New research suggests that more people are worried about the breakdown of nature than we think, yet feel alone in their worries and reluctant to speak out, while also wanting strong leadership that helps the natural world.
Greenpeace says these startling new insights uncover a quiet but strong mandate for more action and more commitment by political leaders to protect nature.
“Politicians in Government and opposition should sit up and take note. Most of the time, this deep current of concern causes only a ripple on the surface, but our research shows that it runs deep and it is a powerful force when stirred,” says Greenpeace campaigner and project lead Jessica Desmond.
“We saw that happen when the John Key Government threatened to mine the most valuable ‘Schedule 4’ conservation land. The response from New Zealanders was visceral and saw one of the biggest protest marches in a generation and the mining proposal scrapped.
Commissioned by Greenpeace, the extensive qualitative research was conducted over the course of a year, involving a broad range of focus group participants from Kerikeri to Invercargill and set out to see how connected people felt with nature.
Researcher Dr Ranmalie Jayasinha says that people spontaneously brought up their concerns for nature, and a clear pattern was identified while collating the data.
“What we were really surprised to see coming up in the focus groups, over and over again, was that people were really concerned about the breakdown and loss of nature, even though we didn’t ask them directly about this,” says Jayasinha.
“Participants also indicated they were hesitant to talk about their concerns for nature with friends and family because they were afraid of being judged or seen as annoying or difficult. So it seems clear that more people care about the state of nature than we might think.” Participants were recruited broadly from the general public and included people from many different walks of life. With the sample size, composition and number of focus groups, Jayasinha says they were able to establish data saturation.
“This means that we identified the same themes coming up repeatedly across groups, reliably indicating that this was an established pattern, and if we continued to conduct more focus groups with similar people, we’d see the same results.
“These insights made us all go, there’s something really important going on here that is worth sharing with the public and with decision-makers.”
The researchers also found that across the board, people wanted meaningful action and leadership on things that impact the natural world.Desmond says this early insight, taken from a broader research project, strongly suggests that there are opportunities to encourage people to talk to each other about their concerns and take those concerns to political leaders.
“I think there’s a beautiful opportunity here, if more of us start talking about nature, how we feel about it and what we want to see in the future, we might be able to change things in the future. I think that’s one of the takeaways from this research – it’s okay to speak up if you’re worried about nature. A lot of us are.
“Maybe this holiday season, instead of holding back because we’re afraid of being dismissed, we could start some conversations about nature with friends and family because it might just turn out that they have similar feelings.” To bring the research to life, Greenpeace has produced poster art and a video that illustrates the main research findings. The video is available here, and more information is on the website TalkNature including tips for starting nature-based conversations.