Sighted at the conservation crossroads

This post is the third in a series of reports from the World Conservation Congress, where the NRS is showcasing its international programs.

conservation crossroads
Will the future of Earth be bright and sustainable, or dim and degraded? The choice is ours to make.

Honolulu, Hawaii—This year, between September 1 and 10, the Hawaii Convention Center is located squarely at the intersection of Saving the Planet Way and Human Choices Avenue. Inside this airy behemoth of a building, the indoor-outdoor home of full-size palm trees, tropical gardens, and artificial waterfalls, the IUCN World Conservation Congress is in full swing.

The more than 9,000 attendees have one goal: to figure out how to manage the natural environment so people and wildlife can share one healthy, sustainable planet. 

The goal sounds lofty and serene. But the scene feels closer to a environmentally-themed megalopolis. Traditional culture activists are attending workshops with social media experts. Marine scientists are swapping ideas with schoolchildren. Enviro-celebrities are shaking paws with man-sized beavers touting national parks. People in crisp suits are lining up for coffee with colleagues sporting parrot headdresses, West African kaftans, hand-embroidered blouses, and Hawaiian flower leis. Add in political protests and live bands and democratic voting, and even then this glimpse of the global environmental movement would remain far from complete.

Here instead are some scenes from the 2016 Congress, themed “Planet at the Crossroads,”

Pavilion life

The Exhibits Hall is the public square of the Congress. Cardboard walls enclose speaking forums with cartitles like “Nature for All” and “Protected Planet.” These pavilions are the site of scientific talks and cultural demonstrations. For countries such as Russia, Korea (site of the last Congress four years ago), and the United States, they offer a chance to gain prestige via conservation successes.

Power to the people

With so many people gathered here from around the globe, the Congress is a great place to share ideas and get your message out to young and old alike.

Art with elephant

Art bedecks all corners of the convention center. Stunning photographs of Hawaii’s native flora and fauna greet attendees in the lobby. Sun-faded fishing nets and empty soda bottles are banked against columns to draw attention to the plastic debris clogging modern oceans. Glass display cases along the walls hold local creations such as ceramic sculptures of shells and handmade ukulele. And marine life artist Wyland’s creation of a humpback whale painting wasn’t the only art in progress.

Yea or nay?

The last five days of the Congress are devoted to the Assembly. It’s a meeting of delegates from governments, non-governmental organizations, and other official members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Congress sponsor. This year delegates are voting to approve or reject 85 motions proposed by members. Motion titles range from “Closing domestic markets for ivory,” to “Protecting coastal and marine environments from mining waste” to “Safeguarding indigenous lands, territories and resources from unsustainable developments.” Motions carry the weight of more than 1,300 voting members of IUCN from around the world, and influence the decisions of governments and the United Nations.

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