Stumped about what to get your kids for Christmas?
How about a hectare of rainforest in Borneo for just $250? Or maybe you’d prefer something more local, like a pledge to Madhima Gulgan Rainforest and Bush Trail project?
Rainforest conservation activist Kelvin Davies has just launched Rainforest Connections, a process that brings together organisations and community to achieve shared outcomes in rainforest conservation.
Rainforest conservation has long been Davies’s passion, with his key belief being that one person can make a difference.
‘I came from a family where my father was heavily involved in social justice issues and that demonstrated to me the opportunity to be active in and make a difference in the world,’ says Kelvin. ‘In the late 80s I became more politically and socially aware and at that time some of the big issues were the hole in the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect. We now know it as climate change.
‘The other big issue was the burning of the Amazon – that’s how those issues came into my consciousness.
‘In 1990 I joined the Melbourne Rainforest Action group. I was inspired by the members’ commitment to holistic social change through the philosophy of non-violence – and the principles of deep ecology – that all species have an inherent right to exist.’
Part of Kelvin Davies’s early blooding as an activist involved strategic campaigns to halt the import of rainforest timbers from South East Asia with water-based blockades of timber ships and widespread community education campaigns.
‘Through that I met thousands of people and asked the same question: do you want to see the world’s rainforest conserved?
‘Overwhelmingly that answer was “Yes”. That is what led me to focus on the process of organising and providing opportunities for people to contribute and make a difference.
‘My view is that all species have an inherent right to exist – and that any of our actions that cause non-human species to become extinct are wrong.
Science has identified about 1.7 million species; scientists have undertaken studies in tropical forests and have made an estimate of new species on Earth –there could be more than 10 million species; we just don’t know, but by destroying the rainforest we are causing species to become extinct before we even know what they are.’
When it comes to conservation, Kelvin believes there is a need for a radical shift in our philosophical approach.
‘Because they are insects or plants, we as humans are not valuing them and we are allowing them to disappear.
‘Fifty years ago, rainforest covered 14 per cent of the world’s land surface, and now less than seven per cent remains. Five million hectares are destroyed annually and if this trend continues, all tropical rainforest will be gone by the middle of the 21st century – we have to save something before it’s all gone.’
In 1998, Davies initiated Rainforest Rescue, became CEO and founding director, and was responsible for growing the organisation from a seed to a flourishing not-for-profit enterprise which continues to this day with a focus on protecting the Daintree Rainforest.
‘On completing the work with Rainforest Rescue, I considered the many other established rainforest organisations in Australia and around the world and how they could become more successful.
‘I could see that greater overall success would come with more co-operation and collaboration, so rather than building a new organisation, I have set out to help all the existing organisations achieve their dreams.’
Davies is excited about using new technologies to enhance the work of existing conservation groups and connect them with interested communities.
‘You don’t have to stand on the street with a bucket any more, nor do you have to cold-call people.
‘There is an explosion in crowdfunding platforms. It’s a recent phenomenon and as a fundraising tool it provides opportunities for people to network their projects among their crowd or community.’
Rainforest Connections is currently supporting and engaging with nine conservation projects around the world.
‘One in the Amazon,’ says Davies, ‘three in Indonesia, one in New Zealand, and the rest in Australia. They involve buying land to protect it forever and also ensuring there is scientific research to support conservation outcomes.’
To find out more about Rainforest Connections, to nominate a project, or to find out about the organisations and make a contribution, go to rainforestconnections.org.