Green Champions: Green Celebrities
Sting is best known for being the frontman of the band The Police, but he is also a songwriter, actor, and philanthropist.
He came from a humble background; his mum was a hairdresser, and his dad was a milkman, but after finding fame, he has amassed a fortune of around £150 million.
But he’s not the kind of man to sit on a fortune and twiddle his thumbs. He is still touring, and working passionately for a cause he strongly believes in; saving the rainforests.
The Rainforest Foundation
Sting founded the Rainforest Foundation and the Rainforest Fund in 1989, along with his wife. They were horrified by the pace of the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest, and the impact on the people and the wildlife who inhabit it.
The Rainforest Foundation split into 4 different organisations; Rainforest Foundation UK, which is concerned with the preservation of forests in Africa, Rainforest Foundation US, which campaigns to save the rainforests in the Americas, Rainforest Foundation Norway, which focuses on the forests of Southeast Asia, and the Rainforest Fund, which raises the money for the other groups.
The foundation’s mission links human rights with environmental protection. It believes that the best way to manage rainforests, and to reduce exploitation is to protect the rights of the people who live there. The foundation doesn’t just buy land or forests to protect the biodiversity, they help indigenous people to reassert their rights over their land and enable fairer sharing of resources.
Why the rainforests?
Tropical rainforests contain half of the species on animals that exist on planet earth, and 2/3 of all plant species. Rainforests also help to absorb excess carbon dioxide, which helps to slow down global warming. The forests also store water, and release it back into the air. Experts have pointed to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest as a main cause of Sao Paulo’s water shortage. 11 million people now don’t have access to running water.
The foundation believes that the best people to look after and manage the rainforests are the people who live there, and one of the foundation’s first projects was to help the Kayapo people to protect their land in the Amazon. This resulted in the legal protection of more than 6.7 million acres of land.
The foundation now operates in more than 20 Asian, African, Central American, and South American countries, and works to protect 28 million acres of forest.
Making music and saving the planet
There is a concert every 2 years to raise funds for the foundation, and last year’s concert was a bit of an epic. Sting was joined on stage by Paul Simon, James Taylor, and Dionne Warwick, among others.
Sting has always pointed out that celebrities can use their fame to create awareness of the world’s most pressing issues.
Sting’s other causes
- He sang on the Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” single, which raised funds for starving people in Africa. He went on to take part in the Live Aid Concert that followed in 1985.
- After seeing an Amnesty International benefit concert, he was inspired to start working for humanitarian causes.
- He joined a 6-week world Human Rights Now! tour for Amnesty International in 1988, which was held to celebrate 40 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been signed.
- He performed with Sheryl Crow in Toronto in 2009 to raise funds for a Mother and Baby centre at the city’s Sunnybrook Hospital.