WILD9, thrusts you into a different world. Standing among so many of your heroes, legendary conservationists like Jane Goodall, and many of the world’s most renown conservation photographers can be an overwhelming experience, especially for a young professional. Everyone comes from a different background, science, conservation, communication, policy and business. Throw into that mix the intermingling of culture all around us, and it’s hard to know where to focus. And as any photographer can tell you, not knowing where to focus makes us just a little bit nervous.
But as the days pass, a transformation happens, and you start relating to each other as fellow human-beings with a common purpose. We are holding different parts of the puzzle and bringing it all together. We are participants. And after a few days, the mayhem begins to settle until you flow between roles and people and conversations.
I’ve been lucky. Much of this congress has focused on the role of conservation’s next generation. Of which, I am a part. I’ve had the opportunity to participate on panels, giving talks about how to use new media to further conservation messages. And work with the other young professionals on their media training day. It’s quite clear that we are here for a reason.
Last Tuesday night, many of the young professionals attended a special dinner in the ivy-walled gardens of the Piedradeagua Hotel in Merida. Fellow iLCP emerging league photographer Joe Riis was there, along with young professionals with veterinary backgrounds, community planning, and nature conservation management. And we found ourselves dining with the likes of Dr. Kenneth Miller, former Director General of the IUCN. To me this symbolized the culmination of our partnerships and the importance of meetings like the WILD9 World Wilderness Congress – a community of conservationists, each using a different toolbox, and spanning generations, but working together for the future.