Waterfalls of the Una River
Waterfalls of the Una River The Nature Conservancy is working with representatives across this region to preserve the integrity of these stunning rivers. ©: Ken Geiger/TNC

Global Insights | Perspectives

9 Reasons to be Hopeful for our Planet

In response to growing challenges to our natural world, fresh ideas and new technologies this year helped TNC make progress that can be built upon.

It has been a challenging year for the environment. Our planet faces many threats, from a growing loss of habitat to the constantly-unfolding danger of a changing climate. But as we look back on the year and look ahead to the next horizon, there is a lot of reason to be hopeful.

Humanity has a quality of finding creative solutions to challenges. At The Nature Conservancy, we’re bringing together innovative minds and technologies to protect the forests, rivers and oceans we all depend on. These vital wins to protect nature are only possible because of your generous support.

Here are 9 reasons to be hopeful:

Seychelles Tortoise
Seychelles Tortoise TNC and partners brokered a groundbreaking deal to purchase some of Seychelles’ foreign debt in exchange for the island nation’s commitment to conservation. © Jason Houston

A large swath of ocean and a unique archipelago are now protected

81,000 square miles of the Indian Ocean (the size of Great Britain) are now protected off of Seychelles in the form of 2 marine protected areas. These protected areas are the results of a first-of-its-kind deal that TNC brokered that catalyzes the island nation to conserve its precious natural resources. The smaller area, a modest 29,000 square miles, protects the isolated Aldabra archipelago, home to an ecosystem with evolutionary diversity as inspiring as that of the Galapagos. It’s home to the endangered dugong and 100,000 rare tortoises that breed only there. The other 52,000 square miles include a stretch of deep ocean important to the country’s fishing and tourism industries. 

Okavango Basin
Okavango Basin Aerial of the Okavango River in Botswana. TNC is working with partners here to ensure that this breathtaking habitat has enough water as infrastructure projects progress. © Wynand Uys/Unsplash

Elephants and people can both thrive in Botswana

Every year, Botswana’s Okavango Basin floods to become a desert oasis that supports Africa’s single-largest elephant population and other wildlife. TNC is partnering with National Geographic, WWF and local governments to make sure this natural wonder can survive present and future challenges, such as proposed dams and irrigation projects. TNC is bringing its expertise in managing watersheds and in innovative finance to the partnership, which aims to ensure that this breathtaking wilderness has the flow of water it needs to thrive.

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa TNC is leading an initiative to remove invasive plants like Australian acacia, pine and eucalyptus from land around the city, restoring two months of the city’s water supply. © Quality Master/Shutterstock

The major city that almost ran out of water is now saving months of it

The notion of a major city running out of freshwater may have been hard to imagine until last year, when the South African capital of Cape Town very nearly reached “Day Zero.” To prevent Cape Town from depleting its water supply, TNC is partnering with a team of local women to recover up to two months of water by removing the invasive plants around the city that are soaking up rainwater before it can enter into the city’s water table. 

Mongolia's Eastern Steppe
Mongolia's Eastern Steppe For over 10 years, TNC has worked with the Mongolian government to protect the country's vast, unspoiled landscape. © Nick Hall

We can protect the world’s largest temperate grassland

Mongolia’s Eastern Steppe, at 10 times the size of Africa’s Serengeti, is the world’s largest intact temperate grassland. It’s a rare refuge for gazelles, snow leopards, and critically endangered saiga antelope that’s threatened by global demand for gold, coal and copper mined in the region. We used our science to identify the areas of the country most critical for conservation and helped the government designate 26 million acres – an area the size of Kentucky, as protected areas. This is a monumental step forward for the protection of grasslands, the planet’s least protected land habitat. This year, TNC hosted Mongolian herders and community members at our Zumwalt Prairie Preserve in Oregon to learn from one another how to take even better care of grasslands. TNC’s 10 years of conservation work in the country is producing results.  

Waterfalls of the Balkans
Waterfalls of the Balkans Plitviče Lakes National Park in central Croatia. The high level of biodiversity and unique intactness of the Balkan region’s rivers have earned them the distinction of the ‘Bl © Ken Geiger/TNC

We can preserve the integrity of Europe’s last free-flowing rivers

In Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and other parts of the Balkans, pristine aqua-blue rivers give the region a fantastical quality. The region’s rivers, remarkably undisturbed and home to a wealth of different species, have earned the distinction of the “blue heart of Europe.” But now, the Balkan region is at the brink of a hydropower development boom of global proportions, with hundreds, if not thousands, of new dams planned and under construction. TNC is advocating for smart renewable energy use in the Balkans without sacrificing habitat.  We’re sharing our expertise in river planning, including most recently convening decision-makers from the Balkans with our conservation team in Wyoming who have first-hand experience keeping scenic rivers as untouched by dams as possible.

Narmada River
Narmada River The Narmada River in Central India supports more than 25 million people and unique wildlife like the tiger, leopard and several species of deer. © Ashok Biswal

Planting the seeds for a forest rebound in India

The Narmada River supports an area of high biodiversity in the highlands of Central India. Mouse deer and sloth bears live here, as do 30% of India’s tigers. 25 million people also rely on the river for food and drinking water. But the health of the river has been threatened by deforestation in recent times. TNC is working to bring back forests along the entire length of the river. As a start, the Conservancy scientifically identified locations along the Narmada where reforestation would have the highest benefit for wildlife and people, and selected a critical 3 mile portion to start bringing forest back. That 3 mile stretch will be used as a model for reforesting elsewhere on the river.

Flowers of the Cerrado
Flowers of the Cerrado Natural meadow punctuated by everlasting flowers in Brazil’s Cerrado. This tropical savanna three times the size of Texas is threatened by a surge in soy production. TNC relea © Scott Warren

Ensuring a future for Brazil’s vast savanna by sharing data

Soy is seemingly everywhere in the products people use daily. Increased soy farming in Brazil has driven losses to threatened ecosystems like the Amazon and the Cerrado, a unique, biologically-rich savanna three times the size of Texas. To ensure the best possible future for the Cerrado, TNC released a tool that helps soy companies drive their agriculture into previously-cleared areas instead of disturbing more natural habitat. The tool arms these companies with the environmental and economic data they need to avoid cutting down more of the Cerrado, a habitat important for its biodiversity and its ability to store carbon. 

Constellation to Coral Reefs
Constellation to Coral Reefs Airplane sensors help TNC develop the most detailed maps ever created of reefs in the Caribbean, which will support smarter planning for their conservation. © Marjo Aho

Unprecedented levels of detail are leading to smarter coral conservation

Coral reefs are an iconic and essential part of the Caribbean. And though they’ve been declining in the region for decades due to overfishing, pollution and the effects of climate change, there is hope. By combining TNC expertise with the latest technology in satellite imagery, we’re creating the first-ever high-resolution maps of reefs in the Caribbean. With this kind of never-before-seen detail captured by plane and satellite, we can support better, smarter conservation for these critical ecosystems. 

Green Swamp Savanna
Green Swamp Savanna Controlled burns and other forest management practices have been in place here for years, reducing the chance of large out-of-control fires that threaten nearby communities. © Mark Godfrey/TNC

Passing a much-needed fix for how we fight wildfires is in place

Wildfire seasons around the globe are becoming longer and more catastrophic than ever. For decades in the United States, federal funding for urgently fighting wildfires was taken from the budget of critical forest restoration that could prevent or lessen these fires. A policy fix was needed, and you stepped up to make your voice heard. TNC, along with our trustees and members, led a four-year campaign to change this funding structure in a way that allocates up to an additional $2.95 billion each year to pay for major fires. This policy win strengthens the government’s ability to proactively make forests less fire-prone without sacrificing its ability to reactively fight wildfires.

Like rings on a tree, every year is an opportunity to build upon and grow stronger. The scale of our work is constantly growing and we’re embracing it head-on. Like any of the work we’ve accomplished over the past 67 years, we could not do it alone. 

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