Havini, journal updates: Day 1 – 5

Mon 24/Nov

Point of interest – The policy process was a new thing that captured my attention. I really appreciated the fact that it was more concerned about finding the problem of the management issue first before rushing into finding solutions, which what happens in most organisations I work for. Using the other tools (social process, biophysical and decision) in the process of policy development was also a highlight. I look forward to the field trip to be able to see how the process can be generally used. I do understand that this course will only give an insight and the process/details go a lot deeper.

My take – There were numerous conventions and agreements throughout the world on conservation. The fact that they were mostly “toothless tigers” was something I could identify with. There is a complete imbalance in society where economic gains far outweigh environmental issues. It is changing these days but at a far slower rate than the earth requires. This is reflected in most government policy which is carried into international agreements where we have a lot of angry, toothless tigers. A change of mindset of citizens is necessary to change politics locally and globally. What can we do to change the mindset?

Tue 25/Nov

Point of interest – The message by P. Cochrane that the bigger the area, the better it is for conservation was interesting. I had always thought that conserving one area was just as good to preserve a species. The need for a larger area and more connectivity between sites to maintain diversity and genetic health made perfect sense. I thought a small fish pond with no genetic input would eventually become too inbred…similar to a small conservation area – just not healthy.

My take – Integrating science into the management process (more the difficulty of) certainly resonated with me. R. Kingsford’s example of the wetland management was a very good example and his difficulty of working with various stakeholders certainly resonated with me. This will certainly continue to be a problem unless management becomes more appreciative or aware of the need for science to be fully integrated into the management cycle and the whole policy development process. The problem is making this happen.

Wed 26/Nov

Point of interest – A real insight into Aboriginal culture was certainly interesting for me. I found it interesting that much of the culture is similar to PNG. The beliefs and practices are very familiar. Fire and cultural burning was interesting as it is also practiced in my country. The timing of burning is critical and understanding the environment was critical to this practice.
D. Yamandera‘s insight into the respect aboriginal culture has in the environment as its mother and supermarket indicates the high regard the earth is held. Very similar to my culture where nature provides everything for rural communities and therefore respect for it is taught from a young age. The increase of western values has certainly changed this in the growing urban population. I believe this has also happened in Aboriginal society.

My take – Couldn’t help but notice the different views on cultural burning, even within the Department of National Parks. It certainly showed how contentious the issue was. Better understanding and some real science was needed to better understand the issue but from where I stand, I can see it taking a bit of time. Both sides had some good points but I guess it will be about finding the right balance.
The issue of vandalism in National Parks touched on by Clive was important. With the push for increased tourism, would this increase? One would assume it would considering that it is a minority, the increase would be relatively proportional and therefore one could expect an increase in vandalism. How do we manage this whilst balancing with the desire for economic growth?

Thur 27/Nov

Point of interest – Nature Deficit Disorder – I thought it was a disease! It was interesting to hear Sandy speak about the need to get kids back to nature (Bush Play); much like what was the norm in the past. Couldn’t help reminiscing about the past and understanding why it’s easier for adults who grew up with nature to have an appreciation for it. Yes, there is a need to develop interventions to get kids back outdoors so that the next generation still maintains some link with the land. If we can get a population that appreciates nature, it makes the job of conservation a lot easier to promote in the future. Acting locally but impacting globally.
The issue here could be that we want more people visiting the parks but would that increase impacts? Control tour numbers and identify “sacrifice” high use sites would be options.

My take – State funding is for recurrent operations in the Department of National Parks (and even that is decreasing) whilst external funding has to be sought for projects in the park. This point certainly highlighted the main problem faced by the department. This issue means fewer rangers in the department and in the field. It also implies that conservation initiatives take longer to be undertaken and what needs to be done is not completed.
Adding the dynamic of politics into the issue and everything becomes more complex as priorities change and administrative requirements shift. It certainly has some implication on how the park is managed and the impacts on biodiversity.
How can the department better influence higher up State managers on the parks requirements?

Fri 28/Nov

Point of interest – Was impressed by the interventions taken by Blue Mtns City Council (BMCC) to manage waste. It certainly indicated some sense of responsibility and trying to minimise their footprint on the environment. It showed BMMC realised the need for a healthy national park for their continued survival. Tourism being a major money earner had to be supported and the main attraction was the national park.
So whilst BMCC wants to increase visitor numbers, how about the impact of more visitors? The need for economic growth is important and politics definitely leans that way as in most cases, more jobs means longevity for most elected officials. Finding the balance will remain the biggest challenge for all participants in the Blue Mountains. Adaptive management certainly offers a plausible alternative.

My take – The visit to a more commercial establishment was very refreshing for me. The views expressed were confronting and reality hit like a bucket of cold water. This was the view of the real commercial world where decisions are made to cater to customer demand, improve image and ultimately increase profit. If contributions were needed for the environment, only the bare minimum would be given and left to others to carry on.
Personally I had no issues with this. The operator was honest and I was glad to experience a dose of reality and the kind of attitude conservation was up against. There is need for the common good to be found and options provided for hard-nosed commercial operators to contribute to conservation. There is no way this kind of attitude will change overnight but if participants in the national park can all work to help educate each other it may help. An indicator of this is commercial willingness to participate in low carbon tourism; it improves company image and the bottom line doesn’t really suffer.

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