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Celebrating 25 years of innovative island conservation
Twenty-five years ago, we incorporated Seacology as a charity with a singular focus: to support indigenous islanders in their efforts to save their local environments. I wish that I could claim credit for coming up with the idea of swapping schools, medical clinics, water supplies, and other public works for rainforest and marine reserves, but the truth is, that like many good initiatives, we just fell into it.
In February 1989, the chiefs and orators of Falealupo village, Samoa, signed a covenant with Ken Murdock, Rex Maughan, and me to protect their rainforests in return for us funding a village school. The villagers had been faced with a terrible choice: either allow loggers to destroy their forest, one of the last large lowland rainforests in the Pacific islands, or to deny their children a basic education. I offered an alternative—we would pay for the school if they would protect their forest. Ken Murdock (who serves as Vice Chair) and Rex Maughan made major gifts, while my wife Barbara and I together with friends and family, made up the difference which totaled $85,000.
The initial term of the agreement was for 50 years, but the chiefs extended this in perpetuity when we dedicated the Samoan rainforest aerial walkway, which was funded by a $75,000 gift from Nu Skin’s Force for Good Foundation.
Over the next few years, we were approached by more villages that faced similar difficult choices, and so with the help of Bill Marre, incorporated Seacology as a 501(c)(3) charity in 1991.
Since that time, Seacology has funded over 270 schools, water supplies, clinics, solar electrification schemes, etc. on islands in 56 different countries resulting in the preservation of nearly 1.5 million acres of island rainforests and marine resources. Our largest project to date was our agreement with Sri Lanka to protect all of their coastal mangrove forests in return for us providing microloans to 15,000 impoverished women. As we met with the Sri Lankan President and members of Parliament on the World Mangrove Day to dedicate the new Seacology-funded mangrove museum, I thought of how far our conservation efforts have reached.
We could have done none of this without your generous support, the remarkable support of our Board and Fellows, a small but deeply dedicated staff, and most importantly the commitment of villagers throughout the world to help protect their precious island environments. Seacology has been a very bright spot in my life, as I hope it has been in yours. There are few organizations I have encountered that have such a purity of purpose and such a global reach as Seacology. I can only imagine the conservation achievements this small, but determined organization will make with your help over the next 25 years.
—Paul Alan Cox, Ph.D,
Chair, Seacology Board of Directors
Looking back over the last 25 years of Seacology brings a smile and a feeling of gratitude as I remember trips to some of the most remote islands of the world. I’ve been able to explore the beauty of Palau’s coral reefs, the vast highlands of New Guinea, and many more wonderful places, including the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Chuuk, and Indonesa’s Raja Ampat. Even better, I’ve met many islanders and been introduced to their rich cultures.
Seacology has done much to assist with the needs of island communities. And in turn, the Seacology family– Board members, staff, and donors–has been deeply enriched and touched by each village and every experience with these wonderful people.
The dream of creating Seacology started in a 30,000-acre rain forest in the village of Falealupo, Savaii, Samoa. Paul Cox and I, with help from other generous people who cared and wanted to make a difference, came together to tackle the imminent threat of Falealupo losing its entire rainforest forever. Our success in that challenge became the model for Seacology and the legacy of the last 25 years. What drives Seacology to this day is a focus on action, not talking or marketing. Fortunately, many like-minded people who have seen Seacology’s work—and results–have joined us to make Seacology’s efforts possible. With your continued support, we will continue to preserve island ecosystems and cultures, over the entire planet, for another 25 years.
Vice-chair, Seacology Board of Directors