A diverse crowd of different people in the Oxford Natural History Museum – an ornate building with decorative stone pillars and a glass roof.
The 2024 Nature-based Solutions conference brought together over 800 researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and indigenous leaders to discuss how to scale up approaches that involve working with nature to tackle grand challenges. Image credit: Matthew Mulholland, Oxford Media Group.

Nature-based Solutions Conference 2024: Honouring indigenous sovereignty, reconnecting with nature

The Nature-based Solutions Conference, hosted by Oxford University 18-20 June, blended scientific rigour with ceremonial and cultural richness. This transformative event convened over 800 researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and indigenous leaders to honour both scientific inquiry and traditional wisdom. The conference urged holistic approaches to tackle the intertwined challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Throughout the event, participants were encouraged to engage with art, film, and ceremonies led by indigenous elders that aimed to showcase the importance of nature and our interconnectedness with it. The conference venue, at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, further underscored the need to draw on our evolutionary past to plan better for a flourishing future.

Discussing the importance of nature connection, speakers put forward that we are not separate from the environment, but an integral part of it. This understanding can then foster a deeper commitment to protecting our natural world.

Delegates were challenged to consider the benefits of nature-based solutions beyond climate change mitigation, and to reflect on ways to reconnect with nature on a deeper level.

A half-finished mural made of abstract depictions of nature on a large white board outside a building. A woman with her back to the viewer stands looking at it.A mural painted in real-time during the conference. Image credit: Matthew Mulholland, Oxford Media Group.
From the lectures and plenary discussions, several consistent themes emerged:

Ceremonies and Cultural Integration

Delegates experienced the unique confluence of science, art, music, short films, and ceremonies, inviting them to pause, reconnect with nature, and contemplate our shared humanity and common ancestry with all of life. Indigenous elder Mindahi Bastida guided elemental ceremonies that marked the opening and closing of the event.

Invaluable Indigenous Perspectives

There is no separation between nature and culture’ conference speaker Kamanamaikalani Beamer, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.

Humans are not separate from the environment but an integral part of it. This fundamental understanding fosters a deeper commitment to protecting and preserving our natural world. Our connection with nature is not just a philosophical concept; it is a practical, essential pathway to effective nature-based solutions

By respecting indigenous sovereignty, protecting ecosystem integrity, and embedding human rights, nature-based solutions can play a key role in addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. As a global community, we need to take bold, informed, and collaborative actions to care for that which sustains us.

Professor Nathalie Seddon, Director of the Nature-based Solutions Initiative at the University of Oxford

Holistic Solutions and Community Empowerment

There is an urgent need for holistic approaches to environmental issues, with integration across disciplines to break down research and policy silos. This fosters collaboration and innovation, leading to more comprehensive and effective solutions.

Call to Action

Participants unanimously called for bold, collaborative actions to safeguard our planet's biodiversity and support social-ecological flourishing. The conference concluded with a shared commitment to scaling nature-based solutions ethically and effectively, ensuring they contribute to building an economy that is in service of the flourishing of life on Earth.

Recordings of the conference sessions will be available soon on the NbSI YouTube channel.