A Vision of Collaboration
Conservation evolved as a crisis discipline, born of environmental disasters of the past and driven by the possibility of future catastrophes. In some ways this remains the case, and there are certainly more than enough examples of bad environmental news to fill scientific journals and media stories.
However, there are growing signs of a new approach, one focused less on doom and gloom and more on solutions and success. This evolving change is itself the product of two forces: first, the recognition that fear without hope does not motivate people and indeed can produce disengagement, and second, that conservation already has many achievements to celebrate, which are not fully appreciated.
The result has been the emergence of both the need for, and examples of, a more positive framing of conservation and sustainability. Notable among these is a growth of “Optimism” efforts: over 60 Earth Optimism Summit gatherings of like-minded people and related activities around the world since 2017, mixed with social media campaigns including #OceanOptimism, #EarthOptimism, #ConservationOptimism and #ClimateOptimist.
It is now time to bring together these disparate sources of positive energy and unite them to build the Earth Optimism Alliance – a global movement aimed at fundamentally changing how we frame, discuss and deliver conservation, on the ground, in workplaces, and in our everyday lives.
Preliminary discussions have stressed the need for the alliance to foster the ability of participants to achieve their own goals related to environment and human well-being, but shared outcomes will be to:
- Activate – Move one billion people from overwhelmed to engaged.
- Inspire – Change the tone of the conservation conversation from problematic pessimism to optimism in all activities.
- Engage – Empower the next generation to replicate and scale up the successes we now have.
- Educate – Deliver public celebrations of success, including major Earth Optimism Summit events in 2020 and smaller Earth Optimism events leading up to 2020 and beyond.
- Amplify – Create a repository of credible environmental success stories from around the world, across diverse audiences, including conservation professionals, journalists, educators, other opinion formers, businesses, students, and make them available to the general public for digital sharing.
- Collaborate – Work together, across physical, academic and business borders, to promote optimism around the world leading up to Earth Day 2020 and beyond to realize as much success as possible towards global conservation goals. We need to eliminate silos that prohibit progress and share knowledge and best practices to achieve optimistic objectives.
Special Message from the Alliance
Celebrating Global #EarthOptimism this Earth Day and beyond
In the last year, the #EarthOptimism movement has gained momentum. Through sharing and learning from conservation wins, it has given us the inspiration and information we need to succeed in the long term.
Now, in this unprecedented and difficult time, we need optimism more than ever—to uplift us, inspire us, and help us imagine a new path forward. The #EarthOptimism movement continues to bring people together to talk about what’s working to protect the future of our planet. Although we are no longer able to hold physical events in April this year, global partners are working hard to find new ways to recognize and celebrate environmental successes as motivation for action.
April 22, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and the Smithsonian and partners in Beijing are hosting virtual #EarthOptimism events to mark the occasion. Many others will join the Earth Day Network’s digital gatherings in the USA, Kenya, and elsewhere. We would like to invite you to take part and join us on social media by following #EarthOptimism.
The Earth Optimism global alliance partners are still planning to put on physical events in the future – featuring talks by conservation experts, popular figures and youth leaders, panel discussions, hands-on advice sessions, and film festivals – as soon as is practically possible. Details will be posted on individual Earth Optimism websites, which you can find here.
While we are all immensely disappointed that we cannot come together in person this year, we look forward to connecting digitally and re-grouping in 2021. Together we will focus on the positive as a reminder of our responsibility and ability to help bring about nature’s recovery.
Nancy Knowlton, Ruth Stolk, Andrea Santy, and Britta Garfield, Smithsonian Conservation Commons, Washington, DC, USA.
Andrew Balmford, Rosie Trevelyan, and Mike Rands, Cambridge Conservation Initiative, Cambridge, UK.
Olivia Adhiambo and Anthony Kuria, Tropical Biology Association, Nairobi, Kenya.
Fernanda Gomes, Agnieszka Latawiec, Bernardo Strassburg and IIS team, Instituto Internacional Para Sustentabilidade, Rio, Brazil.
Lu Zhi, Chen Feng, Xiangying Shi, Shanshui Conservation Centre, Beijing, China.
Vanessa Adams, Justine O’Brien, and Belinda Fairbrother, Society for Conservation Biology Oceania and Taronga Conservation Society, Sydney, Australia