Nature Needs More is committed to demonstrating how conservation can be approached differently to the mainstream. We have already done this in the area of demand reduction for the illegal wildlife trade and we are planning to add two new demonstration projects over the next couple of years, in both range and demand side countries, outlined below.

Range Side: Can a Basic Income Stop The Illegal Wildlife Trade?

There are currently a number of basic income experiments running in or being considered for the African continent. Yet none of these trials have been linked to conservation and wildlife protection. We are in the middle of the 6th global extinction, with accelerating rates of species loss and major threats to iconic species such as rhinos and elephants. Current conservation models have failed, as they are fundamentally based on a sustainable use approach to wildlife protection (if it pays it stays). Programs that provide employment and revenue sharing at tourism or hunting conservancies have equally failed to stop poaching and illegal harvesting; there has been too little transparency about what actually gets to the community. In the 2015 leak of the Panama Papers (11.5 million leaked documents from just one Panamanian law firm), highlighted at least 30 safari operators who were sending their profits offshore to tax havens.

As a result of these and other factors, Nature Needs More is exploring a basic income approach, such as the GiveDirectly model, but linked to conservation outcomes, as a way to significantly change the incentives and hence behaviour of communities living in and around protected wildlife areas. The Namibian basic income trial was not directly linked to conservation, but saw a great reduction in illegal hunting. 

Financial security would not only mean less poaching for food, less illegal harvesting and but would mean wildlife trafficking syndicates would have less leverage to recruit poachers from the impoverished communities neighbouring key conservation areas. Nature Needs More is also exploring how such a trial might help high-value conservation areas to rely less on hunting and instead convert to eco-tourism, which generates much higher revenue once tourism numbers increase.

In addition, we would like to ascertain if communities feel they benefit from neighbouring protection areas through a basic income, they would be more likely to engage with conservation. This would be tested through using a tiered basic income model, where activities linked to conservation (what Nature Needs More calls the new 3Rs – rehabilitation, re-vegetation and re-wilding) would generate a higher level of income.

We have progressed this project to a full project proposal and have started fundraising for the trial.

Demand Side: Can Re-Inventing Magnificence Provide The Motivation to Contribute Rather Than Consume?

Currently, Nature Needs More (and Breaking The Brand) Founder, Dr Lynn Johnson, is undertaking research into the motivation to contribute to the common good rather than continuing to indulge in excessive luxury consumption. This research has involved:

  • Understanding how the business strategy of the luxury goods industry has developed since the late 1980s/early 1990s  and how this evolution may have lead to an increase in poaching of exotic wildlife
  • The impact of increased wealth in China and SE Asia in the last 30 years

Lynn is conducting interviews with wealthy business people in the UK, US, China, Australia and New Zealand for the purpose of uncovering the motivations, language patterns and impacts on personal identity of contribution. If we want the newly wealthy elite in China and South East Asia to abstain from luxury consumption of illegal and endangered wildlife, we must understand what prompted the elites in other parts of the world to focus their attention on contribution instead. We already know that the elites in SE Asia are motivated by status, prestige and differentiation, and we also know that they are influenced by Western business and political celebrities, but we don’t know how to shift this motivation to activities that aid endangered wildlife instead of harming it. The results will be used to create new campaigns in Viet Nam and China to redirect the desire of wealthy consumers away from consumption of wildlife ‘products’ to contribution to the natural world.

In the process of conducting the research, interviewees have been asked about an example of a project Nature Needs More believes would potentially appeal to the Vietnamese elite, because of its existing link to status and prestige.

Re-Connecting Urban Vietnamese With Wildlife

An example ‘Magnificence’ project to improve the water quality of Hoàn Kiếm Lake in central Hanoi, so it can support more aquatic and bird life. Hoàn Kiếm Lake is in the historical centre of Hanoi, the capital city of Viet Nam. The lake is one of the major scenic spots in the city, is steeped in local history and serves as a focal point for Hanoi’s public life. While the gardens surrounding the lake are stunning, and enjoyed by both young and old, the water quality is extremely poor.  Though a small number of turtles do survive in it, you see no water birds. An example of what a magnificence project could be would be to donate the funds to:

  • Drain and clean the lake
  • Install and maintain a water filtration /circulation plants to significantly improve water quality
  • Re-vegetate the lake with native aquatic plants
  • Re-wild the lake with native aquatic life and water birds
  • Develop education process to re-connect Hanoi’s urban citizens to wildlife via the lake; in this instance, the lake bestows status to the wildlife
  • Roll such a rehabilitation strategy out to other significant lakes in the city

Any wealthy Vietnamese citizen committing to this magnificence project is likely to gain status and prestige for their public spirited contribution and be remembered for generations to come.

To understand the importance of this lake to the people of Hanoi it is interesting to note that in April 2015 that the government was considering cutting down 6,700 trees, more than a quarter of all its trees. Local newspapers moved into action uncovering that lucrative licences had been given to cut down the trees, sell the timber and plant 6,700 replacement trees! A handful of people stood to make a lot of money from this. Hanoi’s residents sprang into action to save their trees.

All this resulted in the chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee announcing that the tree cutting plan would be stopped. This example shows that a magnificence project centered around improving the water quality of Hoàn Kiếm Lake to re-introduce aquatic plants and wildlife could help re-connecting urban Vietnamese with wildlife and be a long lasting and status giving legacy to the project donor.

Nature Needs More will keep you posted on how this research and these projects are progressing via our Blog page, to subscribe please click here.