‘Imagining transformative biodiversity futures’: Nature Sustainability commentary explores future scenarios for life on Earth

A new commentary published in Nature Sustainability highlights a need for greater diversity, justice and creativity in efforts to rebalance humanity’s relationship with the natural world. Citing three evocative scenarios of what the future of life on Earth might look like, the article aims to spark conversations about the choices society makes for humanity and nature.

Set in 2050, the scenarios portray the potential consequences of decisions and events in the coming years. Though none are inevitable, the stories are based on existing and emerging narratives, strategies and trade-offs for biodiversity, climate, human health, conservation and sustainable development. Authored by a diverse group, including a strong and inspiring set of early career voices, this piece shines a light on the contrasting worldviews and priorities that will shape our futures and provides a snapshot of how diversity in collaboration prompts us to think differently. 

At the heart of the commentary is the need for biodiversity to cross-pollinate with other fields, and move beyond “us vs them” mentalities. We can no longer live in linear, siloed spaces, but must take a fresh, conscious, integrated approach. Our futures depend on innovation and collaboration, people and nature, justice and eco-sustainability, gender equity and development.

“It is beautifully unique to see a high-profile, science-based commentary piece focused on future scenarios and written by young voices in narrative form,” says Rebecca Shaw, Chief Scientist WWF. “This is a new generation’s take on communicating science, not unlike the rise of street art as a form of a more activist and uncompromising set of voices.”

This commentary caps the two-year, Luc Hoffmann Institute-led Biodiversity Revisited initiative, a global, collaborative review of the narratives, principles and practices underpinning biodiversity. 

The project culminated in publication of the Biodiversity Revisited research and action agenda, designed to rethink biodiversity research and generate new conservation actions that put justice at the centre of our efforts. The full agenda is available on ResearchGate and the Luc Hoffmann Institute website, and a synthesised version is under review for publication in Conservation Biology. The foundations for Biodiversity Revisited were laid by Seeds of Change, a compilation of provocative reviews and essays about how to sustain a biodiverse world.

Accompanying the Nature Sustainability commentary will be a thought piece on the Nature Communities website and an interview with Luc Hoffmann Institute Director Jon Hutton and Head of Programme (ad-interim) Melanie Ryan. This offers a candid review of the Biodiversity Revisited journey, including the challenges and impacts of a collaboration involving almost 300 people from diverse countries, sectors, disciplines, and career stages. 

The commentary appears in the latest issue of Nature Sustainability and is available open access for four weeks.

The Nature Sustainability commentary authors are: Carina Wyborn, Federico Davila, Laura Pereira, Michelle Lim, Isis Alvarez, Gretchen Henderson, Amy Luers, Kristal Maze, Maria Jose Martinez-Harms, Jasper Montana, Melanie Ryan, Chris Sandbrook, Rebecca Shaw, Emma Woods.

Biodiversity Revisited was led by the Luc Hoffmann Institute in collaboration with WWF, Future Earth, ETH Zürich Department of Environmental Systems Science, the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute, and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London
This initiative was generously supported by the NOMIS Foundation, MAVA Foundation, Foundation for Environmental Conservation and The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center.