Dear Prince Charles,
You don’t know me yet, but my (British) Mother always knew we would work together on something. This is it.
In Copenhagen you said,
If deforestation can be stopped in its tracks, then we will be able to buy ourselves some much-needed time to build the low carbon economies on which our futures depend. I have endeavored to create a global public, private and NGO partnership to discover an innovative means of halting tropical deforestation. Success would literally transform the situation for our children and grandchildren and for every species on the planet.
Your Rainforest Project’s work is focused on two very specific aims: to raise awareness of the damaging effects of deforestation for everyone and to identify appropriate incentives that will encourage rainforest nations to stop burning down vast areas of valuable forests.
I’d like to offer you a third aim: support the reforestation of degraded land, using organic methods, in one of the largest areas of rainforest that can be reclaimed on the planet – the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil.
Having learned from permaculture experts there that it is entirely possible to bring back the natural diversity of the forest without the use of chemicals, and that the vast majority of reforestation work going on there is using chemicals on otherwise clean land, we need help to get the word out. There’s another way. It works. Natural diversity can return and flourish within a 10 year cycle…
Right now, we are seeking corporate sponsorship from organic product companies who would like to back the establishment of organic rainforest nurseries, and field maintenance plans supporting rural communities as stewards.
It would be really great to know we have your blessing and support too. I hope someone who reads this, can pass it along to you.
Ian Scanlan just returned from a planning trip to the Rainforest Eco Lodge (honestly, they have a sign on the road with that name), visiting with local smallholders and planning for the pilot project nursery this Spring. He took some stunning photographs, that I just got my hands on – so will see how to make a gallery for all to enjoy soon.
Here’s what he has to say –
Our objective is to establish a rainforest nursery near Rio de Janeiro in order to create a supply of seedlings for the region, where apparently none exists.
We are also planning a reforestation pilot project of our own, with a focus on planting degraded land according to best design practices for engineered multi-strata tropical forest systems. The goal is not only to reforest the land, but also to provide economically viable alternatives for subsistence farmers.
We have confirmed a site for this already, near a large WWF reserve.
Target land is in a neighboring community where a Reserve has been established but needs to be planted. The owner is on board as a local partner and has already planted about 200,000 trees on his land (3-7 years ago). He has tremendous influence in the community and wants to work with us to secure additional land from local smallholders to plant (in addition to his remaining land).
There are significant barriers to entry for smallholders as well as large landowners like our local partner. One is high labour costs for planting and maintenance. Very innovative solutions have been successfully tested to address some of these barriers. We are planning to also implement micro-credit schemes to support business development for local women.
Please feel free to leave comments with suggestions for sponsorship of this pilot project. I’d better get busy offering shawls to our member/donors…
This story was recently posted on DC Cordova’s blog, for her new Entrepreneur Stimulus series. I want to give the credit due for writing, to Ian Scanlan, who wrote the story for a funding proposal we recently submitted to Village Capital. I loved the piece so much that I submittted it to DC, and put it in the first person. I so appreciate having a team to support this journey…
In December 2008, I returned to the land of my birth for the first time in 57 years. I carried with me the conviction that I was going to use my talents as a force for positive change in a land that I had only known from the stories my mother had told me as a child. As my airplane touched down in Sao Paulo, I didn’t know my end destination or the details of my purpose there.
Although I had spent nearly my entire life in the US, I retained my jeito, a Brazilian quality which connotes an ability to go with the flow and to get things done. My daughter, Leala Rose, was with me that day, and we both took a great leap of faith as we set off together on a journey of discovery in a foreign land. And Brazil responded…
Within a few days, I was pouring my enthusiasm into conversations with everyone I met. I had built a successful horticultural business in the United States and was a respected botanical artist. My passion for the plant kingdom poured into my work and my art. I had illustrated a small book on the healing plants of the Amazon rainforest and my watercolor renderings of orchids and pollinators were lauded as they went on display at the Smithsonian Institute. With a strong feeling that my work in Brazil was going to involve the rainforest, I made inquiries about traveling north, to the Amazon.
But I was surprised to learn that surrounding my birthplace in Rio de Janeiro was the most diverse and endangered rainforest in the world. It was the Atlantic Rainforest, known in Brazil as Mata Atlantica. And when I found out that from the time I had left Brazil until the day I returned, that millions of hectares of the forest had been decimated and converted into primarily cattle grazing land, leaving only 7% of the original forest intact, I paused for a moment.
My purpose at once became clear, and I embarked immediately to find a solution for this most precious region.
I realized that in order to implement truly sustainable solutions, I would need to engage local communities and find innovative ways to address fundamental economic challenges. Local leaders and change makers were invited to discuss possible solutions and a plan emerged.
In April of 2009 I filed the incorporation papers for Rainforest ECO, LLC – Life Affirming Enterprises. Having drawn together a magnificent team in both the US and Brazil to create and sustain the life of the rainforest, through commerce, I have a new-found zeal for life.
It has been a most amazing year, filled with blessings…
Remembering this time last year – I was at Antoni’s Rainforest ECO Lodge first learning about Mata Atlantica, spending a day taking buses back to Rio with my daughter in time to walk into the waters at Copacabana on New Year’s Eve, then put her on a plane to the states on New Year’s Day, and travel back to the rainforest as quickly as possible to escape the crowds….
A week later, going by bus from Casimiro de Abreu to Cunha to meet new friends (people and plants both) at Cunha EcoVilla and Serra Acima…Leaving from there back to the states after two months of R&D in Brazil, to launch our company….
Preparing now, one year later, to send our first fabric samples to Rio, and to initiate our pilot planting project by Spring of 2010.
I feel so very grateful for all of the people who showed up at the right place, right time, to bring this dream to life.
Today, after lengthy conversations with Marcelo of Serra Acima, Roberto of Salve Acerra, and Ian of Turiya Amazonia about how we might be able to coordinate and collaborate on our reforestation goals, I felt that I needed some divine feminine energy for a boost! Now these gentlemen are balanced, gorgeous beings – but they don’t inherently carry the “I can” of the Great Mother power!
Then I just “happened” to spot my friend Melinda Kramer, founder of the Women’s Earth Alliance, talking with Julia Butterfly Hill – the champion of a tree she named Luna, a thousand year old redwood whose life she saved. I have been deeply moved by the little I’ve known of this woman for years, and tonight I looked into her sparkling eyes, and told her of my dream, our project and connected in a way that is truly powerful to me.
Sometimes you just need a witness.
One of the things I observed was her silent eloquence. As we were to exchange contact information, I reached into an overstuffed purse holding: a paper catalogue of our fabrics, a folder with our business plan, another folder with the ECObank outline, some postcards promoting Rainforest ECO, a notebook to keep track of the things I think I ought to be keeping track of, and some business cards. I handed her a card.
She quietly handed the card back to me, and handed me a pen. Then she wrote her contact info in my notebook. No trees harmed by the transfer of information.
Learn more about Julia Butterfly Hill, in a wonderful article with an embedded video link, that just “happens” to also have an article about the Nature Conservancy’s project in Mata Atlantica. You can also learn about her new work What’s Your Tree.
We just completed our first video to introduce our Rainforest ECOBank project in Brazil, with Part 2 to be released soon – we’re awaiting confirmation from a particular NGO in Brazil that they would like to participate with us before releasing it. I’m optimistic…
The wobbly footage was shot with my Flip video camera in the field early in 2009. Know too, that while I’m citing some of the frightening reports about the Amazon, I’m an advocate of doing all that we can to preserve and replenish the Amazon rainforest. Ian Scanlan, has joined the ECObank team to focus on reforestation training and business in the Amazon region, while I will hold focus on the forest where I was born – Mata Atlantica.
Well, it’s been mighty quiet in blogland the last few months, since all hands have been on deck to both finalize designs and print samples for the opening eco textile line. Done.
There’s now no question in my mind, that this is inspired work – for which I take no more credit than for listening and following what seems to be the most obvious thing that needs doing in the moment. The Spirit of Life on Earth itself want this – Pachamama!
Have a look and see what you think, knowing improvements will be continual: www.rainforestECO.com. Nothing is for sale to the public yet, we’re now lining up distributors – from online networks, to trendy chain stores, to interior design showrooms.
There’s the beginning of a catalogue online now, no prices – just some photos taken at a friend’s home and at Agape after a Choir Sunday on July 26, (yes, that’s me wearing our pink fern fabric as a sarong – front row – pink Indian shirt – right in front of the Rev’s left hand) with the genuinely beautiful inwardly and outwardly, Rickie Byars Beckwith modeling some of my fabrics after three services, starting with sound check at 6am. This picture taken around 3pm. This woman truly lives to give!
As the Rev says, “The Gift will make it’s own way…”
The key is to just keep saying “Yes, use me some more.”