- Ben, as a self-proclaimed long-standing environmentalist and a co-founder of 6 local Preservation Funds and more in the pipeline globally, you have already proved that you are dedicated to increasing philanthropic funding for the environment. What is the story behind this decision? Why do you do it and why other people should follow your example?
Just 3% of all the funds donated by philanthropists in Europe each year is allocated to the natural environment. This is astonishing, given the scale of the environmental crisis we face. Most adults can remember the windscreen of the family car caked with splatted insects after even a short drive in the summer. No longer. The insects are gone, along with so many of the birds and other wildlife that we love, on land and in the sea. This breakdown of the natural world has direct consequences for humanity – often undoing the good work of philanthropists focused on other areas. The good news is that, given a little protection, nature can bounce back surprisingly fast. Just look at some of Greece’s newly created marine protected areas, which already teem with life that spills out into the surrounding seas.
- Ibiza, Aeolian islands, Mallorca, Minorca, St. Vincent and Grenadines in the Caribbean and now the Cyclades in Greece! How do you select the places for the establishment of the Local Preservation Funds? What is so special in the Cyclades?
Environmental issues such as deforestation, collapsing fisheries and climate can appear daunting for people – too big for any one person to tackle. So they shy away from doing anything. I think that’s why so little money is given to environmental work. But if you make it possible for people to help restore nature in their own backyard they’re much more likely to be receptive. So I have helped create a series of local environmental funds in places where I have friends to whom I can sell this idea! I hope in due course that we can replicate this model in very many places across the world.
- What is your vision for the CPF in 10 years from now?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the new CPF were able to support efforts by conservationists and local fishermen to restore abundance to the seas of the Cyclades Islands? And to have helped foster a recovery of the local food economy on which the beautiful landscapes of the islands depend? And to have helped bring about zero non-recyclable waste and 100% renewable energy? There is so much to do, and fortunately, there are some very dynamic and smart individuals in the islands doing it all. The CPF is here to support them.