Sustainability and Wilderness Environments

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Rhiannon Bryant

Generalisation 4: Sustainability and Wilderness Environments

The Wilderness areas of the world are some of the very few pristine environments left and due to the sheer size they undoubtedly have a huge effect on how the rest of the world operates. For example, the rainforests of the world, such as the Amazon, play a vital role in gaseous exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. Similarly the southern ocean around Antarctica is vital as a major sink in the global carbon cycle. The ice sheet and surrounding ice are active compounds of the climate system and has a profound effect on ocean currents and heat transport. If these areas weren’t protected then the whole world could be a different place. Oxygen would be lacking, species would die, and ocean levels could rise, resulting in heavy flooding of low-lying land.

A number of strategies are used to protect and conserve through methods such as National Parks and Alliances and Treaties. But as far as National Parks are concerned they face a number of pressures and conflicts so in many cases further conservation is proposed by the means of National Park Conservation Associations, particularly in the USA.

Although the varying policies are often aimed at reducing pressures, occasionally such policies can only result in conflict elsewhere. For example Banff National Park in Canada employs a method of Zoning. 

Land use zoning is used to establish the desired level of protection, use and facility development on specific park lands. Despite it being highly successful at conserving wildlife in designated sections of the park, environmentalists may argue that using the same areas for the same purposes, such as recreation will only degrade those areas. And once those areas need to be revitalised there will be no suitable space designated to cater for outdoor recreation. This will inevitably cause further conflict with tourists and other users of such areas. Although this method may be sustainable for the moment, the Canadians show no sign of any future plans. This could merely be because it has no need to reveal such plan as of yet, but equally they may not have a suitable plan in mind. Merely waiting to cross that bridge when they get to, or so to speak.  

Similarly the Antarctic Treaty has been hugely successful for limited reasons. The success of the treaty has been the growth in membership. 44 countries, comprising 80% of the world’s population, have acceded to it. Consultative status is open to all countries who have demonstrated their commitment to the Antarctic by conduction significant research. 27 nations have consultative status. The treaty parties meet each year. They have adopted over 200 recommendations and negotiated five separate international agreements: -

  • Agreed Measures for the Conservation of  Antarctic Fauna and Flora
  • Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals
  • Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
  • Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities
  • Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty
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The Treaty means that all consultative parties have to agree on any decisions that will affect the conservation of Antarctica. This ensures that the interest of the environment should always be at heart as long as the agreements are adhered to. But such a strong policy could cause conflict between parties, which could have dramatic effects in worst case scenarios.

Wilderness regions that are not designated protected areas such as national parks are sometimes more vulnerable to increasing pressures. In Southern Utah there is no national park but the Democrats passed the Wilderness Act in the 1960s. This ...

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