My last Climate COP: Reflections from the Global Landscapes Forum

December 13, 2015

 

I am 44 years old. I have two fantastic children and a great partner. I was born in a time of relative global peace, on a beautiful planet rich in resources. Since my early childhood, I have had the chance to enjoy nature in Peru with my parents and then with friends. I have been very fortunate and consider myself very wealthy as a result, though my accountant would beg to differ... I do not agree with conventional measures of wellbeing. I have friends in the Amazon who earn less than US$1 a day, and are as, or more, happy than myself.

I came to my third Global Landscapes Forum (GLF15) to present a prototype ecosystem services transaction tool we are developing, but more importantly to gain new insights about how our company, Nature Services Peru, can work to make Peru a country where people live well, in harmony with nature. We know that human induced pressures on ecosystems and the planet are already massive and are set to increase significantly over the next 30 years. We need radical innovations and transformational change in companies and society as a whole to address the challenge. I believe that better integrating the services of nature into the economy is one of those innovations. The GLF itself is a key institutional innovation, and it has been a pleasure to see it going from strength to strength. From this year´s GLF I will take back three main messages about landscape management for our team:

Unprecedented innovation in environmental data collection and display technology 
From satellites, to drones, to tablets, to apps, our capacity to collect, process and display environmental data is increasing exponentially. Our capacity to understand and value the services of ecological infrastructure is unprecedented. On the cautionary side, the inherent challenge here was mentioned by World Resources Institute´s Nancy Harris quoting EO Wilson: We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.

All equally important
Financiers argument that their funds are indispensable. Scientists think their data and analysis are key. Indigenous peoples think their stewardship of land is vital. Youth feel their energy is unique. Gender specialists argue that much more balance is needed in our interventions. The list goes on…
Sustaining healthy landscapes requires the input of all of us. Learning to work in multidisciplinary and complex teams, as well as respecting the opinions and differences of others, will be part and parcel of how we work on landscapes from now on.

The need to transcend
Probably the most valuable insight I am taking away from the GLF is that, nowadays, young people have a need to transcend. This was not the case when I left university. Back then, the emphasis was on whether you got an exciting or a well-paid job. The most talented young people now seem to be looking for opportunities that allow them to contribute to something bigger than themselves and bigger than the organizations they are joining. A feeling of shared purpose is emerging which I find tremendously inspiring. Landscape management companies and institutions combatting climate change should stand to benefit enormously from this generational shift.

The time for action has come
As Credit Suise´s Mark Burrows quoted from Victor Hugo in the closing plenary: No army can stop an idea whose time has come. While I was at the COP my wife and kids were planting trees high in the Peruvian Andes as part of the Queuña Raymi Festival. The three of them planted 101 of the amazing target of 75,000 queuña trees for this year, beating the 82 trees the four of us planted together in 2014. I am proud of them and the people who organize Queuña Raymi, not unlike the way I am proud and grateful to the many people who organized a great GLF15. 

As I prepare to board my 0.8 ton CO2eq emitting flight back to Cusco, I feel I have been aware of the key ideas to combat climate change and to sustain landscapes for a while now. The time for widespread action has come. Scaling action on the ground should not wait any longer. Every day and every week is valuable. We all need to rise to the challenge. This was my last Climate COP. 

 

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