It has been almost eight years since the conservation-media magazine Voices for Biodiversity was born. The changes that have occurred over these years, both for the world and for Voices for Biodiversity, have been enormous. In 2009 when Voices for Biodiversity (V4B) was founded, very few people had heard of the Sixth Extinction, the fact that humankind is causing other species to die off at a rapid rate. The majority of people with whom I talked did not even realize that there was a global biodiversity crisis. People often asked me, “What is biodiversity?” Or “Why should I care if other species die off?”
Over the years there has been an increase in awareness of the value of biodiversity. Thanks to media attention, the efforts of scientists such as V4B supporter Dr. Stuart Pimm and books such as the Pulitzer prize-winning book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert (which was on Obama’s 2015 summer reading list), there has been an increase in understanding that we are losing biodiversity and that this will have tremendously negative impacts on humanity as well as other species. Imagine a world without bees to pollinate crops. Imagine a world without apex predators to keep prey animals under control, and the explosion of diseases such as Lyme disease as a result.
Voices for Biodiversity has a very special environmental niche. We share the stories of those whose voices are not usually heard, such as indigenous peoples, non-experts, youth, and graduate students who wish to reach beyond academic audiences. We are a hybrid of media, grassroots solidarity and environmental activism, poised to create attitudinal change and affect policy. In addition, Voices for Biodiversity shares the stories about the efforts of many grassroots conservation organizations, bringing their hard work together and sharing their stories under one website umbrella. V4B also blogs for National Geographic News Watch.
Voices for Biodiversity has been run entirely by volunteers, including myself, from the beginning. The nonprofit organization has trained over 100 people in editorial and nonprofit management, and close to an additional 150 people in eco-reporting and content production. In autumn of 2016, V4B received a $50,000 grant from the Blackstone Ranch Institute, and used the funds to initiate a fellowship program. V4B selects individuals to serve in environmental nonprofit management, editorial management and production, and outreach for V4B. Our two fellows this year are Erika Zambello and Casey Johnson. Both Erika and Casey are graduates of the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment, and are passionate about communication, conservation and biodiversity issues. V4B also recently completed a holiday fundraiser and will use the funds to work with new writers from around the world.
Voices for Biodiversity has grown over the years, and so have I. After working full time the past eight years for V4B, I will be gradually turning more of the leadership over to our fellows, Erika and Casey, and others. My role will be to provide guidance and act as an ambassador for V4B.
Please, as you read these words, take a moment to think about how important it is to have a digital space that brings people from around the world together to support biodiversity through story-sharing. I want to personally thank all the V4B content creators, and editorial and management volunteers who have sustained Voices for Biodiversity over the years.
Together, let us continue to help all species survive and thrive together.