The Climate, Biodiversity, and Injustice Crises

Two years ago we circulated a discussion paper within the IUCN community regarding the theory and practice of “transformative conservation” — conservation which would accelerate the large-scale, profound, and systemic changes needed to stem the interlinked biodiversity, climate, and injustice crises. After great feedback from our IUCN and other peers, and a rigorous journal publishing process including equally helpful and critical feedback from anonymous peer reviewers and a journal editor, the resulting paper is now finally published and freely available. The technical summary follows below, and the download link is: https://www.doi.org/10.1017/sus.2022.4

Calls for ‘transformative change’ point to the fundamental reorganization necessary for global conservation initiatives to stem ecological catastrophe. However, the concept risks being oversimplified or overcomplicated, and focusing too little on power and the political action necessary for change. Accordingly, its intersection with contemporary biodiversity and climate change mitigation initiatives needs explicit deliberation and clarification. This article advances the praxis of ‘transformative conservation’ as both (1) a desired process that rethinks the relationships between individuals, society, and nature, and restructures systems accordingly, and (2) a desired outcome that conserves biodiversity while justly transitioning to net zero emission economies and securing the sustainable and regenerative use of natural resources. It first reviews criticisms of area-based conservation targets, natural climate solutions, and nature-based solutions that are framed as transformative, including issues of ecological integrity, livelihoods, gender, equity, growth, power, participation, knowledge, and governance. It then substantiates six strategic recommendations designed to help practitioners deliberately steer transformation processes. These include taking a systems approach; partnering with political movements to achieve equitable and just transformation; linking societal with personal (‘inner’) transformation; updating how we plan; facilitating shifts from diagnosis and planning to action; and improving our ability to adjust to transformation as it occurs.

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