WYSS ACADEMY FOR NATURE
Biodiversity, Climate, Land use
Rapid development over recent decades has accelerated large-scale biodiversity loss, irreversible land use change and land degradation, as well as climate change. The most basic resources for humans and nature – water, land, and climate – are under threat from both global and local pressures.
Human wellbeing is a prerequisite for successful and sustainable nature conservation. This demands wise, inclusive, and forward-looking decision-making that recognizes the needs of all living beings and respects the finiteness of resources.
A particular challenge today is that decisions must be made in a rapidly changing world.
In addition, the irreversibility of many environmental impacts, the high degree of uncertainty related tipping points (e.g. climate, biodiversity), and conflicts arising from growing environmental, social, economic, and political inequalities remain the known unknowns of conservation and sustainable development. Responding to these challenges and promoting development towards sustainability for nature and people is the essence of stewardship.
The immediate need for enhanced nature conservation is widely acknowledged. However, halting and reversing habitat loss and degradation without causing conflict or depriving local communities of their rights and basis for livelihood, remains a major challenge.
The lack of an integrated perspective on global changes in biodiversity, land use, and climate has fundamentally hampered global stewardship of nature and people. It is true that the threats in each individual realm have been recognized; this is reflected in the three UN conventions created at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and their more recent visions and specific targets, such as the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity, and the Paris Agreement.
But only very recently has it been realized just how complex the interactions between the three realms are, and what critical consequences they have for sustainability.
Global multilateral agreements are important, but not sufficient: On the one hand, humanity is facing a rapidly closing window of opportunity to solve these interconnected challenges – we must urgently move from political declarations to concrete actions. On the other hand, human-versus-environment issues like sustainable conservation are so-called ‘wicked problems’, where translation of evidence into decision-making is not entirely straightforward since all factors are both cause and effect, and there are many competing players and interests. Hence the need for new approaches to bringing well-grounded, integrated evidence into decision-making.
Concrete pathways towards sustainable development and conservation must be designed at local and regional levels corresponding to specific social and geographical contexts. They are brought about by engaged collaborations between science, society, and policymaking that are rooted in local communities and translate into regions.
The Wyss Academy for Nature will lift its discoveries from there to the global level and thereby assist in establishing global-scale sustainability and conservation efforts. It cannot be stressed enough that while many have adopted the rhetoric of interdisciplinarity and transformative science, few actually pursue it – not least because traditional funding schemes tend to avoid the associated risks. Partnering with the University of Bern, the Canton of Bern, the Wyss Foundation and many organizations around the globe thus offers a unique opportunity to engage in truly pioneering collaborations.
Over the next coming ten years, the Wyss Academy for Nature at the University of Bern will significantly and concretely enhance the conservation and protection of nature. The Academy’s mission is to develop, test, and scale innovative pathways that strengthen and harmonize nature conservation, human wellbeing, and natural resource use in varied landscapes around the world.
The Wyss Academy’s strategy is designed to overcome the prevailing disconnect between knowledge and action, and between locally adapted, concrete solutions and game-changing dynamics and mechanisms at global scales.
Based on the University of Bern’s world-renowned expertise in biodiversity, land use, and climate change, the Wyss Academy will create innovation by breaking up the conventional silos of scientific research, conservation and development practice, and political routine. World-leading scholars will co-produce solution-oriented applications, strategies, and policies with stakeholders from society, conservation, policy, and business from local to global levels.