Conservation Optimism Summit

New summit aims to celebrate wildlife conservation success and highlight hope for the future

Conservation Optimism Summit, 20-22 April 2017, Dulwich College and ZSL London Zoo

With more than half of the world’s wildlife having disappeared in the last 40 years and climate change continuing to push many species to the brink of extinction, the challenges facing wildlife conservation have never been greater.

But while the threats facing the planet can sometimes seem overwhelming, a new summit being organised by the University of Oxford and ZSL (Zoological Society of London) is aiming to shift conservation focus onto the success stories, and highlight that there is a need, as well as a cause, for optimism.

The Conservation Optimism Summit, to be held 20-22 April 2017, will bring together an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural group of people from the worlds of conservation, positive psychology, constructive journalism, sustainable business, and many others to highlight ways in which we can celebrate successes and encourage a new, positive way of thinking about conservation to inspire more people to work for wildlife.

Following two days of workshops and discussion at Dulwich College in London, the summit will culminate on Earth Day 2017 with a public event at ZSL London Zoo to share, showcase and celebrate the work that has been done so far to conserve species across the animal kingdom, from partula snails to pandas.

Professor EJ Milner-Gulland, Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity in Oxford’s Department of Zoology, and Director of Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS), is one of the figures spearheading the event. She says: ‘Nobody is underestimating the task that faces conservationists. There’s lots of bad news out there, and it can give the impression that the field is full of despair. But it’s not like that, and what we need to do is change that mindset so that we can continue to attract talented young people into conservation, as well as inspiring the public with hope about the future, and ensuring we can influence policy makers to help address the most urgent problems facing the planet.’

Jonathan Baillie, Conservation Programmes Director at ZSL, said: “No matter how you dress it up, the human impact on the environment has been devastating.  Not surprisingly, the conservation movement has traditionally had negative messaging focussing on the threats and overwhelming challenges.  However this is not the way to inspire change.  We need to create a positive vision for the future, focus on solutions and inspire society to take action.  We need to celebrate success, identify what is working and bring it to scale.”

The summit has already attracted high-profile support from  environmental campaigner and well known chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who says: ‘I’m lucky enough to have the medium of television to discuss and investigate environmental issues that I think are important. One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to present positive solutions and to keep hope alive, as well as educating audiences about the problems facing the world.

‘I’ve met so many people doing fantastic work to protect and restore our natural world. We should be sharing these inspiring stories far and wide, rather than always getting bogged down in doom and gloom. I’m therefore delighted to support the Conservation Optimism initiative and its partners in their mission to spread a new wave of positivity throughout the environmental community.’

The event will partner with the Global Earth Optimism Summit, coordinated by the Smithsonian Institute, as well as an event being held by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.

Professor Milner-Gulland adds: ‘We’re also trying to engage the arts in a way that doesn’t usually happen in conservation. By thinking more creatively about optimism and conservation, we hope to be able to engage people with the subject in greater numbers.

‘Our response to pressing conservation issues has thus far been half-hearted. We want to form a big, global movement to help change people’s attitudes towards conservation.’

For more information about the summit, how to take part, or to register to attend please visit and follow our Facebook, Twitter @ConservOptimism and Instagram accounts.


Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our ground-breaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two Zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. For more information visit

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science is an academic research group based in the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. We work at the interface of social and ecological systems, using a range of approaches to address key issues in current conservation. Our underlying philosophy is that in order to make progress we need to consider the incentives, pressures and challenges faced by individual decision-makers

Stuart Gillespie
Media Relations Manager
University of Oxford
Tel: +44 (0)1865 283877
Twitter: @UniofOxford

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