Two representatives of the IAT International Council, John Calder of Nova Scotia and Don Hudson of Maine, participated in an Irish conference organized by Dhúiche Sheoigheach & Lochanna an Iarthair – Joyce Country and Western Lakes Geopark Project to explore the role that geology can play in the lives, culture, and economy of communities and regions that host Geoparks.

Four sessions of presentations covering sustainable development, traditional crafts, wild edible plants, tourism and the Irish language among other topics were held on June 15 and 16, 2021. The conference program and links to recordings of all the presentation can be found here.

The noted Canadian geoscientist John Calder, who lives and works in Nova Scotia spoke in the first session about geoparks and sustainable development. John’s talk, titled “New Geoparks in Canada: Geology and local community development” can be viewed here (beginning at the 30.08 minute mark).

Current Geoparks in Canada

John is the Chair of the Canadian Geopark Network and spoke of the growing role that geoparks play in local and regional economic development.  There are 5 UNESCO Global Geoparks in Canada; 6 more are aspiring (Paul Wylezol of IAT Newfoundland & Labrador and Co-Chair of the IAT Council, is spearheading Cabox aspiring geopark on the west coast of Newfoundland). John addressed right up front the involvement of indigenous people of Canada in the development of geoparks, quoting the Mi’kmaw expression, “No stories about us without us,” which speaks of the need to center the voices and stories of the native people who have for so long been left out of the decisions taken by others that impact their lives and their homelands. John especially emphasized that geoparks are about and for all the people who live within them. After citing numerous examples of the positive impact that geoparks and geotourism have already made in their regions, he emphasized the need for creating sustainable development goals for any geopark to be successful.

Maine IAT President and IAT Council Co-chair Don Hudson spoke in the fourth session of the conference on “Tourism and Networking”, on June 16. Don’s talk, titled “The International Appalachian Trail: Celebrating people, places and shared geoheritage” can be viewed here (beginning at the 2:59 minute mark).

Don reviewed the story of the IAT with particular attention to the role that geology and geoheritage –stories about Earth history that are accessible to lay people – have played in the growth and development of the trail. Geology was a small sidebar when the IAT was proposed in 1994, and over the years it has moved from being an afterthought to being at the heart of nearly every story about the trail.

The network of trails that comprise the IAT share common history around the North Atlantic, and the relationship is expressed and celebrated in many languages and cultures.

Anyone thinking of hiking on the IAT in Ulster Ireland might also wish to explore the Joyce Country and Western Lakes Geopark.

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