The year of 2019 is the year of Wilderness. This is the 10-year anniversary of the European Parliament’s Resolution on Wilderness. We have come a long way, but what exactly have we achieved since for in the fight for a wilder nature? What is our vision for the future?
Please also read: Wild10 – A vision for a wilder Europe
The World Wilderness Congress
The World Wilderness Congress has 40 years of experience in developing and achieving practical solutions for not only wild nature but for people as well. WILD1, the 1st World Wilderness Congress was held in October 1977, in South Africa with 2,500 delegates from 27 countries. This is when the Wilderness concept as an issue of global importance was introduced. Formerly it had been only a topic of Western cultures. Fast forward 36 years to WILD10 in Salamanca, Spain between 4-10th October 2013. WILD10 provided a platform to explore and debate about what can we do to protect wild nature around the world. Moreover, delegates went one step forward and raised the question: Are we doing enough to protect nature’s intrinsic values?
Success stories and emerging threats
Great efforts were made to return nature to a wilder state. Through keeping hands off, we have seen how Europe’s remaining pristine zones send off wildlife to again reach out to a wide range of areas. All the
large carnivores: Brown bear, Eurasian Lynx, Iberian Lynx, Wolf, Wolverine and Golden jackal increase in numbers and roam further. Rewilding initiatives have emerged, reintroducing the European Bison to various places, releasing wild horses, abandoning land and so on. Sustainability has become a topic of discussion and we finally start to quantify our impact on the Earth.
However, the threats are more visible then ever. We cannot turn our heads away from seeing the effects of climate change. Forests are drying out, glaciers are disappearing, species cannot keep up with the pace of climate overheating. Unique landscapes are facing overexploitation, heavily impacted by commercial agricultural, forestry, and bio-mass companies. Over the past 50 years our Ecological Footprint, which is a measure of our consumption of natural resources, has increased by about 190%, according to the 2018 Living Planet report.
Therefore we have to fight for more Wilderness! Less than 1% of the of Europe has been designated as Wilderness, driven by natural processes with non-intervention management. However, a much bigger area has the potential to become Wilderness, but remains without recognition and legal protection. With time, threats to these natural jems, such as forestry, farming, hydropower, wind farms and mining are increasing.
What awaits in 2020
In October 2020, the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity will convene in China. After evaluating the set targets until 2020, new targets will be chosen for the percentage of lands and seas that need protection. Research indicates, that we are not talking about a couple percents, we will need 50% of lands and seas to be under strict protection.
WILD11 is a preparation for the China meeting and an opportunity for parties to discuss the steps forward. The WILD 11 website clearly states: the goal of the conference is to find a sustainable way to influence the global decision-making process and to take the ambitious but rather necessary step of agreeing to protect at least 50% of Earth’s land and seas. The European Wilderness Society will be present!