Indigenous storytelling as asset for biocultural conservation

Some of the areas hosting most of the world’s biodiversity are those inhabited by indigenous peoples. In the same way that biodiversity is being eroded, so is the world’s cultural diversity. As a result, there have been several calls to promote biocultural conservation approaches that sustain both biodiversity and indigenous cultures.

Researchers Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares and Mar Cabeza from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland, are inviting conservation practitioners to tap into the art of storytelling to revitalise the biocultural heritage of indigenous peoples.


Posted in Biocultural conservation, Biodiversity, Indigenous knowledge, Sustainability | Tagged , , ,

Grassroots Innovations – researching sustainability from the bottom-up

Grassroots innovations are community-led solutions for sustainability. They can offer promising new ideas and practices, but often struggle to scale up and spread beyond small niches. This website presents the latest news and updates from a series of research projects on grassroots innovations, including sustainable energy and complementary currencies, based at the University of East Anglia and the University of Sussex. Our research aims to better understand how these innovations develop and grow, and how they can be harnessed to meet sustainability policy objectives.

Everybody, it seems, is committed to sustainable development. But not everybody is practicing or seeking sustainable development in the same way. There is something qualitatively different between, say, a community supported organic vegetable box scheme and the range of organic products sold at a supermarket. Or a locally financed renewable energy scheme compared to an offshore wind farm operated by a multinational utility company. In each case, the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development are traded-off differently. They are practicing quite different kinds of sustainable development.


Posted in Grassroots, Innovation, Sustainable development | Tagged , ,

Just Conservation: Biodiversity, Social Justice and Sustainability

Loss of biodiversity is one of the great environmental challenges facing humanity but unfortunately efforts to reduce the rate of loss have so far failed. At the same time, these efforts have too often resulted in unjust social outcomes in which people living in or near to areas designated for conservation lose access to their territories and resources. In this book the author argues that our approach to biodiversity conservation needs to be more strongly informed by a concern for and understanding of social justice issues. Injustice can be a driver of biodiversity loss and a barrier to efforts at preservation. Conversely, the pursuit of social justice can be a strong motivation to find solutions to environmental problems. The book therefore argues that the pursuit of socially just conservation is not only intrinsically the right thing to do, but will also be instrumental in bringing about greater success.

The argument for a more socially just conservation is initially developed conceptually, drawing upon ideas of environmental justice that incorporate concerns for distribution, procedure and recognition. It is then applied to a range of approaches to conservation including benefit sharing arrangements, integrated conservation and development projects and market-based approaches such as sustainable timber certification and payments for ecosystem services schemes. Case studies are drawn from the author’s research in Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Laos, Bolivia, China and India.


Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation, Social justice, Sustainability | Tagged , , ,

Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2014, UNDP, with the generous support of the Government of Denmark, established an Innovation Facility to improve service delivery and support national governments and citizens to tackle complex challenges. The report ‘Spark, Scale, Sustain’ shares UNDP’s approach to innovation, over 40 case studies of innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals in practice and Features on Alternative Finance, Behavioral Insights, Data Innovation and Public Policy Labs. Download the report to find out more about the innovation initiatives that are testing and scaling solutions to address challenges across five areas:

Eradicate Poverty, Leave No One Behind
Protect the Planet
Build Peaceful Societies, Prevent Violent Conflict
Manage Risk, Improve Disaster Response
Advance Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment


Posted in Innovation, Sustainable development | Tagged ,

End-times for Humanity

Humanity is more technologically powerful than ever before, and yet we feel ourselves to be increasingly fragile. Why?

The end of the world is a growth industry. You can almost feel Armageddon in the air: from survivalist and ‘prepper’ websites (,, to new academic disciplines (‘disaster studies’, ‘Anthropocene studies’, ‘extinction studies’), human vulnerability is in vogue. The panic isn’t merely about civilizational threats, but existential ones. Beyond doomsday proclamations about mass extinction, climate change, viral pandemics, global systemic collapse and resource depletion, we seem to be seized by an anxiety about losing the qualities that make us human. Social media, we’re told, threatens our capacity for empathy and genuine connection. Then there’s the disaster porn and apocalyptic cinema, in which zombies, vampires, genetic mutants, artificial intelligence and alien invaders are oh-so-nearly human that they cast doubt on the value and essence of the category itself.


Posted in Humanity | Tagged

Healing Ourselves and the Earth with Ecopsychology

“The Earth’s cry for rescue from the punishing weight of the industrial system we have created is our own cry for a scale and quality of life that will free each of us to become the complete person we know we were born to be.” –Theodore Roszak

No matter what our race or ethnicity, our species always had a kinship with a greater-than-human world. It is this kinship that allowed us to become and to flourish as humans, but here in the West, many of us have largely forgotten that we need nature for both our physical and psychological well-being.


Posted in Ecology, Ecopsychology, Psychology | Tagged , ,

What Does the Antarctic Ice Shelf Break Really Mean?

One of the largest icebergs ever recorded has just broken away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Over the past few years, I’ve led a team that has been studying this ice shelf and monitoring change. We spent many weeks camped on the ice investigating melt ponds and their impact—and struggling to avoid sunburn thanks to the thin ozone layer. Our main approach, however, is to use satellites to keep an eye on things.

We’ve been surprised by the level of interest in what may simply be a rare but natural occurrence. Because, despite the media and public fascination, the Larsen C rift and iceberg “calving” is not a warning of imminent sea level rise, and any link to climate change is far from straightforward. This event is, however, a spectacular episode in the recent history of Antarctica’s ice shelves, involving forces beyond the human scale, in a place where few of us have been, and one which will fundamentally change the geography of this region.


Read also: I’ve studied Larsen C and its giant iceberg for years – it’s not a simple story of climate change

Posted in Climate change | Tagged

The Uninhabitable Earth: What climate change could wreak

It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand. Rising oceans are bad, in fact very bad; but fleeing the coastline will not be enough.

Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.


Posted in Climate change, Collapse | Tagged , ,

Innovation, Sustainability and Democracy: An Analysis of Grassroots Contributions

In this paper, we introduce an area of activity that has flourished for decades in all corners of the globe, namely grassroots innovation for sustainable development. We also argue why innovation, in general, is a matter for democracy. Combining these two points, we explore how grassroots innovation can contribute to what we call innovation democracy, and help guide innovation so that it supports rather than hinders social justice and environmental resilience. Drawing upon qualitative case studies from empirical domains including energy, food, and manufacture, we suggest it does so in four related ways: 1. Processes of grassroots innovation can help in their own right to cultivate the more democratic practice of innovation more generally. 2. Grassroots innovations that result from these processes can support citizens and activities in ways that can contribute to the practice of democracy. 3. Grassroots innovations can create particular empowering sociotechnical configurations that might otherwise be suppressed by interests around more mainstream innovation systems. 4. Grassroots innovations can help nurture general levels of social diversity that are important for the health of democracy in its widest political senses. The paper finishes with a few suggestions for how societies committed to innovation democracy can better support and benefit from the grassroots activity, by working at changes in culture, infrastructure, training, investment, and openness.


Posted in Democracy, Grassroots, Innovation, Sustainability | Tagged , , ,

In search of a “good” Anthropocene? Physiology can help

While much of the rhetoric surrounding the Anthropocene has been markedly negative, there has recently been a push by many scientists for a more positive narrative. Specifically, researchers are posing the question: can the Anthropocene be good? A good Anthropocene would balance the preservation of the natural world with realistic societal needs and consumption.

Recent research supports the value of a hopeful, rather than “doom and gloom”, perspective for rallying individuals to action. Messages of optimism are thought to be necessary to broadly engage the public and to attract youth to professional careers in the field of conservation biology. This makes intuitive sense—if experts are constantly heard saying that all is lost, it is difficult to expect anyone to be motivated to change their behavior.


Posted in Anthropocene, Conservation | Tagged ,