One of the most inspiring aspects of the environmental movement today is its diversity and creativity. People from every walk of life are devoting their time and expertise to solve a problem that faces us all. From the lawyers that halted Heathrow’s expansion, to Boyan Slat, the engineer behind the Big Ocean Cleanup project, and David Shepherd, who raised more than £8 million for wildlife conservation through selling his paintings – anyone can make a difference.
With that in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to tap into the reserve of musicians that were doing live broadcasts from home, and give them the opportunity to use their talents to raise money for wildlife conservation.
After a month of emailing marathons, zoom calls and graphical wizardry, my friends at Reserva Youth Land Trust and I made that tentative idea a reality. On May 22nd, the Concert for Conservation hit the Internet, with the aim of celebrating the International Day for Biological Diversity and raising money to protect Ecuador’s threatened Chocó Rainforest.
Hosted live by BBC Earth presenter Lizzie Daly on the Rainforest Trust’s Instagram page, featuring an exciting lineup of performers and speakers, and with the backing of 8 organisations including UN Biodiversity & NatGeo Campaign for Nature, it was set to be a brilliant evening.
Here’s an outline of the amazing people we had on to perform or speak:
BELLA LACK – a 17 year old wildlife campaigner and good friend of mine. Among her multitude of positions and accolades, she’s the Youth Director of Reserva, and helped get the event set up.
SAPPHIRE – a 17 year old singer-songwriter who has amassed 570,000 subscribers on Youtube with her covers and original music. She’s also performed live at some incredible venues all around the world, and supported Union J on their 2018 tour.
YEMI BOLATIWA – a Manchester-based soul singer, whose powerful, impassioned performances have earned her the opportunity to perform on BBCR1 and collaborate with a range of electronic artists.
ARTS FISHING CLUB – a US band, with a talent for creating emotive, moving music. Fun fact: the lead singer Chris also once went on a 1600 mile walking tour across the US, and made a documentary about it!
BERTIE GREGORY– An awesome 26 year old wildlife cameraman and presenter, who splits his time between producing/hosting for National Geographic and filming as a cameraman for the BBC’s David Attenborough series.
KRIS BOWERS – An Emmy Award-Winning composer and pianist. He has written scores for documentaries, Hollywood films and Netflix series, and recorded and performed with artists including Aretha Franklin, Jay-Z and Kanye West.
LUCY COOKE – Queen of the Sloths. National Geographic explorer, TED Talker, author, TV presenter and producer – what doesn’t she do?
BEN MIRIN – The coolest ornithologist you will ever meet. By day, he’s an ethnobiologist, and studies the interaction between humans, human culture and wildlife. But at night, he’s a beatboxing wildlife DJ.
None of them disappointed, and it was a huge pleasure to be able to showcase them and their work.
The only slight shame was a couple of technical glitches on Instagram Live, but artists, presenter and audience all persisted through them heroically.
At the end of the day, I loved the event, and I think it would have been worth putting it on even if we didn’t raise a penny. But that rainforest isn’t going to save itself, and I know the question on everyone’s minds… “So, how much did you raise?”.
Well, Instagram helpfully sent us a total, which amounted to $1007! All of which will be doubled through a matching scheme by the Rainforest Trust. That translates to over two and a half acres of rainforest – more than a full-sized football pitch.
That really becomes significant when you think of the habitat in terms of 3 dimensions, and the number of giant tropical trees that can fit in that groundspace. The Chocó is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, but is also undergoing some of the highest rates of deforestation in South America, so the protection of that land is of the upmost importance.
All those donations will go to creating the world’s first fully youth-funded nature reserve in this threatened rainforest – an embodiment of the power of young people and the hope held in them.
In a similar vein, our concert wasn’t just a wacky fundraiser. It was a wonderful and inspiring evening in celebration of the planet’s wildlife, and our generation’s fight to save it.
Highlights from the concert are being published on Instagram TV, on both @rainforesttrust and @reservaylt accounts. It also looks like a second concert is on the cards so watch this space!