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WCS and Zoo and Aquarium Partners Launch #FramingOurFuture Campaign to Support Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change

Harnessing the power of AZA accredited zoos across 46 states who reach 200 million people each year, the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced today #FramingOurFuture – a partner-based campaign aimed at zoo visitors, as well as digital audiences, about how their actions to protect nature will support our climate. 

The campaign kicked off at COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

The goals of the campaign are to educate and empower the public to take action on climate by advancing nature-based solutions in U.S. foreign and domestic climate policy, including protection of intact forests and restoration of coastal ecosystems. In addition, the campaign supports doubling U.S. investments in global biodiversity conservation funding streams that support nature-based solutions to climate change over the next four years.

Said Cristian Samper, WCS President and CEO: “Nature-based approaches, such as protection of intact forests, serve as one-third of the immediate solution to the climate crisis. However, they only receive 8 percent of climate change mitigation resources globally. To ensure U.S. policymaking, investment and diplomacy advances the role of nature in mitigating climate change, we need dedicated action not only of scientists and policymakers, but of ordinary citizens from coast to coast.”

The campaign emphasizes that by saving nature, in particular protecting intact forests and restoring coastal ecosystems, we can achieve one third of the action needed to keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2030. The climate crisis today is directly connected to a growing biodiversity crisis. The United Nations has suggested that as many as a million animal and plant species face extinction today. Driving the threat to biodiversity is the destruction and degradation of countless intact landscapes that provide habitat for species large and small and store carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

Such intact areas are likewise a key reservoir of viral pathogens like SARS-CoV-2 to which people have no natural immunity. The opportunity for “zoonotic” spillover of such viruses from wildlife to humans is greatly increased as the integrity of large swaths of forest is compromised—largely through the carving up of such areas for industrial agriculture, resource extraction, transportation infrastructure, and via the illegal wildlife trade.

Said John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs: “The zoo and aquarium community will come together to ensure that the conservation of nature is a key component to fighting the climate crisis, which is directly linked to the extinction and pandemic crises. We must begin actively framing our future. Protecting tomorrow starts today.”

Framing our Future supports several bills that address these crises: the FOREST Act, sponsored by Sen. Schatz (D-HI) and Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR) and Fitzpatrick (R-PA); the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Reps. Chabot (R-OH) and Sherman (D-CA) and Sens. Portman (R-OH), Coons (D-DE), Burr (R-NC), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Schatz (D-HI); the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, sponsored by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), along with other priority pending legislation.

Framing Our Future’s inaugural partners include the AZA, Brevard Zoo, Chicago Zoological Society, Houston Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo, Oregon Zoo, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Shedd Aquarium, St. Louis Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, and Zoo New England.

PARTNER QUOTES

John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO: “Nature is a healer, and, if given the chance, can be very effective in combating the negative impacts of climate change. Protecting nature benefits all life, and without thriving, balanced ecosystems, there are many negative impacts including increased flooding and heat waves, deteriorating water and air quality, and emerging diseases. We are at a critical point, and we need to take action now to strategically preserve and protect the incredible biodiversity and resources on our planet.”

Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums: “When people are entranced by the sight of a polar bear, a penguin, or a panoramic coral reef, they are more open to learning and more willing to act. By engaging our members’ millions upon millions of visitors and challenging them to help #FramingOurFuture, we can support nature-based solutions to the climate crisis that will also help save animals from extinction.” 

Keith Winsten, Executive Director of the Brevard Zoo: “Using ecosystem services to combat climate change just makes sense – you get the triple win of having a global impact, restoring natural landscapes for communities to enjoy and empowering ordinary citizens to make a difference at a local level.”

Dr. Michael Adkesson, President & CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society: “Brookfield Zoo is located within the Forest Preserves of Cook County, where we experience firsthand the benefits of nature-based solutions to climate change. Nearby wetlands filter our water and the surrounding forests absorb pollution, cool our cities, and clean our air. By protecting our diverse landscapes, waterways, and oceans, we can address the global climate crisis while ensuring wild spaces survive to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders.”

Lee Ehmke, President and CEO, Houston Zoo: “Our mission at the Houston Zoo is to connect communities with animals to inspire action to save wildlife. To protect wildlife, we must preserve the wild places where they live and reduce the effects of climate change wherever we can. We’re honored for the Houston Zoo to be a founding member of the Framing Our Future campaign to protect nature and support our climate.”

Dr. Rob Shumaker, President & CEO, Indianapolis Zoo: “The “Framing Our Future” partnership fits well with the Indianapolis Zoo’s mission to protect nature and inspire people to care for our world,” said Dr. Rob Shumaker, President & CEO. “Our Zoo invests in 100% green power, purchases carbon offsets for large events and engages visitors to help with reforestation projects in Borneo. This partnership will lead to a better future for generations to come.”

Heidi Rahn, Oregon Zoo director: “Nature is our greatest ally in addressing climate change. By advocating for more action to restore our forests, wetlands and ocean, we can protect the habitats that all wildlife and people depend on.”

Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife health officer for San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance: “Zoos and aquariums across the United States have incredible reach to our conservation-minded audiences.  We are excited to engage with our wildlife allies on nature-based solutions to save nature and ensure a world where all life thrives.” 

President and CEO Dr. Bridget Coughlin, John G. Shedd Aquarium: “Our changing climate is the greatest long-term threat to biodiversity across our planet, including in our own backyard in the Great Lakes. To address this global climate crisis, now is the time to scale and broaden solutions that leverage the power of our planet’s natural spaces, from wetlands to the ocean, and get every community member involved in helping save species—and our future,” said Bridget Coughlin, Ph.D., president and CEO of Shedd Aquarium. “With the Framing Our Future campaign, we are eager to inform, empower and inspire our supporters across the Great Lakes region to advance science-driven policy solutions. Only together can we build a resilient and healthy planet for generations to come.”

Said Sharon L. Deem, DVM, Ph.D., DACZM, Director, Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine: “The Saint Louis Zoo is proud to be an inaugural partner in this campaign. Human health and animal health are interdependent and bound to the health of the ecosystems where we all reside. Taking a One Health approach to bring together different disciplines—human medicine, veterinary medicine, ecology, public heath, anthropology, economics, etc.—we can achieve the best health for people, animals and the environment. Together, we can solve global health challenges, which include climate change, emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19, pollinator decline, food safety, water availability, biodiversity loss and other planetary health issues.”

Alejandro Grajal, President and CEO of Woodland Park Zoo: “Woodland Park Zoo knows that saving species and fighting climate change are inextricably linked. That’s why we are proud to be a founding member of Framing Our Future. Nature-based solutions to climate change are necessary to prevent the worst impacts of a warming planet. Our zoo is committed to limiting the impacts of our changing climate, whether on zoo grounds, in our community, or in the landscapes we work in around the world. We welcome the support and leadership at other zoos and aquariums as we drive the change necessary to protect our communities, our health and our planet.”