Humans are inextricably linked to the environmental landscape within which our daily lives unfold. We depend completely on nature for essential, life-sustaining services – clean air and water, a stable climate, food – yet our activities are having an increasingly dramatic and detrimental effect on wildlife and ecosystems, putting not just wild species but also our own survival at risk.
The inconvenient truth is that we are meeting our short-term needs largely at the expense of the planet, and it is people – particularly those who are most vulnerable or who have no say in decisions about how natural resources are being used (including future generations) – who will suffer most.
One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is to ensure that development and growth is achieved without environmental degradation, enriching people’s everyday lives without impoverishing the natural world. This may entail some difficult decisions, on the part of governments and individuals, about how we value success and define growth.
Sustainable Development Goals aim to end poverty and hunger while protecting the planet.
people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for a living.
The unsustainable exploitation that poses a clear and present danger to biodiversity comes in many shapes and sizes. At a local level, it may take the form of overfishing, overgrazing, slash-and-burn agriculture, poaching of an endangered species or illegal harvesting of firewood from a protected area to meet the basic survival needs of a poverty-stricken family.
At the opposite extreme, we are witnessing industrial-scale plundering of the planet in the name of economic growth, profit and shareholder value, often against the wishes of entire communities who have been excluded from development decisions that directly affect their future.
This corporate behaviour is ultimately driven by a consumer society that makes unsustainable lifestyle choices, such as taking frequent long-haul flights, diets that include eating meat and dairy products with every meal, regularly replacing older technology with the latest resource-heavy gadgets, and a growing over-dependence on single-use plastic products.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a universal call to action to end poverty and hunger, protect the planet and bring peace and prosperity to all – are intended to help the global community address precisely this kind of issue.
There are 17 goals in total, ranging from ending poverty and hunger to achieving gender equality and promoting inclusive sustainable economic growth and employment for all. Two of the goals specifically look at sustainable management of natural resources on land and in the ocean.
The implications for biodiversity conservation are obvious. If we are to reverse the decline in species and ecosystems, we need not only to encourage responsible corporate behaviour and expose commercial sharp practice, but also to tackle the inequality, poverty, poor health and social injustice that, for many, represent genuine constraints to the pursuit of sustainable forms of livelihood.
Conversely, if we as a global community are to achieve the lofty ambitions of the SDGs, then we need to consider the health of our ecosystems within everything that we do because natural resources are fundamental to survival, prosperity and happiness.
Because sustainability is built into the very fabric of the SDGs (something that was sorely lacking in their predecessors, the millennium development goals) they offer us an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that development strategies recognise the wider relevance of nature and biodiversity conservation.
Fauna & Flora International supports the Sustainable Development Goals.
The mission of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is ‘to conserve threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and that take account of human needs’. We are committed to ensuring that our conservation activities do not disadvantage the poor, vulnerable or marginalised who depend on natural resources and that, wherever possible, our activities contribute to improving human well-being.
We have a long history of working with people in biodiversity-rich landscapes to empower them to act as effective custodians of their precious, but threatened, natural resources and enabling them to make their own livelihood choices more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. We recognise that the livelihoods of rural communities are complex and dynamic; they are not just a means of making a living but a way of life in which autonomy, a sense of purpose, the maintenance of cultural values, and a voice in decisions that affect their lives are often at least as important as, and sometimes more highly valued than, cash income.
We are also committed to respecting human rights, promoting their protection and realisation within our conservation programmes, and supporting the improvement of governance systems that can secure those rights.
Our approach, and the diverse range of projects we support, means that we are addressing a wide range of targets across many of the Sustainable Development Goals beyond goals 14 and 15 (which relate specifically to biodiversity conservation). This includes targets relating to poverty, hunger, health, and gender equality, including the promotion of equal rights to resources as well as participation and inclusion.
The question of how we can reduce our collective impact on the planet is a complex one to answer; however, there are many small things we can all do to help. The list below is far from exhaustive – it couldn’t possibly be in such a short space – but might give you some ideas about where to start.
Livelihoods & governance
Conservation finance & enterprise
Biodiversity & business
Safeguarding our seas
Plastic is accumulating in the world’s oceans at a staggering rate. An estimated eight million tons of plastic are swept into our seas and oceans every year, posing a severe risk to marine life.
Climate change is recognised as one of the biggest threats to our natural world and its biodiversity, as well as to global security, human health and well-being.