Mapping hope: Putting nature at the heart of development planning

September 30, 2021

Costa Rica is among a growing number of countries recognizing the importance of nature-based solutions for climate change and sustainable development.

UNDP Costa Rica/Priscilla Mora

Our future is slipping away from us. Mountain vistas that should be clear are regularly vanishing behind shrouds of smoke from forest fires. We wilt in the heat of over 100 °F Arctic days. We are lashed by the rain of yet another tropical storm, on the heels of volcanos, earthquakes and floods that wreak  devastation. Drought is crippling our ability to produce crops to sustain our families and to supply the world with its morning cup of coffee. In every country around the globe, a pandemic of biblical proportions only exacerbates these crises, taking loved ones from us and further upending what we believed to be normal.

As we confront this reality, we invite you to imagine with us another path, one where we transform our relationship to the planet. We invite you to act with us to make this vision a reality. From 4 to 6 October, the virtual Nature for Life Hub, coinciding with the 76th United Nations General Assembly, is calling all of us – activists, philanthropic leaders, businesses, scientists, Heads of State, and Indigenous peoples representatives - to make the transformational changes needed for a nature-positive future.

Day 1 of the Hub, on 4 October 2021, Transforming our Relationship to the Planet, offers powerful examples of initiatives that are beginning this transformational change at the local, global, and national levels. In Session 1, we explore what it means to create a global safety net. In Session 2, we learn from the incredible teachings of this year’s Equator Prize winners. In Session 3, we put together the pieces to understand how maps can help us bring together diverse stakeholders to put nature at the heart of sustainable development. 

Maps help us see where nature is thriving, where it is being destroyed, and where it is contributing to economic development. Join us during Day 1 to journey to a world where Indigenous peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon can map the lands they have safeguarded for millennia on a mobile app, even without internet connectivity. Experience what it looks like when the world’s leading scientists come together with governments and diverse stakeholders to co-create a map of hope that charts where to take action for nature, climate, and humankind. Learn how a satellite skimming the sky can document deforestation, and alert community and government enforcement via their mobile phones where it occurs.

An important step on this journey together will be the launch of the UN Biodiversity Lab 2.0, a free website that enables governments and others to access state-of-the-art maps and data on nature, climate change, and human development in new ways to generate insight for transformative policy and action. This  online platform can enable anyone, anywhere to calculate and map indicators on the health of nature for their country, their watershed, or their backyard at the click of a button.

In our journey, nations around the world will tell the story of how maps are guiding transitions towards for a nature-positive development model. Costa Rica – a county that relies on coral reefs, mangroves, and wetlands to buffer coastal communities from natural disasters and sea level rise – is formally recognizing the importance of nature in its plans to adapt to the worst effects of climate change. The Dominican Republic – a country reliant on coffee and cacao for economic development – is creating a map of hope to transition to more sustainable business models for these crops, stabilize local watersheds, and generate income for smallholders. To the south, Colombia – a country whose water supply depends on its mountainous ecosystems – is identifying priority areas for restoration, conservation, and sustainable use to sustain water access for generations to come. Ecuador – a country that has found that conservation efforts alone can’t stem the tide of environmental degradation – is convening diverse groups of decision makers to discover additional ways to address ecosystem collapse.

On the other side of the world, South Africa – a country facing stark poverty, unemployment, and inequality – is creating a map of hope to determine where actions for nature can nurture ecotourism and water security. And to the east, Cambodia – a country experiencing rapid growth, at times to the detriment of the environment – is working towards forest and freshwater protection to help stabilize rural economies. Throughout Session 3, we will hear from these countries, from leading UN agencies, and from the private sector, all sharing their vision for drawing on digital innovation, cutting-edge science, stakeholder engagement, and action on the ground to transform our relationship to the planet.

Each day is a chance to act. Join us at Day 1 of the Nature for Life Hub on 4 October to learn how nations around the world are using spatial data to mobilize. Be inspired by these unique paths towards a more harmonious future for nature, climate, and people. Commit to the action. Together, we can transform our relationship to the planet and co-create our future together on Earth.

We invite you to imagine with us another path, one where we transform our relationship to the planet.