So it’s been this whole amazing thing which has led me to where I am now because in the Amazon I’m working with the Ashaninka community. And that’s been a whole journey as well. But through these two communities I started to want to get my head into the climate space. Because I was like, Okay, so we’re commercialising the gubinge, we’re commercialising the cacao, and the way that they’re being harvested is actually leading to preserving and regenerating wilderness. I realised there’s a whole other value stream here for these communities. So I’ve been immersing myself in the carbon space, travelling and getting lots of exposure in Europe and California. I’ve created an intention or mission for the rest of my life, and that’s to create the maximum long-term value for our collective natural assets—like the great forests of our planet. At the moment in the Amazon with the Rainforest Foundation from the UK we’re in the process of finalising a novel financial instrument called a Regenerative Agroforestry impact bond. It’s for about one-and-a-half million dollars at this stage. The Inter-American Development Bank is financing the majority of it and Loving Earth is financing part of the protection and regeneration of the Ashaninka Communal Reserve and the Otishi National Park. And the way the instrument works is that there are certain environmental and social objectives that are documented. And the Inter-American Bank and Loving Earth have agreed to pay the money once those objectives have been achieved and verified and signed off on. And the UN-based Common Fund for Commodities is the investor who bares the risk if the outcomes aren’t met. So I want to get another value stream going into the community. Verified Carbon Units (VCUs or carbon credits) are harvested via the UN Redd+ protocol, and they can be traded on the voluntary carbon market. The way it works is that Loving Earth chocolate bars are net regenerative through the Ashaninka cacao by being grown in a regenerative indigenous agroforestry system, which is also the mechanism to preserve and regenerate the 100,000 hectares of rainforest in the Ashaninka Communal Reserve and the Otishi National Park. And it empowers these communities. They have a viable culturally sensitive source of income that’s grown in a dynamic agroforestry regenerative context. So it’s not only sequestering carbon, the production of the cacao, it is also regenerating the adjacent rainforest. The cacao is endemic. It comes from that area. It’s not an introduced species. It’s part of their tradition, it’s part of their culture. Through that we empower this community and then they can protect the forest and their culture. Because they don’t need money from the loggers anymore and can resist the narcos who try and coerce them into growing coca for cocaine, which is one of the main causes of destruction of the forest. Cocaine would have to be one of the bloodiest, dirtiest supply chains on the planet. So they’ve got their own money and they can say, “Go away, we want to protect what we have.” They are also starting a major tree planting operation with the view to scaling it, to be planting hundreds of thousands and eventually millions of trees every year back into the forest. Because they’re also being paid to regenerate the forest through these carbon credits.
And so then what we’re going to do is bundle the cacao together with the carbon credits that we’ve created in the production of the cacao into a Loving Earth chocolate bar. We have done a life cycle analysis of our chocolate bars to determine the carbon footprint in manufacturing, transporting and packaging etcetera. Once the carbon credits become available from the project, the idea is to assign enough to each chocolate bar to neutralise the footprint and then add some more so that the product is truly net regenerative. We have also been doing lots of work to reduce the carbon footprint of our products by installing 400 solar panels on the roof of our chocolate factory and using post consumer recycled and compostable packaging.
Just for good measure.
So it’s positive. It’s not neutral. It’s positive. And a European climate impact investment fund we’ve been working with in the Amazon has just been trialling a blockchain project called Poseidon with a Ben and Jerry’s store in Soho London where you can make your purchase climate positive or carbon neutral at point of sale by purchasing carbon credits from projects like ours. This technology allows for effective carbon accounting and carbon credit micro transactions at the consumer level at point of sale. They’ve developed the technology and they just got the city of Liverpool on board to work towards becoming the first climate positive city in the world. All these carbon credits are coming from projects like ours where we’re growing our cacao and sourcing our cacao. So this is how we create the maximum long-term value for our collective natural assets, which are these great forests of our planet like the Amazon. Put a value on them. That’s what we’ve got to do. And we’ve got to maximise that value in the long-term. So we are developing this model in the Amazon. Eventually we want to take the model to the Kimberleys and other indigenous communities around the world. I know the community in the Kimberley is saving so much carbon from going into the atmosphere too through their traditional landcare. And we just started working with the Great Forest National Park.
I’m on board! It’s the great unraveling.
We know that stopping logging in the Great Forest National Park right here in Melbourne will save five million tons of carbon a year from going into the atmosphere. We could make Melbourne a climate positive city if we sourced carbon from the Great Forest National Park. Get Tourism Victoria on board, promote Melbourne as a climate positive city, and the vehicle for Melbourne being a climate positive city is the Great Forest National Park! Victorian taxpayers via the State Government are paying millions of dollars a year at the moment to prop up the logging industry, which is destroying this old growth mountain ash forest and releasing approximately five million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. We need to transition the logging community and industry into protecting and regenerating the forest rather than destroying it, and then commercialise these amazing ecological assets through tourism that promotes Melbourne as a climate positive destination with the jewel being the Great Forest National Park. And what we should be doing is have the Aboriginal community manage the park and implement a traditional landcare system! Even harvest more carbon!
Fuck, Scott. Wow. [Laughs].
I think you’ve got the download.
[Laughs]. That was unreal.
It is phenomenal you know. I feel like I’m working with this nexus of ecosystems: the reserve on Edgars Creek with the cliffs where I’m building, the Great Forest National Park, the Kimberleys and the Amazon. I mean the Amazon is the lungs of our planet. And with these communities and ecosystems, how can we commercialise their and our collective natural assets such that they have the maximum long term value? And it all started in India where for me it was like, How do I make that topsoil and those forest trees more valuable where they are productive in the earth rather than being converted into bricks? That’s what it comes down to. How do we make those trees more valuable standing? That Mountain Ash forest on our doorstep in the Great Forest National Park is the most carbon dense forest on the planet! It’s the most effective carbon sequester on the planet! Those Mountain Ash trees have the most biomass of any tree on the planet. And they’re being chopped down to be converted to toilet paper and photocopy paper, subsidised by us taxpayers through the Victorian State Government to the tune of millions of dollars a year, because it’s not commercially viable. After they’ve chopped down these ancient giants, they come and burn the whole area, which releases even more carbon and pollutes the air of Melbourne affecting the health of everyone living here! These incredible ecological assets can be worth way more in five or 10 years, but once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.
This conversation is part of our “Healing the Land” campaign at Dumbo Feather. For more stories, inspiration and ideas, purchase Issue 58 of Dumbo Feather or subscribe.