Cool Earth – revisited.


Image: Mongabay.com

Nine months ago The Coffee House reported on the Coolearth initiative to ‘save the Amazon’. Johan Eliasch, Cool Earth founder decided that debate between governments about climate change was getting us nowhere. He decided to act by dipping into his millions earned from his business interests and buying up a significant chunk of Amazonian rainforest from an American timber company.

This has been set aside for protection from development. There has however been some criticism that Mr Eliasch caused local unemployment by closing the timber mill. There were also noises from Coolearth about public involvement via the internet but it all went very quiet.

Now they’re back and Sky TV were reporting yesterday on the coolearth project from the land purchased by coolearth in the Amazon, with a representative there to show case their project.
Coolearth were keen to show that they’re supporting the local people with various initiatives. Land already cleared in the past is to be replanted but some is to be used for a local village’s expansion, housing and the like. It seems coolearth have started listening to their critics.

Yesterday’s media coverage was mainly about getting you out there to sign up to coolearth’s ‘buy an acre of rainforest’ campaign. That’s right, for £70 you can own an acre of the Amazonian rainforest within the holding owned by coolearth.

OK. It’s an extension of the adopt an animal idea but, Mr Eliasch remember has already bought the land. So …. well, sorry but I don’t get it. Do you?

P.S.
The new coolearth website is ‘down’ at the moment. Their original one is here.

John Eliasch also tells Sky News what got him into the environment thing. Article here.

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18 Responses to Cool Earth – revisited.

  1. inel says:

    Hi matt,

    I read this article in the Independent and also heard about Cool Earth from other David Attenborough news I was tracking. So, I went ahead and donated to the cause yesterday before the server hosting problems kicked in due to overload. (This is a good sign of level of interest and public appeal, not a bad sign, in my book!)

    I think it is a good idea to link capital to climate, raise awareness, build a network of committed people, and fund further local protection and local development: we are not buying a piece of land, but the idea of owning a stake in a rainforest appeals to people, so I can see why it is being marketed that way. Just because the land has already been purchased does not mean that it is safe forever. This is a way of providing protection and local opportunites, so I see it as dealing with another major cause of the climate pickle we are in, i.e. inequality. This is, in effect, another way of redistributing money to prevent further deforestation (which is, after all, seen as a way to support livelihoods).

    The Sun is promoting this too.

  2. Pete Smith says:

    Matt, I think I do “get it”. Cool Earth is a separate project from Eliasch’s personal 400,000 acre Amazon preserve. Eliasch and Frank Field devised the scheme to sell small rainforest plots to concerned individuals, initially in the Amazon but looking to expand to regions such as Indonesia and the Philippines.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article665000.ece
    Eliasch, being a slightly rich sort of bloke, agreed to underwrite Cool Earth, which I take to mean provide startup capital in the early stages. However, the project aims to become self-sustaining through ongoing individual investment.

  3. inel says:

    Thanks for clarifying, Pete. (I shall have to post on my acre … after the G8 summit is over.)

  4. matt says:

    OK. But;

    ‘Field plans to use the funds raised by Cool Earth to pay “a capitalised rent” for rainforest plots. A portion of the payment for each plot will be used to improve services, to help reduce the economic need for logging.’

    What is does a ‘capitalised rent’ mean exactly. Do they buy the land and how; bit by bit? No, I’m sorry, but I don’t get it! This has pissed the Brazilian government off so, how can this work?

    I’m all up for The Coffee House ‘buying’ an acre but I need to know it’s a watertight scheme.

    Guess I need to wait for the new coolearth website to come back up to see how they explain themselves.

  5. Stephan says:

    The Times article says that the trees in each land parcel will be ‘tagged’ with microchips, won’t this need access routes into the forest? Also, land in the UK is significantly more than £70 and acre, isn’t this a price signal to the market (big business) saying “this forest is cheap, lets buy it up before the Greens do, we can then sell it on at a profit”?

  6. Pete Smith says:

    Matt, read your Marx! There is a paradox in classical economics that land, which has no cost of production and is not the result of human labour, can have no exchange value, yet it is bought and sold. Marx resolved this problem by defining the price of land as ‘capitalised rent’. The price paid for land is equivalent to the capital required to generate the income derived from the land over a given timespan.

  7. Pete Smith says:

    As for the Brazilian government being pissed off, I think they just feel a threat to their national sovereignty. As we would if someone came along and bought the New Forest.

  8. matt says:

    > Matt, read your Marx! ……… The price paid for land is equivalent to the capital required to generate the income derived from the land over a given timespan.

    I stumbled across his rather large tomb stone in Highgate cemetary many moons ago.

    So, coolearth have decided £70 is enough to equal possible income generated …. over it’s lifespan! Now even more confused. What, collecting brazil nuts over 25 years? Who knows!

    Still wanting to know particularly how our (no doubt) pooled money will be used (ie. how they’ll go about purchasing this rainforest). Guess another willing foreign timber firm will be targeted. Can’t believe a timber firm values an acre at £70!

    Apparently Eliasch thinks that buying up all of the Amazon would cost £30 billion. Assuming that’s a one-off payment and he was expecting to take out the forest from most development, it’s no wonder the Brazillian government is annoyed.

  9. Pete Smith says:

    It seems quite simple to me, but then I’m a simple kind of a bloke. Eliasch under-writes the initial phase of the project so that land can be bought. We, the gullible public, send in our money to buy our acre. Some of that pays back Eliasch, some of it goes to worthy schemes that improve livelihoods so the locals don’t feel compelled to chop the trees down, some goes towards further land purchases, and some pays for micro-chipping trees and armed guards to keep the loggers out.
    That’s the theory; like you, I’d like to see more details of how they value the land and the services it offers. As far as developed world punters like you and me are concerned, the ‘income’ from the land lies in the value of its continued functionality as a carbon sink. Cool Earth seems to be working on a 50 year time frame, during which time one hectare of forest will provide combined abatement and sequestration of around 800 tonnes of carbon.
    http://www.coolearth.org/coolearth%20presentation.ppt
    Where does your foreign timber firm come into it?

  10. matt says:

    Eliasch bought his first slice of Amazonian pie from an American timber company.

    NB. Coolearth links still not working as site is down.

  11. Pete Smith says:

    I know. What we don’t know is how much he paid them for it. The £70 asked from Cool Earth supporters is an entirely separate issue.
    Some of the Cool Earth site is still working, like my link above. You can also sign up by going directly to http://www.coolearth.org/register.htm

  12. Pete Smith says:

    Inel,
    Do I understand correctly that you’ve gone ahead and bought some forest? I look forward to hearing about it.
    Pete

  13. Pete Smith says:

    A wee spot of digging suggests that Eliasch’s 400,000 acres may have cost £8m or £13.7m giving a price per acre of £20 or £34.25, depending on which Timesonline article you believe

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  16. Simon Scample says:

    I notice that Cool Earth have launched an instant coffee see http://www.coolearth.org/coffee. I thought that mildly amusing given the title of the blog. The old Eliasch “Green Colonialist” model appears to have been a one off. It appears to have been replaced by using the money to stop indigenous tribes from selling logging concessions on land they own, by working with the community to make it financially worthwhile to do other things – like grow and sell coffee. Cool Earth are are also providing support so that tribes can get proper legal title their land. What worries me is that the corporate sponsorship profile seems to offer major greenwash opportunities and the obsession with celebrities. Clearly they decided there’s more money is soaking the corporate conscience that getting “man in the street” to stump up. The poison in the chalice is that the corporate slime rubs off on them eventually.

  17. soph says:

    I’d just like to say that Johan’s initial ‘purchase’ of the rainforest has nothing to do with the workings of Cool Earth. Cool Earth does not ‘buy’ land. They work with local communities living in areas of the rainforest to help them legally secure their rights and protect their rainforest.

    The sponsorship of an acre is put into the community over a long period to help the community with all sorts of initiatives to ensure that the rainforest is more beneficial to them standing long after cool earth are gone.

    Cool Earth are working with my University as part of their many education projects and interesting initiatives to raise money. Less than 10% of income from individuals goes on admin too. If anyone’s interested in finding out more about their coffee, they’ve got a microsite up today http://coffee.coolearth.org.

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