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Dramatic rise in numbers of people concerned about nature loss as ‘eco-wakening’ grips the globe

- Hundreds of millions across the globe show their rising concern about nature 
- Research shows undeniable shift in behaviour in response to planetary crisis 
- Most dramatic growth in concern in emerging and developing economies 
- Time is running short and action to prevent fatal nature loss is urgently needed 

New global research [1] conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by WWF, shows that public interest in, and concern for nature has risen markedly (16%) in the past five years and continues to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic. The figures come ahead of International  Day for Biodiversity being held on 22 May by the UN to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
People all over the world, particularly in emerging markets, are increasingly aware of the planetary crisis, and this is affecting their behaviour in a rapidly growing global mood that WWF has dubbed an ‘eco-wakening’. In a clear validation of a growing trend, concerned individuals and consumers are acting on their concerns and demanding action over nature loss and biodiversity in an assortment of ways.    

The report entitled “An Eco-wakening: Measuring global awareness, engagement and action for nature” shows digital activism at play with a 65% increase in the number of Twitter [2] mentions, amplifying concern for nature worldwide, with mentions of nature and biodiversity increasing  from 30m to 50m in the last four years.   

In South-East Asia, the volume of news stories about nature loss and biodiversity increased by 77% and tweets related to both topics increased by 102% in the region. Malaysia ranks 110/180 on the Yale Environmental Performance Index for Biodiversity and Habitat.   

A variety of influencers such as spiritual leaders, politicians, and major news organisations and  celebrities, have used their voice on behalf of nature, with social media posts reaching a combined  audience of almost 1bn people worldwide.  

The research also reveals that consumers are voting with their google clicks showing a growing popularity of nature-related searches [3] driven primarily by Asia and Latin America in countries such as Indonesia (53%) and India (190%) [4]. Additionally, increasingly large numbers of people see nature loss as a serious global problem [5], with 96% of respondents located in Latin America indicating this, the highest of any region surveyed. This shift in public sentiment reflects a hard reality, as people in emerging markets are most likely to experience the devastating impact of nature-loss.  

But, despite the extraordinary speed of its destruction, nature is rarely at the top of the global agenda, even though its loss represents a huge threat to the global economy and our health: “The results of this research are crystal clear: concern over the impact we are having on the natural world  is growing rapidly and particularly in emerging markets, where people are feeling more acutely the impacts of deforestation, unsustainable fishing, species extinction and the decline of eco-systems”, said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.  
He continues: “The science and the economics are clear. The public sentiment is now clear. And - the solutions are clear too. Society is supporting a transformation of our economic and development model towards one that finally values nature as our moral duty to all life on Earth, and for the crucial services it  provides to our economy, wellbeing, health and security. This is a truly historic ‘eco-wakening’ and the chance to rebalance our relationship with the planet.”   

Building on an era of protests and petitions, more consumers all over the world are now changing their  behaviour, for example amending their purchasing habits in line with their values. The analysis found a  staggering 71% rise in popularity of searches for sustainable goods since 2016 [6], increasing in high-income countries, such as the UK, the US, Germany, Australia and Canada. However, the trend goes beyond these economies - in fact it has also accelerated in developing and emerging ones, for example, Indonesia (24%) and Ecuador (120%). This pressure is forcing corporations to respond, particularly in  the cosmetics, pharmaceutical, fashion and food sectors.  

Since 2016, over 159 million signatures for biodiversity related campaigns have been collected [7], with protests around the world growing in their strength and frequency, coming together to demand radical  action from policy-makers on behalf of the planet and for future generations, in an increasingly interconnected nature preservation movement.  

According to Sophia Lim, WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO, “Businesses and governments around the world must take notice of what the public are saying. Public concern for nature is growing  ever louder - a 16% increase in the past five years equates to hundreds of millions of people around the world who are increasingly concerned. Media coverage plays a critical role in driving awareness and reaching decision makers as we tackle the planetary emergency that we are now all living in.”  

Loss of nature is increasing our vulnerability to pandemics, undermining efforts to tackle the climate crisis, and threatening livelihoods. Leaders are scheduled to make critical decisions later this year [8] on  climate and the environment. Together, they represent a momentous opportunity to reverse biodiversity  loss and secure a nature-positive world this decade, in support of climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals.  

For more information on the eco-wakening trend, to share your experiences, and get involved to safeguard nature and set it on a path to recovery by 2030, go to http://panda.org/eco-wakening.  


Notes to editors:  
[1] Research by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), and commissioned by WWF, measures engagement, awareness and action for nature in 27 languages, across 54 countries globally, covering 80% of the world’s  population, over five years (2016 - 2020). Analysis using Google Trends shows a 16% increase in the popularity of google searches, with most growth in Asia and Latin America.  

[2] Analysis of global Twitter mentions of nature and biodiversity terms using Meltwater, with the following having the highest amount of traction #wildlife (2M) #earthday (2M) #nature (1M) and #biodiversity (1M).  

[3] EIU analysis using Google Trends comparing the popularity of the top five most popular nature-loss and  biodiversity terms across 54 countries, using both English and the dominant local language. Google Trends data was collected for each week from January 2016 - October 2020. Search terms included: wildlife, biodiversity,  wildfires, deforestation and endangered species. The number of Twitter mentions relating to nature and biodiversity increased the most for countries in Asia (38%), and Latin America (136%) between 2016-2019. 
[4] Internet access has increased dramatically, raising awareness around nature and increased connectivity only spreads the message further.  In Indonesia the number of internet users grew by 23% from 2016 to 2018. In India the number of internet users grew by 22%. It is not possible to weight the search statistics because of the method  used to calculate the number of searches.  

[5] Globescan survey Healthy and Sustainable Living Study, almost 20,000 people across 27 countries, 2020. 
Other global results include:  89% of respondents identified loss of animal and plant species as a very serious global  problem, 85% identified shortages of fresh water as a very serious global problem, 90% of respondents identified single use plastic as a very serious global, 92% identified natural resource depletion as a very serious global problem, and the need to consume less to preserve the environment for future generations saw the biggest increase  by 7% to 73% alone over a year between 2019 - 2020.  

[6] EIU analysis using Google Trends data on the popularity of searches for environmentally friendly products  across  all 54 countries in the study, using English language only. Individual country search trends were  evaluated  using local-language search terms as well as English. Search terms included: Biodiversity, Sustainable, Ecological,  Biodegradable, Environmentally. Google Trends data was collected for each week from January 2016 - October 2020.  Additional research shows that in a recent online survey of 6,000+ people world-wide, 50% of survey respondents said they switched products or services because a company violated their values. The number one reason cited for the switch was to support products or services that ‘protect the environment’. Source: Hotwire Survey, 2019. 
[7] Analysis using Avaaz campaign data.   


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