Tina Tin, freelance consultant and an adviser to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, participated in the WILD9 Wilderness Management Seminar and Congress at large. Here’s what she has to say…..
I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Wilderness Management Seminar was a life-changing experience.
My wilderness “education” came from living and studying in Alaska and Antarctica between 1998 and 2003. It was strongly rooted in the US National Wilderness Preservation System, the need for “untrammelled”-ness, the fight for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Since 2004, I have been working with a small non-profit for the protection of the Antarctic environment. I work as a freelance, from home in central France, remotely with scientists, lawyers, technocrats, far from anyone who breathes and lives and manages wilderness.
Two years ago, I started seriously considering ramping up the efforts to protect wilderness in Antarctica. I realized that a predominant American understanding of wilderness will not take me very far in the Antarctic Treaty forum where decisions are made collectively by 28 countries from all continents. The Wilderness Management Seminar was the first place ever where I met wilderness managers / advocates from countries from all continents and with whom I could discuss with about the linguistic and cultural interpretations of the concept of wilderness in their different cultures. With their help, I am embarking on a project that hopes to bring together an overview of the meaning of wilderness in the different cultures. The goal is to inform the Antarctic Treaty parties of the differences and similarities, in order to produce traction for the protection of wilderness in Antarctica.
I have often felt alone, discouraged, while working on trying to protect the Antarctic wilderness. I thought the task that I set myself to accomplish was impossible, laughable, forgettable. I arrived at the Wilderness Management Seminar and discovered this group of courageous people who were daily dealing with situations which seem even more impossible: elephants versus poor people, fighting against big businesses, injustices, population pressure. It made me realize that perhaps trying to continue to preserve a continent which is far far away is actually a comparatively easy task. And then, if these brave people do not cower in the face of the challenges in front of them, nor should I.
The World Wilderness Congress is a huge event. For a first-timer, it is not easy to find the right people to talk to in a crowd of 1,000 people. The Wilderness Management Seminar and the subsequent participation in the Government Forum gave me some invaluable one-on-one discussion time with some extraordinary people who would have been difficult to get to know during the main week of the Congress. These first days before the Congress gave me a strong sense of belonging and community and I think it is the best way to be introduced to the Congress. If I ever have the chance to do the Wilderness Management Seminar again I would definitely do so, and I would highly recommend it to others as well.
As a result of the Wilderness Management Seminar and WILD9, I feel that I have a worldwide network of wilderness colleagues who I could call upon to work together, which is vital in trying to achieve the protection of a global heritage such as Antarctica.