The team was burned out.
Nonprofit fundraising is probably notoriously challenging, and we just come out of months of having difficulty raising money, especially in the context of COVID. We launched the app but ran out of funds shortly after, and I couldn’t bring myself to another fundraising campaign.
I recognized there must be more sustainable ways to continue, both for the organization and individually. The work up until then had been far beyond my capacity and quite in conflict with why I was doing it, which was to gain a deeper understanding of forests and do whatever I could to benefit their survival.
I should go back to the basics, I thought.
I went to Belize with a friend of mine, Jin. We picked up some camera gear and started filming. The idea emerged that documentation of our journey could be an excellent way for us to amass the audience around the app. We did see a lot! - the forests, the effects of slash and burn practices, we met the local communities and orgs, and the people living and working around the forests. We filmed for approx. two months. At that point, I had to go back to Japan.
I found myself asking the question of, given the fact I now understood better what's going on in the realm of forests, what it is that I should be focusing my efforts on?
Sure, I could become this on-the-road documentarian, and I’d learn a lot, but somehow I couldn't convince myself that that's the best way to promote the app, serve as a CEO, and have the most significant impact possible.
Amidst all that, a media company offered to finance the documentary. They saw the content idea as very interesting and aligned with their interests; however, as exciting as it initially was, they never got back to us. It all fizzled out eventually, which also impacted my decision.
In the coming months, I saw a growing interest in Japan to protect and restore forests and the need for more broad movement involving companies, grassroots, and the government, and I chose to focus on that. Since then, we have been building towards greater success - we've got several consulting projects under our belt now, exciting collabs, we've also already planted more trees in a few months of 2022 than the entire 2021. We're seeing the results.
I learned that you have to be nimble and evaluate the resources available. Especially in the younger years of an organization, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be on a straight arrow trajectory in what you do. One week you might be thinking, "the best I can do now is to contemplate the creation of a documentary.” And two weeks later, you might learn new things which make you think, "actually, no, optimizing and maximizing my impact in other ways is more important.” That's ok, as long as you give 100% to whatever you decide on doing.
Being on the ground and understanding the realities of communities, deforestation, and global politics entangled in that - all are extremely important. I do hope to be on the road again at some point - maybe in Ghana, maybe in Madagascar, who knows, but it is happening.
Jo who has been with since February 2021 and has done a tremendous amount of work is joining me on the virtual chairs today. She’s an incredible researcher and team manager. Here are a few words from her that add to the above story, which she was involved in almost from the beginning.
“First and foremost, the working name of the project - 'Forespiracy' - was inspired by existing documentaries (like Seaspiracy, Cowspiracy) where one person with initial naivety on a particular topic, finds out there is more to the topic than meets the eye. We thought it could be the same with forests, as we’d set out on this adventure.
I thought that my skills would be best put towards research and this is how Ian and I got started. He needed someone to help him do research on the countries he wanted to visit when he was in Latin America. The idea was that while he was there, based on the research conducted, he could meet local orgs, visit nature reserves and take video footage to show current & potential weMORI users what is happening in forests in Latin America.
Since then, the nature of research has evolved into doing research to find out about deforestation in all countries in Latin America, and now branching out to Africa and Asia. We also do research into local orgs involved in conservation to hopefully form partnerships.”
AROUND THE WORLD 🌏
IMPERATIVE ROLE OF THE INDIGENOUS LANDS IN THE PARIS AGREEMENT
A recent report from the Forest Declaration Assessment says that the Paris Agreement won’t be possible without the Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLC).
About 90% of IPLC lands researched in Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, and Peru act as carbon sinks, and acknowledging the role of these communities and protecting their lands are crucial to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In the four Latin American countries researched, the results showed that IPLC land sequesters about twice as much as the land outside IPLC protection. This equates to about 30% of the four countries’ Paris Agreement targets for 2030. That’s a significant contribution to the overall goal.
So, we are left to wonder why we do not take heed and protect these lands?
We seek to clear land for business, housing, agriculture, etc. What happens when we do? Are other economic sectors prepared to take up the mantle and do their part to achieve the targets as set out in the agreement? The IPLC lands serve as a major course of carbon sequestration.
Without the IPLC lands, what are our options, and can we protect and deliver what’s needed?
DOES THE GOOD OUTWEIGH THE BAD?
Can the bad we do be cancelled or balanced by the good we do? In 2012 this multibillion-dollar mining company commenced operations in Madagascar. It not only employs about 9000 locals to work in its mine, but it also mines minerals for electric car batteries that are meant to reduce our carbon emissions. Moving towards electric cars is a win for the environment but does the end justify the means? A rainforest was destroyed to facilitate the construction of the mine, and for one, that meant the indri lemur no longer had a home. The mine has reportedly also been blamed for other environmental issues such as water and air pollution and health problems among the local people.
The mine has supposedly successfully been able to offset the destruction it caused to the environment since it opened in 2012. Here, offsetting is seen as the good cancelling the bad. When we pollute one area, we can pay to reduce equivalent emissions elsewhere. Offsetting, however, requires a lot of effort, and evaluations of their effectiveness are rare and not robust enough. Additionally, the burden of this offset also falls on locals. No net loss is basically shifting the restrictions to another area, and the locals who depend on this forest area can no longer do so, at least not in the way they are accustomed to. Are the economic and long-term effects worth the means employed? Is no net loss a viable alternative? The results are mixed.
What do you think?
There you have it, dear friends!
Have a day that matters.