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How to talk about biodiversity loss to friends and family

One of the biggest barriers to preventing the global loss of species is that it’s not being talked about. Let’s start the conversation – with the people you see every day.


Climate change: you’ve heard of it, you understand it, and you’re aware of the solutions – could you say the same about biodiversity loss?

The drastic decline in the diversity of the world’s plants, animals and fungi is as big a threat to our planet as a warming climate. But between 1992-2016, climate change was mentioned 3.3 times more than biodiversity loss across English language media platforms.

If we want others to take action, we have to start the conversation. Engage your friends, co-workers and stubborn in-laws by following these easy-to-understand talking points (that doesn’t involve putting on a lab coat and delivering a theatrical performance).

1) Don’t bombard them with data – draw on memories and experiences

Data has its place. It cuts through controversy and lays bare the facts. But data doesn’t mean anything to us on an emotional level; we connect with and care about causes through our memories and experiences.

Most adults today will have a memory of an animal or plant they used to see more as a child than they do now – chances are they just won’t have thought about it until you ask them. A common visual prompt to draw on is how clean our car windscreens are compared to just a few decades ago, when a kaleidoscope of ill-fated insects would need removing after a trip on the motorway. Hedgehogs are another prime example – in the UK, our prickly friends were a common sight in our gardens only a decade ago; but numbers have fallen by 75% in some areas of the country and they are an increasingly rare sight.

Do: Draw on memories of wildlife

What species haven’t they seen in a while? Are there fewer butterflies in their garden, frogs in the local pond, bees trapped in the kitchen? Species decline is happening everywhere – sometimes it just takes a little shift of attention to notice it.

The windscreen phenomenon is the observation that less insects now splat onto car windshields and bumpers than from twenty to thirty years ago, signifying the decline in insect populations. Credit: Adobe

2) Big up the garden shed spider – all species are important

One million species are in grave danger of extinction. Most of them are virtually unknown or disregarded; these ‘lesser-known’ species make up the vast majority of all life on Earth and are critical to a healthy planet.

All species are, in some way or another, reliant on each other – and if we remove any link from the chain, it will have consequences: the loss of sea kelp would lead to a decline in fish populations because fish have lost a vital nursery area for their young; wasps make a meal of crop-eating aphids and caterpillars, and without them, your garden fruit and veg could face a full-on assault.

Don’t: Forget the little guys

Praise and applaud the humble hedgerow, the shed spiders and the pavement ‘weeds’ for the role they play in supporting a whole host of other plants and animals. Your colleague might just think twice about swatting away small office visitors!

Insects are seeing the largest declines in their numbers due to climate change and biodiversity loss, yet they form the basis of the entire food chain. Credit: Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

3) It’s not all doom and gloom – nature can recover

If there is one thing we do know about nature, it’s that it has an incredible ability to heal itself – if we let it. ‘Rewilding’ has become a popular term for re-establishing wildlife back into habitats, helping to restore healthy ecosystems.

The remote Caribbean Island of Redonda was, until recently, overrun by human-introduced invasive species that destroyed a lot of the island’s native wildlife. FFI and local partners worked to turn the island from a grey, barren rock back into the lush, green, wildlife-rich landscape it once was. The transformation happened over only 5 years.

Do: Research rewilding success stories

Check out stories like the wolves in Yellowstone National Park, the beaver reintroductions in England, or the bison programme in the Netherlands to get started. Even better – check out rewilding projects currently happening closer to home. Inspire hope in others that nature can and will bounce back – we just need to give it a helping hand to get started.

Redonda. © Ed Marshall / Fauna & Flora

Redonda. © Ed Marshall / Fauna & Flora

The remote island of Redonda has been transformed from a barren, grey moonscape to an island lush with plants and animals. Credit: Ed Marshall

4) It’s not too late – think globally, act locally

We can all make a difference for the planet, no matter how big or small. One of the best ways to inspire people to care for nature is to have them experience the benefits first-hand. For those with a garden or outdoor area, explain how wildlife will thrive when lawns are mowed less often (ideally no more than once every four weeks). Ditch the toxic weedkillers or pesticides and be gone with plastic lawns. Encourage the planting of native plant species over exotic ones. It doesn’t take long to see what happens.

Do: Empower people to make a difference

Through our actions, our conversations and our votes, we can choose the change we want to see. Read about more ways you can help stop biodiversity loss in our FAQ’s.

Local villagers planting Barringtonia seedlings in Siem reap, Cambodia. Credit: Jeremy Holden / Fauna & Flora

Union Island gecko. © Jacob Bock / Fauna & Flora

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Union Island gecko. © Jacob Bock / Fauna & Flora