Protecting Biodiversity Mette Boye

by | Mar 24, 2024 | Vodcast | 0 comments

Women in Tech Alliance spoke with Mette Boye, a Conservation Director at WWF Denmark, about why we need to pay more attention to biodiversity loss, how nature can be a solution for climate change and why we need to involve more women in climate adaptation.  

Interviewer: On behalf of Women in Tech Malmö, thank you for your time. First of all, could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers? 

Mette: I’m a Conservation Director at WWF Denmark. I joined WWF Denmark two years ago and before my role as a Conservation Director, I served as the Head of Section. My responsibility is to direct and supervise all heads of sections. At WWF, we have in total of 35 professionals working on conservation projects as specialists and project managers. 

Interviewer: I would like to know why you chose to join WWF Denmark. What has inspired you? 

Mette: I chose to work with WWF Denmark because I have a red thread in my career which is leadership and management. For me, WWF Denmark was a great chance to work with very dedicated and highly skilled specialists, as well as project managers. In other words, it was a great opportunity to make use of my management skills. The second reason is that I’ve always worked with issues concerning the environment, climate and conservation. It was a great opportunity in the sense that I could combine my management skills with my passion in that field. 

Interviewer: How does the day in the life of a Conservation Director look like? 

Mette: Well. A typical day starts at around eight o ‘clock and then it ends between five to six. My day mainly consists of plenty of meetings with people in my organization and in our network. As we are the world’s largest nature conservation organization, we have a great number of people working on the same issues in our network. The purpose of meetings is to try to get the projects funded which is the essential part of initiating, planning and implementing our projects so we could tackle the challenges the world is facing now. 

Interviewer: Some of our readers might not know what WWF Denmark does. Could you share some of the projects that are currently being implemented by WWF Denmark? 

Mette: Yeah sure. We have many partnerships and projects at the moment. For instance, we have a close partnership with Ørsted, the largest energy company in Denmark. In collaboration, we try to find better solutions for creating the infrastructure for the offshore wind while working on ocean biodiversity. To illustrate, we do a lot of work in biodiversity protection and restoration in the North Sea. We believe that we can make offshore wind into something that does not bring harm and has a net-positive impact on ocean biodiversity.

Our organization has another project in Uganda where we work with local organizations to combat human-wildlife conflicts. As an example, we’ve seen and experienced lots of human-wildlife conflicts with elephants that trespass and destroy fields with crops that are critical for the survival of local communities. We’ve been working with local organizations and found out that we can protect the fields by building a fence of bees. Elephants hate bees so if they hear bees on the border of the national park, they will likely stay away. 

Furthermore, we work in the conservation of mangroves in Kenya. We see that with climate change, people living in the coastal area of Kenya are experiencing frequent floods which are likely to get worse. Thus, we work in collaboration with the local communities in the coastal part of Kenya to find ways to restore the mangroves that can help keep the soil in place. That’s an example of what we call a nature-based solution. Nature can actually provide effective solutions in combating climate change.

Interviewer: When we say climate change, the majority of people think of natural disasters and underestimate biodiversity loss. Could you explain why we should pay attention to biodiversity and its protection?

Mette: We must care about biodiversity because nature is an inseparable part of our societies and the way we live. For example, almost 70 percent of chemo drugs have ingredients that stem from ingredients grown in the Amazon Rainforest. The deterioration of nature and biodiversity is also a huge economic risk and we will lose our ability to have clean water, clean air and clean soil where we can grow our food. 

Everything essential for living, breathing, drinking, eating and getting medicine all comes from nature. Unfortunately, it’s being challenged by climate change. From our point of view, the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis are intertwined. They must be addressed at the same time. 

Interviewer: You mentioned that lots of women and girls are being affected disproportionately by climate change. Could you explain the interconnection between gender inequality and climate change? 

Mette: Absolutely. Women and girls are often affected disproportionately by climate change. It’s often the task of young girls and women to fetch water and take care of the agriculture that their families live on. Since that is often the responsibility of women, it has a direct impact on the role of women. We see in many of our projects that there is an immediate need for creating new techniques, finding new solutions and getting new knowledge on farming in a climate-changing world. 

In addition, in most places in the world, girls and women do not have the same rights as men. Therefore, in the local communities, women are left out of the decision-making. In short, the basic and structural inequality makes it even harder for women to have a say and influence on the decisions being made in this changing climate. 

In fact, we know that if we ensure sexual/reproductive health rights and empower women, they bring valuable perspectives and our projects are often more successful. 

Interviewer: In your opinion, what needs to be done to empower women and give them the capacity to mitigate/adapt to climate change? 

Mette: For sure, there needs to be a fundamental work in communicating and working with girls and women on issues concerning their rights. What I mean by that is we need to explain their rights and help them exercise their rights. However, it needs to be done in collaboration with men because otherwise, it’s not going to work. Moreover, we also need to work with local organizations and governments in ensuring the rights of girls and women. 

Interviewer: You previously worked as an organizational management consultant. What do NGOs need to consider at their organizational level to be successful in their mission?

Mette: That’s a big question. The first thing I would recommend is to be very clear on what your core task is. It might sound very banal, but many organizations are actually not very aware of their main task. You must clearly define what you do, what you want to refine and be very good at and what you as an organization need to keep your eye on when you are in doubt. In short, defining and working with your core task is something I would recommend.

Interviewer: Do you see any common mistakes among NGOs?

Mette: I think there’s a need for NGOs to be able to take that middle position. For instance, we work with the purpose of protecting nature and species, but we are also willing to enter into pragmatic dialogue with companies and we want to engage with them. So, I think that’s for me at least a common obstacle for actually getting the scale that we need to solve the biodiversity crisis and climate change.

Interviewer: What can individuals and companies do to contribute to the projects and mission of WWF Denmark?

Mette: We don’t have membership, but we are happy to have supporters. As an individual, you are encouraged to support WWF through donations. Last year, there was a big drought in Kenya and we had a big donation campaign in order to rescue animals such as elephants and giraffes. You can support our work as an individual citizen by following our website and discovering different opportunities for you to support. In terms of companies, they can support WWF in different ways, support with a donation, or enter into partnership with us. They are both equally important for our organization. 

Interviewer: I saw that WWF Denmark promotes Green Child Savings. Could you elaborate on that? How many banks actually use child savings in climate-friendly investments?

Mette: That’s a good question. In Denmark, we conducted a survey among banks which revealed that only two or three banks offer green savings for children and the rest don’t. It’s important because it’s for our children. They need to grow up hopefully in a world that is much greener than today. For that reason, we’re working towards encouraging banks to offer greener solutions and alternatives for child savings. I think it’s a matter of time. However, it’s happening very slowly. We’re going to push banks for a faster transition.

Interviewer: It was fun to see you planting trees at the Buster Festival with children. I think that’s one way to educate our children to love nature. What else can parents do to teach their children to love and protect nature? Does WWF Denmark offer educational materials?

Mette: I think one way is to talk about the gifts that we get from nature. When you’re drinking a coffee, you can tell your child about where the coffee comes from and how it is made. Or, when you eat an orange, tell them where oranges are produced, why it is important to save water and how much water is needed to harvest the oranges. I think that is one way to educate our children about nature. 

We also have some educational materials and the Panda Club with different kinds of arrangements that you as a parent can participate in and get some educational training. It helps you to learn some fun facts and effective ways to teach about nature. 

Interviewer: Great advice! I wonder whether you face any challenges as a woman in your work as a Conversation Director.

Mette: I think that WWF as a global network used to be a very male-dominated organization, but it has changed over the years. As a matter of fact, we now have a female CEO, Kirsten Stewart. I believe it’s important for WWF to be aware of diversity at the management level. Moreover, I try to be very aware of gender biases in our work and my work. On top of that, I always try to be aware of how I can help young women achieve their full potential. 

Interviewer: Where do you see yourself and WWF Denmark in five years?

M: Well. Our organization has been rapidly growing for the last five or six years. I think we will continue to do that. At the same time, we will accelerate our efforts in protecting biodiversity and nature. I hope that I’m in the same position, as now, because I’m very fond of working as a Conservation Director at WWF Denmark. 

Interviewer: How would describe your work experience at WWF Denmark in three words?

Mette: Great colleagues, lots of complexity and a sense of urgency. 

Interviewer: Before we conclude our interview, is there anything you would like to say to young girls and women who are considering a career in humanitarian organizations like WWF?

Mette: I would like to say that when people say that it’s not possible to work with what you are passionate about, don’t believe them. Last but not least, I would say to marry wisely because you need a partner who’s supportive and okay with helping out at home when you’re chasing your career.

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