I fucking love biodiversity

18 06 2013
© G. Gallice

© G. Gallice

A corker of an idea, and post, from Diogo Veríssimo.

I don’t like biodiversity. I like beef lasagna, I like the British museum and I like everything Jules Verne ever wrote. When it comes to biodiversity, it’s different. I think about it all the time, try to be close to it and suffer emotional distress when I think of it going irretrievably away. This is LOVE.

Understanding how to get this passion across effectively has always been one of my main goals. That is why my research has focused on the links between marketing and conservation. But recently I started feeling a bit more empowered to take this mission seriously, and all thanks to the Facebook page I fucking love Science. This page became an internet sensation amassing more than 5 million fans and engaging frequently over 4 million users in any given week. Forget the New York Times and National Geographic, this is the real deal.

So I wondered, why can’t I do the same for biodiversity? The idea lingered in my head until I read a recent paper by McCallum and Bury on Google search patterns, which shows how even during the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity we are failing to mainstream biodiversity and its associated issues. If fact, people seem to be less interested. Whatever we are doing is clearly not working. So why not give this concept a try? And so I fucking love Biodiversity (IFLB) was born.

Undercover-Sheep-MemeThe idea of having a Facebook page about biodiversity is of course by no means original. But I want to go about it in a slightly different way. First, I want IFLB to be all about fun and positive messaging, no more guilt, righteousness or fear, these link feelings of awe and curiosity with the natural world. Second, I strive to make IFLB as jargon free as possible, without dumbing down the content, as to allow anyone from any background to understand the content easily. Third, I want to make sure the page makes full use of what businesses have learned about social media user engagement, and there is lots of it, although even major conservation NGOs often ignore it.

Although, IFLB has only been going for a couple of weeks, I have already learned a lot while researching the content for the page. From facts about some outrageously awesome species and updates newly discovered ones, to biodiversity-themed internet memes and our series dedicated to species named after celebrities, our daily posts offer something to both the biodiversity veteran and the “cannot-tell-a-sparrow-from-a-peacock” novice.

The response has been great: almost 700 fans in two weeks. Sure it’s not quite at the same level as Skittles with their 25 million fans or Lady Gaga with her 58 million, but if you think biodiversity should actually have more than both of them combined, why not become a fan? Time to show the world just how loveable biodiversity can be.


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11 responses

19 06 2013
Greg Miles

I too have a problem with a word Cory. It is the word “biodiversity”. Yuk!
No wonder young people turn away in droves. I recall a primary school teacher in Tasmania telling how he was confronted with blank stares when the subject of ‘biodiversity’ came up. He eventually created the new term ‘big nature’ so that the kids knew what he was on about. Whoever first coined the word “biobloodydiversity” should be taken behind the woodshed and given a good ….. (in my view.)

Ask the average punter in the street what biodiversity is and they will probably tell you it is a new washing powder. Or they will check the soles of their shoes in case they had stepped in some. Or is it something that cows eat?! We started off with “flora and fauna”, worked our way through “wildlife” and now we are stuck with f…..g biodiversity.

I am sure that if you asked a group of regular students to define “wildlife” and “biodiversity” separately, that you would get a far more concise response to “wildlife”. I too struggle with the word, especially when the word “conservation” is put behind it. Do we really want to conserve biodiversity in our national parks? That would mean conserving cats and toads and invasive weeds and buffalo flies and so on. But if we talk of conserving “wildlife” in our national parks – everyone knows that those weeds and ferals etc. are not “wildlife’. Most people know that “wildlife” refers to native living things – i. e. “wild” as in ‘natural in the bush’ and “life” as in ‘all living things’. But biodbloodydiversity conservation in national parks presumably includes Myrtle Rust spores, Yellow Crazy Ants, Gamba Grass and feral pigs. Maybe we need to coin the phrase “indigenous biodiversity conservation” to clarify. That would be a giant step to the better – not!

I guess I am a dinosaur – but I know that I get a far better response from people when I tell them that I am a part time “wildlife conservation lobbyist” than a part time “biodiversity conservationists”. In fact – unless I am at academic venues, I avoid using the word ‘biodiversity’ in my presentations as it leaves people cold. But just about everyone knows and loves “wildlife”.

Sorry to take up so many column inches with old codgers talk. I like the new site though.

19 06 2013
CJAB

That’s why I like the term ‘biowealth‘ better – it also incorporates the essence of an even more horrible term: ‘ecosystem services’

19 06 2013
Greg Miles

HHmmm. A smooth word. Maybe it is an improvement but it faces the same hurdle to becoming an everyday word that is in mainstream use. I kind of like “biocon” for biodiversity conservation but it probably has the same chance of popular acceptance as “biowealth”.

Kakadu has a rich biowealth of feral pigs! LOL.

19 06 2013
Diogo Veríssimo

Great point Greg! Thanks for bringing it up. I did look into this quite a bit before starting the page and the reason I eventually did go with biodiversity was twofold. First there are a lot of pages on wildlife on FB but these tend to focus a lot on photos of baby rabbits and baby ducks, and baby everything else, I wanted to depart from that very clearly. Second, and from a marketing perspective, I was encouraged by the results of the Biodiversity Barometer http://is.gd/c1HsdC that show that biodiversity as a term has quite widespread recognition. If this was a brand, awareness of this level would cost millions, and I think it would be added value to leverage that.

22 06 2013
Greg Miles

Hi Diogo
It is odd that FB wildlife pages have cute and cuddlies. I follow a few wildlife web sites and don’t see this. I subscribe to a new hard edition of Australian Wildlife Secrets http://www.wildlifesecrets.com.au (mainly aimed at teenagers. I note that they did not name it “Australian Biodiversity Secrets”) and the editors of this would rather cut their right arm off than have cute domestic animals on their pages. One of my favourite web sites is Wildlife Extra. http://www.wildlifeextra.com/#cr Their editors would cut their left arm off rather than have domestic animals in their pages. The them, “wildlife” means native animals and plants.

But perversely – cute domestic animals CAN rightfully appear in any site that might talk about “Biodiversity Secrets” or “Biodiversity Extra”. They could get around this, I suppose, with a name like “Australian Native Biodiversity Secrets”. Puke!! So you can see the problem surely? You say that the word ‘biodiversity’ might be gaining traction. But that is hardly surprising if that is all we are fed. But “wildlife” is the natural and universally accepted word. IMO ‘Biodiversity’ is elitist, comparatively inaccessible and turns young people away.

But how do you feel about that other awful word commonly used in the field of wildlife conservation? The word being “Threatened” as in Threatened Species. This is a dumb and unhelpful word. “Threatened” implies that something is in danger of harm. I.E. if a mugger is threatening to mug you in a dark alley – he (or she) has not done it yet. But if you are lying bleeding on the ground, while the mugger is going through your wallet (which is the situation of our Threatened Species,) then you are not threatened with being mugged – you have been mugged. Our threatened species HAVE BEEN mugged.
So I reckon we need a word which more accurately describes the status of our Threatened Species. Something like “Devastated Species” or “Critically Injured Species”. But not “Threatened”. This word give the impression to the unknowing politician that there is time to act – because the threat has not yet been realised. But as we know, the last remaining thread of threat, is the threat of absolute extinction for the last few individuals. These are not threatened – these are the walking dead.

What do you think?

24 06 2013
Diogo Veríssimo

Hi Greg,

Thanks for your comment. It wont let me reply directly to you so I will reply here. On the issue of Wildllife versus Biodiversity, agree that wildlife is a more widely known term but disagree it is necessarily elitist as shown in the link I posted earlier and its probably more well known to younger than older people.

I will add that from a marketing perspective there is also the issue of there already being dozens of wildlife related pages that in my opinion are not going about this the right way and from which I want to separate myself clearly. If you look through Facebook you can find them easily and will surely be surprised with their popularity. Like you, I love Wildlife Extra but this is the kind of content that attracts only the small bracket of people who are already interested in wildlife and you can that reflected in the fact that despite being on FB for several months they have less than 1000 fans and engage only a handful of people. My page is not here to compete in any way with Wildlife Extra but to reach a very different group.

In any case I think its really a shame that no real basic market research has to my knowledge been done on this. It would be simple and very enlightening as to what terminolgy we shoudl be using.

In relation to the word “Threatened” I don’t have as much of an issue with it simply because I think the alternatives are perhaps overly negative and my belief is that for us to mainstream biodiversity we need to be more positive. I agree with you that word is not absolutely accurate in terms of what species situation often are but I think words as negative as “devastated” would send people running away from any conservation messages much in the same way people often change channel when the tv shows news about a new war or catastrophe.

23 06 2013
Rita Schaffer

I really enjoyed reading your post. You make the point ‘… We started off with “flora and fauna”, worked our way through “wildlife” and now we are stuck with f…..g biodiversity…’ Biodiversity does sound a bit high-brow or esoteric. I got an A in matric for biology so I don’t have a problem with the word biodiversity. In 1985 my biology text book was titled: ‘The Web Of Life’ & I thought it was aptly named to convey the concept that everything is inter-related & in a fine balance.

However, the problem runs deeper than selecting THE word that will appeal to the masses. Correct me if I’m wrong but the prima facie problem is that the masses can’t seem to comprehend that our flora & fauna are in a fine balance. And to borrow that eloquent phrase: ‘We don’t inherit the Earth, we only borrow it from future generations.’ Thus there is a moral obligation to ensure that our grandchildren are not shown a picture of a rhinoceros with the caption: EXTINCT. Of course other species may well be on their way to extinction before they are even ‘discovered.’ I would suggest that you have a read about what is happening to the flora and fauna in Madagascar via the National Geographic website.

24 06 2013
Diogo Veríssimo

Hi Rita,

Thank you for your comment. The way I see it, we have tried for too long to make people feel like they are obligated to act and that if they don’t they should feel guilty. I of course agree with you that there is a moral imperative but not everyone shares the same values and that is a fact of life. The reason I started this page was to try and convey a message around biodiversity that is more positive and exciting. Biodiversity is just about as awesome as anything you can think of yet it seems to me that we have failed to put it across as something incredible and instead have made it overly gloomy. Yes biodiversity Madagascar is in a difficult situation and this not to be forgotten but I think that highlighting how incredible it is rather than how it will disappear tomorrow is a more effective way to ensure public support.

18 06 2013
Onnie

Love the posts and shared the page but do we have to use coarse language to get our message across? I realize that I am old and unhip but am I alone in this opinion?

18 06 2013
CJAB

The world has lots of problems, but the word ‘fuck’ isn’t one“. If you don’t like the word, don’t read the blog. Seriously? You’re that hung up on a word? Try finding a real problem or comment elsewhere.

18 06 2013
Greg Miles

That is an excellent page. Worth joining FB for!!

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