22 May 2009 | Ken Newcombe and Randy Hayes first met in the 1990s – across a picket line. Newcombe was working for the World Bank, and Hayes was running the Rainforest Action Network – an organization he'd founded in part to combat the bank's forest-unfriendly development policies.
Michael Jenkins knew them both.
A forestry specialist serving the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank, it was his job was to distribute woefully inadequate funds to worthy forest-protection projects across Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
All three men knew that destruction of the world's tropical rainforests generated a massive amount of the world's greenhouse gas emissions – a figure later pegged at 20% by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They also knew that donations alone wouldn't save the rainforests as long as our modern economy believed the trees were worth more dead than alive.
So Jenkins – with the help of Newcombe, Hayes, and others – founded Forest Trends, the non-governmental organization that today publishes Ecosystem Marketplace and has spawned theKatoomba Group, the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP), SpeciesBanking.com, ForestCarbonPortal.com, theChesapeake Fund, and numerous "incubator" projects around the world designed to quantify the economic value of rainforests and other living ecosystems by identifying the ecosystem services they provide and proposing means of paying for them.
"Forest Trends has become widely-regarded as the most comprehensive advocate and resource for anyone who wants to understand and help to further develop markets for ecosystem services," said former US Vice President Al Gore at the organization's tenth anniversary in April.
The group was formed in 1999 to foster the development of a global network of diverse individuals and organizations united only in their shared belief that living ecosystems have more value alive than dead. Today, its board of directors reflects both that diversity and that belief – ranging from people like Hayes and Greenpeace Russia's Sergey Tsyplenkov to Olof Johansson of Swedish forestry group Sveaskog to Yusuf Ole Petenya of Kenya's Shompole Community Trust.
From the start, Forest Trends has hosted Katoomba Meetings to foster the network's development. Bettina von Hagen, now CEO of Ecotrust Forest Management Inc., recalled the first such meeting – held in Katoomba, Australia, in April, 2000.
"That small conversation among 30 people has since grown into an organization with hundreds of partners around the world and 14 meetings held on five continents," she said, pointing out that the most recent meeting raised the awareness of carbon finance across Brazil and helped to unite advocates around a common goal.
"The accomplishments of Forest Trends can't be measured in terms of the projects it has launched or the meetings it has held, but in terms of the minds it has opened," she said.
In a separate discussion not caught on tape, Johnathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, said we are witnessing the emergence of a new economy that combines the best of the private and public sectors.
"Society doesn't last long if it doesn't harvest the capacity and power of the private sector in solving problems," he said. "But we can't create markets for public goods without policy, and the renewed willingness to even speak the word 'regulation' is important if we are to move policy ahead in order to create the markets that Forest Trends has done so much to define."
Sally Collins, who runs the US Department of Agriculture's Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets, encapsulated the night by managing to quote American conservationist Aldo Leopold and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the same breath – a feat you'll have to watch the video to appreciate.
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