20 September 2018

Optimism or pessimism? Rebecka Le Moine, conservation biologist and Alumna of the Year 2018, prefers optimism. With limitless energy she works to spread knowledge about everything that we can do to preserve biological diversity. This is our most important resource for survival.

Photo credit Gunilla PravitzMaybe we have already passed the limit.
Tipping points. The hot Earth.
Climate change is justifiably at the top of our list of priorities, but another process is under way in parallel.
“We are witnessing the sixth mass extinction of species. It started a long time ago, but is now accelerating at a worrying rate. And the extinction will affect the conditions of existence for all life on Earth. This process is hardly being discussed at all.”
Rebecka Le Moine, 28, belongs to the generation that will experience a different world order.
She refuses to accept this.
She is investing everything she has to change the world.
“I’m going to give it my all. If I fail, I will be able to say that I did all I could. In that case, I won’t take it upon myself as a personal failure.”

Inspiring action

So – optimism is the order of the day.
Rebecka Le Moine has travelled extensively throughout Sweden spreading the word about biological diversity. She has reached nearly a thousand people, who have listened, been informed, equipped with arguments, and inspired to action.
“The fundamental question is one of approach. We have taken it upon ourselves to overexploit the Earth’s resources at the expense of biological diversity”, she says.
It is, essentially, a question of ethics. Who consumes resources? Who has their conditions necessary for life destroyed? Why do we give economic principles a higher priority than ecological principles?
“We must have the courage required to talk about this, even when it gets uncomfortable. And we must convince others to support us.
Knowledge alone, however, is not enough. It is the emotional experience of the natural world that causes us to feel affinity, and inspires us to take responsibility.”
This is why Rebecka writes a blog and has started to participate in poetry slams.

Making waves

Photo credit Gunilla PravitzResistance is part of everyday life for Rebecka Le Moine. And this is particularly evident when the issues are those she is passionate about: industrial-scale forestry and biodiversity under threat.
“I find it frustrating when my professional knowledge as conservation biologist is not respected. When someone tells me that I should learn something about the right of ownership. When someone calls me a ‘veggie commie’.
Sometimes I get branded as a person who puts a spanner in the works, and pokes around in folks’ emotional lives.
Someone who disturbs the peace and questions ‘business as usual’.”

UN’s International Day for Biological Diversity

In 2017 Rebecka Le Moine was selected as Årets miljöhjälte by WWF.
The citation pointed out that she had managed to achieve something remarkable: making biological diversity interesting for the general public. It emphasised also her burning passion to protect everything, from the teeming life of the forest, from an insignificant moss to charismatic animals such as tigers.
And it was Rebecka Le Moine who in 2017 brought the UN International Day for Biological Diversity to prominence in Sweden. No one had paid any particular notice to it before Rebecka’s initiative.
“I thought that people should pay attention. There’s a real threat to biological diversity. The consequences of complacency are difficult to even conceive.”
In the first six months of 2018, 2760 Swedish articles about biological diversity had been published, the most ever. The topic of diversity had touched everyone from committed individuals working close to home to the government and royalty.

Alumna of the Year 2018

Linköping University has now selected Rebecka as Alumna of the Year 2018.
“Rebecka Le Moine, biologist and active in popular science, has carried out important work to preserve biological diversity and to inspire others in this field. She has worked with deep commitment for the UN International Day for Biological Diversity throughout Sweden, and has travelled extensively in the country, explaining why biological diversity is important and how we can work together to preserve it”, as the citation from LiU put it.
“I think it’s wonderful. For me, it means a further possibility to spread knowledge. We mustn’t become resigned: there’s so much more we can do”, she says.

Sorrow and anger

Rebecka Le Moine emphasises that we must act now: it’s high time. And it’s serious.
And it’s here that pessimism takes over.
As conservation biologist she sees so much negative: ecological chains broken, biotopes impoverished or destroyed, habitats disrupted.
Her ability to stimulate enthusiasm is exchanged for grief and anger.
In the footsteps of her grandfather, Professor Sven Björk from Lund University, a legend among limnologists and water ecologists, Rebecka Le Moine learned to pose questions and take sides.
“Is this stretch of road really necessary? Do we need roads at all? Why are the wetlands that will disappear not given any value when the question is discussed?”

Newly elected to parliament

While studying for a bachelor’s degree in biology at LiU, Rebecka Le Moine started to inventory the forests around Linköping and became, to put it bluntly, furious when she saw how the aggressive harvesting methods used in forestry destroyed biodiversity.
It was typical for her that she did something about it – founded a forestry protection group that started to make waves.
After graduation, however, things didn’t quite turn out as Rebecka planned.
“I had to take any job going in order to survive. For example, I worked clearing snow, and as a laboratory assistant”, she remembers.
She decided to return to LiU and take a master’s degree in conservation biology, and today works as consultant at Calluna in Linköping. which led to employment as consultant at Calluna in Linköping. In the recent general election, Rebecka was elected member of parliament for the Swedish Green Party, representing Östergötland.

Indian tigers and a master’s project in Cambodia

Her undergraduate work took her to the tigers of India.
“Someone mentioned that WWF had a project studying tigers threatened with extinction, and I decided to travel to India and do my degree project there.
I must admit that I’m a bit impulsive, sometimes.” A quick application for a visa, and a nervous wait for a SIDA scholarship.
She was awarded SEK 25,000 and was away.
“It was the best thing I’ve ever done. For me, the tiger is a symbol of biological diversity. To preserve the tiger, you must preserve the landscape in which it lives. This then became a guiding principle of my work, and I continued with a further project in India.”
Her master’s thesis arose from work she did in Cambodia, where they are planning to reintroduce the tiger.
None of this, however, would have been possible without a political will.

Putin takes action

“In 2010 Vladimir Putin set up an international conservation agreement between 13 countries, with the aim of doubling the number of tigers by 2022”, says Rebecka Le Moine.
Really – Vladimir Putin?
“Maybe because the tiger represents strength and power? This is its symbolism in many contexts, such as in India, where it is a national symbol.”
Whatever the reason, Russia’s president secured the signatures of the parties in the course of an afternoon.
“This shows that action to protect biological diversity can be rapid in the political sphere”, says Rebecka Le Moine.
Where there’s a will.

Photo Tiger: Staffan Widstrand, WWF-Canon

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