevertheless, the reality is that even in 2016, many strong forces continue to be adamantly opposed to prioritizing, in designated places, the needs of nature for the nearly incalculable benefit of humanity. Our social structure, at its most fundamental level, still assumes that wild nature is useful only in so far as it is the fodder for human innovation and civilizational development. To suggest anything to the contrary is to deviate from the grain of a centuries’ old orthodoxy…and to pose a threat to the still-prevailing paradigm of short-term, economic development anywhere and at any cost.
But to not suggest an alternative is to deviate from natural evidence millions of years in the making. For the vast majority of our history, we have relied upon a planet flourishing with healthy, interconnected nature. Humanity’s power to control nature is a very recent development in geologic time. And only in the last century have learned to do so at a global-scale. Time and again history has taught us what happens to societies that take too much, too fast. Whether the result of soil degradation in the Middle East at the end of the last ice age, the deforestation of southern Europe just before the fall of the Roman Empire, or the rapid disappearance of the Mayan Empire in Central America after the collapse of the rainforest, the historical record is clear: when the surrounding nature fails, so too does the culture that depends on it.
In the past, humanity has rebounded from these regional hiccups because of its capacity to travel to new places rich in natural resources. Civilization has thrived because, somewhere, fresh wildlands awaited, endowed with the reserves of abundance and opportunity that are millions of years in the making.
Now, though, we enter a new phase for our species and planet, the Anthropocene, when we humans are the dominant influence on evolution. For the first time in our existence, humanity has the power to influence and control the natural environment at a global-scale. Our impact is no longer regional in scope; we literally can and do change the world on a daily basis . . . in the way we expand across, consume, and extract from the natural world.
This is new. We haven’t been able to do this before, not like this at least, not across the entire planet. With great power comes great responsibility. The question is, if we make a mistake, where can we possibly migrate to next? To what continent of unredeemed wilderness can we retreat to make a new home?
Despite the current opposition to Motion 26, the fact remains that at the IUCN there has never been a better time for such a necessary and audacious proposal to succeed. The Motion’s co-sponsors include an impressive coalition, including the IUCN’s Council of the President, the Sierra Club, the Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, the Wilderness Foundation (Africa), Zoological Society of London and others. For the last thirty years, WILD has been the chief proponent of wild nature in international bodies like the IUCN. We have advanced the concept of wilderness in cultures and places where even the languages lack a word for “wilderness.” And we have united wilderness allies into an enduring movement that, step-by-step, has overcome the barriers to sustaining a healthy and wild planet for the future.
This September, as we join forces with our allies at the IUCN, we need your help to secure important protections for the future of people and wilderness. By posting your enthusiasm for wild nature to #keepitwild on any social media feed, you are building a visible record of support for Motion 26. And don’t for one second doubt that we are going to need all the support we can get to persuade the leaders of the IUCN that what humanity needs right now isn’t another incorrectly-placed oil drill or logging concern. What we need is protection for our designated, already ostensibly “protected” wild places.
You may not have a vote at the IUCN, but you do have a voice. Post to #keepitwild and tell the IUCN why we must stop industrial extraction in protected areas.
If you want to tell others about your support for Motion 26, donate $10 or more to the WILD Foundation and we will send you a temporary Keep It Wild Tattoo you can use to tell others about this important moment for the future of our planet’s protected areas. Show your support for Motion 26 by posting photos of your tattoo in your favorite wild places!