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What I am doing and why
Kia ora, hello, nau mai, welcome to A Nature Fix,
I’m Abbie Reynolds, and this blog is intended as a way to share what I’m learning during my NEXT Foundation Fellowship this year - 2022.
With a background in corporate sustainability, climate change and a deep connection and love for our natural environment, I’m frustrated by the way solutions to the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis are dealt with in siloes. Rather than identifying and using solutions that address both, we frequently invest in solutions that address one issue, while making the other worse. For example, we incentivise pine plantation, which does little for biodiversity, and which is likely to create an increasing fire hazard as the climate warms.
There is growing international and local exploration of ‘nature based solutions’ for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For example, native forest sequesters carbon, and can improve biodiversity by creating or increasing habitat for native species like birds, bats or lizards. Wetlands can act to absorb water and wave action as sea levels rise and are often locations of significant biodiversity such as native birds.
And there is a growing group of people working in this space here in Aotearoa New Zealand, with commentators like Dame Anne Salmond and Rod Oram raising this issue through media and academics like David Hall bringing intellectual grunt to the endeavour. It seems like the beginning of a movement to spearhead nature based solutions that work here.
I’m interested in how we can supercharge this movement so nature based solutions become mainstream earlier. It took us years for climate change thinking to become mainstream, and there are so many lessons we can learn from that, which we need to apply here.
As part of my Fellowship, I’ll be working on opportunities or approaches that might help do that. One idea was to convene the people working in this area since collaboration is often a useful tactic in the face of wicked problems. However COVID has made that a bit tricky. Another theory is that the increasing influence and integration of Te Ao Māori approaches, which are inherently holistic and treat matters as interconnected, could be another driver of change. And there will be others. I’ll be looking at systems change thinking to help me out here.
Separately, I was very struck by this image by Graeme Mackay during the early stages of COVID 19 (and clearly I wasn’t alone as the image went viral around the world).
It was a stark reminder about scales of disruption, and about how challenging it is to deal with ‘future’ issues when you’re focussed on what is right in front of you.
But it also made me realise that, although I have a pretty good understanding of climate change drivers and impacts, I understand biodiversity collapse much less well. I don’t fully understand what is causing it, how it is likely to impact us and what the solutions are likely to be. And is biodiversity collapse really worse than climate change as shown in this image?
The Fellowship gives me space to explore issues more deeply than usual, so I’m intending to use some of my time to try answering these questions. I suspect I’m not the only person who’d like to know, and given my interest in super-charging nature based solutions, one way I can contribute is by sharing what I’m learning. Hence this blog.
I’m learning as I go, so some of what is written here may turn out to be wrong-headed, or not the whole story, or missing critical nuance. I may end up changing directions, or focussing on something else. I will almost certainly end up going down rabbit-holes. My apologies in advance, but an authentic, messy journey is a better reflection of me and how I will be coming at this than something more polished. So thanks for being here.