by Jo Overty, project manager, UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man
If you are reading this and live on the Isle of Man, congratulations. You are a citizen of a UNESCO biosphere.
UNESCO is the educational, scientific and cultural arm of the United Nations.
Both were formed in the aftermath of World War II to foster unity and understanding.
UNESCO has a number of programs, perhaps the best known being World Heritage sites.
UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program recognizes areas that have special characteristics that deserve to be cherished and enhanced – and where people are committed to making the most of them, benefit this area and the planet as a whole.
Although there are 724 biospheres in 129 countries, the Isle of Man stands out as the only ‘whole nation’ biosphere, land and sea (the sea, up to our 12 mile territorial limit, is in fact nearly nine. tenths of the area of ââour biosphere).
But what does the UNESCO designation of the Isle of Man mean to us as a population and what benefits does it bring us?
And how can you get involved in what is your biosphere.
Globally, UNESCO’s biospheres promote three ideals – sustainable development, conservation and learning. They are sometimes called âsustainable development projectsâ.
The MAB program balances the need to grow economically and to live, work, travel and consume, as we all must, with the requirement to conserve particular attributes, be they landscapes, habitats and heritage. built, culture and even language to less tangible attributes. such as our âsense of placeâ and what makes us unique.
The program encourages learning, through research and education, about lifestyles that balance the needs of sustainable development and conservation.
With biospheres spanning six continents and covering 5% of the earth’s surface, it follows that they are all very different, politically, economically, geographically, culturally and in terms of environments and ecosystems, (the name variety of life-giving characteristics that are part of it) and have different priorities.
UNESCO therefore encourages its biospheres to create their own local objectives and ambitions, complementary and feeding the three global objectives of the MAB Program.
The goals and ambitions of the Isle of Man Biosphere are reflected in our recently released document âWorking Together for a Sustainable Futureâ, which sets out a vision where people and the rest of nature have a sustainable future.
We must remember that people are part of nature, not separate from it or superior to it.
The Biosphere program is anchored in the environment and its agents are based at the Ministry of the Environment, Food and Agriculture.
But the strategy is designed by the UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man Stakeholder Partnership Group, chaired by the Chief Minister and made up of members of public, private and third-sector organizations representing a wide variety of interests and from local perspectives.
The objectives and ambitions of our biosphere revolve around five Es: economy, education, engagement, pleasure and environment.
Whether it’s choosing us as a place with a conscience for new residents or promoting sustainable tourism and local products, our Biosphere status brings us an economic advantage.
At a time when the threats weighing on it are widely publicized, encouraging people to take an interest in, value and act for our environment can only help it.
Educating people on how they can live more sustainable lives is the first step in making the decisions we need to help our planet.
Engaging our community in the biosphere and its possibilities and demonstrating how they can play their role, individually or in collaboration, is another important objective.
And finally, encouraging people to enjoy life on the island and celebrate all that it has to offer is another ambition. This seems especially important as we come back to life after shutdowns that have isolated us and impacted well-being.
We encourage everyone to visit our website and take a look at our five Es in their entirety. We hope there is something out there that everyone can engage in and get involved with.
The UNESCO Biosphere team on the Isle of Man will lead their own projects under each of the E’s, in addition to the projects we are already running. We will go into them in more detail in our next article.
But we encourage everyone to connect and collaborate through our biosphere, with your own positive projects and initiatives.
There is already great work going on, throughout our community, and we hope that being a biosphere encourages even more.
We cannot offer funding (available from other great sources and grant programs), but we can offer encouragement, support and publicity, depending on the nature of the initiative.
And, most importantly, our collaborative efforts will be judged by the MAB Program when it conducts what is known as our periodic review, 10 years after the start of our life as a biosphere.
This review will examine how we have all embraced the principle of being a biosphere, for the benefit of our people and the planet.
Of course, “Working together for a sustainable future” complements the policies and goals of the Isle of Man government and other organizations, covering climate change, biodiversity, reduction of single-use plastics, food. and drinks, culture, the arts, heritage – to name a few.
The designation of the biosphere is not a mark of perfection. Nowhere is perfect. There is no normative list of what you can and cannot do in a biosphere, because they are all so different.
Instead, it’s a driver for thoughtful decision-making – across our community, as individuals, organizations and government.
It’s always encouraging to hear people say âwe should do this because we are a biosphereâ, because it means that we value and respect our hard-earned status and want it to move our island forward as a biosphere. place where we are proud to live, work and visit – and as a place where we all work together for a sustainable future.
Please visit our website www.biosphere.im, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn and feel free to contact us via [email protected]
Next week: the work that UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man is already doing and how we plan to deliver the five E.