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Nature Is Speaking - It's Time to Listen

Julia Roberts, Harrison Ford, Kevin Spacey, Edward Norton, Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford, Ian Somerhalder and Lupita Nyong’o share something you may not know: they are helping to reframe the crucial conversation about our relationship with nature by participating in the Nature is Speaking campaign. 

For a long time the environmental movement focused on saving nature for its own sake, because it was wild, beautiful, filled with unique and amazing species and a refuge from the pressures of civilization. 

That hasn’t worked. The human population is growing, spreading and the pressures of our civilization now reach the entire planet. People who need food and natural resources are not motivated toward conservation by a vision of nature that excludes people and does not provide direct benefits like food and natural resources.   

Large conservation organizations, businesses and government agencies in many countries are leading the way toward a new vision of Nature that includes people and recognizes that conservation will only be effective if it includes people. Many examples show that people support conservation laws and actions that allow use of Nature and its resources, but ensure that it will be done sustainably.  

So the key to effective conservation is to communicate that people need nature, and that saving nature will help solve some of the problems ordinary people face throughout the world. We need healthy oceans, watersheds and forests not just because they are beautiful, but because they help us. So the message about saving Nature is now a message about saving ourselves.  

This is the message that Julia Roberts and the others are sharing as they lend their voices to Nature Is Speaking, a series of 90 second videos that present what Nature, Oceans, Rainforests, Soil, Water, Redwoods, Coral Reefs and Flowers might say if they could speak.  

This campaign, designed by a team headed by the legendary Lee Clow of TBWA\Media Arts Lab, who created Apple’s iconic “1984” and “Think Different” campaigns, was written and directed by M. Sanjayan while he was at The Nature Conservancy. Sanjayan, who is now executive vice president and senior scientist at Conservation International, notes that the campaign was influenced by “smart brands like Apple or Virgin Airlines, who have changed not just the perception of a particular product but the conversation around an entire segment of life, and in the process created brands we simply want to be around.”

Each film ends with the message, ‘Nature Doesn’t Need People. People Need Nature.” As discussed further in our feature story for Earth Day, ‘Good News: The Ocean Isn’t Dying,’ even without conservation nature itself will survive, but it will not be the nature we know and love, and it will not provide the benefits that that we need. The series tries to strike a balance between warning about the unsustainability of our current relationships to nature and emphasizing that there is still time to mend our ways.

 Madagascar has learned that people need nature to thrive. These children in the Ankeniheny Sahamena Corridor know it too.  Photo: © Conservation International/photo by Solofoniaina Ralaimihoatra. 

We’ve listened with amusement to What the Fox Says. Now hear from nature by clicking on Nature Is Speaking. When you watch a film you’ll be helping, because Hewlett-Packard has pledged to donate $1 to the campaign for every message sent with the hashtag #NatureIsSpeaking on Twitter. Facebook, Instagram, G+, Vine, LinkedIn, YouTube and Tumblr, until a cap of $1 million is reached.