Based in Penryn, Cornwall, Cool Earth has spent the last 12 years working with rainforest communities to stop deforestation and its impact on climate change – putting local people back in control of their forest. With our 1000 Mouths festival raising funds for the non-profit – as well as Cornwall Wildlife Trust – we caught up with Cool Earth director Matthew Owen to find out more about the organisation – and its vital work around the world.
Why do we need to be spotlighting our rainforests around the world right now?
Protecting the rainforest is one of the most effective actions we can take to tackle climate breakdown. Trees remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their trunks, roots and canopy, and tropical forests have the highest carbon density of all forest types – able to capture vast amounts of carbon.
Forests also provide many ecosystem services. Supporting 1.6 billion people worldwide, rainforests are home to 350 million people around the tropics. They are essential for shelter, health, food, cultures and traditions. And when they are lost, so are many ways of life. If we don’t take large scale action to protect the rainforest over the coming decade, critical thresholds that have kept our world habitable will be breached.
What impact is deforestation having on our planet?
Tropical rainforests are home to more species than any other terrestrial habitat, but without urgent action on deforestation, over one million species are predicted to become extinct before the turn of the next century. And despite only covering 3% of Earth’s surface, they are our life support system. With often more than 480 tree species in a single hectare of rainforest, these densely packed and varied areas are essential for the global irrigation system. They act as Earth’s ‘biopump’, forming clouds and distributing fresh water around the world. Our rainforests play a huge role in keeping the climate in balance – they are capable of providing 23% of the cost-effective climate mitigation we need before 2030.
How does Cool Earth work to stop deforestation?
Rainforest nations have far more in common than trees. Many have low literacy rates, malnutrition, high fertility rates, and gender inequality. If these aren’t addressed, the cycle of poverty and deforestation will only continue. So we work to share the best ways of addressing poverty and other social issues that ultimately contribute to forest loss. By empowering communities to address these challenges, we can reduce pressure on the forest and keep trees standing, whilst also helping resolve major health, social and economic issues.
How important is fundraising to Cool Earth and the work it does?
Fundraising is the best chance we have to save the world’s rainforests. From setting up an in-country team, to working directly with communities and local NGOs to develop their capacity, our partnerships are community-led, agile and adaptable to each location.
Through research and discussion, Cool Earth and the community establish the best ways to work together and identify the key threats and drivers of deforestation in each unique setting. Whether it’s climate, food or finance, resilient communities are key to the long term protection of their forest.
What does it mean to you that Nancarrow is supporting Cool Earth with 1000 Mouths?
We’re all in it together; it’s not ‘us’ and ‘them’ when it comes to the climate and ecological breakdown. By bringing people together in the name of sustainable living, global conservation and rainforest protection, Nancarrow is putting the event’s profits to the most positive use possible. And people supporting people they’ve never met to protect something they’ll never see? That’s extremely powerful.
For more on Cool Earth, visit coolearth.org.