This morning we listened to a talk about Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) and the idea that many people have a disassociation with nature, in particular the modern connected lifestyle where kids sit in front of computer screens and play computer games, rather than going outside to play in the garden or parks. This struck a chord with me, particularly as I remember some of my favourite childhood memories being in parks or reserves where we would climb trees swim in the river or watch the behaviour of animals as their engaged in various activities. I had parents who believed in educational toys and did not have my own computer or game consoles until the age of 14 and do not feel that I was disadvantaged in any way. However I do notice now that whenever I am out in public, we live in a world where people are glued to their smart phone screens or Ipad. I was surprised to hear that kids taking an interest in conservation and nature does influence the behaviour of their parents to do the same, however at the same time I can understand how busy modern lives can influence the behaviour of people to seek easier technological solutions over taking their kids out to the park. Perhaps having an environmental program as part of our school system would help in this regard.
The hike through Grand Canyon was one of the highlights of the trip, as these are the areas that we are trying to protect. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and we had the knowledge and insight of Ecologist – Why Jones to guide us along the way. It was amazing to see the knowledge and insight of Wyn, who would every now and again to point out various plants and explain how each was used as a source of food or medicine. However we could also see various negative behaviours such as the dumping of rubbish, graffiti and people walking off the track and causing damage to other areas of the park. It was clear to see the value the track upgrades have had in keeping visitor’s footprints minimised to a minimal sacrificial area so that the rest of the park remains undamaged.
After the hike, we had a talk by the Area Manager, Blue Mountains Region – Richard Kingswood about various park management issues and the importance of managing the various park issues within a budget that has been shrinking each year. It was calculated that for every $1 that was invested in the park, the economic return was $3.25. Richard also mentioned that the tourism industry brings about $500 million annually to the mountains and employs approximately 5000 people, yet there is very little contributed towards supporting the mountains despite deriving their profits from it. It was brought up that alternative sources of funding would have to be sought if budget cuts continued. For a world heritage area, it was depressing to hear that there isn’t more interest or funding to protecting this area.
In the evening we had an opportunity to visit Secret Creek, an animal sanctuary in Lithgow and listen to Trevor Evans’ experiences with animal conservation. I thought it was interesting to hear that despite one of the goals of the NPWS being protecting species, Trevor had to overcome many obstacles before returning species back into the wild. I understand that every organisation such NPWS has to follow their respective procedures, however legislative policies should make collaborative work such as this easier not harder – we clearly have a long way to go towards implementing adaptive management systems. The words that Trevor left us with as we left was that if our incomes were ever gained from a species or the environment, that we should all contribute to its protection – this couldn’t be more true.