By: Ana Valerie Mandri Rohen, Founder and CEO of Zamia Media
Working in an environmental organization is not easy. In front of you, there’s always a monumental-sized wall, with alarming figures, unattainable goals, a countdown that shows little time left, all wrapped by a membrane of corruption and, if that were not enough, reinforced by unstoppable consumerism which, many times, we are complicit with.
You want to tear down that wall. You know that without it, there will be a fairer world, with stronger and healthier people and ecosystems. You look for a tool but cannot find one. Perhaps it is better to climb. Maybe on the way up, you will find a crack. But you don’t have ropes either, you start climbing and fall, and that’s the first of many setbacks.
Suddenly you realize that there is another person there. Still, unlike you, she has a loudspeaker and begins to call others. In a few minutes, more people are also looking at the wall, analyzing its weaknesses and devising strategies to bring it down. Suddenly, you’re not alone anymore. You can join the group with different people, each with different abilities and tools, but with the same goal. Suddenly, that wall no longer looks so tall.
Just like you, many of us are trying to work for a more just and sustainable world and feel overwhelmed by the size of the challenges we face. Still, every day I realize two things: 1) The power that a speaker has, that is, the power of communication and 2) when you team up with the right people, it is easier to find solutions to the most challenging problems.
For five years now, I have been a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN: The oldest and largest organization dedicated to the conservation of the environment in the world). I am part of the Communication and Education Commission (CEC) where, we promote sustainable solutions through communication, learning and knowledge. For me, the IUCN and the CEC, in particular, are that loudspeaker that allows us to attract the right people’s attention and work with the more than 17,000 volunteers who belong to the different commissions of the Union.
The IUCN has become that group of friends and colleagues with different abilities and knowledge, with whom we join forces to create a more sustainable world. We organize to develop strategies, design proposals, pressure governments, and even create movements. For example, with this group, we started the #NatureForAll movement, a worldwide movement to inspire love for nature. The central idea of this movement is very simple: the more people experience nature and share their love for it, the greater the support and actions to conserve it.
#NatureForAll seeks to unite the voices of the millions of people who work in favour of the environment, inspiring more people to connect with nature and re-imagine how we relate to it. The movement started five years ago, and today, it has 464 partner organizations from 79 countries. There have been 100 case studies, and hundreds of personal videos and stories have been generated that show how people worldwide are responding to the challenges associated with nature conservation, sustainable development, and human well-being.
If one person had wanted to do this, it would have been impossible, but when the right people come together, the wall doesn’t look that tall anymore. Each of these stories of love for nature inspires more people in the world, and together we are reaching goals that at first seemed unattainable.
Like any movement, #NatureForAll has evolved, and recently its partners have begun to share tools that can serve others. Now, on their website, we can find The Discovery Zone, where anyone can have access to tools, courses, and teaching materials. So far, there are more than 400 resources in 15 languages, and something new is added every day: Comics to support education, a colouring book, a governance framework, a funding source, a song, a free book to download, courses, seminars, events and more.
One of my favourite resources -which I have been personally involved together with more than 30 CEC worldwide volunteers- is a course for environmentalists that teaches us how to tell our story, how to record it and edit it with a cell phone and how to distribute it to reach our desired audience. We create this tool because we have realized that many of us are not good at telling our story despite working on beautiful things and great projects. Sometimes we use too many technical words, and sometimes it is difficult for us to share just one message. Sometimes we feel embarrassed to appear in a video, and if we end up recording ourselves, we realized only our family sees it.
This complete online free course, starring real people with real projects, shows us how easy it can be and how powerful it is to have a good video that helps us share our story, get resources, share knowledge, or simply motivate more people to join our cause. The Nature Storybook Toolkit © will undoubtedly be a way for environmentalists around the world to tell their story, and why not? to have a million stories reaching millions of people creating the most needed global culture of conservation and care for our planet. This cultural change is needed to tear down that great wall representing the loss of biodiversity, climate change, corruption, consumerism, and more. At the end of June, the course will be available in Spanish, French and English on the #NatureForAll Discovery Zone website.
When we talk about the right people, we must not forget about the youth, and it fills me with joy to witness how IUCN has organized itself to turn to young people and make them the protagonists of the conservation movement. The IUCN World Youth Summit was held in April 2021. Initially, the Summit was going to be held in Marseille, France, but COVID arrived, and although we thought it would be completely canceled due to the pandemic, no one can stop young people. The event evolved to become an online version. What seemed like a disappointment turned into an opportunity, which ended up bringing together more than 15 thousand young people from 170 countries sharing experiences, proposing solutions, and generating concrete proposals and actions to ensure the conservation and restoration of our planet.
If you thought you were alone in front of the wall, look around you, and now you are accompanied by more than 15 thousand active, intelligent, and innovative young people. The wall no longer seems so big. In fact, it begins to have cracks that weaken it and that fills us all with hope.
I have been working in the environmental sector for almost 20 years. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and tired.
So for several years now, I have decided to take a loudspeaker and find and meet the right people, those who infect me with their enthusiasm, share their knowledge and wisdom, and learn from my successes and failures.
Because just as important as the science that supports our actions and the rigorous methodologies of our processes, there’s the community with which we can re-imagine and build a different world. Just as important as the actions we carry out, is being able to assertively communicate what we do, inspire and encourage the whole world to re-imagine our lifestyle, to make a complete stop and realize that this wall exists and that we all have the power and the duty to bring it down.
Ana is also regional vice president of the IUCN Education and Communication Commission and advisor to several organizations that support food security, access to education, gender equality and access to safe water. She is a member of WeAmerica, a social entrepreneurship program and co-founder of MAM, an online platform that supports women’s initiatives in Latin America.
Ana has an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management from the University of Oxford and a BA in Marketing from Tecnológico de Monterrey.