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Inspired by time spent with Sir Laurens van der Post, and after a number of expeditions to live with and ‘capture on canvas’ - the Himba in Kaokoland and the Bushman in the Kalahari - Gary Waterworth Owen initiated: Culture Conscious Conservation and promoted the concept at the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1997.
In 1999 he organised the First Agenda 21 Indaba on Culture Conscious Conservation in Transfrontier Conservation Areas - attended by delegates from 5 African countries. The conference was supported by Open Africa, CESVI, the Biodiversity Foundation for Africa, the Institute of Environmental Studies, and funded by Cooperazione Italiana and the Peace Parks Foundation - whose patron is Nelson Mandela.
His opening statement in his keynote address sums up its aim: “It’s alarming that - it’s only when we’re on the brink do we start to think! To remedy our lack of understanding of cultural values and valued cultures is a passion of mine. We need to examine Ancient Ways and incorporate the best in Modern Days. Conservation without cultural engagement is nothing but conversation, and we will all be the poorer for it.” - Waterworth Owen
We have become disconnected from nature and we need urgently to reconnect. Our African philosophy of Ubuntu which means ‘I am because of you’, must be shared to provide meaningful experiences and places for people of all faiths and cultures to meet and have meaningful conversations and experiences integrating the conservation of wildlife, habitat, culture, climate change, corporate social responsibility and biodiversity.
Culture Conscious Conservation is a proactive contribution to the: Alliance of Civilizations - an initiative of the UN, which aims to improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions, and to help counter the forces that fuel polarization and extremism. Working in partnership with governments, international and regional organizations, civil society groups, foundations, and the private sector, the Alliance supports a range of projects and initiatives aimed at building bridges among a diversity of cultures and communities.
Leadership, Management and Personal Development training in wilderness areas has an extraordinary power to arouse the creative process, inspire the human spirit, and to increase personal responsibility. The beauty and solitude of nature delivers effective change and long term results. Through our short journeys in the wilderness co-dependent on diverse cultures, helps to: identify common values, break down stereotypes, aids the building of mutually supporting teams, and in so doing enhances peace, understanding and communication.
Culture Conscious Conservation is a core element of the ResponseAbility Alliance’s - 21st ResponseAbility Programme. The initiative seeks creative ways to raise levels of consciousness, reduce cultural conflict, promote respect, responsibility and rights, address the challenges of climate change, protect and conserve wilderness and wildlife and to be an effective path to Getting REAL - Responsible and Environmentally Aware Leadership, in the 21st Century.