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Exploring Positive Futures: Insights from an IPBES Youth Workshop on Biodiversity

Response Doctoral Programme

As part of his internship at the Swiss Forum Biodiversity, RESPONSE Fellow Simon Landauer was participating in the one-week Regional Youth Workshop on IPBES for Europe and Central Asia 2023 on the island of Vilm, Germany (Nov 6 to 10, 2023). The aim of the workshop was to understand possibilities for youth engagement in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and apply the novel Nature Futures Framework (NFF) to develop scenarios for positive futures. The workshop itself was organized and hosted by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and its International Academy for Nature Conservation Isle of Vilm (INA), with the support of the IPBES Technical Support Unit on Capacity-building.

Decoding the Acronyms

Let’s start by demystifying the acronyms. IPBES, often dubbed as the IPCC for biodiversity, is a global panel synthesizing scientific and traditional knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Complementing this, NFF serves as a tool for scenario development, offering three unique values perspectives: Nature for Nature, Nature for Society, and Nature as Culture.

Figure 1: Nature futures framework showing the three perspectives of nature which overlap and seamlessly blend together. The resulting human-nature relationships may be understood by different knowledge system and world view, which is partly depicted by the right spiral– which is not exhaustive (IPBES 2023).

Setting the scene

On this scenic island, which is itself a symbol for nature and biodiversity conservation, participants were comprised of early career researchers and students from various nations within the regional chapter Europe and Central Asia. This regional chapter, being a geographical sub-unit of the global IPBES, spans all the way from Portugal to Kazakhstan. Each participant was representing their country of residency or origin as well as their respectively affiliated (inter)national youth networks and academic institutions.  

Crafting Positive Scenarios

During the workshop on Vilm, individual groups developed scenarios for positive futures based on a mix of the above mentioned three value perspectives. The core principle when applying the NFF, is to envision futures without any rational constraints. In other words, conceptualize scenarios without any limits, to foster a more radical approach to transformative change. This was best done in an iterative moderated group discussion. Starting from seeds, innovative projects for positive future groups collected key elements and states for envisioned futures before identifying synergies between different future states. Again, feasibility was never assessed throughout the process to avoid limiting ideas. Eventually, a narrative was formed through an interview-like process where moderators encouraged group members to put forward descriptions of a daily routine in the developed future to understand organization of society and nature.

Figure 2: Three future wheels for initial seeds (center white hexagon) with synergies (threads) between matured seeds.

Creative Summaries

The workshop’s outcomes were as diverse as the participants themselves. Various scenarios were not just documented but creatively summarized. Focusing on the interface between Nature for Culture and Nature for Society, Simon’s group, for instance, created a fairy tale on the envisioned future in a graphic novel style using artificial intelligence. Such aimed to summarize the core values and components of the visions and highlight human-nature relationships in an engaging way.

Insights and Future Exploration

The workshop’s impact has not ended on Vilm. Ongoing efforts involve translating the insights gained into a scientific publication as well as creating a new youth network. Simon and his colleagues are actively contributing to the conversation on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and the pivotal role of youth. By sharing lessons learned and making experiences accessible, the group aims to spread the motivational spark for positive futures and highlight the importance of collective discussion with people from different backgrounds to bring upon transformative change. 

Links and Further Reading

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. (2023). The Nature Futures Framework, a flexible tool to support the development of scenarios and models of desirable futures for people, nature and Mother Earth, and its methodological guidance. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8171339

Kim, H., et al. (2023). Towards a better future for biodiversity and people: Modelling Nature Futures. Global Environmental Change, 82, 102681.

Pereira, L. M., et al. (2020). Developing multiscale and integrative nature–people scenarios using the Nature Futures Framework. People and Nature, 2(4), 1172–1195.

Simon Landauer is a fellow of the RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP) «RESPONSE – to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585.

The photos are owned by Simon Landauer and Jutta Stadler (group picture).

Fachtag Buchweizen – Ein Rückblick

Response Doctoral Programme

Im Rahmen der Doktorarbeit von Fabian Hess (ETH Zürich) zum Thema «Erschliessung genetischer Ressourcen von Buchweizen zur Diversifizierung der Schweizer Landwirtschafts- und Ernährungssysteme», die u.a. von ProSpecieRara mitbetreut wird, fand im August 2023 ein erster “Fachtag Buchweizen” statt.

Am Fachtag hat sich eine äusserst vielfältige Gruppe zusammengefunden, um sich gemeinsam vertieft mit dem Buchweizen auseinanderzusetzen und über die Chancen und Herausforderungen entlang der Wertschöpfungskette zu diskutieren.

Dieser sehr erfolgreiche Fachtag ist Teil des aktuellen und zukünftigen Engagement von ProSpecieRara, die Buchweizenvielfalt für die Praxis nutzbar zu machen.

Der umfassende Online-Artikel zum Fachtag befindet sich hier.

Diese Veranstaltung wurde geleitet von Fabian Hess (Doktorand an der ETH Zürich). Fabian Hess ist Stipendiat im Doktorandenprogramm RESPONSE (DP) ” RESPONSE – to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences”, das durch das Forschungs- und Innovationsprogramm Horizon 2020 der Europäischen Union finanziert wird. Dies geschieht im Rahmen des Marie-Skłodowska-Curie-Fördervertrags Nr. 847585.

Die Fotos wurden zur Verfügung gestellt von ProSpeciaRara und Michelle Nay (Agroscope).

Science & Policy Stakeholder Event

The future of land-use in Switzerland under the new Global Biodiversity Framework (COP15).

Download Summary Report (including group protocols) (PDF)

On September 26, 2023, the PSC organized a Fireside chat in collaboration with the Franxini Project. At the 15th UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15, 2022) in Montreal, Canada, all 195 countries agreed that 30% of land and water areas should be reserved for habitat and species protection.

Around 40 participants composed of PSC scientists, the Franxini team, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations discussed what Switzerland could look like assuming that the biodiversity targets as formulated in Kunming and Montreal will be met in 2030.

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Impact of policies on residential multi-energy systems for consumers and prosumers

Response Doctoral Programme

In multi-energy systems (MES), different energy carriers such as electricity, heat, and gas interact with each other. When optimally designed and operated, MES can outperform energy systems without sector coupling in terms of economic, environmental, and social sustainability. MES can thus contribute to the transition towards affordable, low-carbon and secure energy.

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Diversifying and scaling direct air capture for a net-zero future

Response Doctoral Programme

To meet net-zero targets by mid-century, gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year must be removed through direct air capture and storage (DACS). However, current deployment is low, requiring DACS technologies to be deployed at an unprecedented pace. The ETH Energy Blog post of RESPONSE fellow Katrin Sievert explores the two most advanced capture methods used in DACS, compares their scalability, and stresses the significance of investing in multiple technologies over the next decade instead of solely relying on existing approaches.

Read Katrin Sieverts’ Energy Blog article.

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Plant-based proteins: The potential for Swiss agriculture

By Beat Keller, Crop Science at ETH Zurich

The Swiss agriculture is traditionally focused on meat and dairy production. Yet, global warming requires agricultural practices to radically change: without decreasing livestock production, there is no sustainable solution for food production (about 85% of the Swiss agricultural emissions originate from livestock production). Fortunately, the Swiss population is consuming more and more plant-based proteins substituting animal products.

There is increasing demand for legume species such as soybean, faba bean and peas. However, adapted legume varieties for human consumption, local production and supply lines are largely missing. Only soybean has established supply chains and modern varieties thanks to the foreseeing breeding program of Agroscope which started decades ago.

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RESPONSE Mentoring Workshop – Getting Your Message Across: How to Make Yourself and Your Research Visible  

In this workshop, participants will learn how to reach a wider audience with your topics and texts and how to prepare and convey your content in an understandable and attractive way in the digital age. They will work on a popular science blog post, learn about graphic tools to support the text in a multimedia and interactive way, learn about the pitfalls and strengths of social media and how to create and manage your own web presence for yourself and your research. Another focus is on visibility: How do I build and manage a community? How can I communicate the importance of my research for politics, economy and society – and actually reach them?

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Response Doctoral Program: Unlock valuable protein sources in the pseudocereal buckwheat

by Fabian Hess, ETH Zurich

Pseudocereals such as buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) are under-utilized as sources for plant-based proteins in current times, where the world is searching for a diversification of agricultural cropping systems. Buckwheat was an important crop in recent times in Western Europe including Switzerland and has several qualities:

  • It is a valuable source of proteins for human nutrition. Buckwheat contains all nine essential amino acids which makes it a high-quality, complete protein. It is rich in limiting amino acids like lysine and arginine, which are in shortest supply in plant-based diets.
  • It became popular in satisfying the increasing demand for gluten-free foods.
  • It has a unique taste – in contrast to rice or wheat – and can be made into deliciously tart pancakes or pasta.
  • So far, it is little affected by pests and diseases in the field that could reduce its yield.
  • As a cover crop, it contributes to soil protection and soil improvement as part of a crop rotation.
  • It is good for pollinators and a rich source of nectar while contributing to a biologically diverse agriculture.

Despite all these positive qualities, buckwheat cultivation suffers from low and unstable yields, and in comparison to wheat, the baking quality is inferior. Potentially, this bottleneck can be overcome with breeding. Here, the screening of genetic resources could unlock undiscovered potential and the cultivation of buckwheat on Swiss farms may experience a renaissance!

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