We so often talk about the fact that nature conservation and biodiversity are too low on the political and economic agenda to get the attention they deserve. I just came accross the Forbes 2012 list of most influential people in the world (http://www.forbes.com/powerful-people/list/) and it proves the point. The list is made up of political leaders and company Chief Executives (and the pope, who comes in at number 5).
Out of the seventy most powerful world leaders, not one has a real environmental portfolio. International development is represented by the Clinton Global Initiative and its President Bill Clinton featuring on number 50, and the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim stands at number 45. The closest environment gets a look in is when Margaret Chan from the World Health Organisation comes in at number 58 and the US Secretary for Health and Human Services ranks 68.
One exception is maybe Bill Gates, who is listed as the head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and not as former Microsoft boss. That is fantastic, and is hopefully an example for many other billionaires to follow suit.
No mention in this list of Braulio de Souza of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Christiana Figueres of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or Achim Steiner of the UN Environment Programme, let along leaders of WWF, IUCN or one of the other large conservation NGOs.
We need to find a world ambassador for nature!
It is a great disapointment of course, however I am sure that the criteria hardly favours something as ‘non-economic’ as conservation. The only way we (as environmentalists) will progress here is by adopting an economist the scale and stature of Milton Friedman for example and have a serious economist promoting the often discarded economic effects of present actions.
The focus around net discounted revenue and internal rates of return means that economists assess the value of a Euro now rather than in the future. Economists think too much in the short term and within hypothetical models that nearly always exclude the effects and costs in perpetuity on the environment. As an ambassador we need a hard nosed, respected economist to begin a revolution of realisation and new economic thinking.
Thanks for your thoughts Lee, and sorry that I did not respond earlier, but I just found this comment in the spam folder.
I agree that we need economists to help us explain the value of nature, but many people feel that looking at the economic values only is too restrictive.
As a global ambassador, we may need someone with real presence and recognition. Could it be a Hollywood star? Or would a business leader be more appropriate? A younger member of Royalty? What about the leader of a conservation foundation? MAVA Foundation, Oak Foundation, Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt?
Any other suggestions?
Dear Mr. Friederich,
Through the IUCN Marine blog I found by chance your post.
I think you are right. I was wondering many times, while working for a long time in film distribution, publishing (both internationally) and politics (Berlin), how less informed in serious environmental issues many well educated people still are. The information is there, easy accessible, but often it is not reaching (in time) a larger audience and decision makers. The majority lives in cities and know ‘something’ from the media. As I am working on the topic sustainable fishing and fish consumption, it is very obvious.
Finding such an ambassador for nature (in the name of IUCN or a coalition from science based organisations?), I think it is important to define who has to be addressed. a) ‘just’ professionals from politics, business, media and organisations or b) also a larger audience which hopefully will be encouraged by the ambassador to put social pressure on companies and politicians, demanding change.
However, if it is a show person, it should not be a star who recently became “fashionable green” but who really is a credible character with global outreach and willing to support with true, long-term commitment. Better to avoid celebrities from a pure mainstream media world. In the following list I give some suggestions who could bridge between mainstream, independent, arthouse and intellectual circles and – nearly all of them – also between different age groups.
Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Natalie Portman, George Clooney, Cate Blanchet, Robert Redford, Liv Taylor, James Cameron. Outside movies: Paul McCartney, Simon Rattle, Jared Diamond, Gordon Moore, Jochen Zeitz (former CEO of PUMA sports), Roger Federer.
But how would be a global TEAM?! e.g.:
Jackie Chan from HK/China, Shahruk Khan from India and a western person. Both are known to be active into social and environmental issues.
(I don’t who actually is in Asia a huge & credible (and not just glamour, if possible) female star. E.g. Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh?)
Or a mix with science/ business and show persons?
A way to get in touch with some of these people could be a cooperation for a project start during a political driven film festival with huge global media attention like the Berlinale Film Festival and his committed festival director Dieter Kosslick. I think it could be worth to check such possibility.
M. Wohlrabe, World Heritage Studies, BTU Cottbus;
Dear Mr Wohlrabe
Apologies that I did not get back to you earlier, but I have been off-line for a while..
I do like your idea of a team of ambassadors – a very interesting suggestion that is worth following up.