Man is the most damaging creature that has ever lived

March 3, 2015

Why is eco philanthropy perceived as an indulgence? Is it a folly? Is it just a rich man's indulgence? See for yourself.

Eco Warriors That Let Us In

The world’s richest men are a private bunch, who pride their homes like castles, keeping intruders and nosey-parkers at bay. Eco philanthropists however appear to get the bigger picture and have one thing in common: they like to share. These three eco warriors are passionate about their work. So passionate that we’re all invited to take refuge in their homes. Not just their homes but the places they love most in the world – and let’s face it, they could choose to live anywhere. They want us to experience, first hand, the beauty they’re working to save. It’s a labour of love.

Breathing, eating and drinking are our primary needs but 97 per cent of all philanthropic giving goes to human related causes (religion, health, disaster, pets, art etc.)

PAUL LISTER is the man who wants to save Europe’s last great mass of ancient trees: Romania’s Caparthian Forest. He’s also the man that wants to bring wolves and bears back to Scotland. After all, wolves migrate through every mainland country in Europe except Britain, so why not Britain in a South African styled fenced reserve in a remote location in the Scottish highlands. Have you ever heard a wolf?’ he asks, ‘If Holland and Denmark can let large carnivores roam, then so should we.’

‘Britain is a sanitised garden, far from natural and no longer the custodian of primary forest – alive with woodpeckers, bears, lynx and ravens – like Romania, the epicentre of Europe’s wild nature. Without doubt, deforestation is the biggest sinner. And yet it’s cheap to save. Just 3,000 euros buys a whole hectare of rainforest.’

His advice is simple. Before you buy your next piece of furniture ask a few questions; its source for one. Asking questions is just part of the process that slows down deforestation. We are all familiar with fair trade but how about forest trade – trees have no voice but give us the air we breathe.

We pity those city kids who don't know where milk comes from, but hey let me ask you, where did your jacket from? And while we’re talking about clothes, how many shirts do you own? We are all guilty of excess in the western world: after all, we can only wear one shirt at a time. This is not a rant to make you feel guilty but rather a plea for a shift in focus to what’s really important on our planet instead of consumerism.

Over the years Paul came to realise that the Highland’s ecosystem is broken; natural forests have long gone, the soil is depleted and large predators are extinct. Since his custodianship began ten years ago, the Alladale Wilderness Reserve’s native flora and fauna is returning and his ethos is simply to leave the land in a better condition than he received it. His has overseen the restoration of the peatlands; hosted thousands of student visitors; reduced deer levels to a healthy sustainable level; and reintroduced the endangered red squirrel. No wonder Bear Grylls’ choses it as the venue for his Survival Academy.

The American environmentalist and conservationist DOUG TOMPKINS, of North Face fame and fortune, spent until the 1990s ‘selling people stuff they didn’t need’ and is now trying to save the planet. He has conserved more than two million acres of wilderness in Argentina and Chile – that’s more than any other individual, with a singular aim to save biodiversity. He’s absolutely passionate about protecting wild landscapes as the best model for guaranteeing long-term conservation.

For a chance to participate in Doug’s ambitious conservation project visit Hostería Rincón del Socorro near Corrientes, in the frontier wetlands of north-east Argentina. It’s wild, undeveloped and strikingly beautiful. The seemingly limitless laguna is a watery paradise of reflected sky, floating islands and birdlife. Herons rise overhead along with the screech of chajá birds, while under horse foot capybaras cavort with their young in front of basking caiman.

The neighbouring Pantanal region is a vast (and I mean vast – it’s the size of France), land-trapped waterlogged basin, directly below the Amazon, covering 210,000 square kilometres of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. Its flat, low-lying plains are flooded annually by the hundreds of rivers and ponds that stem from the giant Paraguay river, which crosses the biome from north to south, connecting the Pantanal to the Paraná river basin.

Reminiscent of Africa’s Okavango, it is equally dramatic and photogenic. At times it’s wild and rugged, at others the marshlands look like golf courses with natural bunkers and hidden roughs, groomed to perfection by the white Indian cattle that roam.

The story of Caiman Ecological Refuge like so many eco successes, is the result of one man’s passion for his country and vision for the planet. DR ROBERTO KLABIN, owns an area of some 53,000 hectares bringing together three complementary activities: the Estancia Caiman, an extensive cattle farm with over 50,000 Brahman cattle; Caiman Lodge, a pioneering eco tourism operation with three separate lodges; and a nature conservation programme, which hosts scientific projects such as the hyacinth macaw project (whose population has grown from 1,500 to 5,000), and the jaguar conservation project (which monitors 42 resident cats using tagging and hidden cameras), while maintaining a private reserve encompassing 5,600 hectares.

Caiman lives up to its namesake. It has been estimated that over 30 million caiman live in the Pantanal. Up to six metres in length they roam the grasslands and waters, feeding on fish and small mammals. They look dangerous but, fortunately, prefer to keep out of humans’ way and only attack if provoked.

To visit the Pantanal is to take a different type of safari – for the ‘Big Five’ you’ll have to go to Africa but for jaguars, giant anteaters, tapirs, capybaras and magnificent birdlife it doesn’t get better than the Pantanal.

The Next Step

When one tugs at a single living thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world (John Muir). The best thing we can all do is to go and see it for ourselves and the next time we put our hand in our pocket share a bob or to for our planet.

Article taken from our inhouse magazine Limewire. Read the full issue