One Man With A Lever
August Man SG|Issue 174
For more than four decades, Rolex has supported exceptional individuals who have the courage and conviction to take on major challenges; men and women initiating extraordinary projects that make the world a better place
Jonathan Ho

THE WORLD STANDS ON THE PRECIPICE. “There are still 2 billion people who lack safe drinking water, more than 1.5 billion people who do not have electricity and there are more than 60 million children who do not go to school, even elementary school. This is sad, this is really heartbreaking,” said former UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon to CNBC.

Indeed, the multiple disasters that the world is currently facing, have only been accentuated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. According to The Global Risks Report 2021, the 16th edition published by the World Economic Forum, “The immediate human and economic costs of COVID-19 are severe, threatening to scale back years of progress on reducing global poverty and inequality and further damage social cohesion and global cooperation.”

But despite the inescapable fallout from COVID-19, it is climate-related matters that make up the bulk of this year’s risk list, which the report describes as “an existential threat to humanity” and even then there’s no consensus on how or which of the many immediate crisis need to be tackled nor in what order. Archimedes once said in the Doric speech of Syracuse: “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.” Imagine how the monumental challenges we face as a species can be surmounted if people of conviction are given the right lever.

A Lever Named Rolex

Since 1976, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Oyster, the first waterproof watch, Rolex has supported exceptional individuals with the courage and will to take on major challenges; through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, the brand supports men and women have initiated extraordinary projects that make the world a better place, fostering the values that underpin the Geneva manufacture: quality, ingenuity, determination and, above all, the enterprising spirit that has driven the company since its beginning.

Proving Sustainability And Economic Interests Can Go Hand In Hand

Laury Cullen Jr is a research coordinator at the Institute of Ecological Studies (IPE) in São Paulo with a master’s degree from the University of Florida. He has conducted post-doctoral research at Columbia University and he so happens to have won the Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2004. It is often argued that tackling climate change is incompatible with economic growth in developing countries. Yet, this forestry expert and researcher found the right equation for combating climate change while also strengthening the local economy, successfully reversing a process of loss by progressively restoring Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, while creating new income sources for the local farmers who take care of the new rainforest corridors.

The Atlantic Forest ecoregion produces 70 per cent of the Brazil’s gross domestic product or GDP. This forest is also one of the richest natural areas on the planet, filled with iconic species like jaguars, sloths, tamarins, and toucans. Just one hectare of the Atlantic Forest can support 450 species of trees. Approximately 40 per cent of its vascular plants and up to 60 per cent of its vertebrates are endemic species, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world.

It was during the 1990s while Cullen was studying the black lion tamarin, an endangered species of monkeys, over 80 per cent of Brazil’s once-mighty Mata Atlântica, or Atlantic Rainforest, had disappeared. The clearance of the forest for timber and use for agriculture had caused serious damage to the wildlife of the region.

Working with dedicated farming families, Cullen has heralded corridors of new hope, tendrils of life and economic activity through the open farming landscape of Pontal, Brazil, becoming links of renewal. Three decades on, estuaries of renewed forested lands are springing up anew, tended by the caring hands of farming families who today earn a better living from the intermingled trees, wildlife, dairy cattle and crops – such as coffee, corn and cassava – than they were able to from agriculture alone.

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