Natural Capital Project’s Annual Symposium


Written by Jodie Toft, Senior Marine Ecologist
Photograph by Anirudh Rao / Flickr Creative Commons

I am in the land of dry fountains, palm trees and guacamole.  Here at Stanford University, 200 or so of us have gathered for the last 3 days for The Natural Capital Project’s annual symposium.  NatCap as it is affectionately called, is ten-year old effort between StanfordThe Nature Conservancy (TNC), World Wildlife Fund and the University of Minnesota.  And the aim - to integrate the values of nature into all major decisions affecting the environment and human well-being - is fundamentally aligned with TNC’s mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.  What I see as I look around the room are thinkers and doers from universities, NGOs, governments and businesses, all of whom are catalyzing vital change to benefit both nature and people.

Goals and aspirations aside, this is just a collection of fantastic people.  My seatmate at dinner works with amphibious drones, rebar and concrete blocks to restore reefs and mangroves in the Caribbean.  His excitement about the work is borderline palpable.  My roommate lives in Myanmar, where she works to design that country’s infrastructure so that it is as green as possible.  She chuckles lightly as she tells about how she every payday she walks through Yangon with a big paper bag of cash - her salary - because that’s just how the country works.  And the Google program manager electrifies the room by showcasing how flexing the muscle of big data is changing the game for ocean conservation.  The passion with which these three and so many others here talk about their work is infectious.  And I know that I convey the same sense of excitement about our work at TNC in Washington.

The last 3 days have been about highlighting innovation, cementing old partnerships and friendships and fostering new ones.  There is a collective sense that the challenges we face are a collection of opportunities for action.  And there is a lot of laughter.  Thanks and see you next year, Stanford.  Washington calls.