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

Posted on 18 May 2021
  • Research shows undeniable shift in behaviour in response to planetary crisis
  • Concern about the loss of animal and plant species increased from 82% to 90% in India and the popularity of google searches relating to nature loss and biodiversity grew by 190% in the country
  • A staggering 71% rise in popularity of searches for sustainable goods over the past five years, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide
 18th May 2021: 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 (2016-2020) and continues to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic. The figures come ahead of International Day for Biodiversity being held on 22nd May by the UN to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
People all over the world, particularly in developing economies 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 natureshows 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 30 million to 50 million in the last four years. A variety of influencers such as spiritual leaders, politicians, major news organisations and celebrities, have used their voice on behalf of nature, including The Pope, the BBC, and The New York Times, with social media posts reaching a combined audience of almost 1billion people worldwide.
The research also reveals that consumers are voting with their google clicks that are showing a growing popularity of nature-related searches [3] driven primarily by Asian 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 impacts from the loss of nature.
Building on an era of protests and petitions, more consumers all over the world are now changing their behaviour, such as 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], in high-income countries, such as the UK, the US, Germany, Australia and Canada. However, the trend goes beyond these countries - in fact it has also accelerated in developing economies. This pressure is forcing corporations to respond, particularly in the cosmetics, pharmaceutical, fashion and food sectors.
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.”
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 further information please contact:
Komal Chaudhary| Senior Manager-Media and PR, WWF India| kchaudhary@wwfindia.net
Or can write to the international media team at news@wwfint.org
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.
[8] The Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity is scheduled to take place 11-24 October 2021. Countries are due to adopt a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.  WWF is urging countries to secure a ‘Paris-style’ biodiversity agreement that tackles both the direct and indirect drivers of nature loss. The Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is scheduled to take place 1-12 November 2021. Countries are urged to secure a step change in climate ambition, including through increasing the contribution of nature based solutions in their national climate plans.
Additional quotes:
“The fatal risk of species extinction can be avoided if individuals, organisations, businesses and
policymakers unite to identify, assess, disclose, mitigate and overcome the issues to preserve
nature for all the generations still to come.” The Economist Intelligence Unit, April 2021
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