Antonio Claparlos (green shirt on right) was one of the strongest supporters of Gangjeong village during the World Conservation Congress held on Jeju Island earlier this month. JEJU ISLAND ~ THE ISLAND OF PEACE
By Antonio Claparlos
Compared to the previous World Conservation Congress events held in the previous years, this most recent one from September 6 to 15, 2012 can be considered the most tiring I ever had.
It was hosted by the Korean government and held in the island of Jeju, also known as the “Island of Peace”.
Jeju is home of the Tamna people who have lived and sustained their natural heritage for thousands of years.
Jeju has three myths of origin: that of the cosmos, of the island itself and of its human inhabitants. The latter a tale of three demigods who rose from Volcanic lava caves deep in the earth and married three princesses from another land, thus resulted in the Tamna Kingdom.
The Sam-seong-hyeol myth (Lit: three name holes typically translated as caves of three clans) begin with the emergence of three male demigods by the names of Ko,Yang and Bu from deep caves and lava tubes in the surface of this volcanic island.
Through the stability of agriculture and regional trade, the Tamna Kingdom was eventually formed. Ko became its first King with 45 Kings to follow. The Tamna Kingdom has been founded between the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C.E.
In 1105 C.E., the Tamna Kingdom subsumed as a province by the Goryeo Kingdom of what is now known as Korea.
Jeju Island is seeking to become an environmental capital city of the world. A UNESCO World heritage site, its water is said to be“the purest in the world” — naturally-filtered by the volcanic rocks and its underground aquifers which retain 46 % percent of the rainfall, also making it Korea's most active aquifer.
Its biodiversity is rich and the mystic of Mt. Halasan is a marvel on its own.
There is much to be said about Jeju Island, its people and its natural heritage.
More than 7,000 delegates from all over the world converged on this beautiful island to discuss the state of the planet and the way forward on how to save our dying planet.
Even though this was the 5th World Conservation Congress we had attended, it was always nice to see old friends and meet new ones. I will always treasure these friends who share the advocacy with us all through the years.
Despite the many years and meetings the planet seems to be getting worse. We have seen the planet evolve and yes, our planet remains in peril. Worse, it continues to be nearing the end of the line.
As of this writing, a typhoon is heading straight for the Korean peninsula, sending a message to all that Nature has had enough! She can no longer sustain the pressures of the present development model.
The same pressures put forth by continuous pollution, ocean-acidification and man-induced climate change.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now almost 400 ppm. This is a very critical stage, enough to compel us to act on the need to reduce carbon dioxide to 350 ppm to sustain life.
Yet, instead of being alarmed, the business-as-usual attitude even accelerated!
There is no documented progress by the UNFCCC to mitigate CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. The many COP meetings has failed.
The grassroots movement is increasing everywhere, taking matters into their on hands. They are even better armed with new initiatives like re-educating the masses about the benefits of solar cookers and renewable energy, also about mangrove reforestation.
The movement is now pushing for a more active volunteerism spirit. The same drive is aimed for the protection of our forest and oceans.
Radical changes are taking place as the establishment refuses to change.
Yet, the Congress is tainted by the old consumption and production patterns which need to be changed.
Corporate control of conservation is wreaking havoc on the mission and vision of the conservation movement and the World Congress.
What does this picture out to the world? A scary scenario, that of an increasing poverty. Peak of oil and food and peak of everything is in the making.
More Arab springs are already taking place. The people are suffering from many austerity measures imposed on them by the IMF and their respective government.
Unknown to many, there is talk of another stimulus for the economy which will only cause more inflation. It is foreseen to make life harder for the seven billion people of this planet of which over 2 billion live below the poverty line.
Food shortages and the destruction of our biodiversity has made the battle for resources inevitable.
During this recent World Conservation Congress, one of the most controversial motions was Motion 181 or “Protection of the People, Nature, Culture and Heritage of Gangjeong Village.”
Gangjeong Village is the site of the construction of a naval base.
The motion is sponsored by the Center of Humans and Nature and co-sponsored by over 32 non-governmental organizations. They all exerted efforts to have the said motion adopted.
The motion was voted in plenary this morning, after many contact group meetings and heated debates were conducted.
We are honored to be one of the co-sponsors. The motion was not adopted by the Congress since it needed both houses of government and NGOs.
However, the government house had more abstentions. It had more “yes” votes than the “ no” votes and the NGO house had the majority. This sent a strong signal to IUCN and the world that Gangjeong village and its people and Jeju Island must be protected.
It has given hope to the villagers to continue to fight for their natural heritage which they have nurtured sustainably for centuries.
The message of the congress is clear: We must save the villagers of Gangjeong, Jeju Island . We must protect the people and planet. Otherwise, all these congresses and meetings are meaningless and a waste of time.
The World Conservation Congress ended with a declaration that I can best describe as the biblical cymbal – making all noise yet signifying nothing, all empty words.
Real and concrete action on the ground is what is needed.
With one powerful word, loud and clear message of hope has been sent to the world from the beautiful island of Jeju, the island of peace :
Antonio M. Claparols
Ecological Society of the Philippines