Sustainabile Sundays and Verde Ventures

The LA Natural History Museum kicked off its first Sunday of a new series dubbed "Sustainable Sundays: Different Shades of Green." The goal of this series is to help the public manage the substantial heap of green information that bombards them. Personally, I don't think the public is bombarded with enough green information, but I am probably biased. One of the highlights of this event was the forum hosted by Jen Morris from Verde Ventures. Sustainable Sundays
The Sustainable Sundays series plans to touch on a wide-range of environmental topics: Sustainable building, amphibians, the environmental impact of Latino settlement patterns, panda bears, plastic in the oceans and much, much more. The admission price is nine dollars for adults and that includes a trip to the museum proper.

Sustainable Sundays: Homegrown Revolution
The first event of the season was a screening of the movie Homegrown Revolution, a video short about a Pasadenean family who have managed to grow 6000 pounds of produce a year on one-fifth of an acre to protest corporate control of the food supply.

Sustainable Sundays: Aaron French: Eco-Chef
After that, Aaron French gave a presentation entitled "Eating Greener: The Ecology of Food and Why It Matters." This took shape as a mix of lecture, Q & A and cooking show.

Sustainable Sundays: Verde Ventures
Is money to be made in the conservation racket? Verde Ventures and Jen Morris think so. This company specializes in providing loans to forward-thinking enterprises that benefit the planet: Agroforestry, ecotourism, sustainable harvest of wild products and marine initiatives. Backers of Verde Ventures include OPIC, IFL and Starbucks.

Indigenous Peoples and Conservation

Indigenous peoples of the rain forests often live in dire poverty and will engage in illegal logging practices in order to feed their families. Climate change seems distant and immaterial to those with small hungry children. Verde Ventures offers relief to indigenous peoples in a way that preserves the rain forests and other threatened areas of the globe.

Ecotourism and the Indigenous People
Jen Morris told us of a Peruvian tribe that lived near the Amazon. Their habitat was the same habitat as the incredibly endangered harpy eagle. The eagle's habitat was being threatened by illegal logging practices. This is where Verde Ventures stepped in. They offered the indigenous Peruvians a way to make money that didn't involve logging. VV's solution was ecotourism. A hotel would be erected. For the next twenty years, it would be owned by Verde Ventures and/or other outside investors—Verde Ventures will also build medical facilities in these under-served areas and staff them as part of their bargain's end. The native Peruvians would run it. After twenty years, the inn would become the property of the native people. In exchange for this, the natives would have to protect the local forests. Besides for hotel-running and forest-protecting, the indigenous people are known to start locally owned offshoot businesses that do quite well.

Do These Green Ventures Pay Off?
For the most part they do. Morris claimed that these undertakings are usually successful. The investors are repaid 95% of the time. The ecological impacts are just as impressive as the financial results. Those areas protected through the help of VV have more biological diversity than other government-protected areas.

What Problems Can This Cause?
This can cause a few. Morris spoke of a tribe that had trouble with armed raiders. These raiders would destroy sections of forest that the tribe were contractually obligated to protect. The tribe came to Verde Ventures and told them about this problem. Legally, Verde Ventures couldn't let the poor, raider-abused tribe off the hook. However, morally, it wasn't the tribe's fault. A compromise was worked out. Verde Ventures would not pay the tribe for the forest that was destroyed, but it would honor the contract for those forests still standing.

Conservation and Culture Clash

Cultures can clash. In the West, we tend to believe in democracy, meritocracy, etc. Some tribes in other lands have a chief-based monarchy. Verde Ventures doesn't want to interfere with other cultures—like the Prime Directive from Star Trek—so they often have to let the chief take all the money, as the culture's custom dictates, and it will be the chief who is in charge of letting the money trickle down. ( So it's totally unlike the West.)

Green Venture Capitalism
If you are a green investor, Verde Ventures might be a place to invest your dough, you know, if the world wasn't in the midst of an economic crisis. Kidding aside, once we are willing to dip into the markets again, this company may be a bold, green investment.

More On Green Investing:

Portfolio 21 - More Green Investing : TreeHugger
Investing Green In San Diego : TreeHugger
Take Action: Green Investments : TreeHugger

Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Economics