The Conservation Revolution will be translated!

The book The Conservation Revolution: Radical Ideas for Saving Nature beyond the Anthropocene by Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher is currently being translated into several languages:

Français: there will be a French translation by Actes Sud, hopefully coming in 2023;

Español: there will be a Spanish translation by Icaria Editorial, hopefully coming in 2022;

Deutsch: there will be a German translation by Passagen Verlag, coming in October 2022!

And we are hoping that yet more may materialize soon – stay tuned!

Living Landscapes project approved!

We are taking convivial conservation to the next level: the Oak Foundation has approved a three-year programme to start implementing convivial conservation in three living landscapes in South Africa. The programme will be led by The institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) of the University of the Western Cape, together with the Sociology of Development and Change Group at Wageningen University. More updates soon.

A New Future for Conservation: Setting out the principles of post-growth conservation

Authors: Robert Fletcher, Kate Massarella, Ashish Kothari, Pallav Das, Anwesha Dutta and Bram Büscher

The prospects for Earth’s biological diversity look increasingly bleak. The urgency of global efforts to preserve biodiversity long predates the COVID-19 crisis, but the pandemic has added new dimensions to the problem. Conservation funding from nature tourism has all but disappeared with international travel restrictions, wildlife poaching is on the rise, and various political regimes have used the crisis as an excuse to roll-back and circumvent environmental regulations. These developments are products of the dominant mode of natural resource “management” via technocratic control that is at the core of global socio-ecological crises.

Even worse, perhaps, a series of key international meetings planned throughout 2020 to establish a Global Biodiversity Framework to guide conservation efforts through the next decade have been cancelled or postponed. Yet, while the delay developing this framework leaves conservation’s future even more uncertain, it also presents a valuable opportunity. The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear that any hope of preserving the planet’s rapidly dwindling natural systems and species depend on our capacity to use this extended period of reflection and discussion to push the Biodiversity Framework, as well as national- and local-level policies and practices, in a radical new direction.

Read further on:

Some CONVIVA news

This short news item on CONVIVA – the convivial conservation research project was first submitted as a contribution to the Transformations2Sustainability September 2019 newsletter.

In June 2019, the University of Sheffield, one of the institutions involved in the CONVIVA – convivial conservation research project funded by the Belmont Forum/NORFACE, hosted a workshop bringing together diverse scholars working on different aspects of political ecology in the global South and North. Four researchers affiliated with CONVIVA, Wilhelm Kiwango from the University of Dodoma, Kate Massarella from Wageningen University, Dan Brockington and Judith Krauss from the University of Sheffield, presented ongoing work which explores different aspects of convivial conservation. The viability of insurance schemes in communities living with lions, the social life of ideas, and the commensurability of convivial conservation with the 15th Sustainable Development Goal were discussed with the 30 participants.


This workshop marked the starting point for Wilhelm Kiwango’s one-month stay at the University of Sheffield to plan research activities which will develop and test ideas around convivial conservation in Tanzania. These activities, led by Mathew Bukhi Mabele and Wilhelm Kiwango, are additionally supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund. They will enable CONVIVA to work with communities in Tanzania who have experienced human-wildlife conflict with lions on co-developing ideas which put into practice the research project’s objectives of promoting co-existence, (bio)diversity and social justice.

The Case for Convivial Conservation

Originally published at:

By Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher, Wageningen University (Netherlands)

In the face of the sixth extinction, rising wildlife crime and biodiversity under dire threat around the globe, environmental conservation finds itself in desperate times. A new approach is needed, one that takes seriously our economic system’s structural pressures, violent socio-ecological realities, escalating extinctions and increasingly authoritarian politics. Convivial conservation is such an approach.

These days it is difficult to keep track of all the devastating conservation news appearing. While some profess ‘conservation optimism’, most of the scientific news about species, ecosystems and the climate is far from positive. The Living Planet Report 2018 states that 60% of all wild animals have disappeared since 1970. Other recent studies, including the major IPBES report launched in June 2019, show that extinction rates are accelerating and that global biodiversity thresholds may soon surpass ‘planetary boundaries’ beyond which even more dramatic decline is inevitable.

All of this is happening in a broader context wherein alt-right and authoritarian (-leaning) politicians like Bolsonaro in Brazil, Trump in the US, Johnson in the UK, Putin in Russia, Erdohan in Turkey and many others promote an explicitly elitist, anti-environmentalist and divisive politics that could make things much worse for decades to come.

Given this context and these threats, it is little surprise that many in the conservation community feel great anxiety and pressure. And while they do sometimes admit that radical transformation is needed, it seems very difficult to break out of the neoliberal consensus many organisations have come to embrace since the 1980s and 1990s.

For example, the WWF’s flagship Living Planet report, released two days after Bolsonaro was elected, calls for a ‘new global deal for nature and people’ and urges ‘decision-makers at every level’ to “make the right political, financial and consumer choices to achieve the vision that humanity and nature thrive in harmony on our only planet”. To operationalise this ‘ambitious pathway’, WWF, together with other organisations, will launch a new research initiative based around ‘systems modelling’ to help “us determine the best integrated and collective solutions and to help understand the ‘trade-offs’ we may need to accept to find the best path ahead.”

To a degree, we can understand that conservation organisations want to be cautious politically. But the big problem with this conciliatory mainstream approach is that it is very easy for alt-right and authoritarian (-leaning) politicians and movements to ignore, while at the same time it allows people to postpone the more drastic action that is truly needed.

Interestingly, we have seen more radical discontent with this approach emerging, even from within the conservation community. These reactions are diverse, but two streams seem particularly adamant to push mainstream boundaries.

One stream – under the label ‘new conservation’ – has started criticizing the key elements that conservation has been build on since the 19th century: protected areas and ideas of ‘pristine’ nature and wilderness. Instead, they advocate a full integration of conservation into dominant, capitalist political economic systems for conservation to stand a chance in the future and maintain legitimacy.

But another group of conservationists – whom we call ‘neoprotectionists’ – go livid when they hear this. They believe that this strategy would not only be the death of conservation, but of the planet more generally. According to neoprotectionists, we need to go back to protected areas and wilderness preservation, but on a scale hitherto not yet seen. They argue that only if half the entire planet becomes a nature reserve can the ecological processes critical to human and planetary survival persist.

In short, while new conservationists advocate a radical mixing of people and nonhuman nature, especially through valuation of ‘natural capital’, neoprotectionists call for a separation between people and nature on an unprecedented global scale.

A conservation revolution?

In a soon to be published book and recent article, we argue that neither of these radical conservation proposals take historical and political economic realities seriously enough and so cannot lead us forward. Our book offers a detailed discussion of the important differences and nuances among and within these proposals to do justice to the foundational issues they highlight and try to tackle. At the same time, we argue that neither truly addresses the integrated socio-ecological roots of the biodiversity crisis, nor do their politics adequately confront the reactionary political developments we are witnessing around the world.

Yet we do not want to throw away the baby with the bathwater. What these radical conservation approaches show is that a conservation revolution might be brewing, and we should build on this potential. Moreover, there are important positive aspects in the various radical proposals that should be nurtured and brought together into a more coherent alternative. We therefore see these two positions as pointing towards the more fundamental transformation that is needed to allow conservation to effectively confront the mounting pressures we face.

We propose an alternative termed ‘convivial conservation.  Convivial conservation (literally: ‘living with’) is a vision, a politics and a set of governance principles that realistically respond to the core pressures of our time. Drawing on a variety of perspectives in social theory and movements from around the globe, it proposes a post-capitalist approach to conservation that promotes equity, structural transformation and environmental justice. It directly targets the extreme capitalist interests of the global elites, positively engages with but transcends technocratic beliefs of pragmatists and enthusiastically builds on a growing groundswell of global social movements, including Extinction Rebellion and FridaysForFuture youth protests that demand structural change.

Conclusion: Another Conservation Politics is Needed

The growing environmental and political crises has made the choices that conservation faces even more difficult than they already were. This, then, is the basic reality facing conservation: radical choices have to be made. This is not to say that we should not look for complementarities and things that unite. This remains vital.

Yet we must always do so in the context of the broader systemic change that is needed, and full awareness that this is resisted violently by entrenched and institutionalised forms of power. To continue to try to please, accommodate or ignore these entrenched powers is a defeatist politics.

Convivial conservation engages these issues by combing attention to complexity with political acuity and is therefore a realistic alternative. Much, however, remains to be worked out in both theory and practice. It is critical that this is done in and through collaboration with many actors, including local people living within biodiverse spaces.

Only then can convivial conservation offer a truly hopeful vision of a future in which humans and nonhumans live together well.