Friday, June 16, 2006

International Rangers Federation World Congress

Today the Wilderness Foundation UK director, Jo Roberts, address the 5th IRF World Congress - this year held in Stirling.

Edited excerpt from her speech:

"By 2007 it is estimated by the UN that the world will have more urban dwellers than rural ones.

This ties in with a recent Sunday Times article that suggests that the only way to live more sustainably will be to draw most of the earth’s population into dense, urban settlement.

For those of us gathered here, people who have a deep and close connection to wild places, there may be sympathy that this development leaves wild places freer to get on with living as they know best. That less humans in wild areas the better it will be for landscape and wildlife. This is only partly true.

The other side of the coin is the creation of increasingly urbanised population of people who will have an increasingly deep detachment from Nature, from all things wild, from all sources of inspiration and healing that since the creation have been called on to rebalance society and humanity at its best and at its worst.

We know through research that urbanised communities suffer the greatest social problems from loss of community, youth at risk and crime, depression, drugs and social exclusion.

So we seem in a mess - but it means we need to work harder, in a more constructive way to keep the critical link between wilderness, wildlife and people even closer – because – taking us back to the beginning of the talk – we know that connecting to Nature creates custodians of the wild – if learning to feel part of something makes it harder to destroy.

We know that to imperil the processes of Nature and the destruction of the environment imperil our very existence.

We try at the Wilderness Foundation to tackle these issues through three main strands of work. – wilderness experience, social benefit programmes and advocacy and practical conservation. Through raise the profile of wilderness benefits we aim to promote its preservation.

Our Experiential Learning programmes take young people in particular, from mainly urban environments and facilitating a deep and meaningful experience in wilderness.
Our second main strand of work focuses on social programmes. This work involves a variety of programmes, and is potentially our busiest workload.

It gives value to wild places through the therapy that they offer society.

Our third main strand lies with advocacy and the need to fight for the protection of remaining wildlands wherever possible.

In amongst all the pragmatism, and the calculation of outcomes of wilderness experience, the monitoring and evaluation of self esteem and personal growth, their lies the age old need for resting the soul.

If we can slowly wake the world out of the imbalance that currently exists in the homocentric focus that modern day living demands, and enable people to see wild places through experience, and feel the uplifting of spirit, the soaring of our human soul, the delight of observing nature that has none of our controls making it happen, then we have hope for the future." - Read the full speech (PDF)

- World Urbanization Prospects:The UN Population Database
- IFR Website
- Wilderness Foundation Website

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