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Article: NGO Spotlight: Cool Earth

Borneo rainforest on a misty, damp day

NGO Spotlight: Cool Earth

Cool Earth is one of the most innovative NGO's that we have come across in a long time, as such we are incredibly excited to share what is a truly modern approach, and a truly inspiring organisation, with you. Illustrate has always been a collaborative effort, we believe passionately in giving a platform to creatives, that two heads are better than one and that having a hundred heads is even better still - Cool Earth however taken the concept of collaboration to an entirely different level. Before we go into the nitty gritty of Cool Earth's approach lets instead get a handle on what exactly they advocate for - why does Cool Earth exist?

Green tree frog on the end of a grass shoot


In short, Cool Earth exists because the world's rainforest's are in danger, because this spells trouble for the wider ecosystem, because this means it spells trouble for us and quite simply because not enough was being done about it. As such, in 2007 MP Frank Field and entrepreneur Johan Eliasch came together and, shocked by the blindspot that the role of deforestation has on climate change, established Cool Earth with the aim of enacting a radical approach.


  • In the past 40 years half of the world's rainforest has been destroyed (Cool Earth)
  • At this rate of deforestation the world's rainforests could be completely gone within a hundred years (National Geographic)
  • One and a half acres of rainforest is lost every second (Save The Amazon)
  • Around half of the worlds species of animals, plants and insects live in tropical rainforests... meaning half of the worlds life is in immediate danger (Save The Amazon)

With the numbers laid out in front of you, the colossal wealth of the rainforest, both environmentally and culturally, and the correspondingly collossal loss which its destruction represents, everything becomes a lot clearer why Frank and Johan felt the need to try something new.


The ideas behind aid have changed a lot in the last 20 years, where in the past a top down approach in which governments and organisations would make decisions on what local and embattled people required, there is now a growing consensus that a collaborative, grass roots approach is the way to go. This is the method Cool Earth use - community driven and putting the local people back in control.

Group of South American Indigenous people in traditional dress


Local people know more about the places they live than anybody else, think back to where you grew up or where you've lived for a long time, you learn a place's secrets better than any expert who has never set foot there. Not only that but it is those same people who stand to lose the most from the destruction of the rainforest - after all it is their home. As such they are the perfect people to act as  custodians for that same habitat which is why all Cool Earth projects are community owned and led. The idea is not only to utilise the local people's knowledge and love of their home but also to break them out of the cycle of poverty which deforestation creates and to avoid the cycle of dependency which traditional forms of aid propagates. To this end, Cool Earth prioritises spending in three main areas - livelihood support, forest health and community investment. Each village they work with sets up a Community Association and bank account with the power then given to the villagers to decide upon what they want to invest in (clean water, improved cacao production etc.) Cool Earth sets a minimum project length of 7 years as they understand that the process of empowering communities and turning back the tide of illegal loggers and big business is not one you can take short cuts on.


Another interesting aspect of Cool Earth's approach is just where they choose to pick their fights. Cool Earth focuses upon the very front-line of rainforest degradation and deforestation, where hostilities are at a boiling point and the need is most urgent, but they don't do this simply because that is where people are most at risk. By targeting these areas Cool Earth hopes to use them as chokepoints which act as a barrier between the danger and the still pristine rainforest which lies beyond. Having saved 901,679 acres of rainforest thus far it is an approach which seems to be working.

Amazonian deforested clearing


Cool Earth, in that infectious spirit of collaboration, are currently developing an open source ToolBox detailing their approach and methods. The hope is that communities & groups can use the blue print Cool Earth provide to save even more forest. Not only that but the lessons Cool Earth can teach, about community led development, local empowerment and the advantages they offer, can be applied to other issues facing both people and the environment. As important as the rainforest is, it is still just another part of the jigsaw when it comes to tackling climate change. But with the methods Cool Earth champions, there might just be light at the end of the tunnel after all.


Cool Earth accepts donations via their site and provides donators with a detailed Impact Report after 12 months to explain how their donation has helped. For context, a donation of £5 a month spread out over a year, is equivalent to protecting an acre of rainforest which is about one of the the best investments you could make! They also offer guidance on how to fundraise for them including how to set up your own 'Pollada' - their spin on a traditional Peruvian party where you can serve good food and cold beer all to save the rainforest! As always one of the best things you can do for an organisation such as Cool Earth is to spread the word so get sharing, get talking and get involved.

- Illustrate Sustainability

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