Sustainability and Wilderness Environments
The Wilderness areas of the world are some of the very few pristine environments left and due to the sheer size they undoubtedly have a huge effect on how the rest of the world operates. For example, the rainforests of the world, such as the Amazon, play a vital role in gaseous exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Similarly the southern ocean around Antarctica is vital as a major sink in the global carbon cycle. The ice sheet and surrounding ice are active compounds of the climate system and has a profound effect on ocean currents and heat transport. If these areas weren’t protected then the whole world could be a different place. Oxygen would be lacking, species would die, and ocean levels could rise, resulting in heavy flooding of low-lying land.
A number of strategies are used to protect and conserve through methods such as National Parks and Alliances and Treaties. But as far as National Parks are concerned they face a number of pressures and conflicts so in many cases further conservation is proposed by the means of National Park Conservation Associations, particularly in the USA.
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Although the varying policies are often aimed at reducing pressures, occasionally such policies can only result in conflict elsewhere. For example Banff National Park in Canada employs a method of Zoning.
Land use zoning is used to establish the desired level of protection, use and facility development on specific park lands. Despite it being highly successful at conserving wildlife in designated sections of the park, environmentalists may argue that using the same areas for the same purposes, such as recreation will only degrade those areas. And once those areas need to be revitalised there will be no suitable space designated to cater for outdoor recreation. This will inevitably cause further conflict with tourists and other users of such areas. Although this method may be sustainable for the moment, the Canadians show no sign of any future plans. This could merely be because it has no need to reveal such plan as of yet, but equally they may not have a suitable plan in mind. Merely waiting to cross that bridge when they get to, or so to speak.
Similarly the Antarctic Treaty has been hugely successful for limited reasons. The success of the treaty has been the growth in membership. 44 countries, comprising 80% of the world’s population, have acceded to it. Consultative status is open to all countries who have demonstrated their commitment to the Antarctic by conduction significant research. 27 nations have consultative status. The treaty parties meet each year. They have adopted over 200 recommendations and negotiated five separate international agreements: –
* Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora
* Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals
* Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
* Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities
* Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty
The Treaty means that all consultative parties have to agree on any decisions that will affect the conservation of Antarctica. This ensures that the interest of the environment should always be at heart as long as the agreements are adhered to. But such a strong policy could cause conflict between parties, which could have dramatic effects in worst case scenarios.
Wilderness regions that are not designated protected areas such as national parks are sometimes more vulnerable to increasing pressures. In Southern Utah there is no national park but the Democrats passed the Wilderness Act in the 1960s. This stated it would be protected for the permanent good of the whole people, when the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 1994 the view for what was permanently good for the people hugely contrasted the views of the Democrats. This meant that the Republicans had the power to try to change things for the good of the people, i.e. the economy. However, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance had been formed some twenty years before so the plans for industrial land use were soon dashed.
The Congo Jungle employs a very distinctive policy to the protection of the National Parks. Firstly the Government backs the Parks fully with their interest in the environment, not on economic development. This is a rarity in a Wilderness area in a less economically developed country. The “buffer zones” surrounding the National Parks control economic activities strictly. As these policies are controlled by the Government, desire for increased economical development is reduced, and so is economic pressure.
The tourism in the Lake District is in great abundance and this has caused a number of different pressures, resulting in many different management policies. The local Government has attempted many strategies to ease pressures. There are speed limits for boats in the lakes to try to reduce bank erosion, and some outdoor activities are limited, such as jet skiing. Park and ride schemes have been introduced to try to reduce congestion on the narrow roads but access is still limited due to the sheer size of buses. Governments have also encouraged to farmers to change their method of farming to suit excess tourist, by providing grants and subsidiaries.
Protection strategies are often mostly successful. The Congo Jungle and its National Parks employs a hugely successful and sustainable method of management, where pressures are reduced and stay reduced, while the state of the environment remains high. The Government along with the WCS-Congo work together to protect the jungle and its environment. Government backing makes management success much more likely as funding is available and economic pressure is not a problem. Training programmes for Congolese staff are provided so that they can gain the skills to conserve the nation’s heritage. Law enforcement is undertaken by teams of Eco-guards, who conduct regular patrols of the Protected Areas and their boundaries. The patrols are led by one of the government Protect area staff, accompanied by five or six Eco-guards and porters who know the local area. If these patrols apprehend poachers, there are several sanctions available, depending on the severity of the situation.
Poachers found with elephant guns, automatic weapons, or integrally protected species, are arrested and taken to the administrative capital of the region to face prosecution. Small-scale poachers have their firearms and any other belongings linked to poaching confiscated, are given a warning, and, if appropriate, are prosecuted. Despite being a LEDC, the WCS and the Congolese Government have adopted a highly sustainable protection scheme that resolves conflict. This particular National Park scheme has very specific rules to minimise impacts that will affect the natural balance of nature. However, The Lac Tï¿½lï¿½ and the Nouabalï¿½-Ndoki reserves are very newly created and the Conkouati-Douli National Park has only been controlled by the WCS for 5 years. They are still finding ways of measuring and reducing impacts so the success of the project is soon to be revealed. So far, the current schemes resolves conflict in a sustainable manner so this method of management is exceptionally effective.
Looking at The Antarctic Treaty System in a single dimension may show that Antarctica is being preserved as best as possible. The Treaty has been going strong for over 20 years and it has worked wonders for direct conservation. All waste and refuse is removed and no permanent structures can be build, so there is no future risk of hotel construction. Mining has also been banned with no signs of a changing law. It does not cover other issues that affect the Antarctic, and consequently the rest of the world. Global warming has an adverse affect on the ice cap, slowly melting it year by year. The Kyoto Treaty was drawn up in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 to implement the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change.
It legally binds industrialised nations to reduce world wide emissions of greenhouse gases by an average of 5.2% below their 1990 levels over the next decade. After the US pulled out in March 2001, the treaty was left shattered. A compromise was reached four months later, with nearly 180 nations opting for a scaled-down version of the treaty, but President Bush has stated that the US will never sign it. The Kyoto treaty only places emission restrictions on certain countries. Countries are assigned ‘carbon credits’ based on existing economic and environmental factors, which they can then exchange with other countries.
This means that some countries might end up increasing their overall emissions, and the system is open to abuse. Bush fears that it would lead to higher energy prices in the United States and, at heart, he probably doesn’t think it would do much good anyway. However, the USA is the world’s richest country with the most emissions and it is the key country to an improved future concerning global warming. He claims technology is the answer to cutting pollution but until a new solution is found, the risk of Antarctica’s ice cap is on going. Another growing problem is the tourism in the Antarctic. Although the Treaty prohibits construction hotels and other permanent buildings there is no real control over numbers of tourists. As wilderness areas become more accessible tourists opt for a more original, outrageous experience that is new.
The numbers of tourists are growing annually and thus poses threat to the environment in a number of ways. Waste disposal could become an issue. Rare species may get destroyed from too many visitors and this could result in extinction in an extreme case scenario. Because the environment is so fragile it faces more risk of infection carried by human beings. There is also no protection of the southern oceans surrounding Antarctica. Every years the Japanese come to catch hue amounts o krill. Yet the whole marine-based ecosystem depends on the kill swarms for survival. The Antarctica Treaty has been proved successful in the past but it seems to over look so many obvious potential dangers. The future of Antarctica now lies in the hands of the money-hungry countries that are the cause of these problems. Ironically, it is the same countries that have the power and money to change the future of Antarctica, for the good of the whole world.
Although National Parks and Treaties have proved successful in Utah, USA they have adopted a different approach. After Congress passed the Wilderness Act the citizens of Southern Utah grouped together with the intention of preserving America’s Red Rock, and formed the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. They focus their attention on grassroots activists and public outreach campaigns. The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans.
SUWA promotes local and national recognition of the region’s unique character through research and public education; supports both administrative and legislative initiatives to permanently protect the Colorado Plateau wild places within the National Park and National Wilderness Preservation System or by other protective designations where appropriate; builds national support for such initiatives on both the local and national level; and provides leadership within the conservation movement through uncompromising advocacy for wilderness preservation. The allegiance of fiercely loyal defenders of Utah wilderness is reflected in their continued success: the annual increase of activists, the number of anti-wilderness proposals defeated, and the record support obtained for America’s Redrock Wilderness Act. The SUWA has successfully fought off any opposition for conflicting land use.
Despite being supported by congress in the first place, once the Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 1994, it opened a window of opportunity for wilderness opponents. Under the Bureau of Land Management the Republicans tried to require back land for industrial use. They claimed they needed to bring keep local employment high. But the fact that only 1% of the local workforce was in mining, mean that plans for the foreign owned Andalex coal mine on the Kaiparowits Plateau was dashed. Although there is still much conflict between the SUWA and the Bureau of Land Management, the SUWA has done a superb job at retaining the natural state of America’s redrock, considering they have had little government support from the start.
The National Parks in Australia had adopted for further management that has also proved to be more successful than the original national park strategies. The management of the Kakadu involves co-operation with the indigenous people, the Aborigines. They own the land within National Park and they lease it to the National Park Authorities. The terms of agreement include payments for the lease, a share of the revenue generated by the Park and increased protection of Aboriginal rights within the park. Traditional activities of the Aborigines such as fire management and resource harvesting, are safeguarded within the management guidelines for the Park.
Provision is made on another level for Aborigines to be employed in the running of the park, in both administration and as rangers. There are a number of sacred Aboriginal sites within the park. And it recognises the need for the continued well-being and integrity of these sites. Rock art and archaeological sites are of much importance to the Aborigines, and managing involves both conservation and a detailed interpretative programme for tourists. The Management Plan for the Park reports that the ecosystems are in tact so this method of management proves to be very successful.
Looking at the schemes and strategies, the most successful ones are government controlled or backed. This is vital for successful management. The Congo National Parks management schemes demonstrate how a country with limited funds can sustain the pristine environments or their wilderness. The controlled buffer zones show how the government has shifted their aim from economical to environmental and other countries such as Brazil need to consider this change in order to conserve the wilderness for the good of all the people. The Antarctic Treaty has also proved to be a success for conservation on Antarctica so far. International agreement could be the answer to a better future for the world’s wilderness areas but recent events involving the Kyoto Treaty show how the powerful countries such as the USA can hinder the progress of such strategies.