First, stop referring to anything that isn’t human as a ‘natural resource’. Language matters, and this language suggests that the existence of other species is predicated on the benefits they provide for us. Natural historians and systematists have long asserted that we need to ‘put names to faces’ before we can care about non-human species. But even though we have already described and named millions of species, the precipitous decline of worldwide biodiversity makes it abundantly clear that naming species isn’t enough.

Second, acknowledge that better data rarely lead to ‘better’ decisions (or at least to those decisions we think we would make if we were in charge). No amount of data can overcome visceral negative responses to bats, spiders or snakes, or positive ones to pandas, pangolins or baby seals. Decisions about which species to save — and which to triage to extinction — are based on raw emotion, the views of many different stakeholders and myriad political calculations. As the CITES process has demonstrated, data can be marshalled to support conservation decisions with broad-based support from a range of parties. But such consensuses are increasingly hard to come by, the resulting CITES decisions still do not provide airtight protection, and as conflicts rage around the world and rapid economic growth continues to be prioritized over conservation in both developing and developed countries, biodiversity will continue to decline.

Third, more scientists must get actively involved in the political process. Calling, e-mailing and writing to political leaders is a small but necessary first step. Showing up for seemingly endless political meetings is a larger but necessary follow-up. If we’re not in the room, our voices won’t be heard. Volunteering for local, regional, national or international groups directly involved in conservation decisions is a bigger commitment. But if not us, who? And running for elected office would logically follow. If not now, when?

Scientists studying ozone depletion and climate change have shown that getting involved directly in the decision-making process can give scientists a place at the global table and a voice to help effect political change. Scientists who both study biodiversity and want to see other species persist and thrive must follow their example.