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Humanizing the Enemy: Wilderness and Peace Building


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Jo Roberts, Executive Director of The Wilderness Foundation (UK), spoke during the Thursday (12 November) WILD9 plenary session on Wilderness and People - Social Issues, Conservation Solutions.

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Humanizing the Enemy: Wilderness and Peace Building

  1. 1. The Wilderness Foundation Social, Cultural and Health Benefits to Humanity through WILDERNESS Preservation
  2. 2. Ian Player and Magqubu Ntombela Founders 1956 Wilderness is valued as a blueprint of creation – it is the last remnant of what ‘was’ there in the beginning. Our challenge is how to retain these areas into the future and the present. Wilderness experience is not only seen as the spark for further conservation ideals but also serves as a remedy for current social problems.
  3. 3. What are the problems out there?
  4. 5. <ul><li>Not yet experienced in Europe in the same way but almost 1/6 th of the world’s population – already live in squalid, unhealthy areas, mostly without water, sanitation, public services or legal security. </li></ul><ul><li>One in every three people in the world will live in slums within 30 years. </li></ul>
  5. 6. ‘ Extreme inequality and idleness lead people to anti-social behaviour. Slums are the places where all the evils come together, where peace and security is elusive and where young people cannot be protected’. Anna Tibaijuka, Director, UN Habitat 2003 There is also the concommitant deep disconnection with understanding and experience of Nature thus leading to extreme Nature deficit disorder.
  6. 7. Wilderness- What Value for Society? <ul><li>Gives a sense of connection and belonging </li></ul><ul><li>Fast tracks personal development and leadership </li></ul><ul><li>Tests our capacity to improvise and adapt </li></ul><ul><li>Develops team work and social skills </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges our comfort zones </li></ul><ul><li>Teaches us to adapt and work with what life presents to us. </li></ul><ul><li>Re-sensitises us </li></ul><ul><li>Develops a sense of common humanity </li></ul><ul><li>Loss of ego </li></ul>
  7. 8. Wilderness- What Savings for Society? <ul><li>Cost of mental health in Britain is currently £77 billion including the National Health Service, with a cost to the economy of approximately £41.8 billion. </li></ul><ul><li>Quantitative WFUK research with University of Essex found: </li></ul><ul><li>86% reported changes in participants health </li></ul><ul><li>Behaviour (42%) </li></ul><ul><li>Qualitative research found: </li></ul><ul><li>70% positive change in health </li></ul><ul><li>65% positive connection to nature </li></ul><ul><li>56% positive social changes </li></ul>
  9. 11. Working with Youth at Risk
  10. 13. &quot;If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better.“ Lyndon B Johnson Humanising the Enemy – Wilderness and Peace Building A project of The Wilderness Foundation UK and The Glencree Centre for Reconciliation, IPC and INCORE
  11. 15. Why TurnAround? <ul><li>TurnAround had an 80% success rate in getting young people back into education or work on completion. </li></ul><ul><li>89% of young offenders are re-offending within one year of being released from YOI…etc </li></ul><ul><li>Each year 70,000 school age offenders enter the Youth Justice System. </li></ul><ul><li>Nearly 2/3 s of young offenders are unemployed at time of arrest. </li></ul><ul><li>Cost of sending one youth to a YOI was £47,000 in 2002. </li></ul><ul><li>We know through research with University of Essex that youth on our programmes show a significant increase in self esteem, mood changes and behaviour change linked to a positive connection with Nature… </li></ul>
  12. 16. Comparison of the change in subscale mood factors between the two wilderness experiences
  13. 17. Change in self esteem over the duration of the project
  14. 19. INLA, BRITISH ARMY, POLICE The Sustainable Peace Network
  15. 20. &quot;If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better.“ Lyndon B Johnson The Sustainable Peace Network has been in existence since 2001 and includes victims, ex prisoners and ex combatants from UDA,UDG, PSNI, IRA, INLA as well as civic society members such as politicians, business people and NGO reps.
  16. 21. Research shows that experience of wild nature in remote areas helps participants to find a shared and common sense of humanity. This is fundamental to the reconciliation process and development of empathy for other people’s life experiences and perspectives. 90% of participants saw a relationship between the environment and peace building after being in wilderness vs 62% before the experience. University of Ulster
  17. 22. Conclusions <ul><li>Good evidence exists to show positive social and health benefits from wilderness experience. </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict resolution and reconciliation processes are fast tracked in wilderness settings. </li></ul><ul><li>Too much focus has been placed on qualitative evidence. </li></ul><ul><li>There is an absolute need for more research to be done that is peer reviewed and robust. </li></ul><ul><li>We need hard facts to back what we already know. </li></ul>
  18. 23. <ul><li>Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. </li></ul><ul><li>We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Ancient Indian Proverb </li></ul>