3: National parks
National parks haven’t been with us long. In 1864, US President Abraham Lincoln signed over to the State of California the care of what would later become Yosemite National Park. Soon after – in 1872 – Yellowstone became the world’s first established national park. Today, merely 140 years later, the world has 6,555 national parks under the Category II protected area standard of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Each Category II reserve must be a large natural area that preserves biodiversity and ecosystems and must also serve as a public resource for research, education, inspiration and recreation. National parks – which cover a vast range of ecosystems, from rainforests or deserts to glaciers and beyond – are also just a small part of the massive network of protected areas worldwide: in 1911, the globe’s cumulative protected areas covered 250,000 square kilometres, which has risen to 8.1 million square kilometres today.