Watch the video of Matthew Owen’s talk at TEDxExeter 2015.
Scroll down the page for biographical information and news.
Video and Live blogging
The first session is on Open Communities.
Matthew is reminding us of the main policies which have reduced carbon emissions: solar, hydropower, reducing industrial gas emission, and number one is protecting rainforest.
Every rainforest talk has a tree frog image, which he has got out of the way early. Instead he has zoomed into a small village called Cuti Vireni in the Amazonian rainforest. It used to be 300km from chainsaws, then 5km, then it was offered $250 for 40 odd cedar trees. Not good value, but ready cash if they need to get food or carry a child to get medical care. In other words, poverty is the issue, and the barriers to loggers’ entry are low.
Piecemeal degradation is the biggest threat to rainforest now, and no longer clear cutting. We care more now where our beef, soya and palm oil comes from… and the US makes its own ethanol. But we still lose 260,000 acres every day, or the equivalent number of trees, and degradation is four times worse than clear-cutting.
Illegal loggers always find a way of circumventing regulations, e.g. by shipping illegal trunks back to their logging concession to pretend they are legal, and even shipping and replanting stumps. There is also a lot of hidden coca farming, the raw material for cocaine, often by the same people.
Logging is not a commodity trade. It’s negotiated tree by tree, on the ground, locally. This is what lies behind the Cool Earth model – offering an alternative to selling trees for short-term cash.
Cuti Vireni looked for advice, and were introduced to Cool Earth. Cool Earth cobbled together $8000 as payment to the village to keep the trees in the ground – half up front, half in a year. They asked the village to form an association, and tell neighbours about it a year. The villagers invested in mosquito nets, and importantly a cacao drier, offering an alternative cash crop. In a year, instead of a meeting with neighbours, the village had a sport tournament, involving 14 other teams. It was a great success, and nine other villages then joined the project. As a result, local canopy loss has been only 0.5% instead of 29% more widely. 150,000 acres are under the communities’ control, but 1.5m has been shielded from loggers.
The best bit is how little Cool Earth needs to do. The villagers make the decisions and do the work. So Cool Earth can work anywhere, and there are now over 1m acres shielding 10m acres, and it is continuing to grow. David Attenborough says they are not just saving the rainforest, but saving the world, and we are all benefitting.
[Please note that in these live blog posts I aim to report what the speakers present. I may well miss bits, but that is because I can’t keep up rather than anything nefarious. I try not to let my personal views shape the argument or intrude, except for the occasional light interjection in square brackets.]
Matthew set-up Cool Earth in 2007 to work with indigenous communities keep their rainforest standing. Cool Earth now works throughout the tropics and has put 500,000 acres of endangered forest our of reach of loggers. Matthew has run a childcare charity, managed a research group and spent 15 years in investment banking. He now lives in Falmouth with three daughters.
News about Matthew Owen
We’ve had a number of articles in Exeter Living and the Express and Echo this spring, about some of our speakers in the run up to TEDxExeter 2015 and reporting on the event. You can download the pdfs here:
- It’s All Talk, Exeter Living, Issue 174, Spring 2015, pp.42-44
- Gallery: TEDxExeter conference inspires people around the world, Express and Echo, 26 April 2015
- TEDxExeter speaker Jenny Sealey challenges perceptions of disability (at Stephens Scown dinner), Express and Echo, 23 April 2015
- Sold out TEDxExeter to stream live (featuring Matthew Owen), Express and Echo, 18 April 2015
- Beth to give her all at TEDxExeter talk, Express and Echo, 7 April 2015
- TEDxExeter to examine why 500,000 children go to school too hungry to learn, Express and Echo, 3 April 2015