How Supporting Indigenous Peoples Protects Our Rainforests: Matthew Owen from Cool Earth (#14)
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Hey fellow impactful ninja ?
You may have noticed that Impactful Ninja is all about providing helpful information to make a positive impact on the world and society. And that we love to link back to where we found all the information for each of our posts.
Most of these links are informational-based for you to check out their primary sources with one click.
But some of these links are so-called "affiliate links" to products that we recommend.
First and foremost, because we believe that they add value to you. For example, when we wrote a post about the environmental impact of long showers, we came across an EPA recommendation to use WaterSense showerheads. So we linked to where you can find them. Or, for many of our posts, we also link to our favorite books on that topic so that you can get a much more holistic overview than one single blog post could provide.
And when there is an affiliate program for these products, we sign up for it. For example, as Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
First, and most importantly, we still only recommend products that we believe add value for you.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission - but at no additional costs to you.
And when you buy something through a link that is not an affiliate link, we won’t receive any commission but we’ll still be happy to have helped you.
When we find products that we believe add value to you and the seller has an affiliate program, we sign up for it.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra costs to you).
And at this point in time, all money is reinvested in sharing the most helpful content with you. This includes all operating costs for running this site and the content creation itself.
You may have noticed by the way Impactful Ninja is operated that money is not the driving factor behind it. It is a passion project of mine and I love to share helpful information with you to make a positive impact on the world and society. However, it's a project in that I invest a lot of time and also quite some money.
Eventually, my dream is to one day turn this passion project into my full-time job and provide even more helpful information. But that's still a long time to go.
Did you know that one of the most effective ways to protect our rainforests is to give directly to the people living there? Well, then you’ll enjoy our conversation together with Matthew Owen from Cool Earth!
“Basic income is a is a fascinating area and […] doing this cost a fraction of what is being invested in rainforest protection using traditional conservation approaches. It’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what’s going into climate finance to address this issue. At the end of the day, you have 400 million people living in the rainforest. You have 1.2 billion who are depending on those rainforests for their livelihoods, it’s a very, very cost-effective way of just keeping those people safe.”Matthew Owen, Cool Earth
Three Key Points You’ll Learn From This Episode
How a call with a tribal leader helped shape the way they operate as a charity…
Why giving directly is such an effective way to help local communities…
How they are implementing their version of Universal Basic Income in the rainforest communities…
About Matthew Owen
Matthew Owen started his career in investment banking (equity research) but never considered it a fulfilling choice. The environmental movement has always been one of his top priorities, and when he dug deeper with more research and spoke to equally interested people in virtually every rainforest region, he knew he had to do something to protect our rainforests. He started Cool Earth as a means to take action and see whether the ideas he gathered in his research would work in real life (spoiler alert: they do).
About Cool Earth
Cool Earth is an international NGO that funds indigenous communities to protect endangered rainforests in order to combat the climate crisis and protect ecosystems. They believe supporting indigenous peoples and local communities is key and their projects prove that people living in rainforests do amazing things when backed with cash that supports them, benefits rainforests, and helps fight the climate crisis.
Links and Additional Information Discussed
Become an ambassador for Cool Earth and share their work with your friends, family, and followers
The Full Transcript
Dennis: Hello and welcome to the Impactful Ninja Show. I’m your host, Dennis Kamprad and today we are joined by Matthew Owen from Cool Earth. Matthew, welcome.
Matthew: Great to be here, Dennis.
Dennis: My pleasure. Now before we get started into telling your journey and your story, give us a brief overview. What is Cool Earth and what are you doing there?
Matthew: Okay. So Cool Earth is a very straightforward charity that does one thing, give humanity a fighting chance of overcoming the climate crisis. Tropical rainforests, which we all know, under threats account for 10, 15% of all emissions. What’s worse is that the more we cut down, the more likely that will And the amount of carbon they’re putting into the atmosphere makes it impossible even with every other measure in place to actually stabilize our climate. Now protecting rainfall should be very straightforward as we’ll get on to. There are lots of different ways of doing it. We found that the best possible way is supporting the people who live there. It’s unrivaled in terms of the impact it has in terms of just supporting indigenous and local communities.
Matthew: And what we do is provide a no frills way of supporting those people in real time. Simple as that.
Dennis: Beautiful. Now before we get a little deeper into this and have a look at your program small and small and small. Well, in detail as well. Let’s rewind your story a little bit. What did you do before joining Cool Earth, and what’s your background?
Matthew: As with all of us, I’ve done a few things. I’ve taught. I’ve worked for, another charity many, many years ago, but most of my career was in investment banking where I worked in something called equity research. So I used to Value companies, analyze if it was a goody or a baddy, and, make recommendations.
Dennis: Wow. That’s quite a shift from investment banking to well, I’m trading a charity now.
Matthew: It is and it isn’t. So I think in terms of analyzing what works and what doesn’t, building a case for investors All donors is actually is pretty similar, but, I agree. It’s a lot more fulfilling doing what I do now.
Dennis: Yes. No. I fully know that feeling. Because I started consulting. I already went into sustainability management only figuring out there weren’t that many projects. And I was I was not fulfilled there. I learned a lot and it helps a lot in the journey now, in the project, but it’s different.
Matthew: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Dennis: Nice. How did the transition then happen for you? So you worked in investment banking. You mentioned that you’re feeling much more fulfilled. Now what happened in between that that let you get into the world of charities?
Matthew: I came to the decision. I was coming up to my, forties. So, you know, who knows? Midlife crisis thinking, now I can probably change career. I can do something different. And, a few people I knew were aware of this. And one of them asked me to to do a little bit of, you know, side research from them, which is mainly rainforests. Great things. You know, motherhood and apple pie.
Matthew: They are probably 1 top 1, top 2 in terms of the priorities of the environmental movement. But For 50 years, we’ve been protecting them, and 20%, 30% have gone. Why have we failed so spectacularly to address This priority that pretty much everyone shares is a concern. And that was a bit of research I did. I I had 6 months to do it. I talked to some really interesting people. I talked to people In pretty much every rainforest region in the world. And, came up with a few suggestions.
Matthew: And, from there, we thought, well, let’s dip our toe in to see if these ideas work I’m creator Cool Earth.
Dennis: Oh, wow. And how was the transition for you at the very beginning? From doing some probably very structured work in investment banking To doing all the research, figuring out if there’s a problem you want to solve. You want to you As you mentioned, you’re feeling much more fulfilled now doing something that really has a positive impact. How did how did you get started in with the 1st steps of Cool Earth?
Matthew: It was I mean, it’s really tough. I’ve become institutionalized. Very happily so. Very, very well paid. And, you know, I I got up, I know 5 every morning and arrived in the office to talk to Asia and then talk to Europe. And then anyway, it was quite a steep change of habits. But once I actually, you know, figured out that I can just go down any rabbit hole, I don’t have to figure out what the answer is in, you know, 2 hours or 2 days. It came tremendously.
Matthew: You know? Good fun, and it continues to be good fun. I mean, the reason that I’ve been, you know, so proud to be with Cool Earth is because We’ve achieved such great things. We’ve worked with such great people. We have an extraordinary team. But, also, it’s just really good fun because I get to be curious about really Sawny issues on a day to day basis.
Dennis: That’s the most fulfilling part for me as well. And, also, as you mentioned, like, so many like, from being institutionalized to kind of figuring out everything on the way. One thing that I heard you recently which I think fits perfectly is like, you don’t have to figure out the whole alphabet of everything that you wanna do. The only thing that you really have to figure out is kind of A, B and C at the very end. What do you want to do now? What’s your next step? And what is your goal? And then let’s see what all the steps are in between.
Matthew: That’s so true. And I think the thing that makes, you know, careers fulfilling Is that, you know, you really don’t know how you get from b to c Mhmm. Because many, many things will open up. And within, you know, The work that I’ve done with Cool Earth and, you know, the work the team’s done, it’s all about, dreadful term, iteration. Yes. Because we we we start off with an idea, And we did a really good pure play version of that idea early on. And then, actually, we went down lots of, you know, not blind alleys, but we deviated and did what we thought charity should do. So he was actually making those mistakes and iterating back Mhmm.
Matthew: To a slightly clearer path. One has, you know, created far more impact for the organization. But also it’s been far more interesting because it’s actually, you know, the the, the mistakes you take are the ones that you learn from.
Dennis: Yes. Walk us through this journey. From the beginning, finding out a lot of different paths. To finding okay, what is the one that has the most impact? Maybe also highlighting some of the mistakes that you learned from on the way.
Matthew: That’s oh, gosh. This this could take all day. Okay. So we we we launched in June 5th 2007, which just happened to be environment day. It was it was lucky. And we launched with some just extraordinary backers He believed in our idea. An idea was very straightforward. You know, back people in the rainforest to do what they’ve done for decades of years and have an unrivaled, You know, reputation in terms of delivering rainforest protection.
Matthew: Let’s just back then. So we launched with a couple of fantastic articles written for us by David Attenborough, And we put together a fantastic board with the likes of, Tony Juniper and professor Johan Rockstrom, Some really, you know, top notch climate scientists. And we put a very straightforward offer in front of the public, which is if you give Cool Earth money, we will Minimize our overhead as much as we can and deliver that cash very quickly, very efficiently to rainforest communities. And that’s basically how we presented ourselves. The rainforest communities we started to work for were ones in Peru with the Ashaninka. And we had a really huge bit of good luck in the early days, which was, working with, sadly, now now departed from us, an anthropologist called Dillwyn Jenkin, who had worked with Yashlinka in Peru for 30 odd years. When we were putting together our business model, he had got a call from a, tribal leader in Central Peru to say, We have 8 out of 10 of our children with malnutrition. We have levels of malaria we’ve never seen, and we’re really struggling.
Matthew: The only thing we can sell is our trees, and we’ve got loggers Turning up every other week as they always do, chancing their alarm, seeing if anyone will sell off a seed or a mahogany. So we said, well, how about if we gave you $10,000. It arrives in cash for you. You decide how you distribute that amongst your community, and would that help? And he said, yeah. Well, let’s give it a go as soon as you would. And, basically, that was the first bit of basic income, universal cash transfer. How do you like to put it? The Cool Earth did. And we continue to work with our Ashnika village, and we continue to work with around a100 in that area.
Matthew: We continue to work with many in the north of Peru. We continue to work once In Papua New Guinea, who they added on later, and in, the Congo rainforest. And that simple idea that people who live in the rainforest, who find themselves vulnerable, who find themselves struggling with, you know, drives of deforestation, often the only people are prepared to give them cash. The way in which we help them do what they’ve done a fantastic job of for so many years is providing resources, and those resources are unconditional. Those resources have no strings attached because they know the best way to use them, and we continue to do that to this day.
Dennis: Isn’t that amazing to see that so many times, like, so many programs, it’s always like, we have the money. And because we have the money and all the resources, we think that we might know what is best For you because you’re not in a position where you have And for you, you flipped that completely on your head. And I’ve seen so many in different regions and different studies around this. How it empowers people really to do, okay, what would be most impactful on their specific situation, their knowledge, and their environment.
Matthew: Yeah. You’re you’re you’re spot on. You put it much better than I do. I mean, I can’t I can’t say to the scene. You know? What would you prefer at the end of each month? I can give you, you know, some cash from payroll, or I can, You know, teach you to fish. I can you know, it builds you a a sensor generator. And I think the environmental movement, but also charities in general, are very tied To teach a man to fish, is far better than, you know, giving him a fish. And, you know, maybe, you know, there are no fish.
Matthew: Maybe that’s not the right choice. Actually, giving him, more importantly, her, and moms are the main recipients of most of our cash transfers. Giving them cash means that they just have the power to make decisions to figure out how they, you know, make life better for themselves, their children, how they address vulnerabilities, how they melt themselves more resilient. All the things that we in Europe or North America would always ask for ourselves.
Dennis: So basically, instead of using your money to buy them fish, Giving money to them to decide what might be much better suited than fish and what helps them prepare to come up with a solution that is much more sustainable than something that might not even need
Matthew: in the moment. So I was just gonna say, going back to your earlier point, the mistakes we made. Often, we would get, suppose a bit cocky, and I think, you know, why don’t we do something a bit more extravagant and maybe develop a sanitation plan, or maybe we can develop Some, you know, training women’s entrepreneurial ship, access to college. All great things. All really important things that, you know, people are very grateful for. But there are ideas, And, therefore, they were kind of delivered in community, probably not in the best way. Probably, they weren’t the priorities people were looking for. And they never therefore had the traction, whereas providing the most unconditional resource there is.
Matthew: There’s 2 things. 1, it puts, You know, the ball in their court. But, also, it just shows trust. You know? We we trust them to do the right thing and, goodness, have the Community, we’ve been lucky enough to work with on that.
Dennis: Also, going back to your model. When it comes to marketing messages like, let’s just say I’m a potential donor. And there’s 2 websites I can have a look at. 1 website shows like a really nice flat set program on like all the initiatives they research and they’re gonna do. And the other program shows like, well, let’s just simplify it a little bit more. You give us money, we give money to the communities. Have there been any challenges for you to communicate that Actually, what seems to be so much simpler is the much more effective way.
Matthew: You’re absolutely right. And just as I said, there’s a tendency for charities To kind of have a standard look and a standard call for action. I think a lot of donors, a lot of people who are supporting charities also are happy in that mindset where they see, a child, you know, afflicted by a dreadful disease or suffering from dreadful, you know, malnutrition, the consequences of poverty in saying, you know, if you support this fantastic European, slightly paternalistic organization, they will step in and do the right thing. So actually presenting ourselves as saying, you know, we don’t have any silver bullet. We’re not, you know, the saviors here. All we’ve stumbled upon very luckily, And as everyone should do, it’s 300 studies. This show very clearly in black and white that the best thing you can possibly do, Based on poverty alleviation, but more importantly, from where we stand, for for conservation is just by giving people money. That’s the way you should go.
Matthew: So we have Always had and been very lucky to have a group of curious supporters who are willing to dig, who look into our Stories look into our our narratives and actually ask for a great deal more impact data than you might expect because they like the idea. They like the idea that there’s Clever way that you can have far more impact, far less money, but they wanna be persuaded. So early on, we had, people like the effect of altruists And and, mister McCaskill looking at us, and they gave us very high star ratings. Said, you know, this is the way forward. We’ll also even more likely to find So I’m seeing you, I I think, you know, approve of the simplicity, the cost effectiveness, and and the fairness of our approach. And They are pretty much our donor base now. It’s people who have, you know, dug under the surface, looked at this for more than just, you know, some feel good images of, You know? Yes. The Naras is a charity and decided to back us on the basis of, you know, the evidence of impact.
Dennis: Probably also helps that, you know, have a check record of stories that you can share with with We gave the money to this community. This is what they did with it.
Matthew: I I think you’re right. I think track record is really important. Also, just being able to go back to the people you you’ve worked with and say, you know, 1, how long have we worked with you? 15 years, they can demonstrate it. And what have been the good and what have been the bad things? Getting to be very honest to to a third party, to, someone who isn’t us. Because I actually think Having some transparency, having some honesty about how INGOs like ourselves have sometimes, you know, not done quite so well, but have always learned from that And improve things. It’s really important because people aren’t just worried about the impact of the final course. They’re wanting to make sure that, you’re actually doing it in a way that, Yeah. They would be proud of and you should be proud of.
Dennis: Nice. Before we go a little bit deeper into your program as well to see how that has developed, you you previously mentioned, like, the good and the bad things. What would be some some key highlights of the book, good and the bad things you learned in working together with these communities?
Matthew: The the bad thing, I suppose, is when we made a misstep and we decided to invest things which weren’t appropriate. And it meant that sometimes we we wasted 2 years focusing on an area of endeavor. I know. What what it could be? It could be sesame farming. It could be, you know, coffee storage, a whole bunch of things, which we regard as very important in terms of Improving livelihoods, which everyone bought into the natural facts. They would make much better decisions than us in terms of livelihood Investments. So so so I suppose to know about that. We we also had, obviously, COVID, which was dreadful, but actually had had a huge silver lining.
Matthew: Dreadful in terms of we work with communities who have, You know, really clear understandings of the consequences of disease coming from the outside, and they closed down dramatically And really meant that they were isolated in a way that they hadn’t been for, you know, decades. We can, you know, do, our work in the way we were. Our teams weren’t able to go in. The great bonus, though, is that we realized, actually, we could still give them cash. We can still wire money. We could still put it on phones. And this kind of supercharged move away from these, problems, which sometimes, you know, had Too much of our wall for shipping than they should have done. And it’s meant that we now have incredibly able teams who do the bare minimum, do extraordinary work, Work hard that you’ve ever seen, but actually don’t interfere if they don’t need to, which is something that is sometimes, you know, where you want to associate with charities, but it’s actually in terms of being able to scale efficiently.
Dennis: That’s beautiful. Reminds me to I talked with the CEO of So I am Powers. Just the other week. And he had a similar approach in terms of, well, they figured out a program that helped. It was so much more effective than all the other programs. And that was not them going much deeper. It was them kind of removing themselves a little more. I had 1 charity worker for like 1,000 people they were supporting.
Dennis: And just letting them do what they know the best. It reminds me that you have a program that you found that’s much more effective. And it also Kind of allows you to remove yourself and let the the people impacted do the work.
Matthew: It’s exactly that. It also, though, is a really important issue in terms of making yourself was an organization to everyone. And this seems an odd thing, but actually explaining what Cool Earth is and what our priorities are and why we’re here today is something that is not always straightforward to anyone, whether it be yourself, you know, my family, or the people we work with. Whereas if you say, we’re giving you cash because whatever you’ve done, whatever secret sauce you bring to the party is something that we want to put money into and support. And we’re not gonna tell you what to do. We’re not gonna tell you what not to do, but just do what you’re doing. And that is actually a far easier thing to do than Arriving with some great, you know, bureaucracy that will do x, y, and zed over the next 5 years. And at 3 years, we’ll do this because Many indigenous groups and local communities throughout the rainforest have experienced that from other charities, and they know that they disappear after 3 years.
Matthew: They disappear after 1 year sometimes. Whereas we we have, you know, really good decade plus track records of just being there. And that’s the most important thing in terms of, as I alluded to earlier, building trust, But also building longevity Mhmm. Because they realize that, you know, this is something they could bet on for the long term.
Dennis: I think that’s a beautiful transition also to have a closer look into your programs. So what are the current programs that you’re doing? And maybe are there any new programs that you’ve you’ve started implementing?
Matthew: Yeah. Always. Always. Always Trying to improve and finesse things. So we do one big area of work, and this is primarily in Peru and Papua New Guinea, Where we give large grants to our community associations. And these are tremendously transparent, auditable Alex, committees that change each year, and they have grants that they use however they wish to. And this locally alleged approach is a very effective way of Developing community assets, which is chosen by the communities, are prioritized in a very clear sort of, queue over a number of years, and She has benefits for everyone. In many cases, though, the money is used not for building a or some more fishponds.
Matthew: It’s used just for providing Cash to every mother in the community ahead of the new school year, providing bag of rice to every family when a drought or floods More often have meant to harvest fell. And this is a really effective straightforward win. We’ve done that for now getting on for, you know, as I say, 15, 16 years. It works well. We’re happy to serve pretty much wherever. And more importantly, the partners we have in the rainforest are tremendously valued tremendously highly. So we do that. Another thing we do, and this is slightly different, but it’s really important, is that we noticed that if you or I wanted to look at rainforest loss Let’s say, this is a tipo area approved.
Matthew: We could get our laptop, follow a couple of links, and we could see high resolution data on the canopy. And not just the canopy. The height of the canopy, the carbon storage of the canopy, all these things in about 2 to 3 minutes. Genuinely, it’s So easy, and it’s so easy available. The fact that the people who live there don’t have the same ability to actually see what’s going on in their region seems absurd. So Using something we call Rainforest Labs, we’ve put a lot of investment into just making sure that the people in the rainforest who have done the best job of keeping it Safe are able to actually see what’s going on in real time at high resolution in a way that we we take for granted. Now this is really important because it helps with planning. It helps with Defending tenure, it helps with understanding where the threats are, but also just means that when it comes to actually understanding the value of the rainforest, these people on a level pegging with everyone else.
Matthew: So that’s a really interesting project, and it’s it’s led by a fantastic team who have come up with some extraordinarily clever technical solutions to having very good Satellite broadband arriving in many, many rainforest villages. So we’re doing that. And then the thing that’s coming down the track that we’re really excited about It’s taking the locally led unconditional grants to communities, often where that money then goes to families, and then taking it one step further and us transferring it directly to families. We sometimes call this basic income. We sometimes call it unconditional cash transfers, but it simply means that money arrives Every month or every quarter in the hands of every adult in the community. It’s not a huge amount of money. It’s, you know, maybe $2 a day, But it’s enough to ensure the vulnerabilities that these people face, the, resilience they need to build, and The decisions they need to have the power over stay in that community. It’s very simple.
Matthew: It’s very cheap. And we’ve put together a couple of pilots now in Peru, which we couldn’t be more delighted by. More importantly, the people we’re working with can be more delighted by. And we think, actually, this is possibly the Secret formula that we then need to scale. Another way of putting it, I suppose, is that we’ve done lots and lots of ways to figure out how supporting indigenous and local communities keeps the rainforest safe. This, we think, is the bit that now needs to be grabbed by much, much deeper pockets than ourselves by the UN, by national capitals, by National budgets and scaled up because if we’re serious about addressing the climate crisis and we’re serious about halting deforestation, This is the way to do it.
Dennis: Isn’t that super interesting to figure out? Like, universal basic income is a concept that has been become much more popular in recent years, also, like, In the Western societies, even though we have in comparison, we have a lot. And we are not in a position where we can protect the environment and make such a big difference Now you, as an NGO, can just go in and really make a difference in communities and indigenous communities who live in the rainforest Who do not have as much as we have, yet they can make much bigger impact to see, like, well, how that plays out.
Matthew: Absolutely. And, you know, basic income is a is a fascinating area that we can, you know, down a wheel rabbit hole on. And some will say, you know, but, you know, won’t they spend it on vice? Is this fair? Should we really be I mean, doing this cost a fraction of what is being invested in rainforest protection using traditional conservation approaches. It’s a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what’s going into climate finance to address this issue. At the end of the day, you have 400,000,000 people living in the rainforest. You have 1,200,000,000 who is Depending on those rainforests for their livelihoods, it’s a very, very cost effective way of just keeping those people Safe. Mhmm. And, you know, living lives which they have chosen for themselves over the long term because without it, you know, the rainforest being destroyed is gonna Cool.
Matthew: Some extraordinary problems for so many, many people. So, yeah, it’s a really interesting area. Basic income, we feel that whilst Some people, you know, feel they need to become happy than they’re quenched for it. In terms of bang for buck and in terms of equity and fairness, it cannot be beaten.
Dennis: Yep. You also highlighted the the long term quite a few times on of this. Give us a little bit of an outlook. What are your future plans with Cool Earth? Have anything on the horizon there already? And what do you you wanna tackle in the future or how how you wanna go along there?
Matthew: We do. So, I mean, we’re very aware that we improve what we do every year. We sometimes Do 1 step back and 2 steps forward, but we’re we’re still learning a lot. In terms of our approach of giving unconditional resources to local communities, We think we’ve now built a really good mousetrap. We’ve got 16 years under our belts. We can point to really great impact figures. We can also point to a very wide, library of scholarship that’s looked at how you protect rainforest effectively using this method. So I suppose the key thing on the horizon is scaling And demonstrating that we have built a prototype that you can use in any rainforest region, in any rainforest nation, anywhere in the world To protect rainforest from the grassroots up, we’re very conscious that there are lots of ways of protecting rainforest.
Matthew: You can do it from the national level, from the international level. But Whenever you do that through funding coming from Norway or Sweden or the US or Brazil, enacting new laws, The only thing that will ensure it sustains is getting buy in from people on the ground. And what we have developed, as I say, is a prototype to do that very simply, very fairly, Very straightforwardly.
Dennis: Nice. Perfect transition again. If our listeners if you wanna if you wanna support you, if you wanna support the people on the ground, what would be the way would be the best way for us?
Matthew: Well, I mean, we’re we’re we’re a very straightforward charity. You can donate to us, obviously, on our website, coolearth.org, and we will keep you up to date with exactly, what we do with your cash, we also develop something really exciting. Let’s call them products for one of a better word. You’ll be able to donate to us on a Wednesday, and that cash will arrive in the hands of rainforest communities by the Friday. We’re looking at ways very much boosted by some very generous supporters where 99¢ in every dollar actually arrives where you want it to because we feel this is an approach that is So clear and so fair that we do need to make it as successful as possible to as many people. On top of that, we need ambassadors. I’ll be honest with you. I mean, you’ve been a terrific Many people who who subscribe to you and support you have gone on to tell their friends.
Matthew: And, again, we need more and more of those because, Ultimately, we’re a small charity with a big idea that has huge impacts. We just need to make people comfortable to amplify that.
Dennis: Now we will also put, like, all the information into the show notes. I just like just want to reiterate the concept that I like so much about giving directly. It’s not just that we’re able to give directly to the people who then can use the money the most effectively. But it’s much more direct in terms of Well, I can give it, Let’s say today and 2 days later, the the money already arrives, which can’t be much more immediate as
Matthew: well. Absolutely. I mean, we take the amount of funding we get very seriously. I mean, the the We we know a lot of people are supporting us who, one, have numerous other options in terms of charities. But also, you know, this is hard earned cash. We wanna guarantee that cash works very hard to address the climate crisis, and we firmly believe the model the team and our partner communities have put together is best in class.
Dennis: Before we go into the final part and have a look at your learnings as well along the journey and what you wanna share with us, is there anything we forgot about Talking so far that you that you wanna mention of us. So
Matthew: That’s very kind. I I suppose it’s worth flat flagging that the numbers that we talk about in terms of rainforest Protection that’s sometimes worth repeating because they’re so stark. If we lose the rainforest, that’s 800,000,000,000 tons of c o two equivalent That could go into the atmosphere. I mean, it won’t happen overnight, but, I mean, that’s 200 years of peak oil and gas. And, therefore, in terms of the priority we give to this, I think the 10, 15% of emissions doesn’t do it justice.
Matthew: This really is. In the words of, you know, professor Johan Rockstrom, one of our trustees and a really enthusiastic ambassador for Cool Earth, Is the if we’re gonna stay within a safe living space and not cross those boundaries when things really do start to wobble, keeping the rainforest safe is A top three priority.
Dennis: Now let’s take a little little shift as well and have a look at at your personal reflections as well. Since working with Cool Earth, How has that impacted your personal life as well?
Matthew: I used to do a lot of travel when I was in banking. I then did huge amounts of travel with Cool Earth, and I’ve realized now I don’t need to travel. Very smart people on the ground. Very smart people who will do, you know, what I thought, I needed to do in the past, which is great news. So so, maybe not my family. We have a great deal more. But that’s kind of connects to another big insight, if you can call it that, that I have. Namely, I’m director, CEO, whatever the charity was a huge Privilege.
Matthew: The big thing I need to realize is that the fewer decisions I take, the better. The fewer times I intervene and say, no. Let’s Go from that and do this, the better. Because I believe very firmly and this is my my team will roll their eyes and be saying this. I believe very firmly in this term of subsidiarity, which is Funny old word. It basically means take every decision as close as possible to the consequence of that decision as you can. So just as we give cash because Cash, this magical commodity that enables people to take decisions in the here and now, our team should be doing exactly the same. So our field workers, our program managers should be the ones who actually decide how we navigate the difficulties that Cool Earth will always come up against.
Matthew: It really our fundraisers are very much focused on actually just having conversations with the people who give us. And I’m very true with my email. I’m always Key to have a conversation as are they because it’s actually, you know, giving them the ability to influence and persuade and explain At the precise interpersonal level, that’s key. Equally, with our team, we used to have 50, 60% in Europe. We now have less than 20% here. And we have our fundraising teams growing fastest in Papua New Guinea and Peru. We have our new programs growing fastest in Congo, Papua New Guinea, and Peru as well. And I think that’s the thing I’ve learned. The less I do, in many cases, the better.
Dennis: So, basically, not just giving money directly, but then also empowering people and giving Them well, the ability to do take the decisions that they know best for for the environment, for for their work.
Matthew: Yeah. I mean, one of our our trustees, the wonderful Frank Fields, has an extraordinary career as a social activist and a a politician. He always said, if you wanna make change work with a grain of human nature Because it will happen. Actually, getting there and being at 90 degrees to people, getting there and sort of Suggesting a headlock is needed to persuade. That’s never gonna work. That’s never gonna sustain. But a family that lives in the rainforest will have exactly the same anxieties And ambitions for their children as you and I do. Yeah.
Matthew: And actually supporting that supporting that grain of human nature is the best way Of cutting through and achieving, you know, what our ambition is mainly to halt tropical deforestation.
Dennis: Nice. Now let’s already Go over to the to the final question. If you had to share 1 tip of our audience with us how to how we could become more impactful, what would your number one tip be?
Matthew: Dig deep and be curious. Any charity where you can’t actually, at some point, talk to someone on the ground, talk to someone In management, talk to someone in fundraising over the phone to really understand what’s going on probably don’t deserve your cash. I am a huge believer That’s we have a great story to tell. We have great data to share, but we need to be interrogated. So that’s that’s my top tip. Dig deep.
Dennis: Beautiful. Well, thanks. Thanks so much for being here with us, Matthew.
Matthew: Thank you, Dennis.
Dennis: And thanks so much for the work you’re doing with Cool Earth as well.
Matthew: It’s a real pleasure to talk to you. Thanks so much for having me on.
Dennis: Oh, my pleasure. And to everyone else, thanks so much for joining us as well. And stay impactful.