The Nature Conservancy is using science and business-minded ingenuity to demonstrate how conservation strategies can also provide effective solutions to major global challenges like water security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, food availability and disaster risk reduction. These strategies can contribute to the sustainability of other interventions to address these challenges, including infrastructure and energy development.
We are providing leaders in government at all levels with practical approaches that make more sustainable use of nature possible and providing science-guided counsel on investing in nature as a solution provider.
Most of the world’s population depends on rivers and lakes to supply water for drinking, cooking, growing crops and more. Yet worldwide we are crippling nature’s ability to provide the clean water we need in order to live and to thrive. Scientists predict that, if we continue on our current course, two-thirds of the world’s population will face water shortages by 2025. The Nature Conservancy is partnering with businesses, governments and communities to invest in the protection of our water sources and put our communities and our economies on track for a healthier future.
Increasing demands for food are depleting fish stocks and driving expansion of agriculture into natural areas, with dramatic consequences for the benefits for the people and businesses that depend on those habitats and the services they provide. We are working with partners around the globe to find new ways to produce food for a growing population without irreparably damaging the natural resources we depend on for drinking water, clothing, housing and other goods. Read more about the food-energy-water nexus in this blog post by Mark Tercek.
Well-planned and coordinated strategies give people and nature the best opportunity to adapt and thrive in a changing world. Our work is showing, for example, how coral reefs – which provide livelihoods and food for more than 100 million people – can be sustained in the face of warming oceans, how mangroves and wetlands can protect coastal properties from wave damage and rising seas, and how forests can absorb floodwaters and prevent erosion from storms. We are demonstrating how natural systems can provide protective services that compliment hard infrastructure solutions.
The Nature Conservancy supports an energy future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, improved energy security and affordable prices, and we are working hard to prevent conflicts between energy development and environmental conservation. For example, the Conservancy is working with British Petroleum and state and federal agencies in Colorado, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania, to prevent and mitigate the environmental impacts of natural gas extraction in these states. Read more about our Development by Design framework, why we engage with the energy industry, and some myths and challenges of renewable energy.
Economics of Nature
Protecting the Earth’s natural ecosystems can contribute significantly to economic growth. For example, by protecting Louisiana’s coastal marshes, home to numerous fish, birds, and marine mammals, we are also protecting commercial fisheries, which account for one out of every 70 jobs in Louisiana. In partnership with WWF and Stanford University, we are helping key decision-makers incorporate the value of nature into their conservation and development decisions through our work on the Natural Capital Project.
Loss of nature has critical implications for the achievement of poverty eradication goals and vice versa. With more than half of the income of people living on less than $2 per day coming from the benefits that nature provides, the interconnectedness of poverty reduction and conservation are clear. There is empirical evidence of conservation interventions providing poverty reduction benefits to the rural poor, such as community timber enterprises, payments for environmental services (PES), nature-based tourism as well as providing a material buffer against hard times.
Nature provides the basic building blocks for companies’ product lines and, ultimately, their bottom lines. We work with select companies to improve business practices, support science and conservation and policy initiatives, and raise awareness for conservation issues. We assist companies in making better decisions that are good for business and good for nature. By helping businesses understand the value of nature, we can guide them towards incorporating nature’s services into their business plans and increase conservation awareness.
We are working to ensure that the needs of both people and nature are being met – for both biodiversity and the benefits and services that this biodiversity provides to human wellbeing. For example, greater fish catches led to greater protein intake in Navakavu and Apo Island and a perceived improvement in children’s health. In Bunaken, visitor entry fees to protected areas funded water-supply tanks, public toilets, and washing places in several villages and thus improved public health. Natural ecosystems also play an essential role in human health security by regulating climate, air, and water, and supplying effective disease treatments. For example, a drug derived from a compound discovered in a Caribbean reef sponge has helped save the lives of millions of people with leukemia—including this cancer survivor.