IGES Chairman Treasures Biodiversity of New Zealand
June 28, 2012
Wayne T. Chen, Chairman of the IGES Board of Directors, has long wondered: is New Zealand as mystical, magical, and energetic as portrayed in movies, magazines and the media? After a recent vacation to the country, Chen says: “New Zealand is all of those things and more.”
Located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean about 1400 miles from Australia, New Zealand boasts a wide variety of plant and animal life, scenery and environments all nestled in a single country. According to Wayne and his wife Randi, coastlines, rainforests, snow-capped mountains, thermal pools, craters, glaciers, and more can all be found in very short distances.
After visiting locations such as a Maori middle school, a Merino sheep farm and the mining town of Reefton, Chen realized that this striking biodiversity is not only beautiful to watch and experience, but is also an important part of the life of New Zealanders — or Kiwis, as they refer to themselves.
“New Zealand’s biodiversity – everything from semi-tropical vegetation to vast coastlines, alpine mountain ranges, and glaciers in an area less than 3% of the United States — has a major influence on its economy and social values,” said Chen.
With nature a big part of their daily lives, Kiwis struggle to find the balance between preservation and development, as well as how to address threats from non-indigenous species to forests and native species. If national initiatives to eradicate these dangers do not succeed, Chen explained, New Zealand’s forests could be completely destroyed within 70 years. “Kiwis are very focused on winning this very real and potentially economically devastating battle,” he added.
In the face of climate change impacting ecosystems around the planet, these challenges are not limited to New Zealand. Despite being more concentrated and intense in Kiwi country, Chen notes that the United States faces similar biodiversity and environmental threats. The United States benefits its size and more intellectual and financial resources, but these will not be enough. “The impact of our environmental problems will be just as devastating on us if not addressed in a timely manner,” Chen said. “Time waits for no person or nation.”
Chen’s experience in New Zealand serves as a poignant reminder of the principles that drove him to become involved in the work of IGES in the first place. The challenges faced in that country are no different from those experienced around the planet, for large and small nations alike.
As Chen noted, “New Zealand is a proud nation struggling to find its niche in the global economy while protecting its culture.” Addressing concerns about the sustainability of its much treasured biodiversity is a key part of that and of ensuring that its mystical, magical, and energetic nature will continue to draw visitors to its shores.
Note: All pictures courtesy of Wayne Chen.