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The Dzukou Valley in Nagaland. Photo: Bappu Deshmukh
The Dzukou Valley in Nagaland. Photo: Bappu Deshmukh

Mainstreaming ‘nature’ can help conserve ecosystems

A strong marketing campaign and a dose of humour to help conservation

Does nature need marketing campaigns? The question raised by writer-director Justin Bogardus struck a chord at the World Conservation Congress organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in Honolulu, US, in September. Since Bogardus’ remarks, two international conventions on nature conservation have been held: the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September, and the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Marrakesh, Morocco, this month.

Of course, these high-level conventions offer a number of scientific reports, which then find mention in international media. Take, for instance, the eyeball-grabbing headlines on how humans have destroyed a tenth of Earth’s wilderness in the past 25 years: “Global sea ice shrinking at unprecedented speeds", “Hottest years on record", etc. These are startling facts no doubt, but, as Bogardus says, “News of this kind leaves us wondering what we can do to stop these calamities. Caught in the daily grind of urban life, people get disconnected with the outdoors. Understanding these nature conservation issues are a problem as scientists, experts and leaders do not communicate enough with the masses on the streets."

To bring a fresh perspective to nature conservation and to strike a deeper connect with the masses, Bogardus started a campaign called Nature Rx in 2015 “to create a new road map to inform and change people’s attitude towards nature."

Nature Rx aims to make people see themselves as a part of nature and not alienated from it. “We believe if you really want to change something for the better, you have to care about it and see its value directly. That’s why getting outdoors is important and can help better preserve our planet."

Nature Rx is a campaign of videos—a series of funny and inspiring spoof commercials—that convey how rejuvenating it is to be in the outdoors. “Automobile and beer brands across the globe understand the true value of nature; they are constantly leveraging nature in their commercials to push their products. So why can’t ‘nature’ have its own separate commercial?" says Bogardus. In one of his nature marketing commercials, Bogardus suggests, “If you are stressed out in your daily life, try nature, spend more time in nature today, a little bit more when you can, and see what happens."

“The process to support the conversation around creating nature everywhere has begun...in our cities, in our lives, in our economy and in our thinking about the future of our planet," adds Bogardus.

The Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to be held in Cancun, Mexico, in December, may take a leaf out of Bogardus’ campaign road map. The underlying theme at the conference, “mainstreaming biodiversity", which moots the idea of making biodiversity relevant to other production sectors in the economy, can also take a step forward in acclimatizing the players in these sectors with the benefits of preserving nature. Likewise, leaders, advocacy groups, global experts, scientists and conservationists can take a leaf out of Bogardus’ out-of-the-box creative approach to popularize or market “nature" at such international conventions.

To quote from a CBD training module—Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Sectoral and Cross-Sectoral Strategies, Plans and Programmes: “The economic survival of various production sectors and people depending on the sectors for their livelihoods is intricately connected to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Mainstreaming means integrating or including actions related to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in strategies relating to different production sectors, such as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism, mining or in poverty reduction plans and national sustainable development plans. Mainstreaming requires an understanding of the relationship of a specific sector to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the ability to identify win-win situations that benefit both biodiversity and the sustainability of the specific sector."

“We need to change the genetics of politicians and various decision-making processes. Biodiversity can no more remain exclusive to the environment sector or the domain of environmentalists," said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, executive secretary, CBD, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

“The ministry of finance, trade and commerce, mines and minerals, agriculture, water resources and others all need to come on the same page to understand the value of biodiversity and protect natural resources. Different ministries have different agendas, but natural resources are not infinite," said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, vice-president for conservation policy at the Conservation International. Rodriguez was formerly the minister of environment and energy for Costa Rica, where he created a pioneering system, an economic incentive to maintain forest ecosystems.

“I don’t think politicians hate nature. But most of them do not know the economic value or services that nature provides," said Rodriguez.

As calls for collaboration on biodiversity mainstreaming rise in the coming days at CBD, people like Bogardus will step in to make nature popular and fashionable using innovative ways.

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