The new strategic plan of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity contains 20 well-meaning targets to “take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity”. Amongst them:
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.
National governments face three main obstacles in implementing this target and evaluating progress:
- People vary. A single activity or plan can never address everybody (and trying would be extraordinarily expensive). Being strategic means identifying a specific target audience for each intervention: Do you want to preach to the choir (and create a powerful community)? Do you want to focus on the influencers (and create a ripple-down effect)? Or do you want to convert those that currently obstruct progress?
- Awareness is futile. Whatever your objective, it is not going to help you if people are aware of your project. You want behaviour change – and knowledge alone will not create momentum. The first step will be to identify what you want your audience to do. Then look at why they are currently not doing it. You might be surprised what you find out.
- Action happens in systems. Individual behaviour change happens most easily if the surrounding system supports the change. City planning has an influence on transport choices and gardening endeavours. Retailers can promote and choice-edit biodiversity-friendly products. Changing the energy mix, recycling programmes and building codes might have more impact than appealing to individual action.
Communication will play a big role in reducing the rate of biodiversity loss. This means providing clear direction and connecting with the emotional values and beliefs of your audience. A generic awareness building campaign will do neither.
What would you recommend to achieve this target?