At Agilité, we’re hyper-aware of the knock-on impact construction can have on the oceans and our planet’s water, which isn’t something that can be left unchecked. That’s why we’re proactively working towards reducing those negative impacts in our own operations and services. What’s more, we’ve also committed to donating 3% of our profits each year to help projects which we believe can help the building industry be more sustainable.
So, to celebrate all-things-socially-conscious, share tips for smarter environmental thinking, and remind each other just how much our impact matters, we’re inviting colleagues and friends of the business to take part in our quickfire Q&A.
First up, it’s Dominic Wodehouse PhD, executive director of Agilité beneficiary, Mangrove Action Project (MAP).
MAP is a small non-profit organisation, focused on mangrove education and restoration training. We run workshops around the world in a bid to improve the outcomes of restorationists — in terms of mangrove survivorship and biodiversity — as well as working with schools to ensure the next generations conserve these precious ecosystems.
Surprisingly, despite the increased interest in ecosystems that sequester and store carbon, the volume of published mangrove science, and the collective experience from conservation projects around the world, survivorship of such planting projects is very low.
To combat this, we demonstrate the necessary biology, ecology, and restoration process and take attendees into the field so they can really understand the intricacies of the ecosystem. It’s complicated — as Facebook would say — and more complex than terrestrial forests.
We are delighted that Agilité has kindly opted to support our work, as well as granted me the opportunity to present to the team in Paris in February, to explain what we do in greater detail.
I have the honour of running the best mangrove restoration training team in the world! My role includes developing the NGO’s strategy, leading the pitching to — and interaction with — funders, leading the restoration workshop training, carrying the bags, taking far too many photos at each workshop, and occasionally pulling people’s shoes out of mangrove mud.
Prior to life at MAP, I spent 10 years in advertising. I was a decade too late, and it felt like a humourless, political sweatshop. Leaving that industry was an easy decision. Working out what to do next, not so much.
A previous love of trees took me into arboriculture in the UK, as a way into tree-based conservation. Plenty of reading and an MSc revealed the ecosystem that was most interesting was mangroves. I began volunteering for MAP in Trang, in southern Thailand in 2005, and became hooked by a technical conference on the same trip. In a speech, Robin Lewis, the legendarily mangrove restorationist, said the mission required ‘informed supervision in the middle’ between the academics and ground teams, and from then I could see where the rest of my life was heading. A PhD and lots of restoration teaching later, I’m MAP’s executive director — how bonkers is that?!
Hard day’s night by The Beatles. Most of my days start around 9am and finish the following day.
Facing a big incoming storm, they can literally make the difference between life and death for coastal communities. Chiefly because inhabitants had previously cleared their mangroves for rice farming, 110,000 people died and another 30,000 went ‘missing’ when Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008. Those protected by mangroves largely survived.
I’m hoping the funding sector could change their approach to working with NGOs this year and move away from burying said organisations in reporting requirements and budget line restrictions, and instead letting trustworthy bodies get on with what they do best.
Secondly, I’m hoping that governments will realise the need for co-ordinated policy and activity. There’s no point an environment department trying to protect an ecosystem when another —often more powerful — part of the same government decides on a change of land use for that same area.
Thirdly, that groups and companies that engage in environmental work realise that often the solution is social and holistic, not technical. For example, rural projects often fail because the community leadership functions poorly. People have limited livelihood options because literacy is much more of a problem than the statistics would have us believe. Many long-term problems in poor areas can be solved by much better schooling for girls, and properly training the teachers themselves. Building a school is a simple task, but can sometimes miss the point. Developing a mechanism that ensures well-qualified educators turn up at the school every day and teach, rather than offer private lessons for more money, is difficult.
Technology can help us to deal with the long time-lag of CO2 reduction. Even if we reduce output dramatically now, it will still take decades for the levels in the atmosphere to decrease.
I wish I had known about the impact of all the stupid stuff we did — lead in petrol, DDT, pesticides, the rush into shrimp farming in the mangroves, encouraging people into cars — and been able to do something about it.
Positive feedback loops building each other, such as the thawing of the permafrost in northern Russia or the release of clathrate methane from the seabed. How these feedback loops interact is poorly understood.
Or Trump in 2024.
Sign an executive order that automatically bans anyone from politics who wants to be a politician – they are clearly in it for the wrong reasons!
Develop — and follow — your passion. Don’t try to cover everything but engage in an area you can be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about. Keep reading. Link up with groups in that topic – you’ll be amazed by the different ways you can help. Intern where you can. Develop the skillsets that make you valuable to organisations within your area. Master’s yes, but don’t assume you need a PhD. Lots of NGOs are run poorly and what senior managers need is an MBA in NGO management, not a research degree. Be prepared to live poor and skip retirement. Learn to network like Henry Kissinger and present like a TEDTalk hero.
I hope that we are not sitting in front row seats for the sixth extinction.
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