By Paul Jepson
Full marks to colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London for the Living Planet Report 2014 and its headline message which one hopes ought to shock the world out of its complacency: a 52% decline of wildlife populations in the past 40 years.
Over the summer I re-read Fairfield Osborne’s 1948 classic Our Plundered Planet – the first mass-readership environmental book that detailed the scale of the damage humanity wrought on nature. Faced with the figures in this report it is easy to slip into despondency and to blame others. But this would be a mistake. At the time, Osborne’s report must have been equally alarming, but the eclectic conservation movement of which he was part responded with confidence, hope and vision.
Their achievements were huge: the creation of a reserve network that forestalled the extinction of African creatures such as the elephant and rhino, the creation of a nature conservation agency, the International Union for Conservation of Nature) (IUCN) within the UN, and a raft of international wildlife agreements.
Today, conservation-minded people will probably be wondering what can be done to reverse wildlife declines. For me the question is how can today’s conservationists leave a wildlife legacy for the 21st century, and I think there are five ways we can change conservation to better fit the circumstances we face.
1. Decentralise and diversify The effort to ensure that nature conservation became a policy area of the UN necessitated developing a strong international conservation regime. This has served us well, but the world has changed: centralised authority has given way to messy, networked governance organised across many levels.
If the Balinese want to restore Bali Starling populations in coconut plantations I say applaud their vision and learn from their innovation. What matters is that wildlife populations flourish, not that some institutionalised notion of a “wild species” gains global consensus. It is time to nurture diversity in conservation practice. More....