Forests are home to half our plants and animals and three quarters of our birds. They suck carbon from the air and return the oxygen we breathe. Yet in 2020 more trees were felled than ever before, causing 10% of global warming.
In the 1990s, the vast forests of Costa Rica were devastated, half their former size. But the people of Costa Rica and their Ministry for Environment had a plan to save them. Its programmes paid citizens to protect forests, plant trees, and restore ecosystems.
The results were extraordinary. Costa Rica’s forests doubled in size. Flora and fauna thrived which led to a boom in ecotourism, contributing $4 billion to the economy.
The government is now taking the approach to urban areas. It believes 30% of the world’s land and oceans could be protected this way too. Winning The Earthshot Prize would help it share knowledge and practices globally, especially in the Global South. Costa Rica’s motto is “pura vida” or “pure life”. Those words could soon echo across the world.
We choose to ensure, for the first time in human history, the natural world is growing and not shrinking. Meet the Finalists who are going to help us protect and restore the natural world for generations to come.
Growing up, John Kahekwa dreamed of working with the endangered gorillas. After becoming a ranger and expert tracker in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, John saw that the future of gorillas and communities were bound together, living in poverty and amidst war in the DRC.
In 1992, Kahekwa founded the Pole Pole Foundation (POPOF) after he asked a poacher why he poached, and the man replied ‘empty stomachs have no ears’. He realised he needed to focus on the root causes of deforestation and bushmeat poaching: poverty and hunger in the community.
Today, the Foundation runs farming projects that grow low-cost, nutritious foods. It helps former poachers gain new skills, while teaching the importance of conservation to the next generation and providing vital support to rangers working in the park. And it has planted four million new trees, creating a buffer between people and the natural world.
Winning The Earthshot Prize would help the Foundation expand their work and secure purchasing agreements with the Global North to develop new products that help protect gorillas.
Meaning “slowly” in Kiswahili, the Pole Pole Foundation proves that, with time and effort, conservation works. From their struggles and successes, they have created a blueprint for conservation that can be replicated across the world, helping people and nature thrive together.View Website
Only a fraction of nature restoration projects has lasting impact. Small teams, working alone, lack the data, monitoring tools and resource-sharing needed to succeed. As a result, small-scale efforts can feel futile in the face of global ecological crisis. Dr. Thomas Crowther, founder of Restor, wants that to change.
A free online platform for the restoration movement, Restor is like a Google Maps for nature. It connects practitioners with ecological data and builds networks between activists, funders and the public. For the first time, major scientific datasets are at the fingertips of conservationists, helping local knowledge fuel global change.
Since launching this year, Restor has connected over more than 50,000 restoration sites worldwide. And it is free for anyone to sign up. Winning The Earthshot Prize will help Restor transform how we protect and repair the planet. And together, thousands of local actions can become a global movement.View Website