Word from the CEO

Yolan Friedmann

The older I have got – and I have definitely gotten older this year– the more I realise that life is really much simpler than we make it out to be. Within just my career, I can attest to the fact that the conservation/environmental sector follows the same cycle: making simple solutions seem much more technical, complicated, and high-tech than what they actually are: simple.

To demonstrate, our sector is full of jargon and terminology that evolves every few years, mostly in synchrony with the international gatherings of important bodies such as government signatories to multi-lateral agreements, the expiry of international treaties, or the upcoming renewal of same, perhaps all designed to give new impetus to age-old concepts in a way that ensures that they make their way into renewed commitments and invigorated negotiations, but which are simply all about doing the right thing. But why does ‘doing the right thing’ need to have clever new names and technical descriptions to gain traction? Let me demonstrate: At the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties (CoP), as well as the impending United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change CoP, our leaders will be negotiating our futures around concepts such as “Nature Positive”, “No Nett Loss”, “Net-Zero Standard”, and “Clean Development Mechanism” whilst terms like “future-proofing”, “resilience”, “natural capital”, and “carbon offsetting” will be more common than “hello” and “how are you?”. This is on the back of the evolution of terms like “sustainable use” and hot on the heels of the demise of the term “sustainable development”, which is so last season…

However, underneath it all are some very simple concepts which appear to be beyond human beings to adopt, no matter how you spin it. Live simply, honestly, and fairly; don’t use more than you really need; share; don’t waste; live compassionately and with consideration for others that live on the same planet; do business with minimal impact and maximum benefit to the most for now, and into the future; don’t be greedy; and live with kindness. These are really not complicated concepts; yet, we seem to need complex terms that sound important enough for leaders to shake hands over the documents that espouse them and lock them in as the solutions that will save humanity from destruction. The problem with this is that it alienates ordinary human beings from doing what is right, and changing our lives by ourselves and for our own benefit, along the lines of the concepts above. We stand back and wait for new agreements with complex language and confusing jargon to be adopted and driven by leaders who we know will almost never really take them seriously.

In the run-up to both Conferences of the Parties, we hold out for stronger commitments to more aggressive targets and more effective change that will lead to better futures. But we must remember that the truth is far simpler and more achievable if we all learn that it comes down to some simple truths humans have been hardwired to know for millennia. Don’t hold out for technical agreements and confusing jargon, do what is right and important right now. Make that change today to a diet, a lifestyle, a business and a home that is less impactful and kinder to the planet. Buy local, eat less, waste nothing, repurpose and recycle, consume less, live lighter, be less greedy, love more and want less, share more, destroy less and nurture more, and be more aware of the impact we all have, which can be positive or a blight on the natural world around us. Imagine if all people and all national policies ensured that this is how all people lived worldwide. Life really is sometimes that simple.

As 2022 races towards an end and we all get a little older, may the wisdom we have gained be to live with more kindness and grace and nurture the natural world that gives us all life.

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