7 ‘Champions for Nature’ tell us their must-read books

  • For World Wildlife Day, we asked seven "Champions of Nature" their picks for books that motivate them.
  • The answers include Small Ideas to Change the World by Cyril Dion and A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel.

During this year’s Davos Agenda Week, leaders from the private and public sectors highlighted the urgent need to halt and reverse nature loss. Deliberate action on the interlinked climate and ecological crises to achieve a net-zero, nature-positive economy is paramount. At the same time, these leaders also presented a message of hope: that investing in nature holds the key to ensuring economic and social prosperity and resilience.

2021 will be a critical year to ensure a net zero, nature-positive future as world leaders come together for several key events and negotiations related to climate and nature. Ensuring a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is also essential to ensure a prosperous and resilient future for humankind.

In honour of UN World Wildlife Day on March 3 and to provide inspiration for the important year ahead, seven members of the Champions for Nature community – which is leading the way towards a nature positive future by 2030 – have shared what they are reading that is giving them motivation to build a better world for people and planet.

Small Ideas to Change the World – Cyril Dion

Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica

Cyril Dion invites us to “change stories to change history”. The challenge of climate change for what it is, to change the history of humanity, where each person counts and each action, big or small, counts. As it should be in an interconnected world, we dream of more solidarity.

A Stone Sat Still – Brendan Wenzel

M Sanjayan, Chief Executive Officer, Conservation International

Our 19-month-old daughter would have it no other way. Brendan Wenzel’s A Stone Sat Still has been read 600 times in our home during lockdown. Even so we still turn the pages with unhurried pleasure. We linger on its dreamy, dusky illustrations and its spring-water clear prose.

Each time we read it we fall in love with a new way of seeing nature; when viewed in different lights and at different heights, nature becomes the source of endless possibilities. For a grinding and tragic pandemic, a reminder of the value of nature and the importance of place is the perfect antidote.

The Essentials of Theory ‘U’ – Otto Scharmer

Cherie Nursalim, Vice-Chairman, Giti Group

“U” is a movement. “U” is a philosophy of “seeing” and “sensing” our system. “U” is a way of letting go and letting a new “U” emerge. “U” enables “ego” to “eco system shift”. Otto lays out and synthesises the core essences of his decades of practice with corporates, civil society and governments around the world in integrating science arts and consciousness. This is to me a must-read book and offers a pathway to happiness by bridging social, ecological and spiritual divides (Tri Hita Karana ways to Happiness in Balinese) aligned with UN SDGs.

Stones of Silence – George Schaller

Malik Amin Aslam Khan, Federal Minister of Climate Change and Adviser to the Prime Minister, Pakistan

The Himalayan travelogue by one of the world’s leading conservationists searching for an encounter with one of the most elusive creatures on the planet – the mystical snow leopard – is what I am currently reading. The book is both a celebration of nature, as it beautifully penetrates and unravels the myth around the “mountain ghost”, and an avid description of the spirituality residing in the vast emptiness of the mighty Himalayan landscapes.

George Schaller, the author of Stones of Silence (1980), is the person who, in the early 70’s, inspired the creation of Pakistan’s iconic Khunjerab National Park, which today conserves one of the world’s largest populations of the snow leopard, Markhors, Himalayan Ibex and Marco Polo Sheep and who, a few months back, during COVID-19 quarantine supported the start of Pakistan’s Protected Areas Initiative. As the world looks for a nature-positive recovery, the book is a must-read for all who yearn to taste a bit of nature – Himalayan magic mixed with the mystery of the snow leopard.

I quote from the book: “Wisps of clouds swirled around, transforming her into a ghost creature, part myth and part reality… Balanced precariously on a ledge and bitterly cold, I too stayed, unwilling to disrupt the moment… Then the snow fell more thickly, and dreamlike, the cat slipped away as if she had never been.”

The Untold Story of the World’s Leading Environmental Institution – Maria Ivanova

Inger Andersen, United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme

I highly recommend The Untold Story of the World's Leading Environmental Institution by Maria Ivanova. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the genesis and evolution of global environmental governance. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the UN Environment Programme in 2022, this book provides valuable insights into how UNEP – and, indeed, environmental multilateralism – must rise to the challenges of a planet in crisis and lead us towards sustainable development.

Reality Bubble – Ziya Tong

Marco Lambertini, Director-General, WWF International

The Reality Bubble by Ziya Tong is a provocative book about humanity’s main blind spots: what we didn’t evolve to see, and what we should but don’t see. The blindness, often convenient, of modern society. A reminder of our limitations, and the dangers of ignoring the impact we are having on the health and balance of the planet we should call home. A particularly important reminder in a year when only humanity’s full awareness of our role in the natural world can trigger the deep cultural revolution in our minds and systemic change in our economy to avert disaster.

Losing Earth – Nathaniel Rich

Svein Tore Holsether, President & CEO, Yara International

The essence of this book is that we knew but didn’t act. Nathaniel Rich tells the history of fighting climate change, and how the Charney report already in 1979 predicted the devastating effects of global warming. Based on this, I have used every opportunity to tell people that we have been sitting on the fence for four decades and have less than a decade to fix it. We don’t have the time anymore to work in isolation, only collaboration can save us. The book was an eye-opener about how we have failed, how we can’t afford to fail now, and how we must have a science- and fact-based way of working.

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