It’s Cool Earth’s Birthday month. Yes, month. I insist that the whole of March is dedicated to me so I don’t see why Cool Earth shouldn’t get the same treatment.
So pop the champagne, light the birthday candles and read about our first seven years of saving the rainforest.
Cool Earth was launched as a reaction to the simple observation that “save the rainforest” had become an empty slogan. The forty years of agreements, laws, fences and reserves had seen half of the world’s rainforests disappear. It was as if the cause was so universally supported we all thought someone else would sort it out.
And the fact that climate change made the role of rainforests even more critical to our species’ survival seemed to make matters worse. The interest of the United Nations and World Bank seemed to prove that this was too big a job for politicians.
And in a way, this view is right. That’s because the decisions that decide whether forest is cleared or kept standing aren’t made in the boardrooms of the UN, or even national parliaments. They are made on dirt tracks and riverbanks throughout the world’s rainforests. And you can be sure that it isn’t a long or balanced negotiation. It’s a rushed promise of hard cash that hopelessly undervalues the timber. But for villages in poverty and with virtually no other source of income, it is the only offer they will get.
These handshakes made every day along the arcs of deforestation from Papua New Guinea to the Amazon are why deforestation is too big an issue for the UN. They are why forty years of campaigning hasn’t kept the rainforest safe.
And they are why we set-up Cool Earth seven years ago this month.
If communities were selling off trees to loggers because they had no other way of buying rice or getting their children to school, surely the best way of saving rainforest is to provide an alternative.
If communities were selling off their forest as a last resort, surely we could build on the desire of people who depend on the rainforest for food and medicine to keep it safe.
And that is exactly what we have done. Cool Earth strikes Forest Protection Agreements with any community who approaches us that is serious about keeping their forest safe. We help build better livelihoods, more resilient communities, stronger legal claims so that the forest, its biodiversity and its carbon remain intact.
And whilst we still feel like the new kids on the block, we have seven years of forest achievements that prove our model actually puts forest out of reach of the chainsaws.
To date we’ve ensured more than 409,000 acres of rainforest that would otherwise have been cleared are protected around the clock. We’re keeping more than 98 million trees standing and locking in 106 million tonnes of CO2 - equivalent to the entire population of Germany flying to New York.
These community-controlled forests are forming a living shield to ten times as much forest. This shielded forest is now twice the size of Yellowstone National Park.
As Sir David Attenborough says, Cool Earth is the best chance we have of saving the world’s rainforests.
And this is why Cool Earth was made the official charity of The Adventurists. Their support has raised more than £220,000 so that we can offer rainforest villages a lifeline. This includes everything from mosquito nets and equipping schools to business plans for forest produce and GPS mapping.
With donations rolling in from this year’s Adventures, we’re working towards shielding 10 million acres by 2015.
So when you are lying crumpled on a roadside with a wounded body and soul, keep in mind your bloody marvellous rainforest saving efforts. We genuinely love you all.