Nature SolutionariesJan 12, 2021
800,000 Seeds of Hope Planted in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest
800,000 native trees. This is how many seeds of hope conservationists from Brazilian nonprofit REGUA have planted on degraded lands in the Atlantic Forest over the last two decades – one of the biologically richest forests in the world. And that’s not all!
The dedicated team managed to buy land that once used to be a farm and patch up fragmented pieces of forests to create an 11,000 hectare nature reserve. In this interview, Micaela Locke, the Research and Communications Coordinator at REGUA, talks about land restoration, native tree reforestation, building corridors for wildlife, reintroducing tapirs, and safeguarding a vital watershed for 2.5 million people in Rio de Janeiro.
Should a Vocal Minority Dictate Women’s Futures?
Being able to make decisions about when or whether to have children is among the most fundamental human rights.
Yet when it comes to women and their bodies, suddenly so many people – complete strangers – feel they have the right to tell women what to do, like, “Contraceptive use is against our religion! “Abortion is a sin!” And so on.
And even though having bodily autonomy makes women healthier, happier, and wealthier, we’re still living in a world where we deny 44% of women autonomy over their options related to having sex, using contraceptives and seeking reproductive healthcare.
An alarming number for sure!
In this interview with Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, the CEO and President of PAI, we speak about the whole-societal benefits of providing women reproductive rights, the impacts of repressive reproductive policies and the impetus to join the sisterhood fight.
What Every Conservationist Should Know: A Lesson From Madagascar
In Madagascar, where people depend on natural resources to survive, yet 75% live in extreme poverty, protecting nature is a big challenge. That's why conservation organizations are starting to realize that they can't only protect animals but must also address the well-being and health of communities living nearby protected areas.
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust provides a wonderful example of the holistic approach to conservation. By improving food security, financial independence and reproductive health in local communities, Durrell achieved more widespread support for conservation and now, the populations of bamboo lemurs and Madagascar pochards (a rare duck species) are on the rise!
Listen to my interview with Hanitra Rakotojaona (from Durrell) and Nantenaina Andriamalala (from the PHE Madagascar Network) about building powerful partnerships and integrated approaches to conservation.
4 Steps to Empowering Women Everywhere: A Lesson From Venezuela
Getting access to birth control — or any reproductive healthcare in a country in shambles — is harder than you can imagine. And that is especially true for families that live hand to mouth. But nothing is impossible, especially when there’s good will and a great team. Turimiquire Foundation has been able to help low-income women in northeastern Venezuela get better access to family planning as well as education and sustainable livelihoods. Steven Bloomstein, the co-founder, president, and only man in a fully women-run organization, talks about the needs of Venezuelan women and the global fight for women’s empowerment.
The Fight for Girls' Education and Family Planning in Niger
It’s not easy being a woman in Niger. The odds are especially high for women to drop out of high school, get married young (17 is the average age), or be displaced due to climate change, insecurity or humanitarian crisis! What happens to women in Niger, though, doesn’t stay in Niger alone. It impacts the whole region and ultimately, the global fight for women’s rights and climate justice.
Together with Sani Ayouba Abdou (Director of Young Volunteers for the Environment in Niger) and Lou Compernolle (Advocacy Program Lead at Oasis), we talk about the solutions that will help women overcome barriers and live secure and healthy lives.
More info about our guests:
Lou Compernolle is a Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights expert with over two decades of experience. She currently works as Advocacy Program Lead at OASIS, a nonprofit promoting education and choice for women and girls in the Sahel.
Sani Ayouba Abdou is a program manager with more than ten years of experience working with communities on education, youth development, and environmental issues. He’s the Executive Director of Young Volunteers for the Environment in Niger, a nonprofit focusing on sustainable development, climate change and youth leadership.
Here’s Why Mountain Gorillas in Uganda Are Thriving
Uganda’s first wildlife vet and award-winning conservationist, Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, shares her personal story about how her organization “Conservation Through Public Health“ has contributed to a steady growth of mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. That’s in addition to a major improvement in community health, a threefold increase in family planning use, and new opportunities for people living around the park to thrive in coexistence with gorillas and other wildlife.
In this 30-minute interview, we touch on:
How the nonprofit incorporates public health and family planning into conservation
How to prevent the spread of diseases between humans and gorillas
Why improving public health and hygiene helps communities and gorillas thrive
How they achieved an increase of contraception from 22% to 67%
Why ecotourism is great for local livelihoods but can’t be the only option
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka (1970) is one of the leading conservationists and scientists working to save the endangered mountain gorillas of East Africa. Her NGO Conservation Through Public Health promotes coexistence of gorillas, other wildlife, humans, and livestock. For her outstanding environmental and humanitarian work, Gladys has received a number of awards from the United Nations, Sierra Club and Edinburgh International Science Festival. Her memoir “Walking With Gorillas: The Journey of an African Wildlife Vet” came out in March 2023.
How Filipino NGO preserves nature and improves people’s lives
Natural conservation and making improvements in the health and livelihoods of our communities are not at odds, although sometimes it feels this way. In reality, they are inherently connected. For example, in many rural communities where access to quality health services is low and jobs are few and far between, poverty-stricken people depend on exploiting natural resources to survive, which actually harms their quality of life long-term. Luckily, there is a better way of doing things that doesn't force communities to choose between their livelihoods and local flora and fauna.
The Population, Health and Environment approach proposes a way to improve access to reproductive health, while also helping people find alternative livelihoods, sustainably manage natural resources and preserve ecosystems. The nonprofit PATH Foundation Philippines, which has reached hundreds of thousands of Filipinos with its programs, is one of the pioneers of this approach.
Joan Castro, the Executive Vice President of this organization, talks about:
- How sexually transmitted diseases, poverty, natural degradation and population growth are interconnected
- Why it makes more sense to address all the issues through an integrated approach rather than individually
- How PATH Philippines tackled food insecurity problems and resource depletion in two biodiversity spots
- How they made family planning services accessible 24/7 by using small convenience stores instead of only village clinics
- How they addressed harmful social norms and misconceptions about contraception
- How they helped to improve management of close to 2,000 hectares and to establish 44 marine protected areas
- Where else the PHE approach is applied
Joan Castro is a licensed physician, who has more than 20 years of experience in sustainable and community development initiatives in rural and urban settings in the Philippines. Joan serves as the Executive Vice President of PATH Foundation Philippines.
How anyone can become a solutionary for systemic change
Many people feel desperate about the state of the world today. It’s no wonder because the number of negative news we hear is endless – biodiversity loss, resource depletion, increasing inequality, wars, and so on. The more informed we are, the more helpless we feel, thinking, “How can I make a difference?”
It turns out that all of us can make a difference if we take a solutionary approach to our work. No matter what you do - a biologist, a teacher, a gardener - you can tackle big issues and change your field so it is more just, humane and sustainable.
In this episode, Zoe Weil, the co-founder of the Institute for Humane Education, explains:
- Why it’s important to cultivate the culture of service in our communities
- What can local organizations do to involve young people
- Why it’s more important to change the system rather than individuals within it
- How you can solve pressing global issues locally
- How you can find a meaningful career by answering only three questions
- What a solutionary is and how you can become one yourself
- Institute for Humane Education
- The Solutionary Guidebook
- How to be a Solutionary: A Guide for People Who Want to Make a Positive Difference
Zoe Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education and author of seven books and multiple TEDx talks. Zoe speaks at universities, conferences, and schools globally about how our education should go far beyond just having good grades and a diploma. She’s convinced that in today’s world with so many pressing global problems, we should give people the knowledge, tools and motivation to become change-makers for a healthy and humane world for all.
How PMC's hot soap operas improved the lives of more than 500 million people
When soap operas are designed in a way that they not only entertain people but also educate about social issues, they can have a huge positive impact on society and the environment. This type of approach is called entertainment education and is at the core of what Population Media Center does.
Through hot TV soaps and radio dramas, this non-profit draws attention to family planning, gender equality, domestic violence, girls’ education, children’s health and education, and conservation. Since 1998, their 40 shows have helped more than 500 million people live healthier lives in more than 50 countries.
In this episode, Bill Ryerson, Population Media Center’s founder, talks about:
- why just raising awareness about environmental or health care issues does not make people change their behavior
- why storytelling and role modeling are extremely powerful tools for social change
- how soap operas helped Mexico achieve the most dramatic decline in fertility rates in the 20th century
- how TV soaps and radio dramas that address contemporary social issues are made
- why audiences fall in love with transitional characters rather than positive ones
- how long it takes to bring change to a community
- why effective communication is central to human progress and why we should fight misinformation
Why freshwater fish need as much or more attention than rhinos
Even though people mostly view fish as tasty food on their plates, freshwater fish species are in desperate need of our attention and action. They are the world’s most threatened taxon, due to pollution, aquatic habitat loss, invasive species, overharvesting and water flow changes. Fish are at risk worldwide, but Southeast Asia is one of the key areas where fish are suffering with more than 80 different fish species currently on the brink of extinction.
In this episode, Nerissa Chao (a conservation biologist who has been leading the IUCN SSC Asian Species Action Partnership), Mike Baltzer (founder of Shoal, an organization that strives to protect freshwater species) and Nathaniel Ng Shengrong (a fish conservation expert from Mandai Nature) talk about:
- why freshwater fish are important for the ecosystem
- what happens when fish go extinct
- why fish are neglected and overlooked
- how the ASAP Action Plan will help protect fish in Southeast Asia
- how local communities, governments and hobbyists can help
- successful fish conservation initiatives
How family planning programs help women live better lives and get involved in local protection of nature
When Colombian conservationist Sara Inés Lara started helping women from rural communities access family planning and education and become guardians of their own environment, she got a lot of pushback from local men and conservation colleagues. After all, it was a taboo to address environmental protection, women’s empowerment and population. Seventeen years later, her NGO Women for Conservation has reached more than 2,000 women and helped the recovery of the yellow-eared parrot, which was downlisted from the IUCN Red List in 2021. More than ever, Sara is convinced that this is the correct way to do conservation.
On this episode, Sara Inés Lara and Catriona Spaven Donn, Empower to Plan Coordinator from Population Matters, talk about:
- Why it is important to engage women in conservation
- Why addressing conservation, family planning and population is crucial
- How family planning programs help women have better lives and get involved in local protection of nature
- What experience Sara and Cat have had talking about population and conservation
- How Colombian activists saved the yellow-eared parrot
If you’d like to learn more about women's rights and environmental justice, listen to the interview “The Most Effective Conservation Strategy? Empower women”.
Sara Inés Lara founded Women for Conservation which has empowered more than 2,000 women in rural communities through conservation education, environmentally sustainable livelihoods, and access to family planning. Sara has been recognized as One in a Hundred Great Latin American Women by Billiken Magazine.
Catriona Spaven-Donn works for UK-based charity Population Matters, which supports Women for Conservation as part of their Empower to Plan Program. Cat is passionate about the intersection of women's rights and environmental justice and has worked on women’s empowerment and indigenous rights in Canada, Peru, Guatemala and Scotland.
Claire Lewis: Good news! Black rhinos and elephants are on the rise in Zambia
While in most places, we hear about rhinos and elephants being killed, in North Luangwa National Park in Zambia, one of the most untouched wilderness sanctuaries in Africa, the situation is quite the opposite. This little-known park is home to Zambia’s only black rhino population, which continues to show one of the highest growth rates in Africa, and Zambia’s largest, most stable and ever-increasing elephant population.
On this episode, Claire Lewis, a British conservationist who manages the park, talks about:
- What it's like bringing up three kids in the wilderness
- How the rhinos, elephants, lions and wild dogs have recovered from poaching
- What it was like to reintroduce rhinos who had gone extinct
- Why having too many rhinos is risky and where they plan to put them
- Why this park is so successful in protecting its wildlife
- How conservation is also about managing people
Conservationist Claire Lewis has been living and working in the park with her husband Ed Sayer and their three children since 2007. She is the Technical Advisor at the Frankfurt Zoological Society, a conservation organization which created the North Luangwa Conservation Programme with the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife in 1986.
Robichaud: How to save saola – an animal that no biologist has ever seen
With fewer than 50 animals in the wild, saola is possibly the most threatened mammal on the planet. Even though it was discovered in 1992, very little is known about it, as no biologist has ever seen it in the wild and there are only a handful of photos of it from camera traps – last one from 2013. To save the animal from extinction, the Saola Foundation for Annamite Mountains Conservation wants to lead an intensive search for the last saolas in order to capture them for a breeding program. William Robichaud, the president of the organization, talks about:
- Why saola was discovered so late
- Why saola is on the brink of extinction
- Why it is so hard to find saola
- Why captive breeding program is necessary for the survival of saola
- How saola search can benefit other endangered species
- What methods they want to use to find and capture saolas
- How to effectively protect nature in the Annamite Mountains
William Robichaud has been working on wildlife conservation in Laos and Vietnam for more than 25 years. In 2006, he co-founded the IUCN Saola Working Group, and served as its Coordinator until 2019. In 2015, the IUCN Species Survival Commission recognized Bill with its Harry Messel Award for Conservation Leadership, for his contributions to Saola conservation.
Paul R. Ehrlich: The Most Effective Conservation Strategy? Empower Women
The impact of our growing population on nature is such a sensitive topic that nobody really dares talk about it. Better sweep it under the carpet and forget about it, right? Well, not necessarily. If you think it through, the solution is really simple and beautiful: give women full rights, opportunities and access to family-planning methods.
In this interview with Paul R. Ehrlich, the Bing Professor Emeritus of Population Studies at Stanford University, we talk about:
- What is a sustainable population and how to achieve it
- Why women play a key role in creating a sustainable planet
- How we can empower women and why women still don't have equal rights
- Why our Stone Age genes make it hard to address global issues and why we need to change culturally
- Why we need 8 billion Greta Thunbergs and everyone to spend 10% of their time helping out society
- What is Paul's vision of 2050
- How hot soap operas can help us talk about overpopulation, and more.
Paul Ralph Ehrlich (*1932) is an American biologist, best known for his warnings that population growth presents an extremely serious threat to the future of human civilization. The Population Bomb, a book that he co-authored with his wife, Anne, helped start a worldwide debate on the impact of rising population that continues today. Author of 50 books and thousands of articles, Ehrlich is the Bing Professor Emeritus of Population Studies at Stanford University, President of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology and also president of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere.
Terry Spahr: Talking About Overpopulation Isn’t Sexy, But We Have to Do It
For 7.8 billion people to live sustainably on the planet, everyone would have to be a vegetarian; never drive a car or fly in an airplane; live in a one-room apartment with minimal electricity and no heat, hot water, washing machine, dryer, or dishwasher; and have only a few sets of clothes and pairs of shoes. Sounds crazy, right? But what's even crazier is that nobody, including environmentalists, really wants to talk about our growing population and consumption. With 7.8 billion people on the planet and a few billion more (between 9.4 and 12.7 billion people in 2100 based on UN estimates) to come, it is time we look at the elephant in the room.
Together with Terry Spahr, the environmentalist and filmmaker behind "8 Billion Angels," we talk about:
- how population growth impacts our lives, health, and the planet
- why so few people talk about overpopulation and why some even deny it
- why having a smaller family is the most impactful thing anyone can do
- why providing access to education and family-planning methods helps both people and nature
- which countries are successfully slowing their population growth
- why reducing consumption is almost impossible
- why educating people about population is part of the solution
Sniegon: We Can Still Save African Elephants. Here's How
Even though the elephant population decline is a gigantic problem – only 415,000 elephants remain compared to 10 million in 1930 – there are ways to protect this iconic species. The nonprofit Save Elephants, in collaboration with EAGLE Network (organizations fighting corruption and wildlife crime), have seen some success protecting elephants in Congo, Cameroon and Chad.
On this episode, Arthur Sniegon, the founder of Save Elephants, talks about:
- why elephants are being killed in Africa and why poaching is #1 problem
- how beehive fences mitigate conflict between small-scale farmers and migratory elephants in Chad
- what it's like to investigate the illegal market with ivory in Congo and Cameroon
- why better law enforcement is a strong tool in a toolkit to fight elephant poaching
- how detection dogs are used to prevent ivory and bushmeat smuggling
Illustration by Veronika Perková
Mazariegos & Pimm: Animals in Western Andes Can Finally Find a Date
In this episode, I am talking to Luis Mazariegos and Stuart Pimm about their successful conservation project in Western Andes Cloud Forest, in Colombia, one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. Since 2008, The Hummingbird Conservancy, with financial support from Saving Nature has restored 3,500 hectares of degraded land and connected about 100 km2 of intact forest with the main Andean chain into a land corridor.
Together we talk about:
- Why the Western Andes Cloud Forest is so unique
- Why creating land corridors is vital for species survival
- How corridors are built - land acquisition and restoration
- How the corridor brought back pumas, ocelots and other species
- How the conservation project involves and benefits the local community
- What challenges the reserve faces
Luis Mazariegos is a world's leading hummingbird photographer, founder of The Hummingbird Conservancy and virologist by profession. He resides in Colombia but frequently travels to US where he has company that sells bio pesticides.
Stuart Pimm is a world leader in the study of present day extinctions and he is currently, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University.
Lisa Carne & Maya Trotz: Belize Is a Shining Star of Coral Reef Restoration
Lisa Carne is a marine biologist and founder of Fragments of Hope, a community-based organization that stands behind the most successful coral reef restoration project in the Caribbean. Dr. Maya Trotz is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida and a board member of Fragments of Hope.
Together we talk about:
- How Lisa started coral reef restoration in the Laughing Bird Caye National Park in Belize
- How coral reef restoration works (methods, techniques)
- What results Fragments of Hope has achieved in Laughing Bird Caye National Park
- What makes the conservation strategy so unusually effective
- If this strategy can be used by other conservationists elsewhere
- Why interdisciplinary approach to reef restoration is important
- What challenges Fragments of Hope face
Arjoon-Martins & Thompson: Protecting Sea Turtles and Mangrove Forests in Guyana
Annette Arjoon-Martins is a Guyanese conservationist and pilot who founded the Guyana Marine Conservation Society, an NGO that originally started with protecting sea turtles on Shell Beach and now aims to protect mangrove forests and marine habitats in general. Ivana Thompson is a young marine biologist who has recently joined the organization to deepen the scientific knowledge about sea turtles.
Together we talk about:
- Protecting of sea turtles on Shell Beach
- Working with indigenous communities and finding alternative livelihoods
- Restoring mangrove forests along the Guyanese coast
- Barima Mora Passage – one of the largest most intact mangrove ecosystems in Guyana
- Opportunities & threats of a newly discovered oil & gas industry for Guyanese nature
Hana Raza: Fighting for a Better Future for Persian Leopards in Iraq
Hana Raza is a Kurdish wildlife conservationist who rediscovered the Persion leopard, once thought to be extinct, in the mountains of Kurdistan in 2011. She dedicated her career to establishing a program for conserving this globally endangered species. In 2017, she was awarded the prestigious award of Future for Nature.
Together we talk about:
- Why it is important to protect the Persian leopard
- What the main threats that this animal faces in Iraq are
- What it’s like to be a woman conservationist in war-torn country
- Hana’s current efforts to establish a nature reserve in Qara Dagh
Tilo Nadler: Successful Conservation of Critically Endangered Delacour's Langur
In this episode, I talk to a German conservationist Tilo Nadler about:
- How he managed to establish the only viable population of Delacour's Langur in Vietnam
- What it's like to negotiate an extension of an existing reserve
- Why captive-born langurs are re-introduced in Trang An UNESCO World Heritage Site
- How Tilo tries to protect langurs threatened by limestone quarrying
- What's the future of primates in Vietnam
- Why law enforcement is so important in stopping illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam
- What motivates Tilo to pursue conservation at the age of 80
Tilo Nadler (*1941) is a German-born primatologist and conservationist living in Vietnam. In 1993, Tilo founded the Endangered Primate Rescue Center which has rescued over 400 endangered and critically endangered primates and bred more than 300 of them. He also helped create a community of 30 local rangers in the Van Long Nature Reserve thanks to which poaching of Delacour's langurs has been eliminated and the population nearly quadrupled.
František Příbrský: Let's Stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Pangolins and Slow Lorises
František Příbrský is a Czech conservationist and field zoologist. Since 2014, he has been running The Kukang Rescue Program.
What You Will Hear in This Interview:
- What consequences illegal wildlife trade has for animals and humans
- How animal black markets work
- What it is like to run a rescue center for pangolins and slow lorises
- How running an environmental school and a coffee project helps protect nature