In The Nature Conservancy’s The Science of Sustainability report, the answer is “Yes”—but it will require new forms of collaboration across traditionally disconnected sectors, and on a near unprecedented scale.
Many assume that economic interests and environmental interests are in conflict. But new research makes the case that this perception of development vs. conservation is not just unnecessary but actively counterproductive to both ends. Achieving a sustainable future will be dependent on our ability to secure both thriving human communities and abundant and healthy natural ecosystems.
The Nature Conservancy partnered with the University of Minnesota and 11 other organizations to ask whether it is possible to achieve a future where the needs of both people and nature are advanced. Can we actually meet people’s needs for food, water and energy while doing more to protect nature? To answer this question, we compared what the world will look like in 2050 if economic and human development progress in a “business-as-usual” fashion and what it would look like if instead we join forces to implement a “sustainable” path with a series of fair-minded and technologically viable solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.
In both options, we used leading projections of population growth and gross domestic product to estimate how demand for food, energy
and water will evolve between 2010 and 2050. Under business-as-usual, we played out existing expectations and trends in how those changes will impact land use, water use, air quality, climate, protected habitat areas and ocean fisheries. In the more sustainable scenario, we proposed changes to how and where food and energy are produced, asking if these adjustments could result in better outcomes for the same elements of human well-being and nature. Our full findings are described in a peer-reviewed paper—“An Attainable Global Vision for Conservation and Human Well-Being”—published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. These scenarios let us ask, can we do better? Can we design a future that meets people’s needs without further degrading nature in the process?
Our answer is “yes,” but it comes with several big “ifs.” There is a path to get there, but matters are urgent—if we want to accomplish these goals by mid-century, we’ll have to dramatically ramp up our efforts now. The next decade is critical.
Source – The Nature Conservancy