“Nature Doesn’t Need People. People Need Nature”: Conservation International’s Approach to Climate Change

This is the fifth in our digital ethnography series.
Written by Zachary Reaver

Throughout COP21, I have been following the online presence of Conservation International (CI).  I usually wait until late in the evening to collect my data, making sure I don’t miss any tweets or Facebook posts that have been made throughout the day and evening.  I begrudgingly made a Twitter and Instagram account for this project, although I have been fascinated by how much all of these different types of social media are produced and consumed.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with CI, it is a very large environmental nonprofit nongovernmental organization (NGO) founded in 1987 by Spencer Beebe and Peter Seligmann.  Mr. Seligmann still serves as CI’s CEO and is actually one of the attendees at COP21.  Starting with modest beginnings, CI now has offices in over 30 countries and works with more than 1,000 other organizations, including businesses such as Starbucks and Walmart.  CI tries to champion many different causes, but their main push is to emphasize the importance of nature.  In the context of COP21, CI has claimed that nature can provide up to 30% of the solution for climate change in terms of restoring and maintaining forests, coastlines, etc. for carbon sequestration.

Conservation International has been very active both leading up to and during COP21.  In preparation for the negotiations, CI actually released its own final position paper with specific goals, metrics, and recommended text for the final agreement on such areas as adaptation, mitigation, and finance.  In addition, CI started two major “campaigns” for COP21: the first is a video series called “Nature is Speaking”, in which CI has enlisted famous actors and actresses to voice various components of nature, such as Liam Neeson as Ice, Kevin Spacey as The Rainforest, and Harrison Ford as The Ocean.  These videos have been released over the past year leading up to COP21, with a final video, “Home” being debuted on December 10th at the conference (by the time you read this, you should probably be able to go watch it online!).  These videos are definitely worth a watch, and enforce the message that “Nature Doesn’t Need People. People Need Nature.”  The second campaign is through social media with the hashtag #INeedNature.  This campaign encourages anyone around the world to take a picture in nature and submit it to CI, either through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or their main website.  CI has been collecting these photos and will also be showcasing them on December 10th at COP21. Conservation International also hosted a session at COP21 on December 8th with CEOs and chairmen of Walmart, IKEA, Agropalm, and Kellogg to discuss the importance of businesses and corporations in contributing to climate change solutions.

I think it is impressive to see the presence and influence that a non-state actor such as Conservation International can have, bringing together celebrities, CEOs, and even heads of state (Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, which is one of the most at-risk nations due to sea level rise, is a prominent CI board member) to combat climate change.  I am very interested to see the final outcome of COP21 and hope that a strong agreement is made!

If you are interested in the “Nature is Speaking” and #INeedNature pictures, please see the following sites:


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