Shareholder activism: Standing up for sustainability?


Doing science Differently: Co-producing Conservation outcomes


Strengthening collaborative And inclusive strategies for Deforestation-free policies An evidence-based approach For the soy supply chain

project timeline

Biodiversity Revisited

If the decline in biodiversity is a problem, why have efforts to conserve it been ineffective? Is there a more inherent problem in how ‘biodiversity’ is conceptualised and managed that undermines actions? Biodiversity Revisited is the first comprehensive review of the concepts, narratives, governance, science, systems and futures underpinning biodiversity science since the emergence of the term in the 1980s. The initiative aspires to spark – in future generations of researchers – a new and more interdisciplinary set of pathways for research toward regenerating just and diverse life on Earth, and has resulted in an innovative research and action agenda.

Collaborating institutions

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“What’s wrong with biodiversity?”

The Biodiversity Revisited idea is born.


Late 2018 – early 2019

The team, governance, themes and approach to Biodiversity Revisited are designed.

February 2019

A robust governance is put in place for oversight and the #BiodiversityRevisited conversation thread is born on social media

March 2019

Cambridge consultation: first response to the Biodiversity Revisited proposition from an international test group of early-career and diverse professionals

May 2019

“Biodiversity Revisited is an exciting project. It offers an urgently needed opportunity to reframe the research agenda and the debate. In a time of growing global commitment to action for nature, it could not be more timely,”
says Jim Leape, William and Eva Price Senior Fellow at Stanford Woods, Institute for the Environment; Co-director, Center for Ocean Solutions.


© Jessica Villat Luc Hoffmann Institute
September 2019

The Biodiversity Revisited Symposium takes place in Vienna, bringing together interdisciplinary thinkers including journalists and scientists from the natural and social sciences. This picture shows the early career essay competition winners who joined the symposium.

June – October 2019

The #BiodiversityRevisited conversation skyrockets on social media. Luc Hoffmann Institute Twitter followers triple from 1000 to almost 3000 followers.

The Luc Hoffmann Institute on Twitter

© Jon Hutton – Luc Hoffmann Institute
February 2020

A core group of 18 members of the Biodiversity Revisited initiative meets at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center to begin drafting an innovative, five-year research agenda in an environment that facilitates deep, creative thinking.

© Jon Hutton – Luc Hoffmann Institute
23-24 February 2020

At the World Biodiversity Forum, 20 members of the Biodiversity Revisited initiative, including many early career essay contest winners, meet at The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center to advance the development of the research agenda.

February 2020

The essay compilation Seeds of Change is published based on foundation questions for the discussions at the Biodiversity Revisited Symposium in September 2019. The essays explore new concepts, narratives, science, governance and systems for a diverse and just future for life on Earth.

Seeds of Change

11 June 2020

A panel of three emerging, cross-sectoral leaders come together virtually with Melanie Ryan, Head of Programme, to discuss the development of the Biodiversity Revisited initiative as part of the WWF Fuller Science for Nature series.

Fuller Seminar video

1 July 2020

The Biodiversity Revisited research and action agenda is published, rethinking the approach to biodiversity research for the coming years, with justice and diverse voices at the centre of our efforts.

Research and action agenda


In 2020, engagement grew across the media – especially digital and academic – building on existing Biodiversity Revisited narratives. As a Nature Sustainability article published in August 2020 gained traction in social media communities, Biodiversity Revisited’s principles and messages found new and different audiences. #BiodiversityRevisited has been mentioned thousands of times on Twitter to date, with journal citations including in Cambridge University’s Environmental Conservation further fuelling online conversations as well as a feature in the NOMIS Foundation’s SPARKS magazine.


© Karine Aigner_WWF-US

In 2021 and beyond, fresh ideas, narratives and engaged networks continue to transform into action through research, policy and practice for nature and people. Networks of engaged partners and participants further embed the Biodiversity Revisited story, ideas and new framings into their activities of teaching, sharing knowledge and designing global networks and projects for research.

Timeline ends here

Related resources

Biodiversity revisited through systems thinking
A co-authored paper from Biodiversity Revisited contributors published in Environmental Conservation in January 2021.

Public Seminar – Sustaining Diverse and Just Futures: Insights from the Biodiversity Revisited Initiative
A November 2020 public seminar sharing  insights from Biodiversity Revisited, led by Carina Wyborn at the Australian National University’s Fenner School of Environment and Science.

Framing the Future of Environmental Conservation
Building on his August 2020 Environmental Conservation article, an October 2020 blog written by Professor Kevin Elliott.

The Need for Improved Reflexivity in Conservation Science
A co-authored paper from Biodiversity Revisited contributors published in Environmental Conservation in September 2020.

A Collaborative Process (subscription required)
An interview published in Nature Sustainability in August 2020 with the Luc Hoffmann Institute’s Director, Dr. Jon Hutton, and Head of Programme, Melanie Ryan.

Imagining Transformative Biodiversity Futures
A collaborative article published in Nature Sustainability in August 2020, imagined and written by a collective of authors from the Biodiversity Revisited initiative.

Research Agenda
On 1 July 2020, the Biodiversity Revisited research and action agenda was published. A culmination of the two-year Biodiversity Revisited collaboration, the agenda charts a course for more effective biodiversity research and action for the next five years and beyond, putting justice at the centre of our efforts.

Starting New Conversations to Re-think Biodiversity Research and Action
Five Future Earth scientists who participated in the Biodiversity Revisited initiative share their perspectives on the process and importance of rethinking biodiversity and collaborating to create the research agenda.

Fuller Seminar
In June 2020, a panel of three emerging, cross-sectoral leaders came together virtually with Melanie Ryan, Head of Programme, to discuss the development of the Biodiversity Revisited initiative as part of the WWF Fuller Science for Nature series.

Seeds of Change
A February 2020 compilation of provocative essays that formed the basis of the discussions at the Biodiversity Revisited Symposium in September 2019, Seeds of Change explores new concepts, narratives, science, governance and systems for a diverse and just future for life on Earth.

Biodiversity revisited – biodiversity accelerated
A March 2019 thought piece by Jon Hutton, Director at the Luc Hoffmann Institute.

The power of gathering
A September 2019 thought piece by Melanie Ryan, Head of Programme (ad-interim) at the Luc Hoffmann Institute.

Putting back what we’ve taken from the world’s forests
An independent thought piece brought to you by Colin Chapman (a Professor at George Washington University) and Claire Hemingway (a Program Officer at the National Science Foundation).

Blinded by our heroic fantasies?
An independent thought piece brought to you by Josie Chambers, a postdoc at Cambridge University and the Luc Hoffmann Institute.

Is what we’re doing working?
An independent thought piece brought to you by Victoria Pilbeam, a Senior Consultant at Clear Horizon Consulting.

Bridging aspirations and biodiversity conservation
An independent thought piece brought to you by Dr Santiago Izquierdo-Tort, a Consultant at Natura y Ecosistemas Mexicanos and a Senior Researcher at ITAM Centre for Energy. and Natural Resources.

When is growth good enough?
An independent thought piece brought to you by Natalie Knowles, a PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo.

Does extinction matter?
An independent thought piece by Dr Niki Rust, a StrategicCommunications Adviser at the Luc Hoffmann Institute.

The concept of ‘palimpsest’ to reorient biodiversity
An independent thought piece brought to you by Tlacaelel Rivera Núñez.

Perceiving the livingscapes we are within
An independent thought piece brought to you by Madhurya Balan, Collaborator at The Forest Way.

Biotic diversity revisited
An independent thought piece by Daniel P. Faith of the Australian Museum Research Institute in Sydney, Australia.

Revisiting biodiversity in a village of mixed perspectives
An independent thought piece by Carina Wyborn and Jasper Montana.

An Open Letter to Conservation
An independent thought piece by Elliot Connor, founder of Human Nature.

project timeline

Better nature

How can the world shift from a negative discourse of looming ecological disaster to a more positive, solutions-oriented discourse? The Better Nature initiative (formerly called ‘Conservation Futures’) offers a support platform to accelerate innovative ideas in the field of law, finance and technology to change the rules of the game in favour of environmental regeneration.


In 2017, the Luc Hoffmann Institute and the United Nations Environment Programme co-created this initiative to explore fresh perspectives and new approaches to nature conservation, aiming to work with key actors to mobilise the most promising innovations.

Who we are working with

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March 2018

The Luc Hoffmann Institute and UNEP convene global actors from the communication, finance and technology sectors.

July 2018

The Luc Hoffmann Institute refines the initiative in a global review process with 100 experts.

December 2018

Erik Solheim, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, endorses and sponsors the setup of the initiative, opening and presiding over its founding meeting in Nairobi.

December 2018

“Better Nature aims to secure a central place for nature and natural resources in new and emerging conceptions of human development. It is designed to contribute to the global efforts underway to accelerate the delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As such, Better Nature is closely working with UNDP to explore adequate mechanisms for future collaboration.”

– Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.


&copy Luis Barreto WWF-UK
April 2019

The independent initiative receives a EUR 400,000 grant from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to take the initiative forward and establish a core team of three innovators. UNDP acknowledges the role of the initiative in contributing to the delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The longer-term aspiration: healthy nature is central to all human activity.

Timeline ends here

Related resources

Conservation Futures: joining the dots
An April 2018 thought piece by Adrian Dellecker, Head of Strategy and Development (ad-interim) at the Luc Hoffmann Institute.

Conservation Futures, purpose and design 
A February 2018 thought leadership publication by the Luc Hoffmann Institute, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the Oxford Martin School on the Better Nature initiative.

Conservation Futures aims to drive radical new thinking on biodiversity conservation
An October 2017 news article on the United Nations Environment Programme website describing the initiative as driving radical new thinking on biodiversity conservation.

project timeline

Seeking consensus on biodiversity priorities

In 2020, governments will agree on a new global biodiversity framework for the next 10 years. How can key stakeholder organisations find a common approach and standard for deciding on biodiversity priorities, share guidance on mapping biodiversity priorities, and agree on a global map of biodiversity priorities as a basis for development planning?


Seeking consensus on biodiversity priorities is a United Nations Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) initiative supported by the Luc Hoffmann Institute in its ideation, incubation and acceleration, with important inputs from over 10 further partners, including the National Geographic Society, the NatureMap consortium, and the biodiversity hub of the Science-Based Targets Network.

An initiative involving

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September 2019

Out of ideas and approaches developed in the 2017 and 2019 convenings, including global biodiversity maps to support advocacy ad implementation, the Nature Map Consortium creates Nature Map Earth to help governments operationalize targets for biodiversity conservation and restoration.

Nature Map Earth

April 2021

An article published in Nature Ecology & Evolution outlines an innovative way to measure progress in nature conservation and sustainable development. ‘STAR’, as the metric is called, could help the Convention on Biological Diversity’s post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework measure progress towards species restoration. It is co-authored by Jon Hutton, WWF International Global Conservation Director and former Director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute.

A metric for spatially explicit contributions to science-based species targets

Timeline ends here

Related resources

A metric for spatially explicit contributions to science-based species targets
A paper published in in Nature Ecology & Evolution in January 2021, which outlines the ‘STAR’ metric – an innovative way to measure progress in nature conservation and sustainable development.

Perspectives on area-based conservation and its meaning for future biodiversity policy
An April 2020 Conservation Biology paper summarising perspectives on area-based biodiversity conservation, based upon workshops conducted in partnership with the Luc Hoffmann Institute in February and April 2018.

Framing the Future for Biodiversity
UNEP-WCMC’s post 2020 page.


Thought piece: putting back what we’ve taken from the world’s forests

Let’s put back some of what we have taken from the world’s forests

A #BiodiversityRevisited thought piece by Colin Chapman (a Professor at George Washington University) and Claire Hemingway (a Program Officer at the National Science Foundation).

Most people are acutely aware that large swaths of forests across the globe no longer exist. Human need and greed to cut down forests was a topic of great popular concern in the 1970s. While interest in the issue declined, deforestation did not. In fact, each year the amount of land deforested in the tropics has grown, even as it became progressively harder to find unlogged forests.

Media attention is now refocusing on forests: their role in climate change and their vulnerability. The cutting and burning of forests are a significant source of carbon dioxide contributing to climate change. Thus, calls to stop widespread forest destruction and to actively plant trees to sequester carbon are mounting. Adding to this are the recent horrifying images of the Amazon forest burning and the global outcry to fight these fires.

Action must be taken, but what action?

Restoration represents a holistic conservation strategy that has largely not been appreciated for what it can provide. Thus, restoration needs to be reconceptualised so that it can provide a roadmap for future research, management, community involvement, and policy development.

At the most basic level, forest regeneration is tree planting or facilitating natural succession by protecting it from human-caused damage. However, restoration should deliver much more, as the regeneration of plant communities will encourage the recovery of fungi and animal communities, so restoration efforts should aim to promote endangered species recovery. Restored forests should also be designed to promote required ecosystem services such as watershed protection or carbon sequestration.

Restoration projects of the scale needed are labor-intensive, requiring many people to engage in activities such as seedling planting or maintaining fire lanes. They also require the cooperation of the local community not to overharvest the new trees for fuelwood or overhunt the animals from populations that the project is trying to restore. Having local community members participate in project design and hiring them to provide the needed labor could engender positive attitudes towards the project. This not only provides an economic incentive, but it should be designed to foster an ideology that Aldo Leopold would appreciate involving a love for nature. This is critical, as it is the community’s relationship with the restored forest that will determine the success after any externally funded project ends. Shifting to a holistic, integrated concept of restoration offers the greatest promise and benefits.

The time is right for a serious investment in such restoration efforts at the appropriate scale.

Vast amounts of forest are being lost, leading to species endangerment and a ground swelling of new projects that require clear planning and coordination of goals. The situation in China illustrates the need for significant restoration efforts. China lost a forested area larger than New Guinea, Borneo, and Madagascar combined in the last two millennia. This has resulted in precipitous declines in primate numbers and many populations restricted to small forest remnants. Now, approximately 70% of China’s primate species have fewer than 3,000 individuals. These species will not survive if their forest habitat is not restored.

Massive urbanisation leading to relatively unoccupied rural lands creates extensive new opportunities for restoration. The year 2008 marked a first for humankind with more people living in cities than in rural settings. Looking towards 2030, projections suggest that 90% of the world’s population growth will occur in cities of the developing world.

There is a current groundswell of small-scale efforts in rebuilding forests around the world. The many “boots on the ground” means that we are poised to scale up holistic restoration with the right funding and coordination. For example, school children and community groups in southern Mexico are creating forest corridors for wildlife movement. In the Qinling Mountains of central China, students are reforesting former logging roads. In Kibale National Park, Uganda, FACE for the Future is hiring hundreds of locals to plant native trees in degraded agriculture lands. Long-term monitoring shows population increases of threatened species in these areas. The World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other major players are now convinced restoration is important. Networking institutions like the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration are in place to coordinate efforts.

Restoration efforts must be scaled up to realize the potential of these opportunities and, to do this, restoration must be holistic and integrative rather than simply viewed as the planting of trees or facilitating natural succession.  Instead, it should involve managing landscapes with sincere local community involvement to promote biodiverse communities, coupled with a chance to develop policies that work across local, national, and global scales, and to foster a deep appreciation of nature and its wonders.

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The content of this thought piece represents the author’s own views and does not necessarily represent the views of the Biodiversity Revisited initiative nor of any of its collaborating institutions.

Related Reading: Biodiversity Revisited


Looking beyond hunting and tourism for community benefits

A thought piece by Melissa de Kock; WWF-Norway, Senior Advisor: Conservation, Climate and Communities

In the 17 years I have worked in conservation in southern and East Africa, I have seen many successful examples of community based conservation, but also the effects of societal and political pressure on communities and how they manage wildlife. I have also witnessed how climate-related events such as droughts and floods are impacting communities’ ability to generate income from wildlife. Many communities in Africa are reliant on trophy hunting  and/or tourism to generate income to manage wildlife and their land. Trophy hunting, particularly, is under increased pressure from animal rights activists and organisations. Tourism also faces challenges as people increasingly recognise the urgency to reduce carbon emissions. However, if wildlife is going to be sustained in Africa, communities must continue to benefit from choosing to live with wildlife. This is why, in my role at WWF-Norway where I support implementation and evolution of community-based conservation, I approached the Luc Hoffmann Institute to jointly identify and evolve new business models for community-based conservation.

Although my experience is mainly with Africa, there are many communities around the world that contribute significantly to global conservation efforts but also face trade-offs by choosing to share their land with wildlife. This may not sound like much for people who live far away and see only the beauty of wildlife and iconic species. But for rural communities living alongside dangerous animals, this wildlife is often seen mainly as a threat to lives and livelihoods. For example, in many countries in Africa, elephants and lions, among others, kill livestock, eat crops, destroy property, and can even endanger people’s lives.

To be able to live in harmony with these iconic species, local communities need to derive tangible benefits from them. While social and cultural benefits are considered extremely important, financial benefits are also needed to fund the management of wildlife and other natural resources. To date, these financial benefits have come from two primary streams of income: sustainable trophy hunting (particularly in southern Africa) and photographic tourism. Through these two market based mechanisms, many communities have been able to generate income to cover the operating and personnel costs of managing community conservation areas, as well as for specific community development initiatives.

The world is changing, however. Global political, social, economic, climate and other  environmental changes are all having repercussions at local levels. Revenue streams from trophy hunting and tourism may decrease in the future, undermining communities’ ability to generate sufficient income to sustain their wildlife management activities. In some areas already, the real costs for communities in Africa to manage wildlife and habitat exceed current funding.

To me it’s clear that conservation organisations need to work with communities to find innovative mechanisms that enable communities to retain wildlife on their land.

Working with the Luc Hoffmann Institute, WWF-Norway is looking to find and nurture future business models for community-based conservation, with an initial focus on Africa. The purpose of this work is not to undermine or replace trophy hunting or tourism which, when done sustainably, add substantial value to communities and wildlife. Instead, the purpose is to ensure that communities can continue to sustainably manage wildlife and other natural resources. Finding new revenue streams for community-led conservation is about being prepared for the future. Unless wildlife management is more beneficial than other land uses, communities are likely to shift to alternative uses, such as intensive agriculture, with disastrous consequences for wildlife.

As an initial step in this project, WWF-Norway and the Luc Hoffmann Institute put out a call in the summer of 2019 to investigate existing examples, other than trophy hunting and tourism, of funding models for community wildlife management. The work, which included inventorying models that incentivise community conservation, was won and carried out by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the  International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Sustainable Use and Livelihoods network (IUCN SULi).

In order to stimulate discussion around the topic and tap into promising young innovators in Africa, I presented the preliminary findings from the report at the Africa Leadership University ‘Business of Conservation Conference’ in Kigali, Rwanda in early September. Participants, which included entrepreneurs, financial experts, and conservation professionals, not only had questions about the project itself and its robustness for financial investment, but also had more ethical questions, including how to allow communities to retain ownership, access and management rights over the wildlife. Ideas suggested in the discussions included tax incentives for investors, preferential loans and access to social benefits for communities, funding for landscape-level land leases, and small-scale models aimed at individuals. Participants also reaffirmed the need to look beyond financial benefits for communities. This sentiment echoes what I have heard from many community members in rural areas in Southern and East Africa, who frequently emphasise the importance of many social and cultural benefits from their sustainable management of wildlife.

Going into this, I knew that identifying and devising new income streams for communities that are not reliant on either trophy hunting or tourism would be challenging. But in an era that requires transformative change, finding new opportunities for communities is an imperative.  And whilst no new solutions have yet come to light, the many ideas and rich discussions to date have provided a strong foundation to take this work forward.

Luc Hoffmann Institute recognised the urgency of this challenge. Working together with the institute, WWF-Norway has been able to move the idea forward quickly: from thinking through the initial concept to commissioning research to involving stakeholder voices in Kigali. WWF-Norway and the Luc Hoffmann Institute are now hoping to launch innovation challenge to accelerate solutions for community-based conservation.

If this initiative resonates with you and you’d like to be part of the Beyond trophy hunting and tourism adventure, please get in touch with:

Melissa de Kock, WWF Norway: or Adrian Dellecker, Luc Hoffmann Institute:


Thought piece: blinded by our heroic fantasies?

A #BiodiversityRevisited thought piece brought to you by Josie Chambers, a postdoc at Cambridge University and the Luc Hoffmann Institute

“When you stand on the edge of an abyss, progress means taking a step backwards.” (translated from German)

 Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Austrian artist, architect and environmental activist

There is a growing sense that we are moving closer to the edge: global biodiversity decline, climate change, social inequalities, water shortages, megafires, to name a few. Yet we feel uncertain about how to collectively take action. This shared concern drew together 70 people from diverse professions and career stages at the Biodiversity Revisited Symposium in Vienna September 11-13 2019.

After reflecting on spirited dialogue over dozens of insightful provocations, it seems the most critical issue driving biodiversity loss has nothing to do with biodiversity. Rather, I think it is that all too often we see ourselves as the hero, convinced that we know what the problem (and thus solution) is – or if we don’t, that we can quickly discover it.

Our sense of certainty in the truth of our stories and goodness of our actions constrains our imagination and fundamentally limits our desire to think and act in more collaborative and intersectional ways. This problem applies to all of us – conservationists, researchers, citizens, CEOs, policy-makers alike – but most especially, those whose power and privilege depends on their stories being accepted as truth. Until we learn how to collectively explore our heroic stories – their origins, consequences, contradictions and connections – our struggles for justice will remain divided.

What are these heroic stories?

These heroic stories are stubbornly familiar. The national parks that save nature from people. The conversion of poor farmers into “nature’s guardians” through simple incentives and education. The allocation of rights to local communities to allow them to protect nature. The large corporations who fund such projects to justify negative impacts elsewhere and further capital accumulation. The researchers who generate scientific truths to inform policy. The activists who shout these truths from their apparent moral high ground.

These efforts indeed produce incremental changes, but the central problem is that these stories ring hollow for the majority. In their fervour to convince, these stories express partial truths that overlook how they compromise many people’s values – people who are not readily convinced by the argument: “I know the truth, and it says you are wrong!”

Many people simply do not care about the loss of particular species or habitats compared to fulfilling other aspirations, and some have even experienced direct trauma from conservation efforts. Stories that claim to hold truth and locate blame in ways that threaten, as opposed to respect, people’s identities and experiences risk side-lining other important struggles for justice. They can keep us fragmented and incapable of systemic change.

What could a truly transformative agenda and process for biodiversity conservation look like?

I think it requires that we step outside of these established heroic stories that mostly pursue predefined aims and check if they are fulfilled (e.g. protected areas reducing deforestation, business models increasing profit). We must instead find ways to extend beyond and cut across them. For example, we could examine the impacts of global financial flows and legal frameworks on social-ecological justice. Or we could identify societal values that foster both mental and ecological health. We must explore how knowledge can be produced in conversation with movements for justice, instead of in historically isolated and extractive ways – driven by the story that knowledge compels people to act according to its doctrine.

To openly acknowledge our own heroic stories does not mean to denigrate them nor uncritically acquiesce to others. An important role remains for diverse efforts, such as the traditional conservation biologist who discovers new species and reasons to protect them. Or the activist, who joins together with others to call for respecting certain values, which has historically sparked considerable improvements in human rights.

However, efforts to act using existing stories need not distract us from our important collective task of taking responsibility for what values we exclude and why. By accepting that our stories are always partial truth, we can begin to collectively interrogate the hopes, fears and interests that underpin why so often we accept them as the whole truth.

Such an agenda necessitates genuinely listening and connecting to each other. It recognises that people “rolling out” solutions for the majority based on singular notions of truth will play out as tug-of-war battles that push us closer to the abyss. Instead, it acknowledges the desperate need to better understand how to design legitimate and dynamic processes that allow diverse voices to be heard and connect on equal ground to build collective compromise, purpose and hope for change. This would democratise the responsibility for creating new stories that join together diverse struggles for justice.

Josie Chambers is a postdoc at Cambridge University and the Luc Hoffmann Institute

The content of this thought piece represents the author’s own views and does not necessarily represent the views of the Biodiversity Revisited initiative nor of any of its collaborating institutions.

Related Reading: Biodiversity Revisited


A measure to make biodiversity relevant

By Adrian Dellecker, Head of Programme, Luc Hoffmann Institute

For years we have been losing the battle for biodiversity. The recent global assessment report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) gave a sensational and much reported wake-up call, citing one million species at risk of extinction due to human activity.

But what does this mean exactly? One million species is precise but the figure is hard to grasp. More importantly, it is hard to relate to and can lead to a sense of powerlessness.

One of the main reasons we are losing species is that they are not valued. ‘Value’ has many meanings, including economic but also social, moral or aesthetic, and not being able to value biodiversity in our global systems may be because we have failed to meaningfully convey the consequences of its loss for nature and people. Although many individual indicators exist, these can be technical, confusing, and even alienating to many people. This can be used as an excuse for inaction.

To reverse biodiversity’s downward spiral and establish a healthy and lasting relationship between environment and development, we need nothing less than a fundamental change in often deep-rooted systems. In a world where biodiversity is still too frequently considered a barrier to growth, we need a simple-to-convey mechanism to prove its value and contribution to sustainable development. One that speaks to people.

In this spirit, the Luc Hoffmann Institute and UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) have embarked on a bold and challenging adventure: to see if we can foster a new ‘multidimensional biodiversity index’ that transforms biodiversity loss from an abstract notion into a tangible entity that people can understand and act on. This tool would also help better integrate biodiversity in the sustainability agenda, notably the Sustainable Development Goals.

The premise is simple. Just like the measure of poverty has evolved from a dollar-a-day figure to a rich, Multidimensional Poverty Index that captures aspects such as education, health, living standards, and people’s own perceptions of poverty, so too can environmental metrics evolve to generate better decision-making. Our quest is not only for quantity, but also quality of life on earth.

Indeed, a headline index for biodiversity would not only capture the quantitative dimensions of biodiversity (such as number of species, habitats, and genetic diversity) but also the quality of biodiversity and how it relates to nature and human well-being. Such an index might include people’s perceptions of biodiversity, their access to and frequency of interactions with nature. It should also include some of the health, educational and other values that biodiversity has for society and people. This is a potent way to overcome apathy.

In 2017, the Luc Hoffmann Institute and UNEP-WCMC agreed on a joint approach to researching the social, political and technical feasibility of such an index. We began imagining what it could look like. We spoke to the teams behind other composite indices to learn from their experiences: what drove these indices in the first place? What was key to their success? How did they ensure uptake? What lessons would they have for us?

On the basis of this research, we are bringing together diverse thought leaders from the public and private sectors on 25 and 26 June 2019 to weigh in on the debate. There, we hope to share the experiences of other multidimensional indices, to listen to the needs of those who have an interest in using such an index and to discuss its overall feasibility. I very much look forward to sharing what emerges from the discussions.

If this resonates with you and you’d like to be part of the adventure, please get in touch:

See our project page for more on the thinking behind a multidimensional biodiversity index.