About Better Nature

Better Nature is a new initiative. We are using a new way of working to protect the natural world by changing the political and economic rules of the game. We are doing this through partnerships with a group of remarkable organisations, all bringing their specific skills to the task of transforming our political-economic systems so that they restore rather than destroy nature.

Context

We are in a new age, the Anthropocene, defined as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. Others refer to it as the sixth Great Extinction – and the first caused by humans.

Collapse of the natural systems that support humanity is now an increasing possibility. This ever-increasing risk has been highlighted in the recent publication of major reports aggregating thousands of scientific studies on the climate crisis and on biodiversity loss.

The Imperative

These reports, as well as the evidence of collapse that we see in the media, tend to focus on the symptoms – the doom and gloom of the seemingly insurmountable problem. They hide the root causes of humanity’s attack on nature, namely the paradigms and values that underpin our current political economic system, and the rules, laws, and conventions that maintain this.  

There is now an urgent imperative to develop and scale the next generation of action that will protect and restore the natural world. This will not be accomplished with fences and parks, or financial incentives, but through transforming the underlying social, economic, and political structures so that they are compatible with sustainability and the protection of nature.

Walking North on a Southbound Train (Peter Montague, 1997)

“We are all passengers (or crew) on a long rickety train heading south at 40 miles per hour, not rushing toward doom but steadily chugging southward toward general environmental and social destruction. Many of us are alert to the dangers and for several years we have been earnestly walking north inside the train.

As we plod from train car to train car we stop to congratulate ourselves on our progress. We slap each other on the back or we hug, and we recount the many train-cars we have managed to pass through, thanks to our stubborn persistence.

But if we would only pause to look out the window, we could all plainly see that we are now further south than we were when we last stopped to congratulate ourselves on our progress. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to reverse the direction of travel. We are all being carried southward against our will, deeply violating our sense of justice…

The time is long overdue when we must ask ourselves what it would take to change our trajectory, to permanently alter our direction of travel.“

Vision

Better Nature aims to place nature and natural resources at the centre of redesigned social, economic, and political systems to ensure the continued wellbeing of humanity on a healthy and thriving planet.

This will be accomplished through engagement with:

– Stakeholders working in fields that contribute to the maintenance of the political economy, the communities of law, finance, and technology, to identify and plan interventions that realise our aim;

– Movements capable of mobilising citizens and civil society in support of these changes; and

– “Keystone” institutions that can have a disproportionate effect on the structure and function of social, political and economic rules of the game.

Essential to this approach is the use of narratives and stories that convey a forward-looking, solutions-driven approach that enables all actors to engage, bringing the hope and imagination we need to rise to the ecological challenges facing us all.

Differentiation

Better Nature is not a project, but a process to build a self-selecting network of actors to accelerate change. It is complementary to and will provide support for existing approaches to address environmental issues, as well as an opportunity to connect existing efforts to new disrupters from beyond the environmental realm.

At the heart of Better Nature is the principle of systems thinking, which can be used to address root causes of problems. By studying whole systems, we can identify points of leverage that have the highest potential to affect the required political and economic change. Better Nature’s operation relies on multiple partners to drive change, each engaged according to its vision and capabilities. By building relationships with aligned organisations that have high capacity – both private sector and NGOs – it is possible to deliver action through partners of all shapes, sizes and expertise, in diverse locations and with diverse networks.

As part of its efforts to secure a central place for nature and natural resources in new and emerging conceptions of human development, Better Nature is contributing to the global efforts underway to accelerate the delivery of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  As such, Better Nature is partnering with UNDP to explore appropriate mechanisms for future collaboration.

Examples

A new French duty of corporate vigilance

A law imposing new due diligence requirements on large companies was adopted by France’s National Assembly in 2017. This created a legally binding obligation for parent companies to identify and prevent adverse human rights and environmental impacts resulting from their own activities and from those of their subcontractors and suppliers. Individuals and communities harmed by corporate misdeeds can use the law to order a company to establish, publish, and implement a vigilance plan. Affected parties may also use civil action and ask for compensation if violation of the legal obligation has caused damages.

While this law only applies to the largest companies established in France, other countries are now exploring how to transpose this law into their jurisdictions.

Urgenda

In 2015 Urgenda, a small Dutch NGO, took their government to court accusing them of failure to set an adequate 2020 climate emissions target. They won. This triggered a seismic shift in cultural opinion, which laid the ground for the new coalition government to propose, and have accepted, legislation committing to a 95% emissions reduction by 2050. Urgenda’s court success may be considered a boundary event within Dutch society, in that it contributed to a profound transformation of national perceptions related to climate change.

By stimulating boundary events Better Nature aspires to make healthy nature and a thriving natural world central to all of humanity’s activity, creating the conditions under which efforts to improve biodiversity and conserve nature might flourish.