Exploring the Yorkshire Rainforest Project

PUBLISHED: 10:21 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:20 20 February 2013

Exploring the Yorkshire Rainforest Project

Exploring the Yorkshire Rainforest Project

copyright: Nigel Hillier

Not so long ago readers supported the Yorkshire Life and Bettys & Taylors campaign to help reforest the Yorkshire Dales. We are following this project with support for another important ecological campaign. Chris Titley reports

Jonathan Wild arrives at the table clutching a copy of The Independent. Have you seen this? he asks. A story on the front page reveals how a vital proposal to safeguard the worlds rainforests was to be dropped from a treaty due to be signed at the climate summit in Copenhagen this month. Jonathan is clearly frustrated by the short-sightedness of the politicians responsible. If one of them had walked into Bettys Caf Tea Rooms in Harrogate at that moment, you feel he would quite cheerfully have strangled them.

Instead, the chief executive of Bettys & Taylors Group is doing something far more positive. His company has embarked on a mission to save an area of rainforest the size of Yorkshire a hugely ambitious project which will make a real difference on the ground.

We cant shape global politics, were too small, Jonathan says. But we can show leadership in a different way by doing practical things.

Its only in the last 20 years that weve realised what is going on in the tropics much more. Weve developed our tea and coffee importing side and come face to face with rainforest issues and climate change issues.

Theres a weekly tea auction in Mombasa, Kenya, which is seen as a bellwether for global tea prices, Jonathan explains.

I used to ask our tea-buying team on a Monday hows Mombasa doing? And now my question is has it rained yet? Things you used to be able to predict like clockwork such as the long and short rains in East Africa are now no longer predictable.

Jonathans interest in ecology can be traced back to a source much closer to home. I came home from work one day and found my children very distressed because theyd been watching a piece on Blue Peter about burning rainforests.

To make it all better for my kids, who were then seven and five, I said dont worry well replant all those trees that youve seen burning. If you plant one tree, Ill find a way of replanting 999,999 more.

He was as good as his word. In the 19 years since that pledge, the Bettys & Taylors Trees For Life campaign has seen more than three million planted. The first was a Hornbeam just behind the Harrogate tea rooms with a stone plaque declaring First In A Million.

When you carve something in stone, theres no going back. I always recommend that to people, Jonathan says with a smile.

The company is still planting trees but the emphasis has switched in favour of protecting those already there. Every second an acre of rainforest is lost and the implications of allowing this destruction to continue are frightening.

Jonathan has a particularly appropriate way to illustrate the importance of tropical rainforests. Every single day the Amazon rainforest gives off 20 billion tonnes of water through evaporation.

If you take all the cups of tea drunk in the world today, it would take you 65 years of tea drinking to match whats evaporated for one day in the rainforest.

People say its the planets air conditioning system. Its more than that, its our life support.

The Yorkshire Rainforest Project brings this problem closer to home.

To meet its pledge to save an area of rainforest the size of Yorkshire 1.5 million hectares the company has begun with a commitment to save 230,000 hectares in Peru, which roughly equates to the size of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

It has promised a minimum of 415,000 over those three years, plus whatever extra it can raise on top of that see the panel at the end to find out how Yorkshire Life readers can help.

Bettys & Taylors ethical trading manager Cristina Talens travelled deep into the Peruvian rainforest to meet the Ashaninka community who live there. The company has teamed up with charity the Rainforest Foundation to protect the Ashaninkas environment and way of life.

The land already belongs to the Ashaninka people. But they need help to safeguard it from developers.

If you dont put in place a forest management plan, the government will put one in place for you which is basically selling you to the highest bidder loggers, or those after the mineral rights, says Jonathan.

The Ashaninka have secured their land rights. Now they need to develop a resilient enough community to see off people who are going to threaten them, including the government.

It means practical things, like Spanish lessons. If someone comes along saying Ive got a government certificate saying Ive got the right to log here, if you cant read it or communicate with them, how do you stand up for your rights?

It seems a bit odd to say giving Spanish lessons saves rainforests but thats what practical first aid is about.

Jonathan speaks with great passion and expertise about the challenge, and hes persuaded many other Yorkshire organisations to come on board. These include financial services company Deloitte in Leeds and regional development agency Yorkshire Forward.

Yorkshire Forward realise we were the biggest polluters on earth at one stage. We probably invented pollution in Yorkshire we were the worlds biggest carbon emitters with our coal and steel.

Its the ambition of Yorkshire Forward to make us pioneers in the low carbon economy.

Another partner is Leeds University, which as Jonathan points out, leads the way in climate change research. Its closely associated with Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, and Nobel Prize winner Prof Piers Forster, one of the worlds leading climate change scientists.

We have got some talent right here in Yorkshire. The more we collaborate, the more we can set an example to the rest of the country and the world.

The Bettys & Taylors campaign has also won support from other Yorkshire family businesses, such as Ilkley-based building services firm NG Bailey and York construction company Shepherd Construction. As Jonathan said: Family business is all about legacy.

He devotes one day a week to the campaign. Its ever since I made that promise 19 years ago. Once you start, why let go?

How Yorkshire Life readers can help

Yorkshire Life readers are invited to support the Yorkshire Rainforest Project by dedicating trees to friends and family at Christmas, or as an unusual gift to commemorate a birthday, Christening or anniversary.

For just 10 you can dedicate 1,000 trees to a friend or family member or maybe just yourself in the Amazon Rainforest, Peru. Your donation will support the Yorkshire Rainforest Projects work with the Ashaninka community, helping to protect their endangered rainforest and so help us all in the fight against climate change. From best friends to grandchildren, this is something to treasure. Youll receive a gift certificate with more information on the people and rainforest youre protecting.

If youd like your certificate as a Christmas gift please make sure your application has been posted by December 10th 2009.

All you have to do is send details of your name, address including postcode, the name of the person the trees should be dedicated to, together with a cheque for 10 made payable to the Rainforest Foundation UK, to Yorkshire Life Yorkshire Rainforest Project Appeal, Admail 819, Harrogate, HG1 1AZ.

If youd like to make more than one dedication please list the names and allow a payment of 10 for each dedication. Please print the names clearly.

Please also indicate if you agree to Gift Aid which allows the Rainforest Foundation UK to reclaim tax on up to 28 per cent of your donation.

To qualify for Gift Aid you must be a UK tax payer and must pay as much income or capital gains tax as the Rainforest Foundation will reclaim in the tax year. For the Rainforest Foundation to reclaim the tax well need to pass on your contact details, which will be used only for Gift Aid purposes. Rainforest Foundation UK, Registered charity number 801436.

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