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ECO HERO: JAMES SUTTON

Greta Jonyniate | 10.11.11

What inspires you?

 

To give one small yet powerful example of something that inspired me. Yesterday a primary school teacher who is helping to pioneer the bloomtrigger project told me that one of her pupils asked his parents if he could spend £10 of his own savings to buy 'blooms' for his class to help protect rainforest. He even made his dad take him to the bank to withdraw the money. This made me smile. Nobody asked or would expect a 7 year old to give what little savings he has on protecting the rainforest. This is hugely inspiring to me on a personal level as my message is at least getting through to one child, but I think this is an inspiring example to everyone who is concerned about our environment for future generations.

What makes you angry?

People who drop litter. It sounds like something my granny would say and was something she instilled in me from a young age, but in a time where we face so many threats to our environmental wellbeing, it seems to me that not thoughtlessly dropping litter is the very least people could do to not degrade their environment.

If you were Prime Minister, what would be the first thing you'd change?

I would put less of an emphasis on “Gross National Product” and follow the Kingdom of Bhutan’s lead and use “Gross National Happiness” to measure our socio-economic prosperity. Happiness is no laughing matter, it is really the most important thing. For example, every Friday afternoon I would tell the nation you have two choices - either keep on working or go outside, find a park, some countryside, any green space you have; then run, play, read a book, just do something while being outside appreciating nature. I’m not sure how practical this would be in reality, but I’m sure it would make people happier and would make the PM more popular, which wouldn’t be such a bad change.

Can individuals really expect to make a difference?

Absolutely, this has always been the case throughout history. It is not always easy, but then nothing worthwhile ever is. Today more than ever individuals have the opportunity to take advantage of the latest technology and social developments to be heard and inspire other to bring about change. As of now there are 7 billion individuals on this planet, who will become increasingly motivated to make a difference as resources become ever more limited. I think we will find leaders in unexpected places as individuals emerge from unconventional paths to help manage a rapidly changing world.

What is your personal mission?

My mission is to help protect a million hectares of the most biodiverse rainforest on the planet. This is my ambition, but not one I would ever be able to do alone. So my aim is to find simple and creative ways for people to help protect the rainforest to achieve this objective. If we can get enough people to each play their own small part in protecting an area of rainforest, then together we can make a large positive impact by protecting 1 million hectares. This is the concept behind the bloomtrigger project. Very few people disagree that this a good idea, the challenge lies in finding the right incentives for people and making it easy enough for them to get involved.

What’s more urgent: changing things from the inside or starting a revolution on the outside?

Well I’m not sure how to start a revolution on the outside, but changing things from the inside is often the key to long-term lasting change. A headteacher of a primary school once told me that she would never try to impose an idea upon her teachers or pupils as this often leads to failure. Always give people the choice, firstly they have to want to change, before you can go about finding a way to make things happen.

What is the best meal you’ve had in your life? Cooked by whom? Eaten with whom?

Well I'm sat next to my girlfriend on a train right now and she is looking over my shoulder hinting that it was a meal cooked by her. I have to admit she is a great cook, but I'm better. So I think it has to be when I was in Manaus during a visit to the Brazilian Amazon, eating a bowl of tacacá, a traditional Amazonian Indian soup made from a leaf which makes your mouth tingle with the most amazing flavours. I would go all the way to Manaus right now for another bowl of that stuff!

Can you describe a typical work day? 

My typical work day more often than not involves too much sitting at my laptop working on our website bloomtrigger.com. I am fortunate enough that I can take my laptop anywhere to work so I try not to spend too much time in one place. Most weeks involve dropping into primary schools with our gorilla ambassador Boris to visit the children helping to pioneer the bloomtrigger project or talking to people at events or businesses. The huge potential to influence people online is where bloomtrigger is striving to reach people, but to truly engage people and to leave a deep, lasting impression, there is no better way than talking face to face. This is always my experience when listening to a great speaker.

How do you define success?

I think success is simply doing whatever it is your aiming to do and doing it well. It is always inspiring to see successful people doing what they do, whether they are an artist, athlete or primary school teacher, it inspires me to try to be successful in my own way.

What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?

Ummm I’m sure some crucial bit of advice from a wise old school teacher or family member has subtly guided me through some critical moment in life at some point, but all I can think of now is a quote from the song ‘Everybody is free’ by Baz Luhrmann "Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum." I think this is a sound piece of advice, this is not to say don’t be concerned about things and don’t think critically to solve problems, but that worrying is fundamentally a pointless waste of time and we should try to remember that.

What’s your favourite book or film of late?

Well it is not a book or a film as such but a blog called ISO50. Now to warn you - this is not an environmental blog, but a group of authors posting cutting edge design, music and films. I am passionate about design and this is one of my favourite sources for inspiration. I think whatever industry you live and work in, its important to look outside the box and see what people in other industries are doing well, this cross over of ideas often leads to the best innovations with your own work.

What would you most like to happen to protect the planet?

I would like to see people, businesses and governments get organised and start to manage the planet’s natural resources on a global level in a sustainable way. Starting with a practical financial mechanism to manage the worlds remaining forests, so that people pay for the environmental services that until now have been taken for granted. Admittedly I say this because tackling the issue of deforestation is my area of focus, but for very good reasons, as it is largely accepted as the most cost-effective and immediate solution to reducing global CO2 emissions and tackling climate change. In the future I have no doubt that we will learn to successfully value the environmental resources we depend upon, the question is how much ‘value’ will we have to lose before we get to this point.

 

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