Urban Protected Areas – Important for people and nature.
“Ours has become a planet of urban dwellers in a very short time. Already, over half of humanity lives in urban areas. Two thirds will do so in the lifetimes of most people now living on Earth.
“This trend is already having profound consequences, for the environment and for people. Everywhere nature is being squeezed and people are losing contact with it. The implications are many and diverse, but they make the conservation of nature ever more urgent and often more difficult to deliver. It is this that makes urban protected areas a matter of crucial concern.
“As our cities continue to grow, we must not abandon the protection of natural areas to the pressures of urbanization, but should instead defend such places,
and indeed try to create new space for nature within the urban fabric.
” Connecting people to nature should be an imperative for the whole conservation movement, and urban protected areas are well placed to do this. ”
– excerpts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature – World Commision on Protected Areas publication “Urban Protected Areas, Best Practice and Guidelines” (2014).
The Royal National Park is featured as one of fifteen word wide case studies of Urban Protected Areas by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Urban Specialist Group.
The IUCN World Parks Congress will be hosted in Sydney in November 2014. The congress delegates will be visiting the Royal National Park. How ironic then that scientifically valuable vegetation at Spring Gully, cited as supporting the World Heritage values of the Royal National Park, is under direct threat of clearing for development.
The IUCN “Urban Protected Areas” publication goes on to state –
“Urban people are crucial for nature conservation, nationally and globally. Towns and cities are where most people live, where wealth is concentrated, and where communications and the media are based… Reconnecting them with nature is important, if they are to tell their leaders that nature conservation is a priority.”
Support E2 Environmental Conservation zoning and oppose development of Spring Gully, Bundeena. Make your submission to the Sutherland Shire draft Local Environment Plan online. It takes one minute to make your submission online. Submissions close 1st October 2014.
IUCN WCPA Urban Protected Areas Book [PDF]
IUCN WCPA Urban Protected Areas Specialist Group
Here is the background to an article we ran in May 2014 Mark. My ‘Bewildering’ Talk will be on at the MultiPurpose Centre Sutherland Wednesday 25th March 8pm
Bewildering and Living with Nature
Since First National Park began our campaign in 2009, we have always said that Royal National Park was recognised as a part of Sydney, a national park for the re-creation, health and wellbeing of the people of Sydney and, very importantly, of all Australians. With increasing population, urbanization and the growth of Sydney and Wollongong, The National Park (Royal) has become enclosed by the cities of Sydney and Wollongong and is still part of them.
Dr Geoff Mosely developed this theme in his book The First National Park: A Natural For World Heritage and highlighted the following, “These lands are becoming increasingly integrated into the great cities of Sydney and Wollongong and form a leading opportunity to incorporate reserves and integrate wildlife into urban areas. The surrounding and enclosed suburbs are becoming an increasing part of the range of a growing number of species now foraging across both the reserved lands and the suburbs, e.g. many birds such as Black Cockatoos; flying foxes; microbats; Swamp and Redneck Wallabies; Echidnas; antechinuses; many species of possum; Koalas; bush rats; frogs; lizards; snakes; and invertebrates. There is a growing awareness of this new direction in conservation and developing pride in the ‘suburban’ native wildlife such that many people are beginning to bewilder their gardens and suburbs and encourage this process. The Sutherland Shire Council and the South Metropolitan District of the NSW NPWS support the largest number of Bush Regeneration volunteers in Australia actively encouraging and participating in bewildering—the protection, enhancement, construction and maintenance of habitat, and the integration and incorporation of wildlife into urban and industrial areas. The Reserves have the capacity to lead the world movement to integrate wildlife with urban, industrial and rural areas.”
Through our lobbying and Geoff’s relationship with the Australian branch of the IUCN and the publication of his book, this concept of the importance of urban national parks was enthusiastically embraced and incorporated into the IUCN charter under the heading of “Urban Protected Areas” and ‘management and best practice guidelines’ developed. Our Royal National Park was highlighted in their report on Urban Protected Areas released in 2014.
The IUCN said,” Why they matter
Urban protected areas are of importance for all the reasons any protected are is important, such as providing ecosystem services, protecting species, and supporting the local economy with income from tourism. However, they have a critical role that sets them apart from other protected areas. They provide opportunities for large numbers of people to experience nature, including many people who may not be able to visit more remote protected areas. This is good for two reasons:
1. Regular contact with nature is good for people. Aside from the benefits of outdoor exercise, there is growing scientific evidence to support the idea that spending time in nature improves physical and mental health.
2. Urban people are critical for nature conservation nationally and globally. More than half of humanity lives in urban areas and this proportion is growing dramatically. Wealth is concentrated in cities, as are communications media. Worldwide, there is a general trend toward more democratic political systems in which voters hold ultimate power. Conservation depends on support from urban voters, urban donors and urban communicators. Yet urban people tend to have less and less contact with nature. People will value nature only if they care about nature where they live.”
Royal National Park is very important in this respect, especially so to Shire residents, because it participates with over 4 million people who visit it each year. It is the backyard of the Shire and enormously important for our health and well-being.
A considerable body of scientific evidence already exists for the benefits of being in nature – increased healthy, happy, spiritual well-being. How fortunate we are to live with some of the best nature in the world. Now we must notice and then lay aside our prejudice that human beings are the only ones capable of consciousness in this transaction, this Holy Communion that accompanies our every breath.
In early times, people lived deeply embedded in their environment and practiced ceremonies and rituals that affirm and nourish the interconnectedness, the interbeing, of the human tribe with the rest of the Earth family. When people met, they would not ask, “Where are you from?” rather “Where do you belong?”
Our body and physiology become attuned to temperature, humidity, rain, storms, changes of season, sound, smell, and other sensations. No two places on our planet are entirely alike, and the communities of life that each bring forth are as unique as the patterns of weather, terrain, geology, and surroundings. Each place has unique powers to stir our hearts and minds and brings into being a human community as uniquely moulded to the potential and limitations of that place as are its communities of plants, birds, animals and insects. In becoming at home in these places and responding to the special kinds of comfort, challenge and sustenance we find in each, we become a different people. Whether Shire people, Sydneysiders, Australians, we come to have special qualities of our own to give to the tapestry of human society.
When we live with natural surroundings, we come to know and love them deeply and it is all the better for us to integrate them as much as possible into our lives. The living environment we make will act as a mirror to our lives reflecting the good, or ill, passion or indifference, with which we hold it back onto the people whose lives it touches.
All places live through the reverence with which we hold them. Without that reverence, they crumble to pieces unloved, unmaintained, abandoned and destroyed. That reverence is the gift that in reality binds the stones, the blood that sustains the life of a place, and the power that raises the funds for its upkeep.
Since the humble beginnings of First National Park in 2009, a bewildering worldwide movement of recognition has begun, a movement to make provision for wildness and nature in our lives by conserving our urban natural areas and planting appropriate vegetation, removing rubbish, obstacles and weeds, and creating habitat wherever we can thus facilitating the process of allowing other species to live with us in our backyards, suburbs, cities, industrial and rural areas and create healthy surrounds for people.
Such stewardship is vital for Royal National Park, our wildlife and us.
Bob Crombie, First National Park 14 May 2014