For The Good Of Nature


Date: 12/04/23

The dominant narrative about protecting and enhancing nature and biodiversity is rooted in the risk to humans of nature’s deterioration. For years this story has not been persuasive, and a key target from COP15 in Montreal in December 2022 is, by 2030, to formally protect and conserve 30% of the world’s oceans and 30% of Earth’s land surface (30x30). To what end? For the good of humans or for nature’s own sake?

Through the human-centred lenses of natural capital and ecosystem services, the business and economic case for halting and reversing biodiversity loss is dominant and compelling. The case rests on risk to the range of services nature provides to us that are used by commercial enterprises, from food, clean air and water, pollination, natural ingredients in medicines, wood and oil for construction and fuel. But, given the unrelenting assault on nature documented in a landmark UN report in 2019, it’s clear the ecosystems services argument has so far proved unconvincing to business, policymakers and the general public. For the latter, in particular, this message may well be poorly understood, since individuals mostly don’t take purchasing and lifestyle decisions based on business case criteria.

Climate communicators now accept that scare tactics have not worked in convincing people that climate change is urgent and matters to them; a more tailored message incorporating human stories that appeal to human values and worldviews is more likely to be successful. So why do we continue to lean into economic arguments to convince people that biodiversity is so important?

Saving nature for its own sake

30x30, inspired by E.O. Wilson’s Half Earth proposal to protect 50% of the planet’s habitats so that wild species can thrive, is about conservation. The science of conservation biology is rooted in ecocentrism – the belief that Earth’s ecosystems have their own intrinsic value, unrelated to services they may provide to humans, and that their unethical destruction holds greater significance than the loss of ecosystem services.

Many indigenous communities believe in nature’s intrinsic value, have a profound connection with it on a spiritual and cultural level, and are deeply embedded in its natural cycles - from plants, insects and animals, to rivers and mountains, and to Mother Earth herself - which may explain why they are the greatest custodians of nature and biodiversity.

Is it time to put more emphasis on saving nature for its own sake, for its own beauty and right to existence, and not for its utility? Is it time to appeal more to humans’ natural emotions of empathy, appreciation of beauty and wonder? Children find nature fascinating and instinctively want to protect it, from miniscule ants to roaring tigers, from tiny saplings to ancient oaks. Let’s learn from this and harness these powerful emotions more effectively in our 30x30 quest.

Lene Bryant, Learning Manager.

Banner Image Credit: S Lehmann 2010

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