A Geopark holds history, community and progression at the heart of its definition.
Global Geoparks became an official programme within the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2015. UNESCO Global Geoparks are places where outstanding geological heritage is used to support sustainable development through conservation, education, community engagement and sustainable tourism.
To hold Geopark status, a region must have a geological heritage of international significance. This could be through it’s outstanding natural beauty, it’s contribution to scientific research or because it holds great educational value, teaching communities, present and future about our incredible past.
You may be wondering “What makes a Geopark different from a World Heritage Site?”.
The difference is that Geopark’s have a strong commitment to the direct benefit of the local economy, local community and the future of the site. This can be achieved through attraction of visitors, the creation of jobs and the subsequent generation of new businesses in the area.
Geoparks are also key players in the education, development and preservation of local people. They play an active role in educating communities about sustainable geotourism, Earth’s geological history, and help identify the links between geological and territorial heritage.
It’s also important to note, Geoparks are not just about Geology. They encompass sites of archaeological and historical significance, areas with a wealth of flora and fauna and sites that are home to stories and folklore that are too beautiful and significant to be forgotten. (After all, it’s often been the geology that has birthed these wonderful features!) Geoparks explore and respect these important features, through a range of activities.
A Geopark is a celebration of Earth, humanity, and the links that bind them. It bridges the gaps between the area’s natural, cultural and intangible heritages and gifts communities with knowledge, pride and the know-how to actively take part in the celebration and conservation of their land. The ethos of the Geopark is to inspire, to sustain, and to be inclusive of tradition, culture and history. They value and admire the communities built within and around them, and they celebrate the ties between humanity and nature.
By engaging with a Geopark, we can learn about all that has come before us, how it has shaped our world, and how we can sustain and improve our environment.
At present there are 169 UNESCO Global Geoparks across 44 countries around the world. All UNESCO Global Geoparks are members of the Global Geoparks Network (GGN). The GGN is a dynamic network where members work together to share examples of good practice and join together in common projects. For more information on the European and Global Geoparks Network why not visit www.europeangeoparks.org or www.globalgeopark.org.
Presently, there are 2 UNESCO Global Geoparks in Ireland and 7 in the UK. Click on the link below to find out more:
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