By Diogo Veríssimo
There’s a lot of news about the extinction crisis and environmental devastation our planet is facing. But that is not the whole story. There’s also a lot of good news, and it deserves to be celebrated. Among these stories one particular type has always inspired me: rediscovery.
What can be more heartening than a species that returns from the dead?
Enter the Lost & Found storytelling project, which is pushing the conversation around conservation away from doom and gloom and towards a more optimistic outlook. This effort brings to life the inspirational stories of those species that were thought extinct for at least a human generation, but were subsequently found to still be alive in the wild. These are however, not only stories of animals and plants. They also tell of the dedication and determination of the adventurers who led these improbable quests, and who, with their passion, rewrote the history of the species they cared so deeply about.
The goal of this project is get these positive stories into the hands of as many people as possible. We hope to achieve this by making our stories freely available online on lostandfoundnature.com in a variety of formats. This variety, combined with the focus on both species and adventurers makes our content accessible to a range of ages and appealing even to those people who are not initially inclined to read about nature.
Currently the Lost & Found project has published 13 stories, soon to be 15, in both text and comics format. A video animation format is already in the works, and is expected to be released at the end of the year. Our stories currently feature anything from squirrels to toads, and salamanders to bower birds, from across Latin America, Oceania, and Asia. This diversity will be regularly increased, with 15 more stories to be published in the coming months. We also have a blog, to be updated every week, where explorers and communicators will talk about the latest species rediscoveries and the ongoing search for more.
The Lost & Found project was launched in April, 2017 at the Earth Optimism Summit, organized by the Smithsonian, in Washington D.C., a global gathering conservationists focused on emphasizing the need to celebrate successes and advancing the search for solutions to the conservation challenges of our time. The response has been extremely positive, with more than a thousand people visiting our website from more than 50 countries.
Much remains to be done of course, and getting these inspirational rediscoveries into the hands of as many readers as possible is only the first step towards increasing the public willingness to engage with nature conservation. Yet, we are confident that the timeless principles of storytelling are the right place to start.
After all, who doesn’t love a story with a happy ending?