The Case for Conservation Podcast

The Case for Conservation Podcast

The case for conserving nature and its biodiversity needs to be robust and credible. Sometimes that requires a willingness to re-examine conventional wisdom. Monthly episodes of The Case for Conservation Podcast feature introspective conversations with fascinating experts - from ecologists to economists, young professionals to Nobel laureates, journalists to media personalities.

Episodes

June 11, 2024 40 mins

Insects are among the most abundant organisms on Earth. About 350,000 beetle species, alone, have been described by science and this is considered to be only a fraction of their total number. In a variety of ways, insects are a fundamental part of natural and human-adapted systems. While some cause disease or ruin crops, others play a key role in ecosystem service provision, for example by pollinating certain crops or as food for o...

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Humankind’s transformation of the Earth is embodied in the idea that we are living in the “Anthropocene”. Most people who have heard of this concept were probably unaware that it describes a specific unit of geological measurement - an epoch. A debate has been ongoing for more than a decade about whether to make that designation official - for the Anthropocene to take over from the Holocene epoch. This debate concluded just a few w...

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Conservation and sustainability scientists are often expected to advise policymakers and other decision-makers. But some of the issues that they are expected to advise on, have broader consensus than others. So, when is it appropriate to advise? When is it appropriate to advocate? When should they simply present all the options or interpretations, and leave it to the decision-makers?

Françoise Cardou is a plant and a community ecolo...

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Sustainability science, which includes conservation biology and various other environmental studies, is not a “hard science” like physics or mathematics. Nevertheless, one might expect it to be reasonably independent of political affiliation. But is this the case? If not, what is the problem with leaning too far in one political direction, especially if that direction is left and generally considered to be “pro environment”? If it ...

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Capitalism gets a lot of negative press these days, and one of the main arguments against it is the environmental degradation with which it’s associated. But how much is capitalism itself responsible, and how much are people conflating it with associated phenomena? Are the realistic alternatives any better, or should our efforts be focused on reforming this system, which has already done so much for human flourishing?

Russell Galt h...

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As a result of our success as a species, we have been ushering other species toward extinction for thousands of years. The pace of those extinctions increased markedly with the growth of the world’s population since the Industrial Revolution. But we are now within reach of the “Jurassic Park” -type fantasy of being able to reverse extinctions - to bring back species from the dead. On the other hand, assuming we get beyond the remai...

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Many conservation managers and scientists may not be aware that there is a single, common set of global biodiversity targets that inform national conservation strategy in almost every country in the world. These 23 targets are the main part of the “Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework”, or GBF. The GBF was agreed on by Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in late 2022, and the targets are meant to be ac...

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This month’s episode is about activism and science communication, and whether or not they should be combined. There are obvious tensions here because science is meant to be as objective as possible, while activism is characteristically impulsive and political. And, of course, there can be activists on both sides of a debate. There can also be incomplete or poorly reported science, upon which that activism is based. On the other han...

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Climate change gets a lot more attention and funding than biodiversity. But, as conservation organizations are keen to point out, climate and biodiversity are intimately linked and there is, therefore, a good argument for addressing them side by side. Part of that argument is that conserving biodiversity is good for the climate. But an even more obvious link is that climate affects biodiversity. Human beings can adapt rapidly to ch...

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In decades past, conservation was notorious for ignoring other development goals. These days, its focus has expanded to consider those other goals, including the prevention of poverty and hunger. In fact, there seems to be a tendency to assume that conservation is always compatible with them, and necessary to achieve them. There is certainly truth in that, but are we talking enough about the inevitable trade-offs? And if everyone a...

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Species. We take them for granted as the main currency of biodiversity. But how many of us really know what species are? And do we attach too much importance to them, especially in the context of conservation?

Over centuries, taxonomists have categorized and re-categorized life forms and graphically presented their relatedness in the form of a so-called ”tree of life”. The trunk of the tree is common to all life on Earth....

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Historically, the oceans have received too little attention in discussions about the environment and biodiversity. On the topic of biodiversity loss in particular, however, one marine system has attracted almost as much attention as the rainforests: coral reefs. Coral reefs have even been described as the rainforests of the sea, thanks to their remarkably high levels of biodiversity. Recently, United Nations agencies have been voic...

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ESG is the latest buzzword in business & biodiversity circles, but it’s not actually new - only newly popular. And it’s one among many terms and acronyms in this field, which may be familiar but are often poorly understood - ESG stands for “environmental, social and governance” investing criteria. Understanding concepts like ESG is consequential because their success relies largely on convincing the general public of their valu...

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There is a tendency in societies to adhere to conventional wisdom. We resist challenges to consensus views, and may even dismiss those who do challenge them as conspiracy theorists... which they sometimes are. But perhaps we take that idea too far sometimes. Perhaps we underestimate the importance of having the freedom to challenge orthodoxy. We live in an age in which more people than ever before are lucky enough to inhabit free s...

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You may have heard of the concept of “biodiversity risk”, especially in the context of business. It has become increasingly widely used in recent years and the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) is a recent development that has done a lot to popularize the concept. But what exactly is biodiversity risk and, for that matter, what is TNFD? Why has this topic been gathering so much steam lately, and what are som...

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Wherever conservation takes place, at whatever scale, and in whatever form, there’s a good chance that it is somehow affected by the decisions taken under multilateral environmental agreements, or “MEAs”. These agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, are made between multiple countries - sometimes including almost all of the world's nations - with the aim of addressing one or another environmental challenge...

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In days gone by development (of cities, infrastructure, agriculture, etc.) happened without regard for the environment. And it was really the devastating effects of unimpeded development that led to the establishment and early growth of the environmental movement, broadly speaking. We have become much more efficient at using land and other resources, but development remains inevitable. In theory, biodiversity offsets cancel out the...

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After decades of struggling for recognition, environmental issues, including biodiversity conservation, have exploded onto the global scene in recent years. This is incredibly encouraging and gratifying, but are we sufficiently aware of the risks that come with such vastly increased public support? How much is politics influencing the public discourse on the environment? Are we paying enough attention to other, interrelated, societ...

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After decades of struggling for recognition, environmental issues, including biodiversity conservation, have exploded onto the global scene in recent years. This is incredibly encouraging and gratifying, but are we sufficiently aware of the risks that come with such vastly increased public support? How much is politics influencing the public discourse on the environment? Are we paying enough attention to other, interrelated, societ...

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This month, for the first time, I am the interviewee rather than the interviewer. This episode was recorded for BioScience Talks, the podcast of the journal BioScience, which recently published an article that I co-authored. The article is about science and media communication around Covid-19 and, in particular, the way that some of the scientific literature, and much of the media, have portrayed the relationship between land chang...

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