About this alternative conference

Watch the video recording of the conference below:

Photo by Liam Sharp

Photo by Liam Sharp

Photo by Liam Sharp

Photo by Liam Sharp

Photo by Liam Sharp

Photo by Liam Sharp

Photo by Liam Sharp

Join us Friday, April 14th at the CUNY Graduate Center and online for a day-long conference Our Land! Our Nature: A Conference to Decolonize Conservation an international congress to discuss how to #DecolonizeConservation which will be followed, on April 15th, by a public demonstration (protest).

Decades of research has shown that the mainstream approach to biodiversity conservation, fortress conservation, has had a devastating impact on Indigenous and other local people’s lands, livelihoods, and rights. Flawed thinking that sees human presence as a threat to ‘nature’ has led to a model of conservation that is often violent, colonialist, and racist.

The imposition of Protected Areas often go hand-in-hand with human rights abuses: the seizure and militarization of Indigenous and local communities’ lands, the criminalization and destruction of their ways of life, the violation of their right to give and withhold consent to projects on their ancestral lands. Protected Areas often not only fail to address the root causes of environmental challenges but actively harm those least responsible.

This conference seeks to change the mainstream conversation around conservation by bringing together Indigenous people and human rights experts from around the globe to elevate the voices of those who have seen their lands stolen and their livelihoods devastated by militarization conservation. When Indigenous peoples have secure rights to their land, they achieve at least equal if not better conservation results at a fraction of the cost of conventional conservation programs. This conference advocates for a real, just and sustainable alternative approach to conservation based on Indigenous rights, and their ecological knowledge and stewardship.

This conference is sponsored by Survival International and the Natural History Museum with support and collaboration from the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center and Common Notions Press. For more information on Survival’s campaign to Decolonize Conservation click here.


Fri, April 14th: 8.30 - 9.00
Coffee and welcome

9.00 - 9.15 a.m
Introduction by Daniel Lavelle

9.15 - 10.30
The Problem with International Conservation
Yannick Ndoinyo, Fiore Longo

10.45 - 12.00 p.m
Made in the USA: US Conservation Ideology and Funding
Shauri Molimo, Robert Flummerfelt

12.00 - 1.00 p.m
Lunch Break

1.00 - 2.15 p.m
Decolonizing Conservation
Mordecai Ogada, Ashley Dawson

2.30 - 3.45 p.m
A New Way Forward: Indigenous Land Rights as Environmental Protection
Dina Gilio Whitaker, John Knox

3.45 - 5.00 p.m
From Colonialism to Green Capitalism: False Solutions to the Climate and Biodiversity Crises
Simon Counsell, Tom Goldtooth

Sat, April 15th, 12:00 PM (EDT)
A public demonstration (protest) at the Bronx Zoo.


Experts, activists and representatives, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, will come together to decolonize nature conservation and propose alternatives that respect human rights and the environment. In person and virtual participation:

Yannick Ndoinyo

Executive Director for Traditional Ecosystems Survival, Tanzania

Dina Gilio Whitaker

Academic, journalist and author, member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, USA

Shauri Molimo

Batwa Activist and Community Leader, Democratic Republic of Congo

Robert Flummerfelt

Investigative journalist and independent researcher, DR of Congo

John Knox

Professor of human rights law at Wake Forest and Special Rapporteur on human rights

Simon Counsell

Independent researcher and writer on conservation and human rights, nature-based solutions, forests, and carbon offsetting

Mordecai Ogada

Ecologist and Conservation writer, Kenya

Ashley Dawson

Professor of Postcolonial Studies, CUNY, USA

Tom Goldtooth

Executive Director Indigenous Environmental Network, Navajo Nation, USA

Fiore Longo

Survival International


- Offer a platform to Indigenous peoples and local communities whose lives have been devastated by fortress conservation, and to communities and movements with an alternative vision of conservation

- To continue to challenge the ‘expand protected areas’ narrative; discourage the enaction of the 30x30 target (the plan to turn 30% of the Earth into Protected Areas by 2030)

- To show that another way is possible, putting forward a radical vision and actionable recommendations for protection of Earth’s biological and cultural diversity, which has Indigenous Peoples and local communities at the centre and which is rooted in rights and social justice

- Continue to build foundation for an ongoing coalition of people affected by protected areas, associations and members of civil society who want to change the way “conservation” is done: for Indigenous Peoples, for nature, for all humanity.

- To expose the dangers/failings of fortress conservation and to promote the recognition of Indigenous land rights as an alternative to the current plan to turn 30% of the Earth into protected areas.

Click here for more about the origins of this conference.


The “Marseille Manifesto: a people’s manifesto for the future of conservation” was developed by many Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists and experts who gathered in September 2021 for the groundbreaking “Our Land, Our Nature” congress. To see the complete list of signatories, click here. For more information, please see our press release.