Can I protect the planet? How our daily decisions impact global biodiversity decline

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Global biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates. 

The landmark Living Planet Report 2016 revealed that overall global vertebrate wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970 and are on course to decline by an average of 67 per cent from 1970 levels by 2020, unless urgent action is taken to reduce humanity’s impact on species and ecosystems. 

Understanding the drivers of this loss is problematic. Does a global problem require global-scale political, technological and economic solutions, or can individuals make a difference? 

To mark the recent publication of the Living Planet Report 2016, this event invited speakers to debate the motion ‘Global biodiversity decline is not impacted by my daily decisions’.  

The main threats to wildlife identified in the report are habitat degradation and species overexploitation, but how are these driven by the decisions we make daily as consumers? 

Our lives are a series of actions that impact the planet’s resources, whether it is how we commute to work, what food we buy or how much energy we consume in our homes. Yet our choices are influenced by market pressures, government policy and the advancement of new technologies that make sustainable options possible. 

This meeting aimed to uncover the relationship between our personal choices and the processes that contribute to biodiversity declines. Can adopting a low-footprint lifestyle have an impact, or is global governance the only feasible solution to managing biodiversity and resources within the planet’s limits? 


  • Mark Lynas, Cornell Alliance for Science

    Mark Lynas is the author of three major popular science environmental books: High Tide (2004), Six Degrees (2008) and The God Species (2011), as well as the Kindle Single ebook Nuclear 2.0 (2012). Six Degrees won the 2008 Royal Society science books prize and was made into a documentary film voiced by Alec Baldwin by National Geographic channel. He was advisor to the President of the Maldives on climate change from 2009 until the coup in 2012. He has contributed extensively to global media, writing for the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, Bangkok Post, Philippines Inquirer, Daily Nation (Kenya) and numerous others. He is a visiting fellow at the Cornell Alliance for Science, Cornell University, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Amelia Womack, Deputy Leader of the Green Party

    Amelia is the youngest deputy leader of any UK political party, and was elected aged 29 while still a member of the Young Greens. She holds a BSc in Environmental Biology and an MSc in Environmental Technology, and in her 8 years of Green Party activism has campaigned on issues such around climate change and our green future.
  • Garry Charnock, Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral Project

    Garry is the instigator of the Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral Project - a community-led initiative that aims to make this Cheshire village England's first carbon neutral community. The project is now in its tenth year and was recenlty featured by The New York Times, CNN and BBC World Service.   Garry is also a trustee of Pure Leapfrog, a charity supporting community action on climate change. In 2011 he was awarded Climate Week’s 'Inspirational Leader in Climate Change. Garry holds an MSc in Engineering from Imperial College and works as a communication consultant for the RSK Group.
  • Robin Freeman, Head of Indicators and Assessments, ZSL

    Robin is the Head of the Indicators and Assessments Unit at the Zoological Society of London. The Indicators and Assessment unit maintains and analyses the data behind the Living Planet Index, which recently reported a 58% decline in the abundance of wildlife populations between 1970 and 2012. Dr Freeman's research spans many disciplines from understanding the status and trends of global biodiversity, to creating new kinds of technology for understanding animal behaviour in the wild, and remote fieldwork utilising those technologies. Previously Dr Freeman has worked at University College London, the University of Oxford and Microsoft Research, Cambridge.
  • Chaired by Professor Dame Georgina Mace DBE FRS, University College London

    Georgina Mace is Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystems and Director of the UCL Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER).  She led the development of scientific work behind the criteria used in IUCN’s Red List of threatened species and was responsible for biodiversity elements in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and in the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. Her current research interests are in measuring the trends and consequences of biodiversity loss and ecosystem change. Georgina was Director of Science at ZSL from 2000-2006. She was elected FRS in 2002 and appointed DBE in 2015.


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