We Live in one of the Most Nature-Depleted Countries on the Planet. Living Adventurously 62

David Elliott is Chief Executive at Trees for Cities, having previously cleared landmines around the world. Trees for Cities is the only UK charity working at a national and international scale to improve lives by planting trees in cities.

David Elliott is Chief Executive at Trees for Cities, having previously cleared landmines around the world. Trees for Cities is the only UK charity working at a national and international scale to improve lives by planting trees in cities. David has overall leadership responsibility for the organisation. He has worked in the non-profit sector for a number of international organisations, prior to which he was a management consultant.
He is a Commissioner for the London Sustainable Development Commission, a Trustee for the African Conservation Foundation and previously for the International Tree Foundation.
He holds BSc degrees in Biological Sciences from Edinburgh University and Politics & International Relations from LSE, and an MBA from Cambridge University.

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  • https://www.treesforcities.org/
  • After uni began working for big corporations because he didn't really know which direction he wanted his career to go. He just fell into it.
  • There's not always a grand career plan for people. Need to test the water a bit.
  • What I really wanted to do was travel, explore, and break out of the city.
  • Clearing landmines with the HALO Trust - https://www.halotrust.org/
  • Moved to Cambodia
  • Turned down corporate career ladder to go and clear landmines. Quite an extreme change!
  • Famiy were a little concerned. Friends not so surprised. 
  • Good for young people to chop and change, try things out to work what the right path was.
  • I had no qualifications whatsoever to clear landmines. The main qualification was the desire.
  • Straight in at the deep end, learning to clear mines.
  • It was one of the most amazing, grounding experiences of my life
  • Cambodia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Kosovo, Guinnea Bissau, Liberia
  • The first time you dig up a landmine is terrifying - like anything in life the first one is hard. You come to realise that the greatest fear is fear itself
  • You get a one-metre lane to clear - first mine took about 5 hours to do
  • MBA at Cambridge
  • Landmine clearing, management consultancy and MBA all combine to really help with the role of CEO at Trees for Cities. You draw on them all in very different ways
  • Non-linear career - everything is useful. Variety is not something to be embarrassed about.
  • http://www.100yearlife.com/
  • Trees for Cities is a charity that originally began by hosting parties then planting trees. The founders were DJs, so they put on parties for their friends and then planted trees
  • National charity with some international projects
  • The least green areas often overlap with social deprivation.
  • Initially people liked trees for the aesthetics, but they are vital for carbon storing, trees absorb heat, provide shade, prevent flooding, filter pollutants.
  • Green space is vital to the infrastructure of cities, and integral to the design of cities
  • TfC have planted a million trees
  • Not so much about lots of trees, but finding the most effective place to plant trees in cities
  • Tree planting is not always right - you don't want to convert peat bogs to forest, for example. 
  • Even a single tree planted strategically in a city can have hundreds of years of benefits for that community, to be engaged and care for it.
  • The benefits on air quality and aesthetics.
  • Trees get people outdoors and experiencing the outdoors, to get them engaged, loving and cherishing the outdoors
  • Nature is thought of as a rural thing, but 80% of us live in cities so we need to make this available on our doorsteps
  • COVID has shown the importance of local green spaces
  • Many urban green spaces are poor quality - just muddy grass. 
  • Green Recovery in the UK - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-commits-350-million-to-fuel-green-recovery
  • Many local authorities are really trying to make positive changes
  • GB is one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet
  • We need to think more radically about transforming our environment
  • There are a lot of under-used green spaces. Sections of society don't use them at all. Make them safer, greener, healthier
  • Green belt is mostly farmland. It can be used better for nature and for people to use. 
  • We have crazy rules about wild camping in Britain - we do so much to stop people enjoying the outdoors. This might be part of the reason why there was so much camping littering after lockdown
  • The Young People they work with have limited engagement with nature. At first there is repulsion with soil / worms etc. But once they plant something this really can transform their lives. 
  • TfC Volunteer Planting days - volunteers do most of the planting. Helps them engage with their community. Hundreds of people from all walks of life come along and join in.
  • They have great diversity in the people who join in and participate.
  • A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. 
  • Favourite tree = beech tree
  • Sitting on a decision for too long is damaging
  • Jonathan Raban: Passage to Juneau
  • George Monbiot - Feral 
  • Robert Macfarlane - https://twitter.com/RobGMacfarlane

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© 2019 Alastair Humphreys