Environmental communication is a structural component of EU “green” policies and plays a strategic role in the 2020 package of measures. This is the implication of the seventh LIFE + call for proposals 2013 (published in the Official Journal in February, 2013/47/21), which for the first time will fund “Information and Communication” projects. The move is extremely important. The LIFE + program is an EU co-financing instrument, whose primary aim is to improve safeguards for the territory (eco-systems and natural resources), but which also sets important objectives for the conservation of Europe’s native species. The “Information and Communication” section of LIFE + 2013 refers explicitly to “awareness raising and special training” for “communication and promotional projects for protection of the environment and conservation of biodiversity”. In other words, the EU recognises the urgent need to raise awareness about the ecological crisis through innovative ways of communicating with people and telling them about the loss of biodiversity. So LIFE+ 2013 is an encouraging development, one that raises questions about environmental communication and about biodiversity in particular. First: is what Charles Darwin called the tree of life an issue of public relevance, a shared notion? Does Italy have cultural bodies that can become “cultural powerhouses for biodiversity”? How can we communicate the interrelations among the species, how can we help the public link conservation, speciation/evolution and contraction of biodiversity (poaching, trading in protected species, reduction and destruction of habitats)? Today, our natural history museums are the natural choice of venue to promote the culture of biodiversity. On the other side of the Atlantic, debate on museums is fuelled by the role that can be played by the social networks. Blogging on the activities of a museum – edited internally – could be a successful way to foster the development of a “social community” of people who share the museum’s values, interests and activities. In Italy too, something is moving, the museum is seen as a meeting place for science and the public where private operators have a role to play, and not just as a vast showcase. Turin’s Natural History Museum recently began cooperation with the Italian association of Africa experts (AIEA) and the tour operator Il Diamante for an exhibition on Namibia and the issue of wildlife protection in southern Africa. A public body has begun a project with a private organisation – Il Diamante – known for its focus on eco-tourism. In Trent, MUSE, a new museum of science and natural sciences designed by Renzo Piano, will be officially opened at the end of July, to divulge scientific knowledge relating to sustainability and conservation. Also this summer, the Biopark in Rome will see the opening of Europe’s first museum of environmental crime: more than 70,000 items including leopard skins, rhinoceros horns, tusks of animals protected in theory by the Convention of Washington and included in the CITES register, which, nonetheless, are worth their weight in gold on the flourishing black market for biodiversity risking extinction. The museum will provide information about criminal activities such as indiscriminate poaching, but above all about the cultural change needed if we really are to save what we can of species at risk: the introduction of the concept of “species” and “animal” among the inalienable assets of man’s existence on the planet. So there is a need for “ecological and environmental communication” in wildlife too, as yet unsatisfied. It requires an interdisciplinary approach. Museums are already equipped to respond. They reaffirm the “symbolic value” of the species through the history of civilisation of Homo Sapiens. The children fascinated by the excellent communicators of museums know this. Animals are also totems, myths, archetypes. From the earliest times, they have contributed to the construction of the representation of the world in our imagination. Events relating to biodiversity are emblematic of the problems to be faced in telling the public about the ecological crisis: there is an urgent need to get out into the street, to ask for people’s opinions, outside the academy, on one hand drawing from a huge range of educational and professional experiences and on the other leveraging the advantages we already have, our natural history museums. The signal coming from Europe is clear. The challenge for the sustainability and safeguarding the biological legacy of the old continent has cultural implications. And it concerns the idioms to be used to narrate and explain what is happening to the biosphere. By Elisabetta Corrà Free-Lance Green Consultant – Climate Change, Blue Economy and Conservation]]>