If you use the word
biodiversity, explain what it means. Otherwise, talk about the web of life,
nature, the natural world, ecosystems, habitats, etc.
2. MAKE IT REAL, NOT
CONCEPTUAL OR ABSTRACT.
Talk about biodiversity in the
context of real places, real ecosystems, real species and real issues.
Ground the abstract concept of “diversity of gene pools, species and
habitats” in real places and experiences. Illustrate with forests, river
systems, deserts, coastlines, wetlands, etc. and the variety of life that
depends on them, instead of statistics about global species loss.
3. LOCALIZE WHENEVER
POSSIBLE; EMPHASIZE PLACE.
Use local examples and
experiences to provide context and meaning — a real place or problem that
people can identify with, e.g., loss of local songbirds, loss of the
region’s sugar maple trees, destruction of a local marsh, invasions from
zebra mussels, kudzu, etc. Eschew the exotic (Biodiversity: its not just for
rainforests anymore!) when the local example is available. As long as
species loss is taking place in far away places, it remains an abstract
4. MAKE THE HUMAN
CONNECTION: HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES.
nature, life itself is possible: Illustrate
and explain how healthy ecosystems sustain human life, from fresh air and
clean water, to food, fiber and fun.
systems keep us healthy: Balanced ecosystems
promote human health, from supplying clean water to protecting us from
exotic viruses, exploding insect populations, and toxic pollution. Health
is the primary environmental concern for Americans; fear of toxics is the
pharmacy: Potential loss of future sources
of medicines interests some audiences (younger adults) and not others.
But, don’t just talk about medicines that might come someday from exotic
places. Instead explain common medicines that have already come from
nature (cortisone, for example, from South African plant roots, or
digitalis, from foxgloves) to illustrate how important natural sources of
medicines already are. Start with the familiar, bridge to the possible.
FIND COMMON GROUND WITH COMMON VALUES. LEAD WITH VALUES; FOLLOW WITH FACTS.
Most Americans believe that we
have a responsibility to maintain a clean and healthy environment for our
families and for the future generations that will inherit the world we leave
behind. This sense of “stewardship” provides common ground for starting
conversations, after which the facts can be introduced.
IF THE VALUE FITS, USE IT.
Not everyone looks at the
natural world the same way. Some think we should protect it because it is
the responsible thing to do for the next generation, others, because it is
God’s creation, others, because it is beautiful, others because they believe
in the intrinsic value of nature, etc.. Know which values your audience
embraces before you invoke a particular value in your argument. When in
doubt, retreat to stewardship.
EXPLAIN HOW HUMANS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR LOSS OF SPECIES AND NATURAL AREAS,
BUT ALSO EXPLAIN HOW HUMANS CAN HELP REVERSE THIS TREND. OFFER HOPE!
There’s nothing like the
imminent collapse of the planetary life support systems to really turn off
an audience. Don’t sugar coat the bad news, but always offer hope,
alternatives, options: “there’s another way of doing things.”
CONNECT THE DOTS….MAKE THE RELATIONSHIPS AND INTER-DEPENDENCE OF NATURE
Talk about species or
particular habitats in terms of relationships: explain the links to human
well-being whenever possible. (E.g., we need spiders because they eat
insects and keep the insect population in balance, which in turn protects
humans from out-of-control insect populations.) People understand that
nature is an interdependent system, but they don’t know much about the
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A BASIC APPRECIATION OF THE BALANCE OF NATURE TO EXPAND
Most people appreciate the
concept of nature as a balanced system, but many don’t know what it takes
for nature to stay balanced. Explain basic concepts such as diversity
provides resilience/ lack of diversity makes systems vulnerable; explain the
value of predators, scavengers and other “undesirable” species in terms of
the whole system. Explain, explain, explain.
SPEAK IN PLAIN ENGLISH (or
plain Spanish, etc.). Avoid scientific, technical, and other jargon.