Matthew Owen is Director of Cool Earth, a UK-based organisation that partners with indigenous communities “to make sure they have the support and resources to do what they’ve been doing for thousands of years — keeping the trees standing.”
Cool Earth stresses that at least 90% of donations go directly to their projects. The organisation then uses this to put in place simple steps to change the fate of at-risk rainforest and the lives of indigenous partners, in South America, West and Central Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Owen, who has been in post since 2006, is refreshingly matter-of-fact about the realities of conservation work.
Speaking to Founders Pledge, he notes that they make sure local people are in control of projects, and publish everything — both where they’ve spent money wisely, and where they “cocked up and wasted money.” “Partly to demonstrate that we were an open, transparent organisation, partly because we wanted others to learn from our masters.
“But also because we wanted to show that over time we were getting better.”
He also addresses a well-known conservation contradiction: that organisations have been trying to save the rainforests for 60 years, but half of it has been destroyed since then. He said this was because “the drivers to deforestation, the logging, the palm plantations, the cattle, have become more and more potent and powerful. And also, some of the methods we’ve used to protect the forest haven’t been so effective.” He adds that the focus on biodiversity has led conservationists to protect the middle of the forest, where the animals have fled to, leaving the edges exposed to destruction.
“We need to realise that the solutions that were peddled in 1965 probably aren’t going to succeed today.”
Before Cool Earth, Owen was Director of Equity Research at Morgan Stanley, and Executive Director at HSBC. He graduated with a degree in Geography from the University of Oxford.Tags: Climate crisis, deforestation, Rainforests, reforestation, UK
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