natural resources, geological hazards, climate change, science, culture, education Science, women, sustainable development , local and indigenous knowledge
Since the dawn of humanity natural resources provided by the Earth’s solid crust have been the basis for our social and economic development. These resources include minerals, hydrocarbons, rare earth elements, geothermal energy, air and water, and their sustainable use is vital for the continued future well-being of society. Any element which can be found on Earth has its origin in geology and geological processes, is non-renewable and its exploitation has to be treated wisely. UNESCO Global Geoparks inform people about the sustainable use and need for natural resources, whether they are mined, quarried or harnessed from the surrounding environment, while at the same time promoting respect for the environment and the integrity of the landscape.
Many UNESCO Global Geoparks promote awareness of geological hazards, including volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, and many help prepare disaster mitigation strategies among local communities. Through educational activities for the local people and visitors many UNESCO Global Geoparks give information on the source of geological hazards and ways to reduce their impact including disaster response strategies. These efforts build important capacity and contribute to building more resilient communities that have the knowledge and skills to effectively respond to potential geological hazards.
UNESCO Global Geoparks hold records of past climate change and are educators on current climate change as well as adopting a best practise approach to utilising renewable energy and employing the best standards of “green tourism.” While some UNESCO Global Geoparks stimulate green growth in the region through innovative projects, others serve as outdoor museums on the effects of current climate change thus giving the opportunity to show visitors how climate change can affect our environment. Such community and educational activities and projects are important in order to raise awareness on the potential impact of climate change on the region, and to provide the local communities with the knowledge to mitigate and adapt to the potential effects of climate change.
It is a pre-requisite that all UNESCO Global Geoparks develop and operate educational activities for all ages to spread awareness of our geological heritage and its links to other aspects of our natural, cultural and intangible heritages. UNESCO Global Geoparks offer educational programmes for schools or offer special activities for children through “Kids Clubs” or special “Fossil Fun Days”. UNESCO Global Geoparks also offer education, both formal and informal, for adults and retired people while many provide training for local people who can then, in turn, teach others.
UNESCO Global Geoparks are special areas where the geological heritage, or geodiversity, is of international importance. UNESCO Global Geoparks are thus encouraged to work with academic institutions to engage in active scientific research in the Earth Sciences, and other disciplines as appropriate, to advance our knowledge about the Earth and its processes. A UNESCO Global Geopark is not a museum, it is an active laboratory where people can become engaged in science from the highest academic research level to the level of the curious visitor. A UNESCO Global Geopark must take great care not to alienate the public from science and absolutely must avoid the use of technical scientific language on information boards, signs, leaflets, maps and books which are aimed at the general public.
The motto of UNESCO Global Geoparks is “Celebrating Earth Heritage, Sustaining Local Communities”. UNESCO Global Geoparks are fundamentally about people and about exploring and celebrating the links between our communities and the Earth. The Earth has shaped who we are: it has shaped our farming practise, the building materials and methods we have used for our homes, even our mythology, folklore and folk traditions. UNESCO Global Geoparks therefor engage in a rang of activities to celebrate these links. Many UNESCO Global Geoparks have strong links to the arts communities where the synergy released by bring science and the arts together can yield surprising results.
UNESCO Global Geoparks have a strong emphasize on empowering women whether through focused education programmes or through the development of women’s cooperatives. UNESCO Global Geoparks are a platform for the development nurturing and promotion of local cottage industry and craft products. In some UNESCO Global Geoparks women’s cooperatives also provide an opportunity for women to obtain additional income in their own area and on their own terms. They can, for example, operate accommodation services for visitors.
Even if an area has outstanding, world-famous geological heritage of outstanding universal value it cannot be a UNESCO Global Geopark unless the area also has a plan for the sustainable development of the people who live there. This may take the form of sustainable tourism through, for example, the development of walking or cycling trails, training of local people to act as guides, encouraging tourism and accommodation providers to follow international best practise in environmental sustainability. But it can also be about simply engaging with local people and respecting their traditional way of life in a way that empowers them and respects their human rights and dignity. Unless a UNESCO Global Geopark has the support of local people it will not succeed. UNESCO Global Geopark status does not imply restrictions on any economic activity inside a UNESCO Global Geopark where that activity complies with indigenous, local, regional and/or national legislation.
Local and indigenous Knowledge
UNESCO Global Geoparks actively involve local and indigenous peoples, preserving and celebrating their culture. By involving local and indigenous communities, UNESCO Global Geoparks recognize the importance of these communities, their culture and the link between these communities and their land. It is one of the criteria of UNESCO Global Geoparks that local and indigenous knowledge, practice and management systems, along science, are included in the planning and management of the area.
UNESCO Global Geoparks are areas that use the concept of sustainability, value the heritage of Mother Earth and recognize the need to protect it. The defining geological sites in UNESCO Global Geoparks are protected by the indigenous, local,regional and /or national law management authorities, in cooperation with the appropriate agencies, which allow for the necessary monitoring and maintenance of these sites. Appropriate of protection measures for each sites are set out in individual site management plans. The management body of UNESCO Global Geopark will also not participate directly in the scale of geological objects such as fossils, minerals, polished rocks and ornamental rocks of the type normally found in so called “rock-shop”within the area, and many actively discourage unsustainable trade in geological materials as a whole. It does not refer to material for normal industrial and household use which is sourced by quarrying and /or mining and which will be subject to regulation under national and/or international legislation.
Under certain circumstances and where clearly justified as a responsible activity the management body may permit sustainable collecting of geological materials for scientific and educational purposes from naturally renewable sites within the UNESCO Global Geopark. Trade of geological materials (in accordance with national legislation on Earth heritage conservation) based on such a system may be tolerated in exceptional circumstances, provided it is clearly and publicly explained, justified and monitored as the best option for the UNESCO Global Geopark in relation to local circumstances. Such circumstances will be subject to debate and approval on a case by case basis.