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A Two-Eyed Approach to Biodiversity Conservation

Hi/Bonjour! My name is Aidan Maloney and my pronouns are he/him/his. I live in what is currently known as Toronto, Ontario Canada. Traditionally, this land is the territory of the the Haudenosauneega (Longhouse Confederacy), Anishinabewaki, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and Mississauga peoples, under the Toronto Purchase and Treaty 13. I wish to acknowledge that this land has and continues to be cared for by Indigenous people, decades before my white ancestors came to this land as colonizers. I am grateful to have the opportunity to live and thrive on this natural land that has been under occupation for centuries before European colonizers arrived. I am a white heterosexual, cis-gendered, able-bodied male who is a second-generation immigrant. I wish to recognize that my family is of English ancestry and recognize the privilege as a white settler, hoping to use it to amplify non-privileged voices within our communities. I am aware of my privilege and understand my role as an ally. I acknowledge that I lack the understanding of what it's like to be from a BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, or disabled community.My goals within SUTE are to fight and have a voice for climate justice. This will be done through reducing environmental injustices that are continuously being done to the natural environment as well as BIPOC, disabled, and voiceless communities. I wish to raise awareness on climate action and demand accountability for political and industrial decisions. I am fully aware that my views of certain topics may not be representative of those from BIPOC and voiceless communities. As such, I do not intend to speak on their behalf.


Biodiversity conservation is one of the most pressing issues of the current global climate crisis. Declines in global biodiversity – otherwise known as the ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ – are principally caused by human activities (1). A leading culprit of this decline is habitat loss, which is a direct result of urbanization, agriculture, deforestation and climate change (2). Many countries have set targets to curb biodiversity loss; however, they often fall well short of the target.

Conservation biology is an ever-growing discipline of biology that invokes western ecological and conservational principles to address the issues we’re facing in regard to the loss of floral and faunal biodiversity (3). However, it is becoming apparent to researchers that these western principles, taught in higher levelled academic institutions, do not always represent the best methods to conserve biodiversity (4,5). A recent conservational paper found that vertebrate biodiversity was found to be equal or higher on indigenous-managed lands, when compared to conventional protected areas (4).

Schuster et al. (2019) examined the link between biodiversity conservation and Indigenous management of the local environment. The researchers used Australia, Brazil, and Canada as targeted countries, with randomly located points within each country. It was found that vertebrate biodiversity (birds, mammals, reptiles, & amphibians) were slightly more species rich within Indigenous-managed land in all three countries . In Canada and Brazil specifically, it was found that there was a greater support for threatened vertebrate species on Indigenous protected land when compared to conventional protected areas. The overlying message cannot be denied: Indigenous conservational methodologies and principles must be implemented into current legislation in order to meet the targeted national biodiversity goals. Even more, it is crucial that these important ideas are taught within academia, as opposed to strictly western principles.

The main consideration that must be implemented is a Two-Eyed approach to conservation. Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall’s concept of Two-Eyed Seeing is: “To see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous ways of knowing, and to see from the other eye with the strengths of Western ways of knowing, and to use both of these eyes together” (6). This concept encapsulates the idea that utilizing the strengths of Indigenous knowledge with western ideas can enhance overall management. This is not to say that one set of principles is more effective or greater than the other. However, it is saying that the best result can be achieved with implementations from both of these knowledge groups (4). When applying these concepts to the biodiversity loss issue disrupting the planet today, conservational methodologies and ideas from each train of thought should be included.

Partnerships with Indigenous communities have the potential to ameliorate many of the shortfalls that countries are experiencing in regard to biodiversity conservation. Using a mix of conventional protected areas and Indigenous-managed lands offers a greater potential of success than any one method on its own (4). This is the main philosophy behind Two-Eyed Seeing and must be used for practices beyond just biodiversity conservation.


1. Maxwell, S.L., Fuller, R.A., Brooks, T.M., & Watson, J. (2016). Biodiversity: the ravages of guns, nets and bulldozers. Nature, 536, 143-145.

2. Brooks, T.M., R.A. Mittermeier, C.G. Mittermeier, G.A.B. da Fonseca, A.B. Rylands, W.R. Konstant, P. Flick, J. Pilgrim, et al. (2002). Habitat loss and extinction in the hotspots of biodiversity. Conservation Biology, 16, 909–923.

3. Soulé, M. (1985). The Biological Diversity Crisis. BioScience, 35, 727-734.

4. Schuster, R., Germain, R., Bennett, J., Reo, N., & Arcese, P. (2019). Vertebrate biodiversity on indigenous-managed lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada equals that in protected areas. Environmental Science & Policy, 101, 1-6. Available from:

5. Garnett, S.T., et al. (2018). A spatial overview of the global importance of Indigenous lands for conservation. Nat. Sustain.,1, 369.

6. Bartlett, C., Marshall, M., Marshall, A. (2012). Two-eyed seeing and other lessons learned within a co-learning journey of bringing together indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 2, 331–340.

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