F. Wolfgang Eder
Past UNESCO Director "Earth Sciences"
UNESCO “Global Network of National Geoparks”: Member of the Honorary Committee
c/o Department of Earth Sciences and Environment, University Munich; e-mail: email@example.com
Introduction and Background: During the last decade a remarkable shift concerning the perception and promotion of Earth Sciences happened on a global scale. Apart from “Groundwater”, “Global Warming or Climate Change”, “Natural Disaster Risk Reduction” and “Energy and Resources”, the interest of international Geo-Conferences (and subsequently also the media) focused on new items like “Geoparks”, “Geoconservation”, “Geoheritage” and “Geotourism”. Seemingly “old-fashioned” traditionalactivities of Palaeontologists, Stratigraphers, Geologists, Geomorphologists or Mineralogists have been reinvented, newly detected and redesigned.
In the follow-up of tragic Natural Disasters, like the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004, numerous people, politicians, geo-scientists, teachers, and tourist managers are increasingly interested and involved in the process to improve the general understanding of the “System Earth”. In addition, the United Nations have appealed within the frame of the so-called Millennium-Goals for a “Respect for Nature” through highlighting the “Value of Nature”. UN Decades for “Education for Sustainable Development” and for “Education for All” have been established (both of which should include geo-scientific components) and, last but not least, the year 2008 has been proclaimed as the “International Year of Planet Earth” (IYPE) by the UN.
“Geosites”, “Geotopes”, “Geotopos”, “Geodiversity”, “Geoconservation”, “Geoparks” and “Geotourism” are no longer unusual terms. The “Geoheritage”-family, a rich bunch of numerous individuals, local, regional, national and international entities have influenced and changed dramatic the perception of modern Earth sciences.World Heritage Sites (honoured throughlists of Natural and Cultural Sites by UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre), Biosphere Reserves, and National Geoparks (cooperating in international networks, like the “European Geoparks Network” or the “Global Geoparks Network” assisted by UNESCO) have been understood as an attractive tool for research, holistic education of nature, recreation, tourism and economic development of significant regions. Recent contributions of UNESCO (R. Missotten and Margarete Patzak), and the European Geoparks Network (Patrick McKeever and Nikos Zouros) are summarizing the specificities of Geoparks, their criteria and guidelines to be followed when a region wants to become a “Geopark”.
Strong national groups on “Geoheritage” exist all over the world, like in the UK (English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish Nature, the “Joint Nature Conservation Committee” (JNCC)), China (Ministry of Land and Resources, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences), Germany (GeoUnion-AWS, Ministry of Research and Education, Section “GeoTop” of the “German Geoscientific Society” (DGG)), Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Malaysia, Australia, Namibia, Canada or Brazil. Furthermore, many national “Geological Surveys” have established sections on “Geoparks” or nominated liaison partners for this issue. Many of these stakeholders helped to design the activities around “Geoheritage” in consultation with IUGS and UNESCO.
On an international scale one has to mention the “Global Network of National Geoparks” assisted by UNESCO (Secretariat in Paris, Office in Beijing), the European Geoparks Network (EGN, Office, Digne, France), the “European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage” (ProGEO), the World Heritage- and Biosphere Programmes of UNESCO (Paris), as well as the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Special interest to Geological Conservation questions is also provided by the European Council,the “International Union ofGeological Sciences” (IUGS), the “International Geographical Union” (IGU) and the “International Association of Geomorphologists” (IAG).
Potential national activities and recommendations: In line with the strategies and engagement of the above-mentioned national or international entities, the goals and main line of actions are formulated within UNESCO’s Major Programme (2006-2007) as follows:
Pursuant to this all nations are invited to contribute to the growing activity related to “Geoparks” by reflecting on and considering the following recommendations:
1. Implement Geoparks as a Tool for Transformation of Public Relationship to Earth by
by monitoring the input and output related to
Last but not least, all national “Geoconservation” and “Geoparks”-Communities are invited to contribute to a planned new Springer Journal, entitled “Geoheritage” (proposed by J. Brilha, ProGeo, Portugal, and W. Wimbledon, ProGeo, UK) that shall address all Earth scientists, geologists and geographers, biologists, landscape architects, museum workers, science historians, environmental geologists, town and country (spatial) planners and officials dealing with nature conservation and development, environmental impacts, geotourism, and secondary teaching, as well as academic staff, graduate and post-graduate students.