First Year Results of the International Year of Caves and Karst and What’s Coming for the Second Year of the International Year, Including the 18th International Congress of Speleology!
Dr. George Veni
I think I just wrote my longest report title ever! The past year has been historic and 2022 promises equal importance. There is a lot to report from the International Union of Speleology (UIS)! This is my annual message to the 57 member countries of the UIS. As I’ve written before, together, we are all the UIS, united for the advancement of speleology. The successes of 2021 and those coming in 2022 and beyond are because of your efforts to “Explore, Understand, Protect,” the theme of our ongoing International Year of Caves and Karst.
International Year of Caves and Karst: 2021 Results
The purpose of the International Year of Caves and Karst is to teach their importance to people everywhere. The Year is not about us, but it needs us to teach that information and make sure as many people as possible learn it. And it is not something the UIS can do alone.
Currently we have 258 partner organizations, with 21 being international organizations and the rest located in 50 countries. I do not have the December events as I write this report, but together we have held at least 368 events and activities around the world! This includes lectures, books, meetings, workshops, cave clean-ups, etc., plus five governmental proclamations that I know about that officially recognize the importance of the International Year. With direct connections through video lectures and meetings, and indirect connections through the news media, tens of millions of people have learned about caves and karst in 2021!
Speleology has enjoyed many excellent and important events since the creation of the UIS in 1965, but on 13 September 2021, the most important event occurred in Paris, France, at the headquarters of UNESCO—the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
The UIS was invited by the UNESCO Director-General to celebrate the International Year of Caves and Karst at UNESCO. Until then, speleology has never had a chance to meet directly with a globally international governmental organization and to teach its leaders face-to-face about the importance of caves and karst. For decades, cavers struggled to get their local, regional, and national leaders to protect caves and karst. For decades, cave scientists struggled for respect in the scientific community. The worst of those times are now behind us. Together, we have made great progress, which led us to UNESCO. The celebration there marks not only a great achievement for speleology, but a new beginning. (To watch the celebration at UNESCO, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-ylDYpPfjQ&t=2181s.)
We should all be proud of that incredible event and use it to inspire our work, especially for the International Year. More importantly, we must see that celebration as an opportunity to advance speleology in ways not possible until now. The UIS is continuing to meet with UNESCO staff and representatives to build on the celebration and the goals of the International Year. Like with the International Year, the UIS Bureau cannot succeed alone in teaching governmental and other leaders. We need everyone to participate.
By supporting each other, we can continue doing great things. More importantly, we need to aspire and reach for greater things. Cave and karst science is now respected globally. We must use that respect, and the credibility that UNESCO gave us through their invitation, to seek meetings at higher government levels for better protection and management. We must use that respect and credibility to request more funding for research and exploration of caves. By showing this international respect to the news media, we can get more publicity and use them to help us teach the public about the value of caves and karst.
International Year of Caves and Karst: What is Coming in 2022
As we start the second year of the International Year of Caves and Karst (extended because of COVID), I call on every speleologist to double their efforts in reaching and teaching the world about these fabulous places we hold dear because we are the people who understand how truly special they are. I ask all of you to plan more events and activities and reach out to bigger audiences and higher people in your societies and governments. Proudly tell them that UNESCO invited us to celebrate caves and karst with them because caves and karst are important, sensitive to damage, and need protection. Make it clear that you are not alone and that the international community supports the theme of the International Year: Explore, Understand, Protect.
As you organize events for 2022, please remember and do three things:
- Announce them on the International Year website: www.iyck2021.org. Go to “Events” and then “Announcements.” Send them in the simple format you see to the website manager’s address listed near the top of the page. No event is too small or local. Every event is important!
- Make the events hybrid. While the COVID pandemic is tragic, it was good for the International Year in some ways. Lectures and programs that normally would have been heard by only a few people in person have been watched live and recorded by thousands globally, making our outreach much greater. Not every physical event can be hybrid, but please include virtual access to your events whenever possible.
- Post your event results on the International Year website. The event results are the same as the announcements, except “For more information” is replaced by “Event report,” which can be links to videos, websites, new media, or a short, written summary of how many people attended and what was accomplished. Sending this event report may be the most important thing you can do. At the end of 2022, the UIS will compile all the results into one document to record what happened during the International Year. Our hope is that everyone will use that document to prove the international importance and support for caves and karst to develop more funding for exploration, research, and management, and to create better laws for protection when 2022 has passed.
I am not promising that you will see instant results and support from your work on the International Year of Caves and Karst. I am promising that if we continue working together, around the world, that the increase in knowledge and appreciation for caves and karst will grow until we see clear and positive results everywhere. Remember that a rising tide lifts all boats. In some places such success may only come after many years, but it will come and be made easier as the truth of our work surrounds and fills all nations.
18th International Congress of Speleology: A Must-Do Event!
Every four years the UIS organizes the world’s most important event for caves, the International Congress of Speleology. The next one is planned for 24-31 July 2022 in Savoie – Mont Blanc, France (https://uis2021.speleos.fr/). Because of the pandemic, this 18th Congress was delayed one year but we have high hopes that it will be best ever. Why?
- Spectacularly beautiful location.
- Many trips to fantastic and diverse caves in the region.
- Excellent facilities in which to meet.
- 20 symposia on all speleological topics!
- Over 500 abstracts submitted. The most for any congress!!
- Celebration of the International Year of Caves and Karst!!!
The 18th International Congress will be the major event for the International Year. In addition to the regular events of a congress, more and special events are planned to celebrate the International Year. The events are not only fun, but important for our progress to better “Explore, Understand, Protect” our caves and karst.
We are inviting dignitaries from governments and influential organizations to join us in Savoie -Mont Blanc. This is where you will help make both the International Year and Congress a success. Your enthusiastic presence and reports on exploration, research, and other activities will prove to all the value of caves and karst. The dignitaries and leaders will leave the congress knowing they must support our work and provide better funding for studies and laws for protection.
Of course, we all have some uncertainty about COVID. The Congress Organizing Committee is working to make the Congress as safe as possible and to include as many people as possible, but they may be limited by government rules that can change quickly as the virus changes. They appreciate your patience and understanding of these difficult circumstances.
When the Congress date is near and there is more certainty, specific information on any Congress restrictions will be posted as it becomes available. Until then, here are three things to know and do so your trip to France will be safe, possible, and pleasant:
- Get vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, you may not be allowed into France. Also, check the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (below) to verify that your vaccine is accepted in France.
- Get a QR code on your vaccination document. Many tourist sites, restaurants, and other businesses in France require a passe sanitaire (health pass) for entry. This is easy to do through information at https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/coronavirus-advice-for-foreign-nationals-in-france/applying-for-a-covid-certificate-if-you-were-vaccinated-abroad-procedure-for/, but only if your vaccination document has a QR code. If it does not have a QR code, ask the health organization in your country how to add a QR code to your vaccination document.
- Follow the French Ministry of Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for the latest COVID updates and information: https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/coronavirus-advice-for-foreign-nationals-in-france/.
Assuming we make good progress with the pandemic, I urge you to please come to the International Congress. The deadline for early registration prices is 27 March 2022. Enjoy the excellent caves, fabulous food, and exquisite scenery of southeast France. Come to the Congress to meet old friends and make many new friends. And come to the Congress so that the impact of the International Year shines a bright light for speleology far into the future.
For more information about the UIS, visit www.uis-speleo.org. Under “Publications” you will find the UIS Bulletin which has our latest news.