Net positive outcomes for nature offer a new approach to preserve biodiversity

Wilderness: image from Pexels

A group of international conservationists is urging governments across the globe to adopt a new approach to address the impact of economic development on the natural world.

Renowned researchers, including University of Queensland scientists, aim to draw attention to what they call “net positive outcomes for nature”.

Professor James Watson, of UQ and the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the new approach rejected the idea that biodiversity loss was an inevitable consequence of economic development.

“This new net positive approach is underpinned by the concept of a conservation hierarchy, which provides a framework for structuring biodiversity conservation actions based on how they contribute to worldwide conservation,” he said.

“We’re calling for more ambitious, proactive measures to ensure greater benefits to the natural environment are achieved in concert with development activities.

“Conservation actions should be based on how they contribute to our shared overall vision for the natural world, rather than piecemeal actions to protect species or habitats.

“We need policymakers to seriously and urgently prioritize the reduction of development impacts as they happen, retain and restore habitats proactively, and enhance the prospects for nature everywhere.”

The framework would allow the whole range of conservation efforts to be tracked at a global level, whether they are implemented by national governments, indigenous groups, businesses or private individuals.

“This allows for more consistent, comprehensive and informative evaluation of the progress we are collectively making toward restoring nature,” Professor Watson said.

“Our approach is much more ambitious than current policy commitments, which typically relate only to location-specific impacts, particular species trends or certain sectors of the economy.

“It outlines how the global community can move to a position in which economic development activities would be integrated with, rather than in opposition to, positive biodiversity outcomes.”

The conservationists are calling for a shift in the language and approach to global conservation policy discussions in advance of next year’s UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which will be held in China and will set the strategic plan for biodiversity for the next decade and to 2050.

“It’s obvious that nature is running out of time, and nations have one last chance to get a bold target in place to halt the declines and extinctions that are now commonplace across the world,” Professor Watson said.

“A headline goal that calls for a net gain for nature, will make it possible for governments and industry to work hand in hand to avert biodiversity crisis.”

Learn more: Leading conservation scientists call for reverse to biodiversity loss with ‘net positive’ goals


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Economic development can only buy happiness up to a ‘sweet spot’ of $36,000 GDP per person

via University of Warwick

Economists have shed light on the vexed question of whether economic development can buy happiness – and it seems that life satisfaction actually dips among people living in the wealthiest countries.

Politicians are intensely interested in the link between national wealth and levels of happiness among the population, but it is a subject which is still wide open to debate among economists.

new analysis led by economists Eugenio Proto in the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy at the University of Warwick and Aldo Rustichini, from University of MInnesota finds that as expected, for the poorest countries life satisfaction rises as a country’s wealth increases as people are able to meet their basic needs.

However, the new surprise finding is that once income reaches a certain level – around $36,000, adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) – life satisfaction levels peaks, after which it appears to dip slightly in the very rich countries.

According to the most recent figures, the UK had a PPP-adjusted GDP per capita of roughly $37,000 dollars.

The researchers find suggestive evidence that this happiness dip in the wealthiest countries is because more money creates higher aspirations, leading to disappointment and a drop in life satisfaction if those aspirations are not met.

Dr Proto said: “Whether wealth can buy a country’s happiness is a major question for governments. Many policy-makers, including in the UK, are interested in official measures of national well-being.

“Our new analysis has one very surprising finding which has not been reported before – that life satisfaction appears to dip beyond a certain level of wealth.

“In our study we see evidence that this is down to changes in the aspiration levels of people living in the richest countries.

“As countries get richer, higher levels of GDP lead to higher aspiration. There is a sense of keeping up with the Joneses as people see wealth and opportunity all around them and aspire to having more.

“But this aspiration gap – the difference between actual income and the income we would like – eats away at life satisfaction levels.

“In other words, what we aspire to becomes a moving target and one which moves away faster in the richest countries, causing the dip in happiness we see in our analysis.”

The study found that people in countries with a GDP per capita of below $6,700 were 12 per cent less likely to report the highest level of life satisfaction than those in countries with a GDP per capita of around $18,000.

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Can Google Earth save an indigenous tribe with maps?

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Image via CrunchBase

When Chief Almir first accessed Google Earth, he did what many others do and scrolled over the map to find his home. His home, however, happens to be a nominally protected swath of forest in the rapidly diminishing Amazonian rainforest. After seeing the tenuous state of his people’s historic lands from on high, Almir, who leads the Surui tribe in western Brazil, enlisted the help of the search engine giant to raise awareness about the nearby illegal logging and mining that threatens his group’s way of life, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.

Using a technology-rich form of ethnographic mapping, a philanthropic side of the Moutain View, Calif.–based company, Google Earth Outreach embarked on a collaboration with Almir and the nonprofit Amazon Conservation Team to keep tabs on nearby clear-cutting while recording aspects of the tribe’s land and daily life in hopes of drawing attention to their struggle.

“We want to show concretely, practically that you can have a quality of life and economic development in an intact forest,” Almir told the Chronicle through an interpreter. Aside from assaults on their land, the tribe has faced direct violence from loggers and miners. Almir himself has been seeking shelter in the U.S. from a reported $100,000-bounty out for him.

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