Pangea World
Don Lehr, The Nolan/Lehr Group
Public Affairs Consultant for Pangea World
Monday, September 13, 2010

Poor in Dollars, Rich in Biodiversity:
Using Luxury Tourism and Science to Rethink
the Potential of Knowledge Economy

An international effort to join environmental conservation and scientific research with luxury tourism to empower nations to create immense wealth from the knowledge held within their natural resources will launch on Sunday, September 19 at the United Nations International School in New York.

Led by Pangea World, a California-based corporation comprised of representatives from government, science, academia and the corporate world, the effort calls for a sweeping program that positions the international resort industry as the pivotal link in saving enormous swaths of delicate, endangered ecosystems around the globe and creates a sustainable, vibrant economic base for the world’s poorer nations.

The program, outlined in a Pangea World-authored study, “The Economic Power of Wonder: From Oil Wealth to Knowledge Wealth®,” asserts that through scientific research and discoveries, biodiverse sites offer the potential for enormous wealth comparable to the riches generated by petroleum in the 20th century. Since the realignment from “oil to knowledge” will require a substantial economic investment, at least initially, the program argues that the hospitality industry – which often is already geographically tied to these precious eco-zones – can provide that boost.

The study’s roadmap for implementation includes a blueprint for an alliance of the hospitality industry and the scientific world, one that catalyzes new wealth for economically depressed populations without regard to national borders while rewriting the standards of sophistication and purpose in world travel.

Speakers and participants at the September 19 launch, which parallels the High-level Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly set to begin September 20 during the U.N.-designated International Year of Biodiversity, include:

  • Sylvia Howard Fuhrman, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations;
  • Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, President of the Republic of the Fiji Islands;
  • Anote Tong, President of Kiribati;
  • Winston Thompson, Ambassador of the Republic of the Fiji Islands to the United States;
  • Dr. Michael T. Clegg, foreign secretary of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine;
  • Dr. Adam S. Wilkins, an editor of the journal Genetics, and Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, UK; and
  • Dr. Hana Ayala, president and founder of Pangea World.

Ayala, formerly a professor in the School of Social Ecology at the University of California, Irvine, says the event could mark a paradigm shift in economic fortunes for many of the world’s poorer nations that hold vast stores of natural capital ready to serve as sustainable, long-term resources of knowledge for advances in medicine, agriculture, and the sciences.

Fortunately, Ayala notes, the very nations holding enormous reserves of “knowledge resources” are also among the world’s most desirable luxury travel destinations.  Investments in tourism and hotel infrastructure in these countries can potentially stoke highly synergistic investments in research infrastructure, creating a potent mix of funding and know-how to efficiently tap these resources.  Pangea World contends such a “hospitality-science alliance” can fortify the competitive advantage of poorer nations in the global economy while also benefiting the international community by sharing the knowledge stored there.

“Just as the world currently accepts the value of ‘petro dollars,’ we envision a day in the not too distant future when people give even greater value to ‘knowledge ore,’” says Ayala.  “The world’s coral reefs, rainforests and other important biologically rich areas offer incredible promise for enriching parts of the world now suffering in poverty, in much the same way that oil enriched nations that were once among the world’s poorest.”

She adds, “Yet while oil is a finite resource, however, knowledge ore can last forever.”

Pangea World’s first attempt at establishing this new economic model and its first foray into the enormous and biodiverse natural heritage sites across the many Pacific Island nation states, along the envisioned “Pacific Bridge to Noble Wealth,” is expected to be a flagship launch site in Fiji.  The multi-nation approach, according to the Pangea World study, underscores that resources available in the area can only be fully assessed, harnessed, valued and protected in the context of evolutionary, ecological, and other relationships across geographies and political boundaries.

Critical to the project’s success will be the need for cooperation among these nations, something Pangea World hopes will be furthered as countries realize the benefits of the program to their environments, economies and the lives of their citizens and to the global community.

“The challenge for the Pacific Island Countries lies in the adaptation of the Pangea World economic model to convert the vast reservoir of untapped marine, land and biodiversity natural heritage sites’ knowledge resource to propel and sustain the knowledge economy into the future,” said His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, the President of Fiji.  “The ‘Pacific Bridge to Noble Wealth’ endeavor would certainly provide small Pacific Island Countries with the impetus for investment in scientific research and capacity building as it will increasingly determine the future economic competitiveness and resilience of the countries.  The Pangea World development concept provides a great opportunity for close partnership and networking involving investors, developers, planners, the scientific community, economic, corporate and government entities and also amongst nations in working towards sustainable development goals.”

President Anote Tong of the Republic of Kiribati added, “This endeavour complements well national marine conservation initiatives such as the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and the Pacific Oceanscape which aim at enhancing coherence and collaboration in the management of national conservation areas in the Pacific region.  The Framework for the Pacific Oceanscape was endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their meeting in Vanuatu last month.  The Pacific Bridge to Noble Wealth advocated under the Pangea World Project provides the economic rationale for protecting the natural heritage of future generations and it is an innovative concept which offers options available at a time when climate change has highlighted human abuse of this planet.”

Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Apisai Ielemia, also endorses the Pangea World development model.  "My thanks, appreciation and encouragement to Dr. Ayala for her continued interest in exploring potential opportunities available in the Pacific that integrate knowledge-based economies and tourism industries for sustainable development,” said Ielemia.  “I share the same vision of building sustainable prosperity for the people of Tuvalu."

Among the many challenges facing Pangea World is developing a science-based approach to valuation of the world’s environmental heritage sites that might then lead to successful policy implementation among economic, corporate, and governmental agencies.  Dr. Michael Clegg, the National Academy of Sciences foreign secretary and a Pangea World director, insists they are ready for that step.

“The genius of the Pangea concept is that it presents an approach to sustainability firmly grounded in a business model that provides an enduring source of revenue while preserving and harnessing the wealth of knowledge represented in the natural evolution of the tropical Pacific and its relationships and affinities with other parts of the world,” says Clegg.  “This creative linkage – applicable to other geographical contexts – promises good livelihoods for the peoples of the Pacific and sustainable use of marine resources of this unique region.  Pangea World’s model combines science and commerce in a way that is sustainable and meets socially desirable ends.”

One certain beneficiary of the program will be the world’s threatened ecosystems.  By shifting financial pressures away from development and exploitation to preservation and exploration, these biologically diverse parts of the earth can be preserved in perpetuity.

The key, say Pangea World organizers, will be to reconfigure the current economic model so that the knowledge potentially derived from rainforests, coral reefs and other habitats of great scientific interest – the knowledge ore “premium” – becomes a recognized economic asset ideally suited for advancement by a tourism trade that has long been a presence in these locations.  Tourism economy and knowledge economy – treated as two distinct development scenarios so far – could merge and become an engine for prosperity and environmental benefits throughout the world.

While Ayala acknowledges the task ahead is formidable, the rewards are immeasurable.  “If we do nothing, the world’s entire ecosystem is at risk,” she says.  “If we act now, we have an unprecedented opportunity to fortify a knowledge bank with incalculable value to strengthen and sustain the emerging global knowledge economy, one that could elevate the conservation of this planet’s most exquisite and vulnerable places into an economic imperative.”

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