The Downforce Trust, Eco Champ–Alfred Brownell, Vanishing Primates—Souls of the Forest!

by | Jan 31, 2023 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

The Downforce Trust, plus eco champ–Alfred Brownell, and Vanishing Primates—Souls of the Forest!



The Downforce Trust promotes action on climate change, specifically through funding research and programs designed to accelerate the deployment and scaling of known technologies. The Trust has a particular interest in carbon drawdown using nature-based solutions as these are available and scalable today. According to the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, nature-based solutions are sustainable planning, design, environmental management and engineering practices that weave natural features or processes into the built environment to promote adaptation and resilience. These solutions use natural features and processes to: combat climate change, reduce flood risk, improve water quality, protect coastal property, restore and protect wetlands, stabilize shorelines, reduce urban heat and much more.

Why does the work of the DownForce Trust matter to us? In the words of then US presidential candidate Joe Biden while announcing his presidential campaign’s plan for rural America back in 2020, “Soil is the next frontier for storing carbon.”  And in the words of the United States Secretary of Defense, in a February 2022  US Army Climate Strategy report: “We face all kinds of threats in our line of work, but few of them truly deserve to be called existential. The climate crisis does. Climate change is making the world more unsafe and we need to act.”

DEEPER DIVE: DownForce Trust, Website, UK Charity Register, Soil Carbon Sequestration, FEMA



Meet Liberian, Alfred Brownell, an environmental and human rights lawyer and executive director of Green Advocates (GA), a Liberian NGO that he founded to represent communities seeking to protect their environmental and human rights. Brownell also established a network to connect community-based organizations throughout Liberia—the Alliance for Rural Democracy (ARD)—to collaborate on environmental justice work. 

Liberia’s forests (“the lungs of West Africa”) are acutely threatened by the government’s aggressive push for economic development through large concessions to mining, timber, and palm oil companies. During her long reign, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed over roughly 30% of Liberia’s land to outside investors. The government claimed un-deeded land customarily held by indigenous peoples as public land, making community forests vulnerable to destruction by massive agro-industrial and mining projects.

In 2010, Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), a Southeast Asia-based agro-industrial company, signed a deal with the Liberian government for a 65-year lease of 543,600 acres of forestland to develop palm oil operations. In 2011, when Brownell became aware of GVL’s destruction of the forest, he took matters into his own hands. He worked with local communities to halt the land grabbing and environmental devastation. Brownell knew that GVL depends on its certification with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)—the global certification body for palm oil—to obtain financing and sell its palm oil. Without such certification, GVL cannot sell to major buyers—such as Unilever and Cargill, which have agreed to purchase only sustainably produced palm oil—and may be unable to finance its operations.

Brownell brought in international NGOs, watchdogs, and media to investigate GVL’s deforestation and lack of community consent in the process, and RSPO issued a new report that intensely criticized GVL and found that it was continuing to strong-arm community members. In July 2018, RSPO dismissed GVL’s appeal against the stop work order, upholding Brownell’s complaint. His efforts prevented the clearing of 513,500 acres of land that sequesters carbon, shelters endangered species—including elephants, chimpanzees, pygmy hippopotamuses, and tree pangolins—and is part of the Upper Guinean biodiversity hotspot.

DEEPER DIVE: RSPO, Goldman Environmental Prize, Yale Law School



Their website asks, “What is Vanishing Primates?” It’s a magical journey through a “multimedia jungle” that connects the public with the most endangered primates in Colombia and directly supports tangible conservation actions in their forests. Vanishing primates tells the story of the 4 most endangered species of monkeys in Colombia, their ecosystems and other species that live there. The main characters are the cotton-top tamarin from the Caribbean dry forest, the brown spider monkey from the lowland forests of Magdalena medio, and the Caquetá marmoset and Churuco from the Andean-Amazonian foothills.

The problem facing Colombian primates is deforestation and loss of habitat, especially in the foothills between the Andes and the amazon. How does the primates project work? Each show is a “trip” of approximately 25 minutes that transports us to the home of the monkeys in the depths of the jungles of Colombia. The immersive experience is made up of large format 360 videos, original music and soundscapes that allow the public to interact with our biodiversity like never before. 

Where can you enjoy it? The “multimedia jungle” takes place inside a traveling theater specially designed for the project. And the only way for that traveling theater is for you to fill out the form on the SalvandoPrimates website and they will contact you. Why does Vanishing Primates—Souls of the Forest matter to us? The impact. The experience works as a conservation engine: for every person who visits the experience, the organization will plant a tree in priority restoration forests hand in hand with its conservation allies. Plus, without primates there are no forests, no forests. There is no life. Without life there are no communities. Too on the nose? 

Join the Vanishing Primates experience and help the conservation of the jungles and primates in Colombia. One caveat, this great website IS in Spanish, but don’t let that stop you!