The Future of Business and Nature Report (July 2020), the Nature Recovery Report (July 2020), and the Future of the Anthropocene Biosphere Report (July 2020) for the Nobel Summit 2020, and now the Future of Business and Nature Report II (September 2020) represent a comprehensive nature-climate positive economic and business case that continues to grow and has never been (until now) more quantitatively and clearly defined and directed. These reports and others aggregate 1000’s of ongoing research studies and recent campaigns involving 100’s of top scientists and experts working on the climate-nature-economic interface. Their key findings can be found in previous articles I’ve written in this Great Green Reset series, and of course in the reports, themselves. In summary, if we are smart humans, we will take this opportunity to transform our businesses and bodies– take a nature’s systems approach to recovery, create ripe conditions for nature to regenerate- naturally, and then stand back and watch the awesome, symbiotic orchestra of life in the biosphere re-create.

Finally, we’re ready to put the flywheel of this Great Green Reset in motion. We have the global goals, specific targets, priority guidelines, biodiversity hotspots, strategies, road maps, financial mechanisms, knowledge platforms, economic projections, and coordinated innovation hubs. Alliances and new coalitions, like Climate Champions, Nature for Life Hub, Leaders Pledge for Nature, Mission Possible, Business for Nature are popping up overnight and prescribing alternatives to overly exploitative or damaging business practices, proposing tax and voluntary offset solutions, and mandating reciprocal actions that counter-balance extraction of nature’s assets. We just now need the global funds to execute at a price tag of $500-$600 billion USD per year.

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

And what will we do with this Nature Recovery portfolio of funds?

First, we all know that we need to protect 30% of the planet’s land and ocean ecosystems to ensure the viability of the biosphere. The Campaign for Nature, Nature for Life Hub, and global conservation organizations have well rallied EO Wilson’s, IPES’, IUCN’s, WWF’s Living Planet’s, and others’ 30×30 cry to target, recover, and sustainably protect key biodiversity hotspots. (KPAs). We know that just to create and manage these essential land-sea reserves will require an average investment in nature of $140 billion USD/years (e.g. $103-178 billion USD/annually). As we currently invest $24 billion/year in the protection and sustainable management of wild areas; we will need to step up our funding efforts to achieve 30×30.

That said, it should not be that difficult to muster another $100 B (minimally for 30×30) for the aim of protecting earth’s life support systems that support us. In comparison to other global costs, the investment we need to protect nature is 0.16% of global GDP, less than 50% of what we spend on pet food, globally, and less than 33% of the funds governments spend in subsidies for industrial activities that destroy nature, like mining and fossil fuels. (Campaign for Nature 2020) Imagine, if the $542 Billion USD in subsidies traditionally allocated to nature-destructive industries and entities, driving the 68% wildlife and biodiversity loss (Jennifer Morris, CEO, TNC, WEF SI Summit 2020) were instead allocated to nature-constructive (nature positive) industries and entities. If even 25% of nature-destructive subsidies were efficiently shifted toward nature-constructive subsidies today, we could at least keep increased nature loss at bay. Further, when we prioritize global peace and act in solidarity in addressing our common global challenges of climate and nature, then we can also effectively mobilize resources from our exorbitant military budgets (even a small percent) toward our nature-positive agendas, as well. (Carlos Rodriguez, Director of GEF, Nature Finance Forum 2020)

“The cost to protect 30% of our planet, ranging from about $103 to $178 billion, is not inconsequential. However, nature provides more than $125 trillion in benefits to humanity, global GDP is about $80 trillion, and the total global assets under management is about $125 trillion. In this context, the cost of creating a resilient, planetary safety net for all life on earth barely even registers as a statistical rounding error. The benefits to humanity are incalculable, and the cost of inaction is unthinkable.” Dr. Jamison Ervin (Manager, Global Program on Nature for Life, UNDP, 2020)

* Note: The Natural Capital Lab annual cost estimates to protect and restore nature preserves range from $300-400 Billion USD/year. The Business for Nature and the TNC’s Nature Recovery Report, Sept 2020 estimates $600-800B Billion USD/year to restore nature and to reverse biodiversity loss (another name for nature).

Muir Woods, site of the founding of the United Nations, Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

Again, the good news from UNGA 2020 is that 60 plus countries have just this week during the Leaders Pledge for Nature committed 100’s of millions of USD/Euro/pounds as initial starting funds toward our global commons nature trust. As well, trusted celebrity voices, like Sir David Attenborough are now calling for a $500 million USD investment in nature from US- mainstream audiences of his new film, A Life on Earth, premiering on October 4th, 2020- TODAY.  Further, IUCN, TNC, CI, WWF Intl and others continue to work tirelessly to innovate and to promote novel bio-based market strategies, debt for nature swaps, and other innovative financing mechanisms with country governments to reach our nature recovery financing targets. Our nature-funding gap (per above) is still quite wide and ambition must now soar, but the good news for business is that when we flip the switch and invest in nature, then we actually invest in ourselves and in a healthy economy, too.

Image from our Last Chance Video @ Prince Albert’s Planetary Health Gala 2020

Second, we know that solid waste, environmental pollution, plastics, and ocean plastic pollution have all exponentially increased in the past 50 years. In 2016, our cities worldwide produced an accumulated 2 billion +plus tons of solid waste. (UN Oceans, Sea Save, Ocean Conservancy, Benioff Ocean Initiative) And, as we expect 80% of the global population to live in cities in 2050; analysts expect world cities will produce a shocking total of 3.4 billion tons of waste in the next 30 years. Now that’s a scary thought, especially when only 9% of plastics ever produced have been recycled. And, 79% of plastic waste sits now in landfills or the ocean wastebasket. So, new business opportunities in turning waste to wealth and in recycling plastic and other “trash-non-consumed/no-longer-used goods” is one super exciting area in the circular economy engine to start fueling with more investment capital. Yes?

Imagine the five Ocean Plastic Gyres transformed into new plastic mines for seafaring petrochemical conversion plants. Imagine these floating, hydro-powered plants producing our new world’s plastic coatings for 100’s of thousands of durable (non-throw away) consumer products—cosmetic containers, cleaning bottles, textiles, furniture wraps, and floor shellacs. Further, imagine the 33% global food waste from farm to fork part of our pre-COVID-19 past. There is zero reason for us to continue wasteful practices throughout our food production-transport chains. Education and shared information technologies are certainly here the name of this course correction change game. Also, analyzes by the Food and Land Coalition estimate that $350 billion USD/year of investment in sustainable food and land use systems could generate $4.5 trillion in new business opportunities and 120 million new jobs, while creating long term investment saving 15 times current costs. (Nature Positive Recovery 2020) And, when it comes to our coastal ecosystems; over 29 million hectares of wetlands, marshes, and mangroves can be regenerated and restored to create natural storm and flood buffers that could save communities over $82 billion USD in repair. (WEF, Davos 2020)

“There is a large financial return if we protect 30% of terrestrial and marine nature. Protecting the goose does indeed produce golden eggs.” Dr. Tom Lovejoy, Tropical Forest Biologist, Prof. of Environmental Science, George Mason University

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

Third, the three largest business sectors that are highly dependent on nature and generate close to $8 trillion USD in added value to the global economy– construction ($4 trillion); agriculture ($2.5 trillion); and food and beverages ($1.4 trillion); are also economic sectors with the greatest potential gains in efficiency and innovation when on the climate-friendly, nature-positive track. (WEF Future of Business and Nature 2020) Imagine again and again, we can create a win-win-win for nature, people and business that unlocks an estimated $10.1 trillion in good business and transforms these three economic systems, also responsible for almost 80% of nature loss. (WEF Future of Business and Nature 2020) Technologies that help create transparency and identify efficiencies from providence to end product in supply chains will be key; as 90% of the carbon and resources savings are locked up in supply chains. (WEF Davos and SDI Investment Panel 2020) And, we can prevent 10 billion tons of CO2 emission annually by 2030; simply by banning deforestation and investing in nature-positive forest management. This figure the TNC (Nature Conservancy) estimated could contribute $25-90 billion USD in added economic (and natural capital) value by 2030 without even needing the Potsdam Institute’s carbon price confirmation.

As well, most every other industry– chemicals, aviation, travel and tourism, real estate, mining and metals, local transport, retail and consumer goods are either highly or moderately dependent on nature, especially as they extract value—natural resources or nature’s services through supply chain activities. Clearly, COVID-19 has highlighted that when there is an ecological health crisis; every worker, employer, company, industry feels the pain. What’s the cure? We know that recovery requires an entire system reset. The total transformation of our global economy will require a Great Reset (WEF 2020)– great leadership vision, great innovation, and great willingness by everyone, everywhere to adopt a climate neutral lifestyle in solidarity with everyone, everywhere. And we know that this Great Reset must be a Green Great Reset system’s approach that follows nature’s lead.

The good news is that only is there now huge dis-incentive for delaying action (e.g. irrecoverable degradation of ecosystems, unstoppable downward spiral of climate change), there are massively exciting upsides to a green (land) and blue (ocean) economic tectonic shift, now.  And conversely, what investor would want to be left out of the most innovative blended finance, nature-positive, climate friendly economic opportunities available today… and frankly in our lifetimes? These are exciting times ahead. You can find out more about the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Playbook, here.

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

Let’s Imagine

As Frans Timmerman (EVP, EU Commission responsible for the EU Green Deal) recommended–Let’s all take a breath and forward-focus the world we want to realize I our future. Let’s use our creative abilities as humans to imagine and create the world we want.

Imagine– As 80% of the human population is expected to live in cities; then let’s make those urban homes, hubs of innovation and multi-cultural cosmopolitan exchange, epic. What does President Duque of Colombia’s BiodiverCity look like? Will there be nature parks on every corner; and businesses promoting their eco-friendly—products in reusable containers, while incentivizing Terracycle recycling protocols for consumers—the keystone characters for ensuring a true circular economy? Will there by plant walls in every apartment and rooftop gardens on top of buildings? Imagine.  Imagine, there will be Aerofarms in the driest of food deserts and community agroforestry plots overtaking abandoned and degraded land lots. Imagine, there will be ocean-enriching aquaculture enterprises replacing ocean-depleting fishing exercises. There will be plenty of energy for everyone, as offshore wind towers will be woven in and around these aquaculture sites. Imagine, businesses now operating smoothly again in a new virtual-real reality; where the home-office commute is reduced 50%. Imagine old window-less, crowded, and 8-18% compromised air quality office buildings re-imaged and re-designed to welcome in the great outdoors; virtually and actually. Imagine, a doubling of nature parks (sanctuaries) and walking districts in every BiodiverCity becoming the new meeting places for life, work, and play. Imagine a BiodiverCity where waste is metabolized 100% back into the urban infrastructure; where all citizens embrace a culture of recycling and proudly take care of their local parks. Imagine an urban neighborhood expanding their vision and viewing their home communities with bioregional glasses, welcoming the opportunity to contribute to local conservation efforts with their neighbors as a part of urban life.

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

Imagine– The nature conservation sector has been a fast growing sector in recent years. And conservation for work—not just volunteerism and play, is projected to grow 4-6% annually after the world recovers from COVID-19. This is exciting because local and Indigenous Peoples are best positioned to help us define, develop, and do this work; own those jobs. And, Indigenous Peoples are also traditionally the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our communities. Thus, building the conservation sector has a win-win benefit for people and planet. As well, Native Peoples who live close to the earth and carry a multi-generational earth stewardship ethics have a lot of knowledge to bring to conservation and wisdom to share with us about how to best protect the integrity of natural systems we now aim to recover on at least 30% of land and sea. Native Peoples around the world have served as nature stewards in sustainable ways for many generations. They are the perfect community to tap for building the conservation corps workforce and new conservation way of life. Already responsible for protecting nearly 80% of wild nature (Peter Seligman, Nia Tero), Indigenous Peoples- who represent only 5% of the global population, are nature’s unsung heroes. Now if we are wise, we give the microphone, money, and management responsibilities to let them speak and sing. It makes perfect sense that when we are truly ready to forge a new healthy relationship with nature that we turn toward Native Peoples already attuned with nature to guide us and to partner with us in conservation work. And when we believe this to be true, then it is also important for us to further recognize that many Indigenous Peoples are living off-grid and without access to the internet. In this Digital Age, they are voiceless on virtual platforms and still absent in conversations about building this conservation sector. Thus, closing the digital divide must also become part of our agenda to integrate Indigenous Peoples into the growth of this exciting sector. (Hindou Ibrahim, WEF SDI Summit 2020) Further, this conservation work needs also to be sustaining. In the 1 trillion tree initiative launched at WEF 2020, the ambassadors of this program, including Jane Goodall, Sadhguru, President Ivan Duque, Marc Benioff, Hindou Ibrahim, Justin Adams @ WEF Tropical Tree Alliance and have been very clear that tree-planting is not a one-time event; but a practice is tree and forest stewardship that involves the care and management of trees by local people, soil restoration, and ecosystem regeneration. Join the UPLink Trillion Tree Challenge A forest is more than a group of trees; but an integrated, network, bio-diverse rich, symbiotic natural system. Thus, Indigenous Peoples and local communities are not the only groups to include in these efforts; but also children to create a next generation ethic and value that reclaims the Native narrative hidden for a time. (Ricardo Lozano, Minister of the Environment, Colombia)

Eurovision Studios, Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum 2020

However, while the future of conservation work looks very promising and the funds currently directed toward nature-based solutions (NBS) increased from 3% to 8% in the past five years; it’s simply not enough capital investment in the conservation sector to shift the paradigm from niche and volunteer to mainstream and essential work. (M. Sanjayan, CI) That said, Imagine — What if the NEW HSBC 1 Billion euro Pollinator fund (Zoe Knight, HSBC, WEF Nature Finance Forum 2020), pollinated community-led conservation corps education, activities, and employment from the ground up and effectively created new revenue streams, jobs, nature positive financial flows, and built eco- markets? What would that conservation work world look like? And, how might other banks and financial institutions join in? How might they also imagine and create new jobs for nature in other industry sectors, like health? The economic value of building nature sanctuaries to improve the mental health of people and communities alone is estimated at $6 trillion USD, annually. (Nature Positive Recovery 2020) The fashion industry is a multi-trillion USD industry and responsible for at least 11% of our global carbon emissions. So, imagine the investment opportunity in new entrepreneurial textiles that don’t produce nano-plastics when washed. Or what about the tech sector? The food and beverage industry is another giant. And now that we care more about the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we buy; an entire world of air quality-water quality-food and fish provenance Apps to inform everyday citizens about what we are consuming must be a new booming sector for investment. And this is just a short list of opportunities. I’ve already a personal list of 100’s more ideas…also for exciting new home and health lifestyle upgrades.  Imagine. We can reduce micro-plastics in the oceans 30% simply by switching our clothes washing from 85-minute, 400C wash cycles to cooler, shorter 30-minute 150C cycles (Ocean Conservancy 2020). We can eliminate single use plastics from our homes or countries (in the case of Indonesia thanks to Bye-Bye Plastics) and deciding to use only eco-friendly detergents, cleaners, and industry cleaning products to reduce the eutrophication (pollution) of shoreline ecosystems. Imagine. We can create a blue-green shift as a consumer collective by buying less fish from markets and investing in local, clean, sustainable ocean aquaculture operations, especially in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Pacific, and beyond.

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

And, what if global leadership supported those visionary and pioneering investment opportunities? What if country leaders suspended the often ill-founded belief that other country leaders were out to dominate them; and decided that the enemy—quintessential for any government to rally public support; was this time, ourselves? What if like in many traditional societies, we decided to cure the enemy- our isolated selves promoted by a populist mentality, by re-orienting back to the collective – our eu-social, multi-stakeholder, multi-national selves (EO Wilson) – where the parts support the whole and the whole supports the parts of our global collective commons? Could we really ever imagine a world where there is no war and no threat of war? Could we really ever imagine dissolving every country’s military budgets (in whole or in part), like the national government did in Costa Rica to save their forest ecosystems from collapse many years ago—to rather support new conservation programs, as I mentioned earlier? The total budget of the military defense funds for the top 7 countries in the world totals $1,271 billion USD (Global Fire Power 2020). That figure approaches half of the $2.7 trillion USD per year, needed through until 2030 to scale our global transition to a nature-positive world and sustainably regenerate 30% of wild nature and ecosystem services. Further, the Nature Conservancy’s Closing the Nature Funding Gap- September 14, 2020 calls for nature finance @ $722-967 Billion USD /year to protect 30% of nature and to actually reverse the decline of biodiversity loss. Wouldn’t our military—committed to principles of life, prosperity, justice; be thrilled as civil servants to rebuild our communities and bioregions back with a conservation ethic and mentality? As trained civil servants, wouldn’t the military also be an extraordinarily effective group to rally on this nature positive mission to serve the greater good of the State?

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

On that note, who wouldn’t want to be part of an historic collective global effort to rebuild our natural world in solidarity post COVID-19, like our great-grandparents did after World War II…and build it back, better? Who wouldn’t want to protect and to promote the persistence of life on our planet for generations to come and ensure our children don’t end up paying for a carbon polluted, dis-ecologically functional planetary system, or a homogenized, weakened biological community of life on earth? Who wouldn’t want to work from a place of passion in one’s new nature-positive job, knowing that he was contributing to the rehabilitation of mangrove ecosystems to build natural resilience into his shoreline community against the next hurricane storm and sea swell? Who wouldn’t want to be recognized for her design of the ultimate eco-city whose metabolism functions in the same zero waste way as a tropical forest? Who wouldn’t want to be part of a modern day Conservation Corp. responsible for planting and managing healthy, endemic forests… and watching them regenerate whole biological communities over our lifetimes?

In summary, we know we need to keep the temperature change from the pre-Industrial period to below 20C. We know that for the planetary systems to function in support of life; we need to return 30% of the land and oceans to wild nature in order for humans to future-proof our world against climate change, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem collapse. (IPBES 2019) We know that we need 40% of forestland cover to remain intact (Tom Lovejoy, Nature Positive Recovery 2020) to keep the lungs of the earth offsetting urban pollution and decarbonizing the biosphere. We know we need to increase the area and numbers of wildlife corridors in our human-wildlife interface, protect migratory flight paths for birds and insects; and decrease the fragmentation of forests in order to optimize the health and recovery of nature and marine sanctuaries. We know we need to build resilience and nature-based adaptive strategies to curb the anticipated human impacts of climate change, to halt deforestation, and to invest heavily in conservation; anyway… AND the good news is that our prescription for a healthy planet is good for our human health and our economic health, as well. Indeed, this is a very special time to be alive. And we are the fortunate generation to determine our future. Will we make the good, global, green shift central to our Great Green Reset

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

Dr. Catherine Cunningham, PhD, Natural Intelligence Media is committed to awakening Natural Intelligence in the World. She produces multimedia content — books, films, interactive media, and podcasts with her creative companions that aim to inspire everyone, everywhere to live a happy, healthy, naturally intelligent life.

Visit our Natural Intelligence Website HERE.

Listen to my Naturally Intelligent by Design Podcast, featuring strategies from animals in our world to adapt to disruptive environmental change. HERE

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  • Catherine Cunningham, PhD

    Mission Possible: Awaken Natural Intelligence in Our World

    Natural Intelligence

    Dr. Catherine Cunningham, PhD is an ecologist, anthropologist, writer, filmmaker, and media host producing films, interactive experiences, and online multimedia for international clients who are focused on positive economic, social, and environmental win-win-win solutions to global conservation and climate change.

    Catherine has travelled, written, photographed, and filmed in 70 countries, producing creative films and music videos in support the UN Global Goals and the human+nature planetary health narrative. Visit Natural to see where her work has premiered internationally. Over 20 years, she has interviewed hundreds of global thought leaders to promote sustainable solutions to climate change and conservation in creative ways. Catherine has written numerous articles on climate change, nature, and regeneration. She’s currently writing two books: “Naturally Intelligent by Design” — a fine art science and culture book for families and “Natural Intelligence”— a guidebook for well-navigating a post COVID-19 world by following nature’s principles. Partnering with Eurovision News and Events, Catherine is also an independent media host— producing content on nature, climate, and regeneration; syndicated globally by EuroVision’s News Direct. She is a regular contributor to Thrive Global and Medium. She currently produces communications for the Prince Albert II Foundation and participates in programming @ the World Economic Forum on Climate Change, Nature, and Biodiversity. As an university educator, Catherine taught undergraduate and masters courses in corporate sustainability communications at Arizona State University; global sustainability at Chapman University; biology, ecology, botany, and environmental science at Denver State College and Front Range College. In 2016, she designed one of the first university courses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (also online), contributing to youth action on the UN Global Goals. She also created a post-graduate program with UNESCO on the MAB (Man the Biosphere) reserves. Catherine earned her PhD in Ecosystem Science at ETHZ in Switzerland, studying climate impacts on mountain ecosystems. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Cultural Anthropology and International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame and a Masters degree from Utah State in Ecology. Catherine speaks fluent English and conversational Italian. She loves creative collaboration, media production, mountaineering, outdoor sports, yoga, wellness, and travel.