Kathy MacKinnon — How can we promote the relevance of protected areas?

Kathy MacKinnon, chair of IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, discussed the need for better linkages between health, urbanization, and protected areas

Kathy MacKinnon speaks during the session

One of the difficulties in dealing with ecosystem services is that we take them for granted, said Kathy MacKinnon, co-chair of the first Parks for the Planet Forum: Nature Health and a New Urban Generation. “Nobody thinks where does the water come from? Or you don’t realize that you’ve destroyed your coastal wetlands and actually they were protecting you until you have a major storm.”

MacKinnon, who used to be lead biodiversity specialist at World Bank, has worked on protected area issues for most of her life. The daughter of a local botanist, she was interested in nature as a child and went on to work with primate research in Indonesia.

MacKinnon is chair of IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, one of the IUCN’s six commissions, and involves volunteer networks of protected area professionals, NGOs, and other park agencies.

A relatively new aspect of the IUCN’s current agenda of protected areas and urbanization is the focus on health, apparent at last year’s World Parks Congress in Sydney.

“One of the objectives at that meeting,” said MacKinnon, was to show the relevance of protected areas to human communities, livelihoods and wellbeing, as well as for conserving biodiversity, [and] to show what the linkages are.”

At the Forum, a focus on cities was important due to rapid growth of populations that will be living increasingly in cities.

“How can we have greener, smarter cities?” asked MacKinnon, touching on some of the questions which frame these issues. “How can we improve the health of urban communities? How can we link that both to green spaces but also to the broader protected areas in the region? What are the links? How can we really restore more biodiversity to cities?”

Many of these issues overlap with the Promise of Sydney, which was born out of the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2014. It is a shared vision to find innovative solutions for parks, people, and the planet.

“Particularly in relation to the health issue, we’re looking to see more evidence that there are clear links between nature and health,” said MacKinnon. “We’re looking to how can you better reconnect people with nature very much with an emphasis on younger generations, but also old people, disadvantaged people, urban communities, new immigrants.”

What was exciting in this Forum, said MacKinnon, was hearing what participants committed to doing. “Many of the priorities actually overlap quite nicely with things that came out of the Parks Congress,” she said, including more evidence, communication, engagement, and linkages to nature.

___________________________________________________________________

This article was originally published in November, 2015 following the Salzburg Global program Nature, Health and a New Urban Generation, which was part of the Parks for the Planet Forum. The list of our partners for Session 557 can be found here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/557.