The Linnean Society's response to the Planetary Emergency

A fast changing planet needs swift action

Published on 26th August 2020

The Linnean Society agreed to a Resolution at its Anniversary Meeting on the 22nd May to use this unique platform to highlight, communicate, and facilitate action addressing the impacts of the planetary emergency on our natural world.

As part of this response, a decision has been taken to transform the existing Taxonomy and Systematics Committee to a new remit to cover this important topic. This does not mean that the Society’s work and interest are no longer applied to the study of Taxonomy and Systematics but rather about recognising the vital importance of these fields in understanding and addressing the planetary emergency we face, while capitalising on the unique strengths of the Society and our Fellows. We want to provide coherent research-led information on the effects of human-induced climate and environmental change on global biodiversity.

The Society and its Fellows already undertake significant work in this area, and this Committee will focus on ensuring that this work is given prominence in the Society’s outreach to the public, Fellows, and the wider world of scientists and policy makers. We have already undertaken a Sustainability Review of the Society and produced a report on the substantial improvements made to date in the day-to-day running of the organisation. We are in the process of reviewing our ethical investments policy, and we produce a multitude of publications, talks and events discussing the subject. For example, from May 2019-May 2020, 237 papers were published in the Society’s three journals directly referencing climate change. The Committee, however, will lend a new focus to the imperative importance of this work that stands at the very heart and centre of the Linnean Society.

There is a long way to go. But as a strong beginning, a small team consisting of myself as Chair, John Box FLS (independent ecologist), Blanca Huertas FLS (lepidopterist, NHM, London), and Prof Andy Purvis (research leader, NHM, London) have convened to carve out the new remit for the Committee. We will be looking at how to collaborate with all the other arms of the Society, how to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges the planetary emergency presents, to how we support research, collaboration and scientific debate around these critical issues. We will be opening out the membership of the Committee soon, and looking to strengthen our knowledge base and support amongst the Fellows of the Society. So do look out for a request for expressions of interest shortly. We hope to make this a real collaborative effort across the Society, of course it’s only by working together that we will be able to tackle this challenge which affects all our lives.

Stephanie West FLS,

UK Biodiversity Training Manager (NHM, London)

Chair of Planetary Emergency Committee