President’s Letter: A mandate to protect nature

Carter Roberts headshot

Carter Roberts
President & CEO, WWF

In 1960, British biologist Sir Julian Huxley spent three months in Central and East Africa for the purpose of reporting to UNESCO on “the conservation of Wild Life and Natural Resources” there. Upon returning home, he penned a series of articles in The Observer, a London newspaper, detailing what he had seen during his 10-country tour.

Huxley sang the praises of the nature he’d experienced, and then went on to decry the obvious poaching of elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and more. He reported that the central issue to be addressed was “whether Africa’s wild life and wild nature can survive, or whether they will be destroyed or whittled down to a poor remnant by the rising tides of over-population and industrial and other ‘development.’”

These articles elevated conservation in the global consciousness and ultimately triggered the creation of WWF, in 1961. WWF was born to save places in the world—places that support species, places that we cherish, and places that are the lifeblood for communities and people, including ourselves. WWF was born to save nature.

Of course, no one ever said keeping nature intact was a simple proposition. And certainly the world and what we demand of it has changed significantly since 1961. Conservation in the face of changing governments, shifting markets, new technologies, and other disruptions is complicated. It requires every tool at our disposal—from authentic community-based work that builds on the wisdom of local people; to collaborating with governments at the local, state, and national levels; to partnering with corporations to help them invent new ways to do business.

“Politics we shall always have with us: but if wild life is destroyed, it is gone for ever, and if it is seriously reduced, its restoration will be a lengthy and expensive business.”


WWF, along with many colleague and partner institutions, is focusing on 2020 as a “super year” for nature. In 2020

  • China will host the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, where countries will decide on a new 10-year framework for biodiversity, setting a path for the global recovery of nature
  • the 26th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will convene, giving countries the opportunity to enhance their national action plans to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement
  • several of the environmental targets set under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will expire and must be evaluated and updated if necessary

And so to make the most of 2020, when these events will turn the world’s attention to nature, WWF and partners are calling for a New Deal for People and Nature to bend the curve of biodiversity and nature loss. We envision this effort as an integrated approach to putting biodiversity loss and nature restoration at the top of the global agenda, much as the Paris Agreement did for climate change.

Creating a New Deal for People and Nature will require us to use the best possible science to develop an apex target to halt biodiversity loss and drive restoration. It will require us to be brilliant in engaging the governments involved in negotiating the various global conventions and agreements. It will require us to work with leaders in the private sector to make clear the financial imperative to keep intact the planet that is not only our home but also the source of the natural resources that fuel our economies. And finally, it will require us to be excellent at communicating the genius and beauty of nature, the degree to which we depend on it, the fact that we are losing more of it every day, and the solutions that we can and must marshal to reverse the tide of destruction.

I encourage you to read the pages of this magazine and imagine with us what’s next for nature. What needs to be invented? How can we change the behavior of people, governments, and businesses so that we all make smarter use of our natural resources? Huxley concluded his series by stating simply, of the wildlife and wild lands he had seen: “They must at all costs be preserved.” This is what WWF was born to do. It is in our DNA to save nature, and our work makes all the difference in the world.

Carter Roberts

President and CEO

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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