Interview with Wilderness Foundation Global

by Vance Martin | Posted on 12 September 2016

In the first of what we hope will become a regular series with key social good players, we meet up with Vance Martin, President of the WILD Foundation based in the USA who also sits on the executive committee of Wilderness Foundation Global (WFG).

Vance has just returned from the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii where he proudly shared the news that the next instalment of Wilderness Foundation Global’s key event, the World Wilderness Congress, will take place in China in 2018 as WILD11.

Aloha! Great to see you, Vance. You’ve just come back from Hawaii, how was the Congress?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is regarded as the “United Nations” for the nature conservation sector. Every four years they convene their Congress where thousands of members from 150+ countries gather to exchange information and, more importantly, develop policy positions on biodiversity, climate change, wildlife and wilderness conservation and more, which are presented at major UN conventions (for example on biodiversity, climate change, etc..) and to development agencies such as the World Bank and many more, in order to create binding international agreements between governments. So, it's an important process and requires a great deal of work because nature conservation is a complex and diverse sector with many different options, perspectives, and objectives.

This Congress was a good one for our team and our issues. We achieved consensus and approval on all our major policy issues, and made several major announcements to the assembled delegates. The major one for us, of course, occurred on Day One of the Congress when we gathered with our key partners to announce that WILD11 will take place in China in late 2018.

For those who don’t know, WILD is a key event for the wilderness movement. Also known as the World Wilderness Congress, it began in 1977 in South Africa and it has grown to now be the world’s longest-running, public, international conservation process. It's signature goal that guides all planning and action is to achieve practical, positive, and inspiring results to protect wild nature while meeting the needs of human communities. It applies this in all sectors: business, policy, science, education, traditional communities, the arts and more.

WILD11 is co-convened by Wilderness Foundation Global (and implemented by the WILD Foundation), EcoForum Global (whose founder and Chair Zhang Xinsheng is also the President of the IUCN, and the former Deputy Minister of Education in China), and the Paulson Institute (whose founder Chairman is Hank Paulson, former US Secretary of Treasury and former Chairman of Goldman Sachs).

WILD11 will convene for two days in Beijing and four days in Kunming in the Province of Yunnan, and many thousands of delegates from China and abroad are expected to participate in plenary announcements, technical sessions, and engage with a strong cultural programme.

Previous WILD events have achieved tangible outcomes… it’s not just a “talking shop” is it?

As I mentioned, the guiding objective of the WILD process is to achieve positive, practical and inspiring outcomes, and our track record is long, diverse, and substantive:

The WWC is widely credited with building global awareness of, and action to support, the critical importance of wild nature for the health and well-being of all life on Earth.

The fact that WILD11 is taking place in China is interesting as the country is often knocked for its environmental record...

You're right that China does sometimes get hammered, and it does have many things to learn and upon which to improve.... name me a country that does not! Over the past 30 years it has also done some amazing things, including moving 500 million people from poverty into the middle class. It has paid an environmental price for that and Chinese leaders have now realised this.

To address this, they developed a national policy called "Eco-civilisation", which is currently being implemented. They also are establishing a new, nation-wide National Park system… and more. We want WILD11 to share best practice methods and policies, celebrate accomplishments, and focus on expanding the global conservation community with one of the most powerful, oldest, cultures and economies in the world.

What do you think the major challenges are for the movement in the future?

Human population and consumption… poverty and inequable lifestyles… corruption… and unregulated, industrial-scale development of natural resources.

Finally, why is Wilderness important?

In today’s era of rapidly escalating environmental challenges, wilderness plays a central and critically important role as an efficient, cost-effective natural solution. It is, for example, a major factor in mitigating the impacts of global climate change, and the basis for many of the planet’s life-supporting ecological services. But at the core of the wilderness benefits is something unique and very special. There is a spiritual element that pervades the experience and concept of wilderness.

In today’s evermore fast-paced, noisy, and frenetic world, wilderness offers the opportunity for solitude, to contemplate our role in life in the very place where we evolved for millions of years. We are wild creatures in a deep and important manner… we are part of nature… we just need to remember it, and to create a relationship of reciprocity so that we protect wild nature so that she sustains us and all life on earth.

Thanks Vance for your time. You can find out more about Wild Foundation, Wilderness Foundation Global at their websites.

Images: Wilderness Foundation Africa