Has big conservation gone astray?

Photo by Rhett Butler/Mongabay

ANALYSIS: The world’s biggest conservation groups have embraced a human-centric approach known as “new conservation.” But is it up to the task of saving life on Earth?

Read Part 1 of Conservation, Divided: Mongabay’s four-part series investigating how the field of conservation has changed over the last 30 years.

Source article: Has big conservation gone astray?
by Mongabay reporter Jeremy Hance | photo by Rhett A. Butler

One of the things you discover as an environmental journalist is just how quickly scientists and conservationists are happy to bash — off the record, of course — big conservation groups. These include four of the world’s largest wildlife and wild-lands-focused groups with a global footprint: WWF, Conservation International (CI), the Nature Conservancy (TNC), and at times, though to a much lesser extent, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Together these four groups employ over ten thousand people in nearly a hundred countries and have a collective annual income of around $2 billion. In many parts of the world, if not most, one of these four groups is likely to be seen as the public face of conservation efforts.

Over the years former employees have regularly dished the dirt to me about missed opportunities, misplaced values, and projects that seemed to fail as often as they succeeded, while current employees often sounded like public relations officials speaking in staccato. Outside conservationists often complained that the big NGOs took credit for their hard work and bungled local relationships. The same concerns would come up repeatedly: an obsession with the organization’s brand at the expense of success, a corporate-mimicked hierarchy, cushy relationships with some of the world’s biggest environmentally destructive corporations, radio silence on so many environmental issues, and an inability to respond to crises that are appearing with ever-more regularity.

Calm down Zika people, calm down

Clippings from a Reuters article titled “Why Brazil has a big appetite for risky pesticides” last year:

<<In 2012, Brazil passed the United States as the largest buyer of pesticides. This rapid growth has made Brazil an enticing market for pesticides banned or phased out in richer nations because of health or environmental risks.>>

<<At least four major pesticide makers – U.S.-based FMC Corp., Denmark’s Cheminova A/S, Helm AG of Germany and Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta AG – sell products here that are no longer allowed in their domestic markets. … Among the compounds widely sold in Brazil: paraquat, which was branded as “highly poisonous” by U.S. regulators.>>

<< Brazilian regulators warn that the government hasn’t been able to ensure the safe use of agrotóxicos, as herbicides, insecticides and fungicides are known in Portuguese. In 2013, a crop duster sprayed insecticide on a school in central Brazil. The incident, which put more than 30 schoolchildren and teachers in the hospital, is still being investigated. >>

<< Screenings by regulators show much of the food grown and sold in Brazil violates national regulations. Last year, Anvisa completed its latest analysis of pesticide residue in foods across Brazil. Of 1,665 samples collected, ranging from rice to apples to peppers, 29 percent showed residues that either exceeded allowed levels or contained unapproved pesticides. >>

<< Since 2007, when Brazil’s health ministry began keeping current records, the number of reported cases of human intoxication by pesticides has more than doubled, from 2,178 that year to 4,537 in 2013. The annual number of deaths linked to pesticide poisoning climbed from 132 to 206. Public health specialists say the actual figures are higher because tracking is incomplete. >>

<< “This is a giant laboratory for the worst of industrial-scale agriculture,” says Raquel Rigotto, a physician and sociologist at the Federal University of Ceará in Fortaleza, the state capital. Rigotto says her research team has found traces of many pesticides in water taps in the area, and a higher rate of cancer deaths there than in towns nearby with little farming. >>

<< In 2013, the last year figures are available, Brazilian buyers purchased $10 billion worth, or 20 percent of the global market. Since 2008, Brazilian demand has risen 11 percent annually – more than twice the global rate. >>

It could be Zika. Or… it could be any one or many of the more than a dozen highly toxic and controversial pesticides–most of which are banned around the world, but not in Brazil. It could be Zika, or it could be Paraquat, or it could be Furadan, or any number of other poisons contaminating the soil, the water, the food and the air.

— Marco Cáceres

This was clipped from Source article: Calm down Zika people, calm down

Give Hope to the Rainforest

Join us in giving hope to a rainforest that’s 93% gone. That statistic isn’t working for anyone, so we’re building new native tree nurseries. Then we’ll continue giving more organically grown, native species trees to smallholders in Brazil’s endangered Atlantic Rainforest.

My name is Alana Lea, creator of the iGiveTrees crowdfunding campaigns and the EarthWays Foundation’s Organic Rainforests project. Through trial and error, over the last seven years, we‘ve discovered a way to restore real hope. With your funding partership, I’ve been able to give trees to small Brazilian communities through their local NGOs (not the big international ones who’ve partnered with the agrochemical companies). In turn, they are replanting an endangered rainforest, to restore biodiversity, produce more oxygen, rebalance water systems,  and sink more carbon for the benefit of the whole planet.


These days, I’m confident that we’ve made a positive impact by directly supporting small local, organic, rural organizations, instead of the Big International NGOs (BINGOs) that accept funding from agrochemical companies, then teach people to use toxic chemicals to keep their donors happy. These BINGOs also fund environmental education, while requiring the use of herbicides when their projects replant the forest. Nature’s balance is once again being destroyed, by those methods. 

We want to replicate a wonderful chapter of Brazil’s history: the reforestation of the Floresta da Tijuca, in Rio de Janeiro.

The nurseries that we can help build are located in several different areas in the state of Rio de Janeiro, in vital watershed areas that have been deforested. The small organizations who want to have their own nurseries are in the ideal position to disseminate the trees to communities who want to revitilize their land and water, without being obligated by their funders to apply toxic chemicals to the new forests.

Since 2009 the iGiveTrees campaign has crowdfunded 5,000 trees that were given to the people of the Atlantic Rainforest just by sharing our story on a few blogs and videos. That was R&D – research and development – to discover what works. And even more important, what doesn’t work. Informed by experience, we’re now motivated to do hundreds of times more with new field partners who have proven commitment to the process, while needing help to achieve their planting goals.

The trees we’ve given back to the Atlantic Forest since 2010 have been planted in  the Vale do Paraiba, São Paulo state. Have a look at this historic photo to see the area, as it appeared in the 1882. We see slaves working in a coffee plantation. Descendants of some of these people are now subsistence farm families,  receiving trees to heal the spirit of both people and the land, while renewing their water sources.

Since so much of the Atlantic Forest was originally cut down to grow coffee, we’ve been searching for an organic coffee company to partner with us. In 2015 we discovered Kitanda, a growing Brazilian family run business in Seattle, who’s joining this  effort hoping that you’ll enjoy their masterful blend of fair trade, organic coffee beans from Brazil as a reward for helping us to restore our rainforest! 

You’ll also receive downloads of music, gift cards and gift certificates that you can give as your own green gifts!

Deborah Koff-Chapin Gift Cards

Gift Certificate Sample

Here’s how the project began…

When I learned that 93% of the Brazilian rainforest where I was born had disappeared in my lifetime, I was shocked into action. So I found people who knew more about the land than I did, and together we started a reforestation project.

Over several years, I teamed up with a network of sustainable seed harvesters, small NGOs and subsistence farm families who now live on barren land that was once a lush rainforest. They want to replant their land, without adding toxic chemicals to their groundwater, as they’re being taught to do by certain entities.

In some of the areas we’ve helped plant in the past years, residents are challenged by the eucalyptus plantations (for paper pulp) that work with agrochemical companies, and their green gloved NGO partners who approve of planting genetically engineered trees, sprayed with toxic herbicides.

Once abundant water sources were sucked dry by thirsty, fast-growing, eucalyptus trees, contributing to epic droughts, while pollinators die, and remaining water supplies are contaminated by glyphosate, now recognized as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

In contrast, when we give rural families a gift of organically grown, native species trees, they renew the life of the rainforest to benefit us all.

 Together, we are renewing the planet’s precious natural resources for our kids.

Since our beginning, the project has attracted a global community of supporters: Michael Bernard Beckwith (featured in “The Secret” and founder of Agape International Spiritual Center), Rickie Byars Beckwith (founder of the Agape International Choir), Carolyn MacDougall (Teecino founder), DC Cordova (CEO of Money and You), Deborah Koff-Chapin (founder of the Touch Drawing Center), Katherine Woodward Thomas (author of “Calling in The One” and “Conscious Uncoupling”), Marie Diamond (featured in “The Secret”), Martin Dunkerton (author of “Awakening Your Riches”), Ryan Eliason (creator of the Social Entrepreneur Empowerment series), George Kao (creator of the Enlightened Business Bootcamp), Steve Bhaerman (a.k.a. Swami Beyondananda, co-author of “Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future”), Vicki Robin (author of “Your Money or Your Life”), Natalie Ledwell (co-creator of Mind Movies), Sylvie Rokab (director of “Love Thy Nature”), Daniel Nahmod (Humanity Music Co.) and Nimo (Empty Hands Music) are among them.

NOW we invite YOU to join us…

Our reforestation project supports global cooling, the return of wildlife and Nature’s biodiversity. And our hundreds of species of tropical trees have a better chance of growing to maturity, faster, able to sink more carbon than trees planted in the backyards of the Northern Hemisphere OR Genetically Modified trees.

Your non-tax-deductible “crowdfunding” donations make the purchase and distribution of these trees possible, at no cost to the recipients, through social enterprise and non-profit partnerships. We work directly with small, local NGO partners in the community who are focused on teaching organic agroforestry in targeted areas of need.

Just imagine if everyone who reads this would contribute – we could replace hundreds of acres of rainforest without the use of toxic chemicals or the financial help of the companies who make them. Earth renewal powered by the people!

We can build nurseries in areas that could supply trees to people and projects who WANT to reforest their land, and just need support to start the process. 

Our new goal is to replant 1,500 acres of rainforest with 1,000,000 native species trees, from the nurseries we’ll be able to build as a result of this campaign. The people who receive the trees will plant and care for them, for the benefit of all.

As Swami Beyondananda says “The trees are rooting for us!


Rainforest trees replanted in Brazil benefit the entire planet.


Welcome to the iGiveTrees global community!

You drink Coffee. We plant Trees.

Mother and Child plant a tree in Cunha

If you’ve followed this blog through the years, you know I’ve lost hope more than once along the way, due to the many challenges faced by my field partners. While searching for even a glimmer of hope to keep this project alive in my heart and mind, I discovered two pieces of history:


1 – The first Europeans to arrive in Rio de Janeiro cut the forest for firewood and construction. Then lower areas were slashed and burned to clear land for sugar plantations. When coffee was brought to the area in 1760, further swathes were cut to create plantations. By then, deforestation had destroyed Rio’s watershed.

In 1861 one of the world’s first environmental restoration projects was initiated when the imperial government of Brazil decided that Tijuca should become a rainforest preserve. Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II assigned the enormous task of replanting the entire forest to a military commander. With the labor of 7 people (unknown slaves) they took saplings from other areas of the Atlantic Forest and planted native trees with a selection of exotics, in less than 13 years. In 1961 Tijuca was declared a National Park.

Mother and Child planting Tree

2 – The 5,000 trees we’ve given back to the land over the last years were planted in the Vale do Paraiba, São Paulo state, Brazil. The very area pictured in this photo from 1882, showing slaves working in coffee plantations of the denuded rainforest. Some of the people receiving the trees now, could be descendants of people who had worked in these fields. Both land and people are healing.

Slaves at a coffee yard in Vale do Paraiba, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Now, you can receive 2 bags of organic coffee beans as a gift of gratitude for supporting our goal of creating new rainforest tree nurseries in areas where people want more trees to restore their aquifers. And coming from you, through us, recipients will use only the labor of love, for their own health, water and land to care for the trees.

It’s taken years to find an organic Brazilian coffee company to partner with our reforestation project. Years. This month we’ve successfully made the first deliveries, via our new “I GiveTrees is Building a Rainforest Tree Nursery” campaign on Indiegogo!

If you’d like to receive 2 bags to help us keep planting trees in former coffee country, just click here to go directly to a payment page. We can only ship within the USA.

Finally, coffee that restores the rainforest. And hope.

Finding Hope During a Dark Night of the Earth’s Soul

Christo Redentor

Over the last six years of rainforest renewal projects in Brazil, I’ve had to dig deep to keep finding hope for our beautiful planet’s future.

Once a haven of biodiversity, 93% of Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest has been destroyed during the last centuries, resulting in heavily populated areas like the city of São Paulo, to suffer from an epic drought in 2015. Mining the history of Rio de Janeiro, the city where I was born, for a glimmer of hope, I found one: the story of the restoration of the Tijuca Forest. It surrounds the iconic statue of Cristo Redentor, atop the mountain of Corcovado that represents Brazil to the world.

The first Europeans to arrive in the area cut down trees for firewood and construction. The lower areas were slashed and burned to clear land for sugar plantations. When coffee was introduced to Rio de Janeiro in 1760 further swathes were cut down to install fazendas –– plantations. But the deforestation had destroyed Rio’s watershed.

In 1861 one of the world’s first environmental restoration projects was initiated when the imperial government of Brazil decided that Tijuca should become a rainforest preserve…

Read the full article on It’s All Well and Good Magazine.

I deeply appreciate your support for ongoing reporting and advocacy on behalf of the small organic tree growers and organizations in the Atlantic Rainforest…

2015 International Day of Trees News Snips

Image: Peter van der Sleen

The flying river is a movement of large quantities of water vapor transported in the atmosphere from the Amazon Basin to other parts of South America. The forest trees release water vapor into the atmosphere through transpiration and this moisture is deposited in other localities in the form of precipitation, forming a virtual river.


Taps Start to Run Dry in Brazil’s Largest City – São Paulo Water Crisis Linked to Growth, Pollution and Deforestation

Deforestation in the Amazon River basin, hundreds of miles away, may also be adding to São Paulo’s water crisis. Cutting the forest reduces its capacity to release humidity into the air, diminishing rainfall in southeast Brazil, according to a recent study… Click here to read more.


Massive new study shows that pressures on the Amazon rainforest mean it can no longer be relied on to soak up more CO2 from the atmosphere than it puts out.

Two decades ago, the forest drew down a peak of two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year from the atmosphere. Now, according to a massive new study in Nature journal by more than 90 scientists, the rate of withdrawal has fallen to around half that total. Click here to read more.


I was searching for even a morsel of good news to report while composing this post, and received this message of genuine hope from John Liu, in response to my Facebook comment about the despair many of us feel these days. He wrote:

“I think that we need to realize our own limitations. As individuals we cannot solve the problems humanity faces. We need to do this together with large numbers of like minded people. This will have to be done by creating a new society and economy and way of life. COMMUNITIES dedicated to creating the models necessary. It is not an accident that this discussion is emerging now. We need to have a profound and ongoing conversation, to create an inclusive way that everyone can live in peace and achieve their full potential for themselves, for human society and for the Earth. I’m still overall encouraged by the recognition of the need. But we must go much further and LIVE THE CHANGE. This means shared ownership of land, tools, vehicles, and transparent participatory governance. But it also means full employment – WORK not JOBS – and it means equality of ownership. It will not be easy but there is great satisfaction and great rewards in joy, resilience, health and consciousness.”

“I think we need to realize that the problem is bigger than simply ecological degradation and the need to restore natural water regulation, soil fertility and biodiversity. It is also bigger than simply growing good healthy food. These are fundamentally important but there is much more that needs to be done. We need to remake human society and economy. This requires creating new institutions because the ones we have serve a corrupt and corrupting world view. One thing that I notice is the number of people who want to do restoration but don’t know where to work. These people must find each other and join together in social and professional partnerships. I think Benefit Corporations may be a good transition model. A way needs to be found to bring financial capital together with “Life’s Energy” from people who devote their lives to restoring the Earth. We need to value the “Life’s energy” higher than the financial investment and make both of these ways toward ownership. Equality, ownership, homes, food, ecological restoration, education healthcare, freedom, peace are all needed and possible but require us to begin a profound societal conversation and work steadily toward creating the human civilization we can be proud of and want our children and future generations to inhabit.”

I deeply appreciate your support for ongoing reporting and advocacy on behalf of the small organic tree growers and organizations in the Atlantic Rainforest…

I Just Want A Rainforest to Give to My Children

I’m really happy to have the support of Tree Sisters for our new book and campaign with this guest blog post. Please do follow the link below to read it fully––I think it’s a good one!

And, I deeply appreciate your support for ongoing reporting and advocacy on behalf of the small organic tree growers and organizations in the Atlantic Rainforest…

I Just Want A Rainforest


Since 2010 the iGive Trees project has been crowdfunding the renewal of an endangered rainforest in Brazil. We’re thrilled to announce that 32 page, full color book is now available, documenting our story.

Screenshot 2014-11-29 19.58.00

Our first gift of trees was delivered to residents of the back country in Cunha, São Paulo, Brazil on Thanksgiving Day, 2010. So as we mark the four year anniversary of the occasion, I wanted to share my feelings of fulfillment from this project with this video preview of the book.

I deeply appreciate your support for ongoing reporting and advocacy on behalf of the small organic tree growers and organizations in the Atlantic Rainforest…

THANK YOU for playing your part in this amazing experience.

United Nations Climate Summit films: WHAT’S POSSIBLE & A WORLD OF SOLUTIONS

At times when the negative news can be so very overwhelming, this is the type of news I need to share. The news that “You can choose today, to make a world of difference.”

Thanks to Louie Schwartzberg for propagating beauty and hope with his art. See more on his site United Nations Climate Summit films: WHAT'S POSSIBLE & A WORLD OF SOLUTIONS.

Synthetic RainForests Kill Wildlife


“In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.”
~ 12 yr old Severn Suzuki at first Rio Earth Summit

I once thought that restoring a rainforest was pretty straightforward. Turns out I was mistaken. It’s completely two-faced.

One face is that of a simple country person collecting and planting seeds from the Mother trees of their region. The other face wears a protective chemical mask while planting genetically engineered forests.

The Two Faces of Reforestation in Brazil

If you read my post “A Silent Rainforest is a Dead Rainforest,” you know how painfully I discovered this for myself during the last few trips to Brazil. In the post I referenced the heart wrenching documentary “A Silent Forest,”. Now a sequel is being made to dive deeper into this shadowy story.

Raindancer Media, Global Justice Ecology Project, Three Americas and Earth Links came together in 2007 to produce “A Silent Forest” in which Canadian Scientist David Suzuki passionately and eloquently warned that GE trees could be developed and released if we were not vigilant. Now with GE trees in the ground and the pending release of many genetically engineered tree species, “Synthetic Forests” will be an invaluable tool in bringing the story of this dangerous group of technologies into the public eye. As with GMO labeling initiatives, when people see the facts they can act.


“Synthetic Forests” shows in detail how GE Eucalyptus and GE Poplars, combined with the search for higher profits, will accelerate the devastation of indigenous communities and native forests. Deforestation, loss of biodiversity, pesticide use as well as increased water use and contamination will follow the release of GE trees. Pollen from GE trees, whether in the Southern US or the Global South could contaminate non GMO trees and will be inescapable for many people as pollen can drift hundreds of miles. Inhaled pollen could take away our choice to live GMO free, perhaps forever.

PulpPaperProductsIt’s a powerful way to show the world who’s behind the protective chemical masks. It may not be who you think it is.

And, you might be supporting them every time you go to the supermarket for diapers, toilet paper and tissues.


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