Addressing the global conservation community in Hawai’i
Last month, Scott Edwards and I attended the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congress “Planet at the crossroads” in Honolulu, Hawai’i. The IUCN Congress is held once every four years, and affords an incredible opportunity for learning, networking and exchange. The scale of the 2016 Congress was staggering – almost 10,000 people attended the 10 day event.
It seems a fitting contrast to bring thousands of conservation professionals from around the world together in some of the most isolated and biologically unique islands on the planet. Hawai’i is not only a beautiful location for the Congress - and the Hawai’i Convention Center an impressive venue – but the islands themselves are a microcosm of many of the world’s pressing environmental challenges. Hawai’i, like much of the world, is grappling with climate change impacts, species extinctions from habitat loss and invasive species, tourism opportunities and challenges, environmental justice issues and indigenous rights, and integration of ecosystem service values into development decisions.
CSF partnered with the GIZ ValuES program to deliver three sessions on technical approaches and communication strategies for using environmental valuation and ecosystem service assessments to influence policy decisions:
In this session we shared insights into human behavior that help inform the design of various conservation incentive programs, using our work with the Socio Bosque program in Ecuador as a case study example. We taught participants about the choice experiment valuation method, and also led an experimental game to demonstrate the concept of “loss aversion” – the degree to which how much we value something depends not just on the thing itself, but also on whether we already have it. In order to be willing to give up their chocolate, participants in the workshop who were randomly given a chocolate bar wanted an amount 4x higher than the amount the participants without chocolate bars were willing to pay, indicating that the value went up once people had the chocolate bar in their hands. This provides important insights for conservation programs that are trying to employ incentives based on willingness to accept for losing access to resources or land.
In this session we shared key components and steps of the ecosystem service assessment process, and how assessments can influence policy. Over 4-hours, we presented the concepts and methods of environmental valuation and shared the example of CSF’s Bwindi road analysis to illustrate how to approach and design a valuation study to influence policy. The session ended with a hands-on exercise in which participants were tasked with choosing an ecosystem services assessment approach and methods for a fictitious conservation policy scenario.
In this roundtable session, we sat down with various researchers, conservation practitioners and policy makers to share experiences with designing and communicating ecosystem service assessments so that they can effectively respond to policy issues and have a greater impact in shaping sustainable development strategies.
In addition to our own sessions, we also had the opportunity to visit fascinating discussions, presentations and displays – from NOAA’s huge 3-D globe and digital climate simulations to a small display by a wildlife NGO in Iran to traditional Hawaiian dances and music - and left with many new connections, ideas and contacts. On our last night at the Congress, we gathered with a number of CSF course graduates, instructors and friends from Hawai’i, Indonesia, Philippines, India, and Venezuela at a nearby pub to catch up and share stories – thank you to those who were able to join us!