Establishing National Geoparks in Germany
- The advancement of research and the general public's awareness of the importance of expenditure on science are a key concern of the initiative Public Understanding of Science and the Humanities (PUSH) because knowledge and the analysis of knowledge will become more important worldwide for the development of our societies in the new millenium.
The geosciences are of particular importance with regard to the conflicting aims of the increasingly intensive use of our planet and its resources on the one hand and the preservation of living conditions on planet Earth and the protection of our environment in the face of a steadily growing world population on the other hand.
- In order to achieve these goals, the Federal Government, the Donor's Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany and the big research organizations have launched the Science Dialogue initiative. Using all means of modern communications, all relevant social groups are invited to enter into a dialogue with the scientific community.
In such a dialogue, scientists are called upon to present research in such a way that the general public will get a better understanding of their work. Geoscientists must make people aware of the fact that systematic study of the geological past of the Earth is often necessary in order to make reliable forecasts and draw up concepts for the future of our planet.
- Within the framework of the Science Dialogue initiative, each year one dicipline is selected in Germany as a thematic focus for intensive discussion with all segments of the population. 2002 was proclaimed the Year of the Geosciences under the slogan "planeterde - 2002 Year of the Geosciences" while the two preceding years had been devoted to physics and the life sciences respectively.
The tremendous response of the population to the Year of the Geosciences 2002 has shown that the general public has a great interest in geoscience topics. This has resulted in the opportunity, and the need, for the geoscience community in Germany to increasingly meet the demand of the population for more information and a more intensive dialogue on geoscience issues. Two vital elements of this initiative are the Day of the Geotope to be celebrated on 6 October of each year and the establishment of national geoparks.
- Through the presentation, preservation and sustainable use of our geological heritage, national geoparks in Germany are to contribute to achieving the goals of the Agenda 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, Rio de Janeiro 1992) and the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD, Johannesburg 2002).
National geoparks are to bring home to a broad public and allow them to experience the importance of geological and geomorphological processes for our natural resources, as well as for land use, surface shaping processes and economic and cultural history. For such an approach to be effective, it is necessary that all parties concerned and the various scientific disciplines cooperate. Aspects of economic development will be included in plans with a view to promoting tourism and recreational facilities.
- National geoparks can be awarded the logo "planeterde - Welt der Geowissenschaften" for a period of five years by the Alfred Wegener Foundation for the Advancement of the Geosciences (AWS) in agreement with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The logo will be awarded in accordance with relevant rules. Applicants are advised by the Staatlicher Geologischer Dienst - SGD (Geological Service) in the respective Land and they then submit their applications to the AWS. The SGD as the competent authority provides guidance and support for the projects and gives its expert comment vis-à-vis the respective Land administrations.
- In accordance with the decision of its Executive Board at its 161st session in June 2002, UNESCO intends to provide support to and cooperate with national initiatives devoted to the launching of geoparks. As part of a planned worldwide UNESCO network of national parks with significant geological features, an individual geopark should be designed to become a tool furthering a better understanding of our geological heritage and the wise use of our planet Earth by sensitizing the broad public to a balanced relationship between humankind and Earth.
With the assistance of UNESCO, geoparks are to promote the three goals of conserving a healthy environment, providing earth sciences education in general and fostering sustainable economic local development. Therefore, one central principle of the geoparks should be that the sites or areas must be capable of acting as a focus of economic activity, particularly through geotourism.
Bonn/Paris, den 6.9.2002