Interview with Tasmanian teacher who spent record-breaking 15 months in tree!

May 24, 2013 § 2 Comments

  Miranda 3 - photo by Dan Haley
Miranda in her tree

Some could say that when it comes to forest conservation, Miranda Gibson has had her head in the clouds – literally. The qualified high school teacher spent a record-breaking 15 months living on a platform built into a tree 60 metres above the ground in the forests of southern Tasmania.

Hailed as a “hero of the forests” by former Greens leader Bob Brown, Miranda staged the tree sit-in to protest the logging of Tasmanian forests. Although a nearby bush fire forced Miranda to leave the tree (which she named the Observer Tree) on March 7 2013, her determination to continue campaigning for the forests is far from gone.

By Lydia Hales.

Q. Your blog piece on what it was like for you to come down from the Observer Tree after such a long time was quite emotional. How are you adjusting to life back on the ground?

A. It’s been a lot to adjust to, getting used to life on the ground again. The hardest thing has been the separation from the tree and the forest, which I miss every day. But there has also been great things about being on the ground, being able to regroup with other conservationists and plan ways forward together. Now that we have the Tasmanian Forest Agreement in place, which effectively locks in ongoing native forest destruction, it’s more important than ever to keep up the fight for the forests. It is hard knowing that I had to get out of the tree before I was ready to, but I also know that there is so much I can do on the ground to keep the momentum of the campaign going.

Q. Do you know at this stage if any plans to return to the tree will go ahead?

A. At this stage, I don’t plan to go back up the tree. The area where the tree is has been nominated for World Heritage and I hope that next month, in June, when the committee meet, it will be officially included in Tasmania’s World Heritage Area. Of course, there are a lot of areas of high conservation value that will not be included and so I will continue the campaign for those forests across the state that remain under threat.

Miranda 2
Tasmanian Forest

Q. A couple of articles mentioned your “isolation and solitude” as being the hardest things about your record-breaking time in the tree. Do you feel that during this time you learnt a lot about yourself, and how we as humans can connect with nature?

A. The time in the tree was undoubtedly challenging due to the isolation, but on the flip-side to that, the solitude was a remarkable experience and I feel that I learnt a lot about myself and about the forest. I developed a really close connection to that area of forest and to my tree in particular. It taught me that humans can definitely connect with the natural world in profound ways. I guess the tree became like a best friend to me and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Q. Whenever you were struggling, what did you think of to keep your spirits up and keep you motivated?

A. I was always uplifted by the forest. Whenever I started to find it challenging, I would just have to look out across the forest that I was there to defend, and I would find the strength to keep going. There were constantly special moments, such as amazing and beautiful birds and owls coming to visit me, which would lift my spirits. I also found a lot of strength from the solidarity that came from people all around the world. My inbox was filled daily with support and encouragement from people from all walks of life, and that played a major part in what kept me motivated. I guess I could also see how effective my action was, the impact it had internationally in spreading the word about these forests.

Q. What do you think has been the best thing to come from your campaign?

A. One major success of the campaign has been the growing awareness around the world about Tasmania’s forest. This has had an impact in several ways. It added to the pressure on the Australian Government, to ensure that the forests were nominated for World Heritage, which happened on February 1st this year. It has also had a direct impact on companies like Ta Ann, who are selling wood from Tasmania’s high conservation value forests and labeling it as “eco-ply.” It is through exposing the truth to customers around the world that pressure was brought to bear on the company for these practices. Ta Ann are still continuing to sell this timber, as well as timber sourced from environmental destruction and human rights violations in Sarawak, however with the campaign against them continuing to gain international momentum, I believe we can bring an end to the destructive practices of this company.

Miranda 1
Clearfelling Tasmanian Forest

Q. Were there any things that have come from this which you didn’t expect?

A. The personal experience was something that I had not really thought about or expected. When I went up the tree, I was thinking about it as a tool to expose the truth about the forest destruction. I didn’t really stop to think about the impact it would have on me personally, to stay in the tree tops for such a long period of time. But it was really an amazing and unique experience, I learnt so much about the patterns of the forests day to day, and so much about myself.

Q. You’re not originally from Tasmania, yet have done so much in terms of campaigning for Tasmanian forests…what first drew you to this cause?

A. I first came to Tasmania almost 10 years ago. And one of the first things I did was go out to the forests. I remember how awe-struck I was at seeing the giant trees towering above, the lush green rainforest under-storey – it was like nothing I had ever seen before. And then seeing a clear fell for the first time, realizing the absolute devastation that occurs to these forests. This is when I knew I wanted to do something to ensure that these forests survived for future generations,.

Q. Can you share your favorite memory from your time spent in the tree?

A. I have so many memories of my time in the tree that will stay with me forever. One thing that was really amazing for me was the first snowfall up there. I remember how excited I was to be in the snow, 60 meters above the ground, watching the forest turn slowly from green to white. There were many more snowfalls to come, of course, and I was amazed by the beauty of the forest in snow every time.

Another special memory is when a goshawk came into my tree, flew right towards me so that it was only a meter or two from my face, and then flew away. They are spectacular birds and it was a really unique experience to be face to face with one, in the upper canopy.

 

You can read more of Miranda’s story and keep updated with her work through her Observer Tree blog.

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Bloomtrigger : The story so far…

May 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is a presentation (with text added) given by Bloomtrigger’s founder James Sutton to the children at Townfield Primary School at a morning assembly on Wednesday 1st May 2013. It begins with a little background story about how the project began and how it is now growing to involve a network of diverse people from all over the world who are working together to help pioneer a new model of environmental education which helps to tackle global deforestation and climate change.

This story aims to show the pupils at Townfield Primary School the important role that they play in making this project a reality and the big impact that they are having to help protect Amazon rainforest. We hope that our story continues to inspire them as well as other children around the world and demonstrates what amazing things we can achieve when working together.

Bloomtrigger partners with Sumak Sustainable Travel!

April 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Sumak & Bloomtrigger

At Bloomtrigger we are excited to announce our latest partnership with a company that is very much aligned with our core values. Sumak Sustainable Travel are a London based travel company who offer adventure and community-based eco-trips to Latin America for the independent and discerning travellers looking to really connect with the local life and culture of the places they visit. Sumak has a network of communities all over Latin America, who are protecting their cultures, land and ecosystems through tourism. These communities are adopting a sensitive model of tourism that avoids the traditional bad practices of mass tourism and as a result, they are providing more authentic and rewarding experiences for the discerning travellers. Examples include star-gazing in the Atacama Desert (Chile) with the Linkan Antay people, ceramic craftsmanship with rural communities in Salta (Argentina) and jungle walks into the heart of the Amazon rainforest in Colombia.

At a local level, the net economic and environmental impact of community-based ecotourism is hugely positive. However, tourists are increasingly concerned about the impact of flying to Latin America, in particular with regards to CO2 emissions and their effect on global warming. However the good people at Sumak Sustainable Travel don’t think that the best way to reduce CO2 emissions is to make people feel guilty about it and encourage them to “offset their emissions”. Instead, they searched around for an innovative non-market-based solution that will contribute to preserving the Amazon rainforest and increasing the sequestration of CO2* from the atmosphere, which is how they discovered The Bloomtrigger project.

The Bloomtrigger project brings together individuals, businesses and primary school children enabling them to support local forestry communities on the ground by promoting sustainable development and environmental awareness. Bloomtrigger, a UK-based Community Interest Company (CIC), sells a virtual currency called blooms, where 1 bloom costs 50p and will help to protect 50m2 of rainforest. The money is then invested into a conservation project that helps develop sustainable livelihoods for the forestry community on the ground.

 

cost of a bloom

For each traveller who books an eco-trip with Sumak Sustainable Travel, a percentage of their booking is donated to the Bloomtrigger project. The average donation is £30, which will purchase 60 blooms and help to protect 3,000m2 of Amazon rainforest. Travellers have the option to plant the blooms on the virtual map of the forest themselves or donate them to a school. This money is then invested responsibly into a community agroforestry project in the Peruvian Amazon, in collaboration with the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) of Oxford University and the Crees Foundation.

Bloomtrigger’s main approach is to pioneer creative tools based on an online model of environmental education to help tackle the problem of global deforestation and the ‘disconnection’ between urban children and their relationship with the environment. Bloomtrigger wants to offer the next generation of young people a simple solution that enables them to take action against climate change through protecting forests, whether they live in an inner suburb of London or a remote village in Africa, anyone with internet access can become a part of the project.

 

Townfield Primary school
Children at Townfield Primary School with bloomtrigger’s gorilla ambassador Boris ‘Bo’ Jr.

Sumak have already invested blooms into Townfield Primary School in the UK, so that the pupils can earn these blooms as rewards for good behaviour or marks at school. Travellers can also decide to give their blooms to friends and family, to encourage more people to protect the rainforest with them. “Sumak Sustainable Travel is now on the map!” It’s official people and here is the image below to prove it. Writing this message on the Bloomtrigger map involved Sumak planting 55 blooms (each character or image uses one bloom to plant). At a cost of £27.50 it is a simple way to help protect 2,750m2 of Amazon rainforest, which will help to keep approximately 82 tonnes of CO2 sequested in the ground and not adding to global warming in our atmosphere!

Sumak Travel on the map!

The Bloomtrigger project is already happening in primary schools in England, Japan, Nepal and even in a remote village in the South of Sudan. Now we are now preparing to launch the project in Latin America, starting in Brazilian schools with the aim of supporting indigenous communities in the Brazilian Amazon. One such community is the Gavião, located on the indigenous lands of Igarapé Lourdes (185,000 Ha), in the state of Rondônia. Our objectives are to reduce deforestation, restore degraded areas, combat fires and illegal logging and to promote environmental education amongst the indigenous communities to preserve their unique culture and biodiversity.

All trips by Sumak Sustainable Travel already include guided visits to innovative, community-led social and environmental projects. In time, they will also start to include the forestry communities supported by the Bloomtrigger project in the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon rainforest.

At Bloomtrigger we believe our project is a simple and creative way to help protect Amazon forests, which can be integrated into many different types of businesses models to bring more value to resposible consumers. Increasingly people are looking to make sure that they are making significant and long-term impact when they buy a holiday or car or perhaps even a chocolate bar. We hope our new partnership with Sumak Sustainable Travel will prove a positive example for many others to follow.

*It is estimated that 1,000 m2 of Amazon rainforest can sequestrate approximately 30 tons of CO2.

How does protecting rainforest ‘save carbon’?

1 hectare of rainforest = 300 Tonnes of CO2

When calculating the carbon saving of helping to protect 1 hectare of rainforest from being destroyed, we are referring to the total amount of carbon locked up in all the trees and vegetation within that hectare, this is called the ‘carbon stock’. This is the amount of carbon that would be released into the atmosphere if that hectare of rainforest is allowed to be deforested.

Typically a hectare of rainforest contains between 300-500 tonnes of CO2. This amount varies due to factors such as vegetation type, climate and altitude. Therefore we are taking a conservative estimate of 300 tonnes per hectare.

 

UN International Forest Short Film Festival – Winners!

April 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

We are very proud to report that “Reynaldo” the short film above, is a winner at the UN International Forest Short Film Festival. The film documents our hero (aka Reynaldo) who is behind the forestry conservation project which the Bloomtrigger project is supporting. It is a beautiful film with a powerful message that fully deserves to be recognised by the United Nations. Reynaldo works with the Crees Foundation who is responsible for coordinating the agroforestry project in Peru which is transforming the livelihoods of the local communities to help protect this regions unique biodiversity. The film was created by two talented British film makers Dan Childs and Nick Werber, who can be seen here receiving the award at the UN International Forest Short Film Festival. (FYI: You need to watch from 22m 41s to see them talk about Reynaldo!)

If you would like to know more about this forestry community in the Peruvian Amazon and how Bloomtrigger is working in Partnership with the Crees Foundation to help support this award winning initiative then please read more here.

UN logo framed CREES-framed-profile-imagesbloomtrigger Framed profile images

Interview with James Ochieng Bloomtrigger Ambassador

March 26, 2013 § 2 Comments

James Ochieng at Freedom corner, Uhuru park, Nairobi
James Ochieng at Freedom corner, Uhuru park, in Nairobi

James Ochieng’ okelo is Kenyan. He has been working on building and construction projects in Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and lake states of South Sudan from 2003 to 2007. He now lives in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state and works as a volunteer administrator and teacher at Aheu Dit women Group’s Kan Ajak primary school since 2008 . He dedicates his time to sourcing and passing on of relevant information about conservation and the environment to interested members of his community. He is starting Bloomtrigger in Kan Ajak Primary School (See link for video about this) and trying to help bring our project to continent of Africa.

James Ochieng Bloomtrigger Profile  * Click here to visit James’ Bloomtrigger profile!
                     Kenya-Flag-100px

* What inspires you?
Children

* What makes you angry?
Ignorance at all levels.

* What is your personal mission?
Contribute towards efforts of educating children about technology and the environment. Currently I engage school children in recycling and making fuel from waste.

* If you were Prime Minister, what would be the first thing you would change?
Ban the use of charcoal. The use of charcoal kills the spirit of those involved in environmental conservation; I would encourage the use of alternative fuels.

* Why did you agree to become a bloomtrigger ambassador?
I agreed to become a Bloomtrigger ambassador because it’s a unique combination of technology, environment and education, with children as the main actors in conservation of rainforests (bloom planting etc.)

* Can you describe a typical workday?
I officially start my workday at 8:00 am with assembly at the school followed by class and other school activities until 1:00 pm. Lunch and rest till 3:00pm if possible, administrative meetings, briquette training, and building consultations, whichever is at hand from 3 till late.

* Can you think of a place or event you have been that has really inspired you?
An event that inspired me is the first annual all Africa Biomass briquette producers conference at Olasiti Lodge, Arusha, Tanzania November  2011, it was inspiring to be with people from different parts of Africa and the world discussing about sustainable solutions to help environmental conservation. To see more about this visit the Legacy Foundation website.

* How do you define success?
Seeing things you work hard for bloom.

* What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
Be yourself, ask for less and thank more.

* What’s your favourite book or film of late?
It takes a village” by Hillary Rodham Clinton

* If you could get anyone to become a part of the bloomtrigger project who would it be and why?
Lisa Hansen, she is passionate about conservation and all her life and travel are based on the subject. She has dreams for a greener world and puts her efforts into matters that support the environment around the globe.

* How do you go green in your daily life?
I use bio fuel briquettes for all my cooking and boiling, and I also train individuals and organized groups about the importance of planting and conserving our trees by using alternative fuels produced from domestic waste.

* What would you most like to happen to protect the planet?
I would like to see every person plant at least one indigenous tree or help plant a tree every year during their lifetime.

* Do you have a favourite quote you can share with us?
“The future is ours”.

* If you found yourself stranded in a rainforest, what is the one thing you would like to have with you?
A mosquito net.

Can you think up one more interesting question that we should be asking for this interview, but have not thought of yet and then answer it?
What would happen if rainforests disappeared?

There would be lack of pure air, increased temperatures and high levels of poverty!

* To find out more about bloomtrigger’s ambassadors and to apply to become one click here!

Become a bloomtrigger ambassador like Boris

Bloomtrigger Annual Report 2012!

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Annual report

Annual Report 2012 – Peru Project

Here is a look at the impact the Bloomtrigger project has been having so far in the Peruvian Amazon through supporting the work of the Crees Foundation! Click the link to download Bloomtrigger’s 2012 annual report by the Crees Foundation about the community agroforesty project in Peru.

2012 Annual Report

Crees – heroes : Reynaldo (In spanish with english subtitles)

If you don’t like reading reports but would prefer to watch a short video instead, then please take a view minutes to meet Reynald a Crees hero. Reynaldo is the project manager for Crees in the Peruvian Amazon and has a serious and inspiring story to share. 

Crees – Sustainable Community Initiative (In english)

Watch this short animation film by Crees explaining their story and how their initiative is protecting the Amazon rainforest in Peru.

Tasmanian Devil : How close to extinction?

January 7, 2013 § 2 Comments

Tasmanian devil
Tasmanian Devil yawning

Taz the Tasmanian Devil, mostly seen as a brown whirl-wind of teeth and fur growling his way through a Looney Tunes cartoon, is always getting into trouble. Most of his problems are caused by his raging appetite, quick temper and tendency to try and bite his way through any obstacle. And while the real Tassie Devil may share some of these qualities, the trouble this marsupial is in is far from funny.

The Tasmanian Devil, Sarcophilus harrisii, is the world’s largest surviving marsupial – large males can weigh in at up to 12kg and their bite is thought to be equal to that of a dog four times their size. Unlike cartoon Taz, real Devils are black with white markings, move around on all fours and have squat, powerful bodies. Their famous growls, high-pitched screeching and snarls, along with their impressive “yawn” may come across as ferocious (and did lead to the early European settlers naming it “the Devil”) but are mostly used for show and to avoid harmful fighting occurring over shares of food.

With fossils showing the Devil once lived on mainland Australia (before European settlement), they are now only found in the southern island state of Tasmania. Although they are capable of defending themselves if threatened, the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program describes Devils as shy animals, which find shelter during the day and move about to hunt during the night.

In the 1930s a bounty was offered for Devils due to their attacks on poultry and lambs, and the population plummeted. It was not until 1941 that they were protected by law. Despite this, habitat loss, competition and strikes by motor vehicles were among the major factors leading to the Devil being listed as Endangered in 2008 under Tasmania’s Threatened Species Protection Act 1995.

But the Devil is now facing its most serious fight yet: Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), threatening the Devil with extinction. The cancer was first reported in north-eastern Tasmania in 1996, and since its discovery has resulted in an overall population decline of over 60% (over 90% in the region where it was first found). As aggressive as the image of the Devil themselves, the cancer is one of only three known cancers which spreads like a contagious disease: live cells are transmitted to other Devils through biting when feeding and mating. Death usually results within months. The disease has spread across Tasmania, the battle intensifying as the cancer formed several different strains.

Urgent research has been undertaken by the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (the first of several projects), which recruited experts from various fields to focus on four main goals: (i) creating a captive ”insurance” population; (ii) suppressing the disease by culling infected animals; (iii) identifying and translocating the resistant genotypes; and (iv) developing a vaccine.

A major milestone of the project was achieved on November 14th this year when 15 healthy Devils were released into the Maria Island National Park (Maria Island is a smaller island off the east coast of Tasmania, made up entirely of National Park). The release into a new, disease-free area is the result of three years of careful planning and preparation. This new population will be monitored and provide important information for future releases.

Despite various other successes with the program, the disease remains incurable. This cancer does not rest, and neither must we if we hope to save this iconic (and keystone) species from extinction. To donate or find out more ways you can help, visit: www.tassiedevil.com.au

By Lydia Hales.

References:

Save the Tasmanian Devil Program 2011/2012 Annual Program Report (Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment)
Save the Tasmanian Devil Program Appeal Media Release, July 4th 2011.
(McCallum, H et al. 2009). Transmission dynamics of Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease may
lead to disease-induced extinction. Ecology, 90(12).
http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=387
http://www.tassiedevil.com.au/tasdevil.nsf/
http://www.tassiedevil.com.au/tasdevil.nsf/The-Disease/979FEB5F116CE371CA2576CB0011A26E
http://news.mongabay.com/2008/1121-hance_devil.html