New Perspectives on the Natural Environment and Human Wellbeing in the Context of the Sustainable Development Goals
Convened by: Judith Schleicher, Bhaskar Vira
Achieving planetary wellbeing relies on meeting the goal of human wellbeing without compromising the integrity and sustainability of the Earth’s ecosystems. In line with this, the importance and complexity of the links between the natural environment and human wellbeing has been increasingly stressed in the conservation and development literatures in recent years (1, 2). However, the percolation of these ideas into international development policy and the incorporation of environmental aspects into poverty alleviation strategies have been more limited (3, 4). Meanwhile the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 reflects a shift in thinking from definitions of poverty mainly restricted to income, health and education, to a much larger set of considerations. The natural environment is included in several goals and contributes to the achievement of the integrated approach that lies at the heart of the SDGs, which offers considerable potential for contributions from the conservation science community. This symposium proposes to discuss (i) the diverse roles the natural environment plays for human wellbeing, both instrumentally and constitutively (5), (ii) how the SDGs and different actors have shaped debates in these contexts, and (iii) the implications for conservation science. Five presentations will address these issues from different perspectives, while drawing lessons for conservation. The first two presenters will discuss the role of the human-nature relationships in the context of the SDGs, and how different indicators might capture this. The third and fourth talks will present new insights from Malawi, Rwanda, Madagascar, and Myanmar to reflect on the diverse human-nature relationships. This is followed by a talk focused on common assumptions about these relationships in protected area planning and the role of power in shaping their social and ecological outcomes outcomes. The session will close with a general discussion drawing together on common themes and insights gained for conservation science.
1. Mace, G.M. 2014. Whose Conservation? Science 345, 1558-60.
2. Daw, T. et al. 2016. Elasticity in ecosystem services: exploring the variable relationship between ecosystems and human well-being. Ecology and Society 21(2): 11.
3. Nunan, F. et al. 2012. Environmental Mainstreaming: the organisational challenges of policy integration. Public Administration and Development 32: 262–77.
4. Vira, B. 2015. Taking Natural Limits Seriously: Implications for Development Studies and the Environment. Development and Change 46(4): 762-776.
5. Schleicher, J. et al. 2017. Poorer without It? The Neglected Role of the Natural Environment in Poverty and Wellbeing. Sustainable Development DOI: 10.1002/sd.1692.