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112: The Nature of Nature: Why We Need The Wild with Enric Sala

This episode we take an unflinching look at the impacts of the recent extreme global weather events, why we need to protect our oceans, and what is upcoming in the next IPCC report.

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About this episode

This week, we take an unflinching look at the impacts of the recent extreme global weather events as they provide a grim backdrop to the G20 meeting in Naples, the informal meeting of ministers representing 51 countries in London at the weekend, and the IPCC summary report by Working Group 1. This highly anticipated report is set to provide the up-to-the-moment science on future warming and future effects of warming. It’s a big deal, especially with of COP26 right around the corner.

So, with the lack of consensus on ending fossil fuels subsidies and phasing out coal among the G20 delegates and environmental ministers in London, combined with the anticipated stark report due from the IPCC, leads us to ask: how much more devastation can we suffer before climate change is recognised for the existential threat it poses?  

Our guest this week Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and founder of National Geographic Pristine Seas. He brings us the optimism on protecting our marine life, and how we can avoid mass biodiversity loss and depletion of our fish stock and prevent further catastrophes to human and natural communities, if we act now on 30x30.

And later on in the episode, join us for Elle L’s debut avant-pop track, “Hoping”.

Thanks for joining us!


Mentioned links from the episode:

Check out The Dasgupta Report that was issued to help inform governments and business leaders to account for the value of nature’s ecosystem.

Full Transcript

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to Outrage and Optimism, I'm Tom Rivett-Carnac.

Christiana Figueres: [00:00:16] Tom, you're back. And I'm Christiana Figueres. I'm back too.

Paul Dickinson: [00:00:19] And I'm Paul Dickinson and they're back, they're back.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:00:21] We're back and Paul has not burned the house down. We're thrilled to be back. Well done, Paul. We'll get into that. What a triumph your last few weeks. We're back with the final episode of this series before our summer break. We have a great episode for you. We speak about the extreme weather events and what's been happening around the world over the last few weeks. We speak to Enric Sala, the remarkable founder of the Pristine Seas Initiative and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and we have music from Elle L. Thanks for being here.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:01:05] So this is going to be an interesting and tough episode, it's been a remarkable and deeply disturbing few weeks around the world. If you look and we'll get into the sort of litany of terrible things that have been happening to people from countries north and south and east and west. And we'll get into that and we can look at what it means for the future, as well as the upcoming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But first, Paul, congratulations. We left you at home. You watered the house plants. You didn't kill the pets. The house is still standing. How do you feel about being a solo broadcaster? Are you still with us? Are you leaving us for a lucrative contract to the larger and more important news outlets?

Paul Dickinson: [00:01:41] I mean, in discussions with a lot of people now, to be honest with you, a lot of people. Still haven't heard from Spotify, still haven't heard from Spotify, but most of the other major networks are talking to me and it was heartbreaking, not being with you two, but now you're back. I feel complete. And thank you very much indeed to Katherine and Alice for cohosting with me and trying to fill your impossibly oversized shoes.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:02:04] They were great. Christiana, did you listen to Paul in our absence.

Christiana Figueres: [00:02:08] No, honestly, I haven't. But I want to remind you that I went off and did a silent retreat, so listening to our podcast didn't exactly fall within my TORs. However, I shall catch up.

Paul Dickinson: [00:02:23] However, you do sound unbelievably calm and mellow Christiana, which I think is the sign of the wisdom of a silent retreat.

Christiana Figueres: [00:02:30] Yeah, let's see how long my calm can stay with me.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:02:34] You do seem very calm. Christiana and I were just together in Seattle with the climate pledge team with Amazon and Global Optimism, talking about what's next for that commitment to get corporations to reach net-zero by 2040. It's been a great few days and so nice and so weird to be together in person. I mean, I have to say one thing I noticed it is amazing to be together in one room and it does deliver a different level of engagement and conversation and international travel is a complete pain and I'll be quite happy not to actually go back to doing that much of it, apart from the impact of the climate. I spent 24 hours with the mask on a few days ago, which is not something I would wish on anybody as I traveled from London to Seattle.

Paul Dickinson: [00:03:13] Well, congratulations on your brilliant work. Now to the order of the day,

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:03:18] To the order of the day. And this has really just been a sort of deeply disturbing window into what the future is.

Paul Dickinson: [00:03:27] I'll say.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:03:29] I mean, who wants to run us through what we've been facing and what we've seen?

Christiana Figueres: [00:03:34] Paul will do that.

Paul Dickinson: [00:03:36] Ok, well, first I'm going to tell you about my sort of weird laugh. I did this weird laugh and it wasn't like a happy laugh or a funny laugh. It was just like weird. You know, those airplanes that fly over dropping water on these terrible fires. And I've always found a little bit odd that we deploy an enormous amount of fossil fuels to stop the fires caused by an enormous amount of fossil fuels. There's something just weird about that. But I heard about these planes and it was so hot that the water was coming out of the bottom of the planes and evaporating before it got to the fire. And I was like, I just went, haha, this just kind of weird laugh. And there's so much you could talk about and say about the fires and the floods. I've got to comment on the floods. But what I would just say about the fires and this is a bit strange, but CNN reported that the Bootleg fire, 90000 acres of the trees that burned in the Bootleg Fire. 

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Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:04:31] Bootleg, where is that?

Christiana Figueres: [00:04:31] West Coast, West Coast.

Paul Dickinson: [00:04:33] But you can see big pictures of it with satellites. You can see this fire from a satellite, which is also about the most scary thing I've ever seen. But 90000 acres of that was set aside for carbon offsets. Now, there are some buffer pools. There are some buffer pools in these schemes, but it does kind of contextualized how on the one hand that there is an enormous role for natural sequestration. But there's another level of kind of seriousness of what's going on that gives us pause for thought.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:05:05] Wow, that is amazing. I hadn't heard that,

Christiana Figueres: [00:05:07] I must say, while I was, you know, off on an attempt to get to a degree of calm, it really has been harrowing. The heatwave that has been hitting here. I'm still on the west coast of the US. And when you talk to people, they say they've never experienced this, right? The heatwave that they have had here, the three fires that they had going at the same time, completely unprecedented, while at the same time over in Europe, in Africa, and in India, there were just massive, massive floods. One hundred and seventy people killed just in Germany, flash floods in London. It is just, you know, we have heard about all of this doom and gloom, this dystopian world and science has been warning us. And books like the Ministry of the Future have described this. But this is no longer science fiction. This is now with us. And it has been just such a stark reminder that we are totally, totally running out of time. And an incredible backdrop for the publication of the sixth assessment report of the IPCC that is coming out on August 9th. And I think we should say a little bit about that since a little bit of it has been leaked because we're going to be gone when it comes out. So both the fires and the floods have been the stage, if you will, upon which the IPCC report appears in just a week and a half.

Paul Dickinson: [00:07:00] And if I can just add, you know, you're talking about how to describe it. Perhaps the most senior statesperson in the world, Angela Merkel, she said the German language barely has words for the devastation that has been wrought here. That's what she said when she looked at the damage. It's not messing about. This is all real, right? This is not like we're in the science fiction movie that all the headlines and everyone's talking about it. It's now. Sorry, Tom.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:07:28] Yeah, no, you're right. And it's the simultaneous nature of it happening in so many places around the world, you know, the intense and terrifying record-breaking heat in the west of the United States and Canada, breaking records by five, six degrees in some instances. You know, that never happens, as well as the floods across Europe and the terrible droughts and floods that are happening in Africa, in India, the fires that are happening in Siberia. And if you read some of the analysis, there's been some, I mean, it's just been endless, right? I mean, the front cover of The Economist was There's No Place To Hide. You know, it's been in The New York Times. It's been everywhere. Just this general realization in the media that this has now really gone on to another level. And if you read some of the quotes from the scientists, they're really quite freaked out because the warming is following the trends that were happening in their models, you know, naught point nine to one point two degrees temperature rise right now. But the impacts of that are something that they didn't anticipate until some decades later. So actually, what we're seeing is the impact of a certain amount of warming is actually much more severe than scientists had predicted. I can only imagine that the IPCC is kind of feeling like events are sort of running ahead of it as it comes to now publish its report in a week. They must be looking at what they've prepared and wondering if it accurately captures what now seems to be unfolding around us. But maybe we should get into that. I mean, the IPCC, of course, is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body that advises governments on the severity of the climate crisis. It is a remarkable collective process of thousands of scientists all around the world, of course, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize some years ago for their role in raising this issue to humanity's attention to try to deliver action against it. This is the sixth assessment report it's widely expected to be the most alarming. Christiana, what do we know about what's going to be in that report?

Christiana Figueres: [00:09:23] Well, what's interesting about these reports, Tom, as you say, is that there are scientists from practically every country around the world. This report was co-authored by, I think, about 800 scientists as it usually is. It's always a very collaborative effort and very difficult to negotiate every comma, every verb, and every noun.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:09:46] Can I just pause you there, why is it negotiated if it's a scientific document?

Christiana Figueres: [00:09:50] Because they all have to agree to the same text. And each of these scientists actually look at the information from their own specific viewpoint, from their own specific field of expertise. But they all have to then come together to agree to the text. So it's not totally unlike actually the negotiation of the Paris agreement, except it's not a legal document. Right? It is a scientific report. And they have come to the conclusion that every report that they have written and let's just understand that these assessment reports are mammoth jobs that come out about every six to seven years. The last one, the fifth assessment report was published in 2014 and was basically the scientific background for the policy decisions that were captured in the Paris agreement. And at that point, they decided that the sixth assessment report would come out this year. So it actually coincides yet again to be the scientific background for COP 26. And most of the big decisions that have come out of previous COPs are very much based and led, but not really up to the challenge that has come from the then, that moment, IPCC. So what does this one say? It will appear on the 9th of August. Some pieces have been leaked, probably intentionally leaked, and scientists are actually quite concerned that every time they put out an assessment report, they realize that they have underestimated the impacts, as you've just said, Tom.

Christiana Figueres: [00:11:44] And this time, they're putting this out and they're probably reading in the newspapers and getting information from their colleagues around the world and saying, wow, you know, did we actually even in this report, already that is a major step above in its alarm call, did we even now underestimate. This is the first report that really focuses on tipping points and those listeners who have actually finally found the time to watch the documentary that we have very much recommended, Breaking Boundaries will be very familiar by now with the concept of tipping points. In this report, they talk about the potential irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet. They talk about the dieback of the Amazon forest and turning a rainforest into a savannah. And, of course, they talk about coral reefs that are slowly but surely, or maybe not so slowly, turning into aquatic cemeteries. Those tipping points, those are the three that are closest to us. And what they do is actually, as we have said before, there's a domino effect here. Once any one of these tipping points starts to happen and there is indication that we have started, then it unleashes other tipping points in other ecosystems around the world because they're all interconnected. So it's actually a very, very frightening report that is coming out.

Paul Dickinson: [00:13:26] Mm-hmm. If I can add something, you know, I actually, you're right, Christiana, as ever, when you say six to seven years because that's how it works. But I checked the very specific date for the physical science basis, which is like the first report and the last one actually came out in 2013. It was the first one of the last series. And this one is coming out in 2021. So the kind of diagnosis should we say, the test results I'm going to call them, have come out eight years apart. Now, I just want you to imagine for a minute you're really ill. And I mean, our planet is really ill. And the blessed Paris Agreement and many, many other things we're taking are the kind of the medical response to that, the treatment that we're taking for our illness. But friends, we're getting our test results every eight years. I mean, after this, is it going to be like 2027, 2028, 2029 before we find out how we are next? I'm just feeling, whilst I totally respect and admire everyone I've met working for the IPCC and the scientists there, they're the best that you could hope for. I do also think that there's something about this seven-year time frequency that's probably not working for us anymore. It's too serious now and whilst I think we need to pore over this report, we also need to work out how we can be more direct with each other about what's going on.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:14:56] And Paul it's a great point about that. One of the things I look back on, and I'm old enough now to remember it a number of these rounds of IPCC reports is, you know, the scientific certainty has been basically there for a long time. We've been north of 80, 90, 95 percent for a couple of decades now. And it's been so alarming the fact that that's been happening and yet it hasn't penetrated in the way that it's needed to. I mean, it's a tragic confluence of events. But, you know, some people have said that we would never really change until the impacts got bad enough for us to be able to avoid looking at them. And I've never been a big believer in that because often it's too late when that happens. But I am hopeful that this year the combination of this remarkable moment of extreme impacts, together with the publication of this report that comes out right then alongside it, I'm hopeful that that can actually breakthrough in a different way because people are sort of more open and more vulnerable maybe than they've been in the past and maybe they can hear this message more directly because they've seen what's been going on. And when this message lands, let's hope that it resonates in a way that leads to more impact, because, of course, we're less than 100 days to the COP now, time is getting very short. We're going to move on to the interview in a minute. I want to say one thing about the G20, but do either of you want to say anything to close us out on extreme weather before we do?

Christiana Figueres: [00:16:16] Yeah, I actually wanted to just bring it back home to us human beings because there is, you know, a tendency to think, well, it's only the ecosystems. What do I care? Well, we should because they have a direct effect on us. So just a couple of numbers that are coming out now from the IPCC. So they predict that we could have tens of millions of people facing chronic hunger and 130 million more people than we have today in extreme poverty. That to me is so, it just sears so deeply into my heart, because the whole purpose of our presence here, or at least for me on our planet, is to bring people out of poverty, not to condemn more people into extreme poverty. And 130 million, obviously, most of them in Africa, in the poorer countries in Asia, in the poorer countries in Latin America. One hundred and thirty more people into extreme poverty within a decade, within a decade, it just. I don't even know what to say. It is so unacceptable to me. It makes me honestly so irate. I totally lose my Zen mode when I think about that.

Paul Dickinson: [00:17:41] Yeah, I know, I tried to summarize the message. Your wealth, your home, your job, your car, your interests, your ambitions don't matter. This matters. Pay attention to it, focus on it, support the action that we have to take.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:17:53] So we're going to move on. We have a great conversation for you today with Enric Sala, who's a remarkable person. Just very quickly before we do, because I know we're running out of time, Christiana, the G20 environment ministers met last week and it was quite interesting to look at what they came out with at the end of the day and people were a bit sort of down on it. They did reaffirm that all G20 countries need to up their ambition on the Paris agreement, they reaffirmed 100 billion with a route towards that and they were unable to agree language on coal. Now, what I heard from people in the room is that John Kerry, Alok Sharma, and Cingolani, the Environment Energy Transition Minister from Italy actually pulled the coal language at the last minute because they didn't feel it was strong enough. And they've now punted that to the G20 heads of state and government that will happen later to try to land something more ambitious. How do you feel about that outcome? Do you feel like the reaffirmation? I mean, to me, it feels pretty positive that the G20 are committing to new NDCs under the Paris agreement, which suggests they're all going to come forward before COP. So that felt pretty positive. Obviously, it would be great to get some ending coal language, but I actually looked at that overall package and thought, that's not bad. And actually, we've got everything to play for. It's kind of game on for the G20 and for the COP. What did you think?

Christiana Figueres: [00:19:03] Well, it wouldn't be bad if we didn't have an IPCC, you know, horrifying report descending on us. And if we didn't have these unprecedented floods and fires, I mean, this is the point, right? Science and nature are just escalating exponentially in front of us, and we're not escalating exponentially our action, that's the problem. We are acting as though we had time. We're acting as though we had options. We're acting as though, frankly, you know, well, let's get to it at some point. No, this is an emergency. We don't have time. And we are, frankly, not acting as we should. No.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:19:50] Yeah. OK, right, onwards.

Paul Dickinson: [00:19:55] To a more positive and uplifting interview. 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:19:59] To a positive, interesting interview. Absolutely. So this is the last episode of this current season of Outrage and Optimism. We're going to be taking a month's break in August. I know it seems pretty rich for Christiana and I to take a month's break after we've just come back from a two-week break.

Paul Dickinson: [00:20:12] Richly deserved, richly deserved.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:20:14] Richly deserved, thank you Paul. Thank you. And so we'll be back in September. We'll have more Race to Zero episodes, more guests, more live recordings. We've already launched our new website and logo, which we hope you'll like so you can find that Outrage and Optimism due to a search for it. And also, while you're there, please also visit globaloptimism.com, complete a short survey that will help us to refine this podcast for the next season and keep it relevant for exactly what you want, what you find interesting, and what you want to see more of. So thank you for that and now we're going to turn to our interview. So Enric Sala was appointed National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence in 2008. He founded and leads the Pristine Seas Initiative, which is a project that combines exploration, research, and media to support and empower local communities and inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean. He is a big proponent of this 30 by 30 campaign to protect 30 percent of land and sea by 2030. He has been an enormously powerful leader on the global stage to get people to focus on the importance of the ocean. I sadly couldn't join this interview, but it is a remarkable, wonderful conversation. I should just finally say, his latest book, The Nature of Nature, Why We Need the Wild, is beautiful and makes a remarkable case for nature and why its preservation is economically practical and essential to our survival. So here is Enric Sala and we will be back as ever after to carry on the conversation.

Christiana Figueres: [00:21:48] Enric, gracias. Thank you very much for joining us on Outrage and Optimism, you and I have been on several panels lately. And after listening to your interventions on those panels we finally said, right, we have to get him for ourselves on our own podcast. So thank you very much. But you have famously said that you moved from being an academic about ocean writing the ocean's obituary. And I quote you describing how ocean life was dying with more and more precision, but not offering the cure. And that is why you moved from being an academic to being an activist. So we know that we have to change our ways. We know that we have to make dramatic shifts in the way that we are treating the oceans. As you move to an activist, what theory of change accompanied you in that journey toward activism?

Enric Sala: [00:22:48] Well, first of all, muchas gracias Christiana for having me in your podcast. I've been praying that one day you would invite me so you made me a very happy man. I am in Washington, D.C. right now. It's very hot and I wish I had your beautiful Pacific Ocean to dip in to cool myself. But no, you are absolutely right. The ocean is both a victim of climate change and a solution to, but most people, as you said, have no idea of how much we owe to the ocean. But for me, when I left academia when I felt frustrated with just writing about how we were killing ocean life all around the world, and I decided to work on the cure, try to bring the richness of the ocean back. When I was an academic, I thought that science was all we needed, that if we continued providing the scientific papers, that for some miraculous reason leaders would read the papers.

Christiana Figueres: [00:23:55] Read and do something about it.

Enric Sala: [00:23:59] Well, exactly, that's the extra step that is required. But I thought that having enough information, leaders would be able to make rational decisions. But when I left academia, when I left the ivory tower, very quickly I realized that the world doesn't work like this and most decisions are made in an irrational way. So I had to learn a lot about behavioral economics and psychology to figure out how can we translate all this information and all this evidence that we have. And I know that you've been frustrated also when you talk to leaders about the Climate Paris Agreement, before the Climate Paris Agreement. So how can we translate that information into action? And the theory of change, I had to unlearn many things that I learned in academia and I had to learn many new things. And what I learned very quickly was that if people see that they are going to benefit from action, then they will support you, right? And you have many stories on your climate journey. So I had to put people up front to be able to get our life support system taking care of.

Christiana Figueres: [00:25:12] Put people up front, what a lesson. What a lesson. I think that holds so clearly Enric, it holds for oceans, it holds for land, it holds for energy, it holds for agriculture, all the sectors that need the transformation. It's a lesson that has been hard-learned by all of us. But I hope it's taking root now that we understand that yes, there are some who would perhaps very altruistically want to save the planet, but most are motivated by enlightened self-interest. What do I get out of it? And the good news is that there is such an overlap between our personal health, our personal well-being, and the health and well-being of the planet. I don't know what we would do if those two things contradicted each other. I actually don't even want to think about that. But it's so good that those two things do coincide. But to take us just a little bit deeper Enric, I think the last event that you and I were on just a few weeks ago, we were celebrating the fact that Panama has just announced that they will include la Cordillera de Coiba in their marine protected efforts, that huge underwater mountain range. And we were celebrating that that means that Panama commits to this 30 by 30 commitment, which is the target of the biodiversity convention, to protect 30 percent of the earth's surface, including land and water.

Christiana Figueres: [00:26:54] Now, and I love that, por supuesto. But here is the problem that I see. For most small countries Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, all of these A, they have to work together, right, in order to make this, because we know that there are no physical boundaries. Water is fluid. And these gorgeous marine animals don't pay any attention to territorial boundaries. So A, they have to work together, and B, and I'd love to hear how do you attack these two issues. B, most small countries are actually larger in their territorial sea than they are in their territorial land. That is definitely true for Costa Rica. Definitely true for Panama. Definitely true for certainly all the Caribbean, all the Pacific islands, but for many coastal countries as well. So that, of course, means that the challenge is even greater. How do they go about A, protecting territorial seas that are much larger than their land territories? And, how do they do that in coordination with each other? Because if only Panama or only Costa Rica protects, we don't get anywhere. We actually need to see this from an ecosystem perspective. And then all countries need to collaborate with each other to protect that larger ecosystem that is the home to, and the travel routes, to so many marine animals. So two challenges that come together.

Enric Sala: [00:28:34] If it were easy, somebody would have done it, right? You're absolutely right that countries need to work in coordination, but countries with their own marine protected areas, which for people who are not familiar with them, they are like national parks in the ocean, areas where there is no fishing, oil drilling, mining or other damaging activities. When countries protect areas within their waters, there are local benefits. There are species that don't move like groupers or snappers, clams, scallops, and there are species that move hundreds, if not thousands of miles like the tuna and the sharks that migrate between the beautiful Isla del Coco in Costa Rica, Coiba in Panama, Las Islas Galápagos, Malpelo in Colombia. There are sharks that use these marine highways to migrate, to reproduce, to feed, to give birth, etc. But most of the problem is within the 200-mile exclusive economic zones of countries, the marine waters that countries have jurisdiction of because 96, we're talking about fishing, 96 percent of the fish catch globally comes from the country's waters, from the two hundred miles. So if we create more protected areas within those waters, we're going to solve a huge part of the problem. To deal with the migratory species like the tuna and the sharks. Yes, that requires cooperation in between countries. But countries' efforts will have a huge benefit not only for the environment but also for the local economies because we need to remember that today only seven percent of the ocean is in areas that have been designated or planned as protected. But less than three percent, less than three percent of the ocean is fully protected from fishing or other damaging activity. So to get that 30 percent that you were talking about. We have much, much more to do.

Paul Dickinson: [00:30:32] Well, thank you for that explanation it's very simple. I've heard you speak before saying like about the most frightening thing I think I've ever heard, which is that the ocean is a bank account. Everybody's taking money out, nobody's putting money in. And in fact, you said that the fish catch has been declining for the last twenty-five years, which is terrible news. You know, we're getting less and less productivity out of the ocean. I mean, the poor fish also. But, and you've also really made me realize how complicated it is because we have this whole thing with Brexit here. And I just realized the English fish and the British fish must be swimming with the French fish and the Dutch fish all in the same ocean, probably the Belgian fish. They're all just hanging out together. So that's extremely complicated from a political point of view. 

Christiana Figueres: [00:31:13] How does Brexit deal with that one?

Paul Dickinson: [00:31:15] We're gonna need fish training. I think we need to get, like, fish nationalism going. It's probably, we need to send this guy, Nigel Farage, underwater. But look, here is my serious question for you. We were talking before the recording about like because the productivity of the ocean is so low. And your plan, our plan, let's call it our plan, 30 by 30 just completely builds the productivity of the ocean back up again. Isn't it pretty easy? Can't the economics ministry and everything say, hey, we should just do this right, get it done?

Enric Sala: [00:31:48] Well, there is a myth, there is a myth that we have been told to believe, which is that we cannot protect more of the ocean because we have to catch more fish to feed the more people that are coming, 10 billion people. Well, to start with, the world today produces enough food for 10 billion people. But we waste or lose a third of it from the farm or the boat to the table. So that's number one. Number two is that, as you said, over three-quarters of the fish stocks are overfished, meaning we are taking them out of the water faster than they can reproduce. And we see this as diminishing returns. Fish stocks, fish populations are declining because there is more and more effort going after fewer and fewer fish. Now, what the evidence shows, what we have seen, is that when you protect an area, when you set aside an area, using the bank analogy, that's like an investment account, savings account, with a principal that grows with compound interest. And we have seen that on average when you protect an area fully from fishing, the abundance of fish increases by 600 percent. On average. Now, this fish, of course, when you don't kill the fish, they take a longer time to die. They grow larger. And we know that the larger females produce a disproportionately larger number of eggs, which, together with spillover of adult fish, help to replenish the areas around. These are the returns from that investment account. And what we have seen is that fishermen are catching more fish around no-take areas than when we were allowed to fish all over the place.

Paul Dickinson: [00:33:30] It's making perfect business sense. I think maybe the fish if they were on the podcast, they would say like, what's with eating us, for God's sake? But here's another question for you. Have we got a problem? You and Christiana were talking earlier about these different nations. And when we were talking before the recording, it was like the environment ministry of this country or the environment ministry of that country. Do we need to change our environment ministries into Biosphere Ministries?

Enric Sala: [00:33:57] Well, you know, Nicolas Sarkozy, when he was president of France, he did something that I haven't seen anywhere else, which is that he created this super-ministry. He put Minister Borloo on a supra ministerial position. It was the Ministry of Ecology, and he would coordinate the activities of all other ministries so that ecology was integrated in every ministry. We should do the same thing for nature and for climate because the Ministry of Finance cannot continue to say well, protected areas, how much is this going to cost? No, no, no, no. You don't get it. If we don't create more protected areas, that's going to cost us. We know that today, think about how much nature provides to us. Hundred and twenty-five trillion with a T. One hundred and twenty-five trillion dollars every year the natural world produces in free services to the global economy. Because of our overuse of the natural world that is costing us six trillion dollars every year. And by 2050 that could be up to 30 trillion dollars. So the cost of inaction is going to be huge. But also we know that when we protect places for every dollar here in the United States, for example, every dollar that the government invests in the management of the national parks produces ten dollars in economic output that goes to private hands, helps to create jobs, etc. So the benefits of more protection are much greater than the costs. And the Short-Term costs are something that is totally affordable because today, we spend more money on ice cream than we spend on our protected areas globally. And we spend much more money subsidizing, propping up the industries that destroy our soil, that poison our soil and our atmosphere, that empty our oceans, we spend more money subsidizing the overfishing overexploitation of our natural world than what would be needed to protect 30 percent of the planet.

Paul Dickinson: [00:36:04] So I think I've got it now. The Finance Ministry is thinking about income, but it's not thinking about assets. We don't have a balance sheet for our nations, right? That's the problem. OK, so what are we going to do? How can we make these finance ministries understand that they're running down the assets that they have? So the next generation is going to be inheriting nothing from us?

Enric Sala: [00:36:24] Well, there is already a change. In the UK, recently, Sir Partha Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge produced the seminal review showing that if we don't value natural capital this is the end of our economy and our civilization as we know it. Her Majesty's government, after the G7, adopted the Dasgupta review as a guiding principle for the British economy. Now we have people like Mark Carney, former governor of the Central Bank of England, talking about not just the climate risk, but also biodiversity risks to the financial community. You have the G7 that released this incredible nature compact two Sundays days ago. It was the most important statement that the G7 ever made, the seven richest nations in the world, excluding China, saying that basically, the most important thing is not the growth of the economy. The most important thing is to preserving the engine that underpins our society and our economy, which is the natural world. Supporting the 30 by 30 target. So there is huge political momentum. I feel like we are kind of on a hockey stick, but unlike the hockey stick, the temperature hockey stick or the CO2 hockey stick, this is a good one. And I think we need to absolutely double down and take advantage of this momentum to turn that evidence into the action that we need.

Christiana Figueres: [00:37:53] So it's a question of reallocating our financial resources, it's not a question of somehow prying open treasure troves that we don't have and extra financing. It's a question of reallocating, according to a wiser, more prudent financial management of both our financial resources as well as natural resources. Is it about that? Is it a reallocation?

Enric Sala: [00:38:25] Yes. Thank you so much for saying that, Christiana, because so many people want us to continue doing the same things. Right. But we'll find some money. We'll have to be innovative, innovative finance to fund nature. No, no, no. People don't understand that today the world subsidizes the burning of fossil fuels with over five trillion with a T again, five trillion dollars per year. We are subsidizing industrial agriculture that helps to destroy and poison the soil and the rivers and the ocean with 700 billion dollars per year. And the cost of protecting 30 percent of the planet, we estimated, is about 140 billion per year, that's just a fraction of the subsidies that we used to destroy our life support system and 140 billion, another stupid comparison that is less than what the world spends today on video games. So when we hear we cannot afford it, come on, give me a break. We can afford it. We just use the money to subsidize the destruction of our life support system. So if we relocate a fraction of those, just a fraction of those, we would be able to restore a third of our planet, protect a third of our planet with all the benefits that we get from it.

Christiana Figueres: [00:39:51] Pero, Enric, it makes a lot of sense, but a little bit I'm having a déjà vu feeling because it makes a lot of sense, it's very logical to the mind the way that you set that out, but are we not against the same problem that you identified when you were only an academic that reports don't move hearts and certainly don't lead to better decisions? The arguments that we're making both on oceans, as well as on climate, as well as on other ecosystems make a lot of sense from a rational point of view, but from the rational arguments, from the rational analysis of reallocation of financial resources to that actually happening. There's a huge gap, and so what do we do? How do we close that gap? Because honestly, we are so running out of time and so you know, we can argue this until we're blue in the face, blue as the Pacific Ocean, but it still doesn't get us to where we need to get. I am so frustrated about this. I'm sure you're too.

Paul Dickinson: [00:41:07] She is so frustrated. I'm sure you are too. I am. The listeners are. We are all frustrated.

Enric Sala: [00:41:15] Christiana, you are absolutely right. But this is where the self-interest comes in. And there is a big difference between climate action and nature action. Climate, we are asking countries to reduce emissions for the benefit of humanity. And we have a serious problem here because the way our brains work, because of human nature, the powers that be are very happy concentrating the benefits and diffusing the costs. The benefits, economic benefits of destroying nature are concentrated in the hands of a few. The costs of burning fossil fuels or emptying the ocean or cutting our forests are spread across humanity. The powers that be, the powers that be are very happy with that. Now, what we need to do is to concentrate the costs, have those gain less, and spread the benefits. And that's the biggest problem we have. The beauty of the nature action, I think, as opposed to climate, is that on climate we're asking countries to reduce emissions for the benefit of humanity. But when it comes to protected areas, the protection of land or ocean within a country produces benefits locally for the country and they are nations that are getting so much more. Costa Rica, I love Costa Rica because it's such a great example. And I learned that from you and Carlos Manuel Rodriguez. You got rid of most of your forests, cutting for cattle ranching, and now you have half of the country again in forests. And that led to the development of that quality eco-tourism industry. And Costa Rica is known for being such a progressive country and a country that showed that you can have nature work for you. You pioneer the payment for ecosystem services, paying farmers not to cut a slope of a mountain so that forest was able to capture more rain and provide a stable supply of water and preventing floods, etc. And the tourism industry is a big part of the Costa Rican economy. So that shows.

Christiana Figueres: [00:43:33] Enric, you are in such trouble now. You're in such trouble now, because my colleagues on this podcast continue to accuse me that I use the podcast as Costa Rica's number one marketing tool. 

Paul Dickinson: [00:43:54] She does.

Christiana Figueres: [00:43:54] And now, you have done this also. Thank you very much. And Paul and Tom, this is just to prove that it's not just my marketing.

Paul Dickinson: [00:43:54] As soon as our citizen applications are passed over there, living their glorious, perfect life in the tropical idyll.

Christiana Figueres: [00:44:04] Sorry, Enric, termina, termina.

Enric Sala: [00:44:06] No, no that's funny. And I'm not saying this just because it's your podcast, Christiana. I say this everywhere. And it's true. There are countries that have realized that it is in their best interest to protect nature because it provides more economic benefits in the long term for everybody than the value of the forests as timber is so much lower than the value of the forest as a flood protection engine and as a water filtration engine and as a habitat for the pollinators that will pollinate the crops nearby, etc., etc., etc. Also as a carbon sink, helping us to mitigate climate change. So I'm optimistic because there are countries well, now we have this high ambition coalition for nature and people that Costa Rica is chairing. Again Costa Rica. Sixty-four countries are supporting protecting 30 percent of the planet by 2030. And the coalition is growing and we have the opportunity. We have the opportunity at the next COP biodiversity convention to have these thirty by thirty set that one of the targets for humanity for the rest of the decade. And there are countries that have already protected more than 30 percent of their lands and seas. So there is momentum, countries are doing it and the economics is clear. And countries within this high vision coalition, including the UK, have committed financial resources to help countries implement these thirty by thirty targets to provide the bridge financing to lower the cost of the transition so that countries who are not going to have to sacrifice until they reap the benefits of more production.

Christiana Figueres: [00:45:52] Enric, sadly, we have to come to a close and we have a tradition in the podcast that we always ask our guests whether they are more optimistic or more outraged. That's the name of the podcast because we actually think that we need both. Right? And we talked about both today but would love to know, you probably move in that spectrum from day to day, sometimes more optimistic and sometimes more outrage, but today, where is Enric today.

Enric Sala: [00:46:28] Well talking with you, I'm more optimistic. So you got me out of the outrage phase, which I really appreciate, and that gives me. I'm serious. Seeing what you did to get to the Climate Paris Agreement. I said, you know, people say that one person cannot really make a difference. That the world's problems are too big. But seeing you travel all over the world, talking to all these leaders and just pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing with your perseverance and that tireless energy. I don't know how you do it, but that really gives me energy. And today I feel more optimistic. And I think that all together we can get to thirty by thirty. So thank you for that input of energy.

Christiana Figueres: [00:47:13] No, thank you Enric. Thank you. Thank you so much for all the work that you have done. And I know that you have, in this wonderful little country in Costa Rica you have so many fans, so many people who totally, totally look up to you and inspired by you every day. And we talked about you actually a lot on our recent trip to Isla del Coco. And everybody was so thrilled to say, yeah, well, I was here when Enric came. I was here with him, I came on the boat. And every day it was like, well, this was not exactly the dive that we had with Enric. We had a much better dive with Enric and on and on and on. So you don't know this, but you were on that boat with us because every day, every day we referred or they referred to you and to your leadership and to your vision and your commitment. So thank you. Thank you very much. It's been wonderful to talk to you. I promise that I shall never, ever again forget the oceans. And it's been wonderful to have you on. Thank you so much.

Enric Sala: [00:48:25] Muchas Gracias Christiana and Paul.

Paul Dickinson: [00:48:27] Thank you so much. Bye.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:48:37] Great, so I was so saddened to not join that conversation. I've been an admirer of Enric Sala and his work for such a long time, but it was wonderful and inspiring. What did you both leave that discussion with?

Christiana Figueres: [00:48:48] You know, I was so appalled to learn from him that contrasting to the target that we want to get out of the biodiversity convention meeting this year of 30 percent protection of both land and ocean that we're currently only seven percent of the planet's oceans are under some form of protection and only three percent are fully protected. Three percent.

Paul Dickinson: [00:49:17] It's a shocker, Christiana. It's a shocker. But I think we've discussed before the great news about nature is the degree to which it can bounce back. And quite quickly, he talked about this idea that when you protect an area that fish stocks increased 600 percent relatively quickly and 64 countries now supporting the commitment to protect 30 percent of the planet by 2030, 64 countries, that's well along the way. And I think 30 by 30. It feels to me like a campaign that everyone can understand. Everyone can get behind. And, you know, we talked about the self-interest of communities. You said, you know, rather than coastal communities suffering, actually, when you protect a marine ecosystem, tourism increases, revenues increase. And I mean, his whole framing of this is in our interests. I mean, we learned a year ago that actually, we've had declining fish stocks for about 20 years now. So it's time to just do the obvious, give nature a chance and then let it come back.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:50:19] Yeah. And I like also the conversation there about the fact that the ocean is both a victim of climate change and the solution to it. And most people, and I would include myself in that, have not been aware of how integral the ocean is to all of this. I remember, Christiana, in the old days in the UN used to carry around a blue marble.

Christiana Figueres: [00:50:37] I still do. My blue marble. I still do.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:50:39] Okay, so tell us about the blue marble.

Christiana Figueres: [00:50:42] Yeah, I don't remember when it happened, but several years before the agreement was reached, I was at a meeting of ocean people and they were appalled at how blind I was and most of us who work on climate change to the relationship of climate change and the ocean, because, as you say, both a victim because of heating up and dying corals directly from climate change and in addition to plastic pollution and overfishing and all of that, but certainly a victim of climate change and particularly how blind I was to how much heat and CO2 has already been absorbed by the oceans. Hence, protecting us from climate change, and they were really appalled at my blindness about that, so they gifted me with a beautiful blue marble. And as a little reminder and honestly, I put it into my bag and I still carry it around. And when I get to the bottom of my bag once in a while, I go, oh, yes, thank you, oceans. Thank you, oceans. Because we need that reminder now, of course. And I now live in front of the ocean, as you well know. And so the blue marble doesn't have to remind me anymore because I have my own reminder. But now that I'm on travel, I have my little blue marble.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:52:06] The way that would always manifest for me, I remember, is that, of course, you know, we'd be in meetings either, you know, dinner at my house or CEOs or perhaps sometimes heads of state or someone and Christiana would be digging in her bag at some point looking for something and whenever, of course, you'd come across it, you'd pull it out and show everyone and go. Remember the oceans then it would go back in the bag. So it was always very helpful. So I agree and it was so shocking how low the overall level of protection is. And this is why this 30 by 30 campaign is just so essential. It's essential on land but it's just all more essential in the oceans as well. Oceans don't recognize boundaries. So I think it's amazing that he's working on that and this really feels like the moment to pull that together and to try to do something. I mean, obviously, there's only so much we can do with protection. It's clearly essential. But the acidification of the oceans, all of these things are connected. It loops back to fossil fuel use, et cetera. But what an amazing person, what impact he's had.

Paul Dickinson: [00:53:01] We played this crazy game when I did a Masters in Responsible Business a long time ago, a course, and it was about fish stocks. And we had a game, we were all given, you know, like the briefing for a game. And we were all going to go and create fishing fleets and go off and fish and at breakfast before we did the exercise, I was saying to my colleagues, you said, what are you going to do? And I said, well, I'm going to just try and get more fish than everybody else because that's what the game says. And she said, no, no. And she showed me, she looked, pointed it very carefully. She said the purpose of the game wasn't to get more fish than everybody else. The purpose of the game was to get as much fish as possible. Which is a very different concept. And so when we named our fishing fleets in the game, I named mine Optimal Dynamics of Fishery Production Would Be Best Served by Collective Fishing Limited and everybody else understood what I was saying. And we formed just one fleet and we performed better than any other group ever has done because we could consider the fish reproduction rates as our operating principle and not competing with each other.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:54:07] That's good. I like that as many, although it does make me think, of course, you know as many fish as possible. Yes, absolutely. But do you remember the conversation we had with Xiye Bastida where she educated us that we shouldn't say natural resources for things like that. We should say sacred elements, which I thought was also fabulous. You know, it is about having as many fish as possible and feeding people as they need to be. But it's also about protecting that remarkable biodiversity just because it's amazing. And that's the incredible planet we live on. Now.

Christiana Figueres: [00:54:32] Paul, are you open to a little tweak to that title? Because I would tweak it not to as many fish as possible, but as many fish as needed.

Paul Dickinson: [00:54:42] I'm like so sort of kind of diminished by these kinds of higher levels of wisdom that are coming over in this podcast that I'm going to go on a sort of nine-year silent retreat and come out.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:54:54] I think it's as many fish as possible in the sea, as many fish as needed captured by us.

Christiana Figueres: [00:54:59] I see. OK, that's good. That's good. Thank you for that saving grace.

Paul Dickinson: [00:55:04] But no, you're absolutely right to correct me. And Xiye Bastida was exactly right. I remember seeing some aggregates company years ago. I was reading his annual report and it kept talking about winning resources and winning. I just thought that was a very odd word to use.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:55:15] You should go through and change that to sacred elements and see how it reads after that.

Paul Dickinson: [00:55:18] Exactly. It should be a section of the stock market. Telecoms, fast-moving consumer goods, sacred elements. Honestly, I would like to see that before too long. Come along. Stock exchange, chop-chop.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:55:32] Right. So this is the end of this series of Outrage and Optimism. It's been a lot of fun. It's been a, what a weird year it's been as we've been grappling with covid and trying to think about how we get the world back on track on climate and the climate itself and the weather seems to be falling apart. But, you know, on we go. There's a lot that's moving in the direction that we need it to. And we, of course, will continue to focus on that and what we can do, what we can do, we will try to do. We have everything to play for in the coming months through to a transformative outcome less than 100 days away in Glasgow. So we're going to take a bit of a break. I hope you're getting some time off from whatever you're doing. Relax, take it easy. Running as fast as possible.

Paul Dickinson: [00:56:12] We just completely fried your mind at the start of the show.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:56:19] Less haste. More speed. I think that the concept of burnout is so prevalent in the world in general, but also in the community of people who are trying to deal with these issues, we can't deal with these issues if we just cut into the bone of our own energy source and we actually don't replenish ourselves and try to face it with as much of our humanity as is needed and we look after ourselves. Paul, you have a wise point.

Paul Dickinson: [00:56:44] It is the first crisis, as somebody once said, it's the first crisis where we have to stop doing things. In all previous crises, we had to do something, it's the first one where we have to stop. So let's get into that and take that on board. A time of great crisis and opportunity. But, yeah, looking forward to coming back in series four and addressing that with another group of brilliant people.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:57:03] Christiana, anything to say before we go to music, are you ready?

Christiana Figueres: [00:57:06] I am ready. Thank you again, Paul, for stepping in for us. And yes, have a restful but thoughtful, thoughtful few weeks if you are able to take some time off from work.

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:57:25] Absolutely. Right, now, we are going to move to an amazing piece of music from Elle L and Clay assures me that it is an avant-pop song and she will explain it. So here we go. Hope you enjoy the music and we will see you in a few weeks. Stick around for Clay's credits, they're always worthwhile.

Paul Dickinson: [00:57:41] They're increasingly fun. 

Tom Rivett-Carnac: [00:57:42] Bye.

Christiana Figueres: [00:57:42] Bye.

Elle L: [00:57:46] The inspiration for Hoping started very naturally, I was at my parent's place in Leontiev. It was actually two years ago, so one of the first things I ever wrote and I was in the spare room staying there, couldn't sleep late night. My recording stuff was set up and I started sort of riffing with myself and adlibbing. I love to write from the subconscious. Rarely have a fixed concept in mind. So the chorus came really naturally, which is you've got me hoping now, I hope so many times before. You've got me hoping now. Hope is something for now, for everybody, something we can relate to. It's about taking a leap of faith. It's about loving fearlessly. And there's a lyric that says, you know, I'm not scared. I'm so ready to bloom. I think starting my career, this being my debut track, that's about me. But actually beyond that is something we can all, you know, feel hopefully. Hoping for me is also about vulnerability being a strength and so brave, if you phrase it differently, if you actually hope now and act now on that hope, it develops from a place of being delicate and fragile to something that's quite empowering and bold. And I think through the repetition of the lyrics and the track, you know, that confidence grows, you know, and hope, you know, feels real. And that's kind of what I wanted to hopefully express and that I hope people feel when they listen to it.

Clay Carnill: [01:02:30] So there you go, another episode of Outrage and Optimism. That track was hoping by Elle L. Thank you Elle for letting us spin your track on the podcast. So a little bit about Elle, not only is she a musician, but she is an ambassador for quite a few sustainable fashion brands. So to all our listeners that are visual artists or are into sustainable fashion, you and Elle would probably be good friends and all great friendships in the pandemic start with a follow on Instagram. Actually just made that up, but kind of feels right. So links to her socials are in the show notes. Be sure to check those out. And a link to the absolutely stunning music video for the song, Hoping in the show notes as well. It was filmed in the painted hall at the old Royal Naval College. I saw someone described it online as the Sistine Chapel of London. So, yeah, it's gorgeous. So go follow Elle on Instagram. Go check out this music video and oh yeah, I read an article about her and her music and she name-dropped the 17 SDGs. So, you know she's legit. Thanks Elle. So I'm Clay, producer of Outrage and Optimism. Wow. Final episode of Season three. This season has been incredible. And so I just want to say thank you to all of our listeners. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. That's you listening. It's been an absolute honor to bring you this podcast every week. Christiana even told me one time it's the fun thing we do together as a team. So we hope you're enjoying it as much as we are.

Clay Carnill: [01:04:05] I was thinking earlier today of where we started off at the beginning of this season. You know, my country was not in the Paris Agreement officially. And now not only are we back in, but we're on the road to COP 26 with a stated NDC. You know, we've got our 50 percent reduction target by 2030 and a target to hit 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035. I mean, does it get more exciting? This is it. Can you tell? I'm excited. Thanks for indulging me on that. OK, super important announcement. I need all your ears for this. If you are like me, you're a podcast listener with strong opinions. You know, I have so many opinions, I actually give them away for free. But as we're planning season four, we want to make sure it's the best season of Outrage and Optimism yet. So in the show notes, there is a link to a survey that Tom mentioned where you can give us your opinions on the show. So please tell us those opinions you have and the next season will be heavily informed by them. Check the show notes. Thank you so much for taking a few moments to do that. We'll be back in your feet in just about a month or so and lots planned on the way. OK, and I wish I could take credit for this whole thing, but there are a lot of people who make this podcast possible, and that's Global Optimism. Global Optimism is Sara Lau, Katie Bradford, Lara Richardson, Marina Mansilla-Hermann, Freya Newman, Santiago Monge, Sarah Thomas, Sophie Baggott, Sue Reed, and John Ward.

Clay Carnill: [01:05:35] And our hosts are Christiana Figueres, Paul Dickinson, and Tom Rivett-Carnac. And our executive producer is Sharon Johnson. Thank you to our guest this week Enric Sala. OK, so Enric has the coolest job in the whole world. National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Explorer. If I were an explorer, I'd imagine I probably look forward to introducing myself to people at parties. So, Clay, what is it that you do? Wait for it. I am an explorer. Yeah, it's an absolute mike drop of a title. So Enric has a couple of books you can add to your summer reading list, including his latest title, The Nature of Nature, Why We Need the Wild, which, you know, just another great title. As well as you can follow his Instagram, which is basically nature, eye bleach in the age of ads and doom scrolling. So it's really beautiful. Create follow, highly recommended. Great for August. It would be great for August. And we are on social media too @globaloptimism on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Well, there it is. That is a wrap on season three. Yeah. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, please stay cool. It is a particularly hot summer out there. Not that you don't already know. And if you're listening from the Southern Hemisphere, please bundle up and stay warm. We need everybody back and feeling good for season four. She's coming your way. OK, lots to look forward to. Season four is coming your way. So hit subscribe and we'll see you then. Bye.


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