The simplest definition of Wilderness is the absence of humans. So, are humans and Wilderness opposites? Not quite so. Without humans, there is no Wilderness. Ideas can only exist in distinction to something. Hence, no ideas of Wilderness exist without land cultivated by humans. This also explains our fascination for Wilderness. It provides a window to an adventurous and colorful world different from our everyday life, which is shaped by us and other humans. We experience Wilderness as visitors to a world shaped by natural dynamics, we have no control over. This leads to an endless magnitude of experiences, ideas, and opinions about Wilderness. Many of them were expressed in stories, writing and art that have found their way into religion and culture.
The presentation below show how diverse the connections of humans to Wilderness are, which place they have in culture and how this influences the relationship with Wilderness. They cover topics like human-wildlife conflict, environmental ethics and what we can personally learn from the wild.
Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan – Deborah January-Bevers
Deborah has been involved with public policy around the Greater Houston region and the State of Texas for over 35 years, currently serving as President & CEO of Houston Wilderness. She most recently helped create and is now implementing the 8-county Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan with 3 key goals for environmental resiliency, and a 25-mile Port of Houston TREES Program targeting 1 million new native trees on riparian corridors along the Houston Ship Channel. Shortly after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Greater Houston Region, local environmental nonprofit Houston Wilderness convened over 100 local governmental, business and nonprofit entities to create an ecosystem resilience plan for the eight-county region. This Gulf-Houston Regional Conservation Plan (Gulf-Houston RCP) has made substantial gains for the region since its inception, thanks to a strong collaboration of supporters, and a laser-like focus on three Key Goals.
Environmental Ethics – Gao Shan
Shan Gao is currently working as an associate professor in the department of philosophy at Soochow University in China. She obtained her Ph.D degree from the department of philosophy at the University of North Texas with a specialization on environmental ethics. Her research interests include wilderness philosophy, environmental ethics and aesthetics, and comparative environmental religions. In this talk, we will firstly examine how the dominant Chinese philosophical schools interpret the concept of nature and how this interpretation influences people’s understanding and appreciation of wilderness. Secondly, we will discuss the ecological practice in China and how this practice has the great potentiality to transform people’s valuing nature and wilderness. Thirdly, we will discuss the importance of the interdisciplinary approach to the study of wilderness.
Wolves in Estonia – Eleri Lopp-Valdma
Eleri Lopp-Valdma is a nature photographer and nature guide doing different nature watching tours like bird watching, mammal watching, bear watching and photography. She runs a local nature protecting NGO called Kose parish nature group (MTÜ Kose valla Loodusselts) with the main aim to protect forests. In her presentation, she discusses different questions about wolves in Estonia like: How many wolves are there in Estonia? Where are wolf home territories? What issues occur in Estonia? How does habitat loss impact wolves in Estonia? What future plans do NGOs have to help protect this wild animal?
Wilderness: an anthropologist’s point of view – Maria Benciolini
I am an anthropologist with experience in research about environmental conflicts in Central America and Europe. My main current interest is human dimension in conservation projects and cultural aspects in climate changes social consequences. I am collaborating with Eliante in large carnivores conservation and international cooperation projects. In my presentation, I’d like to show the relativity of the concepts of nature and wilderness and how other people around the world relate to what we call nature or wilderness in a total different way, sometimes encompassing in the field of “culture” places and animals that we would classify as wild or, on the contrary, extending the concept of nature or wilderness to a broad field of relations with other beings. Finally, I’d like to discuss how anthropology methods and theories can contribute to conservation of biodiversity and wilderness and my own experience in this field.
Among Bears – Brown Bears in the Heart of Europe – Christine Sonvilla
Christine Sonvilla and Marc Graf are award-winning photographers (Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Beca MontPhoto WWF grant, Nature Images
Award, The Nature Conservancy, Oasis Photo Contest, El Mundo festival etc.), filmmakers, videographers and writers with university degrees
in nature conservation biology (both Marc & Christine) as well as German Literature (Christine). Over the past years they have intensively ventured into high-res DSLR cameratrapping photography and photojournalism. They launched the project „LEBEN AM LIMIT / LIVING ON THE EDGE“ which aims at highlighting obstacles for large predators and other species in Central Europe and equally providing solutions for coexistence. Their work focus now primarily lies on Central Europe.
Project: Euro Large Carnivores – Laszlo Patko
László Patkó is working for WWF Hungary as the Large Carnivore Programme Leader since 2018. Previously, he was employed by the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC). Having spent his early career in research, hunting and nature conservation led him to WWF Hungary where he manages the Euro Large Carnivore LIFE project as the Hungarian focal point. This project aims to bridge the gap among different stakeholder groups, like conservation experts, hunters and livestock keepers for a more efficient co-existence with large carnivores. László will talk about the result of the Euro Large Carnivores project and his personal experience in stakeholder engagement.
Project: Remote areas for bears – Mauro Belardi
I am a conservation biologist, working mainly in the field of European NGO’s. I focus my work on Communication, Human dimension and Damage prevention. I worked in the past for the WWF European Alpine Programme and for LIPU BIrdlife Italy. Nowadays, I am president of Eliante, a non profit society, active in environmental sciences and collaborating with the European Wilderness Society. The Lombardy region is one of the places with the highest human density in the world and the highest in Europe. Despite of this, 4 species of large predators are present and it is the best Alpine candidate to host a breeding bear population outside Trentino. We investigated the chances for a bear core area enlargement, thanks to a project based on GIS analysis and on bear-experts consultation.
Improving livestock protection in the Alpine region – Nick Huisman
Livestock protection is still a major challenge and requires the implementation of various measures depending on the case complexity. For the first time, agricultural organizations have come together and developed a joint project for the German-speaking Alpine region. We collaborated with scientists, nature conservationists, livestock protection experts and other actors from Austria, Bavaria and South Tyrol. The main aim of the project is to illustrate and implement livestock protection measures to enable the coexistence of humans, grazing animals and wild animals. The target region is the predominantly German-speaking part of the Alps in Austria, Bavaria and Trentino-South Tyrol.
Transitioning Wildlife Management from Reactive Conflict Control to Proactive Coexistence – Suzanne Asha Stone
Suzanne Asha Stone has been on the front lines of wolf restoration in the Western USA since 1988. She served on the 1996-1996 Yellowstone/Idaho wolf reintroduction team, worked as the lead western gray wolf conservationist for Defenders of Wildlife from 1999 to 2019 and now the Executive Director of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network where she is now helping protect wolves and other imperiled wildlife around the world. Her talk “Why all the conflict over wolves?” examines the relationship between people and wolves in Idaho from social, political, and ecological perspectives.
Barriers to capturing mass public attention and enthusiasm for wilderness – Amy Lewis
Amy Lewis helps solve collective action problems for the conservation and environmental movements. With over 20 years research and practitioner experience in social movement building, Amy brings a powerful set of intuitive and strategic skills to the WILD Foundation where she is the chief policy and communications officer. As a part of her role at WILD, she also serves the Nature Needs Half Network, an international team of scientists, policy experts, philanthropists, and communication professionals who are spearheading the historic effort to protect half of Earth’s land and seas in time to address the dual existential emergencies of climate breakdown and mass extinction. Drawing from her experiences with an international team to protect half of Earth’s land and seas and a background in social movement theory and marketing, Amy examines the elements of effective storytelling, the barriers to a more expansive audience for wilderness conservation, and how a shift in both philanthropy and our own conservation and communication priorities can create a sea change for conservation in time to address the climate emergency and mass extinction.
Unique Concept of Wildlife as related to Human Psychology – Dr. Mahesh Sanzgiri
Professionally I am Consultant in the field of ISO,Pharma formalities such as cGMP, WHO, USFDA, European Standards etc.,Management especilly in Brand Positioning,Market Survey and Market Research,Materials and Warehouse Management and HRD. I am Scientist in the field of Chemistry and Wildlife. I am M.Sc.,P.hD in Organic Chemistry with post graduation in Marketing and Systems Management . I have business in consultancy of my own firm called “DYNAMIC MANAGMENT SERVICES” and due to love for nature and wildlife, I am also having a business in ” Wildlife Tourism” called “Nilkanth Wildlife Safaris.” I have presented my research papers in field of Organic Chemistry and Wildlife in many International Conferences globally. Latest being break through in drug formulation for Cancer and Aids, also research paper of “Pheromones of Tiger” relating to pheromones with behavior of Tiger, both papers were presented in Global Organic and Inorganic Chemistry Conference (GOICC)in Atlanta-USA in July 2018.
Researching and protecting Wilderness in times of conflict and pandemics – Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. He is founder and volunteer director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNBH) and the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability (PIBS) at Bethlehem University. Qumsiyeh published over 150 scientific papers and several books on topics ranging from cultural heritage to human rights to biodiversity to cancer. Research, education, and conservation are impacted during times of political, economic and social instability in developing countries like Palestine. This talk will explore these and will also cover lessons learned about adaptation and mitigation of effects based on native people wisdom and flexibility. Discussion will collect other audience experience especially in developing countries to suggest plans going forward taking into account human impacts on the environment (including climate change), pandemics, zoonotics, and conflict.
Wilderness Well-being – Jo Roberts
Jo has been a Director and Chief Executive of the Wilderness Foundation since 2004, but has been involved as Projects Director and Project Coordinator since 1998. Jo focuses on the effects of wilderness on developing sound youth leadership built on environmental awareness and ethics. She has a particular focus on developing positive well-being and mental health in young people who are vulnerable or at risk through wilderness therapy programmes that she develops and leads in various parts of the world. Jo has been involved in research over 13 years to measure the impact of nature connection and mental health and this is ongoing. This presentation will explore the impact of modern day life and pressures such as high levels of urbanization, and a drift from a connection to nature on mental health. Jo will expand on the methodology used to help recreate this connection through examples of some of the programmes they run in the UK. She will also share some science of how spending time in nature helps us and the research that makes this easy to see and understand.
Benefits of Wilderness on Leadership – Wiet de Bruijn
Organizational leaders today face challenges that require more than just the development of leadership competencies. Scientists and practitioners believe that leaders need a change of consciousness at a more fundamental level. Several scientists believe that “critical life events,” that is, events that direct people’s lives, are likely an important antecedent to authentic leadership. In addition, research suggests that nature experiences have positive psychological effects. In this PhD project I investigated the impact of a wilderness-based training program on leadership transformation. This thesis is based on three empirical studies that analyze the experiences of leaders and the resulting intentions to change, measure the actual impact of the training program on authentic leadership and examine the role of memories of experiences on their leadership style and changes therein. The studies suggest that the training program leads to a shift in consciousness among leaders to a broader and more caring attitude. This is most likely an effect of immersion in nature.