USU Communicator Lead Editor of Global Report on Planet Health
Thursday, Dec. 01, 2016
USU research associate and communications specialist Holly Strand is lead editor of the World Wildlife Fund's 'Living Planet Report 2016.'
USU communicator Holly Strand is lead editor of 'Living Planet 2016: Risk and Resilience in a New Era,' a comprehensive, yet concise report on the Earth’s health.
Providing an analysis of the entire planet’s health is an ambitious project, but every two years the World Wildlife Fund, with partners Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London, undertakes the challenge. The team recently published Living Planet Report 2016 and a Utah State University professional played a key role in its development.
Holly Strand, a research associate in USU’s Department of Environment and Society and a science communications specialist in the Quinney College of Natural Resources, served as lead editor for the 74-page report, which assesses the current state of the planet. As might be expected, the findings are chilling.
“Unsustainable human activities are causing monitored wildlife populations to decline at an alarming rate: 58 percent from 1970 to 2012,” says Strand, who, prior to joining Utah State, worked full-time for the WWF for more than a decade.
The 2016 report, titled “Risk and Resilience in a New Era,” distills a mountain of complicated scientific evidence into a streamlined report, she says, indicating our Earth system – climate, biodiversity, ocean health, forests, water cycle, nitrogen cycle and carbon cycle – is under increasing threat.
Strand, along with WWF Editor-in-Chief Natasja Oerlemans, divided the report under probing, direct questions: What is going on? What is our role? What can we do? What are underlying reasons?
“The report is science-based and goal-driven,” she says. “Our aim is to make the information accessible and present a call to action.”
Though presenting a bleak snapshot of current conditions, the report remains optimistic.
“There is still time to avert mass extinctions,” Strand says. “But it’s important the majority of society understands the value and needs of our increasingly fragile Earth, as well as the role our lifestyle plays.”
The report, she says, describes key changes in food and energy systems that could greatly reduce pressure on the planet’s health.
“We need to shift to agricultural practices that vary according to ecosystem health and potential,” Strand says. “We also need to pursue a more sustainable diet and waste less food.”
In addition, she notes the need to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. “As the largest manmade cause of climate change, fossil fuel-burning threatens biodiversity, critical earth system processes and our own well-being.”
Barring a major change in resource use, the report’s data suggest animal populations could decline an average of 67 percent by 2010.
“We need those animals – they provide food, fiber, inspiration, genetic variation, clean water and other services,” Strand says. “Therefore, it is very much in our own best interest to do what we can to help keep them around.”
During her years with the WWF, Strand, a geographer by education, traveled throughout the globe mapping priorities for the Switzerland-based wildlife conservation organization. Fluent in Russian, Strand contributed considerable effort in the former Soviet Union and Asia, delineating eco-regions and working toward long-term conservation strategies.
“WWF is the largest organization of its kind, but it can’t fight every conservation battle,” she says. “So, prioritization is key. You can’t save everything.”