Sharing love stories at the UN biodiversity conference

Scientists and policy makers told love stories about nature as part of an IUCN CEC side event at CBD COP 11.  The event drew on the Love Not Loss Campaign for communicating biodiversity.

IUCN CEC side event on ‘Communicating Biodiversity: How to Tell a Love Story’ at CBD COP 11 in Hyderabad, India

Love, passion and longing. If these words make you think of a romance novel, think again. This is how scientists and policy experts described their connections to nature at a recent United Nations workshop on positive strategies for communicating about conservation. Participants spoke about their love of nature, the passion that drives them to protect biodiversity, and the longing to experience natural world with others.

The UN workshop was a side event on ‘Communicating Biodiversity: How to Tell a Love Story’ offered by members of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (IUCN CEC) at the eleventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The side event, held 10 October 2012 in Hyderabad, India, showcased effective communication strategies. Participants enjoyed presentations featuring successful positive communication practices and viewed wildlife film clips such as ‘Funny Talking Penguins’ and ‘Funny Talking Elephants’ and the short videos ‘How to Tell a Love Story’ and ‘Love. Not Loss’.

The focus on what we love about nature provided an energizing counterpoint to the conference’s important and serious discussions on text amendments, protocols and resource mobilisation. CEC members delivered the side event as a contribution to Aichi Target 1 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which states: 'By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably’.

Effective communication approaches are critical to achieving Aichi Target 1 and international conservation agreements of all kinds. The conservation community needs to communicate effectively with people in ways that resonate. Using communication approaches that personalise, humanise and publicise nature, the conservation community can reach out to people in ways that generate support for nature and motivate action.

Nancy Colleton, IUCN CEC Deputy Chair, moderated the session, asking participants to share their experiences of how they have helped people to fall in love with nature. "We can’t communicate science without knowing science. And we certainly can’t communicate it effectively if we don’t understand where the communication is going and the change that we might want to motivate," she said.

The multinational audience told personal stories on many aspects of nature, from caring for cobras to swimming in streams in Nigeria. They spoke about initiatives that introduce children to the beauty of the underwater world and about the important role that zoos and aquaria can play in introducing people to animals.

Effective communications are required for progress in the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and CBD Article 13 on Communication, Education and Public Awareness. This need was described by David Ainsworth, Information Officer at the CBD Secretariat and member of the CEC Steering Committee. He said that within our biodiversity work we have both the best job and the hardest job: we get to work with amazing natural environments and yet we must communicate very complex subjects in ways that people can understand.

Rod Abson, CEC Focal Point, told the story of the development of the Love Not Loss Campaign from Nagoya in 2010 to the launch last month at the IUCN World Conservation Congress of its newest component, ‘How to Tell a Love Story’. He said that in the future CEC hopes the campaigns will generate interest and support for strategic, positive messaging in the wider conservation community.

Britta Garfield of Rare provided a case study about the group’sefforts to save the St Lucia parrot from extinction by using effective public awareness and action.

To find out more and share in the focus on positive biodiversity communications please see: and follow #lovenotloss on Twitter.


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