Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award

Well it’s been a good start to Gudjewg (the ‘wet’) so far with plenty of rain right around the Park, with all the usual indicators of an average wet season. The East Alligator River flooded by early December, Magela Creek flowing by Christmas AND our shower block a metre deep by January!

That said I’ve been in Kakadu over 20 years now I can tell you that every monsoon season is different, some start early, some have a big ending, and others struggle to start at all. However as I type we’re on track for around 2000mm (80 inches) which will be good for Kakadu after half that amount last year. Global warming wasn’t top of mind a decade ago but it will be of great interest when we compare notes 10 years down the track to see what early indications Climate Change may bring to Kakadu.

I’ve been part of a few ‘actions’ over my time in Kakadu; most notably with Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation’s Jabiluka Uranium Mine campaign; and last year with ‘green’ group Australian Conservation Foundation’s Australia’s Special Places project where I wrote about what Kakadu means to me, and my concerns for the future. More recently I co-authored a report for University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre. The report, Climate Change Impact on Yellow Water, is soon to be published and highlights the fears we all have for Kakadu’s Ramsar Listed Wetlands. If predictions prove correct, a 30-60cm (1-2ft) sea-rise will severely affect a large chunk of the World Heritage area. Our floodplains are hardly above sea-level now, so any significant increase could have catastrophic impact on Kakadu’s environmental and cultural values.

There’s different arguments around whether global warming is cyclical, or due to man’s hand. One thing’s for sure, leaving the climate change agenda for politicians to sort out isn’t going to work; threre’s no doubt we are going to have to rely on Joe Average (millions of us hopefully!) to promote the awareness required for change! Whichever way, I think it’s best if local issues are highlighted, and then applied to a global context. At the moment it seems discussions are directed at the bigger picture, and need to be ‘bought home’ to be effective.

One way individuals can make a difference is by aligning themselves with organisations that not only promote awareness of climate change, but also deal with a range of environmental issues across the board. Some are localised, others cover the globe but are equally important. The United Nations has declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. It is a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. The UN invites us to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.

Actions can be many and varied; it’s not all about sorting plastics from cans or walking to work. Some can even be done in front of your computer! One interesting project that we’re involved in is the Indigenous Tourism and Biodiversity Website Award. It’s a collaborative effort between Planeta.com and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity/UNEP (CBD) with the generous support of the Heidehof Foundation. The award is aimed at private tourism services from around the world, owned and operated by indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles, and its main objectives are to motivate candidates to improve their online communication on biological and cultural diversity, to highlight their best practices in managing tourism and to raise operators and public’s awareness on biodiversity. It’s a fantastic project where nominees can learn from each other, and see what works online for some, and not others. Over the past month our young daughter Catherine has learnt a lot about Google and how to cut & past web links onto our home page. The rate she’s going there will be more links than text on our site!

Jenny’s already got a bit of publicity in our local Northern Territory News and Kakadu Community Noticeboard and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking to the local school or captains of industry; it’s all about spreading the word! Winners will receive the award in April 2010 at a tourism trade fair, the Reisepavillon in Berlin, Germany. Since 1991, the Reisepavillon has been a global focal point for responsible tourism.
Winners will also receive technical support and participate in a workshop on innovative Web-based tools for marketing and communications, facilitated by webmaster Ron Mader. A publication on the award, its nominees and winners and the lessons learned, will be distributed at event.

In my mind it’s all a part of our overall package, the way we think, the way we operate, and the way we promote biodiversity in our own backyard, and it’s all got to add up! We could all have the greatest show on earth but without extensive and informative (and responsible!) online communication, who’ll know about it?

The ITBW competition features some sensational tours and some very, very good websites from around the planet. Check them all out and cast your vote for the at http://planeta.wikispaces.com/itbw. The small part you play by voting in the competition will ensure the best of the best end up at Reisepavillon in Berlin; and the rest? Well, we’ve already learnt a lot from just being part of it!

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