Deep into the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), mist dusts the hills and treetops in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, green as far as the eye can see. Today, the national park is home to the largest population of eastern lowland gorillas. The gorillas and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park exist in a virtuous cycle because the gorillas help maintain the national park’s biodiversity while the national park is one of the few places the gorillas can call home. The gorillas are also a major attraction to tourists hoping to walk amongst these magnificent creatures when they visit the national park.
The gorillas’ home has been overwhelmingly affected by political instability, an influx of refugees, illegal settlers, poaching, deforestation, and militia groups, which threaten their existence. Since the 1990s, the number of eastern lowland gorillas has dropped by 50%, with roughly 250 of the existing 6,000 living in the park today. But the park is in danger as people cut down trees to make charcoal. Parks act like lungs for the earth as they absorb carbon in the air. As our carbon emissions skyrocket, it is vital that we prevent the disappearance of national parks and rainforests.
Mindful of the carbon footprint our staff’s air travel to run our operations creates, we’ve recently established the Environmental Carbon Offset Fund. This fund awards grants to organizations working to alleviate carbon’s adverse environmental effects. In the past, we’ve given money to organizations that plant trees and build houses with materials that have zero carbon impact.
We created this fund in 2023 to offset the carbon emissions we cause by flying to our project sites. At the beginning of the year, we calculate a standard rate for the carbon cost our staff’s flights create. Then, we add a carbon fee for every ticket we purchase. This fee is allocated to our Carbon Offset Fund and awarded to organizations bettering environmental issues to create a more peaceful world. The organizations are chosen through a vigorous vetting and selection process.
This quarter, we gave a $17,448 grant to the Pole Pole Foundation, a grassroots NGO working in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park to protect the eastern lowland gorillas. The Pole Pole Foundation partners with locals to limit their reliance on the park for resources and income (such as wood for charcoal), using conservation and the park as a means to bring people together across dividing lines.
Through education and sustainable development projects, the Pole Pole Foundation facilitates community tourism in the park so people become invested in the protection of gorillas and their habitat. The Pole Pole Foundation establishes schools for children to improve literacy and conservation awareness so they grow up to appreciate and manage their natural resources. It encourages community members to grow trees to be used to make charcoal and building materials. To ensure enough trees are planted, they plant ten trees for every one cut down, saving the gorillas from having to evacuate their home.
As COP28 comes to a close, we have hope for a more sustainable and renewable world. All of us have a stake in healing our planet. Making a positive impact on the environment can seem daunting, but our community of peacebuilders is undeterred. Join us as we ride public transport instead of driving, take fewer flights throughout the year, buy fewer single-use plastic items, eat less meat, or become more environmentally conscious in our shopping. Working together, supporting and encouraging one another, we can become a united force for change. Thank you for being a peacebuilder for the planet.