Patricia Fernández de Lis, a scientific journalist, talks with Sandra Magro, PhD in ecology and ecosystem restoration and CEO and co-founder of ‘Creando Redes’ (Creating Networks), about the importance of ecosystems, and the role of companies and communication when it comes to stopping global warming.
Why do you think it is important to recover degraded ecosystems?
If we want to fight climate change, I think we have to pay attention to degraded ecosystems. We know that at least 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transformation and destruction of the soil. Biological soil also emits CO2, so it is important to take care of our ecosystems if we want to stop climate change. We are losing a lot of goods and services that are essential to our survival, such as the fertility of the soil to produce food, or our ability to adapt to climate change.
What does it mean to stop the degradation of ecosystems?
Although human activities like infrastructure construction have a positive impact by allowing for the transportation of people and materials in the territory, they also generate a significant amount of sediment that have a negative effect on ecosystems. In this regard, stopping the degradation of ecosystems means reducing the impact of our activities on ecosystems and promoting their conservation and biodiversity.
I understand that in your case, this work starts at the beginning of the activity?
In ‘Creando Redes’ we work with customers to plan sustainable activities from a strategic perspective. For example, for the development of renewable energy sources, it is important to take into account that the production and distribution of energy will take up large areas, which will affect biodiversity. For this reason, it is important to plan these activities in a sustainable manner and with the least impact possible.
What is the hardest part of the work that you do at ‘Creando Redes’ to establish these processes?
We come across internal resistance on a daily basis in the organizations we work with when it comes to adopting sustainable practices. Sustainability means going out of the comfort zone and acquiring new behaviors, which can sometimes create resistance. In addition, it is sometimes necessary to organize new information and implement new internal procedures to adopt sustainable practices. Another difficulty we find is the limitation in the availability and use of the data needed to better plan the companies’ activities and reduce their impact. In short, there are both internal and external factors that influence the adoption of sustainable practices in organizations.
And what is it that motivates the organizations that approach you to make this change?
There are various motivations for companies to adopt sustainable practices. They could be motivated by the personal convictions of the people that work there. Companies are also constantly being pressured on different fronts, such as legislation, socially responsible investment criteria and European taxonomy. Even boards of directors have members within the organizations who ask about progress in biodiversity, which can create concern in people. At ‘Creando Redes’ we also support companies so that they can adopt sustainable practices and face these pressures in an effective manner.
However, there are still a lot of companies and public agencies that look at the environment as a cost more than a benefit. What would you tell them to convince them that it is not just a cost, but it could be a benefit for them and obviously for society?
The romantic view of sustainability and of saving the planet is not accurate because the planet will continue to exist regardless of our actions. However, as the human species, we should consider whether our idea is to transcend, and if so, sustainability is crucial. In addition, sustainability has become a question of money, as most of the funds for Covid recovery have sustainability criteria. Therefore, not getting on the sustainability train means missing the opportunity to obtain resources to do sustainable, resilient and digital things.
As humans, we make decisions based on our own needs and those of our nearby community. Although it is possible that you feel a deep love and concern for wildlife in the Arctic, what really affects you are the threats facing your loved ones and your immediate vicinity. Of course, there are places like the Pacific Island that require our attention, but it is important that we act now to protect what matters most to us.
Do you think we are really perceiving this threat that closely affects us and our children?
I think that as Europeans, we are a little farther from the environmental and and climate crisis. We tend to think that technology will save us because we are privileged and have access to a lot of resources. But if we lived in a place like Rwanda where the drought is devastating and there are no resources, we would look at things differently. I think that we are missing a bit of awareness, but now the pandemic is the most visible and urgent emergency we are facing, which makes other problems like climate change seem less important.
Do you think education and outreach are important when it comes to protecting biodiversity?
Those of us work on sustainability could learn a lot from marketing. Effective communication is key to reach different stakeholder groups and raise awareness of and commitment to sustainability. It is important to adapt the message for different audiences and situations so that it is more relevant and easy to understand for each person. In addition, it is important to use different communication channels and formats to reach as many people as possible.