The violence we do to the natural world is preceded by the violence we do to each other, and the means of change must prefigure the ends.
Such ideas have informed Kelvin Davies for over thirty years in his concerted effort to protect and restore the natural world.
‘Because social and ecological justice are connected, they must be resolved simultaneously’, says Kelvin.
‘We won’t solve problems like climate change and the loss of biodiversity if we fail to address the root cause of the problem, which can be found in human violence.’
The belief that it is wrong for humans to cause other species to become extinct has seen him focus on protecting and restoring rainforests in Australia and around the world.
As a supporter of nonviolent direct action, Kelvin started with Melbourne Rainforest Action Group (RAG) in 1990, where he joined the campaign to stop rainforest timber imports into Melbourne.
Their nonviolent campaign to halt the importation of rainforest timbers from South East Asia involved deploying water-based blockades to timber ships, dock occupations, and widespread community boycotts and union bans.
Melbourne Rainforest Action Group was one of many such groups around Australia inspired by – and acting in – solidarity with the Penan and other Dayak peoples in Sarawak, Malaysia, who were blockading against the logging of their ancestral homelands.
The work of the group achieved an 80 per cent reduction of tropical sawn timber imported into Melbourne from Malaysia between 1988 and 1992.
This experience exposed him to philosophical nonviolence and the strategy and tactics of M.K. Gandhi, which has informed his worldview and life’s work.
While these tactics are not commonly adopted, Kelvin believes people need to find their own way to contribute to causes that they care about.
‘I know others feel the same way as me, yet find it difficult to know what action they can take’ he says.
He believes governments have largely failed their constituents and that there are other ways to create change that involve taking personal responsibility.
For over twenty years, he has been a founder and CEO of various rainforest conservation organisations that provide opportunities to enable people to realise the kinds of change that he is targeting.
In 1990, he visited the Daintree Rainforest for the first time, and was shocked to see two-thirds of the lowland rainforest had been carved up for a rural residential subdivision.
‘I knew Australians recognised the Daintree as an iconic place, and that it was protected, yet there were real estate For Sale signs everywhere!’ says Kelvin.
Later he created a project to buy back freehold land to prevent it from being developed.
‘I began asking people if they’d like to see Daintree Rainforest land purchased for conservation and if they’d help with a donation. I’ve continued asking that question for over 20 years, and now 48 properties have been purchased for conservation’, Kelvin continued.
Rainforest 4 Foundation have purchased five properties for conservation in the last ten months.
‘I’m working with the Kuku Yalanji people and together we are placing the purchased properties into the Daintree National Park. Through the land tenure agreement that is being negotiated with the Queensland government the Kuku Yalanji will become the managers of these properties that are their traditional lands’.
Kelvin is currently raising funds to buy a 49th Daintree property, which is scheduled for settlement in May, and he says number fifty is coming soon.
No govt funding
‘There has been no government funding. All of these properties have been purchased through the donations of thousands of individuals who believed in and supported conservation of the Daintree Rainforest’ says Kelvin.
‘Rainforest 4 Foundation are also working in Indonesia to support local people in caring for their rainforests. The project involves removing one hundred hectares of illegally established oil palms from the Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra’.
A book to be released later in 2020 will tell the story of Kelvin’s rainforest conservation journey from the years of direct action to save forests, to his adventures in the rainforests of Asia and the Amazon, where he contracted flesh eating parasites, to the challenges of building organisations and a movement for social and ecological justice.
The Rainforest 4 Foundation is based in Mullumbimby. For more info, visit www.rainforest4.org.