INTERNATIONAL ASPECTS OF PARK CONCEPTS
The central purpose of this lesson is to enlarge on the concept of U.S. national parks to include international dimensions. There are many shared visions and common problems that concern national park efforts throughout the world. Most countries rank preservation of their limited natural resources and environmental consciousness at the top of their list of park priorities. Wealthier nations can afford to be more aggressive in their pursuance of worthwhile park goals because of generous budget allowances from the public outlay, highly trained manpower, an enthusiastic cadre of well-informed advocates, economic stability, and massive public support, are some of the important factors that facilitate the realization of park objectives. Some developing countries, despite economic and other constraints, are active participants, who are committed to the world community’s park ideals. The international community has banned together in many endeavors to highlight selected themes and projects. Earth Day, for instance, has received increasing worldwide support since its inception in 1970. The Earth Day exercise integrates U.S. issues with global concerns. The description of cooperative park efforts in the context of international forums reveal the official level of importance attached to common world themes. Further, a listing of United Nations and other international agencies and their responsibilities illustrates the commitment on the part of member nations to the establishment of organizational structures to formulate policy, set guidelines, and work towards solutions to issues of mutual concerns. Specific U.S. parks that are labeled in terms of their international significance, reinforces the notion that the U.S. is very much involved in global discourse and meaningful endeavors. After viewing the parks from a panoramic landscape, particular attention is focused on the African region and on Kenya, in particular. Map exercises allow for placing parks in regional perspectives and other geographical considerations. The reading and problem-solving exercises allow for a comparative analysis of both the differences and similarities of parks.
The objectives of lesson two are:
the level of consciousness on environmental issues
active participation on environmental issues
park issues particular to Kenya
parks in Africa
international cooperation in park efforts
Currently there is an international movement to preserve, conserve, and protect national resources in different regions of the world. Specific areas of land, selected monuments, historical sites, and various forms of wildlife have been designated as in need of active intervention on the part of governments and private agencies. The first World Conference on National Parks was held in Seattle in 1962 and sixty-three nations were represented. The conference theme was that the conservation of nature was an international responsibility.
“The problem of conserving nature is not a local matter because nature does not respect political boundaries. The birds winging their way southward over Europe neither know, nor care. Whether they are passing above a common market or a group of feudal duchies.” Nature said “no heed” to such “political or social agreements particularly those that seek to divide the world into compartments. It has been and always will be—all inclusive.”
The concern for the plight of wildlife, namely elephants, united members of the international community to cooperate in the economic sphere.
“Last October the 105 nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned the shipment and sale of any elephant products. Despite fears that prohibition would cause prices to skyrocket, the opposite has happened. According to Jorgen Thomsen of Traffic, an international monitoring organization, ivory that was selling for $50 to $70 a kilogram in Somalia a year ago is now being dumped for $5 to $10. ‘They can’t unload it.’
The movements stem from many forces, including the ecological, political, cultural, historical and so forth. Some movements have widespread mass appeal, while others appear to be supported by a few idealistic individuals. Further, some have been very successful since their inception and others are still battling for acceptance. Also, the strategies used in the movements (or lack there of) vary. In Kenya for instance, Dr. Leaky has employed unorthodox tactics, which include the killing of poachers, to curtail the senseless slaughter of the elephant population in Kenya’s public parks and reserves.
“Dr. Richard Leakey. In the 11 months since he took charge of Nairobi’s national parks, Leakey has created a small army to combat the slaughter of his country’s elephants. Kenya’s elephants population dropped from 165,000 to 16,000 in 20 years; on the continent the number plunged in the last decade from 1.3 million to 610,000.”
In contrast, national parks in England, have usually enjoyed supportive legislation and have developed in a smooth and consistent manner.
The value in comparing national park efforts in the U.S. and abroad will undoubtedly enlarge the framework students have in processing information. Different countries have undertaken varied paths towards path development and the dynamics involved in their information allows students to study a broad spectrum of conditions and concepts, thus enriching the capacity to think critically.
Another benefit of comparative studies is that it can infuse values into the educational process. Perhaps the most important human value is the appreciation of mankind. Because we live in a pluralistic world environment, citizens are required to understand and communicate with its members from a position of knowledge and sensitivity. The ability for dialogue and enlightenment emerges in part from the understanding of values (our own and others). The way in which values are demonstrated through actions, procedures, policies and attitudes on both individuals and group levels, reveal much about the society and its outlook on life.
National Parks is one avenue in which students can develop, clarify, and study values. Values include ethics, conduct codes, distinguishing between right and wrong, determining appropriate choices, attitudes and weighing the consequences of actions. The Task Force on values in Baltimore Country Public Schools formulated a common core of values that they try to incorporate in their curriculum. They are:
“Compassion, courtesy, critical inquiry, due process, equality of opportunity, freedom of thought and action, honesty, human worth and dignity, integrity, justice, knowledge, loyalty, objectivity, order, patriotism, rational, consent, reasoned argument, respect for others rights, responsible citizenship, rule of law, self-respect, tolerance, and truth.”
There are many other important values that need to be embraced by students that will aid in the goal of moral and academic development. With respect to national parks, inherent values include; respect for plant and animal life, natural phenomenon, conservation, and aesthetics.
The world at large, and our community in particular have become almost frightening places to live in. The spectre of drugs, abuse, violent, crime, dissolution of the family, and poverty often appear to threaten the fibre of civilized societies. At times, one is almost overwhelmed by the problems that attempt to undermine the orderly development of communities. Also, the disregard for the environment, as evidenced by the construction of structures that distract and deface their surroundings destroy and upset ecological balances. Thus, in this everchanging world, replete with its share of negative infractions, a value that becomes acutely important is a safe and peaceful setting, free from crime, pollution exploitation, and the overall turmoil that characterizes modern living. In 1916, Joseph Grinnell and Tracy Stores, two vertebrate zoologists wrote a moving perception of a national park.
“A national park is at its inception entirely natural and is generally thereafter kept immune from human interference.”
John Muir, the naturalist and writer wrote,
“Thousands of tired nerve-shaken, overcivilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home, that wildness is a necessity, and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
In addition to the natural sense stimulation that a park generates, the recreational provisions most parks have offer are quite varied and appeal to the different interests and lifestyles of its patrons. The U.S. National Park Guide lists the special features of each park. The amenities include hiking, camping, boating, swimming, etc.
There is a heightened level of consciousness among citizens of the world about the worth and quality of plant and animal life. The campaigns to stop the annihilation of elephants to fuel the international ivory trade, the exploitation of small animals for the fur industry, the reluctance to destroy the rain forests, are all manifestations of the appreciation for the value of life and its many forms. The Second World Conference on National Parks was represented by more than eighty nations, as opposed to sixty-three in 1962, and lobbied for the establishment of ‘world parks,’ to be administered under the auspices of the United Nations.
“Delegates to the conference frequently stressed the importance of protecting the most productive ecosystems on the planet, especially tropical rain forests rich in countless species of plant, insect, and wild animal life.”
The world community is generally supportive of the establishment and maintenance of national parks. However, there are several factors that have militated against park development. It is evident when reading through the recommendations made at international forums that the strong intellectual underpinnings are eclipsed by practical implications. Politics and economics are two issues that have repeatedly emerged in park discussions. Also, in parts of Africa, conservation efforts, both historically and contemporaneously have been influenced by tourism.
“African governments had also recognized the advantages of attracting wealthy foreign tourists into the reserves. Efforts to protect wildlife for its own sake, especially wildlife whose dependence on remoteness from civilization meant that the animals might never be seen by tourists, was the last thing government officials endorsed. If ever the flow of tourist dollars were to interrupted for extended periods, it followed that the parks themselves might just as easily be sacrificed, either intentionally or simply through neglect.”
Despite development realities, many countries are actively exerting effort and resources to save natural settings by park designations. Kenya’s National Parks receive widespread support. Thousands of acres have been set aside in the forested mountains, wild deserts, bushlands, marshlands, and in marine areas, to protect the wild inhabitants and unique character of the country. Realizing that tourism depends largely on the visitors desire to experience the ‘wild’, Kenya attempts to balance preservation, tourism, and the legitimate needs of its citizens to survive off of the land. The relationship at times appears tenuous, but the commitment to find a viable solution, appears to have been relatively successful.
The Earth Has Its Day
People are more concerned than ever about environmental problems that threaten their neighborhoods and their world problems such as toxic waste dumps, growing mountains of garbage, shrinking tropical rain forests, and depleted levels of ozone in the atmosphere organizers of 1990’s Earth Day hope to raise awareness of these and other dangers, and to channel growing anger into activities and movements that make a real difference.
Internationally, some 100 million people are expected to participate in this year’s Earth Day activities. According to Denis Hayes, who helped organize the first Earth Day and is chairman and is CEO of Earth Day 1990 (a Stanford, CA-based organization that is coordinating activities). Earth Day is designed to operate on two levels: “First, it is raising a citizen’s army so large, diverse, and committed that it will be an irresistible political force for environmental change; he wrote recently. “Second, it is encouraging hundreds of millions of individuals to look deeply at their own lives and ask whether their values, habits, and attitudes are compatible with the sustainable future we need to build.”
Activities include tree-planting in Kenya, a massive clean-up of the Vistula River and Baltic Sea in Poland, an pollution test in Italy.
The United States Earth Day Committees and individuals have coordinated activities in all spheres and sectors of the communities. Activities range from letter writing campaigns to the declaration of styrofoam-free zones.
Even though many Americans are involved in Earth Day activities the following data, acquired by the Gallup Organization is thought provoking. After reviewing the information, answer the questions
N = 600
73% said they had no plans to participate in any Earth Day observances
13% said the day would play major role in solving environmental problems
39% said day would have some sort of lesser impact
73% said that Earth Day was more of a public relations campaign than a serious venture in making the world a safer and cleaner place
82% are voluntarily recycling newspapers, glass, aluminum
46% contributed money to environmental protection agencies
39% are car pooling or taking public transportation
75% willing to shell out extra cash for products and services
made more expensive by costly government environmental requirements.
Questions and Activities
1. Why do you think the people of the world are interested in environmental issues?
2. If you were chairman of Earth Day Activities for the world, what system would you use to assign Earth Day Activities to individual countries?
3. List specific activities that your school can get involved in to improve the school.
4. What environmental and ecological problems are most acute in your neighborhood?
5. What is the relationship between the environment and national parks?
6. Why do you think many American felt that Earth Day would not play a major role in solving environmental issues?
7. Why do you think the percentage of car pooling (39%) is so much lower than recycling (82%)?
8. Do you think the international community should continue to celebrate earth day? Why?
9. Select one aspect of the environmental or ecology movement to research. Define the problem, trace the background, and suggest ways to ameliorate the problem.
10. Compose a slogan, rap, or song on an ecology or environmental theme.
11. Illustrate an environmental theme through a drawing or painting.
Park With Worldwide Significance
Many U.S. National Parks have been specially recognized for their worldwide significance. Some designated as World Heritage. Sites by an international commission of the United Nations, are outstanding works of man or natural wonders that have universal value. Several, designated as man and the biosphere reserves by another United Nations group, preserve examples of the world’s major ecosystems for scientific and educational purposes and play an important role in maintaining the earth’s diversity of life.