Ben Goldsmith, a philanthropist and financier, is the first speaker in our new talk series 'In Conservation With...' Where Founder Oliver Tomalin talks to the experts, exploring the world of conservation and how we can help. At our flagship store, Ben discussed founding The Conservation Collective, how the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and how every person has the ability to make huge change for the greater good.
“There is this humming energy just beneath the surface everywhere, waiting to explode back to life. You just need to give it space.” - Ben Goldsmith
With press, partners in conservation and explorers of the planet, we sat down in the intimate setting of our Chelsea store, where Oliver asked Ben about his work and his passion for restoring nature. Oliver introduced the conversation explaining LOVE BRAND & Co.'s connection and how the company has been supporting Ben and the Conservation Collective for a number of years. In Ibiza, projecting and restoring the local Seagram Posidonia. And in the Grenadines, protecting the endangered Union Island Gecko.
"We should be called the Restoration Collective" Ben opened with, "but there is no alliteration, so the name was rejected", he joked. As guests listened in with QV Rosé in hand, Ben and Oliver shared anecdotes of their experiences in different corners of the world where they witnessed the restoration of nature.
Ben enlightened us on books he has read which discussed the "riots of colour in every pasture" and how much wildlife we have lost in the past 60 years in England. Ben was encouraging everyone to begin their conservation journey by investing time in their own garden as, "healthy nature actually pays for itself."
When the room was open to questions, a member of the audience asked, "if every person in this room were to make 2 life choices to help change the restoration future of the UK, what would you say those choices should be?". Ben suggested "The stand out for me is to join an environmental group... Secondly is to keep an eye on how you spend your money." The two businessmen moved the conversation in the direction of how people can make a difference from their own homes. Ben mentioned how this became even clearer after people found themselves stuck indoors during the first wave of COVID-19, "the lockdowns had a silver lining of bringing people closer to nature." The UK is actually one of the most nature depleted countries in the world and despite nature struggling against all odds to survive, more than one in seven native species face extinction.
The Conservation Collective is a global network of local environment foundations rooted in their communities working to protect the environment, restore nature and safeguard against climate change. The fund shares sentiment with LOVE BRAND & Co. that small changes together can make a big difference. Oliver explained LOVE BRAND & Co.'s membership to 1% For a Planet, donating 1% of net revenue to environmental projects. A small percentage that is achievable for businesses.
The two discussed the importance of keeping conservation local and moved onto oyster beds, and how England's coastline used to be filled in abundance with them. Ben informed the audience that tragically, due to over-harvesting, pollution and spills of toxic chemicals, the oyster beds which used to give the British Isles Bahamas-like crystal waters, have been destroyed in the past 120 years. He went on to share wonderful news about an initiative in New York City called 'Billion Oyster Project' which started in 2014 where before 2035 they plan on adding 1 billion oysters in New York Harbour. Oliver was inspired by oyster bed restoration in the Solent when designing his latest print 'World is Your Oyster'. Oliver and Ben discussed how Oyster beds filter the water column, remove nitrogen and act a as a carbon sink and provide a habitat for hundreds of species.
Ben went on to find the perfect anecdote to describe how within the most recent few generations, the world around us has changed. In this tale, a tourist bus was driving through a field that had been restored for the first time in 60 years; the young children were astonished by all of the wildflowers, songbirds and abundance of life that they had not seen before. The middle-aged group were horrified by the untidiness of the docks that had been built, and the nettles everywhere. Meanwhile, the over 60s were elated that the land looked the way it had before the war. It was an incredibly insightful story as it demonstrated how human beings have an innate love for nature. In his book, Biophilia, biologist and author E. O. Wilson coined the titular term, biophilia, to mean "the innate human instinct to connect with nature and other living beings", a phrase that lives close to both Ben and Oliver's hearts.
Thank you to Ben Goldsmith, Jade Brudenell, Berta Manzano and the Conservation Collective team. And to our wine sponsors QV Wine. Images courtesy of Conservation Collective & GOV.UK